WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

Leave a comment

Discovering Barbaresco – 2022

The weekends impending champions league final reminded us it was exactly a decade on to the day from our last wine trip to Piemonte.

We spent the May weekend of 2012 in  Barolo and were escorted through the region by Roger Barlow of Gerard Seel.

This time to Barbaresco, facilitated by our friend Mehul, a serious Italophile and lover of wines of this region.

The plan was to get a blind tasted overview of the 2019 vintage at Barbaresco a Tavola, then to indulge in the food and wine culture of Piemonte. We had arranged a few select winery visits.

Piemonte is renowned for 3 main red varietals, Nebbiolo of course, Barbera and Dolcetto. Their 3 main white grapes are Arneis. Cortese and Cortese.

We concentrated on Nebbiolo wines. They can be difficult to appreciate young due to their high tannins and acidity and the wines need patience.

However we were in for a few surprises.

Fine hospitality at Marques de Gresy, Barbaresco

The Agenda was Casa Nicoloni for blind tasted 2019 release Friday 27 th May

Saturday 28th May Produttori del Barbaresco followed by Ada Nada

Sunday 29th Marchesi Di Gresy

Monday May 30th Gaja

Produttori del Barbaresco 

 The Produttori del Barbaresco was founded in 1958. They now have 51 members and more than 100 hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in Barbaresco. It is conveniently located in the small village of Barbaresco and wines can be tasted by just dropping in. They are well known for producing high quality and more affordable Barbaresco

Lange Nebiolo 2020.

On the nose: Aromatic, herbs, cut strawberry.

In the mouth: Nice balance, dusty tannin, fruit structure, medium in length. Approachable already. 14 euro very nicely made

Barbaresco 2018

On the nose a little volatile, rose, macerated strawberry, pot pourri

In the mouth: good balance, full body, sweet juicy fruit, little hot on end.

Barbaresco 2017.

Herbaceous nose, cinnamon, red tart fruit, cherries.

On the mouth: Rounded fruit, elegant structure, good fruit concentration, slightly puckering youthful tannin, long finish. Very good.

The 2019 although only recently bottled showed as one of the top 6 wines at the Tavola tasting. Confirming the consistent quality of the wines here.

Ada Nada

The winery produces 50,000 bottles per annum and is 100% organic, The Ada Nada farmhouse is located in Treiso, near Alba. They have a beautiful Agroturismo with a lovely outdoor swimming pool with panoramic views of the rolling hills.


Golden green colour, made from 100% Nebbiolo. Grapes are green harvested then the wine is made following a method traditional and the aged for 24 months on lees.

On the nose citrus, lime zest, orange peel some cream, in the mouth sherbet, finishing slightly abruptly. Fresh and fun.


This is another 100% Nebbiolo method classic but this time with zero dosage. Made with skin contact and fermented in barrique then and aged for 60 months on lees. The wine is not long enough in barrique to impart a woody character but allows micro oxygenation.

This is a more serious fizz. On the nose: toasted brioche, toffee, flint and smoke. In the mouth stewed spiced apple, nutty, long and persistent, slightly drying from a dusting of pleasant tannin which counteracts the citrus finish.

Neta Sauvignon Blanc 2021.

Grown on north facing slopes.

On the nose a touch of grass, green pepper, concentrated confected pear drops.

In the mouth rich ripe candied citrus, well balanced but finishes a touch warm.

Lange nebiollo Serena 2021

Made in Barbaresco but from youngest vineyard where the vines are 18 yrs old the wine is made to be approachable and for earlier drinking.

Nose: red cherries, raspberries, dried cherries, light herb.

On palate: strawberry chew, chewy tannin, a well made great food wine.

Classic Barbera Pierin 2020

made in large oak 2 year

Nose: Dark cherries, a whiff of polish, touch of sawdust then strawberries, ripe fruit, voilets. In the mouth blackberry as well as juicy red fruit, medium acidity, fuller body, medium length. Tasty! another good quaffing wine.

Barbaresco Valeirano 2019.

The vines here are over 50 years old.

Nose: Mint, bay leaf, celery, cut strawberry, herb, then floral notes. A delicate and complex nose.

In the mouth: medium plus body, tart cherry, savoury meat, liquorice, herbs. Elegant long excellent!

Barbaresco Rombone Elisa 2018. This vineyard was planted in 1947.

Nose: more expressive, soft red fruit, baked strawberry fruit tart, spices, touch of polish and scent of pot purri.

In the mouth: Full bodied, savoury, cooked fruit, sweetness then a ton of tannin, fine grained. The finish is dry but with a line of fruit that persists.

Barbaresco Cichin Reserva 2017.

Spends 3 years in large oak botti and 2 years in bottle before release. From the rombone vineyard planted in 1958.

The wine maker naturally concentrates the wine by letting 20% of the juice run off and leaving the rest to macerate and ferment on the skins.

On the nose: Leather, perfume, pot purri, polish, orange peel, incense very complex.

In the mouth: Rich, spice, leather, orange peel, firm present tannin but drinking. Very long excellent!

Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy

The Cisa Asinari estates of the Marchesi di Grésy include four wineries located in the Langhe and Monferrato region.

2020 Marchesi di Grésy Langhe sauvignon blanc

Flinty smoky slightly sulfurous, reduced,. Bottled 1yr, green gage, nuts, briny, 
7-8 mth stainless steel on lees 
Greengage, green pepper, tart lemon, mineral dust coating in mouth.  Fairly full bodied, good finish 

2016 Marchesi di Grésy langhe sauvignon blanc

Darker colour 
Lemon curd, sweet top note of peaches,  salty, floral 
Fuller body,  hint of peach, yellow plum? Reminds me of white bordeaux, thought a blend with semillon great finish,  excellent acidity 

2019 Marchesi di Grésy chardonnay 

Ripe pear, maybe a little peach, great wood influence,  vanilla,  bit of smoke and toast, stone 
Tart apple,  peach, great acidity,  but drying,  very elegant 

2015 Marchesi di Grésy Chardonnay 

Coal smoke And toast, roasted hazelnuts, white flower,  
Caramel, lemon,  mineral,  really balanced and elegant,  acidity, linear 

2019 Marchesi di Grésy Dolcetto Monte Aribaldo

Cherry linctus, dark and red, strawberry,  stem, slightly burned nose, possible reductive 
Savory and tannic, tart cherry,  slight bitterness,  savoury finish, med acidity 

2015 Marchesi di Grésy Montecolombo Barbera

Treated like a barbaresco 
Turmeric and cumin nose,  dark cherry,  vanilla,  toffee, 
Dark cherry, really drying, super acidity,  a little hot,  herbaceous,  quite tannic in gums 

2011 Marchesi di Grésy Virtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60 

Green pepper Black currant leaf dark cherry,  
Blackcurrant, good acidity and tannin, balanced,  mid palate missing 

2007 Marchesi di Grésy Virtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60 

Much more developed,  great mix of the barbera linctus with blackcurrant leaf 
Mushroom to start on the nose 
Great ripe balanced,  fantastic wine,long… love it 

2004  Marchesi di GrésyVirtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60  

Green pepper Black currant mushroom caramel vanilla 
Another great balanced wine,  finishes v very cab, very beautiful 

2018 Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga 

Mixed vintage
Muted nose, slightly floral And herbaceous  woody notes, tart cherry 
Drying, good intensity and length not showing yet but had very good potential based on finish 

2017 Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun 
Made from specific plots on the outer edge of the Martinenga cru, bordering Asili

Dark cherry strawberry cream pot pourri, roses 
Drying,  intense dried flower,  incense,  tart cherry,  liquorice, finish forever long,  sexy, complete,   wine for the long term.

2016 Marchesi di Grésy
Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun 

Sandalwood,  Rose,  macerated strawberry,  white truffle, sapid 
More concentration, fruit intensity, liquorice tobacco, finish goes on forever
An epic wine for the long term. Touched something deep inside me, literally brought tears to my eyes

2016 Marchesi di Grésy Camp Gros Martinenga Riserva

12 mths small barrel 18mths large barrel,  3 yrs total 6900 btls made 

Dried rose,  sandalwood,  pot pourris dried cherry orange peel, spice – fascinating nose
Drying,  tart, regal tannins, stony,  tight. Not showing itself, wait another 5-10yrs for this to emerge.


This iconic winery needs little introduction. We were fortunate to be hosted by the Giovanni, Angelo Gaja’s son.

He gave us a great insight into the wines and the challenges ahead. We looked out of the palatial Gaja headquarters to where the River Tanaro should be. Instead we say a dry cracked river bed with no water in sight. The Tanaro had dried up which is a worrying sign of things to come.

We tried a selection of their wines all made to perfection. Mehul requested a bottle of Sori Tildin (one of my desert Island wines) A vintage 2001 was duly decanted. A fitting finale to a memorable weekend in Barbaresco!

Leave a comment

Barbaresco Weekend: Annual Barbaresco a Tavola 2019 Vintage Blind Tasting Dinner notes

Casa Nicolini, Barbaresco May 27th 2022


The WanderCurtis team were delighted to have been invited to attend our first Barbaresco a Tavola dinner on Friday May 27th 2022. For the unacquainted, this is an annual tradition held by the region’s winemakers to showcase their latest bottled vintage. Held over three successive weekends in different restaurants, wine makers from across the area bring and pour their latest bottled vintage to other wine makers, members of the trade, journalists and others, to give a sense of how the vintage has turned out.

For those who have yet to encounter the Barbaresco region, well, the best thing to say is that what is commonly referred to as one region is comprised of the three regions of Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso, that collectively work under the single communal name of Barbaresco DOCG. While the star of the show must be made from 100% Nebbiolo, aged for a minimum of 12 months in oak with a further 9 months of bottle ageing, the region is also widely planted to Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and many other international varietals that can be bottled and sold under the Langhe DOC label. This affords the local winemakers an opportunity to honour more ancient traditions of blends, provides an outlet for the wines made from young vines and gives opportunities to experiment with more international varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

We attended the third of the three Tavola dinners, held at the restaurant Casa Nicolini in Tre Stelle. Set on one of many sensational ridges that run across the top of the vineyards, we were greeted with breath-taking views of key Barbaresco vineyards such as Asili, Rabaja, Rio Sordo and Martinenga. The potent aromas of ripe jasmine, although enticing, made it difficult find some of the finer edges of the aromas in these very young wines. We were the guests of Jeff Chilcott, Kiwi cellar master of Marchesi di Gresy, who we visited on Sunday for an amazing tasting (more on this later).

The format of the dinner is simple: 20 wines are set up on a central table, labelled 1-19, and you are invited to taste and score your way through the wines. Later in the evening, the wines are revealed, and you find out that most of people pouring the wines are the wine makers themselves. Over the course of the evening, we were served a typical and delicious multi-course regional meal. As the light faded, our palates tingling from the young vintage’s tannins and acidity, we left feeling full, fortunate to have taken part and maybe just a little tipsy.

The wines uncovered

Impression of the vintage

The 2019 vintage has been described by many as pure, energetic, and authentic with good fruit expression, fine abundant tannins and elevated levels of acidity – all typical characteristics of strong vintages. Our tasting left an impression of a vintage of balance, elegance and with good bones for the long haul. We would caveat this to say that with many having been bottled within a few weeks of the dinner, there was a high degree of wood on show, with many wines showing baking spice characteristics of cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a muted fruit expression. There were a range of wine making styles on show, with many made in the traditional neutral oaked manner and some showing the signs of flashy new barriques. We scored all the wines fully blind on a scale of 1-20, and frequently returned to wines that, on discussion, proved either hard to understand or sparked an interest.

I have put our scores together in a table by wine, with our average, maximum, minimum and standard deviation scores listed (for those who like a bit of statistical wine geekiness).

Casa Nicolini Barbaresco

Tasting note comments

On balance, you will see that our average across all wines from the evening scores a 16.2 out of 20, which one could normally interpret as representing an average to good vintage. In context, however, given the extraordinarily young, freshly bottled wines, and examining the structural characteristics (acidity and tannin) and winemaking styles on show, I believe these wines will be showing beautifully in the medium term, and will reward the patient given their exquisite balance and structure.

In terms of individual wines, there was much debate on which of these was our favourite on the night. Initially, we were besotted with number 18 (Pelissero), a producer that clearly likes the full barrique approach, creating a ravishing, fuller bodied version of Barbaresco. On reflection and discussion, we marked it down on the basis that vanilla is not something that we feel belongs so overtly in Barbaresco of any age.

While our collective scores of number 12, the Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga, was rather low, our tasting on Sunday showed just how wonderful their wines are with a bit more age, and we therefore conclude that this wine was being a little shy. We would say the same for number 3 from Ada Nada, which split opinions, and whom we visited the next afternoon and had a wonderful tasting.

Our clear favourite, number 2 from Silvia Rivella, shone out as both an approachable yet structured newer style barrique-aged wine with potential to age into something truly beautiful. Other strong showings included the Castello di Neive (6), the ever-dependable Produttori del Barbaresco (10) and the Francone (8) which all stood out.

Stuart Grostern

Leave a comment

Valpolicella, Veneto, North East Italy October 2019

Valpolicella, Veneto, North East Italy October 2019

 Being a fan of full bodied, fruit driven and bold wines, I have always wanted to visit the Valpolicella region of Italy, to witness the appassimento process. This involves drying of the grapes on wooden racks (fruttaio) for the production of Amarone. This area is easily accessible. Only 15 minutes drive from Verona airport. It is also only a short distance East of Lake Garda. Bardolino and Soave are nearby leading to a cornucopia of wine styles in this area. A range of wines are produced in Valpolicella, from the light, fresh, easy drinking red fruity Valpolicella through to the monolithic rich Amarone. Somewhere in between are the wines of Valpolicella Classico and Ripasso wines which are refermented on the lees of grapes used in Amarone production. Reccioto is the sweet version of Amarone.More recently Valpolicella Superiore has emerged. This is made from grapes harvested later(sovramaturazione) or partially dried to produce a wine of greater colour body and alcohol. Valpolicella contains two sun-zones : Classico and Valpantena.


We chose to stay in the heart of the hilly vineyards in Sant Ambrogio di Valpolicella. Corte Formigar in Graganago is an 18th century house, tastefully restored and run by the incredible Jessica who could not be more helpful. I highly recommend basing yourself here in the heart of the region. Access to their selection of bikes including electric allow you to gain altitude via the many roads through the vineyards and appreciate the magnificent views and explore the area.

The first night we walked to the local Trattoria dai Fasolini to sample some typical cuisine of the area. Horse is typical of the Veneto region but perhaps not appreciated by British palates. However the home made tagliatelle with black  truffle and parmesan hit the spot. This  matched well with Recchia Le Muraie Valpolicella Classico 2015 made using the ripasso process with Recciotto lees.

 Cantina di Negrar, October 12th


 Cantina di Negrar is a well known cooperative winery on the outskirts of Negrar. They have 230 members providing grapes from the Valpolicella region and produce  8 million bottles.This is the birthplace of Amarone. In 1936, by accident a reccioto wine was left to ferment to dryness. The president at the time Gaetano dall’ora quite enjoyed it, called it the bitter one and named  it Amarone (Amaro – bitter in Italian)It was interesting to witness the arrival of a tractor full of grapes being tested for sugar levels and quality by a rather crude machine. A large cylinder of metal with an internal drill was inserted into the grapes, it  macerates a sample of them and analyses the content for sugar levels. If not of sufficient levels the grapes will be rejected.

We had our wine tasting with Sara Albertini who is hugely knowledgeable, having just spent a year in Bordeaux and mid her masters in wine business

 Domini Veneti la Casseta Ripasso Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016  30 th Anniversary

14 months oak casks Recciotto skins, from grapes grown on Clay soil, Unfortunately this was somewhat reduced sulphurous smoky

Domini Veneti 2016 Valpolicella Superiore Verjago 15.5% 40 days of appassimento

Rich blueberry and violet Soft but silky tannins coffee chocolate cocoa dark cherry bit of raisin smells sweet ripe meaty savoury spicy

 Domini Veneti Amarone 2015

15.5%, Best vintage for many years Described by our host… as like dark chocolate cherry 🍒 liquors. garnet intense nose legs ++ coffee cocoa dust powder raisins spice black pepper

 Domini Veneti Recioto 2016

Sweet cherry not complex recioto

 We had dinner in St Giorgio di Valpolicella high up in the hills overlooking lake Garda at Trattoria Dalla Rosa Alda.

This is a cosy family run restaurant with the mother, father, uncle and  2 sons all working together. The wine choice  was from Zyme, the owner is married to the daughter of the famous Giuseppe Quintarelli.


Corte Fornaledo Winery Azienda Agricola Borghetti di Giacomo e Francesco – Sunday October 13th

 The land here is documented in books dating back to 908 AD. The current family have been in residence from 1800 and own 5 hectares in Marano di Valpolicella 450m above sea level, making only 15,000 bottles most of which is sold to private buyers.

 Wines tasted with c0-owner Giacomo Borghetti –

Corte Fornaledo Valpolicella Classico superiore 2014

Fresh red cherry 40% corvina 40%corvinone molinara 5% rondinella 15%

 Corte Fornaledo  Valpolicella ripasso Classico superiore 2015 DOC

14.5% fresh red cherry richer good acidity length all aged in 500l tonneaux

 Corte Fornaledo , Vitae IGT Rosso Verona 2013

2 months aged grapes, aged in Chilean oak barrels IGT all Volcanic soils

mineral savoury spicy oxidation

 Corte Fornaledo , Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2015

3 months drying 3. 5 yrs barrels and then 1 year bottles

Raisins fig full sweet chocolate alcohol!

 Corte Fornaledo Amarone Della Valpolicella Riserva  2009

8 years in barrels one in bottle  oak vanilla chocolate coffee 1000 L Slavonian oak

 Corte Fornaledo, Recioto della Valpolicella 2015

made first by Romans 2000 years ago

Sweet cherry chew 10 g/l





Val Polis Cellae wine and food and art festival – Sunday Oct 13th

Azienda Agricola Novaia Cantina Biologica This organic estate high up in the Marano valley was our first stop on the Val Polis Cellae tour. This day long, art, wine and gastronomy festival enables entry to 15 wineries in the area.

Then on to Le Marognole ( names after local stone walls) 6 hectares boutique winery

The harvest had just ended and we were greeted to the smell of fermenting must making the roses Their Amarone 2015 was one of my favourites of the tour tasting of cedar, prunes dates and dried fruits with a power and finesse


Dinner in the evening lived up to previous Trips to Italy –

 Osteria Numero Uno is a beautiful authentic Osteria in the village of Fumane



insalata di gallina in saor

Insalata di rape Rossi, mêle, Ruccola gorgonzola anacardi 


Fettuccine al ragu d’anatra

Tortellini radicchio rosso, burro al miele e scamorza affumigata 


Guancia di Manzo All Amarone con polenta

Scottata di tonno du cavalo nero 


Torta die mêle e fichi secci


All washed down with recioto from the local winery and a harsh cleanse of Grappa. This delicious feast was a fitting end to our trip to the Valpolicella area. Italy cannot be beaten for wine and gastronomy.Before even departing Verona, my brother and father already booked our trip to Sicily next year!

Our wine style of choice was the Ripasso’s. The basic Valpolicella was too light and simple for our taste, Amarone at the other end of the spectrum is often too big powerful and alcoholic. The Ripasso is a welcome half way house adding a much-needed richness but not to the level of Amarone. The pricing of Ripasso wines also adds to their attraction.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Travel to Bolgheri

The Bolgheri wine region.

Bolgheri DOC lies within the Maremma, once a sizzling mosquito infested area of swamp lying between low hills and the sea, it features as part of the inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Thankfully the marsh land has long since been drained and the area is now a welcoming patchwork of farmland, vineyards & olive groves accentuated here & there by picturesque rows of cypress trees.

Bolgheri wine region runs north south bounded by hills to the east and a line parallel to the coast (largely defined by the motorway) to the west. There are four small towns in the region. To the north-east is the village of Bolgheri itself at the foot of the wooded hills. To the north west is Marina di Bibbona a coastal resort & further down the coast, is Marina di Castagneto Carducci.  Finally, the ancient hill town of Castagneto Carducci itself makes up the quartet.



Accommodation is available in all four of these towns but if you want to be in the heart of the wine action as we did there are a number of wineries that offer accommodation and a few agritourismo too.  We stayed at: Relais Felciaino which has three or four family /twin rooms opening onto the garden and does a nice al fresco breakfast under a canopy with views of the Tenuta San Guido’s castle on the hill.


The location is right on the wine route ‘La Strada del Vino’ as it passes through Bolgheri



Tenuta Ornellaia & Chiappini, are next door, Le Machiolle is opposite & Tenuta Guado a short way down the road & the fabulous restaurant Osteria Magna is also within walking distance.

Other options include apartments in the vineyards of Azienda Agricola Giovanni Chiappini, & several other agritourismo in the area.

Eating out:

IMG_2732If you like meat, then look no further than Osteria Magona. Chef Omar Barsacchi serves a selection of beef by Dario Cecchini , Panzano’s famous butcher.  On the T bone or a cheek, the meet is amazing.

The wine list is comprehensive and, although most of it will require re-mortgaging, there are actually some delicious gems such as Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso 2015 and, one of the waiter’s recommendations, Sondraia Bolgheri Superiore 2013 by Poggio al Tesoro.IMG_2733


IMG_2866The find of the trip though was Enoteca Tognoni in the village of Bolgheri itself.  Imagine crossing your favourite wine merchant with a brilliant trattoria and you get Enoteca Tognoni.  Walls to the left and right are lined with shelves of Tuscan wines to browse and between customers sit at long tables.  Choose your bottle, scan the menu and settle in.

IMG_2876The wines are priced very fairly and you pay the same when you sit down for lunch as you would to take out.   Fancy tasting through some of the local icons with your meal then check out the enomatic wine machines on the bar at the back serving both tasting portions and drinking measures.

So good we come back for lunch two days running!IMG_2869




For sea food we visited Restaurant La Pineta right on the beach where chef Luciano Zazzeri serves Michelin-starred seafood. The wine list is a ridiculous tome that is so big an heavy it comes to you on its own side table but we did find some bottles of Grattamacco Bolgheri Vermentino 2015 which were vibrant and delicious and a couple of bottles of Ca Marcanda Magari.  The food was very good but not all the dishes were outstanding & we found the service a little un-attentive.



The resorts on the coast feel quite separate to the wine country but are so close that an evening dip looking out towards Corsica can easily be worked into your program.

Bike hire:




Lots of flights to Pisa which is less than an hour’s drive away.


Leave a comment

Discovering Bolgheri and the Super Tuscans October 2017- Day 2


What better start to the day  than the Gaja winery Ca’ Marcanda ( house of endless negotiations !) Built in 1998 this impressive winery is 9500m2 with three levels underground perfectly blending in with the local landscape. They surveyed the land and chose this as the sandy colour of the land matched Ornellaia and Sassicaia. Gardens and olive groves on top of winery allow  great views of the sea and Corsica  on a clear day.Gaja’s other properties include the magnificent  Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino.Production is 450000 bottles, first vintage 2000.All Gaja is organic, red worms from California form natural compost using selected manure from selected cows.

Three main wines produced-

Promis merlot Syrah blend small Sangiovese 25000 cases  Magari half merlot 1/4 cs 1/4 cf8000 cases Camarcanda half merlot 40 cs 10 cf 2500 cases.


Wines tasted

Vistamare 2016  sea view

Vermontino 60 viognier 40 Citruswhite. Flowers peach Others sea.  Shells.Dried sage acidity balance excellent

Promis 2015 55 merlot 35 Syrah 10 Sangiovese Promis and Magari are sourced from vineyards lying in the terre brune, where the mineral content including lime and iron makes for wines with more pronounced tannic structure and character.

Black cherry chocolate vanilla nice tannic balance cedar

Magari 50 Merlot 25!cab sav 25 cf

Cranberry blue berry fruit forward great balance acidity tannins soft silky integrated beautifully pure Linear A baby opens up savoury herbs thyme opens up in glass over 10. Mins+++ then smokey toasty notes


Çamarcanda 2013 Merlot 50 CS 40 cf 10 ,the winery’s flagship wine, from vineyards in the terre bianche with their high composition of calcareous clay, ideal for  wines intended for long-term aging.Wow the nose is amazing packs a punch. Concentration +++ black currant cassis blueberry red currant cherry. Toasty smokey so. Good keep smelling balance tannins integrated, Elegant silky tannins. Length amazing ++


Next stop back  on the bikes towards Bolgheri. We  got totally lost, then found the place which got it all started and birthplace of Sassicaia

Tenuta San Guido guided by Elena Brancini

The star on label is from family crest, aia means ‘place of something. Sassicaia means place of many stones, 3000 hectare estate 100 hectares of vineyard Higher area later harvest, sand near pines, lots different soils – clay sands stones altitude sea to 400 m lots of forest and even a place to breed racehorses. Interesting history the first  vineyard planted in 1944 when the Piemontese Marquis Della Inchetta arrived. He was familiar with the excellent wines of Bordeaux and  tried  1 ha Cabernet Sauvignon at top of the Hill. Now most plantings are lower altitude due to sea breeze and the sea acting as a mirror for light.  Castillo on top of Hill medieval castle first cellar sassicaia. The first vintage was in 1968 and became the only Property in Italy with its own DOC. Iron rich area of red soils where the Etruscans first settled.


Wines tasted at Tenuta San Guido

Le Difese 2015 70cs 30 sangiovese 300000 bottles

Smokiness,Soft light red fruits savoury slight strawberry,  Sangiovese

Sassicaia 2014 Perfume floral red fruits,Vanilla oaky notes mod tannins a bit lacking on the finish

Guidoalberto 2015 Merlot,Black currant leaf lovely acid balance and tannins



After a strenuous  climb up the hill and many expletives later we arrived at Grattamacco 120m above sea level allowing magnificent views of the regionOwned now by  Bertollerri  it was the second winery in the area after sassicaia. Only 12 employees and organic since 1997 made  easier with sea breeze and altitude and good drainage.No irrigation required although this June was very with no rain and it was very hot making for a difficult vintage.Justerini & Brook importer to the UK

Wines Tasted

Bolgheri Rosso 2016 CS based some new oak,Spicy ,violet hints cocoa dark cherries nutmegGood acidity and Med Fine tannins crunchy

Grattamacco 2014 Cedar minty eucalyptus,Higher level tannins cocoa vanilla oak toasty smoke sour cherry good length and structure cherry pie dried herbs

Grattamacc0 2011 Magnum

Cooked tertiary savoury basalmic salty rioja like vanilla spices cooked plums,Bit oxidized

Poggio massari poggio lombrone 100 Sangiovese 2013 herbal tea tobacco

We recommend a trip to this area. It is a little quiet and off the beaten track compared to inland nearer Siena and Florence, but this is Italy. In even the smallest places,  there’s an immaculate town square, medieval church, and of course a brilliant local restaurant and wine flowing from the local wineries.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Discovering Bolgheri and the Super Tuscans October 2017- Day 1

When Marquis Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta acquired Tenuta San Guido in the 1930’s,  few thought it would inspire a cult of wines which were to follow some decades later. The  coastal plain forming the western border of Tuscany was essentially marsh and swamps. It was know for its malarial Mosquitos. However after the draining of the Maremma it made it possible to grow crops.

The early wine product at Tenuta San Guido was for family consumption. After a visit from a member of the Antinori family, the quality of wine produced was realised and they were persuaded to attempt commercial production. The First vintage of Sassicaia in  1968 was sold as a Vino da Tavola. The 1985 vintage was a revelation and sparked the whole Super Tuscan phenomenon. Marquis Lodovico Antinori was not to be outdone by his cousin and created Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia in 1981. A special DOC Bolgheri was  created in 1994. There were only seven producers ‘ the magnificent seven ” up until 1990 there are now forty five.

There area is now renowned for some of the best wines in Italy. The famous Massetto from Ornellaia can fetch £ 1000 per bottle. . IGT Toscana was created in 1992 following inflexibility of the DOC system allowing a higher range of varieties. It was devoted to Bordeaux varieties  with a small amount Syrah and Sangiovese. Alex Heinz Winemaker at Ornellai describes Bolgheri as a Mediterranean version of the Bordeaux climate, a wine of the South. It has a special combination of ripeness opulence and freshness.


We arrived at the modest gated B+B Relais Felciaini0. It is perfectly located for visiting the local wineries on the Strada Provinciale Bolgerhese about 6km  South of Bolgheri and north of Castagnetto Carduccio. Bikes were delivered for us from Ciclosport.

First visit

Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia

Established in 1981 with its first Vintage 1985. It became one of great names purchased by the  younger brother of Marchese Piero Antinori family with an interest from Mondavi. It is   now entirely owned by the Frescobaldi family. They own two separate vineyards- home vineyard,  surrounding the winery and Bellaria to the south. Four wines are made-Ornellaia 8,000 cases, Masseto 100% Merlot from Masseto Hill, clay based soils. A separate building is under construction for Masseto alone. Le Serre Nuove 2nd wine, Le Volte Sangiovese Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Arturo met us on the landscaped courtyard explained the etymology of the word Ornellaia. Aia meaning place of and Orniello, a type of local flowering ash tree.


Tasting notes

Le volte 2015 67% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese 7%. Alcohol 14% nice balance, soft tannins, but good level of cherry red fruits strawberry. herbal lovely balance app 15 € drink 1 to 2 yrs

Varia Zioni Rosso 2013 House wine little made, Cabernet Franc based 13 months in second  barrique. tannin ++ chalky sl grippy, sl pine resin nose more black fruits cedar. Tannins a bit too dominant drink 3 to 4 yrs

Le serre Nuove 2014 13.5% Alcohol,50% merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon. Smokey toasty, Others- red plums basalmic notes deep floral orange blossom finer tannins savoury finer silkier tannins

Ornellaia 2014 difficult year blend is Cabernet Sauvignon based almost 32% Merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon also Petit Verdot 20%Vanilla, creamy perfume 75% new oak. 13.5% alcohol later cocoa powder coffee slight toast  baking spices nutmeg clove mouth coating gripping tannins ++pronounced barrel struggling to find fruit maybe stewed plums,something graphitic.

Ornellaia olive oil tasting Blend of 15 oils from the estate harvest going on as we visited. Spicy, smooth, kick at back of throat peppery.

Eligo grappa Arturo suggested we rub it on our hands allowing the alcohol to evaporate then smell it- nuts  figs pistachios ground baclava hazelnuts. This was a first for all of us and a very entertaining way to finish our visit to this iconic property




This is very much a boutique artisan operation.It was Started by Franco Batzella and Khanh Nguyen who previously worked for the world bank initially buying land in Montalcino. They have a small but very well maintained and low yielding vineyards ( 1 kg =1 bottle per vine)-1ha Cabernet Franc, 1ha Syrah, 5 ha Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 ha white varieties. We were greeted at the gate by Khanh and their rather excitable dog.Franco Batzella soon arrived. He explained how he yearned to return to his native Italy after retiring from the World Bank to embark on a dream.

The passion from Franco and Khanh became clear. The winery was in full action. They were transferring the wine from stainless steel  into oak barrels. The Harvest was 2 weeks ago 1kg per vine = 1 bottle per vine!He gave us a detailed explanation regarding transfer to barrels and fine lees and different levels of pressing with all parcels vinified separately.He has stared using slavonian oak 20,000l with good results as consumer taste goes away from excess oak.Oak forest in France were used by the French navy for building ships, later for oak barrels. when transferred from France to Britain on ships it was found  it tasted better on arrival.The area is a  mixture of sand clay and  alluvial soils, so good drainage despite the flat plain like Bordeaux gravels. Mostly spurred cordon 80 cm up then bent 80 cm 5 spurs allowed on that.

Franco hosted our tasting on his lovely  terrace overlooking Castagnetto Carduccio as the sun set.

Batzella White Mezzodi 2016 DOC Bolgheri, Viognier and Vermentino. Slight saltiness, minerality, very cold, lime citrus. Crisp moderate length slight oiliness on the  finish but well textured.

Batzella Péan Bolgheri Rosso DOC 2013Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet Franc 11 moths barriques. Cassis herabaceous green pepper 2013 was a warm summer.Rained at right time 14.8% alcohol but good balance, hot, tannic structure

Tam Bolgheri superiore 2010 ++cab sav 65% cab franc 35% 24 months French oak barriques. Soft silky tannins slight tertiary earthy hint sulphur initially only, acacias floral.Black cherries star anise woody, Menthol eucalyptus.

Syrah vox Loci 2010 Voice of the land, Oxidised port like cooked fruits,Grippy tannins acid unbalance basaltic savoury possibly corked.


In the Evening we walked to the local restaurant- Osteria Magona all the meat is supplied by celebrity butcher Dario Ceccini based in Panzano in Chianti. We shared a 1.4 kg aged Fiorentina T bone and a large cut of Panzanese steak.. Oh to be back in the gastronomical heaven of Italy!

Wines with dinner at Osteria Magona Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia,Le Macchiole Rosso,Castello Giaconda  Montalcino2012. We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the region. It was the perfect end to our first day in Bolgheri.

1 Comment

Vini Vulcanici – A Sicilian Adventure



Nerello Capuccio , Nerello Mascalese , Corinto Nero,Grillo,Catarrato ,carricante, Inzollia , zibbibo , Malvasia della Lipari .

Wonderfully exotic titles but hardly household names bombarding me on arrival in Sicily and Aeolian Islands.

I was itching with excitement to experience local and historic grapes grown on the famed volcanic soils ,

rich in minerals producing distinctive and diverse wine styles.



First stop Trattoria da Nino In Taormina with a huge open  wine cellar .

I’d asked for a good example of Nerello Mascalese having read the finest of these are comparable to Burgundy and Piemonte.

I was assured Wiegner Artemisio Etna Rosso would satiate and indeed it was soft supple fruity floral complex long and satisfying .IMG_5909

Only to google later , it was in fact a Cabernet Franc !

Delicious all the same .A timely reminder that Sicily grows a host of well known international grape varieties as well as indigenous.



IMG_6029Tenuta Di Castellaro in Lipari

Next stop Lipari , an hour by hydrofoil from Milazzo.

We decided on a sunset wine tasting . 30 hectares of bush vines in volcanic soil with panoramic views over the Aeolian Islands and sunset over Salina, Fillicudi and Alcudi

They have a modern winery with a bioenergetic cellar for minimal environmental impact , wind turbines to cool the cellar . Domes scattered amongst the vines with internal mirrors to light the cellar .

Grapes fall by gravity into immaculate clean stainless steel tanks .Experimental vines with alberelo vine pruning technique to allow maximal wind circulation from the sea as used by the Greeks .

The water is natural filtered through outdoor biofilter vegetation ,cellar construction using 2000 year old Greek techniques revealing 20000 years of layered rocks .We were treated to the most stunning sunset with panoramic views from 1000 ft above sea level.

Wines Tasted

Bianca Pomice 60 Malvasia 40 carricante crisp acidity florality capers flowers mineralityIMG_6053

Rosa Carolino

Rose corinto Nero 60 Nero D’Avola40 saignee method Strawberry earthy hint of smokiness.Good acidity

Nero Ossidinia 

Corinto Nero from Greece as Korinthiaki,  small berries seedless only  a few bigger grapes with seeds

Leather earthy mature spice

Malvasia Delle Lipari DOCOnly 3000 bottles made .Ripe apricots , orange , marmalade floral rich delicious sweet perfectly balanced with acidity long and complex ,5 to 8% Corinto Nero


Monaci delle terre nere

 Tranquil beautiful boutique hotel with organic farm and vineyard on the slopes of Etna . The restaurant Nerello high on a terrace overlooking the Meditteranean has an encyclopaedic wine list   only serving Etna wines !

Cattarrato 2006 Tenuta delle terre nere

Honey , ginger , spices , mineral long complex finish

Frank Cornellison natural wine 2013 Munjebel Vigne Alte From ungrafted 100 year old Nerello Masacalese vines .

Fresh red fruit earth spice and a developing savoury umami note after 30 minutes decanting long complex


Azienda Benanti

IMG_6116Salvo and Antonio Benanti now run the business. Streamlining it having taken over from their father Giusseppe.

Charming twins with a focus on the future . Making wines from all 3 slopes of Etna . North- Nerello Mascalese and East Carricante .



In 1995 they started making varietal Nerello Mascalese wines prior to that it was mainly used blending and exported must .

Carricante is Etna’s flagship white and the basis for Etna Bianco DOC


Pietramarina Etna Bianco superiore 2012 peaches flowers mineral salinity citrus like acidity

Biancodicaselle 2009 Honeyed candied ginger orange long smoothIMG_6141



The wines produced on these volcanic soils  displayed a mineral edge and a hint of salinity with lifted aromatics. It’s no surprise that the wines of Etna are so highly regarded.

1 Comment

The joy of Umbria

This beautiful region surrounded by mountains in the heart of Italy is the perfect place to indulge .

For oenophiles, gastronomes and lovers of life there are few places better .

An easy direct Ryan Air flight from London delivers you to Perugia ,

a majestic medieval hilltop City with spectacular sweeping views of Umbria.        IMG_5400

Luckily for me my great friend and trained Chef Simon

is spending a year on sabbatical and living in the heart of the old town.

He introduced me to the culinary delights of the region . We foraged along the banks of the Lago Trasimeno collecting the seasonal wild asparagus and with the local truffle Bianchetto made a Wonderful frittata .

IMG_5460Other highlights were his lamb and Rosemary, Bistecca alla fiorentina and Umbrian sausages all grilled on the open fire

and the best roast potatoes you could wishes for .

Highly recommended is restaurant Coccorone in the timeless hilltop medieval town of Montefalco . IMG_5450

Their paparadelle Al Sagrantino is unforgettable

followed by the Bistecca alla fiorentina served with a choice of eight types of salt !

IMG_5406Kitted out with the finest Bianchi hybrid bikes from Testi we set of for the hills and after a relatively flat 30 km arrived at the Arnaldo Caprai winery , world famous for putting Sagrantino wines on the modern map with innovative and exciting techniques and passion culminating in its very own DOCG Montefalco Di Sagrantino


Arnaldo Caprai

We entered the stylish modern tasting room .
They work with university in Perugia to find best methods of viticulture, a tour of  the

vineyards showed single and double cordon Guyot and other pruning mainly on clay soil .
The Sangiovese is matured in old Slavonian barrels , new and used French oak for Sagrantino

Wines tasted with Marco Caprai

IMG_5436Grecante grechetto 2015

peach, floral, hawthorn med acid med length a good starter .

Montefalco Rossi this is the bulk of production an Umbrian take on Chianti 70 sangiovese 15 sagrantino fresh red cherry, herbs med + tannins acid med length

Montefalco Rosso reserva tannin high and herbal liquorice garnet 2010 IMG_5433

Collepiano 2010 100% sagrantino new oak ,Tannin herbal sl vegetal developing nicely .

Montefalco Sagrantino 25 2011 representing their finest selection .
2011 lovely , new oak ,vanilla chocolate coffee with spice herbs .A lovely structure balance high tannin but well integrated. Well made with lots of life in the bottle .

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito.
The classic original  style of Sagrantino , dried grapes creating a wonderfully rich long desert wine full of aromas of figs prunes dates raisins , a fitting finale to any dinner .

After a short climb to Montefalco and lunch we dropped South West towards the unfortunately named Bastardo via

Cantina Novelli
Wines tasted
Trebbiano spoletino  In a classically Italian confusing way this is no relation to the Trebbiano grape !
aromatic floral gold oily texture aged on lees really a bargain for the price

Sangiovese had hints of red cherry ,the Rosso more Earthy with red fruits
Sagrantino 2012 more complex with liquorice herbal high tannin long structure good long herbaceous nature sweetness .

The highlight of which we took a magnum was their 2007 Sagrantino which shows how well this can do with a few years of ageing to soften its high tannins.

We cycled back with the sun setting through the most glorious scenery .

I’m already dreaming of my next Umbrian Adventure !

Arnaldo Caprai wines are available in the UK
A recent decanter review highly rated these wines

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Magnificent Montalcino , June 2015 . Travel Tips .


Montalcino was this year’s choice for the annual WanderCurtis Wine trip.

The biggest decision was not the location, but how to get there!

Travel Options:

Tuscany is easily accessible from London – Ryan Air to Pisa. BA or easy jet Florence. Ryan air Perugia. BA and Easy Jet to Rome. We arrived in Pisa Car Hire is easy, but note it is quicker to follow the red line from the airport than wait for the hot crowded rickety bus transfer, it’s only 500m.

We took the route via the coast then through classic Tuscany landscape. Olive groves, cypress trees, rolling hills, neatly manicured rows of Sangiovese, hilltop walled medieval towns, fields of wheat and corn with heady aromas of spring flowers. It is such a treat on all the senses.

Bike Hire -recommended e-biketuscany based in Pienza. Excellent range of very well maintained bikes and somewhat embarrassingly opted for the electric bikes on viewing the ascent to Montalcino!

Wineries visited – The beauty of Brunello


The Fuligni Estate spreads over approximately one hundred hectares of land in an almost continual strip on the eastern side of Montalcino. The vines extend over ten hectares, are primarily located at Cottimelli at altitudes varying from 380 to 450 meters above sea level.  We were given a vineyard tour and explanation of viticulture including: yields, cordon training, bunch restriction & green harvesting. Next stop just down the road to:

Siro Pacenti

Met by Barbara this small property produces 60000 bottles and recently the 2010 received 100 points from Suckling . Vineyards, founded and planted 1970, are in both the north and the hotter southern area of Montalcino. Follow link for full wine review and tasting notes.


IMG_3420The most perfect host Agnes led us through a progressive barrel samples. We could sense the evolution from fresh ripe strawberry and cherry fruit onto more savoury, herbal, spicy & complex aromas through barrel age and blending of parcels. A truly memorable experience during which we were lucky enough to meet the owner & winemaker Andrea.

A much larger property. Nicola guided us through their excellent range over a wonderful lunch at Il Leccio showing us just what fantastic food wines Brunello & Rosso di Montalcino are. Beautiful gardens impressive winery buildings. Samples from huge 150 hectolitre Slovenian Barrels. Col d’Orcia welcomes guests to visit the winery and superb lunches featuring organic produce from the estate can be arranged.

The most enchanting garden with intoxicating aromas of orange and lemon blossom and the most beautiful Tilia tree under its shade we were welcomed with Fresh Strawberries and chilled mineral water. Sensationally elegant perfumed wines. Full tasting notes

Pieve Santa Restituta Wonderfully manicured vineyards .  Ethereal winery with classical music and film projected onto the whitewashed walls designed to give employees the perfect ambiance to create Gaja’s masterpieces.

Costanti  Some of the highlight wines of our tastings.  Visits and tastings can be booked on the winery website.

Accommodation in Montalcino
We  chose to stay  at  Hotel Veccia oliviera
hotel-vecchia-olivieraHighly Recommended. This Hotel has stunning views over Val D’Orcia, a small but lovely swimming pool and is an excellent location .The owner is laid back and extremely helpful. Breakfast simple but well presented. Also recommended  a small family run hotel and right in the middle of Town Il giglio


Dining in Montalcino

Right in the he heart of Montalcino with an amazing view of the beautiful, medieval Fortress. Excellent wine list and wall to wall bottles of Brunello.
 Il Leccio Sant’Angelo in Colle
You must book in advance , the food in this restaurant is sensational, a must do in the area.IMG_3453
Starters zuccini stuffed with tomatoes riccotta.
Delicious.  Deep fried tempura style, amazingly light & crisp. Egg plant riccotta cheese and tomato. Ravioli in sage butter so delicate.
Mains grilled veal fillet chianina.Sliced Veal Scottata (rare steak) green peas fried onions. So good we returned after our great lunch with Col d’Orcia.
A charming restaurant in the heart of Montalcino. Extensive wine list, an encyclopaedia of back vintages. A delicious starter of Gnocchi with nettle and Fresh ‘Spring’ Truffle. Homemade ‘Pinci’ pasta with bread crumbs and Olive Oil. Main-Medium rare Bistecca Alla Fiorentina. Sheep cheese ‘Selezione’ from Crete Senesi area – beware these cheeses are dangerous.

La Pieve is a hamlet set among a picturesque landscape just nine kilometres from  Montalcino. Brunello vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. We fell upon this country resort with a guesthouse, restaurant, wine bar and chapel with serendipity on our cycle ride. There is a wonderful outdoor area right next to their own vineyard with wonderful views. I think we were kept away from the main restaurant on account of our lycra and perspiration ! Wonderful fresh local food , traditional ‘Pinci’ Pasta and cured local meats.

Other Recommendations

For creative and exclusive wine tasting and Events or if you are planning to get married , we highly recommend Claudia Moritz base in Montalcino info@claudiamoritz.com.Italy is a joy in every way . Fresh delicious sublime food. Exceptional wines. Views and scenery which stay with you forever. Wonderful warm hearted and friendly locals. This area of Tuscany exemplifies it all.Please contact us for any more information .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Brunello di Montalcino the tasting notes

With its sublime food, rolling landscapes that bewitch the eye, pristine hill top villages and amazing wines it’s easy to wax lyrical about the Brunello di Montalcino region. For me the more fruit focused and elegant Brunello di Montalcinos from higher altitude really sang and the excellence of the fresh crunchy Rossos, with their teasing savoury touch, was a real eye opener. If one had to be critical perhaps a few of the Reserves seemed to try a little too hard for critic scores at the expense of drinking pleasure but then again this just reflects the exciting diversity of wine making approaches to be found in the region. A must for all wine lovers.

The 2010 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino has generated unprecedented world wide excitement and large volumes of sales on release. The quality, with attendant critical fanfare, is obviously a major factor, perhaps also a market hungry for excellence after a run of lack lustre Bordeaux vintages. The BdMs are generally premium priced wines and classically demand patience in the cellar and the premeditation to open them hours or even a day in advance to open up. However since the 2007 vintage they have become much more approachable in their youth than they traditionally were.  Rosso di Montalcinos are generally made for drinking from release although many winemakers produce more serious offerings that can happily age. The wines come in quite a range of styles dependent on the vineyard location and wine makers approach to the use of new oak, extraction of fruit and length of aging in barrel. So there is probably a BdM to please all tastes from elegant with vigorous fruit to powerful, malty leather bound tomes.

Day 1


Montalcino Fuligni in the vineyardS.J IGT Toscana 2013. A blend of mostly Sangiovese but with some merlot aged in French oak tonneaux. Slightly dusty nose, cherries, some notes of plumb. Nice freshness, soft tannin and a roundness but with a characteristic Sangiovese fresh cherry finish.

Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto 2013. 14%.The rosso is made as a glimpse of the brunello. A slightly spirit nose, lovely crunchy fresh cherries in the mouth with a good savoury layer. Great balance, soft tannins, high alcohol balanced by the acidity. Good to drink now.

Brunello di Montalcino 2009. 14%. Fuligni have already sold out of the 2010 vintage but explained that 2009 was in this part of the region as good as the 10. Light intensity garnet colour. Cherries on the nose, spice, cinnamon, touch of caramel with a meaty undertone, then orange peel: complex. More of the same in the mouth, medium body great balance and length.

Siro Pacenti.

Montalcino Siro Pacenti viewSiro Pacenti owns vineyards in the north of the region as well as the south. The wines are vinified separately and then blended to form both the Rosso and BdM. The wines are raised in French oak barrique except the riserva which is matured in larger tonneaux.

BdM Pelagrilli 2010. Smokey nose, bit of balsamic, some spice, herbs, thyme, oregano and red fruit. In the mouth intense concentrated red fruit, cherry pie, smoke, toast but not overwhelming and well integrated. Some charcuterie and a lick of vanilla. If hoisin sauce was made with cherries this would be it. Very long. Excellent.

BdM Vecchie Vigne. 2010. A tighter nose, earthy spices: cumin, turmeric, sour cherry, a bit closed but deep. Medium body, fresh with mouth coating firm but ripe fine grained tannins. Ripe fruit, blueberries but a bit masked by the wood influence, meat and blood below. Very long.

Day 2


Uccelliera, named after the hunting bird loft that still stands on the site, produces a total of 60000 bottles from 6 hectares of Sangiovese plus half a hectare of merlot & cabernet sauvignon. Winemaker Andrea also has olive trees and animals on the farm.

Some of the vineyards lie around the IMG_3442house and were purchased from neighbouring Ciacci Piccolomini but additional plots have been added in the Orcia valley along with a plot of older vines planted in 1975 north of town.

The vineyards are farmed organically and the dry conditions of the Orcia valley favour this. When necessary they spray calcium in the early mornings.

The Rosso is already selected and vinified separately over several picks. The grapes are covered in dry ice to avoid oxidation as soon as they are picked. They are then cold soaked to block fermentation for the first few days to extract colour and allow the natural yeasts to develop and eventually start fermentation. The Brunello spends about 1 month on skins and the Rosso 20 days.

The winery also uses very old French oak barrels which are not toasted for magnums. These were originally destined for the Riserva as the very tight grain produces elegant Sangiovese. An IGT in magnum is now produced which is not to be confused with the regular Brunellos which are aged in large Slavonian oak barrels and around 20% new French oak barriques. The Riserva is produced from specific vineyards with the oldest vines and highest altitude.

The climate is very localised with up to 5 degrees difference with Montalcino and a different profile of rainfall. The geology and soils are also very varied across Montalcino from area to area.

Barrel tasting notes:

Montalcino Uccelliera vineyardsBdM 2014 from large Slavonian oak barrels and lower elevation vineyards. Up front fruit, darker cherry, fine grained tannin, high acidity. This has only been in barrel for about 6 months out of the two years it is destined to spend.

BdM 2014 from lightly toasted French oak barrels from higher elevation vineyards. Slightly richer riper fruit a hint of toast, fine grained tannin more grippy very long. Of course very primary at this stage.

The wines are matured in barrel separately then blended later and finished in either type of barrel according to the development of the wine. Andrea is beginning to leave longer and longer intervals between racking the wines off the sediments sometimes up to 2 years.

BdM 2013 from large barrels 1.5 years in. Slightly reduced, funky nose at first then clears to give red fruits lightly confected. Lighter body & more floral with slightly grainer tannin grippy & a touch fierce at the moment.

BdM 2013 smaller barrel, upper level vineyards. More red fruits and more concentration, fresh cranberry, less oak influence than the equivalent 2014, just a touch of pastry, lovely freshness. Good length.

Rapace Toscana 2013 barrel sample. This IGT is a blend of Sangiovese 60%, merlot 30 % and cabernet 10%. The grapes are co-fermented in small French oak barriques. Darker more intense colour. More dark fruit, rich toasty notes, fuller body with medium acidity. Spice, cinnamon, coffee etc. but still good pure fruit. Long finish.

Rapace Toscana 2012 in bottle. Again darker, medium body, ripe fruits, rich with spice and lots of tannin and toast. Great length.

Brunello di Montalcino 2012 from large barrel. Red fruit a bit of herb & spice red fruit, savoury notes of blood. Lots of mouth coating friendly cocoa like tannin, very long.

IMG_3420BdM 2012 from barrique. Sour cherry, sweet toast with a bit of roast coffee. Really powerful with lots of grippy oak tannin high alcohol.

BdM 2012 in barrel blend 50: 50 of the above: More of the fruit and savoury character but with the volume turned up on the tannin and oak compared to the large barrel sample. Fascinating to see how the blend melds to best of both, keeping the fruit but adding structure from the wood. Not the final blend but this looks like it will be a fantastic Brunello!

Riserva BdM 2012 from the 1975 vineyards barrel sample. More concentrated fruit, savoury with a mineral iron note, complex, graceful and yet powerful very long and delicious. Another one that promises to be superb.

BdM 2011 final blend. Lighter body & more elegant with lovely balance of fruit and touch of umami. Great freshness and good length. A really nice drinking wine that won’t need years of patience. Too lightly described as a restaurant wine in my opinion.

BdM 2010 out of bottle. Slightly spirity nose, touch of cola bit tight & concentrated but persistent deep. On the palate a fantastic combination of ripe fruit & savoury, mineral notes. Great freshness and lovely balance and very very long finish. Really complex. The combination of elegance and power is obviously why there is such excitement about this vintage.

BdM Riserva 2008. More savoury vegetal nose with sour cherry dried herbs and balsamic notes. Lovely rich moth feel, more baked fruit, beginnings of tertiary flavours. The extra time breathing in wood barrels softens the wine and develops more mellow flavours. Complex and very long.

BdM Riserva 2010. Dark so dark for sangiovese deep Ruby colour. Pronounced nose with lots going on, still developing. Dark cherries, some blueberry, dark chocolate cocoa, chocolate coated cherry, dusted in herbs: thyme and earth. Some middle aged leather, tobacco and sweet vanilla. High acidity attacks the palate with sweet cherry and a meaty, bloody, sweaty after taste that had savoury notes.  Tannins are integrated with wood tannins drying. Length is amazing leaving a clean mouth but concentrated throat of dark fruit. Wow! (Stuart Grostern’s note)

This was an incredible tasting which gave us a great insight into the craft and skill that goes into making the outstanding wines, a real labour of love. The wines were superb and are available at Justerini & Brookes. The 2010 BdM has just been released and is an outstanding wine for a great price. The 2012 Rosso is also a superb value delicious drinking wine.

Col D’ Orcia

The whole production of Col d’Orcia has been certified organic since 2013 and at 540 hectares is the largest organic producer in Tuscany. Col d’Orcia is third largest Brunello producer making 800,000 bottles per annum of which 20, 000 are the renowned single vineyard BdM Poggio al Vento, the ‘windy ridge’. The wines are aged in large Slavonian and French oak barrels to allow the wine to breathe and develop over time.

Banditella 2010 Rosso di Montalcino. This is a single vineyard wine matured in 20 to 25 IMG_3461% barrique with a production of 25000 bottles. Lovely cherry notes on the nose. Medium body on palate with great freshness, crunchy cherries and some savoury notes. Nice grainy tannins, a bit grippy but good fruit length on the finish. This is a great food wine with tomato based pasta dishes.

Brunello di Montalcino 2010. Aged 36 months in large oak barrels, 60% Slavonian and the rest oak tonneau with no barrique. Tasty sour cherry notes with some wild garrigue herbs, floral notes of iris & hyacinth. Medium body, fine bright red fruit, great freshness savoury hints with a residue of caramel. Fine grained tannin, nicely grippy and long. Works beautifully with local Pici ragu!.

Poggio al Vento BdM 2007. Single vineyard from a fantastic year. Red fruit, some leather and tobacco leaves, garrigue herbs complex intense nose even though it is still a bit tight. Medium body with good crunchy red fruit and very fine grained tannins, sustained savoury notes, still rather reticent but with really lots of length. This is a great wine needs time to open up either in the glass or after a few more years.

Montalcino Col d'OrciaBdM 2014. Barrel sample. Nice cherry fresh fruit, med body, toasty but subtle, great freshness. Will be a good one.

BdM 2012.Barrel sample. Attractive kirsh cherry, backed tart, spices, creamy toast, bit of tobacco lots going on already. Great balance and freshness. Excellent this bodes well for release next year.

Count Marone Cinzano’s winery welcomes visitors for a tour of the winery and wine tasting. They have also recently started hosting lunches with organic food including local wild boar and deer. Not to be missed. For more information visit www.coldorcia.it call + 39 0477 80891 or email info@coldorcia.it


Montalcino Sesti ArgianoPerched on a hill top just north of Sant Angelo in Colle Castello di Argiano is a tranquil oasis heavy with the scent of blossom and surrounded by beautiful views across the surrounding rolling countryside. No wonder Guisseppe & Elisa Sesti fell in love with the place long before they started making the estates wines.

Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Made just for the family. Floral; orange blossom, citrus, nice mineral stoney sensations balance the fruit, high acidity. Beautifully balanced. Lovely to taste a white, superb!

Rosato 2014. A really pale rose pink colour. Made with 100% Sangiovese. Minerals on the nose, some dried herbs. Bracing saline feel in mouth, high alcohol, light fruit, lingering red fruit after taste. A perfect sun downer.

Monteleccio 2013. This is an IGT as it is aged less than the regulation one year in barrel to make a Rosso di Montalcino. Strawberry confected fruit, some herbyness, and cumin too on the nose. Wow this is great! Lovely fresh crunchy wild strawberries, minerality gives it some substance, lovely length & balance. A delicious wine to simply enjoy equivalent of many Rossos. Fantastic value.

Rosso di Montalcino 2013. Light intensity of colour. On the nose strawberry, confected fruit, herbs; sage, thyme, rosemary also flowers; violet, some earthy spices; turmeric etc. In the mouth really fresh bright fruit, high acidity, minerals and a long lingering flavour. This has the substance of a Brunello. Really great stuff. ****

Brunello di Montalcino 2009. This flight of wines are a progression with a clear common character running through them all, the intensity just successively steps up but each is perfectly balanced in itself. The BdM has more fruit, more cumin & turmeric, more violets & wild garrigue herbs then introduces some tobacco leaf, blood and meat.   Then perhaps a whiff of new Gucci leather hand bag. Complex to say the least. Medium body, silky tannins which are reasonably grippy, rich sour cherry fruit. The palate is not as open as the nose but there are beginnings of some secondary flavours too. Lovely mouth-watering acidity with a very long finish. This is my kind of wine!

Montalcino Sesti bottlesPhenomina BdM Riserva 2005. Each vintage has its own astronomical themed label, this one showing Venus joining Jupiter. Darker brown hues with medium intensity colour. Malty notes, cola, sweeter baked fruits, then tobacco, crème caramel, orange peel, lilies. Medium body, baked stewed fruit, plumbs, rhubarb, leather, high acid, soft tannins great balance. Tobacco notes with a long savoury salty finish. Amazing complexity!

Overall a superb range of wines you can’t go wrong with any of them. Available from Armit wines. The Monteleccio and Rosso are tremendous value. www.armitwines.co.uk

Pieve Santa Restututa (Gaja)

Montalcino Pieve santa restitutaThe winery is named after the church on the site which is now converted into a stunning seminar & tasting room. Vaulted tunnels lead down to a state of the art winery hidden under the entrance driveway. The only clue to this subterranean structure is an oxidised steel sculpture by the architect floating over its central roof light.

Wine making in the area dates back to Roman times and the vineyards have long been prized and even fought over by competing nobles. The winery has 25 ha in total, 17 surrounding the winery and 8 near Torrenieri. The Rennina vineyard adjoins the winery and the vines are immaculately groomed in traditional Guyot style. Sugarille vineyard lies just to the south.

Montalcino Pieve santa tastingFermentation is temp controlled and micro oxygenation used. The wines are aged in oak tonneau for 24 months with 20-25% new oak. Then it spends 6 months in concrete tanks before bottling which helps remove the sediment.

Interestingly Gaja rates 2011 and 13 over 2012 because high temperatures accelerated sugar ripening, and therefore alcohol, over phenolic ripeness. It’s therefore probably unlikely that   Sugarille will be made. Many other wine makers on our trip extolled the virtues of the 2012 vintage.

Brunello di Montalcino 2011. Ripe red fruit, a balsamic strand, sweet sandalwood & floral notes. Great balance, high acidity, mouth coating tannin, quite grippy, high alcohol with a slightly hot finish. But long with nice baked fruit flavours. Already a very tasty wine.

Rennina BdM 2011. Single vineyard. Slightly spicy, herby nose, bit of meat and blood, complex. Lovely mouth feel with fine grained tannin, bright acidity and crunchy cherry fruit. Tasty savoury and mineral notes again a little residual wood tannin that needs to integrate. Already drinking well but built to last. Really delicious!

Montalcino Pieve santa casesSugarille BdM 2011. Sugarille vineyard is mostly galestro soil schist where Sangiovese excels. Slightly spirity on the nose, strawberry, confected red cherry fruit, bit tight but some dried herbs. Quite powerful, rich concentrated fruit, fine grainy tannin with grip, long fruit finish. Again bit of wood on the finish. Quite a powerful wine but with great balance and persistence.

Sugarille BdM 2014 barrel sample. Cherry boiled sweets, bit of ground coffee on the nose. Wow lots of toast and lots of tannin, medium body, moderate acidity really good length. Obviously still pretty embryonic having only spent a few months in barrel.

Sugarille BdM 2013 barrel sample.

Some high red fruit notes but lots of coco and coffee grounds on the nose. Medium body, nice ripe cherry paste flavours, some toast & more coffee grounds, lots of tannin and bright acidity, all tightly packed. Oak tannin on the finish but very long flavour profile. The makings of an awesome wine.

Fascinating to taste the Sugarille single vineyard Brunellos as they evolve in barrel. These are uncompromisingly serious wines, packed full with everything meticulously in place and with extraordinary potential.

Day 3

Conti Costanti 

Montalcino CostantiLocated just outside the town of Montalcino Costanti is one of the oldest wineries in the region. The vineyards are immediately around the house and adjoin the famous Biondi Santi winery. Annual production is generally 50,000 bottles overall with 35,000 bottles of BdM around 8000 bottles of the Riserva.

2013 Rosso di Montalcino 14.5% Aged 1 year in oak tonneau then 12mths in bottles. The oak is 50% young but not new having been used for the family’s table wine for a couple of years. Sweet cherry strawberries, floral notes, really fresh with beautiful balance. Sweet fruit and savoury notes, overall delicate with soft, cool tannins and a very long persistent finish. A Baby BdM m really excellent!

2010 Brunello di Montalcino. 14% Clear bright ruby colour. Grandma’s homemade strawberry jam, perhaps some herbs, thyme. In the mouth ripe cherry, some orange citrus notes, nice structure underneath. Crisp acidity and beautifully integrated tannins.  Amazingly approachable now but with great precision and structure for a long life. A fantastic wine with a very long lingering herb and mineral finish.

Montalcino costanti tasting2007 Riserva BdM 14%. Slightly darker colour but clear light intensity. Ripe dark cherry sweet fruit with a touch of smoke and dried herbs. The beginnings of secondary notes: Gucci band bag & a whiff of menthol.  More rich ripe sweet red & black fruits on the palate with lovely savoury notes. A medium body wine with silty tannins with a bit of grip. Enough freshness and again very long finish. Superb balance.  This is a bigger wine but not for the sake of it. Outstandingly good.

2012 Ardingo. 100% merlot from Monosoli vineyard aged in French oak barrique. Nose of plum chutney with a bit of smoke. Another amazingly elegant wine, an overall impression of baked red fruit pie with custard. Great freshness to balance the secondary toast and creaminess.  Ripe tannins and good length.

One of my top tastings where the consistent elegance and freshness of the wines really appealed.