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Federico Staderini's won bet: growing Pinot Noir in Tuscany

by Claudio Celio

Federico Staderini is an enologist of solid repute. He cut his teeth in Germany, then came back to native Italy, where he's been working as a consultant to numerous Tuscan wineries, mainly scattered between Montalcino and Chianti. In the early 2000s, he decided to take up his very own project, symbolically rooted in the places of his childhood, i.e. in the Casentino valley of Tuscany, province of Arezzo: Pratovecchio, an altitude of 500 meters [over 1,640 feet]; somewhat cold for Italian standards, Tuscan standards.

Based on his enologist's sensitivity and intuition, Federico Staderini planted Pinot Noir vines on a plot of Casentino land covering approximately 4 hectares [c. 10 acres]. After a few years, he released a proprietary range under the brand Podere Santa Felicita. “By comparison with the variety's birthplace in Burgundy –, says Federico – Valle del Casentino has higher average temperatures but more dramatic swings in diurnal temperature variation.”

During a recent vertical tasting with the grower, I was able to retrace the evolution of his wines with him; Cuna's in particular – his pinnacle wine. In the course of close to a decade of harvests, Federico had to confront many adversities, mainly due to climate conditions.

Global warming and episodic heat waves, even droughts, affected a few vintages; the latest harvests, however, came after less extreme seasons, weather-wise, endowing his wines with a fresher, more elegant profile. This is the case with his 2014 Cuna, released before the 2013 vintage (the latter, in the grower's opinion, not being ready to hit the shelves yet). “2014 – says Federico – is from a cooler year compared with the previous vintages, especially 2011 and 2012, which makes it ready for release now, friendlier and more forward, with an upbeat openness that 2013 has not yet developed.”

True enough, 2014 Cuna is reminiscent of Burgundian Pinots in style, particularly in freshness and quaffability. It is not so mellow and round as the previous years, but superior in finesse and persistence. The bouquet is a finespun lacework of red berry fruit, scrumptious and intense, unfolding into a cherry and raspberry texture on the palate, with an underlying, light green nuance that sustains quaffability. The vintage promises good longevity and matches a wide variety of fare, particularly meat – even spicy – dishes.