Tuscany’s Maremma Zone – Embracing Tradition & Innovation
The Nittardi estate is located in the Chianti Classico zone on the boundary between the provinces of Siena and Florence and was originally a defensive tower, known in the 12th Century as Nectar Dei. In the 16th Century, the vast property, surrounded by oak forests, belonged to Michelangelo Buonaroti, who produced a wine so refined that he gifted it to the Pope in Rome. Over the centuries, the property changed hands often until it was acquired in 1982 by Frankfurt publisher and art gallery owner Peter Femfert and his wife Stefania Canali, a historian from Venice. Stefania and Peter reconstructed Nittardi step by step, replanting vineyards and building a modern cellar. They assembled a notable team for the estate, agronomist Giorgio Conte, consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini, and Antonio Spurio, who is in charge of the newer Mongibello delle Mandorlaie estate in the Maremma. The family purchased this splendid 37-hectare property near Scansano in 1999. The Maremma vineyard, where 17 hectares have been planted to date, has already produced two awarding winning wines, the Nectar Dei and Ad Astra, the 2008 Ad Astra having won the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award from wine guide Gambero Rosso. In 2014, this estate will have organic certification.
According to Leonardo Salustri, “A great wine is born only from old vines, and for this reason, I have restored these vines, one by one, with patience and passion, to be certain of the quality of my grapes.” Leonardo Salustri is referring to the unusual Montecucco clone of Sangiovese that was identified in the 1800s in the Maremma zone and was planted on his family estate before 1900 by his grandfather Secondo Salustri. But the vines languished without attention until the 1990s, when Leonardo Salustri dedicated himself to re-propagating them in collaboration with Professor Scalabrelli from the school of enology at the University of Pisa. He farmed the vines organically, “with the same techniques that have always been used in that part of the Maremma.” Today, he has 15 hectares under vine, and both his Montecucco Grotte Rosso and Montecucco Santa Marta have won Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchieri award.
Antica Fattoria La Parrina
La Parrina is located in the hills of the Tuscan Maremma zone and has been an organically cultivated estate for 25 years. Founded in 1830 by the Florentine banker Michele Giuntini, this large farm estate is now owned by Dr. Franca Spinola. The original manor house and surrounding buildings around the courtyard date back to 1200 and took their present appearance in 1800. Franca Spinola cultivates 65 hectares of vines, including red Sangiovese, and the whites Trebbiano, Vermentino, and Ansonica. She also grows fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flower gardens and has a rare plant nursery covering seven hectares along with a wildlife reserve covering over 600 hectares. Along with its wines, La Parrina is justly proud of its cheeses and organic eggs, laid by free-range chickens. In other words, La Parrina is a fully developed farm with a big range of activities.
Italian Wines of the Month
La Parrina – 2011 Rosso
The Rosso is 100% Sangiovese, harvested from organic vineyards, and is very smooth with remarkably earthy flavors and a pronounced nose. To reflect the estate terroir, the wine is made with ambient yeasts and is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks instead of oak barrels. This is not only a delicious wine but also a very interesting one unlike most Sangiovese that I’ve tasted.
La Parrina – 2010 Bianco
This delicately aromatic white wine is a blend of 40% Ansonica, 30% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon, and 10% Vermentino. The wine is fermented with ambient yeasts and aged in stainless steel tanks. On the palate, the La Parrina Bianco is clean and fruity. Serve chilled.
Nittardi – 2008 Ad Astra, Maremma
A blend of 30% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 20% Syrah, the Ad Astra or To the Stars in English was harvested from the Maremma vineyard Mongibello Delle Mandorlaie, not far from Scansano at 250 meters above sea level. The hill is sunny and at the same time refreshed by salty sea breezes. Aged partly in stainless steel tanks and partly in French oak barrels, the Ad Astra is a beautifully elegant wine, medium-bodied with pronounced Cabernet aromas and flavors but muted and influenced by the other grape varieties, especially Sangiovese. Normally, wines honored with the Tre Bicchieri award (Three Glasses) fit into the Collector Series. Only occasionally, are they available to the Winemaker Series as is this wonderful wine. Serve at cool room temperature.
Leonardo Salustri – 2008 Montecucco Santa Marta
The Santa Marta is 100% Sangiovese from the Montecucco clone, aged in large oak barrels for 24 months. Sangiovese is usually not a heavily pigmented wine, but the particular Montecucco clone has dense color. This impressive wine, balanced with rich fruit, acid, very smooth tannins, and no discernable oak flavors is made from vines that grow in healthy soils without chemical input for decades.
La Parrina – 2010 Poggio della Fata
Poggio della Fata or Hill of the Fairy in English is a delicious blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Vermentino. Clearly, an estate this old and this large will have its resident fairies, and possibly, they’re lending a hand with the winemaking, which is precise and inspired. The wine is aged on its lees for five months, regularly stirred, so that aromas and flavors become more complex. The nose suggests memories of citrus, tropical fruit, tomato leaves, and peach, while the palate shows exotic fruit with hints of vegetable and mineral. You’ll love it. Serve chilled.
Leonardo Salustri – 2008 Montecucco Grotte Rosso
The fruit for the Grotte Rosso was harvested from vines that are more than 50-years old. Old vines don’t necessarily produce grapes every year, so Leonardo Salustri makes the very special Grotte Rosso only when he can harvest enough fruit. Typical of the Montecucco clone of Sangiovese, the Grotte Rosso has deeply dense color and very complex earthy aromas and flavors, which are nevertheless elegant and subtle and fade into a long finish. The wine was aged for 24 months in oak barrels. Winner of the Tre Bicchieri award, this unusual and impressive Grotte Rosso should be decanted or at least served in large Bordeaux glasses so that it releases all of its aromas and flavors.
Nittardi – 2008 Nectar Dei, Maremma
Wine Guide Gambero Rosso describes the Nittardi Maremma estate as follows: “The style of its wines is decidedly modern, ageing in small casks, the quest for maximum ripeness of fruit, impressive structure and a full, sweet palate all elegantly conveyed…,” which perfectly describes the 2008 Nectar Dei. The wine is a Bordeaux style blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 10% Petit Verdot with deep purple color and aromas of vanilla, tobacco, and spice that add to the black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. The wine is concentrated with softly balanced tannins and a full finish. The Femfert-Canali family gave the original name of the Chianti estate, Nectar Dei, to their top wine from the Maremma estate. They delivered the first bottles of Nectar Dei to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome just as Michelangelo six centuries earlier had sent Nittardi wine as a tribute to Julius II.