Argiano, Inspiration & Passion
Located in Toscana on the summit of a hill southwest of Montalcino, magnificent Villa Argiano was built by the noble Pecci family from Siena in 1581. Centuries later in 1992, Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano purchased the 100-hectare estate, cooled by breezes from the Maremma. In ancient times, the sea covered the whole area, so the soil contains large quantities of minerals available to the vines and crucial for their optimal development. When she purchased the estate, Noemi Marone Cinzano committed herself to raising wines from its vineyards to world-class status. Together with famous consulting winemaker Giacomo Tachis, cellar master Adriano Bambagioni, and Danish winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers, the wines are some of the best in Toscana. Besides Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino, the classical wines of the appellation, the Super-Tuscans Solengo and Suolo represent the innovative side of this tradition-bound estate. IGT Non confunditur has been most recently introduced and is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot. The wines age in the ancient but updated cellars under the Villa, where temperatures and humidity are constant along with the absence of light and noise. The family provides various lodgings on the estate, where it welcomes guests to share the extraordinary beauty of the ancient buildings, elaborate gardens, and lush cultivation of vineyards and olive groves, a glimpse into the privileged lives of feudal families from the Middle Ages.
Cantina Bruni is located in the Maremma, that lower part of Toscana, bordering the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas. The Bruni estate with 36 hectares of vines was founded in the 1970s. Today brothers Marco and Moreno Bruni run the business and specialize in the wines of the area, the red Morellino di Scansano, Vermentino, and the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Wine guide Gambero Rosso describes the winery as producing “well-made wines in a nicely drinkable, confident style….”
Colle dei Bardellini
Toscana produces very little white wine, so we’ve jumped the border into Liguria, one of Italy’s smallest wine regions, whose Tyrrhenian coastline stretches in a long horseshoe shape from the French Cote d’Azur to the regional border with Tuscany. Almost every aspect of life is dominated by the sea. Tiny vineyards planted especially to the local whites Vermentino and Pigato struggle on narrow terraces. This six-hectare estate was planted in 1970 and was purchased several years ago by a group of enthusiasts who have dramatically improved the quality of the wines by investing in modern equipment and technology but at the same time maintaining the traditions of the region. Vineyards are located in U Monte, the most important cru in the area, located on a high hill overlooking Imperia, with a spectacular view of sun and sea. The scenery is typically Mediterranean with its olive trees, vines, aromatic herbs, sea pines, and rocks. The winery produces the red Garnaccia and the whites Pigato and Vermentino. The winemaker is Giuliano Noé.
Italian Wines of the Month
Bruni – 2010 Vermentino Plinio
Having named the wine Plinio, the Bruni family honors the memory of the great Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (23 AD -79 AD). Many other Italian vintners have done the same. This golden Vermentino includes 15% Sauvignon Blanc and has an intense fruity perfume that is typical of both grape varieties. On the palate, the wine is fresh and balanced with a good finish. Serve chilled with appetizers and light first courses.
Bruni – 2010 Poggio d’Elsa
Aged for eight months in stainless steel tanks and seven months in oak barrels, this fruity and approachable wine is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Sangiovese from estate vineyards. Color and flavor are strongly influenced by Cabernet with subtle hints of vanilla and spice from barrel aging. The 2010 Poggio d’Elsa is a versatile wine and can be paired with many dishes, but especially Mediterranean fare from pasta with garlic and tomato sauces, dark bean stews, and roasted meats. Serve at cool room temperature.
Argiano – 2010 Rosso di Montalcino
Aged in large oak casks and smaller French oak barrels, the Rosso is 100% Sangiovese. The wine is medium bodied with dark cherry and plum fruit flavors supported by smooth tannins. This Rosso benefits from decanting, which will further release aromas and flavors. Serve at cool room temperatures especially with vegetable stews and braised rabbit, veal, or chicken.
Argiano – 2010 Non Confunditur
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 20% Sangiovese, this wine has garnered the scores and acolades of wines twice its price. The 2011 was one of Wine Specator’s top 100 wines. James Suckling gave the 2010 vintage 93 points and describes it as “really beautiful and balanced with refined tannins and focused, beautiful ripe cherry and raspberry fruit. Long and super silky.” Enjoy!
Colle dei Bardellini – 2010 Pigato
This distinctive white wine is 100% Pigato, an indigenous grape that some scholars believe was brought to the area by the ancient Greeks. Aged only in stainless steel tanks, this delicate wine expresses its flavors without oak barrel interference. Straw yellow in color, the Pigato shows fresh herbal aromas of sage, thyme, and oregano, which transfer to the palate with ripples of crisp taste. Serve chilled with grilled fish, minestrone, and rabbit braised with olives.
Argiano – 2007 Brunello di Montalcino
Aged for 24 months in a combination of new and two year-old French oak barrels, large Slovenian oak casks, and cement vats, the 2007 Brunello is a combination of power and elegance. The wine shows optimal balance, captivating perfumes of fruits, and complex flavors on the palate. Giving the wine 93 points in Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni describes this 2007 Brunello as “rich, deep and resonant. It shows fabulous depth and richness, with seemingly endless layers of fruit that caress the palate. Dark red cherries, savory herbs, tobacco and licorice linger on the textured, creamy finish. This is another terrific effort from Argiano.”
Argiano – 2007 Solengo
Solengo is the brainchild of renowned enologist Giacomo Tachis, the so-called father of Super Tuscans, including famed Solaia, Sassiccaia, and Tignanello. The 2007 Solengo is 30% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 20% Syrah, each variety fermented separately and then blended. Aged for 17 months in French oak barrels, the wine is intensely red, rich, and dense with concentrated aromas of ripe berries and chocolate. Writing for Wine Advocate, Giovanni Galloni gave the wine 92 points as describes it as “sleek and refined in its blackberries, blueberries, grilled herbs, spices and graphite. The wine reveals gorgeous length and fine balance in a relatively accessible, mid-weight style for this bottling.”
Italian Region of the Month
The name Toscana comes from the Latin Tuscia, which the Romans called the area to honor the Etruscans, who developed an advanced civilization there before the Romans subjugated them. The Etruscans were wine makers and were probably responsible for draping vines over trees, a practice that still exists. But the Romans preferred stronger southern wines, and the Etruscan wine trade faded until monks revived viticulture in the region. Wine became a daily beverage in the medieval cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo, and the Renaissance, which began in Florence, transported the wines of Toscana throughout Europe. In 1716, the Grand Duchy of Toscana created Europe’s first official wine zones, and toward the middle of the 18th Century, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’Medici imported 150 grape varieties to create a total of 211 in the region. But despite these advances, the French took the lead in fine wine in the 19th Century while Tuscans went for quantity instead of quality. The world came to know Toscana principally for its mass-produced Chianti in fiasci, the straw flasks.
But Chianti, the dominant force in Tuscan viticulture, diminished production and improved quality in 1984 when it was elevated to DOCG, one of 13 regions in the nation, which the government defines geographically in its system of laws, controlling origins and protecting names of wines of “particular reputation and worth.” In addition to DOCG, denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, the law specifies another 240 DOC regions, denominazione di origine controllata.
What Chianti has in common with the noble reds of Toscana is the grape variety Sangiovese. Although many clones of Sangiovese exist, the superior ones are among the world’s noblest vines, such as Montalcino’s Brunello, Chianti’s Sangioveto, and Montepulciano’s Prugnolo Gentile. Among other fine Sangiovese based wines are Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, and Carmignano. But the renaissance of Tuscan wines also includes the “Super Tuscans” such as Sassicaia, which is 100% Cabernet and Antinori’s Sangiovese-Cabernet blend, Tignanello. Vernaccia de San Gimignano is the most prestigious white wine in Toscana, and Vin Santo is a highly prized dessert wine.