This blog post was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. Originally written for April publication in an Italian magazine, other matters (understandably) took priority. In the spirit of better-late-than-never, please enjoy this conversation about Tuscany’s exceptional wines with Marco Molesini, co-owner of Cortona’s Enoteca Molesini.
Brunello di Montalcino ● Chianti Classico ● Vernaccia di San Gimignano ● Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Marco Molesini: Welcome back to Tuscany, Kathy! As you know, it’s the only place in the world where you can taste so many top-quality wines in just one week. In other countries—even in other Italian regions—you would have to make many appointments to get the same experience. It is a unique and special aspect of Tuscany.
Kathy Merchant: I couldn’t agree more! I have visited wineries in most major global regions. While it’s inspiring to visit them individually, you get only a small sampling of what a region has to offer. Anteprime di Toscana gives premier access to more than 400 wineries.
Marco: For someone like me in the retail business, previews confirm early vintage assessments in the glass. For example, 2015 was an exceptional year for Brunello di Montalcino.
Kathy: People are saying that the 2015 vintage is as good, perhaps even better, than the 2010 “wine of the century.” I thought it was fresh and approachable. Now that you have tasted more than 150 Brunellos, what are your impressions?
Marco: Brunello has the longest aging requirement of all Tuscan wines. It typically has beautiful tannins that need time to soften and integrate. But tastes in wine are changing, especially among younger consumers who buy wine to drink tonight, not for cellaring. Montalcino wineries have started to adjust the Brunello style, making wines that are fresh to drink now and well-structured to age for many years.
Kathy: We are in complete agreement on that advice! Stock up on the 2015 vintage, enjoy the wine now, and save a few bottles for future pleasure.
Marco: This trend of producing “drink now” wines is catching on in other important wine regions such as Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and Barolo. Brunello is having a great influence on style as other regions shift to fresher, less tannic, and lower alcohol wines. Brunello’s influence on the quality of wine in Tuscany is also important. A good example is a new category called “Gran Selezione” approved in Chianti Classico in 2010. Aged 30 months, the 2014-16 vintages were definitely top quality at the preview event.
Kathy: Our conversations with winemakers in Chianti Classico and Montepulciano, where aging requirements are shorter, revealed that 2017 and 2018 vintages were quite challenging.
Marco: Yes, it was a very different situation than 2015. The 2017 vintage was very hot throughout Tuscany. Many vines were damaged. Quantity was low, and it was difficult to make a quality wine. There was some vineyard recovery in 2018, but it was another challenging vintage. Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile wineries presented a mix of preview vintages, but the older reserve wines were most popular.
Kathy: By 2019, the fields had started to recover. Vernaccia, the fresh white grape specialty of San Gimignano, was our only opportunity to taste the 2019 vintage in the glass.
Marco: That sample supported early assessment of the vintage — a very good year! There will be lots to look forward to in the future.
Kathy: You and your family have had a window on wine trends for more than 80 years. Much has changed since 1937 when your grandfather started a market in Cortona.
Marco: Our family has always sold wine, but about two decades ago we decided to build our wine business. We are always introducing new features. My brother Paolo and I have grown our wine selection to over 1,500 bottles, become one of the largest global sellers of Italian wine, and started a wine club. We welcome customers to enjoy a one-hour education session and tasting at any time, no reservation required. Wine is our passion, and we want to share the experience with everyone!
Kathy: I was surprised to learn that an American public university had established a permanent campus in Cortona in 1970, and that it is still going strong.
Marco: The man behind this was Jack Kehoe, who passed away a few years ago. He was on a mission from University of Georgia (UGA) to identify a location for an exchange program. Like so many Americans, he fell in love with Cortona, convinced UGA to set up a campus here, and moved his family to Italy. Jack was a mentor to me. I attended UGA in the United States. After becoming a sommelier in 1999, I helped Jack establish an enology program where I teach the introductory wine course for new exchange students.
Kathy: Your innovative approaches have been recognized by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino with the Leccio d’Oro award (2016) highlighting wine shops in Italy and abroad that offer the best representation of Brunello wines. I believe you also have some exciting news!
Marco: For the first time, Gambero Rosso’s definitive guide to Italy’s enotecas has added a new designation called Tre Cavatappi (three corkscrews). In this first edition, which comes out in March, eight national and 46 regional wine shops were awarded this new symbol of excellence. Enoteca Molesini is proud to be on that list!
Enoteca Molesini | Sipping, Shopping & Sharing
Open 9:00 am – 8:00 pm (7:00 on Sunday) every day except Christmas
Piazza della Republica 22/23
52044 Cortona (AR), Tuscany
Tel +39 0575 62544
—One-hour wine education and tasting (no charge, no reservation needed)
—Private wine tasting (€20 per person, four wines paired with cheese, bread, olive oil)
—½ day Tuscany wine tour (€120 per person including transportation, winery tour, lunch, paired wines)
—Wine club (three levels of participation: http://www.molesiniwineclub.com)
—“Wine, Dine & Shine” every Thursday May through October in partnership with DelBrenna Jewelry (wine on the piazza is free; dinner is €50 per person hosted by various restaurants)
—Host of annual preview week tour (pre-registration and payment required)