Unexpected Origins, Brunello di Montalcino

One of the facets of being a wine consultant involves guiding our loyal readers in the direction of the best of the best. We don’t take this for granted for one moment. Hart & Cru believe these wines to be among the very top of Brunello’s producers. Gordon Hue—long time mentor to Hart & Cru and importer of Pian dell’Orino—believes their Rosso di Montalcino bottle to be better quality than most bottles with the Brunello designation. We do not hesitate to tell you that we back these wines fully. It is with pleasure we present the wines of Pian dell’Orino. Read the story below. 

We’ll begin with a short introduction to Montalcino. Tuscany, overall, is an ancient winemaking region, but Montalcino’s recognition begins later on. Clemente Santi of the legendary Biondi-Santi estate is noted for identifying the Sangiovese Grosso variety back in 1842; he began experimenting with the Sangiovese variety exclusively, a revolutionary idea at the time. Brunello began to grow and took the world by storm. After a bout with phylloxera during the mid 1930s, the vineyards were thrown into crisis for some time, until the recognition of the DOC system in 1966, and the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG in 1980. Montalcino grew internationally, catching the eyes of critics—and it grew quickly. 

Winemakers have a sense of place—a sense of terroir—just like the grapes they’re growing. This story does not fulfill a typical story. For this, it stands apart unexpectedly. It begins with two winemakers from different countries, who wind up in Tuscany where they will both eventually settle to grow vines.  

Our protagonist, Caroline Pobitzer came from Alto Adige, a crossroads of cultural and geographical influences. Caroline grew up in Castel Katzenzungen, a large Renaissance castle located here. This was her family’s property, which she managed for many years. Among her many responsibilities at the property is a famous grape vine aged over 600 years. It happens to be the largest and oldest grape vine in Europe, perhaps the world. 

This story takes an unexpected turn when Caroline founded the domain of Pian dell’Orino in 1997. Her profound love for Tuscany and viticulture brought her to the hillsides of Montalcino. You may have seen photos of vineyards in Tuscany, but Montalcino’s hillsides reign supreme here. In fact, these inclines form a mount, which is where Montalcino derives its name. There are two wines made here—Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino. Clemente Santi described the Sangiovese as “Brunello,” or “the brown one.” The vineyard is located in the shadow of the famous Biondi-Santi estate, the very same Santi family who identified Brunello. Caroline had chosen a monumental location to begin a winery. 

At some point, Caroline was introduced to Jan Erbach at the Pian dell’Orino winery, and consequently, they fell in love! Jan uprooted from his winemaking and viticultural work in France  and moved to Montalcino. They became partners and now co-own the winery. Jan is the winemaker while Caroline focuses on viticulture.

The new couple opted to expand and modernize the estate together. Their passionate commitment to creating a wholesome vineyard ecosystem is unparalleled. Using the single variety of Sangiovese Grosso as their medium, they began the application of organic winemaking methods in 2004. Jan stated, “organic certification also defines a clear standard to work to or go beyond.” Organic wines had always made an impression on him. In 2018, the winery became Certified Biodynamic by Demeter Italia. 

Biodynamic farming is serious business in the winemaking world. Many know about it, some practice it, and others go through multitudes of hurdles to acquire biodynamic certification. 

What appeals to me about Biodynamics is you get closer to natural rhythms,” says Jan. “One year you might have a problem with wasps, but the following year you might not see a single wasp in the vineyard.” Rudolf Steiner, founder of the biodynamic approach to farming, was a paramount influencer to Jan and his studies. We also consider Rudolf Steiner to be an immense influence. Wines that have stood out to us embrace the wholesome mentality of biodynamics. We cannot praise these stringent standards enough. 

Jan’s character is complex, reiterating a true sense of terroir. In fact, a major interest beyond winemaking is his state-of-the-art stereo equipment for listening to his curated collection of vinyl records. Perhaps uncoincidentally, the room that houses this music library is the same space where he conducts wine tastings. It’s a haven where the olfactory sense meets the auditory. The attention given to these technical details exudes itself in his winemaking, and therefore, in the wine.

When you are consistently on the hunt for a winemaker who exudes perspective and a sense of place, it is difficult to surpass the treasure that is Pian dell’Orino. In fact, they’re a gold mine. Terroir, as we know it, is a sense of place. Gordon Hue of WineCraft says, “Caroline and Jan are of the place that is Montalcino,” a true endorsement. We know Pian Dell’Orino to be an exceptional Brunello producer, if not the best. We are infatuated by the story we’ve learned and know that you’ll agree

- by Brittany Marsh - the CRU


PIAN DELL'ORINO, BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO "BASSOLINO DI SOPRA" 2012: This wine is not made every year; it was made in 2012 and 2015. It’s a special bottle embracing the standards of Pian dell’Orino’s Brunello di Montalino, plus some.

PIAN DELL'ORINO, "VIGNETI DEL VERSANTE" BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013: A wine sourced entirely from the Scopeta vineyard. This wine macerated for four weeks before being drawn off, twice as long as the Rosso. It then ages for 42 months in large barrels. 

PIAN DELL'ORINO, ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2016: The Rosso is sourced from three vineyards in Montalcino. These are vines less than 20 years in age, reinstating this bottle’s ability to be drunk upon release, but with age capability. Gordy Hue of WineCraft says this Rosso is better than most Brunello bottles. 

PIAN DELL'ORINO, "PIANDORINO" 2016: This bottle undergoes the same rigorous standards in the vineyard and cellar as the Rosso and the Brunello; an introductory wine to what Pian Dell'Orino can do.