Allegrini 2018

Ancient past and a glance at tomorrow: the vineyards of the ancient Abbey of San Galgano relive

The history of Azienda Agricola Nenni, guided by Pierpaolo Fontana Nenni (nephew of Pietro Nenni), and the vineyards of the “sword in the rock”

A millenary history, also of viticulture, that blends with modern history, born almost by chance, from which are born those wines that, beyond their qualities in the bottle, can fascinate for the mere fact of existing. These are the wines that are born from the vineyards created by the Cistercian monks of San Galgano, one of the oldest and most fascinating abbeys in the world - in Chiusdino, a few kilometers from Siena - thanks to the total absence of a roof and the presence of the “sword in the rock” left there by Galgano Guidotti, then San Galgano, who, in 1180, left his knightly clothes and became a hermit.
The Cistercian abbey, which soon afterward was born, founded a village in Frosini in 1272 dedicated to the production of Sangiovese wine along the Via Francigena. And today those vineyards, still cultivated with the sapling as the monks used to do, are managed by Azienda Agricola Nenni, led by Pierpaolo Fontana Nenni (nephew of the famous politician, journalist and leading exponent of the Italian Socialist Party Pietro Nenni), a past on TV, Rai, today soul and heart in the vineyards overlooking the thousand-year-old abbey.

“I arrived here by chance, it was 2007, I was on my way to Grosseto with an uncle of mine, I took a wrong turn and we found ourselves in San Galgano”, Pierpaolo Nenni told WineNews “I found this farm, about ten kilometers from the abbey, and we started to build this project that I followed from a distance while I was working in TV on Rai, but the idea was quite clear to me. It's a company that has 800 years of history but is also young”.
The first vintage produced was 2012, a few thousand bottles, but the real release was 2013, with labels dedicated to San Galgano. “And we immediately registered the San Galgano and Spada brand, worried that others would do it. The estate is 35 hectares, 5 of which are vineyards. The vineyards are those found by the Cistercian monks, the company was that of the monks, there are still traces of their presence, the house where we live was a sort of lookout to check that everyone was working. The Cistercians had learned the techniques in modern times in Burgundy, and had chosen to build the vineyard here - explains Nenni - at an altitude of 600 meters, with great ventilation, sandstone and clay soil that drained well, and that already at the time gave healthy grapes. We have maintained the sapling technique they used, while the plants are obviously from our times. Some are over 50 years old, but we had to replant many of them”.
The production is all Igt, with Sangiovese being the predominant variety, and all “single vineyards”. “I come from marketing, when I was thinking about the company, the wines that were going for the most were the Supertuscans, which were all IGTs, and that's why I made this choice. And then this also gives you more freedom to experiment. Without counting the fact that the name San Galgano lives on its own life, but I’m thinking about whether to start the process for a San Galgano appellation, since other producers are also coming around here”.
As I said, an ancient history, almost ancestral, but which meets with modernity: “We have kept the sapling, but the clones are modern. We have evolved with techniques, climate change imposes it, we use practices like music therapy in the vineyard to fight some parasites. We have reduced the stress from intensive work on the plants of the first years, now we work more naturally, with a bit longer topping, more attention not to create micro lesions when pruning, we use grassing and so on, everything is in the biological regime and since two years we have no more diseases, which is a very rare thing”.
Meanwhile, however, the wine produced in the vineyards of the Middle Ages, and the Sienese goldsmith's art, another almost millenary tradition, have met today, in “Un Sorso di Medioevo”, one of the initiatives of the InSiena network, headed by the school “Siena Experience Italian Hub” directed by Barbara Latini, where not only Nenni’s wines were tasted, but where the artisan-artist Marco Caratelli personalized with gold leaf the bottles of the Nenni Company, which will go to an important American charity auction in September.
“It was interesting to combine these two elements like wine and gold, I make reproductions of Sienese and Florentine gold backgrounds with the technique used in 1300, in my studio you can relive the air of the ancient Sienese shops,” explained Caratelli. And so, the wines produced from the medieval vineyards of San Galgano, adorned with gold painting in the guise of Duccio di Buoninsegna or Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, to name but a few of the most famous Sienese painters, have come together to bring an ancient flavor and atmosphere to the present. With the help of San Galgano.

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