Tuscany

Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

About 20 minutes southeast by car from the marvelous stone town of Massa Marittima with its 13th century Romanesque cathedral (above left), the Rocca di Montemassi estate celebrates the Maremma farming heritage all the way back to the Etruscans. It is only a short distance from Rocca di Frassinello (see previous post) but its style is lovingly retro. The Zonin family—famed for winemaking in the Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli, Tuscany, Lombardy, Sicily, and Puglia—purchased the land in 1999. Vines of Sangiovese, Vermentino, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) of the 20 hectare (49 acre) farm. “Farm” is the operative word. Not only do the Zonins produce wine here, they also keep pigs and Maremma cattle, a...Read More
Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Draw a line on the map between Bolgheri and Scansano, and Gavorrano is right at the mid-point. Featuring soils comparable to those found in Chianti and Montalcino, the home of Rocca di Frassinello (Località Giuncarico Scalo, Gavorrano; +39.0566.88400; roccadifrassinello.it) has one significant difference. Ambient temperatures range 4–6°C warmer, allowing grapes to mature three to four weeks earlier. That climatic difference also suits Bordelais grapes better than other regions of Tuscany, making a Franco-Italian collaboration seem inevitable. The wines hint at Scansano's traditions with Bolgheri's innovations. Seeking to replicate his extraordinary success of Castellare di Castellina in Chianti in the 1970s, Paolo Panerai joined forces with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in a grand experiment to harness Panerai's expertise with Sangiovese with the Rothschild mastery of...Read More
Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

You can't quite see the ocean from the winery at Fattoria di Magliano (Località Sterpeti 10, Magliano; +39 0564 593 040; fattoriadimagliano.it). But if you turn southwest and close your eyes, you can smell the salt air rising from the coast 10 miles away. That maritime influence combines with well-drained soils to produce intensely flavored grapes. Founded in 1997 by footwear magnate Agostino Lenci, the winery embodies the expanding possibilities of the Maremma. While the traditional varietals of the region, Sangiovese and Vermentino, represent 80 percent of the vineyards, the winery also has extensive plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as significant amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. From the outset, the winery embraced French grapes and technique as a complement...Read More
Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Every wine lover knows Tuscany. Most of us cut our teeth on Chianti Classico, grew up to relish Brunello and Barolo, and pad our birthday wish lists with Bolghieri's “Super Tuscans.” But while everyone seems to know Tuscany, until recently only the Tuscans seemed to know the southwestern coastal region of the Maremma. That's changed in a big way, as some of Italy's most powerful family wine empires have taken a stake in the Maremma in the last few decades. Even local winemakers refer to the Maremma as the “California of Italy.” They continue to respect tradition, but they also prize innovation. Of Tuscany's patchwork of 40 DOCs, or named wine regions, none is more dynamic than the Maremma Toscana DOC (www.consorziovinimaremma.it/en/), established in 2011....Read More

Biserno wines burnish the potential of Cabernet Franc

As a young man, the Marchese Lodovico Antinori (above) helped revolutionize Italian winemaking with his Bordeaux-blend powerhouse wines from Ornellaia. But he had more surprises in store. After selling Ornellaia, he became intrigued about the potential for Cabernet Franc in the region around Bolghieri. So he acquired a 99-year lease on land that had been growing wheat and olives in nearby Bibbona. Here, he and his brother Piero, established the Tenuta di Biserno estate (www.biserno.it/tenuta-di-biserno/). The unique microclimate and mixture of clay and stony soils at the property let the brothers concentrate on different Bordeaux varietals than Lodovico had at Ornellaia. Between 2001 and 2005, the Tenuta di Biserno planted more than 120 acres. Cabernet Franc was the principal grape, but more than 10 percent...Read More

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano re-emphasizes terroir

Judging by the wines from the nine producers who visited Boston, Montepulciano winemakers have returned to native Tuscan blending grapes. DOCG rules permit up to 30 percent non-Sangiovese grapes in Vino Nobile. In truth, more than half the wines I tasted were more than 90 percent Sangiovese. And those producers blending in other grapes have largely stopped using Merlot. Instead, they opt for Canaiolo (which softens the acidity of Sangiovese), Colorino (which provides color and structure), and Mammolo (which gives a velvety violet note). Since each producer presented three to five wines between the technical tasting and a dinner, my full tasting notes would be overkill here. Suffice it to say that Montepulciano superstars Boscarelli (poderiboscarelli.com), Dei (cantinedei.com), and Poliziano (www.carlettipoliziano.com)—along with Antinori-owned La Braccesca—continue...Read More

Frescobaldi celebrates its Tuscan estates

There's poetry in the Frescobaldi soul, and I don't just write that because I like so many of the family's wines. Back in the 13th century, poet Dino Frescobaldi helped his exiled friend Dante Alighieri recover the first seven books of the Divine Comedy, enabling him to complete one of the great masterpieces of world literature. About that same time, the Frescobaldi family also started to focus on making wine in the Tuscan countryside. A couple of years ago, Lamberto Frescobaldi took over the leadership of the family business, and since he has a son at college in Rhode Island, the chief often passes through Boston. When he was here in March, we had a chance to sit down and taste some current releases and...Read More

Last taste of summer in Tuscany

I just returned from touring vineyards in the Morellino di Scansano DOCG district in southwest Tuscany, and once in a while I had to stop to eat. One of the most memorable meals was at Trattoria Verdiana (Ponticello di Montemerano on the road between Scansano and Montemerano, tel: [011-34] 0564-602-576). It's open nightly except Wednesday, and uses the produce from a 10,000 square meter garden as the basis for the menu. There, as here in New England, the growing season is coming to a close. So I was surprised and delighted when the amuse-bouche pictured above appeared in front of me. It's a grape tomato (upside down) cut in half, filled with a dab of creamy burrata and a tiny basil leaf. The whole composition...Read More