WanderCurtis Wine

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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.

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Cantina di Mogoro, Tiernu, Bovale, 2016, Sardinia



Not many bottles have me reaching for Jancis’s tome, Wine Grapes.

 On a recent holiday to Sardinia the villa manager very kindly left us a bottle from a friends winery. I was deep in cynicism when I opened this local red from Cantina di Mogoro.

 The grape, Bovale Grande. as I discovered is Mazuelo (Carignan) which probably arrived in Sardinia during the period of Aragonese domination from approximately 1400 to 1700.

 It’s a very vigorous vine with large leaves and compact clusters of small berries,  rich in colour.

 On tasting, I was pleased to find it  full of ripe red fruits, cherries and raspberries, Mediterranean herbs and a savouriness  with balanced acidity and freshness, soft tannins and good length.

 Lovely with the sun setting over the Mediterranean with local chicken gently sizzling on the barbeque.

 I promptly ordered a case which Alessandro delivered, each bottle was as good as the last.

 I would recommend indulging in Sardinian wines. Their Vermentino’s, Cannonau’s (Grenache) and other Carignan’s are well worth discovering.



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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.



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.


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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.

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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

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Interview with Count Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col D’Orcia, Brunello di Montalcino.

Just before our memorable Col D’Orcia wine dinner at Fredericks Count Francesco Marone Cinzano told us of the estates long history, his love of Sangiovese and extended an invitation to the winery to all our followers.

The storey of Col D’Orcia

The Count talks about what makes Sangiovese so special in Brunello di Montalcino.

Thoughts on the magnificent 2010 vintage and an invitation.


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.


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.

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 !


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Comelli Soffumbergo Bianco 2012 -Colli Orientali del Friuli


comelli5It was a delight to meet the charming Filippo Comelli at a recent trade tasting in London.

A multilingual polymath with a recent MBA and an interest in his families winery in the Friuli region of North East Italy.

This elegant Soffumbergo Bianco  has fruit and flower aromas in a balanced blend of Friulano, Chardonnay and Malvasia, with a drop of Picolit.

I have tried the whole range of Comelli , the quality , vibrancy and freshness is clear throughout.

This  wine was a delicious accompaniment to Vietnamese Spring rolls and coconut fish curry.

I was also fortunate enough to try the EOOS Picolit a native variety,Vino Santo with low production yields,with exotic aromas including apricot and orange blossom.

The Suffumbergo Rosso is equally impressive. Recommended buy.

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Gastronomic heaven in Chianti Classico , April 2014

CecchiniWith the fine palates and ample bellies of my father and brother in hand, we set of on an explorative journey to seek the finest food and wine of the Chianti Classico region , nestled between the delightful cities of Florence and Siena.
First stop Fontodi ,in the beautiful Tuscan countryside just South of Panzano ,olive groves ,rolling Hills, Cypress trees ,grape vines.

The perfect setting to explore the lovely terracotta amphora , an experimental medium for ageing wine.

Tasting included a good cross section including  Flaccianello 2008.


The appetite was growing, calling for a mandatory trip to Italies most famous and extrovert butcher Dario Cecchini, the most famous in Italy,  a charismatic and eloquent champion of Tuscan carnivorous cuisine a meat centric restaurant where  quality knows no boundaries. A homage to the cow ,full of character and quirkiness .


DarioGreeted with a glass of local chianti from traditional straw flask or’ Fiasco ‘.Bread drowned in local extra virgin olive oil.lard with herbs on brushetta , wild boar salami and pecorini cheese and that’s just while you wait to be seated.
Ushered after a short wait  through the pantry kitchen and sliding doors upstairs to vibrant bustling dining room open BBQ huge hunk of beef fiorentine .
The place eats sleeps and breathes meat .

Amply fed and somewhat dozy we made our way South on the 222 through Castellina in Chianti to the lovely Villa Trasqua .vino Santo



Giorgia had a fine schedule for us .A walk thorough  vines carrying most of the terroir with us  after recent rainfall. A tutorial on the guyot and cordon pruning methods and suddenly a downpour and a lift back through the vineyard to the tasting room.Fanatico ,Evolito traluna and Trasgaia deep ruby red, cherries ,spice great personality.
finished with a lovely  2005 vino Santo. Alan then showed us the stunning views from the tower over to Siena.


Daniele di Seta


Next on to Daniela and Maria at Tera Di Seta Kosher winery. A  walk through the  vines olive groves and then a Shabbat tasting .Very interesting to see the locked room leading to the winery no access only to approved personnel. Smoky, spicy and herbaceous wines and very peppery luscious olive oil.


Dinner  at Cacio e Pepe  in the local village of Vagliagli was a fitting end to a gastronomic day.
Wonderful soup  followed by ricotta and spinach cannelloni,  apple strudel and coffee with 3 spoons and  the delightful smiling  Lucia together with her mum and sister ran this most excellent restaurant.


Saturday we headed to Raddia in chianti. Coffee at Sandys followed by getting lost on the way to Castello d’Albola . A great   tour of  the property and cellars owned Fiascoby the Zonin family. What a marvellous selection of wines finished of with the vino santo  aged for 8 years in Chestnut barrels.
A trip back to Greve in Chianti to Castello Vicciomagio and  met the the rather efficious John Matta  on the way through the vines  . It felt like the Spanish inquisition !

vicchimagioHis wine though were great sat on the hilltop with stunning panoramic  views over theTuscan, Chianti countryside Vicchiomaggio chiant classico riserva 2010  .

Expect to get lost in chianti country , our sat nav useless .


South to Siena and the spectaular  Duomo and Piazza Del Campo . The last stop was back to the lovely Lucia at Cacio e Pepe for some home cooking in Vagliagli and a mal to surpass the gastronomy of last night.

Three satiated  bellies and back to Di Seta winery .


Sunday , A gentle meander north on Rt 222 stopped in Panzano  to shop in the street market and meet the gregarious Dario Cecchini ,

who surprised us with his name in Hebrew on his apron and trophy from the great shimon Peres peace foundation from his trip to Israel.Dario

Then North to  Villa Il Foggia  and finished off our wines we had collected on our travels overlooking the vineyards and Florence in the distance.

The final feast served by Maurizio in  a great aunthentic restaurant A Casa Mia run by two brothers in Montefiridolfi  .This a treasure of a find in a tiny village with only four tables wit a wonderful warm quaint atmosphere and food from the heart. The highlight being spinach and ricotta cannelloni which melted in the mouth.

That’s one of the wonders of Italy . Great food in local Trattorias, home cooking,  with  a warm atmosphere  and wine to match .


Here’s to our forthcoming trip to Puglia  …we can barely wait !


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