Italian wine connoisseur Charles Scicolone and his wife and Italian food authority Michele Scicolone recently invited me and a few others to their home for a truly remarkable tasting of a wine I had heard and read so much about but had never had the opportunity to enjoy: Fiorano Rosso, a wine produced by the legendary, however enigmatic, Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi (the flight, above, included, from left, Torre Ercolana 1990 and Fiorano Rosso, 91, 89, and 86). According to publisher and food and wine writer Luigi Veronelli, the prince was the first to employ “biological” farming practices in Italy (see the excerpt from the Veronelli guide to Italian wines below). While Fiorano whites have recently resurfaced in the U.S., the reds are seemingly impossible to find. After tasting them the other night, I can see why collectors bought them all up when the prince stopped releasing them commercially and why they are reluctant to open these magnificent expressions of Cabernet and Merlot, grown and vinified outside Rome.
The wines were elegant yet earthy, with balanced fruit and beautifully mellowed tannins. One of the guests — who happened to be one of the world’s top wine writers — noted that they reminded him of first growth Pauillac.
According to the legend, after the prince’s daughter married Piero Antinori (one of the men behind Italy’s modernist winemaking movement), the prince purportedly destroyed his vineyards so that his son-in-law would never abuse the legacy of his coveted wines. In a 2001 interview, Veronelli asked the prince why he had ripped out the vines. I’ve translated the prince’s answers and his artful explanation of his relationship with his son-in-law below (I’m not sure the year of publication: Charles gave me a photocopy of a photocopy he had been given from Veronelli’s guide to Italian wines).
Since 1934, when I was sixteen years old, the use of industrially produced chemicals in land management has never seemed wise to me.
The Fiorano estate began to produce wine around 1930 using local grape varieties. In 1946, when I received the property from my father, I judged the wine to be inferior and consulted with Dr. Giuseppe Palieri who was producing wine on the Maccarese estate about 20 kilometers southwest of Rome. Dr. Palieri suggested that I graft Cabernet and Merlot to my vines for the reds, 50% of the one and the other, and Malvasia di Candia and Semillon for the whites. I continued to rely on Dr. Palieri for the rest of his life. Dr. Tancredi Biondi Santi subsequently became my enologist and continued to work with me until his passing.
I pulled out almost all of my vines because of advanced age and poor health and the advanced age of the vines. But I still produce a small amount of wine from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, blended in equal amounts.
My three granddaughters [Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia] have inherited their interest in wine not from me but from their father Piero [Antinori], an eminent producer of fine wine.