The Etruscans, first Tuscan Winemakers
Poggiopiano is located in Toscana beyond Florence in the town of Pisignano. The
winery is famous for its Rosso di Sera wine, which has been honored with the Tre Bicchierri award from “Gambero Rosso” six times since 1995, when it received its first Tre Bicchierri. In 1993, Stefano and Alessandro Bartoli purchased the property, which at the time consisted of an old farmhouse and unattended vineyards. They built a modern winery and restored the vineyards and today have nine hectares planted to vines, mostly Sangiovese and Colorino. Highly respected consulting winemaker Attilio Pagli oversees the vineyards and winemaking.
This small, prestigious five-hectare estate is located just outside the town of Montalcino with three hectares surrounding the winery at an altitude of 400 meters elevation on the southeastern side of the Montalcino hills and the other two hectares on the south side at Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Founded by Ruggero Biliorsi in 1981, the estate is now managed by Ruggero’s sons Simone and Mauro along with famed consulting winemaker Attilio Pagli and viticulturist Giovanni Bencini. In 2004, Fornacina received ICEA organic certification for its fruit, and in 2005 it received UNI EN-ISO environmental certification, an expression of the Biliorsi family’s dedication to the quality of its wines, respect for the appellation, and intention to maintain the balance of nature that exists there.
Casa alle Vacche
Located in Toscana in the village of Pancole, Cassa alle Vacche is 6.5 kilometers northeast of the hill-town San Gimignano, which is famous for its thirteen towers, built by rival noble families during the 12th and 13th centuries. The 30-hectare estate backs up against the Chianti hills with 20 hectares of gently sloping vineyards and three hectares of olive trees between 230 and 330 meters above sea level. Typical of the area, the vineyards are planted to Vernaccia, Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino and Malvasia, in addition to small amounts of the international varieties Merlot and Chardonnay. The estate has been in the Ciappi family for three generations and is now under the direction of cousins Fernando and Lorenzo Ciappi, who have modernized the winery and vineyards during the last ten years. Luigino Casagrande is their consulting enologist. The name Casa alle Vacche means House of the Cows, a nineteenth century reference to the stables for the estate’s tireless, domesticated animals.
Italian Wines of the Month
Casa alle Vacche – 2008 Chianti Colli Senesi
The 2008 Casa alle Vacche is 85% Sangiovese and a blend of 15% Canaiolo, Colorino, and Malvasia, a typical Chianti blend from estate vineyards on the Senesi hills, which comprise the largest and most important sub-zone in the Chianti region. The wine was aged for one year in tanks and then in bottle before its release from the winery. With cherry fruit and violets on the nose, this elegant wine is textured with soft tannins and is rich with berry and chocolate flavors on the palate. A versatile wine, it will accompany braised lean meats, stews, festive pasta dishes, and flavorful cheeses. Serve at cool room temperature.
Casa alle Vacche – 2009 Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the most well known white wine of Toscana. Vernaccia means simply of the place and historically has been assigned to different grape varieties, which are then qualified by the place name, such as San Gimignano. The Casa alle Vacche 2009 Vernaccia is 100% Vernaccia with peach, pineapple, and tropical fruits on the nose. The wine is crisp and delicious and can accompany such flavorful dishes as Tuscan roasted chicken with herbs or fish and shellfish, either grilled, braised, or baked. Serve chilled.
Casa alle Vacche – 2007 Cinabro
The 2007 Cinabro reflects the basic style of the Ciappi family, of farmers working together, uncomplicated, a little rustic, but big hearted. The wine is easy to love, loaded with fruit flavors and heady aromas of wild flowers and berries right through to the finish. One hundred percent Sangiovese, the Cinabro was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and for five months in bottle before release from the winery.
Fornacina – 2007 Rosso di Montalcino
This organic Rosso di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese. Aged for 12 months in Slovenian oak casks and for additional months in bottle, the wine is characterized by a vibrant ruby red color and an intense bouquet of flowers and red fruit typical of Sangiovese. On the palate the Fornacina 2007 Rosso is balanced, full, and textured with soft tannins. Serve at cool room temperature with grilled meats from the barbecue or roasted or braised in doors.
Fornacina – 2004 Brunello di Montalcino
Made from 100% organic Sangiovese Grosso, the Fornacina Brunello was aged for 36 months in Sloveniean Oak casks and for 12 months in bottle, according to DOCG regulations for Brunello di Montalcino. The wine has an intense floral nose and transforms to rich cherry flavors and spicy, earthy notes on the palate. The Fornacina 2004 Brunello has a classic bent in the balance, and given the rigorous viticulture that Fornacina practices, is a fine reflection of terroir, the totality of sun exposure, soil, and other plant and microbial activity in the immediate vicinity of the vine. Serve at cool room temperature.
Fattoria Poggiopiano – 2003 Rosso di Sera
The 2003 Rosso di Sera is a winner of Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchierri award. The wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino, and the Bartoli family attributes the wine’s excellence to its superior Sangiovese but also to the quality of its Colorino, which normally contributes only color to the Chianti blend. “Gambero Rosso” describes the wine as follows: “Its opaque colour is the prelude to a wide-ranging, generous nose in which notes of forest fruits are followed by hints of mint, nuances of pencil led and elegant sensations of medicinal herbs. Entry on the palate is gutsy and backed up by a dynamic, powerful body and rich tannic texture. Acid backbone adds flavor and the finish is deeply satisfying.”
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 some of 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.