‘THE ART OF DOING MAKES US FALL IN LOVE,
WHEN TIME IS AN ACT OF UNDERSTANDING,
AND IN THE GAME OF TIME,
A WHIMSICAL GESTURE OF THINGS
HAS LANDED THE QUALITY OF DREAMS IN ALTESINO,
BLURRING THE SENSES AND DRAWING THE WINE’
Founded in 1970 in the 15th-century Palazzo Altesi, Altesino has always been a pioneer in Montalcino, unafraid to challenge the old guard and responsible for such heretical concepts as aging in small French barrique, bottling single Cru vineyard wines, selling futures, and producing the first Grappa di Fattoria. Much like the Barolo Boys that disrupted traditional Nebbiolo in the North and the Super Tuscans that replaced Sangiovese with Cabernet, Altesino thought outside the box. Simply put, Altesino is one of the most historically relevant estates in Montalcino. Frankly, the wines slipped in quality in the late 90’s and early 2000’s but the legendary Queen of Brunello Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini bought the estate in 2002 and since about 2010 the winery has regained it’s historical import. Altesino normale is one of most consistent, best values and immediately approachable wines in all of Montalcino and Montosoli is certainly one of the greatest vineyard sites in all of Italy. Like our friend Siro Pacenti, Altesino farms in both the North and the South and therefore is making great wine nearly every year now. Kudos.
ELISABETTA GNUDI ANGELINI, THE QUEEN OF BRUNELLO
Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini grew up in Rome. While studying economics at university, she met Paolo Angelini, whose family’s pharmaceutical company was the largest in Italy. She was just 20 years old when the pair married. From a very young age Elisabetta dedicated herself to the art world, helping to manage a production house operating in the realms of both theatre and cinema. During this period her two children, Igino and Alessandra, were born. Following the premature death of her husband, Elisabetta became a member of the Angelini Board of Directors in the 1990s, but in 1998 she decided to sell her stake in the company and take on a challenge that excited her. “After pharmaceuticals, wine is the best drug”. She therefore threw herself headlong into a new adventure, attending evening classes in oenology and studying agriculture at university. “My dream was to go and live in the country. That’s why I think I’m a lucky woman, because in my middle years I got the chance to decide of my own free will what I would do with the time left to me before I get old”. She may be lucky, but Elisabetta certainly hasn’t decided to spend the latter part of her life relaxing under the Tuscan sun. In 1997 she bought Borgo Scopeto, an estate in the Chianti Classico area. A couple of years later she became the owner of Caparzo, a Montalcino winery of many years’ standing. Finally, in 2002 she was offered the chance to buy Altesino, one of the most prestigious winemakers in the Montalcino area, and she had no intention of letting it slip through her fingers. “Altesino is a little gem. It’s my baby.” Despite being relatively young in wine industry terms, Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini demonstrated right from the outset that she had no qualms about shaking up the prevailing outlook of the businesses she acquired. “I was in no way intimidated. I was widowed when my children were still very young, and from then on I brought them up on my own. I normally have a smile on my face, but when I get angry everybody knows about it”. She decided to ‘renovate’ everything, vines included, according to the most modern criteria and with no expense spared, consulting with some of the most widely recognised oenologists and agriculturists in Italy. Since then “my passion for wine drives everything: each year’s vintage must be even more perfect than the one before”
Amid the eastern hills of Montalcino near Siena in central Tuscany, stands the magnificently elegant 14th century-built Palazzo Altesi, home to the Altesino winery and a marvelous resort. The ancient coat of arms, carved in white Carrara marble, is still visible above the antique oak portal. The stunning Palazzo Altesi beautifully reflects Altesino’s charm and refinement.
For the better part of the last century, however, Montalcino was a poor Tuscan town, known best for Moscadello dessert wines and neglected vineyards. Altesino is among a handful of Brunello producers who pushed for increased quality and recognition in the 1970s and 1980s, revolutionizing the region entirely. After purchasing his property in 1970, Giulio Consonno and his collaborators began several years of experimentation. They were convinced that the strict aging requirements for Brunello di Montalcino were preventing them from making the best wine they could. The found that the strong, tannic wines obtained from their grapes do not show their best potential when subjected to 3 1/2 years of aging in bottle. Instead, putting these same wines into small French oak cooperage for shorter periods of time brought out the fruit, softened the tannins and resulted in perfectly balanced wines. A string of classic wines followed, and Altesino established a style characterized by finesse, elegance and rich, vibrant fruit tones.
In 2002, the winery changed hands. New owner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini maintains the traditions that elevate Altesino‘s wine while improving function and equipment in the cellar: “Altesino is very traditional. It doesn’t follow fashions. You have the best piece of land in Montalcino — Montosoli — why should we change the wine? We have a jewel, something unique.”
Altesino produces outstanding wines with the help of renowned enologists Pietro Rivella and Paolo Caciorgna. Their Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wine styles are collectors’ favorites, and their Super Tuscan wines Alte d’ Altesi and Palazzo d’Altesi are top class. The wines are highly rated, with 95 points for Brunello di Montosoli in Wine Spectator, as an example. Apart from the historic wine cellars (actually inside the Palazzo), the estate is also home to a “Vinsantaia,” where the drying of the grapes and aging takes place for their famed vin santo wine in “caratelli” barrels. Altesino’s five “Cru” vineyards include Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Macina, Pianezzine, and Montosoli, a cru vineyard particularly famous for the exquisite wines made from the grapes handpicked here.