“When I first crossed into the Val d’Orcia, coming from the soft shapes of Valdichiana, I was struck by its dry air and blinding light. A sash of it lay caught along the mountain’s side facing south at an altitude of about 600 metres. Through broom, wild roses, and plum, I saw the dry walls that used to fashion, some fifty years ago, the precious land into large clearings which still lay there. They were like hidden carpets of aromatic weed suggesting a restoration. I bought a tractor and started up the little scraper; far below was hurled the blue clay of an ancient ocean floor. Where it met the eroded rock of the mountain, the vines were later cemented in a very hard conglomerate. I started where the soil was loosest and with the densest planting possible on that steep exposure, planting one meter by one meter.”
– Andrea Franchetti
Tenuta di Trinoro sits in viticultural isolation in a valley just west of the Florence-Rome highway near Sarteano, where Tuscany meets Umbria and Lazio. Andrea Franchetti, owner and winemaker, describes it as “a godforsaken place on the east of the first limestone mountain north of Rome with an ex-volcano between it and the sea.” The 600-meter high Monte Amiata protects Franchetti’s vines so that summers are hot and there are still leaves on the trees in December. “The weather swirls round us,” according to Franchetti, wholeaves his grapes long on the vine, building up extra layers of flavor for his modern style of wine, Bordeaux blends ripened under the Tuscan sun.
Franchetti acquired the Trinoro estate in the 80s and in the beginning of the 90s started planting his first vines. The most important lesson he gleaned from a stint in Bordeaux was the crucial role played by terroir. He saw, in the rough woodland that would become Trinoro, soils reminiscent of those he knew so well in Saint-Émilion, the clay-limestone and gravel. The combination of the soil and high altitude worked well with Franchetti’s penchant for Bordeaux, being best suited to Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Contrary to others, he finds Tuscany unsuitable for the indigenous and almost ubiquitous Sangiovese, so none is grown on his estate.
This explains, at least in part, why he thought it was logical to create an estate from scratch on rough farm and woodland in the far-flung reaches of southwest Tuscany, in the remote Val d’Orcia. Of course it was the right place, higher altitude with the right soil composition, although at the start the would-be vineyard was a clutter of scrubby woodland and ruined outbuildings. Undaunted, Franchetti cleared the land, built some access roads and terraces, and planted vines he was certain would thrive.
The wines of Trinoro have a personality deriving from the geographical location of the estate: Sarteano is the last frontier of Tuscan grape growing, where the resistance of the vine is tested to its absolute limit by heat, drought and rock hard soils. In his approach to winemaking, Franchetti acknowledges the influence of Bordeaux and more specifically Saint Emilion: high density planting, short pruning, drastic trimming of an already meager crop and a very late harvesting results in incredibly low yields of concentrated fruit. The closely planted roots offer little nourishment, thickening the grapes’ skins and driving the ripening process. Cabernet Franc and Merlot take center stage, alongside Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
All of these elements together – tight planting, high thinning, very low yields, extreme ripeness, and concentration of flavor – characterize his winemaking style, as one might expect from a personality drawn to such extreme places and methods. The wines are highly perfumed and opulent, at once approachable and meant to be left to develop in the bottle over time.