Fiorano was an Italian wine-producing estate owned by Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, a prince of Venosa of the Ludovisi family, active during a period from the late 1940s to 1995. Fiorano is situated in the vicinity of Rome near the Via Appia Antica in the Latium district. Famed wine writer Burton Anderson dubbed Fiorano's wines 'the noblest Romans of them all' in his 1980 anthology Vino. The estate, its methods, wines and its proprietor were all noted for their unorthodoxy in comparison to norms of the wine industry. Though limited in terms of fame, the red wine and two white wines produced at Fiorano during its period of activity achieved reputations for innovation and longevity. Since the late 1960s a small number of devout 'cognoscenti', especially among restaurant owners in Rome, knew about the extraordinary qualities of the two whites Fiorano Bianco (100% Malvasia) and Fiorano Riserva Semillon, and overcame numerous obstacles in order to get the wines.
While the Ludovisi family lineage may be traced back ca. 1,000 years, the Fiorano estate, located 41 km (25 mi) from Rome, had viticulture from local grape varieties first starting in the 1930s. Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi inherited the estate in 1946, and replaced the existing vines with the Bordeaux international grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sémillon as well as Malvasia di Candia. This change of viticultural direction took place several years ahead of what later became a trend. Prince Ludovisi also practiced organic agriculture during an era when chemical agriculture methods were more commonplace. This happened after consultation with Dr. Giuseppe Palieri who remained an advisor until his death. Later, Ludovisi received advice from Dr. Tancredi Biondi Santi, of whom he was a fan since tasting a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi 1946 which he described in letter to him as "a majestic red, severe, masculine, medieval".
The wines were almost unknown until Italy's famous wine and food critic Luigi Veronelli discovered them by chance in the early 1960s. Veronelli recounted his first meeting with the Prince: 'I was in Latium writing on the region's wines, and while driving on the ancient Appian Way I spotted the most beautiful vineyards. I followed the road until I came to an imposing estate where I stopped and rang the bell. When nobody responded I tried the gate and found it open. Audaciously I went in and was walking around when I suddenly heard the sound of horse hooves racing up behind me. I turned and found myself looking down the barrel of a gun.' After Veronelli explained who he was and his interest in the vineyards, the Prince invited Veronelli to try his wines. 'As soon as I tried his wines, I knew he truly was a prince' said Veronelli, who convinced him to sell some of the wines, up to then only for personal consumption.
Luigi Veronelli stated that Prince Ludovisi was the first to employ "biological farming" practices in Italy. He compared Fiorano red wines to Sassicaia, and once wrote of them, "They enchant you with the first taste, burrow in your memory and make you forever better", and, "If I lived in Rome, I would beg for them at the prince's door every morning". It was the whites though that most impressed him. The Fiorano Bianco from Malvasia di Candia soared to new heights of complexity while the Semillon, a variety that has never had much success in Italy, astounded Veronelli.
The relationship between Ludovisi and his wine merchants has been described as strained due to the Prince's eccentric manner of doing business. Over time, import of the wines ceased, and although wine was made until 1995, the sale of bottles had ended some time before. Elio Mariani, owner of the Checchino restaurant in Rome, confirms that the Prince was unusually stubborn. According to Mariani: 'The Prince never really wanted to sell the wines. He made it very difficult; one had to call up to order the wines and come in person to collect them on the assigned day at a specified time and bring the exact amount in cash. They would not give change, and cheques were out of the question.'
In 1966, Prince Ludovisi's sole daughter Francesca had married Piero Antinori, a winemaker with a reputation associated with the modernist wine movement, and when Ludovisi pulled out nearly all Fiorano vines following the 1995 harvest while giving no explanation, subsequent rumours claimed this was in order to prevent his son-in-law from ruining the Fiorano legacy. Antinori expressed to Eric Asimov that he believed Ludovisi could not bear the thought of anybody else making his wines when he could no longer do it himself. In a 2001 interview, Ludovisi stated that his reasons were the vines' advanced age and poor health.
Following the death of Prince Ludovisi in 2005, after a prolonged period of illness and legal difficulties, the estate was inherited by the granddaughters, Alessia, Allegra and Albiera Antinori. The sisters Antinori are currently in charge of Fiorano and have stated their intentions to restore the vineyard biodynamically in collaboration with Antinori wine director Renzo Cotarella, beginning in 2011.
From a vineyard area of 10 ha (25 acres), there was produced three wines at the estate, one Rosso, a red Bordeaux-style blend from the plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and two white varietal wines, a Sémillon and a Malvasia di Candia.
The wine was aged in large numbered barrels which were reused year after year. The Fiorano cellars had a widespread culture of white mold that covered the barrels and bottles, which Ludovisi believed to be beneficial to his production and left to develop undisturbed.
- Anderson, Burton (1980). Vino. The Wine and Winemakers of Italy. Little Brown & Co. ISBN 0-316-03948-9
- Asimov, Eric, The New York Times (December 22, 2004). An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar
- Asimov, Eric, The New York Times: The Pour (December 10, 2009). A Family Gets Back to Its Roots
- Stevenson, Tom (2005). The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia (4th ed.). London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 284. ISBN 0-7566-1324-8.
- Dallas, Philip (1974). The Great Wines of Italy. Doubleday. pp. 293; 296. ISBN 0-385-01553-4
- Lichine, Alexis (1985). Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits (6th ed.). London: Cassell. p. 301. ISBN 0-304-31124-3.
- O'Keefe, Kerin (Issue 7 2005, p. 12-13). "Fiorano: Italy's best-kept secret". The World of Fine Wine.
- Parzen, Jeremy, vinowire.com (March 29, 2008). Fiorano Rosso 91, 89, 86
- Yarrow, Alder, vinography.com (December 12, 2005). 1986 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Malvasia Bianca VdT Botte 25, Latium, Italy
- Yarrow, Alder, vinography.com (May 11, 2006). 1989 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Botte 48 Semillion, Roma, Italy
- O'Keefe, Kerin (2005). Franco Biondi Santi. The gentleman of Brunello. Veronelli Editore. ISBN 88-7250-115-6
- Asimov, Eric, The New York Times: The Pour (April 24, 2009). Bygone Bottles
- Albertson, Lynda, The American (January 12, 2006). Grape Expectations