The sisters produce a very small amount of red wine: a blend of roughly equal parts Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, augmented for the first time in 2018 with a splash of Merlot from a newly plant- ed site near their historical holdings. Despite a two-week mac- eration, Benedic is always a pale-colored, translucent wine that more than makes up for in charm what it lacks in power. An ap- pealing hint of balsamic on the nose underlines the link between the nuns and Bea and speaks to the wine’s lack of manipulation.
• Appellation: IGP Lazio
• Uvaggio: Sangiovese (45%), Ciliegiolo (45%), Merlot (10%) • Average Annual Production: 4,000
• Average Alcohol by Volume: 12%
• Average Residual Sugar: < 5 g/l
• Average Total Acidity:
In The Vineyard:
• Parcel Names, Slopes, and Locations: From 3.5 ha of gently sloping parcels surrounding the commune of Vitorchiano
• Soil Types and Compositions: Volcanic
• Vine Age, Training, and Density: Trained in Cordon, oldest
vines date to 1963.
• Average Yields: Controlled through severe winter pruning, debudding, and green harvesting, yields average 45 hl/ha
• Average Harvest Date and Type: Manual, usually in late September-early October
In The Cellar:
• Fermentation: Following total destemming, wine ferments spontaneously on its skins for c. 14 days in stainless-steel and fiberglass tanks
• Pressing: Hyrdaulic press
• Time on Lees: Wine remains on lees until assemblage prior to
• Malolactic Fermentation: Spontaneous, in tank following alcoholic fermentation
• Élevage: 12 months in stainless-steel and fiberglass tanks
• Press Wine: Blended after malolactic
• Fining and Filtration: Unfined, plate filtered if necessary
• Sulfur: Applied at harvest and at bottling, with 80-90 mg/l total sulfur
It’s hard to believe that we are about to receive our twelfth vintage from the sisters of Monastero Suore Cistercensi. Led by Adriana and Fabiola (pictured left), these nuns have been organically farming their five hectares of vines in Vitorchiano (an hour or so north of Rome) in the region of Lazio, for decades, but it wasn’t until our friend, Giampiero Bea, began advising them in the early 2000s that their wines gained a larger audience. Today, the wines sell like hotcakes, and a ravenous fan base waits with bated breath each time new releases from the sisters are on the horizon… and justifiably so. Even before he began helping them gently refine their approach and commercialize their wines—only to the US and Japan it should be noted—Giampiero was struck by the raw frankness of a white wine produced with almost no technology. In a region rife with soulless, highly controlled, highly sulfured beverages posing as white wines, here was a wine of real character, an unadorned expression of healthy grapes grown in fascinating volcanic soil. Moreover, since we began with the 2005 vintage, the wines have only improved.
Each time we visit with the sisters, we are amazed by their warmth of spirit, their serene energy, and the shockingly spartan nature of their operation. The “winery” is a toolshed packed to the gills with old steel tanks, fiberglass containers of various sizes, and jugs of this and that—proving yet again that it takes the barest minimum to produce a wine of character and truth.
-Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant