It’s a super sunny day near the end of the 2017 harvest and here in the heart of Tuscany, between Florence and Siena, everybody is talking about wine. Sangiovese in its many identities that becomes Chianti, Morellino or Brunello is a serious thing here. At La Magia, this most planted Italian grape variety expresses an incredible purity of fruit: plums, cherries and berries dance together in the glass. Ripe and silky tannins embrace such a full body character that will keep its best for at least 15 years.
Montalcino is a fairy-tale with its Tuscan history and countryside. Climbing to the top of the hill, you have stunning views over the valleys all around, where vineyards, olive trees, fields and other quaint villages create an almost forgotten and dreamy scenario; so relaxing and full of light and poetry that time stands still.
Arriving at La Magia means entering Montalcino from its wilder side, off the beaten track. Almost a secret door to a protected story, a valley where three blond children – Sebastian, Oliver and Jole – run so cheerful and carefree among vineyards and green fields. Fabian, their father and the estate owner, greets us and invites us to follow him into his world.
La Magia was founded in the early 1970s by his father, Harald Schwarz, who came from Alto Adige because he was bewitched by this area’s stunning beauty on the slopes of the extinct volcano, Monte Amiata, above the Romanesque abbey Sant’Antimo in the Val d’Orcia. In 2011, Harald passed the baton to his son Fabian who studied at the Istituto Agrario San Michele all’Adige, the most prestigious oeneological college in Italy.
Fabian walks up and down the rows of Sangiovese Grosso in his most ancient vineyard where grapes are still waiting to be harvested, plays with his dog Thelma, and shares his passion for wine and his desire to contribute to a more sustainable Brunello winemaking.
Although the estate seems to be named after the Italian word for ‘Magic’ (magia), the property’s title is actually more genuine and depicts a true story, where the emphasis goes on the first syllable, instead of the second. Situated on an ancient Roman road dating back to the Etruscan era, the name stems from the Tuscan dialect term “Magione”, a resting place for farmers and pilgrims, evolved from the French “Maison”. Today, La Magia keeps welcoming people, no more for an overnight stay, but in the name of a great glass of wine and a peaceful rest, an always sunny shelter and a refuge from fast moving society.
“Anyone looking down the valley towards the noble abbey of Sant’Antimo, directly below our vineyard, is bound to experience the sheer magic of this hallowed place,” Fabian says.
At 400-450 meters above sea level and facing southeast, the sandy soil contains a good quantity of lime and clay which aids water retention, while the volcanic influence contributes to a wonderful minerality. Power and structure with superb elegance are the result in La Magia’s Brunellos, aged for three years in 500 litre French oak tonneaux.
Fabian and his family have decided to produce their precious Brunello only in the best vintages, listening to nature and helping it to speak freely in their wines, protecting the grape and soil identity. This is why by the end of the ‘80s sustainable energy had been introduced: initially with solar panels for hot water, then – from 2008 – with a photo-voltaic system to make the cellar fully self-sufficient in energy. Today, the estate is not only working with an ecological approach in the cellar, but especially in the vineyards thanks to their biodynamic certification.
In the middle of La Magia’s 52 hectares, lies a jewel-- a 15 hectare single parcel of 40 year old Sangiovese vines that is all registered as Brunello.From a considerable distance, a magnificent cherry tree identifies the cru, ‘Ciliegio’.
Fabian explains that this is the absolute pinnacle or “cherry” of their winemaking skills, produced with grapes from the oldest vines enhanced by a terrain that is low in fertility thus maximizing concentration. Only a very limited quantity of numbered bottles of this precious Brunello is released and today we will be lucky enough to taste it!
We go then to the renowned winery and cellar room where we meet Bianca, Fabian’s wife, with their little Jole that brings a colorful breath of zestful life. After such an intense visit through the slopes, the vineyards and tons of winemaking wisdom, we cannot wait to taste the Brunello, Rosso and Ciliegio. A covered walkway just off the house protects us from the still warm sun. I can still remember the daisy table cloth moving with the early autumn breeze on a wood table that hosts us for lunch. Bruschetta with tomatoes from the garden, a super rich, intense and spicy olive oil from La Magia and their cured meats generously greet us.
The Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino are perfect matches for structured and complex dishes thanks to their dry, warm and soft features. The more full bodied Brunello goes great with grilled red meat, and almost mandatory with a florentine steak. Its harmonious body and alcohol content marry well with strong flavors such as game and fowl, especially with wild boar and hare – a delicious dish is Pappardelle alla Lepre. Another great pairing is Rosso di Montalcino and cheese. The stronger, more mature, the better, such as Parmesan or Pecorino.
While we are enjoying this delicious food and discovering the most genuine side of Montalcino, Fabian explains that the estate logo is his own watercolor painting that he made when he was 4 years old to illustrate a vineyard. A small but important symbol of how wine is integral in their lives and how new generations, respect and evolution are key to La Magia’s identity.