All posts by A Cassese

BOSCARELLI: ALLIANCE VINUM

 

boscarelli-sign-croppedVino Nobile di Montepulciano has never really received the attention it deserves. Unless we are talking about the Renaissance period when it was favored by kings and popes, even setting the bar for quality for Italian wines from north to south. Now in 2017, six of the top Nobile producers have set out on a mission to promote this wine, which boasts extraordinary balance and identifiable flavor, the world over, with the aim of giving it the recognition it deserves.  They’ve formed the Alliance Vinum, a sort of unofficial spinoff of the ninety-member Consorzio, which earnestly set out to create opportunities for Nobile to showcase its true value, hoping that ultimately, its innate qualities will speak for themselves.

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The six wineries involved – Salcheto, Poliziano, La Braccesca, Dei, Avignonesi, and our own Boscarelli  – have organized events all over Italy and the world (the first was in New York in partnership with Vine Pair, and there are upcoming events in Texas and Piedmont), inviting the press, buyers and sommeliers. But that is not all they’ve done. They’ve also each created a flagship wine, to be presented as a “symbol of excellence” at these events. Boscarelli’s happens to be a cru right next to Il Nocio, brimming with the same quality you get from Il Nocio.

The Nobile wine-growing area is not vast – only about 1,300 hectares/3,200 acres – making it a small community, full of like-minded winemakers who often face similar viticultural issues, especially concerning climate, and often share the same clayey/sandy soil, even if it can differ from vineyard to vineyard and plot to plot.  The climate is generally continental, but the weather is mitigated by nearby lakes and a constant breeze. There are two lakes – Trasimeno and Chiusi – to the east and northeast that make the air tepid and slightly humid. It is always breezy but the air is not crystal-clear because of the above-mentioned humidity. This lack of transparency essentially filters the sunlight allowing for slower ripening, less sunburn and better concentration of anthocyanins. Sangiovese needs to ripen slowly, and the area’s day/night temperature swings are also often beneficial to the grapes, giving them the opportunity to cool down and recharge themselves, for the following hot day.

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This interesting weather pattern may pose a question: Does the humidity sometimes create problems? The answer is yes, with peronospora. However winemaking has been going on in Montepulciano since the Etruscan period, thus vintners have been able to carry forth the knowledge needed to fight this water mold. So it rarely causes significant damage.

Luca De Ferrari gets right to the point when we sat down with him to discuss Boscarelli’s participation in the Alliance.  “It is all about Sangiovese, known in these parts as Prugnolo Gentile. It is quite different from the clones used in Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is very sensitive to climate and to the soil and the clones have adapted well to the unique microclimate of this area. If you watch clones taken from Chianti that have been planted here, you will see how they’ve acclimated to the local terroir. Every Sangiovese plant is characterized by its terroir. In Chianti, the grapes are small, while in Montalcino the grapes are big and oval-shaped. Here, my grandfather did a mass selection of grapes from Chianti, and they’ve since evolved into medium-sized grapes; not too big, not too tightly packed. But the main characteristic of Prugnolo Gentile is its enjoyable nature, beautiful fragrance, elegance, and balance, even right out of the gate,” explains Luca.  Notably, Nobile also has good aging potential. Thanks to the composition of the soil, mostly alluvial and sandy and full of fossils, the wines have a high percentage of tartaric acid. This means that the wines are lively, with great freshness, and a great ability to maintain a img_3955rich color.

Luca has been working side by side with enologist Maurizio Castelli since 1998 (though Castelli joined the team in 1983) and Mary Ferrara, who started in 2000. Castelli is quite familiar with both Brunello (working with Mastrojanni and Col d’Orcia) and Chianti (Badia di Coltibuono) and his goal has always been to create “important” wines. At the same time, Luca’s ultimate goal has always been to create a naturally balanced wine that is like that from day one and stays that way throughout its entire lifespan. Along with the winery’s matriarch and driving force, Paola De Ferrari Corradi, this enological trio has been able to achieve both.

But even so, Nobile has only recently begun to regain warranted attention and the Alliance wants to strike while the iron is hot, swiftly capitalizing on this moment with the intention of increasing recognition even more. “We are a small, close-knit group of lively, dynamic wineries that have the resources and time to dedicate to truly promoting Nobile all over the world. The Sangiovese grape is the focus of this endeavor and, in fact, each winery has developed a wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes.” Historically, Nobile has been made with complementary native grapes that help achieve that sought-after balance, so why focus only on Sangiovese? “While it may be true that there are certain parts of Montepulciano that complementary grapes are needed, there are others that absolutely don’t. And we feel that Sangiovese best represents the terroir of this area, as it is the most sensitive to its different features.” In a word, Prugnolo Gentile gives drinkers a broader understanding of Montepulciano wines.  Each winery is making somewhere between 3,500 and 10,000 bottles of the DOCG wine in a limited-edition format that is being presented at wine events in various cities. Luca continued, “Nobile is not new. It has centuries of history behind it. The quality is well-known. It was even a favorite of President Jefferson. We don’t have to “invent” anything. We just have to show the world what Nobile is, and what it has. And up until now, we haven’t been able to keep up.” We asked Luca, who happens to be the vice president of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, why there was a need for an alliance when there is already a Consorzio whose mission is to promote the DOCG area.  “We wanted to move faster and we have the ability to invest more,” he said. “We are not in competition with the Consorzio and hope to work side by side, just at a faster pace.” While there are only six wineries participating, everyone benefits in the end.  “In creating the alliance, we are doing what we couldn’t have done alone. There is strength in numbers and it is a great source of pride for all of us.” And in fact, the Alliance Vinum’s motto speaks of individual humility and collective pride.

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Indeed, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Nobile for short – needs no bells and whistles. It is a versatile, accessible, ageable wine with unparalleled elegance and poise. It is a wine that speaks for itself and the alliance’s goal is simply to give it a louder voice and a stage to stand upon.  “We are really excited about the Alliance. Especially because we are fulfilling my grandfather’s dream, which was to promote this wonderful land and its wine,” Luca said proudly.

96 POINTS FOR FULIGNI IN DECANTER

Brunello is what comes to mind when people think of Tuscany and its pristine, characteristic landscape of rolling hills, cypress trees and never-ending sunshine. After all, Tuscany is the birthplace of one of the most sought-after wines in the world. And when you get the opportunity to drink one of the best, it is often palate changing. It is difficult to go back to any old wine when you could be drinking the best.

In Decanter’s August 2017 issue, many of the best examples of Brunello were reviewed and those receiving high marks were featured.

Make no mistake, Fuligni was one of them.

Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2012 received a beautiful 96 points, reminding us that the best examples are made by those who take great care in cultivating the grapes and in how they vinify and age the wine.

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BOLLINI, TOSCOLO AND MONTE ANTICO: TOP PICKS FROM IWSC

When you receive an award from IWSC, you certainly feel like your hard work is being recognized. After all, “With 47 years’ experience, the IWSC is widely recognized as the original, the most prestigious and the most respected wine and spirit competition in the world.”

This competition is especially interesting because it takes the tastings so seriously. They take place throughout seven months of the year, are double blind, and the tasting panel consists of seven expert tasters. They also do a full chemical analysis on every wine.

See the awards below:

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iwsc-2017-silver-toscolo-chianti-classico-riserva

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98 – COSTANTI’S MAGIC NUMBER

Truth be told, receiving a score just a mere two points shy of a perfect one hundred is truly magical. Andrea Costanti is fortunate enough to see his hard work recognized with just such a score, and more than once. After last’s years 98 from Antonio Galloni, this year, Wine Enthusiast awarded Costanti’s Brunello di Montalcino 2012 with a well-deserved 98 points, proving once again that not all Brunellos are created the same.

Wine Access wrote a lovely article featuring the 2012 vintage and Costanti’s top-rated Brunello:

“Leading the way on many scorecards, including our own, was Andrea Costanti’s brilliant red-ruby stunner. Culled from less than 30 acres of vines in the high-elevation, northern reaches of Montalcino, Costanti’s 2012 epitomizes the classic, seductive side of the region, offering up Burgundian aromatics and the richest Pinot Noir-like concentration and balance, all stapled together with a splash of Brunello rusticity.

Deep red-ruby to the rim. On the nose, red currant, dark plum, ripe cherry, and kirsch are mixed with textbook floral tones and dried-flower minerality. The attack is rich and plush, showing off the extreme ripeness of that hot summer. Silken in texture, showing restraint and sweetness, finishing with the superb tannin structure that has always distinguished Costanti’s finest and most age-worthy Brunellos. Drink now (only if you’re horribly impatient) or do as we always do and lay down the top Brunello of the vintage for 10-15 years.”

 

A LINK BETWEEN WINE AND HEALTH

Monte Antico and Red Grapes

Looking for a reason to buy that next bottle of wine? Well, look no further! New Zealand-based blog Jen Reviews has provided readers with a whopping fifteen health benefits of drinking wine, written by Jesse Miller. She talks about longevity, heart health, Alzheimer’s disease, liver function, stroke, eyesight and even depression! If you want to read all about it, click here!

Empson reminds you though, drink responsibly….and drink well!

BOLLINI: A TOP PICK IN CANADA

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Toronto Life has released a short list for “the best international bottles of white wine from the LCBO,” which is “one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol,” located in Canada. Considering LCBO has 650 retail stores with over 225 agency stores, as well as catalogs and special order services, and offers 24,000 products annually to Canada’s wine and spirits’ drinking community, it was quite an honor to see Bollini Pinot Grigio listed!

Read below for the stunning review:

Bollini 2015 Pinot Grigio

$17.95 | Trentino, Italy | 88 points

Bollini has produced a very fruity young pinot grigio (more so than most pinot grigios from Italy) with generous poached pear, yellow plum, grapefruit and honeysuckle florality. Despite the ripeness, this vintage is lively and a touch spritzed with alcohol warmth. Chill well before serving.

To check out the full article, click here.

YEAST ACCORDING TO MANUEL MARCARINI

marcarini-estate-sm-2Yeast is a subject that will generally turn the conversation to another topic quickly, but when it comes to wine, consumers and buyers are rapidly becoming more interested in what goes into producing it.  Empson recently spoke with Manuel Marchetti of Marcarini Winery to get more information.

First, it’s important to note that there is no one procedure when it comes to choosing the right type of yeast to use during the winemaking process.  All strains have their pros and cons, and the trick is finding the best compromise to obtain the results a winery may want.

Yeast’s role in winemaking is attributed to Louis Pasteur in 1860. Before then, nobody knew why fermentation began.  At that time, most of the wines had a high quantity of residual sugar, and many of them spoiled because of re-fermentation and disease.

You could say that the discovery of yeast and the understanding of its role in transforming the glucose contained in the grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide signaled the start of modern-day winemaking.

Today, the wine industry separates yeast into a few categories:

  • indigenous yeasts are those you find on the grape skins;
  • wild yeasts can have different explanations, but are best described as yeasts found outside the vineyard or that are brought into the vineyard from the outside (by way of wind, birds, insects, etc.);
  • selected yeasts belong to the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and is chosen because the physiological, biochemical and ecological characteristics are ideal for the result a winery may be looking for. For example, the production of glycerol, higher or lower alcohol, less volatile acidity, etc.
Grape Harvest

Grape Harvest

Winemaker Manuel Marchetti gave us some insight on the different uses of yeasts.

Indigenous yeast

“On the grapes, you can divide the various yeasts into groups of Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces. One thing to consider in particular is that Saccharomyces cerevisiae is rare on healthy grapes, but the atmosphere in the cellar can make them potentially develop through contamination from the equipment, tanks, pipes, etc.

When fermentation begins, it is tough to say which species of yeast will prevail during fermentation and which will survive until the end.  Non-Saccharomyces species dominate during the first two to three days of fermentation but then because of alcohol and temperature increase, die. The Saccharomyces species then prevails.

Spontaneous fermentation is characterized by a large biodiversity of inter- and intra- yeast species, and this means there will be considerable variations during the winemaking process and final result. This influences the structure of the wine and can make wines with great complexity and typicity.”

Selected Yeast

“The use of selected yeast gives you the security of knowing you are using Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, and that this species will prevail during the winemaking process.  This results in a quick start of fermentation, the complete use of the glucose contained in the grapes, shorter fermentation times, less volatile acidity, less chance of fermenting bad grapes, and gives wines better stability and fining.

The problem is that you can lose the wine’s natural characteristics and standardize the wine’s flavors.

Nowadays, to avoid standardizing, researchers have reproduced the yeasts that are typically present in the vineyards, like BRL yeast, which is found in Barolo vineyards.”

Manuel went on to explain that at the Marcarini Winery, they use different selected yeasts for each wine, giving them control, without sacrificing their wines’ character.  “We use selected yeasts obtained from indigenous yeasts that were discovered by researchers in the area,” he explains.  “We use BRL yeast for the Barolo Brunate and La Serra, so we do not lose typicity and benefit from all of the advantages of using selected yeast.”

In doing so, Manuel has protected his winery from spontaneous fermentation, which changes the wine’s characteristics, and from fluctuations in volatile acidity, caused by non-Saccharomyces yeasts, which can result in higher levels of acidity, forcing you need larger quantities of SO2 (sulfites).

While it is not entirely possible to eliminate contact with wild yeasts, which can be involuntarily introduced during the transport of the grapes to the winery, and yeasts present in the cellar, Marcarini’s history of quality is evidence that their passion for their craft extends beyond just the vineyard.

Written by Empson Staff Writer

THE OFTEN-OVERLOOKED VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO ACCORDING TO VINEPAIR

montepulciano-from-siteVinepair has posted a comprehensive article explaining the ins and outs of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and it is sure to get your mouth watering in no time.  Often overlooked in the world of Italian wine, some wineries are working hard to put the appellation on the everyday drinker’s dinner table.  Boscarelli is certainly one of those wineries and they are doing a bang-up job. Taking the utmost care in the vineyard and in the cantina to serve up the best and cleanest wines possible, their wonderfully elegant and balanced wines full of typical Montepulciano goodness, frequently grace the lists of the most important critics in the world.  Boscarelli was recently featured by WineSearcher and Wine Spectator (and once again on the cover) and one of their wines was even voted one of the best Italian wines by Vinepair themselves.

If you’d like more information about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that just might get you closer to beginning a long-lasting love affair with their different interpretations of the classic wine, take a look at Vinepair’s article. Here is just a snippet:

“If there’s a red wine that you don’t know but should, it’s Tuscany’s noblest bottle of them all, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Not to be confused with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (made from the Montepulciano grape), this Sangiovese-based red is just as noteworthy as its celebrated Tuscan neighbors, Chianti and Brunello. For your next dinner party, holiday gift, or Friday night on the couch, look no further than this distinguished Italian classic; vibrant, fresh, and exquisitely tasty, Nobile truly goes with everything!”

Click here to read the full article.

MOLINO DI GRACE – HONEST WINEMAKING

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One can’t help but want to taste – and love – Il Molino di Grace’s wine after being on the receiving end of one of Frank Grace’s big smiles and hearty handshakes. After all, Il Molino di Grace’s wines must reflect his warmth, right? If truth be told, they do, with their soul-warming colors, beautiful, clean aromas, inviting palates and memorable finishes. They are one of a kind, just like the Graces’ stunning estate. Indeed, the vineyards – each named after one of Frank and Judy Grace’s grandchildren – reflect the love and care they and their staff have always put into cultivating perfect, healthy plants. Further cementing this idea, the winery became certified organic in 2014 – with the first vintage release in 2015. But make no mistake, they had already been practicing organic viticulture well before going through the formalities.

 Il Molino di Grace is located in the heart of Panzano, which by no coincidence is the largest organic-growing district (we’re talking 500 hectares) in Italy. At least nineteen out of twenty wineries in the area are organic and they each belong to the association called the Vintners’ Union of Panzano in Chianti. Being part of this elite community affords them many advantages, not least is the one giving them constant access to the expertise of a “group” professional agronomist, paid by the associates to keep a close eye on any potential disease and/or pest infestations across the area. Because the entire zone is organic, this system of checks and balances eliminates the risk of potential outbreaks and spread. The other side of the coin is that it also eradicates the threat of contamination of synthetic pesticides or weed killers used by neighbors. Consider that even the posts used to tie the vines are organic chestnut. That is just how important it is to them.  Why? The answer to this question illustrates why a winery might choose to go organic in the first place.

panorama_05_homeGrapes at Il Molino di Grace.

Iacopo Morganti, general manager of Il Molino di Grace, explains the root of the issue: “Synthetic treatments of all types enter the lymphatic system of the plants. This means the plants are treated from the inside out,” he explained. These chemicals absorb very quickly and become part of plant’s inner workings, even making life too easy for them.  They don’t have to build up much immunity if everything is being done for them. He continues, “On the other hand, organic viticulture treats the plants on the outside. The leaves are sprayed, when necessary, with totally organic products. And rain can potentially wash them off. In fact, the more precipitation, the more treatments are hypothetically needed.” In this way, the plants grow strong, lush and resilient and are not dependent on anything. Treatment is nothing more than an all-natural helping hand and each treatment takes much longer to take effect.

The peaceful vineyards surrounding Il Molino di Grace’s spectacular estate, an unpretentious private residence and their many sculptures cover 30 hectares (74 acres).  Each vine basks in welcome sunshine from the south, southeast, and southwest, while the Gratius vineyards face east. The vines, ranging from four to sixty years of age, were organically cultivated long before the winery was officially certified. This comes as no surprise as it seems that for most growers, it is a way of life. We asked Iacopo if he had any “before and after” shots of the plants or even the soil and he said he did not. Because they’ve been using organic products for so long, it’s hard to pinpoint a true “before” moment.

For pest control, they, like Speri, also employ sexual confusion tactics, using the same strips and traps placed throughout the vineyards. The traps are frequently checked and any captured bugs are counted to see that the strips are working.  Occasionally, Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), a microbe naturally occurring in soil, is used to fight larvae that furrow into the grapes while they are small, grow as the grapes grow and kill them from the inside out as they feed and eventually try to escape. For disease, copper and sulfur are used.  The winery has almost always used natural fertilizer and currently plants favino (fava or field beans) every other year to use as natural fertilizer. They also manually cut grass and use it as mulch. They agree that more manpower is needed as a result, but say that this is a good thing as it allows them to be in constant contact with the vines. Plants are left to do their thing, but under the watchful eye of the winemaker and his staff. With traditional cultivation, no contact is needed at all. You just spray your chemicals and walk away.

favinoNew Growth of Favino.

Organic winemaking is honest winemaking. There is nothing to hide behind. “Each wine is a true expression of its terroir and the vintage. Year after year, you see how the wines evolve, the effects of each seasonal trend, how the winemaker dealt with each problem or lack thereof, and the differences and similarities between each vintage. It is winemaking par excellence,” explains Iacopo. “The grapes are everything. The plants are happier when grown organically and the wines reflect that.” We asked how the wines have changed and he said, “They are fruitier – you really taste the primary aromas. They are also fresher.” The winery also uses cement casks, which helps to further preserve the primary aromas of the grapes.

galestroA large piece of Galestro.

The hilly vineyards in Panzano are also blessed in more ways than one. The high altitudes, day/night temperature swings and galestro soil allow for slow ripening, high acidity, elegant structure, good alcohol and color, and a recognizable one-of-a-kind flavor. This combination leads to excellent ageability, even up to fifteen years. But that is not their only blessing. They say the land itself is blessed, having once been owned by a thousand-year-old church called La Pieve di San Leolino. The vineyards themselves are 300 to 400 years old and many references to the wine they produced have been found. Now, a statue of Saint Francis, the patron saint of Italy and all things natural stands tall above the vineyards at Il Molino di Grace. Frank Grace commissioned Sandro Granucci, a local Panzano artist, to sculpt the statue and dedicated it to Judy for their 45th wedding anniversary. A befitting choice, we asked Frank why he chose Saint Francis, and he grinned, “Because that is my name!” Indeed, Frank and Francis dutifully watch over the naturally cultivated fruit of the vines day in, day out, letting nature guide their every move and acting in the least invasive way possible and only when absolutely necessary. After all, the grapes – and their health – are the stars of any good wine.

francesco The statue of Saint Francis, overlooking the vineyards.

Photos courtesy of Il Molino di Grace.