Size & Type
When you hear of the estates Andrea has helped establish it makes sense that his own vineyards should kick out some tasty vino. The list: Poggio di Sotto, there’s La Torre, Poggio degli Ulivi, Mastrojanni, Tenuta di Sesta and Collosorbo, Sesta di Sopra, Podere Salicutti, and of course Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona.
Tasting Andrea’s Brunello for the first time saw me holding yet another incarnation of Brunello in my glass. There is a richness and darkness here, yet somehow Andrea has tamed the beast. The shape on palate rounder, and brought together with wonderfully weighted tannins.
The element that really strikes me is the incredible complexity and layering. If you read the critics’ reviews, there are perhaps a couple of dozen descriptors, all can be seen in the wine.
As you give it time in the glass it blossoms, freshens, the energy builds. The persistence of complex flavours, with a layer of truffles, and the clarity as the wine finishes draws you back in for another hit.
The Uccelliera winery and vineyards may be located in the warm, southeast corner of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, yet in the sunny 2015 vintage, you’d never know it. Of course, these six hectares of vineyards are tended with loving care through a vine-by-vine approach, which is seldom seen elsewhere. The vines of Uccelliera were once part of the Ciacci Piccolomini estate, including two hectares that border the renowned Pianrosso vineyard. That was until their winemaker at the time, Andrea Cortonesi, convinced them to sell him some vineyards and start his own project in 1986. Today, Uccelliera stands out among Brunello producers from the warmer climates, particularly for the balance they find, being open to explore in their youth but also capable of maturing for well over a decade.
“Andrea Cortonesi reflects the best of the artisan spirit in Montalcino. The Uccelleria wines are rich, layered and beautifully textured.” – Antonio Galloni
“Without a shadow of a doubt, Andrea Cortonesi of Uccelliera lands high on my list of favorite Brunello di Montalcino producers.” – The Wine Advocate
The Uccelliera estate was at once part of neighboring Ciacci Piccolomini until 1986, when winemaker Andrea Cortonesi purchased it from his friends and former employers. After refining his trade as cellar master for Ciacci, Andrea ventured out on his own with the formation of Uccelliera. His first vintage was 1991 with the production of a mere 500 bottles!
The wines have quickly become cult favorites amongst the cognoscenti. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the appellation in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, the soil here is loose and stony which when coupled with a warm microclimate gives the wines of Uccelliera a rich and ripe expression, vintage after vintage. Andrea Cortonesi is tireless in his approach to winemaking, with all vineyard work done exclusively by hand. In addition to Brunello, the Rosso di Montalcino is a very limited production and features an unusually powerful nose and ripe, rich fruit. Rounding out the lineup is the tiny-production Super Tuscan, “Rapace”, which is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet and aged in barrique.
The first vintage of Uccelliera Brunello may have been 1991, but the roots of Andrea Cortonesi run much deeper into both time and terroir in Montalcino. His family, as long as can be remembered, were sharecropping farmers in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, the tiny hamlet surrounding the medieval abbey of Sant’Antimo in the southeastern part of the appellation. They worked the fields, vineyards, and olive groves long before the boom of Brunello was heard around the world.
Most of us know Montalcino now only as this lauded territory, the source of Italy’s most desired Sangiovese wines, and certainly its most expensive. So it’s extremely striking to think that in 1986 when Andrea Cortonesi purchased the Uccelliera farm, his family had only left sharecropping behind three years earlier. There were just 60 estates bottling Brunello in the mid-1980s—compared to over 200 today—and Andrea had worked at many of them.
“Observe, listen to, and accompany nature,” was Angelo Cotonesi’s advice for his son. But Andrea applied this motto to more than just agriculture. Giuseppe Bianchini, the caretaker and eventual owner of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, saw talent in young Andrea and put him to work on his crew that helped to create many of the now-famous estates in Castelnuovo. In fact, Andrea remembers the first vineyard he planted on this team in 1978 for what would eventually become Poggio di Sotto, but there were many others.Andrea, always the farmer-philosopher, reminded me that normally each vigneron has one opportunity per year to do his best, but as a part of this group tending to many estates, he had the fortune of gaining decades-worth of experience in just a few years. And while Andrea got his start working the vineyards, soon his passion for the subject matter brought him into the cantina, where he learned his winemaking skills by collaborating with true giants of Sangiovese: Giulio Gambelli, Roberto Cipresso, Maurizio Castelli, Alberto Antonini, and Attilio Pagli, just to name a few. To this day he recalls with incredulity how Gambelli could taste a wine and instantly tell you what was normally revealed by a detailed chemical analysis from a laboratory!
And those estates Andrea helped to create? Beyond Poggio di Sotto, there’s La Torre, Poggio degli Ulivi, Mastrojanni, Tenuta di Sesta and Collosorbo, Sesta di Sopra, Podere Salicutti, and of course Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, where he was cellar master until 1990. Here, Andrea was on the team that made both the great 1988 and 1990 vintages which caught the attention of journalists and launched Ciacci onto the world stage.
Andrea’s own first vineyards took root in 1987, and by 1998 he was able to dedicated himself full time to Uccelliera. Word of this tiny estate with an outsized experience in Montalcino spread quickly, and the term cult-Brunello was applied almost immediately.
The vineyards cover a surface of around 6 hectares planted with selected clones and with a high density of vines.
The direction of the rows, the constant and attentive manual care of the vineyard to maintain a balanced growth and a regular thinning of the bunches contribute to the production of grapes that are perfectly ripe, healthy and fragrant all essential requirements for a balanced wine rich in structure, suitable for brief and long ageing.
Maturation in Slavonian and French oak barrels for a minimum
of 24 months, in special vintages up to 36 months
Bottle ageing for a minimum of 6 months before released for sale.
Uccelliera is in southeast corner of the Montalcino in Castelnuovo dell’Abate.
Andrea Cortonesi of Uccelliera shows real talent when it comes to highlighting vintage variation in his wines. His 2015 Brunello di Montalcino captures the exuberance and the ebullience of this sunny and warm growing season. However, the wine remains orderly, precise and very elegant nonetheless, with a pretty succession of aromas that play cautiously forward, building in intensity along the way. Dried currant and cherry cede to moist earth, rose petal and balsam herb. The wine's medium-weight body is supported by fresh acidity and well-managed tannins (with 36 months of oak aging). All of these moving pieces work in harmony. This Brunello was bottled in July 2019 and released in January 2020. Some 27,866 bottles were released.
The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino opens with an alluring bouquet that showcases dark red fruits, sweet florals, dusty earth and a hint of animal musk. On the palate, I find a soft, enveloping expression, displaying ripe red and black fruits, which seem to hover on the senses, as a mix of spices, saline-minerals and zesty acids saturate the senses. The finish is long, spicy, yet also wonderfully fresh, with hints of fine tannin gently tugging at the senses. The 2015 Uccelliera Brunello is already so easy to like, making good use of the sunny nature of the vintage, yet with all the raw ingredients for medium-term cellaring. Tasted twice with consistent results.
Moderately saturated red. Highly nuanced aromas and flavors of black plum, sour red fruit, tobacco, herbs and nutty oak. Sweet, seamless and wonderfully fine-grained wine with vibrant acidity providing noteworthy clarity and cut on the long multilayered finish
Plenty of earth, tar, spices, dried cherries and red plums here. The tannins have a firm but generous quality to them, providing an abundance of structure to the full-bodied palate. I love the juxtaposition between ripe fruit and tightly webbed texture. Drink from 2023.
Where in the world does the magic happen?
Azienda Agricola Uccelliera, Podere Uccelliera, Montalcino, Province of Siena, Italy