Santa Felicita

The global obsession with Pinot Noir shows no sign of letting up and it is not exclusive to us wine drinkers, it is the winemakers too and Italy’s are far from immune! What is surprising is how few stars have risen and the number of false dawns have lead me to despair, I did not expect the drought to end in Toscana.
Santa Felicita is high in the hills above Arezzo within the commune of Casentino, the altitude is extreme for Sangiovese and so the legislators have left it alone. It is not a classic wine region and for this very reason it is the perfect spot for one of Italy’s most esteemed winemakers to produce his own wines. Frederico Staderini is a modest man with a reputation for excellence and a gentle touch that moulds to suit his customers and the terroir. He is also the consultant winemaker for both Poggio di Sotto and Castell’in Villa. At Santa Felicita he does not practice what he preaches, he is free to work at the extremes as the risk is his. The winery is in his neighbour’s basement, the only living soul with a view of the vineyard. There is no technical equipment, the de-stemming machine is a hand-made framed section of plastic coated chicken wire. Fermentation and ageing is in a motley collection of concrete and oak casks. I was slightly concerned by the build quality of the cellar and totally amazed by its contents.
The four hectare vineyard is almost entirely Pinot Noir, there is also an obscure local variety called ‘Abrostine’ which has a presence, but makes no appearance in the wines. In its native Burgundy, Pinot Noirs enjoys a lower average temperature than Casentino, but at five hundred metres daily temperature swings are dramatic – the lows are lower and highs higher. The soils do nothing to encourage vigour: thin clays and sand on ancient limestone. There is extraordinary potential here.

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