A Simply Divine Skin Contact Wine: Coenobium's Back!
How did a skin-contact white wine made by a nuns in an unknown region a couple of hours north of Rome become one of the most-sought after wines in the natural wine sphere?
It all started when Giampero Bea — the force behind Umbrian superstar winery Paolo Bea — happened to meet the nuns and saw how they worked. Bea is famous for his uncompromisingly old-school Montefalco wines, but also as one of the co-founders of Italy's natural wine movement (he created Vini Veri with a handful superstars like Radikon). No surprise he felt an immediate kinship with a bunch of sisters working completely without chemicals or technology to put out totally honest wines.
Giampero happened to be out with his importer, Neal Rosenthal (yes, this is yet another amazing Italian discovery by Neal) when he got to know the nuns. So faster than you can say two Hail Marys and an Our Father, the nuns were shipping their wines to cutting edge wine shops in New York City and Tokyo. Well, maybe not that fast. Giampero took on a role as consultant, assisting the nuns as they began to commercialize their (teeny-tiny) production. The team got everything dialed in and the rest, as they say, is Natural Wine History.
Great characters, but what about the wine? It's a blast! The vines are planted in volcanic soil and in some vintages that come across in a decidedly smoky edge of minerality. In other vintages apple fruit takes the lead, with fennel fronds and warm citrus. There is a little skin contact (about two days, we understand) and the wine is textured but subtle, and always drinkable.
Monastero Suore Cistercensi, Lazio Bianco "Coenobium," 2021
Co-ferment of Trebbiano, Verdicchio, and Malvasia, this vintage, that volcanic terroir shines, giving the typically herbaceous green apple fruit character a smoky, chiseled edge. $27.99
Monastero Suore Cistercensi, Lazio Bianco Coenobium Ruscum, 2021
The same blend, the same terroir, but this wine sees about 2 weeks of skin contact, making it a truly orange wine. A little more golden-hued and more redolent of herbs, anise and preserved citrus. $34.99
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