In 2009 the talented, energetic Fabio Motta acquired 4 hectares of vines in a prime location within the Bolgheri DOC, home of Sassicaia, Ornellaia and other cult wines besides. The location of the vines is idyllic: overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and benefitting from the cooling on-shore breezes in summer, at the foot of the beautiful rolling hills of Bolgheri with its deep soils of clay, silt and river stones and a brilliant luminosity and south-western exposure to sunlight. The vines were planted 12 years earlier, in 1997, not just to the traditional Sangiovese, but to the ‘Super Tuscan’ varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and some very promising Syrah too.
Like his vines, Fabio Motta is deeply rooted in Bolgheri: for many years he worked for the celebrated Michele Satta, who is now, in addition to being both his friend and mentor, also his father-in-law!
Always hugely respectful of the terroir and the environment, and with the aim of producing transparent and sincere wine, Fabio farms organically, but began converting his vineyards to biodynamics in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, his authentic, low-intervention philosophy is carried into his cellar: he works with native yeasts only, never filters, and handcrafts wines that stand out as elegant and complex, rather than too powerful and concentrated.
In 2012 Fabio bought a tiny clay-rich, stony vineyard called ‘Le Gonnare’ and hit his straps with the 2013 vintage. In its first year of production, it received overwhelming critical acclaim: Gambero Rosso awarded it 3 bicchieri and the Wine Advocate rated it 96 points.
The current vintage, 2015, is 85% Merlot and 15% Syrah and after a natural fermentation is finished in oak barriques, one third of which are new, for 18 months. It is large scaled and structured, with abundant red and black fruits, toasty oak, dark chocolate and granitic earthiness, alongside sculpted aromas of Mediterranean flowers and herbs. Quantities of this, his flagship wine, are tiny (about 300 cases per annum) and allocations are tightening, as it gets the deserved recognition in other fast growing international markets. Just about to land, the 2016 vintage shows every sign of being even better
His ‘Pievi’ is a blend of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese (25% each) and shows primary fresh fruit notes alongside balsamic notes and is rich in pliant, ripe tannins, a fuzzy texture and great persistence. The three varieties are native fermented separately in wooden barrels of 33hl in size, punched down by hand twice daily and in the first days of fermentation aerated frequently with pump-overs. After blending, the wine is passed into 2 and 3 year old barriques, where it integrates for 12 months, before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.
‘Lo Scudiere’, the most recent arrival on our shelves, also comes from the from the Pieve vineyard. Contrastingly, it is 100% Sangiovese with 25% of the fruit whole bunch fermented, skins are pumped-over daily for a month into 30hl conical oak and it is aged in neutral, used oak barriques for 1 year. It has aromas of forest floor, hedgerow fruits and is faintly funky with a chewy frame, a juicy damson fruit centre and sensational sapidity, all of which meant I wanted to drink another glass of it.
I admit my bias here as I adore his wines, so here is a recent independent press review courtesy of the Wine Advocate: “Fabio Motta presents a very impressive set of new releases… These fantastic wines will cement the reputation of this young and up-and-coming winemaker from Bolgheri, and will lift his profile… Fabio Motta is crafting his own biodynamic winemaking signature that shows both elegance and power.”
So, forget the other famous, arguably overpriced, ‘Super Tuscan’ wines of Bolgheri – what matters is the Motta label – it is the label to watch.