Wonders of Tuscany – Tenuta di Valgiano

Have you ever heard of Colline Lucchesi? No!? You are not alone! The vineyards on the hills of the small town Lucca in the norh-west of Tuscany may not be one of the most well known wine districts in Italy – but there are some truly amazing wines coming out of the DOC.

I recently tasted my first wine from Tenuta di Valgiano – an estate with 16 ha under vine that are run by Moreno Pietrini and Laura di Collobaino. The production is certified biodynamique and all wines are made in what they describe as a traditional way to reflect the terroir with a minimum of technological intervention.

In the cellar that means among other things a gravity-fed winery where fermentation takes place in small wooden vats with daily plunging. Maceration times can be anything between 6 and 18 days depending on which grapes we are talking about and where they have grown. The malo and maturation is done in french barriques (20 percent new oak) for 12 to 15 months and sulphur dioxide is used sparingly.

The Tenuta di Valgiano 2007 is a stunning wine – one of the best “supertuscans” or blends of indigenous and french varietys that I have tasted in a while. Gambero Rosso’s monumental guide to Italian Wines 2011 is equally impressed and writes:

“it’s breathtakingly authenticity and natural, tumultuous development. It is so rythmic and vibrant with endless flavour that it is simply not possible to describe in mere tasting notes”.

And I agree! The 2007 Tenuta di Valgiano is a blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 20 percent each of syrah and merlot. And it is an awesome power pack of dark berries, game, farm yard, spices, chocolate and oak. Complex and concentrated and yet well balanced with nuanced mineral flavours. It should develop wonderfully over the next 10 years or so.

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Spanish new wave – Dominio de Valdepusa’s Caliza

Marqués de Grinñons estate Dominio de Valdepusa in La Mancha has been one of the pioneers of the Spanish winerevolution for almost 30 years. At a time when everything was about Rioja and the area in and around La Mancha was known for more or less underinkable bulk-wines – Valdepusa was a beacon in the dark.

I first encountered the wines in the mid 90s. First up was the magnificent cabernet sauvignon and then a few years later the monumental syrah. And they completely knocked me to the ground. This was something quite different from the bland and tired La Mancha-wines that I had tasted up to that moment. Marqués de Griñons wines had power, structure and balance. They were modern wines for modern consumers – and for me personally they showed that Spain had a potential that lay far beyond Rioja.

At the time the wines were labeled as Marqués de Griñon – but since the early 2000s they are bottled under the estae namn Dominio de Valdepusa. The man behind it all the Marquis Carlos Falcó was educated in agriculture in the U.S. at the University of California, Davis, and then seeked help of Alexis Lichine (wine writer and the owner of Bordeauxchâteaus Château Priuré-Lichine and Château Lascombes) and Professor Émile Peynaud (the forerunner and father of modern wine-making). He was advised by Peynaud to plant French vine varietys and were assisted by Lichine in the marketing and distribution of his wines.

Since the property was outside the more famous wine districts the Marquis could experiment with foreign grape varieties, pruning and irrigation (drip irrigation) – something which otherwise was prohibited by the Spanish wine law at the time. And history proved him and his contemporary collegues in both Spain and Italy right (where winemakers de-classified their best wines into “table wines” – Vino da Tavola – to make the best wines as possible).

Today Dominio Valdepusa is a “pago” – a vineyard with its own designation/denominación – even if the estate could bottle their wines under the DO Méntrida (official website for DO Méntrida found here!) The Pago-denominacion was introduced by the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha in 2000 and fully incorparated in to the Spanish wine law in 2003.

A Vino de Pago has to be a vineyard with the “highest international reputation” but do not necessarily have to belong to any official district (DO – Denominación de Origen). But the estate must use their own grapes in the production. Dominio de Valdepusa was, together with Pago Finca Elez (Manuel Manzaneques estate also makes an awesome syrah!), the first vineyard which was awarded the new designation.

Dominio de Valdepusa currently consists of 3000 hectares, of which 42 ha are under vines. Caliza is one of the property’s simpler/earlier drinking wines and has received its name from the limestone, “caliza”, which forms the the underlayer of Dominio de Valdepusas vineyards. The wine is a blend of 65 percent syrah and 35 percent Petit Verdot – ie. a wild blend of Rhone and Bordeaux if you like! The grapes are hand harvested and then gets a long maceration for up to 4-5 weeks. After fermentation the wine is aged for 10 months on new or semi-new barrels of French Allier-oak.

All this has has resulted in a wine with a dense dark purple color. The wine is quite expressive on the nose with lots of dark berries, herbs (mint, sage), chocolate and toasted oak. I find elements of both blackberries and black currants. The taste is medium-bodied to full bodied with a round, mellow and fruity flavor of blackberry, black currant, plum, toasted oak and herbs. There are quite firm acids and tannins but they are all wrapped in soft fruit and flavors of dark chocolate. And the finish is long and well balanced.

The wine is not available in Sweden. I bought it on the ferry to Helsinki for around €9-10! I wish I had bought more! But it is also available here!

3 x Montirius – Gotta love Grenache

I probably don’t need to tell you that the vintages 2007 and 2009 in Southern Rhône are hyped as two of the great ones. The jury is still out on which is the better – and I for myself haven’t really made up my mind. And actually, I couldn’t bother, because I enjoy both and the wines are really faboulous!

My first blogpost here in Ericsson Uncorked was about Montirius Vacqueyras Les Clos – and now in june I have had the opportunity to try three more wines from this producer in Southern Rhône.

The vinyards are certified organic and biodynamic – and although I am a real sceptic when it comes to biodynamism (but I love organic farming!) – the wines are just awesome. And they are a great example of the potential of Grenache and Grenache dominated blends.

Montirius Garrigues 2009 France, Vacqueyras (circa €18)
70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah from 24 hectars that consists of 12 parcels of land. Average age of the vines is 55 years old and the yield was 31 hl/ha. Total destemming and no oak is used in this wine. Production: 70 000 bottles.

Dark bluered colour. A bit closed on the nose with elements of red berries, farmyard and game. Medium to full bodied on the palate with spicy concentrated flavours of red berries, herbs, leather, tobacco and medium raw meat! A slight alcoholic burn, good acids/tannins and a great length in the mout. A bit funky – but a great wine with layers upon layers with good fruit. Drinking well now but can be aged another 3-10 years (depending on your preferences). 4->4,5/5 points

Montirius Terre des Aînés 2009 (99149) France, Gigondas (circa €25)
16 hectares from 3 parcels planted with Grenache (80%) and Mourvèdre (20%) of which 12 hectares are very old vines which date from 1925. Yield is also on 31 hl/ha. The grapes were destemmed before vinification – and the wine is “oak-free” as they state it on their homepage. 75 000 bottles produced.

Dark orange colour. Also a bit closed on the nose with hints of fudge, herbs and minerals. Medium to full bodied and loaded with dark and red berries and elements of herbs, meat, leater and minerals. No oak – but it stillgot a smoky-fudge-kinda complex taste. Great acids/tannins – feels young. Drink 2013-2020. 4,5/5 points

Montirius Confidentiel 2007 France, Gigondas (circa €33)
This is MonTirius top Gigondas and comes from a micro-terroir of 1.5 hectares situated in our 10 hectares Gigondas parcel in the ” La Tour” area. It’s a blend of 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mourvèdre and the yield is 30 hl/ha. Total destemming and vinification in concrete vats. Output is just 4000 bottles.

Deep dark red colour. Young closed nose with freshly roasted coffee (again – no oak!), dark/red berries and mineral/earthy notes. Full bodied, superconcentrated taste of spices/herbs, red berries, leahter, dried fruits and coffee. Massive tannins and acids (it’s young!) that are carried (and are enveloped) by such lucious fruit. Looong finish! Great now but will keep up to 10 years. 4.5->5/5 points