Saturday, December 12, 2015

The cru wines of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi

I attended a virtual wine tasting this week led by wine journalist and wine critic, Filippo Bartolotta, and Nicolo D’Afflitto, the Director of Winemaking  for Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi.  Set in a warm, cozy and inviting environment with the fireplace blazing in the background they walked us through 4 of the cru wines of the Frescobaldi estate.  Samples were provided by Colangelo for this tasting and I was honored to sample such fantastic wines from Tuscany with such an in depth history of winemaking of high quality wines.      
Nicolo D’Afflitto
Nicolo has been with the Marchesi De’Frescobaldi winery since 1991 when he began working with the Castel Giocondo estate in Montalcino and later in 1995 went on to working in the other wineries estates including Castello di Nipozzano, Corte, Valiano, Pomino, Castiglioni, Poggio a Remole and S. Maria.  Nicolo’s belief is that the quality of the wine lies in the vineyards themselves with the influences of the varied terroir of each and takes a very natural approach to winemaking in the vineyard.  He travels from castle to castle and tries to put into each and every wine glass the terroir of each vineyard site.  Nicolo not only takes pride in the wines produced at the Frescobaldi vineyards, but historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  They had passed through their vineyards and Nicolo stated that it's also about the people that have passed through this land that are part of the culture as well as the wines and can’t be forgotten.  

Wines of Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi
When it comes to “cru wines” of Italy there are no legal laws or standards that producers in Italy must follow to have their wines labeled as cru.  Italy has enough of its own laws and regulations when it comes to wines.  A cru wine is typically a wine that is considered well above average and is the best of the best, but if a wine does qualify under this qualification the Italian wine producers don’t have the legal right to market their wines with the cru label.  You may see the actual vineyard site listed on the label, which may not mean anything to many, but if you understand certain special terroirs of an area or region it will help you to understand the quality and characteristics of the wine in the bottle. 
Below are the 4 wines that we sampled together during the tasting:

2012 Castello di Pomino Benefizio Pomino Bianco Riserva
Made of 100% chardonnay and fermented in barrique. Wines have been produced in the Benefizio vineyard since the 1800’s.  A balanced wine that is elegant with a beautiful perfume.  It's very creamy and clean with nice minerality and acidity.  Nicolo stated that the acidity is preserved in the Pomino vineyard by the altitude and low temperatures and it's sandy soil.  For Nicolo, Pomino is all about elegance.  He believes this wine can age for 40 years and suggested to pair this wine with caviar, salmon and oysters.  ABV 13%. Retail $45

2011 Castello di Nipozzano Mormoreto Toscana IGT 

Made of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 20% merlot and 5% petit verdot.  The first wine was produced from the Mormoreto vineyard in 1983.  Castello di Nipozzano is located about 30 minutes northeast of Florence very close to the Arno River and 50km from the Pomino vineyard.  It's situated about 700 meters above sea level. The Mormoreto vineyard is made of sandy and clay soil.  Nicolo calls this wine a "French tourist in Tuscany" and is a modern interpretation of the Tuscan soil.  Extracted blackberry flavors with notes of mint and some spice.  An elegant wine of full body with balsamic notes on the finish.   ABV 14.5%  Retail $79.  

2011 Tenuta di Castiglioni Giramonte Merlot/Sangiovese 
Tenuta di Castiglioni was discovered in 1999 after an evaluation of the terroir at the Giramonte vineyard site. Located southwest of Florence in Montespertoli.  Merlot was the choice grape to be planted here because it loves clay soil. Planted merlot there because it loves clay soil and the very warm climate.  Purple notes in the glass and aromas jumping out of the glass this wine was full of dark berries with chocolate notes.  A full-bodied, velvet wine with a beautiful finish.  ABV 14.5%. Retail $150

2009 Ripe al Convento di Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
100% sangiovese.  Castelgiocondo is located about a half hour from Siena in the town of Montalcino and according to Nicolo this is the kingdom of sangiovese.  There used to be 12 wine makers in Montalcino and now there are 250 producers. Nicolo provided the 3 factors that produce great wines in this area.  #1 the exposition (south or southwest facing slopes). #2 the elevation (not too low because its overripe and jammy and the wines don't have a long life and not too high as it produces wines that are light, elegant, but not powerful.  Ideal is 450 feet). #3 soil must be very well drained.  Soil is the key factor for this wine.  The soil there is galestro, which is a schist soil, flat stone.  2010 is well talked about in media today, but Nicolo believes the 2009 vintage is one of the best vintages.  This wine is well structured, with  herbal note, ripe fruit, notes of tobacco and chocolate with juicy acidity. ABV 15%. Retail $138