Produced in an entirely natural manner under the guidance of Giampiero Bea, the Coenobium is a blend of Trebbiano, Verdicchio, and Malvasia, harvested together and co-fermented without added yeasts or temperature stabilization. Aged on its fine lees in steel and fiberglass tanks, it is bottled just before the next harvest without fining or filtering. The nose is evocative of autumn on multiple sensory levels, with aromas of fennel fronds, chamomile tea, almonds, and tangerine that lead into a full but delicately rendered palate. Vitorchiano’s volcanic soils come through with a somber smoke-iron interplay, and glowing acidity lets the savory flavors coat the mouth, yet the overall impression is one of freshness and drinkability.
Led by Adriana and Fabiola, 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