May 24th 2018
The prospect of a wine tasting at Tenuta Le Calcinaie on a Monday, the day after our wedding, seemed a little foolhardy as we drove past San Gimignano, especially given the tasting was deep in the Tuscan countryside down a winding track that I’d never driven down before at 3pm in the afternoon. Thankfully any worries I had with regards to our enthusiasm or this being a poor idea were immediately dispersed by Simone Santini’s warm welcome, vivacious spirit, and frankly delicious wines.
Two things immediately struck me as we began our tasting, firstly that Simone is supremely passionate winemaker and secondly that we should all be drinking more Vernaccia di San Gimignano in the UK. Upon sitting down, we instantly had a cool glass of Simone’s 2017 thrust upon us, which was just the best way to start a tasting; minerally, fresh, with hints of almond stone and acacia blossom. Sadly, as I was driving it was spittooning all the way.
One thing I hadn’t appreciated is that much like the best Sancerres Vernaccia can age, and Simone produces a separate cuvée, blended with 5% chardonnay, called Vigna Sassi Riserva showcasing its longevity. Made with a little more love in the cellar, skin fermented, more lees contact and a co-ferment with the Chardonnay, the Vernaccia takes on more body, a creamier texture, and just a hint more depth of flavour to the mineral nuance.
After tasting through a range of vintages, including a really interesting 10-year old 2008 Vernaccia, we finished on the simply excellent 2011 Vigna Sassi San Gimignano Riserva, which had aged beautifully, developing almost mature Semillon notes of waxy honey and lanolin.
We then moved onto Simone’s reds where we immediately discovered my wife’s dislike of young tannic wines, much to his amusement. Frankly a good thing though as it meant we were lucky enough to try some of the delicious local Finocchiona, fennel salami, that Simone very generously sliced for us then and there, and which I thought perfectly matched his Chianti Colli Senesi ’16. Unsurprisingly the salami also went very well with Tenuta Le Calcinaie’s “super-tuscan” Teodoro, a wine that Simone describes as a difficult but enjoyable project.
After the tasting Simone very kindly showed us around his small but state-of-the-art cellar, which went a long way to explaining the quality of wines we’d tried. However he doesn’t just limit himself to wine as the Tenuta also makes Olive oil and honey. Sadly we didn’t get a chance to try either of the latter but if ever you come across them I’m sure they’d be as good as his Vernaccia was.