Well I can’t tell you all about Laura because I don’t know her that well; but I can tell you all about Thursday 17 December which started with Laura in Montalcino and ended with Laura in Siena.
I have been importing her wines and eating at Le Logge for a few years now. It is always exciting to come back.
We arrived chez Brunelli at nine thirty in the morning with Montalcino rising majestically out of the thick fog through which we had gps’ed from Siena. It was a beautiful day, and Tuscany looked stunning with little hilltop aziende poking their veined heads out of the gloom into brilliant sunlight.
Am I overdoing it? Probably.
Podenervone, Laura’s home and new winery leads out on the Grossetto road, past Fattoria dei Barbi and sits on its own surrounded by boar infested bosci. It’s a lovely spot. We were greeted by Ourso, a slightly suspicious young labrador and his ageing father and they allowed us into the cortille where we met Laura.
A quick explanation of the domaine; they have two sites: Podevenervone and Chiuse del Sotto, which was the original domaine and where all wines were made until recently. The sites have distinct characters, Chiuse di Sotto giving a slightly richer style to Podevnervone’s greater classicism.
We drove down the vertiginous road to the new cuverie where the freshly harvested and fermented 2015’s sit in stainless steel fermentation tanks, each site and climat separated as you would expect. Beyond was the ageing cellar with traditional Slavonian oak foudres gently coaxing the best out of the 2013’s.
Now get this clear, just like everywhere else in Europe, 2015 is going to be a joy; there is fruit, their is exuberance and there is substance. The malos were all finished bar one, and despite their uniform richness and depth of fruit, there is clear definition between the different climats of Laura’s vineyards. A little more spice here, a little more poise there.
We tasted the 2010 Riserva, 2011 Brunello and 2013 Rosso. The Brunellos all show the restraint of the domain. These are not pushy, modern Brunellos; they are wines which Laura makes to be drunk generously with friends. They are not vins de soif, but they are not show off’s either.
Which makes me mention their new wine: a rosato, or rosé. We tasted a glass and it is certainly fine and elegant, but like all rosés to me, is well, just a rosé. In any event, she is making it only for her restaurant. So at least you know where to get it when the Palio comes around.
The big discussion in Montalcino, actually not that big a discussion as such, is the 2014 vintage; largely considered, and certainly already in the minds of the press, an unsellable washout. This is extremely unfair.
Whilst it is certainly no 2010, and follows a commendable trio of 2011, 2012 and 2013, the examples I tasted, and very specifically here, were packed with charm and the essence of Sangiovese: sweetly sour cherry/ cranberry fruit. They are rounded and mellow, certainly will not stay long but as producers in Montalcino generally do not sell their wines expensively, they will offer excellent short term drinking.
But I suppose we’ll come that issue in a couple of years.
We left in plenty of time for a quick plate of pasta and more Brunello at Montalcino’s Osteria di Porta al Cassero, where several domaines were clearly having an early Christmas lunch, or maybe just a normal Italian lunch.
We were booked at Le Logge at nine and we dutifully arrived on time to be greeted with a couple of glasses of champagne. Laura was already in situ, seated at her usual table in the entrance hall and having dinner with some very glamourous Sienese ladies and their urbane companions. Una baccia and we were off to our table in the famous dinig room that was once a farmacia.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Le Logge apart from the food and the wine is that it is always full, but never over-full. There is always atmosphere, but never chaos. Myrko the manager was having dinner upstairs with friends and came down to say hello, and the waiter who took care of us had had lunch with me back in 2008 in Beaune…
And I made a discovery; we had drunk quite enough Sangiovese for one day so I looked for something else. All the usual suspects were there when I fell on Emidio Pepe from Abruzze on the Adriatic coast. I rather expected a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to be rough and ready, all bulk and rusticity (the last I had drunk in Rome was a 2001 from the “master” Valentini; a disappointment as I remember). I ordered the 2009 and as the courses progressed the wine passed from a natural firmness to something extremely elegant and even sensual. Without being delicate it was all about lightness of touch, soft definition and delicious fruit. Quite a revelation actually.
I indulged in some tartufi bianchi di collini senesi and piccione with fabulous roasted beetroot. A mixed plate of cheese finished me off and although I can’t remember what Mik ate, I know it was good.
And as we left Myrko and the waiter raced out to say goodbye; Laura had already left, tired and emotional, after a long day at the office. I love this place, and I love the people that work there.
Siena was buzzing. The Piazza del Campo is always beautiful, but even more so on a decorated December evening filled with equally beautiful people.