Sangiovese, the Tuscan Treasure
Fattoria del Cerro
Located in Toscana’s Montepulciano appellation, Fattoria del Cerro was first developed by the Baiocchi family in 1922. Today the 601-hectare property cultivates 170 hectares of vineyards, mainly in the Argiano area, and is officially registered for the production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The winery was instrumental in the renaissance of Vino Nobile and is one of the top producers of the wine, having received Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchierri award multiple times, especially for its single vineyard Vino Nobile, Antica Chiusina, but lately also for its main production Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Well known enologist Ricardo Coterella is now responsible for making the wines.
Inhabited since the Etruscan period, the Camigliano estate at the southern end of Montalcino was a lively center in the Middle Ages, and remains of the fired brick stones of that period can be found near the ancient walls of the castle, set on the top of a hill, surrounded by woodland and vineyards. The Ghezzi family bought the property in 1957, including 530 hectares, 90 of which are planted to vineyards. The winery is divided into two buildings. The older one is located underneath the master house, and at least part of it was built at the same time as the old boundary-walls, around 1250 and 1280. It was redeveloped around the year 600 and again around the year 700 and hasn’t been altered since. The cellar was built according to local tradition, facing north with vaulted stone ceilings that ensure cool temperatures, where vintage wines are stored. During the 1980s, a new cellar, half-buried in the ground, was built beside the old one, covering an area of 3,000 square meters, where most of the wine-making takes place. The new cellar is fully equipped with modern technology.
Tuscany is increasingly planted only with red grape varieties. So we crossed the border into Lazio for our two white wines. Located just 11 miles outside of Rome and owned by Vittorio Giulini, Tenuta di Pietra Porzia consists of 100 acres of vineyards and 18 acres of olive groves. The vineyards are located in the hills and below in the valley around Lake Regillo. This location is famous for the ancient battle in which the twins, Castore and Pulluce, sons of Jupiter, defeated the Barbarians. Pietra Porzia promotes its historic origins by depicting this epic story on the estate’s wine labels. Winemaking at the property dates back to the 18th century, and, today, the native varietals Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia del Lazio, Greco and Bombino are cultivated. Donato Lanati is the winemaker.
Since 1933, the Mottura family has run this 320-acre estate, which straddles the central Italian regions of Lazio and Umbria. The 110 acres of vineyards are located primarily on gentle hillside slopes. The volcanic soils are planted with traditional grape varietals like Procanico, Verdello, Grechetto and Rupeccio. All of the vineyards are farmed organically and total production is about 14,000 cases of wine a year. Sergio Mottura has successfully blended new world winemaking with old world varietals, giving him a reputation as a producer of consistently well-made wines.
Italian Wines of the Month
Fattoria del Cerro 2011 Rosso di Montepulciano
This aromatic Rosso is 80% Prugnolo Gentile, a clone of Sangiovese, and a 20% combination of Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. Its fruity aroma shows touches of wild black cherry and violets with a slight vanilla undertone. Aged for six months in Slavonian oak casks, the flavor is warm, balanced, and elegant. Serve at cool room temperature with main courses of roasted meats or stuffed pasta.
Pietra Porzia 2011 Frascatti Superiore Regillo
This Frascatti Superiore is a blend of Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano, Malvasia del Lazio, Bombino, and Greco. With deep straw yellow color, the bouquet is intense and fruity and dominated with pear aromas while the flavor is fresh and lively with an almond finish. Serve chilled with appetizers and light main courses.
Fattoria del Cerro 2010 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Winner of the most prestigious Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award from Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso, this Vino Nobile has vivid ruby color and good concentration. Its intense aromas show fruity notes, including wild black cherry, violet, and vanilla. The wine is 90% Prugnolo Gentile, a particular clone of Sangiovese, and 10% Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. Aged for two years, 70% of the wine remained in larger Slavonian oak casks and 30% in smaller French oak barrels. On the palate, the wine is balanced with fruit, discrete tannins, and acid. Serve at cool room temperature with ravioli dressed with meat and mushroom sauces, roasted meats, and medium to aged cheeses.
Camigliano 2010 Rosso di Montalcino
Brick red in color with aromas of ripe fruits, the Camigliano 2010 Rosso is 100% Sangiovese from estate vineyards. If it could be said that there was a bargain in Toscana, it would be the Rosso, the “little brother” of Brunello, which is made from the same Sangiovese Grosso clone as Brunello, but according to regulations, is aged for a lesser period. At least during certain vintages, the wines are almost comparable, but the Rosso is always less costly than Brunello. The Camigliano 2007 Rosso is well balanced with fruit, acid, and smooth tannins and rewards the drinker with a long finish. Serve with roasted meats, polenta with sausages, and risotto with dried mushrooms.
Sergio Mottura 2010 Grechetto di Vivitella d’Agliano, Latour a Civitella
This outstanding white wine was made with the best grapes from five Grechetto vineyards, planted with the “Poggio della Costa” clone. Gentle pressing and fermentation in 225 liters oak casks took place in old “tufo” caves. After fermentation, the wine was aged in oak casks for nine months. Golden in color, the wine shows aromas of apple and apricot, followed by vanilla and flowers. Rich and dense on the palate, stone fruit dominates the flavor. Serve chilled.
Fattoria del Cerro 2005 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Antica Cuisina
From its earliest origins, Montepulciano was linked with wine, as is indicated by a red-figure cylix wine cup that was made in the Chiusi area and found in 1868 along with numerous bronze objects in an ancient Etruscan tomb in the area. Grapes for this fine Vino Nobile were harvested from the Antica Cuisina vineyard, known for the extraordinary quality of its fruit. The wine is 90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Colorino, aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. The aromas are typical of Vino Nobile with hints of violet, wild black cherry, wild berries, and touches of spice with a slight vanilla finish. The flavor is full, enveloping, and elegant with a long finish.
Camigliano 2008 Brunello di Montalcino
With brick red color typical of Sangiovese Grosso, the Camigliano 2008 Brunello offers the palate an elegant and velvety taste. Aged for 24 months in French oak barrels, for a final two years in stainless steel vats, and in bottle before release from the winery, this Brunello is ready to drink now, its aromas developed and tannins softened, having aged for six years. James Suckling gave this 2008 Brunello 91 points and writes, “Very pretty aromas of ripe strawberries and cut flowers follow through to a full body, with a very lively palate of bright acidity and hints of fruit and vanilla on the finish.” Serve at cool room temperature with game, roasted meats, and mature cheeses.
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 only 13 regions in the nation at that time, which the government defined 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 specified another 240 DOC regions, denominazione di origine controllata. Today, there are 73 DOCG regions throughout Italy and 239 DOC regions. Toscana alone boasts 11 DOCG areas, 39 DOC areas, and 6 ITG, or indicazione geografica tipica, a category that was created to recognize unusual wines of quality that would not fit into DOCG or DOC categories.
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.