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The wines of Il Paradiso di Manfredi, Montalcino, Tuscany

Via Canalicchio 305, 53024 Montalcino (SI)
Website: www.ilparadisodimanfredi.com   

Florio Guerrini of Il Paradiso

We all need holidays, and in June 2008 Fiona and I took a short break to Southern Tuscany, where we stayed in a beautiful country hotel in Montepulciano, without the children - paradise! But even though it was a holiday, I couldnít resist doing at least one vineyard visit, and so with the help of some contacts I got an appointment to visit Il Paradiso di Manfredi, a small, traditional Brunello producer making some of the very best Brunellos around.

Brunello is a relatively new DOC with vineyards clustered around the beautiful hilltop town of Montalcino. Until the 1950s the only producer here was Biondi Santi. By the time the DOC was awarded in 1966, there were still only 12 (today there are around 250). Il Paradiso di Manfredi takes its name from Manfredi Martini who worked for Biondi Santi in the 1950s, and then purchased Il Paradiso in 1958. When a big freeze destroyed the olive trees on this estate in the 1960s, he decided to turn to winegrowing.

Manfredi died in 1982 and his son-in-law, Florio Guerrini, who had previously been a maths teacher, took over (Florioís first vintage was actually 1981). He lives on the small estate with his wife Rossella (Manfrediís daughter), and we invaded their home to try their wines and have a look at the winery (adjoining the house) and vineyards.

It was a really interesting visit, despite the fact that Fiona and I speak no Italian, and Florio and Rossella speak no English! They were such lovely, welcoming people this didn't seem to be too much of a problem, and Florio spoke slowly and my 'O' level Latin made some of it understandable.

The estate is nestled on the side of the hill on which Montalcino is perched. Itís a compact, 3 hectare estate with 2.5 hectares of vines, of which 2 ha produce Brunello. All the vines are Sangiovese Grosso, and they are planted in three blocks, one going down the slope, one near the house and one over the road at the back. Vine spacing is 0.9 ◊ 2.7 m, with 3300 vines/hectare. Average vine age is 28 years.

Vineyard management is traditional, natural management with no herbicides or fertilizers. I ask (this was actually complicated because of the language barrier) Florio about biodynamics (this estate is often described as biodynamic) and his response is that this philosophy is older than biodynamics.

In the winery things are pretty traditional. The first room has cement-lined tanks which are lined with resin. These are great for temperature control during fermentation, which is achieved with wild yeasts. There are a range of sizes: 3000, 5000, 20 000 and 25 000 litres. Then thereís a second room with large Slavonian oak botte (big barrels). To get the wines from the fermentation tanks to the botte, a window opens between the two rooms and a hose is put through it: the transfer is by gravity. The large oak allows a slow microoxygenation, and the Brunellos remain in these barrels for at least three years, sometimes longer (36Ė40 months for the Brunello; 48Ė54 months for the Riserva Ė in contrast, the Rosso is 14+ months). All the bottling is done on the estate, and the wine goes to bottle without ever having been pumped.

Just a little sulfur dioxide is used at bottling. The corks used here come from Sardinia and cost more than 1 Euro each. 7000 bottles of Brunello are made each year. Florio says heís careful who he sells these two, because heís quite keen to get the younger generation into traditional Brunellos and so heís trying to spread the message with his wines.

We tried two wines: the Rosso was sold out (so Iíve added a recent note of this from tasting it at home), and the two vintages on offer were 2002 and 2003. Both were problematic in the region in general, but Florio was lucky in that he picked his 2002 just eight hours before the torrential rain that spoiled the vintage for most people. He says his wine is typical of the year and reflects the vintage character. Florio thinks 2003 is a good year, but says that this wine is too young, and will be better the day after itís opened.

Il Paradiso di Manfredi Brunello di Montalcino 2003
Lovely pure, aromatic, earthy nose is smooth and perfumed with lovely elegance. It has a beautifully sweet woody, foresty, earthy perfume. The palate is concentrated and smooth with a lovely spicy complexity. Thereís just a lot going on here: itís really elegant with warmth, spicy tannins and a beguiling earthy character. Like many serious wines, itís changing in the glass. Itís concentrated, minerally and spicy with real purity. 96/100

Il Paradiso di Manfredi Brunello di Montalcino 2002
Deep, perfumed nose is earthy and very spicy, with a warm, enticing spiciness. It still has that same elegance and purity, but with a touch more edginess. The palate is smooth, pure and quite structured with a lovely spicy, earthy focus, and a real sense of life to it. Itís another wine that shifts as you taste it, and has a long future ahead of it. 95/100

(Both wines available from Les Caves de Pyrene in the UK)

older note:

Il Paradiso di Manfredi 2005 Rosso di Montalcino, Italy
From a small estate that practices many biodynamic principles, this Sangiovese is thrillingly alive and elegant. The aromatic nose shows dark cherries with purity and freshness allied with a bit of earthiness. The palate is quite complex with some earthy spiciness undeneath the sweet, pure dark cherry and blackberry fruit. There's a lovely smooth, elegant texture here, that's somewhere between silk and velvet. There's also a hint of forest floor. Finishes quite savoury. A supremely drinkable wine that's hard to resist. It tastes really natural (in a good way). 91/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 01/08

Wines tasted 06/08  
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