These are not your typical Italian wines. Unless, that is, you usually take of natural wine made by nuns. In the case of Monastero Suore Cistercensi, the wines are grown and raised by the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, under the guidance of Giampiero Bea, son of one of Italy’s most prominent non-interventionist wine producers, Paulo Bea.
The Sisters, part of an order of monasteries of monks and nuns with origins tracing back to 1098, abide 30 miles north of Rome in the town of Vitiorchiano. Theirs is a self-sustaining community, producing not only wine but cheese, beer, spirits, and sweets to make their living while striving to improve viticulture and preserve their land.
Every year these 80-ish women produce these wines from their own vineyards and gardens, farmed sustainably from volcanic soils, harvested without machinery, fermented with only native yeasts, and bottled without fining or filtration.
Coenobium 2018, Lazio, Italy
Trebbiano, Malvasia, Verdicchio from Lazio’s volcanic soils were native fermented, and with one week of skin contact before a short rest and being bottled with minimal sulphur. Almond, chamomile, Asian pear rides a gentle, slender palate, washed with salinity and finishing with a lingering elderflower. Open this in advance and let it stretch a bit; best not briskly chilled. 91/100
Benedic 2018, Lazio, Italy
The Sisters produce a very small amount of red wine for this blend of roughly equal parts Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, plus a tip of newly planted Merlot in 2018 for the first time, from vines planted near their historical plots. Even with a 2 week maceration, this pours a pale, cloudy crimson orange hue, leading into a beguiling tapestry of black tea, wild plum, rock roses, and scrubby herbs, twinged with ample balsamic and rinsed with mineral salts. Tannins are nubby to negligible, and acidity shines subtlely. All has the calm understatedness of a superfluity of sisters. Let this breathe upon opening, and take with a slight chill. 91/100
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