The Allure of Quality Over Quantity
Castello d’Albola & Rocca di Montemassi
These days, Francesco Zonin can be found peering out from full page adds in American food and wine magazines, his young Italian good-looks impossible to ignore. His gaze exhorts readers to purchase from the huge portfolio of wines that his father established over the past 45 years, inheriting a family business that began in 1821. Zonin Family Wines and Estates is Italy’s largest private wine company, much like the Gallo wine company is in the United Sates, which distributes more than 60 wine labels, most of which are unrecognizable as Gallo brands. Likewise Zonin produces 18 million bottles of wine under various labels, not easily traceable to the family name and priced at $10 and below. Also like the Gallo family, Gianni Zonin decided at a certain point that he wanted to produce premium wines as well, but he has far surpassed the Gallo family in that regard.
The Zonin Family now owns 11 wine estates in the Veneto, Friuli, Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Puglia, and Sicily, producing premium estate grown and bottled wines, made under the supervision of one of Italy’s leading enologists, Franco Giacosa. Gianni Zonin explained to Wine Enthusiast, “I look in famous wine zones with important DOC or DOCG denominations. Then, I look for properties with at least 100 hectares [250 acres] of vineyard. Otherwise the purchase price and operation costs aren’t justified.” Four of these properties are located in Tuscany. The first Tuscan purchase occurred in 1979 with the magnificent Castello d’Albola estate in Chianti Classico, followed by Fattoria Abbazia Monte Oliveto, located in San Gimignano, and Fattoria il Palagio in the province of Siena. The latest Tuscan purchase in 1999 was Tenuta Rocca di Montemassi in the Maremma.
This month, we are featuring wines from two of the Tuscan estates, Castello d’Albola and Rocca di Montemassi. Wine guide Gambero Rosso describes Castello d’Albola as follows: Gruppo Zonin… probably produces its most harmoniously land-rooted wines at the Castello d’Albola estate. The style of the wines crafted on this Radda in Chianti estate brings together the salient features of this subzone, expressing balance and freshness, along with a good measure of personality, all flawlessly put together.” The Acciaiolo is the winery’s flagship wine and consistently receives Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchieri award although the Chianti Classico Riserva has now achieved equal status.
About Rocca di Montemassi, Gambero Rosso writes, “In an area like Monteregio, which is still youthful in winemaking terms, this Zonin family winery is an important benchmark both for the quality of its wines and for its commitment to making this area a significant one in Maremma wine production. Establishing a working relationship with French winemaker Denis Dubordieu proved to be the right decision, given the results achieved.” The comment refers to the fact that the estate, a 430-hectare property with 160 planted to vines, grows the traditional grapes of the area, Sangiovese and Vermentino but also the French varieties Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The super-Tuscan Rocca di Montemassi was awarded Tre Bicchieri for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.
Donna Olimpia 1898
One of three wine estates owned by Guido Folonari, heir to one of the most historical Italian wine families, the Donna Olimpia 1898 estate was named by Gherardo della Gherardesca to honor his wife, Olimpia Alliata, Lady of Biserno, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1898. The estate covers an area of about 60 hectares and is located in Bolgheri, stretching over a strip of land that runs for 167.8 kilometers along the Aurelia road. The terrain is flat and planted with 40 hectares of the whites Vermentino, Viognier, and Petit Manseng and the reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot, planted under the direction of renowned viticulturist Prof. Attilio Scienza at the University of Milano.
Italian Wines of the Month
Rocca di Montemassi – 2011 Sangiovese Le Focale
Made from Sangiovese grapes in an excellent vineyard that benefits from breezes from the nearby sea, this ia a red that expresses the haracteristics of its terroir to the full. A brilliant ruby red, it displays notes of dewberries, a characteristic violet tone, and a aintly spicy finish with suggestions of vanilla. On the palate, the Focale is full-bodied, mouth-filling, and mellow, a vinous manifesto for the identity of the Maremma zone. Serve at cool room temperature.
Rocca di Montemassi – 2011 Viognier Astraio
Viognier is the principal white grape of the Northern Rhone in France, but in the Maremma, Viognier is enhanced by the minerality of the soils and the light in the area. Its color is a golden hue, and the nose offers white flowers but especially apricots and white peaches. On the palate, the wine is full and rounded yet with an attractive vein of acidity. This 100% Viognier comes from particularly mineral-rich soils that accentuate the wine’s tanginess and give it considerable longevity. Serve chilled.
Rocca di Montemassi – 2010 Monteregio di Massa, Maritima Sassabruna
The Sassabruna is made from Sangiovese and small amounts of Merlot and Syrah, which are vinified separately and then blended and aged together in French oak barrels for more than a year. The wine shows amazing complexity. A deep ruby color with bright reflections, the nose offers a broad bouquet, redolent of blackberries and other small red fruits with hints of morello cherries and notes of green peppercorns and liquorice. Elegant, intense, and well-balanced, the Sassabruna shows innate class and a singularly warm and mouth-filling texture.
Castello d’Albola – 2006 Chianti Classico Le Ellere
This wine caresses the palate with warmth and softness and has the bouquet of an aristocratic pot-pourri. It is a Chianti Classico, 100% Sangiovese, that maintains the rigor of tradition but opens itself up to international taste. Its finesse comes from high-altitude vineyards drenched in sun. Its versatility with food is one of its most remarkable characteristics. At just 13% alcohol, it can be matched just as well with rich dishes or with lighter meals. The wine is aged for 12 months in Allier oak barriques, followed by a further six months in bottle. Serve at cool room temperature.
Donna Olimpia 1898 – 2012 Vermentino Obizzo
A light straw gold in color, this 100% Vermentino was named after the blond Obizzo character in Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia. Its aromas are full and clean with hints of citrus fruits, white flowers, and honey. The palate is full and balanced. The wine was aged for five months on its lees in stainless steel tanks and will support flavorful dishes like braised bell peppers and eggplant, grilled poultry and rabbit, and pasta with fresh pesto. Serve chilled.
Donna d’Albola – 2007 Acciaiolo Toscana
This is Castello d’Albola’s most premium wine, 65% Sangioveto and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, which combines the elegance of Sangiovese with the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. Produced only in the best vintages and in very limited quantity, Acciaiolo successfully blends Sangiovese from old vines, which give the wine the stamp of tradition, history and terroir, together with richly flavored Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is concentrated but nicely balanced with full fruit flavors, especially plums and a suggestion of herbs. Aging takes place in new, one, and two year-old barriques for 14 months, followed by a further six months in stainless steel. Altogether, the result is strikingly elegant, including the alcohol content at 13.5%. Serve at cool room temperature
Rocca di Montemassi – 2010 Rocca di Montemassi
Honored with the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award from wine guide Gambero Rosso, this Rocca di Montemassi is a Super Tuscan, made from the French varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. The wine displays a kaleidoscope of perfumes from plum to pepper, from grass to blackberries, and from dried roses to traces of vanilla and nutmeg. The complexity on the nose is matched by mouth-filling fruit on the palate, together with that innate minerality that makes the wine an expression of the Maremma. The grapes are vinified separately, and the wines are subsequently blended and aged in French oak barrels. It’s class, elegance, and expression of the Maremma terroir mark it as one of Tuscany’s finest wines.