Friday, August 19, 2016

Tempranillo in the Land of Sangiovese

Every week a fellow wine blogger, Katarina of Grapevine Adventures, features different wineries, sommeliers, winemakers etc with an opportunity to chat live and ask questions, plus learn a lot about a particular winery and area. I attend whenever possible and a little while back she featured a winery in Tuscany that is growing tempranillo, a spanish grape. I'm always intrigued when wineries experiment with grapes that either faced extinction or aren't typical for an area to see what works and what doesn't based on the terroir of a particular area.

The winery is Pietro Beconcini located in San Miniato, located between Pisa and Florence closer to the coast. It's also located along the Via Francigena, where the pilgrims went from north of Spain to Rome. San Miniato is also the place of the truffles. So they always think of the gastronomic side and what wines can be produced to match the food of the area. 

We met virtually with Eva and Leaonardo the winemaker whom is 4th generation. The winery has been within the family since the 1950's when the grandfather was a sharecropper on the land that was then owned by the Marchesi Ridolfi family. It was an agricultural estate that later became solely focused on winemaking in the 90's when Leonardo's father transitioned the land over. Today the wineries total bottle production is 100,000. which is considered a small to medium sized winery. 
Pietro Beconcini winery in Tuscany
Eva & Leonardo Beconcini
The soil of Pietro Beconcini in San Miniato is made up of seashells and clay. Lots of calcium and minerals are within the soil leading to wines that are fresh and that provide structure and saltiness. 
winemaking soils of Tuscany
Soils of fossil shells and clay
The grapes that are produced at Pietro Beconcini are malvasia nera, cieliegiolo, sangiovese, canaoilo and the unique tempranillo. Leonardo's father first started out producing chianti in the old fashioned straw fiascos. When Leonardo took over as winemaker he selected the best vines and vineyard and started replanting ungrafted vines, meaning they survived the terrible phylloxera disease that hit most of Europe's vines destroying them in the 70's. There were 100 year old vines mixed in with others. He did research and micro-vinifciation on some of the vines and that is when he discovered it was tempranillo growing in 2004, very unusual for Italy. 
Winemaker Leonardo Beconcini
Leonardo Beconcini, winemaker
One of the changes from the 90’s that Leonardo changed was the types of barrels used. Previously they used small wooden barrels and now their wine is stored in big wooden slavonian oak barrels. Their reason for doing so is to go back to tradition. Small barrels change the style of the wine. With slavonian oak the impact of wood isn’t aggressive to the wine. 
Pietro Beconcini Agricola
I haven't had the opportunity to try any of their wines, but the wines they walked us through were:
  • Reciso Rosso Toscano IGT – Comes from the verb, recidere, which means to cut, for the efforts of the amount of grapes they cut from their vineyards. Made of 100% sangiovese. This is their best sangiovese from the old vineyards. This wine can last 20 years or more.
  • Vigna alle Nicchie Tempranillo IGT - Meaning vines in the shells this wine is made fully from the tempranillo grape. Leonardo thinks this wine can be aged for 30 years, but they yet have the experience with it since they started only in 2004. The grapes comes from quite a small vineyard. Before pressing the grapes they dry them for 4 weeks where the grapes lose 30% of the water and produces a more concentrated wine. 15.5% alcohol. Recommended to serve with wild boar or wild white meat or pheasant. Also, duck with pepperoni or orange juice cooked for hours so it's well integrated with the meat. Maybe also just pasta with ragu and vegetables.
    2009 Vigne alle Nicchie tempranillo
  • Pietro Beconcini Chianti Riserva DOCG– Produced in large oak barrels from 65 year old vines.
  • Fresco di Nero Rose – This is a rose, or rosato, made of tempranillo. The juice is only macerated with the skins for 3 days. Recommended pairings include salmon and tuna or egg with white truffle on top. They also use a lot of cold cuts because of the fatiness and acidity pairs well with the rosato.
Their dessert wine that is harvested at the beginning of September. They then hang the grapes to dry for some months. about 5-6 months. The juice is then stored in chestnut or oak casks where they leave 1/3 of the barrel for oxygen to never be opened again until it's time to bottle around 5-6 years later. The grapes make up malvasia bianca, colombano and malvasia nera. Pairings with vin santo include blue cheese or gorgonzola, stilton. Liver pate is a tradition of the area. If you're a cigar lover this will be a pairing for you.

*All pictures used with permission of Pietro Beconcini