Montefiascone sits on the rim of a long extinct volcano overlooking the Bolsena Lake, which fills what once was the crater. It is a beautiful town, rich in history, art and culture, but widely known for high quality wines. It is home to the widely marketed and curiously named DOC of Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone. Story has it that a German bishop travelling toward Rome sent a scout ahead to locate the locales along the way that served suitable wine. The scout would mark the door of the local tavern with the word “est” (“it is” in Latin). Upon dining in the tavern at Montefiascone, the scout was so satisfied that he marked the door “Est! Est!! Est!!!” The story, alack alas, is much more entertaining today than the wine produced, which, at best, is pleasant sipping but more often is thin and undistinguished.
The wine scene in Montefiascone these days, for the real wine geek, is not about the local DOC as much as one particular producer called Falesco and its proprietor and winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella.
It can be argued that over the last ten to fifteen years no enologist has been more influential than Mr. Cotarella. The Falesco winery was started by Riccardo and his brother Renzo (who is also known for the wines he make for Piero Antinori) in 1979. Through years of attentive research on the territory clones to grow, in 1989 they released the Poggio dei Gelsi single-vineyard bottling of Est! Est!! Est!!!, which helped to breathe some life into an appellation that was wallowing in anonymity at the time. By 1993 they had developed a particular clone of the Merlot grape in a vineyard they called Montiano, which is today arguably the most important wine of the Lazio region. Riccardo’s fame rose further through his consultation to other wineries, most notably Montevetrano in the Cilento zone (See last month’s article). Most recently he has been working on resurrecting a nearly extinct varietal called roscetto in a vineyard that is now eighteen years old. The wine made is called Ferentano and is quite tasty. While the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation is carried out in French oak, the wine only appends another three months in the barrel so as not to overwhelm the fruit with its tropical flavors and notes of clove on the finish. Another interesting wine he has been developing is Pomele, made from a late harvest of the aleatico grape. Aleatico is a curious red varietal that ripens early (the late harvest happens as early as mid-September) and is made into a wine that shows vibrant and fresh fruit with lively acidity.