Location: Montemurlo, Province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy.
The story of this stunning Tuscan Pinot Noir from a fifteenth-century estate west of Florence, Villa di Bagnolo (property of Marchese Vittorio Pancrazi) is unusual to say the least. It all began in 1975, when the villa’s owner, Marquis Vittorio Pancrazi, planted 3,300 “Sangiovese” vines on his property. Soil was clayey/schistose/ serpentine and particularly rich in iron (ferro in Italian) – so much so, the low hillock where the vines were planted was called Monte Ferrato. The Marchese did not have especially high expectations, for Sangiovese is not particularly successful in the area, but the grapes were blended into the everyday family wine. Then one day in 1989, an oenologist friend of the Marchese pointed out the “Sangiovese” was actually Pinot Noir — in fact, probably Tuscany’s oldest Pinot Noir vines! At this point, Vittorio Pancrazi decided to vinify it on its own, and naturally put his Bordeaux-educated oenologist friend, Niccolò D’Afflitto, in charge of the experiment. After over a year’s maturation in small oak barrels, Allier barriques, and six months’ bottle age, the experiment not only succeeded, it exceeded all expectations.
From 1989 to this day, Pancrazi, with both his winemaker and brilliant agronomist Paolo Mocali, has carried out in-depth innovations in the vineyard and in the winery.
Today, the Pinot Noir vines on the estate, which are southerly exposed and cover 14 out of a total 173 acres, have been almost entirely renewed, albeit maintaining some 5% of the original, unidentified local clone, and planted even more densely than in the past (approx. 1,620 stocks per acre), with different clones that come straight from Burgundy. The present number of new variants is 8 (nos. 113, 114, 115, 521, 666, 667, 777, 943): top selections, some of which are so new there are very few specimens in Burgundy itself! Their painstaking orchestration adds dimension and complexity to the Pinot Noir of Villa di Bagnolo, and makes for an even more graceful, mellow style starting with the 2000 vintage.
Another innovation is the gravitational irrigation system for all vineyards, with natural water (very rich in iron, which is instrumental for Pinot Noir complexity) from a well in the hillside above the property, Monte Ferrato. Beside the Montemurlo property, the Marchesi Pancrazi also own a very large estate at San Donato: 1,285 acres, 37 of which are now under vine at 984-1,312 feet a.s.l, on Mount Calvana’s alberese soil. Alberese soil is a variety of compact, very fine-grained limestone, which yield the San Donato and Casaglia reds.