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Villa Torrigiani: Traditional Roots, Modern Wines

June 15, 2017 Leave a comment
Villa Torrigiani

Source: Villa Torrigiani

When it comes to traditions, Italians definitely know how to preserve them. Tour the country, and you will see that finding a 500 years old villa or palace in Italy is very easy; there are plenty of places where the connection can be made through even a 1000 years of history. Italians definitely know how to preserve their traditions.

Talking about traditions, Villa Torrigiani, located in the heart of Tuscany,  is exactly one of those well-preserved places, tracking its history back for 1000 years if not longer. Here is the information you can find on Wikipedia:

“In the hills of San Martino alla Palma, vineyards and olive groves have been cultivated for more than a 1,000 years. The estate is located not far from the Via Francigena, the route used by crusaders returning from the Holy Land, and as such a point of passage, the location took its name from Saint Martin, patron saint of vintners and grape harvesters, and Palma (Olive tree), the symbol brought home by crusaders as proof of their travels.

In the mid-1400s, in the very midst of the Renaissance, the marquises Torrigiani, bankers and wine sellers, bought the land that extends from Castellina all the way to the top of the hill of San Martino alla Palma, thus founding Fattoria Torrigiani (The Torrigiani farm). The marquises Torrigiani called on the renowned Florentine architect Michelozzo who designed the stately Villa Torrigiani, which was constructed from 1470 to 1495. The villa, with its numerous halls frescoed by master Florentine painters, is situated at the center of the farm and looks out over the valley of Florence and the cupola of the Duomo.

 

At the beginning of the 16th century, the farm was divided into 22 “poderi”, or farmsteads, each run by a family group, many of whom have descendants who live in San Martino to this day. The farm was so well organized that it was self-sufficient and no longer dependent on Florence, and consequently, its inhabitants were able to avoid the bubonic plague outbreak of the 1600s.

Fattoria Torrigiani remained the property of the same family for around 500 years until 1967 when it was purchased by the Zingone family who carried out an extensive restoration of the villa and an expansion of agricultural production, of wine and olive oil in particular.”

Fattoria San Martino alla Palma covers almost 900 acres, out of which the vineyards take about 115 acres, and about 300 acres dedicated to the olive trees – in addition to wines and grappa, Villa Torrigiani also produces olive oil.

Villa Torrigiani Chardonnay

Now, the wines produced by Villa Torrigiani are unquestionably modern. Unoaked Chianti, Chardonnay from Tuscany, super-toscan – while the wines are rooted in tradition, it is hard to argue that they also represent modern Italian winemaking.

I had a pleasure to taste a number of Villa Torrigiani wines, and my tasting notes are below:

2015 Villa Torrigiani Monte Mezzano Bianco Toscana IGT (13% ABV, 100% Chardonnay, 6 mo in French oak barriques)
C: light golden
N: medium intensity, green apples, touch of vanilla
P: needed about 15 minutes in the glass, opened up nice and plump, vanilla, golden delicious apples, crisp acidity, disputants hint of butter
V: 8-, very nicely made, pleasant

Villa Torrigiani red wines

2015 Villa Torrigiani Chianti DOCG (12.5% ABV, 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, Stainless steel)
C: garnet
N: fresh, open, medium intensity, caraway seed, touch of sweet cherries
P: fresh, clean, medium body, ripe cherries, touch of cherry peats
V: 7+, needed about 20 minutes to open up and come together, after that delicious all the way through

2012 Villa Torrigiani Chianti Reserva DOCG (13.5% ABV, 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 12-14 month in barrique, additional 6-8 month large oak botti)
C: dark garnet
N: espresso, sweet oak, ripe plums, tobacco, sweet plums
P: dry, perfect balance, dark fruit, supple cherries, good acidity, medium body, medium finish, fresh and open
V: 8-

2008 Villa Torrigiani San Martino Rosso Toscana IGT (13.5% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Sangiovese, 12 month barrique, additional 12-14 month in large oak botti)
C: garnet
N: open, inviting, cassis, eucalyptus
P: fresh, playful, polished, layers of dark fruit, cassis, clean acidity, excellent balance. A true delight.
V: 9-, outstanding. I would love to drink this wine every day.

Here you are, my friends. A beautiful estate with a very long history, producing excellent wines. The only challenge we have at the moment is finding these wines in the USA – but hopefully this will change soon. Cheers!

Dreaming of Tuscan Wines

November 4, 2012 17 comments

Source: Wkipedia.com

“Tuscany”. Try to say the word out loud. It rolls of your tongue, smooth, round and effortless. It is so easy to picture endless green hills, beautiful little houses spread across the endless green, and of course, sun-soaked grapes.

I visited Italy many times, but not the Tuscany, which still stays on the “dream destinations” list. I can easily picture bringing my family there, renting a little villa (there are many villas in Tuscany), and spending time doing… nothing, just enjoying that beautiful scenery, true, simple and honest food and of course, the wines.

The wines of Tuscany hold its own special and unique place in the wine world. True, the wine making was born outside of Italy ( Georgia and Greece are the top contenders for the title of “cradle of the winemaking”). But where else you can find wineries and winemaking families which are almost a thousand years old (look at Barone Ricasoli, which is tracing its wine history to 1141, or Castello di Ama, which goes all the way back to 1210), next to the wineries which propelled from non-existent to the world’s best in mere 30-40 years, as many of so called Super-Tuscan wines did? Tuscany offers tremendous diversity when it comes to wines, and I want to take you on a little tour of Tuscan wines.

We are going to start with Chianti, one of the oldest wine-making areas in Tuscany, located in the center of region. Sangiovese is the main grape which is used to produce Chianti wines, but other grapes can be also blended in, including both red and white grapes.

Then there are all sorts of classifications for the Italian wines – but I really don’t want to bore you with the details of it. While classification information is very important, there are so many available resources covering subject in depth, like this Wikipedia article, for instance, you can definitely learn about it without my help. As a side note, I want to mention that in the end of the day, DOC, DOCG, IGT , the producers and the wine ratings are all important, but you really have to let your taste buds be a judge when it comes to finding the wine you like.

Chianti are some of the oldest wines with the world, with the very rich history having its up and down times – it is impossible to cover Chianti’s history at any good depth in the blog post, so again I have to refer you to the great source – the Wikipedia article. Chianti wines are usually split into two main groups – Chianti and Chianti Classico. Chianti Classico, which comes from its own part of the Chianti region, is available as Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, which is usually aged for more than two years before it is released. If you are looking for a good bottle of the Chianti, you can always play it safe and go by a good producer – Antinori, Castello Banfi, Castello di Ama, Fontodi, Frescobaldi, Monsanto, Ricasoli, Ruffino are all well known producers and represent a good bet as you are looking for your next bottle of Chianti.

Let’s move down south from Chianti to the town of Montalcino. A bit younger than the Chianti, only going back to the 14th century : ), there was a local wine produced there, which was called Brunello, referring to the name of the local grape. Eventually it was established that the actual grape was a clone of Sangiovese, called Sangiovese Grosso, but the name of Brunello always stayed with the wines called Brunello di Montalcino (often referred to simply as Brunello).

In order to be classified as Brunello, the wines have to be made from 100%  of Sangiovese Grosso (no other grapes allowed). Over the many years, Brunello built a reputation as some of the best wines in the world – power, finesse and ultimate ageability make them very desired wines among wine consumers and collectors. Biondi Santi is probably the most legendary producer of Brunello wines, but Altesino, Casanova di Neri, Castello Banfi, Poggio Antico, Valdicava are all well worthy of your attention.

Continuing our tour from the town of Montalcino, we got two options – we can move east, to the town of Monepulciano, or west to the region called Bolgheri. Let’s talk about Montepulciano first, as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are rivaling Chianti in its history. The first references  to the vineyards around Montepulciano go all the way back to the 8th (!) century, but it was not until 1925 that the wines from the region are actually assumed the Vino Nobile name. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are again produced from Sangiovese clone,  known as Prugnolo Gentile, and often blended with other local grape varieties. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are lesser known then Chianti wines, but they are worth looking for as they still provide a good value.

And now, let’s go all the way west, to the coastal area of Tyrrhenian Sea, to the town of Bolgheri, where some of the best wines in Italy are made. I’m sure you heard the term Super-Tuscan – these are the wines made in Tuscany, but in completely non-traditional way. Starting from 1960s, Bolgheri was a center of Super-Tuscan wine revolution – instead of making the wines by the strict Chianti rules, many vintners started producing wines based on terroir, always looking for the best grapes from particular vineyards. In 1978, Antinori started producing the Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend wine called Tignanello, which became a great success. Many winemakers turned their attention to traditional Bordeaux varieties, such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, eventually producing the wines rightfully called some of the best wines in the world. Today Super-Tuscan wines need no introduction, and absolute majority of wine lovers can’t pronounce the names such as Ornellaia, Solaia, Masseto, Sassicaia, Redigaffi without their breathing stopping for a second and eyes rolling up to show utmost respect. You don’t need to take my word for it  – get a bottle and taste it for yourself, and you can thank me later.

Before we are done here, I want to share some interesting numbers with you. You probably heard of Wine Spectator, a very famous wine magazine. Wine Spectator has their 100 points rating system and obviously, it is not simple to get a 100 points, as the wine should be truly ultimate to get such a high rating – only 74 wines out of more than 250,000 rated wines received 100 points. Out of those 74, 13 are Italian wines. Out of those 13, 6 are the Tuscan wines. And out of those 6, 2 are Brunello di Montalcino wines, 3 are Super Tuscan, and one wine is a Vin Santo – another famous Tuscan wine, this time it is a dessert wine, made out of Trebbiano and Malvasia white grapes. And to complete the picture, do you want to guess what grape those 100-point Super Tuscans are made from? Sorry Miles ( remember movie Sideways?), but all three 100-point Super Tuscans (Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masetto, Tua Rite Redigaffi and Le Macchiole Messorio) are made out of 100% Merlot!

I think it is time to finish our tour. Tuscany makes a lot of great wines, and there are many books, articles and blog posts covering those wines from all possible angles. I think  my top tip for choosing the Tuscan wines will be very simple – go out and play! Open a bottle of Tuscan wine, and be transported in the instance to the warm and inviting land of great food, wines and people. Salute!