Saint Elisabetta of Montenidoli

Saint who? Elisabetta Fagiuoli is the legendary force of nature behind the Montenidoli vineyard, overlooking the truncated towers of San Gimignano, south west of Florence. To quote the great – and late – Italian gastronome and wine critic, Luigi Veronelli, ‘Elisabetta is the living metaphor of her land, and she greets you, as the land welcomes you, with a smile that testifies to her joy in extending you hospitality. She shares with you her vision of the world, and impresses you with the same quiet strength that millennial culture of winemaking possesses. And you accept her for the elegance of her eloquence and gestures.’ Wow!

Now in her 86th year she is still running the estate with an iron fist in a velvet glove. First and foremost a woman of the land she says that the reason her wines taste the way they do is down to the marine sediments laid down during the Quaternary period when Tuscany was covered by a warm and shallow sea.

The place itself is remote and very beautiful with stunning vistas over the Tuscan hills. She arrived here in 1965, with her partner, to reclaim the vineyard which had been abandoned after the Second World War. It was totally overgrown with thick brambles. The olive groves, unpruned for years, had gone wild. No road, no water, no electricity, they set about clearing and replanting, choosing very carefully the varieties that suited the soil best.

Elisabetta exudes an almost tangible reverence for the earth. She grew up on her family’s Veronese estates of Valpolicella and has wine in her blood. Her continuance of her family’s holistic views and perseverance with organic farming has made her one of the brightest lights of the movement. But this profound respect goes beyond terroir* to include the animals and the people that live on – and live off – the land.

So, you could say that she is truly a down-to-earth gal, someone who does what she says and expects honesty in return. This extends to her dismissal of marketing, reflected in the simplicity and humility of the estate’s wine labels. One of those labels you can find at OAK N4, the sublime Canaiulo 2016 Rosé, delicately coloured with floral aromas, full soft flavours and a savoury finish. To try it is to transport yourself to Tuscany and the vines that grow on those 400-million-year-old oyster beds, lovingly cared for by Elisabetta.

*Wine Bluffer says: Terroir, pronounced tear-wah, is a wine industry term to describe a combination of soil, climate and terrain and their effect on the growing of grapes. Read Wine Bluffer’s Guide on this subject here.

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