Montalcino, all the Rosé wines of San Lorenzo to date

When Luciano Ciolfi from San Lorenzo suggested I taste all 6 vintages of his Rosé, I could not help but enthusiastically accept an offer which seemed extraordinary to me. I have always enjoyed drinking his wines, aware that I had before me one of the best examples of Sangiovese rosé and a wine that fits into the much broader category of the (best) rosés of Central Italy.

Montalcino, in fact: not many wineries which in 2014 vinified in pink grapes that could easily end up in the more profitable Rosso di Montalcino. A more than justified choice, it is the same market that still today rewards the world of Tuscan rosé wines more sporadically than systematically especially when it comes to prices considered premium, over 10 euros a bottle. Regional rosés are in fact part of an extraordinarily fragmented panorama, made up of extremely different wines. It is not uncommon to come across very fresh wines with an alcoholic strength of 11 degrees, pale pink in colour, and perhaps a few hundred metres away from wineries which produce a rosé of 14 degrees, light pink if not almost red. \A confusion that is reflected in the difficulty of tracing a tradition even before productive sharing. There is no doubt that looking at Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria and Marche, these are the most intense and structured rosé wines, those with the most ambition, that are the most interesting and ultimately the most decisive when trying to trace a geography of rosé wines in Central Italy.

Luciano had started a couple of years before doing tests, to make a wine “first of all that I liked, to drink in the summer, a rosé that had nothing to envy from my other wines”, and in fact a quick tasting suffices to understand just how far the world of the palest rosé wines is from his productive idea. A couple of barriques a year, salasso (or partial juice extraction) from one of the Rosso di Montalcino vats then filled with a little must taken from the others, “because it has never been a choice linked to the need to concentrate the Red”. So barrel “discharge” where the must of the Rosato ferments and rests until the end of winter without any intervention, without racking or batonnage (this was from 2014 to 2018. From 2019, Rosato di San Lorenzo has been vinified and subsequently left to partially ripen in barriques and partly in Clavier, a large ceramic container designed for wine). All this for a production that does not surpass 600 bottles per year.

Ecco quindi la degustazione, tutte le annate del Rosato di San Lorenzo: dalla prima, la 2014, a quella oggi in commercio, la 2019. In apertura e in corsivo il grado alcolico e 2 o 3 parole chiave legate agli andamenti stagionali, come li ricorda Luciano. Una nota sul colore: sono tutti vini che colpiscono per luminosità e in generale per come riescono a rifrangere la luce, catturando molte sfumature. Vini visivamente molto simili tra loro, carichi, con una accenno appena più cupo in quelli meno freschi. Tutti rosati che non lasciano troppo spazio alle esilità: sono vini dal piglio deciso, ricchi di richiami e ancor più di sapore. Andiamo.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2014
13.5% – Cold, no sun, rainy, lots of work in the vineyard and so much selection in the cellar.

Grapefruit marmalade, hints of mandarin in a context that evokes red fruit: strawberry, red currant, cherry. However just a few minutes suffice for a note of flint and very light kerosene to emerge, indicating the passage of time and the character of that particular harvest. It is a taste which, more than the others, seems to be played on a certain verticality, clearly refreshing and decisively characterising a satisfying and delicate taste. Warning: not slender as a Provençal rosé can be after many years, it is in fact equally fine and certainly suggestive in terms of flavour, so beautiful between citrus notes and a very pleasant ferrous appeal. It finishes on a note reminiscent of cherries preserved in alcohol in a tense and vibrant finish.

I liked it very much because it is fragile, evocative and subtle. A charm of its own, linked to its transience and to the fact that it is so unique within the panorama of this small tasting session.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2015
15% – Warm and Dry

The warm(er) vintage is immediately noticeable, in fact not only more mature tones emerge, even in alcohol, but more tertiary, solar notes of hay and cedar. Rose, cherry, passion fruit (?) for a taste that is rounded rather than sound. Rich, powerful and extensive, we could perhaps even use the term glyceric to define a sip that remains and which, in fact, leaves a flavoursome after-taste with a slight burning given off by heat that does not leave us indifferent. However, it is well integrated, not too out of place and, on the contrary, it adds something in terms of thickness to a Rosé that is even more than intact, to be tasted again over the years.

Of all 6, the one I found not as interesting (precisely because of a somewhat bulky alcohol content), whose limitation is to be found in an overly powerful alcohol content. Without any consideration on its balance, a wine that fits well into the style of Luciano Ciolfi’s rosés, wines that let themselves be enveloped by the warmth (and light) of the sun in a context of definite power and decisive depth.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2016
14,5% – Warm but definitely balanced, the plants have never suffered

Opens up, in a composed fashion, with slightly citrus notes that fade into small, ripe, red fruit. Then we experience a chorus of floral shades, violet and pink in particular that slowly give way to more baritone scents, of dried herbs (including tobacco) and of wheat fields in a context of colours that remind us more of sunrise than sunset. What balance, what fabric: freshness and warmth run along the entire palate in an explosion of flavours that is perfect: not light, not powerful, just right. A particularly graceful and lightly warming finish which fades and invites you to taste again.

Reiterating how 2016 was a vintage year may perhaps be tiring in its repetition. Wow, what a wine! One of the most complete rosé wines I have tasted in recent years, a wine whose only limit is to be found in its aesthetic completeness: there is no crack, no edge, no flaw. Very nice, undoubtedly the best wine of the set.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2017
14% – Warm and dry but well managed, excellent ripening

Blood orange and medicinal herbs, ripe cherry and hay, violet and cedar. Rich not only in terms of recall but also of extracts: it is a full, rounded, three-dimensional wine, which takes up more space than the others without this being an embarrassment. In fact, it stands out due to its striking balance between power, depth, alcoholic heat and freshness, as well as flavour. It is mouth-watering, rich and satisfying with a finish exuding warm and enthralling fruit.

It is so rich and intense that it is somewhat predictable as regards its development of flavour, even if it is most certainly well balanced. A colourful note that is perhaps worth mentioning: after 2 days (each wine was tasted over a period of about 36 hours), it was the 2017 bottle in which the greatest amount of wine remained, a sign of a lower number of tastings than the others.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2018
14% – A good vintage, cold and rainy at the end of the season, in September

The one with the least intense colour. Currant and cherry leaves, orange and mandarin marmalade, then again currants and wild strawberries. Refined, complete tasting, everything seems to be in its place and for the pure enjoyment of imbibing. The acidity is refreshing, a hint of warmth, on the central palette it is mouth-watering without exaggerating. Sound but not vertical, rigorous without lacking generosity. Simply marvellous, each sip recalls the next without ever tiring of it. What elegance.

Getting to 2018 after 2017 was quite a rollercoaster: so much so, the previous one was *everything* but this plays a game of subtraction, nuances and Tuscan elegance. In terms of scoring, just behind the 2016 Rosé, in terms of preference, it’s the one I would take home.

San Lorenzo, Rosé 2019
14% – An excellent vintage, all good from spring to harvest, excellent production, one to remember

The attack is quite delicate and expresses initial floral notes, the only one out of the 6, and only after fruity notes. The nose is a benchmark: dog rose before violet, citrus tones, small red fruit and finally notes of wheat fields, freshly cut grass and summer in general. It is elegant, deep, characterised by a warmth that is a distinctive feature for a full, very flavoursome and at the same time refined taste of a pleasing and convincing Montalcino elegance. The finish refreshes the palate, with the usual full-bodied nature of the Rosato di San Lorenzo.

A fantastic wine, slightly leaner than the previous one but no less energetic. Out of the 3 that I preferred (in order: 2018, 2016, 2019), already achieved today, let’s wait and see what will happen and if it is close to the suggestions of the other 2 (I would say so) but today was already very enjoyable to say the least.

by Jacopo Cossater


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