When asked the question: if you could own a vineyard anywhere in the world, where would it be? There is no competition; Tuscany always comes out as the hands down winner! I love Burgundy and Bordeaux, the Douro is spectacularly beautiful, the Napa one of the dreamiest locations in the world and the opportunity to make wine and surf in the Margaret River is as tempting as any… But for me Tuscany has it all: spectacularly beautiful, an outstanding viticultural terroir, extraordinarily cultural and cosmopolitan, where a family could be as happy as anywhere in the world, and oh yes the food isn’t that bad either!!
Five days in Tuscany at the beginning of the month reminded me how special this region really is. At 36 degrees of pure sunshine, in fact this wonderful weather was almost becoming a slight concern to many of the growers. With no rainfall since the 3rd June, there was the risk that their amazing Sangiovese vineyards were about to show signs of drought stress, so when showers did fall on the Wednesday afternoon there were huge sighs of relief. The sunshine quickly returned and the vineyards looked wonderful. The Italian hospitality and warmth was at its very best.
The week started with a 50th birthday party in Panzano at the week-end and dinner at the restaurant Lamole di Lamole, with one of the most spectacular views in the whole of Chianti, and delicious local dishes conjured up by one of Italy’s most hospitable restaurateurs, Felipe, are second to none. I cannot recommend a visit to this little gem more highly.
On to the serious business and there is no better way to start a trip in Chianti than to visit our old friend and English winemaker Sean O’Callaghan at Riecine, which sits at one of the highest spots in the denomination at 480 metres above sea level, overlooking the small town of Gaiole. Charlie Whittington and I were delighted to taste the 2014 Chianti, a vintage which was as difficult as the 2016 is potentially easy. The wines are lighter, but handled with a gentle touch are quite simply delicious and ready for immediate drinking. In plain English, Sean has nailed this vintage and the 2014 Riecine is a wonderful drink.
Around the town of Panzano I had my first visit to Renzo Marinai, which is a recent addition to our list. There are few better examples of the extraordinary scenery of the Tuscan hills than this small 14 ha estate, except possibly the delightfully situated 6 ha property of Castagnoli in Castelina just down the road. We were bowled over by the elegance and finesse of Castagnoli wines and hope that we can shortly offer some of their delicious 2012s and 2013s.
Moving out of Chianti, we drove an hour south to the picturesque hilltop town of Montalcino, home to some of Italy’s finest Sangiovese wines known as Brunello. We are fortunate to work with some of the greatest names in the commune: Sesti, Salvione and Salicutti to name just a few and were delighted to be introduced to a potential new gem under the name of Il Colle, just a minute’s drive out of the town. Brunello di Montalcino produces wines with an extraordinary exuberance and generosity, aided by a refreshing layer of freshness due to the cooling breezes and higher altitudes. Whilst 2010 is hailed as the great vintage, both Charlie and I were extremely impressed by the deliciously juicy 2011s and fineness of the 2012s at all of the properties we visited. Both are vintages which will give pleasure ahead of the 2010s, whilst not losing the character of great Brunello.
No less memorable was the wonderful family supper with the Sesti family in Argiano where steak from the local butcher cooked by Pertoc Sesti on the BBQ. It was washed down with an array of Sesti wines, ranging from their uniquely individual Sauvignon Blanc to the powerful structured cuvées of their Riserva equivalent, Phenomena, from the great 2010 vintage, as well as much the underrated 2009. This was all enjoyed in the surrounds of the old chapel; there could be no better way to have finished our stay here before heading to coastal vineyards of Bolgheri, on which Charlie will be reporting.
David Roberts MW