I had the pleasure of meeting Gianfranco Fino and Simona and tasting his wine L’Es for the first time last summer at VinoVip in Cortina. I was lucky enough to see them again this year at Operawine during Vinitaly. This was the first year that Fino’s wine was included in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Italian wines and he was quite elated when I saw him. Apparently, L’Es is quite the cult wine in Italy. I found both Gianfranco and Simona very engaging but was dubious if I would like the wine. Primitivo is a very powerful grape and often the wines produced with it knock my socks off, literally, so it isn’t a wine I order very often.
Gianfranco’s wine though was very different than what I had imagined. Yes it was powerful and concentrated as most are but additionally, it had great minerality which I really appreciated. The wine is made from 100% Primitivo di Manduria (Taranto). It is made from very old vines, over 60 years on average, that are bushed trained and grow in red earth. The grapes are slightly dried on the vine and then picked. They undergo a long fermentation on the skins, three to four weeks, and are then aged in barriques for 10 months. The wine isn’t filtered or fined and ages in the bottle an additional six months before the wine is released into the market. It was a great wine to pair with a big roast or important cheese.
I also had the good fortune to try his passito of this wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale D.O.C.G. I loved it. I am a huge fan of sweet wines. He only has made this wine twice since 2004. According to Fino, he only makes it in perfect years, 2008 and 2012. It also spends one year in barriques and one in the bottle before being released into the market. It was deep ruby red in color, and had a rich and sweet bouquet of floral notes, herbs, nuts and fruit. It also had the minerality and acidity I found in the Primitivo di Manduria D.O.C. The wine was balanced and harmonious, never over the top, and had a long beautiful finish of fine tannins and chocolate.
The winery is somewhat recent and was established in 2004. Fino bought an existing vineyard because of the 50 year old vines. He later bought another vineyard planted with 40 year old vines of Negroamaro, an indigenous grape I really like. Fino is very attentive to his agricultural and pruning practices. He’s had great critical acclaim in Italy for his products which I found interesting. I imagine the same will be true in the States in the near term. Tanto di cappello to you Gianfranco Fino! (hat’s off…)