Founded by twin sisters Margherita and Francesca Padovani in 1997, Campi di Fonterenza is a biodynamically farmed estate spread over the commune of Montalcino. Though the twins grew up in Milan, the farm where they currently reside has been in the family since the 70's. Viticulture, however, does not run in the Padovani family; in fact, there were no vines whatsoever on the property until Margherita planted the first plots in 1999.
Francesca quickly joined her sister on the project, and subsequent plantings took place in 2002 and 2005 over four hectares of vines, with 3.5 h planted in Sangiovese and the rest in Cabernet Sauvignon (which was re-grafted to Sangiovese in 2012). From the beginning, Margherita and Francesca agreed not to use chemicals in their vineyard practices, which quickly led to an interest in biodynamic viticulture and, a few years later, minimal intervention winemaking.
The estate now consists of three plots totaling 4.2 hectares: Vigna del Bosco, Vigna della Strada and Vigna Alberello. The first two were planted in 1999 and the third in 2005. While all the vineyards are gorgeous, Vigna del Bosco is particularly stunning; one must walk or drive down a long beautiful path to arrive to a hill completely surrounded by woods.
Four wines are produced from the estate. A rosé is made from the most vigorous vines of the three vineyards. The Rosso di Montepulciano is sourced from Vigna del Bosco and Vigna del Strada. The newer Alberello Rosso comes from Vigna Alberello and distinguishes itself with soil and exposition variations along with being trained in gobelet versus guyot. Finally, the estate's Brunello comes exclusively from Vigna del Bosca, a site the sisters consider a Cru of exceptional quality.
A few wines made from purchased fruit and a rented parcel round out the lineup. A skin contact white named Biancospino is made from Malvasia, Trebbiano and Procanico comes from a nearby parcel of old vines the sisters rent. Another macerated white called Le Ragazze came into production in 2018. Finally, Pettirosso is " Inspired by our friendship with French vignerons and their culture of thirst-quenching wines, conceived to satisfy the needs of everyday drinking and convivial sharing, our idea was to make an Italian vin de soif."
Margherita and Francesca's constant and steady evolution have made Fonterenza one of the most exciting estates for us in the past few years. Every vintage just keeps getting better and better.
This interview with Francesca Padovani took place on the streets of Chicago in April 2011.
Tell us about Fonterenza.
Fonterenza is a rather young estate that my twin sister Margherita and I started in 1997. My parents have owned the farm we currently live on since the 70's, and a piece of land my mother had purchased over the years eventually became our vineyards. We moved from Milan to Tuscany in 1997, planted the first vines in 1999, then again in 2002 and the last bit was planted in 2005. Our land comprises of 4 hectares of vines (3.5 Sangiovese and .5 of Cabernet Sauvignon), as well as 7 hectares of olive groves.
In the early years we had to build the estate form the ground up and plant all the vines so the work was split equally but at this point Margherita's responsibilities are in the vines and I am responsible for sales. We do everything in the cellar together.
We currently make five cuvées: a Sangiovese rosé which we've been making for 5 years now, a younger Sangiovese from Brunello and Santasimo classified grapes, the Rosso de Montalcino and a Cabernet Sauvignon cuvée that are both aged 20 months in barrel and 8 months in bottle before release, as well as a Brunello that we release after five years.
I've wanted to make a white wine for a long time and we recently discovered a very old parcel of Trebianno and Malvasia not too far from our home which we vinified last year for the first time. We only made 3 barriques and don't know if we'll be able to sell the wine in the future but I hope so.
What made you want to start the estate?
Our farm is located in Montalcino which is very well located and also quite known for quality wine. Margherita had moved there before me and was working at other estates to support herself. She has a green thumb and is a true lover of nature so the idea was originally hers. Everything happened very organically; we weren't exactly sure of what we were doing at the beginning but step by step, things started taking shape. It's still very much a work in progress.
What's the work in the vines like?
We approach every vintage differently based on it's characteristics.
From the beginning we decided we didn't want to work with pesticides or chemicals. We're certified organic and have been incorporating elements of biodynamic agriculture in the vinyards over the last three years.
What about in the cellar?
Because we grow grapes naturally, our goal in the cellar is simply to transform natural fruit into honest wine; what I mean by that is a wine that is closely linked to the vintage, the terroir and to us.
Like in the vineyards, we don't have a systematic approach to the winemaking, but we tend to like long macerations and barrel aging for the Sangiovese because we feel our wines truly benefit from time in the cellar. We use mostly 20 hectoliter Slovenian barrels.
How do you feel about your DOC?
We are currently the only appellation in Italy requiring that the wine be bottled with a 100% of a single varietal, in our case Sangiovese, and people with power are trying to change the rules so they can blend other varietals into their wines.
We are fighting against this because a DOC should be linked to tradition and should guarantee you are getting a product that is unique to where it was produced and that can't be found elsewhere.
What's your take on the whole "natural wine" debate?
I believe in natural wine because I believe this is going to make a better wine. I personally refer to myself as a natural wine producer. I don't like to say "organic" or "biodynamic" because I find these terms are often misleading. At least when I say I make natural wine, people more or less have a grasp of what I mean by that. I know it's difficult to define because many natural wine producers work very differently, but there is definitely a synergy and a like-mindedness that can be tasted in these wines.
What do you like to drink?
Everyday I try different wines. I meet a lot of producers and get to exchange bottles so I'm always discovering something new.
I'm a big fan of Loire wines: for me there is a real charm in all the different varietals available and and numerous expressions of terroir.
This visit at Campi di Fonterenza took place in April, 2013.
Words by Jules Dressner, photos by Maya Pedersen.
Twin sisters Francesca and Marguerita Padovani's wines keep getting better and better, so it was very exciting to finally visit what Kevin Mckenna once described as "incredible terroir".
The sisters' main vineyard is in the outskirts of Montalcino; it consists of almost 4 hectares of land, which produce the Rosso di Montalcino and part of the Pettirosso.
The youngest vines were planted in 2005 in albarello.
As you can see from the photos above, this area has a heavy presence of schist, and as a result:
"This is the area that suffers the most from dryness."
In the oldest vines (a little further), the clay gets a lot heavier.
These were planted in 1999. Part of the vineyard have the Châteauneuf like galets, which are locally referred to as galestro. One bit is a mix of galestro and clay.
The lesson, my friends, is that within these 4 h, there are 4 distinct soil compositions. Throw in the fact that the entire vineyard is exposed full South/Southwest at 420 m elevation and what do you get?
SOME PRETTY INCREDIBLE TERROIR!
Francesca also filled us in on some big news: all of the Cabernet Sauvignon has been re-grafted with massale Sangiovese!
The other main vineyard site is a short walk away.
This 1.6 h of land produces the Brunello, As you can see from the pictures, the vines are completely surrounded by woods, with absolutely no neighbors.
"It's such a pleasure working here. You are all alone."
Someone made a "working naked" joke. It was pretty funny.
After our time in the vines, we drove back to the Fonterenza house and cellar to taste.
We started with this year's 2nd bottling of Pettirosso. 2/3 of the fruit for this wine are sourced from the first vineyard we visited, as well as a .7 hectare parcel that they rent. Skin contact is very short and everything is done in stainless steel. Yields average at 35 to 40 hl/h. It was everything I've come to love about this easy drinker.
The Biancospino white was showing really well. It's a blend of Malvasia, Trebbiano and Procanico, an indigenous grape that Francesca describes as "a more tannic Trebbiano." The wine macerated 2 weeks on the skins. We also tried the Rosso and Brunello 11, as well as the 09 Brunello, which was fantastic.
Vinification: alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel at a max of 30°C. Aged in barrel 20 months. Non filtered.
Grape: Sangiovese (from Brunello)
Vinification: Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in 17.5 Hl oak tanks at a max of 30°C. Maceration on the skins for 40 days. Aged in barrel for 12 months then 28 Hl oak vats for 28 months.