We may be locked down, we may be sick of rain, but over three nights we transported ourselves to the beautiful scenery of Central Italy and an evening of fabulous wines, served in perfectly miniature tasting quantities.
Italy is my favourite country to visit, and I (and several of the people at the tasting) have very happy memories of visits we have done in Tuscany, although Marche, our other destination tonight has yet to feature in one of my tours. The two Verdicchios we tasted from the Adriatic coast convinced us that this is definitely a place to visit when travel is possible.
The Verdicchio di Matelica from Cantine Belessario was fresh, with zippy fruit and lovely minerality – inviting some freshly pan fried prawns (not provided on our early morning deliveries of the wines). The more serious Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore from Villa Bucco, also made from the Verdicchio grape, benefitted from a couple more years of age, lower yields, coming from older vines and some oak impact during fermentation and was richer, with riper fruit and some very classy development.
Our first white and red were both from the Poggiotondo estate in Western Tuscany. Alberto Antonini is a world-renowned winemaker who has associations with many famous names around the world. This estate is organic, and the unoaked Vermentino we tasted comes from vineyards located on the Tuscan coast and had lovely floral and peach flavours with a hint of minerality. The Chianti Classico ‘Terre di Cresci’ was a good example of a good Chianti Classico – cherries, spices and great structure.
The story of Super Tuscan wines is fascinating – winemakers frustrated by the arcane rules that had been inflicted on the Chianti region decided to reject the comfort blanket of DOC approval, and started making wines from whatever grape varieties they liked – and discovered that many French varieties rather liked Tuscany’s Mediterranean climate, and varied soils and slopes. The ‘Ghiaie della Furba’ from Capezzana in Carmignano (also organic) had blackcurrant aromas and firm tannins from the Cabernet, a softness to the mouthfeel from Merlot, and some very attractive ‘leather’ notes from the Syrah. A bit of bottle variation, with some of us getting a fruitier and others a more tannic sensation, but a very good wine – although with a price point to match.
To the south of the Chianti Classico region are the hill towns of Montalcino and Montepullciano, both of which are home to very specific styles of Sangiovese, the black grape of Chianti. Our Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, from Valdipiatta was a bit of a tannic monster, albeit with loads of fruit. If I had poured it straight from bottle it might have been undrinkable – our process of decanting wines, allowing them to benefit from a bit of air, and then pouring them (with the help of drop stops, tiny funnels and a lot of squinting) into our 5cl sample bottles) introduced some oxygen which helped the wine to open out. This 2015 wine will be superb in about 20 years time!
The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino was the star of the night for most people, and our most expensive wine (in terms of full bottle price). Some of us have very happy memories of visiting the Poggio San Polo winery on my tours to Umbria and Southern Tuscan in 2015 (you can read the visit report here) – incredible attention to detail in the design of the underground cellar, and a superb tasting. Their Brunello is their top wine, and 2015 was a fabulous year, and this was a stunning wine – elegant, powerful, lingering, contemplative.
We finished with a Vin Santo, the wonderful sweet wine of Tuscany. Made from white and red grapes that are dried for several months, fermented with the assistance of the ‘mother’, the gelatinous remnants of previous years’ wines, aged for 7 years in oak, and benefitting from further maturation in bottle, this 15% abv wine had lovely acidity, and flavours of marmalade, honey, toffee apples – a perfect end to a tasting, a meal or a day.
While we all look forward to returning to more normal tastings, most of us agreed that our Zoom conversations, and our perfectly proportioned tasting samples made for a great evening – over 100 people attended over the three nights. Watch this space for our next event….
All the wines are listed in the wines we have tasted page.