Today is a big day for us. Our sales team around the country is showing the wines of just one producer – we’ve dedicated this day to Enrico Santini, our producer from Bolgheri. While this area along the Tuscan coastline in Italy is home to such well known wines as Ornellaia and Sassicaia, Enrico’s story and his wines have a special place in the region. By volume he is our smallest producer, but it is hard to describe Enrico other than saying he is a profoundly passionate and humble man. He has an almost saintly quiet intensity and charisma – he has sacrificed everything to make his dream of producing wine come true. His efforts, and the way he has gone about them as described below, have been acknowledged almost since his first wines. As a complete unkown, Enrico’s second vintage produced a wine that was awarded Tre Bicchieri, and the US press also quickly recognized his talents, with comments including the following from Antonio Galloni: “In just a few years Enrico Santini has emerged as one of Bolgheri’s most promising producers. This is another of the new, young estates that will be fascinating to follow over the next few years.”
Enrico’s story begins when he left a career working in the supermarket industry to work at the winery of a friend, Bolgheri producer Michele Satta. After a few years, now in the late 1990s, Enrico ventured out on his own. He had nothing – no winery, no vineyards, no equipment and very little money. Piero Antinori sold him some land just southwest of Castagneto Carducci under the hill of Montepergoli, and along with a vineyard planted around his house further west, where he has white varieties growing, Enrico has today around 20 acres planted under vine.
Enrico has no employees, and spends the better part of every day in his 20 acres of vineyards, farming to achieve as natural and balanced a vineyard as possible. He is obsessed with adding nothing to his vineyard from the outside and working so that his vines develop their own defenses. His vines have become balanced and strong to the point they are able to combat many vineyard problems, and Enrico has almost completely eliminated the use of sulfur and copper sulphates in his vineyard. His vineyards are certified organic, and while all his vineyard work is a tremendous commitment, it is what gives him the most pleasure – Enrico is one of the few winemakers in the area that is from Bolgheri, and he is deeply, deeply attached to the land.
To make his wines, he brings his fruit to his garage, and ultimately the wines rest in the barrel cellar he carved out underneath the house he lives in with his wife and kids. You can see pictures below – this process is exactly as described. Enrico is a true “garagiste”, and even more, he lives and breathes with his wines. He makes two red blends, Montepergoli and Poggio al Moro, both from Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah, and a white blend from Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc.
When tasting them, the wines have a soulfulness that is impossible to miss – they are alive and individual. We recognize this character when we taste his wines, and even more so when we think of him while tasting. The wines have a remarkable level of sophistication, depth and elegance, but they unfold genuinely.
We can point to a remarkable event that confirms the individuality of Enrico’s wines. The Grand Jury Europeen is a tasting group consisting of a number of important industry figures, such as Michele Bettane (the top French wine critic), Stephane Derenoncourt, Dirk Niepoort, Victor de la Serna (one of the top Spanish critics), and others. They also invite other important wine figures to their periodic tastings, such as our own Luciano Sandrone. In November 2008 they held a blind tasting of 2004 and 2005 Bolgheri wines. The top wine was Montepergoli 2004. Ahead of two vintages each of Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Guago al Tasso, Greppicaia, Sapaio and all others, was Enrico’s single vintage of Monterpergoli – remarkable. Note that Enrico did not make a Montepergoli 2005, as he did not think the vintage was strong enough. Many of the wines in the tasting received very high ratings, and while Montepergoli had excellent reviews, they were not at that level. Even greater contrast is his production, around 1,000 cases/year for Monteperogli, and pricing, which has his wines selling for considerably less than the top names of the region.
This last piece of the story is perhaps the most remarkable: Enrico’s wines offer out-and-out tremendous value.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Enrico’s story is heroic, and the extraordinary result he achieves in his wines through his integrity and character are a vindication of why we sell wine. That’s how we feel about him. It’s intense, we know.