The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Cupano’s Super-Tuscan Love Affair

Posted on | September 9, 2015 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments


The road leading to Cupano

I remember precisely the first time I ever drank Cupano’s Sant’Antimo Ombrone. It was in late November 2011, and I had spent the day with Ornella Tondini, who owns the estate with her husband, winemaker Lionello Cousin. Ornella had kindly brought me to this awards ceremony and tasting for Brunellos in Montalcino—I don’t remember exactly what it was beyond that everyone who’s anyone in Brunello was sitting in the small, jewel-like theatre.

Lionel Tondini of Cupano

Lionello Cousin of Cupano

The event had stretched into lunch, and lunch had stretched into coffee, which had elided into a bottle of wine or four, popped open on the verandah of Cupano, opera playing in the background, Lionello tending the fire burning in a gutted drum in front of us. The group of people kept shifting kaleidoscopically, but I was always the only American and the only person who couldn’t converse in multiple languages. Everyone there had something to do with wine—they made it, they imported it, they sold it, they loved it.

We began by drinking different vintages of Cupano Brunello, but after some coercion on the part of one of the other guests, Lionel opened a bottle of his Sant’Antimo Ombrone. I’d been in Montalcino a little more than a month; thus I’d been drinking a lot of Brunello. It had been more or less a steady Sangiovese drink, something about which I felt nothing but joy, punctuated by the odd Piemontese Dolcetto or Barbera for variety. So when that velvety, opulent Ombrone crossed my palate, I sat up and took notice. It was both so very different from everything else I’d been drinking, yet so very redolent of the cypress-scented, mineral-inflected air where I sat that it felt both familiar and unknown at once.

The rocky vineyards at Cupano

The rocky vineyards at Cupano

This past Christmas, I poured the Ombrone 2006 for friends at Christmas dinner. It drank like a perfect little chamber orchestra, each note building upon the one before, each one working in concert to create a delightful, deceptively powerful experience. I alone at the dinner had been to Montalcino—in fact, I think I was more or less the only wine person—but everyone loved the wine.

That’s the kind of wine Cupano Sant’Antimo Ombrone is. It’s like its two gracious makers, Ornella and Lionel, people who open their house, their lives and their bottles to strangers and make them lifelong friends.

Today’s eLetter offer featured the 2010 vintage of Cupano Sant’Antimo Ombrone; priced at under $40, it’s a steal.



Leave a Reply