MichÃ¨le Shah meets Count Francesco Marone Cinzano,Â gentleman farmer and high-altitude hunter,Â who also happens to make great wine.Â Col dâ€™Orcia literally means theÂ hill overlooking the Orcia River,Â which marks the southwestÂ border of the Brunello diÂ Montalcino territory, linkingÂ the name of the farm intrinsically to the physicalÂ location where the vineyards areÂ planted. The Val dâ€™Orcia is a unique territoryÂ that was declared part of the Patrimony ofÂ Humanity in the year 2004. Purchased byÂ the Marone Cinzano family in 1973, it is oneÂ of Montalcinoâ€™s historic estates situated inÂ Santâ€™Angelo in Colle.
Count Francesco Marone CinzanoÂ took over the running of the estate in 1991,Â converting it in 2010 to becomeÂ Tuscany’s largest organic winery with a total of 142Â hectares of vineyards, of which 102 hectares areÂ exclusively planted to Brunello di MontalcinoÂ producing 250,000 bottles of Brunello andÂ the same number of Rosso di Montalcino, theÂ â€œyounger brotherâ€ to Brunello. Col dâ€™OrciaÂ is also considered one of Montalcinoâ€™s largestÂ wineries. Its 520 hectares of land offers greatÂ bio-diversity, allowing for animal husbandryÂ and the farming of ancient grains, olive groves,Â honey, truffles, as well as tobacco, a commodityÂ that until 1952 was valued more highly thanÂ Brunello vines.
â€œThis is how I interpret the meaningÂ of â€˜luxuryâ€™ today,â€ says Count Francesco.Â â€œBeing able to live the life of a land-owner inÂ a clean environment, devoting attention toÂ the produce of oneâ€™s land, knowing how theÂ animals are bred and how the agriculture andÂ viticulture are carried out.â€
The Cinzano family originated fromÂ Piemonte. Count Francescoâ€™s passion for wineÂ comes from his family heritage and familyÂ name, Cinzano, which since the 15th centuryÂ was involved in producing liqueurs, moving into Vermouth in the 18th century. They wereÂ first to put Asti Spumante â€“ a sweet sparklingÂ wine made from Muscat grapes from PiemonteÂ â€“ on the national and global map in the 19thÂ century. Cinzano became a global enterpriseÂ thanks to the large following of ItalianÂ emigrants who settled worldwide.
Before becoming a â€œgentlemanâ€Â farmer Count Francesco wasÂ responsible for the commercial partÂ of the Cinzano business, which was sold in theÂ early 90s to the giants Diageo, the proceedsÂ going into the purchase of two MontalcinoÂ estates, Argiano, which went to Francescoâ€™sÂ sister, and Col dâ€™Orcia. However, CountÂ Francescoâ€™s passion for wine did not stop withÂ Montalcino. He was one of the first investorsÂ â€“ together with the Torres and RothschildÂ families â€“ to open up new horizons in Chile,Â where he purchased land in the region of Maule and created the Erasmo estate, whichÂ today produces some 100,000 bottles ofÂ premium Chilean wines, and where he spendsÂ part of his time.
When not busy farming or travellingÂ between two continents, Count FrancescoÂ enjoys sailing in summer and skiing in winter.Â However, his passion for hunting is wellÂ known and has been passed down from his grandfather who obtained the shooting rightsÂ on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.Â â€œMy father maintained the tradition andÂ so have I. The mountain, which belongs to theÂ state, is the most beautiful mountain shootÂ in Europe and I am the only one allowed toÂ shoot there,â€ says Count Francesco who hasÂ invited some of the greatest guns, including theÂ brother of the erstwhile Shah of Iran, the KingÂ of Spain and the author of Hunting magazine to shoot there.Â â€œMountain goats are considered theÂ most difficult prey for hunters,â€ saysÂ CountÂ Francesco, adding with a wicked grin, â€œTheÂ more they boast, the more they miss.â€
His future plans include turning the entireÂ farm produce from organic to biodynamic andÂ become even more sustainable by using solarÂ energy. He has plans to open the estate, whichÂ by tradition has always welcomed visitors, moreÂ to tourism by creating a five-room suite forÂ visitors to stay overnight and a catering facility for dinners and parties.
Col dâ€™Orcia exports to over 70 countries,Â and in 2008 was one of the first to exportÂ Brunello di Montalcino to India. The winesÂ stand out both for their classic elegance and theirÂ ability to age well. Count Francesco loves India and has travelled extensively in the country â€“ inÂ Chennai and Hyderabad â€“ not only to open newÂ markets but also for pleasure. He endorses theÂ He endorses theÂ India tourism tagline, â€œIncredible Indiaâ€, andÂ sees India as a growing market with a healthy curiosity about wine.