Last spring, a young woman named Maria Sole Giannelli reached out to us via email about potentially representing her wines in the US. While we receive scores of such solicitations each year, Maria Sole’s sincerity and passion for her craft shone through almost disarmingly in that initial correspondence, and we began a conversation, full of curiosity. The samples she sent bowled us over, and our visit to her property sealed the deal: here was a young grower with an undeniable spark, at the very beginning of a project with immense potential and yet whose early results already shamed the vast majority of by-the-numbers Tuscan wines on the market.
Maria Sole’s farm is called Ficomontanino (roughly, “Little Fig Mountain”), a property her grandfather acquired in the 1960s as a place to produce olive oil and breed horses. Situated in the far southeast of the region near the town of Chiusi, Ficomontanino is administratively part of Tuscany, but geographically and spiritually it speaks to both Umbria and Lazio, both of whose borders are mere kilometers away. From her 12 hectares of vines, planted at around 350 meters altitude on the south-facing slopes of her family’s property, one can see Lake Trasimeno in Umbria to the east, the mountains of northern Lazio to the south, and the rolling hills of Siena to the northwest.
Maria Sole’s grandfather planted the first vines here almost 40 years ago, making wine as a hobby, and while Maria Sole’s father ramped up production a bit, his approach was more conventional, informed by then-current trends toward power and color. Having studied at Slow Food’s University of Culinary Arts at Pollenzo, Maria Sole was inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and Masanobu Fukuoka to reimagine her family’s vineyards as part of a larger ecosystem, and when she gained responsibility for them in 2014, she set about establishing a natural equilibrium on the property, incorporating biodynamic preparations, allowing vegetation to grow freely, and relying on only bare traces of copper-sulfate to treat her vineyards.
She has gradually been refining her approach in the cellar as well, working toward ever more expressiveness via ever fewer interventions. Maria Sole’s mother is from Sardinia, and she was inspired to drastically alter her approach to temperature control, sulfur, and other such safeguards by the bold, proudly natural wines of Tenute Dettori (located near to her mother’s birth home), as well as by numerous examples from Piedmont, where she worked after school for a number of years. Her cellar sidekick Fabio, originally from the Valtellina, worked at the legendary Ar.Pe.Pe estate, and both he and Maria Sole bring a certain appreciation of reined-in, precise wildness to the overarching aesthetic of Ficomontanino’s wines.
“Noble Kara” Rosato IGT Toscana
Named after one of Maria Sole’s grandfather’s favorite horses, “Noble Kara” claims its rightful place in the proud tradition of “real” rosé wines—rosés made from fully ripe, healthy grapes trusted to ferment on their own and allowed to express a natural depth of color (think great Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo here). Pure Sangiovese from three different parcels on the property—Ficomontano, Melogranino, and Campo Cavalli—this vivacious wine spends 24 hours macerating on its skins before pressing and fermentation, which takes place in stainless steel via naturally occurring yeasts and with no temperature control. As with all her wines, Maria Sole bottles “Noble Kara” without fining or filtration, and with a minimum of sulfur.
“Bulgarelli” Rosso IGT Toscana
Maria Sole’s workhorse (pun intended) wine, “Bulgarelli”—named after her grandfather’s prized stallion—is pure Sangiovese from 20- to 30-year-old vines planted in the sandy clay soils of the farm’s main three parcels: Ficomontano, Melogranino, and Campo Cavalli. Fermented naturally, with a 15-day maceration, the 2019 spent the better part of a year in a combination of cement and steel vats, and was bottled without fining or filtration. This wine pulls in multiple directions; it is both fresh and deep, both spicy and politely earthy, and its dark red fruits soar high, unfettered by cellar manipulations. The ever-versatile Sangiovese finds a new and lovely register here.
“Granomelo” Rosso IGT Toscana
“Granomelo”—a play on the name of the cru Melogranino from which it is sourced—is 100% Sangiovese from south-facing slopes of sandy clay and silt, planted 20 years ago by Maria Sole’s father. For this cuvée, she employs a longer maceration of three weeks and uses only cement for the fermentation, then ages the wine a full two winters in the cellar before bottling it without fining or filtration. Like the “Bulgarelli” above, this displays a frank and mesmerizing purity of fruit, but with a greater sense of earthiness and a more tenacious cling on the palate; it’s a union of sand-derived elegance and a certain wildness of spirit.