WanderCurtis Wine

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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.

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Accommodation:

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.

http://www.relaisfelciaino.com/indexen.html

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

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http://www.lastradadelvino.com/en/default.aspx

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

http://www.osteriamagona.com/

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

http://www.enotecatognoni.it/

 

 

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.

http://www.lapinetadizazzeri.it/LaPineta/Home.html

Beach.

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:

 

 

Travel:

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

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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

 

Batzella

 

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.


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Vini Vulcanici – A Sicilian Adventure

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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.


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The joy of Umbria

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

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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

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Magnificent Montalcino , June 2015 . Travel Tips .

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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

Fuligni

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.

Uccelleria 

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 .

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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

Fuligni

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

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

Sesti

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.


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A Puglian Wine Adventure – April 2015

 

 

This less known area on Italy’s southern heel was our choice for the annual wine trip for the Male Wander fraternity .

Chosen partly to get off the beaten track and mainly for our love for the fuller sweeter styles of Primitivo wines.

We made our way via miles of flat olive treed planes ( 60 million of them in Puglia ) South West to the Ionian Sea via the Trullied town of Alberobello.  Arriving too late at Masseria Bagnara to be fed, we drove around Lizzano finally finding ‘5 Stelle’a small oasis of basic but fine nourishment . The first Taste of Primitivo in a carafe for 6€ a litre , and excellent too with spinach and ricotta pizza , bresaola and Caprese salad.

Friday morning we headed to Cantele winery after a short stop in Manduria .
Cantele is a family run winery in Guagnano. the winery was completed in 2003  but this is now third generation.
We had the fortune to be take around by Umberto Cantele .

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Lunch at their I sensi restaurant a homage to food and wine matching

Antipasti Fava bean Purée , local greens , mixed chargrilled vegetables

Wine match Cantele Alticelli Fiano -Stone and exotic fruit alternated by delicate floral notes and fresh herbaceousness

Ripe grapefruit nose lush texture and mouthfeel long and refreshing.

Pasta , traditional local Pugliese Orechiette.

Wine match

Cantele Rohesia negroamaro Rich and lingering, with hints of red berry fruit, strawberry, pomegranate, and cherry. Complex aromatic character with a note of flint.

Fresh raspberries crisp long

Main -Thinly sliced beef , local roasted chicory and vegetables

Wine match

Fanoi 2010 old vine Primitivo : Seductive, rich, and smooth. Powerful structure with acidity that balances the wine’s elegant tannic character.

decanter review 2010 96 points

Full bodied packed with black fruit concentrated later leather liquorice herbs intense
A meal in itself !

Dessert-Local grape tart

Wine Match

Le Passanti Fiano  passito Very intense, as if it were produced in a bee hive rich with floral and fruit aromas. Acacia honey and Cane apple. Orange flower and bergamot.

A fabulous lush rich intense raisoned finish

Umberto entertained us about everything from running marathons , the philosophy of Italians ,graphic design of labels to the engineering of machine harvesters .

a true highlight of many wine tours and a must visit in Puglia.

Next stop Masseria li veli

Part of the Falvo family

Marvellous restored palatial building guarded by two sleeping dogs who looked like they’d knocked back their fair share of Negroamaro  !

Another great tour and tasting by the passionate informed Giovanni
Tried the more unusual Susumaniello 2013 Salento IGT.

Evening  , a visit to old town Lecce packed with baroque architecture churches restaurants .

Saturday a drive down the Ionian Coast to Gallipoli .
The weekend Could  not have finished better than with 2010 Cantine San Marzano Primitivo Sesstanni  overlooking the sea with sun setting.

IMG_3210
There’s a small renaissance of old vine Primitivo, though unfortunately most of it has been pulled up following EU incentives.
So intense and concentrated left an almost  permanent coat on the glass. Lush textured so balanced for 15% alcohol.

We all craved for more,surely the best sign of a blockbuster.
We couldn’t have ended on a bigger high, can’t wait to return in July !