2018 Francesco Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Thoroughly glad to have been able to taste this wine – it has not just left a bunch of pleasant and long flavours in my mouth, but it’s also quickly become a wine I’ll remember for a long while. Why haven’t I heard of this estate earlier?

Francesco Cirelli farms about 22 hectares in the commune of Atri in Abruzzo, Southern Italy, and I mean literally ‘farm’, for a bulk of that area is devoted to raising livestock like poultry animals and sheep and also farms olives and figs. The entire estate is farmed organically, including the mere 6 hectares planted to vines. The description of their farming methods on the official website however seems to point more toward a kind of permaculture, citing a more ‘cyclical’ balance with livestock manure used to fertilise crops and the grass, and that in turn feeding the animals as they graze.

The estate itself was founded in 2003 by Francesco Cirelli who had purchased the land after falling in love with it. He had apparently just graduated from a very prestigious university studying economics when he purchased it. Cirelli produces all his wines in amphora, believing in preserving the purity of the fruit’s natural character. He farms three different grape varieties – Trebbiano, Pecorino and the only red of the three, Montepulciano.

Today I am having Cirelli’s Montepulciano, a red grape that I often compare to Syrah a lot. They share the savouriness and spice, the reduction, a bright acidity, and a generally softer tannin structure than when compared to varieties like Sangiovese for example that you see planted anywhere and everywhere in Italy.

On the nose the wine was wild; bramble berry overload, crunchy black cherries, fresh earth and a slight leafiness. It was very umami on the palate too with a slight brininess about it. The acidity was bright and vibrant, tannins soft but obvious. I had this with a nice grass-fed steak my girlfriend had cooked up, though I personally felt that it would have done better with either lamb, squab or pigeon.

Overall really pleased to have been introduced to this wine, especially when the wines of the other icons of the region like Emidio Pepe and Valentini’s wines are quickly getting rare and prohibitive with their steep price points. You are sure to hear more of Cirelli in the future. I’m for sure a return customer.