Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
We collect wine for different reasons and one is that the wine’s vintage holds sentimental value. Be it a birth year or anniversary, it’s nice to open a bottle that commemorates an event or a memory. Through the years I have been able to acquire bottles of my son Lucas’s birth year, always choosing wines from producers who are special to me and whose passion shows in their wines. This past Sunday I opened one of these special birth year bottles for Lucas’s graduation from UNC Chapel Hill. It was a special moment and I needed a special wine.
I have always been fascinated by the wines from the Fiorano Estate in Lazio made by the prince of Venosa, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi. The story of how the Prince meticulously tended his vines and then later burned them down to ensure that his legacy gives a fairytale-like explanation for why these wines are a rarity. Their scarcity makes them more special, but even if you don’t know their backstory, these wines are majestic elixirs in a bottle. If you are not familiar with the story of the Prince and his wine, I encourage you to read about it.
To celebrate Lucas’s graduation, we had a family dinner at Lantern, a local Chapel Hill restaurant. The chef was the 2011 winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef for his unique marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients that he sources from local farms and fisheries. We were all looking forward to a great meal, and I brought the 1994 Fiorano No. 46 Bianco and 1994 Fiorano No. 47 Semillon to pair with it. The wines showed spectacular with the family-style dishes accented by Asian spices, making the evening even more enchanting.
Fiorano 1994 No. 47 Sémillon $124.00
This Fiorano shows a golden yellow hue and offers a nose full of melon and honey tones followed by caramel mixed with apricots and kumquat. Airing the glass gives you baked green apples and slight tropical notes. This Sémillon has a soft, creamy palate with slight tangy acidic minerality with lingering sherry-like notes of almonds on a nice, soft, long, mineral-inflected finish. Drink now and for the next decade.
Fiorano 1994 No. 46 Bianco $165.00
This Bianco was a little brighter than the Semillon with a nose of apricot and crushed stones mingled with melon and honey. With air, the wine opens up layers of herbal notes followed by soft peach and tropical fruits. The palate is crisp with a soft, balanced acidity that lingers nicely on a long, nutty, tangy finish that does not let go. Drink now to 2041.
Two expert selections from Robin Kelley O’Connor
The Fiorano estate is a true fairytale property sitting on the outskirts of Rome, near the Via Appia Antica in the region of Lazio (Latium), 25 miles from the center of Rome. One of the great winemaking stories, Fiorano was an Italian wine-producing estate owned by the Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, a prince of Venosa of the millennia-old Ludovisi family, active during a period from the late 1940s to 1995. Famed wine critic Burton Anderson dubbed Fiorano’s wines “the noblest Romans of them all” in his 1980 anthology Vino, and this is just one of the many authorities singing the estate’s praises. Approaching his death, the Prince ripped up all of his vineyards, convinced that no one else could make wine as he did. He was wrong, and his granddaughter Alessia Antinori, a 26th generation winemaker, is proving it.
In 2004, the fabled wines of Fiorano came to IWM, their first time at a US wine retailer, and they caused a sensation in the wine world; IWM has the deepest inventory in the States, a point of pride for us. Following the death of her grandfather in 2005, Alessia Antinori, assumed the project of restoring the Prince’s vineyards, making them biodynamic, and slowly, with a lot of grit, she is returning the estate to its former magnificence. My picks today—Fiorano No. 47 Bianco 1992 and Fiorano No. 48 Sémillon 1995—represent just two selections from IWM’s holdings of the Prince’s fabled wines.
Fiorano No. 47 Bianco 1992 $124.00
More than two decades old, Fiorano No. 47 Bianco 1992 is made from organically grown Malvasia di Candia grape. A dark, deep bright golden yellow, this ‘92 still shows signs of youthfulness. The bouquet is full and intense with aromas of white flowers, candied fruit, pear, spice and earthiness. On the palate, the flavors are concentrated and complex, enveloping the mouth with a rich texture and spiced fruits of apples, pears and minerals. The finish is long balanced and harmonious.
Fiorano No. 48 Sémillon 1995 $124.00
Just shy of 20 years old, this Fiorano No. 48 Sémillon is one of my favorites in this unique and historic collection of wines. I’m a huge fan of old Sémillon and have had the great fortune of experiencing aged Bordeaux and mature Hunter Valley Australian Sémillon. This Fiorano 1995 brings all the excitement of drinking older Sémillon, as this grape offers some of the most compelling flavors and a bouquet that is endlessly intriguing. Powerful, full bodied and rich, this wine is drinking perfectly right now and has years of life ahead of it.