Posts Tagged ‘Tuscany’

Rocca di Frassinello: read about Maremma’s finest wine

Renzo Piano has no trouble putting a spell on my thoughts. A moment of reflection brings two words; Tuscan orange and green, colours of the winery at Rocca di Frassinello, Genoa-born Renzo’s architectural invention.

Approaching Rocca di Frassinello winery on Uncorked and Cultivated’s Tuscany Wine Tour 2016

Our Italy wine tours take guests through the depths of Tuscany, offering introduction-only visits to wineries, some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email

There it is; sliced, carved and integrated into a 60 hectare Maremma vineyard landscape 50 km north on the Gavorrano coast of the Tuscan town of Grosetto. Planting from 1996 to 2004 has included the staple local grape sangiovese transported from owner’s Paolo Panerai Chianti Classico Castellina property of foundation plants. Added is cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, and recently vermentino, now the goto white drink of all Tuscany.

However Rocca were not the first growing grapes here on the old tin mining, grazing and once malaria-ridden country. The Etruscians were pre-Roman, as recent small necropolis excavations have revealed. But maybe not growing sangiovese then? One day we will know.

Etruscian Urn-Necropolis of San Germano

Etruscian Urn-Necropolis of San Germano

Rocca through its winemakers, and grape whisperers have trodden lightly with the mix. This is about respect for local sangiovese, a tough variety, hard to get excellent responses, is given a high priority to grow best, show its naturally grippy tannin to ripen to the top of that expected. Work hard, ripen. So as in all Tuscany it is a late finisher, cranky but fulfilling to get there, causing some lost bunches along the way. That’s cool if a few end up on the ground.

Colleague & Rocca Winemaker Massimo Cassegrande

Colleague & Rocca Winemaker Massimo Cassegrande

What would you drink from Rocca?

Well sangiovese and international variety blends with increasing levels of oak time, fruit strips and time investment. This is in common with a Bordeaux Chateau approach of scaling price and perceived quality – Rocca is a half share venture with Domaines Rothschild in Pauillac. That’s the labelling. All wines are DOC Maremma Toscana.

Entry stage is the unwooded (cement tank aged, an increasing trend) Poggio alla Guardia 2014; 50% cabernet sauvignon, 30% sangiovese, 20% merlot, nice and rounded, fruity, soft, easy, drink early and don’t concentrate too hard; that’s the intention. Smash it down.

The Ornello 2013 is drinking and softening very well; created from 2006 to take advantage of what the syrah grown here can provide for your drink. Try 40% sangiovese, 20% cabernet, 20% merlot, 20% syrah to make a successful rounded wine; look for the chocolate such is the great ripeness.

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013 is the deputy wine to the top property wine. Think 50% sangiovese, 25% cabernet, 25% merlot; a terrific wine to handle some aging time though long is not needed; cedary, red-fruited, silky tannins and long on taste. Shaped by some master sangiovese blenders here.

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013

Le Sughere di Frassinello 2013

Rocca di Frassinello 2013 is on song now, very deep colour alongside its brothers, so expect little change unless age kicks in 3-5 years time. It is well composed; layered, cherry fruit, from 65% sangiovese, 25% cabernet, 10% merlot, some leafiness, refreshing is the brightness of the fruit, just outstanding, nicely wound tannin from 18 months in barrel; just a super Maremma wine. Needs you to drink one.

Rocca di Frassinello 2013

Rocca di Frassinello 2013

Tuscany is a battleground for grand wines called Super Tuscans since the 90s. By old definition all the past wines just reviewed are Super Tuscan as sangiovese-international variety blends. So Super Super Tuscan is a greater category now.

One perverse result is Baffonero 2013; a creation since 2007 made totally of merlot, grown extremely and heavily emphasised in detailed winemaking which could be repeated from Bordeaux’s hyper-expensive Pomerol merlots. The leader in Tuscany is Ornellaia’s Massetto, so here is Rocca’s contender.

Baffonero 2013

Baffonero 2013

Baffonero is very dense, deliberately concentrated by its viticulture, extreme, layers of fruits, coffee and cacao, new oak sweetness, powdery tannins, many but soft and round. That’s a deep play on merlot.

No doubt the Etruscians did not make merlot, just early versions of sangiovese which lasted a few days.

Italy and France Food and Wine Tours | Edition Nineteen | June 2014

Farmhouse Formaggi Restaurant il Vigneto, Alba

Farmhouse Formaggi Restaurant il Vigneto, Alba

During our Italy and France Food and Wine tours Uncorked and Cultivated tour leaders focus a great deal on the tastes, styles and method of production of the farmhouse cheese served in our hosting restaurants (goat, cow, sheep). The appearance and shapes differ a great deal, so I am very comfortable with my Italian copy of Slow Food’s Formaggi d’Italia to assist identification. We recently struck a relationship with cheese expert Graham Redhead, a cheesemaking coach for home chefs, he advises on all styles. Graham’s help has been invaluable and we highly endorse his skills and experience. To register your attendance in the east Australia try Cheesemaking to make the curd and see how cheese results.

Champion Wine Drinking Nations

Annually statisticians release data about the drinks industry. While it is pretty dry stuff, we now know USA consumes the greatest volume of wine of any nation. Also described are some fairly frivolous reports of the highest per capita consuming countries. 5th is Slovenia, 4th St Pierre et Miquelon (former French islands 25 km from the Newfoundland coast), 3rd France, 2nd Andorra (tax free enclave) and 1st The Vatican. Clearly the Italian stats are clouded by Papal visitors and further distorted by wine memento sales not for consumption. France and Italy are regarded as the largest per capita consumers as wine is drunk at meal times by the entire family.

Tuscan Tales- Gran Selectione Chianti Wine Classified

Badia a Passignano

Badia a Passignano

About the time the Institute of Masters of Wine held its 8th Symposium in Florence early May, the first examples of Tuscany’s new super DOCG classification-Gran Selectione (GS) proclaimed last year-were displayed and tasted. From current reports the GS though intended to be a level above Chianti Classico Riserva, is being placed on existing wine which is in store; few wines currently appear to stand up to this tier of excellence. There is even a lot of criticism about this concept. Prices rise too, yet it is an opportunity to display unique pieces of vineyard terroir which would never be tasted or sold separately. Uncorked’s next visit to Antinori’s Tignanello winery will discover the Badia a Passignano 2009, usually a Riserva, which has been promoted to GS. 35 wines passed the external selection panel for this 2014 declaration (stock ranged between 800 and 500,000 bottles).

Guigal’s 10 “LaLas” cause a storm

Rhone producer Guigal’s release of the three hero shiraz viogniers grown on the Cote Rotie, known colloquially as “LaLas” from the vineyards La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline from 2010 vintage is pushing the LiveX (UK auction scale) to record heights. Trading in luxury wines is similarly documented to trading in equities. Uncorked and Cultivated’s tours visit this fashionable property in Ampuis where the welcome is from Melbourne-born Brett Crittenden, Guigal’s ambassador at large. Philippe Guigal visited Australia recently, presenting us with his entire high-end 2010 range (Lalas included) in a landmark tasting under Negociants Australia “Working with Wine” programme. These are monster wines, aged 48 months in new barrels, making drinks needing years in cellars at about 12 oC working towards ultimate fusion.

Phillipe Guigal presents “Working with Wine”, Rhône Varieties 2014

Philippe Guigal presents “Working with Wine”, Rhône Varieties 2014

Predict the wine future – Robert Parker does!

Renowned wine critic Robert M. Parker announced his predictions about the wine world for 2014 recently. He used his Twitter account to share his forecast.

Well his prediction 9 has blown up. That the Coravin wine preservation “gadget” from the US would revolutionise how we taste rare wine (by taking an extract through its cork). Reports are that some users have experienced bottle explosions. Uncorked was to have received a test Coravin six months ago; so maybe it is safer to not sample test the oldest Barolo in the cellar. Just drink it!

Natural winemaking at COS winery, Vittoria, Sicily

Natural winemaking at COS winery, Vittoria, Sicily

Parker’s prediction 3 was “The undefined scam called “natural” or “authentic” wines will be exposed as a fraud-(most serious wines have no additives)” will continue to court controversy. The small international band of natural wine followers is quite vocal. Quite curiously Australia’s wine authorities came down with a heavy hand recently, unconsulted, to outlaw the indiscriminate use of “orange” on Australian bottle labels. They expect to stamp out the potential label confusion with the GI of Orange in New South Wales. The Georgians, who invented this winemaking practice about 6-8,000 years ago, prefer to describe their white wines of this type as “amber”.

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Wine and Food Tours: Mainland Italy, Sicily

Read about Uncorked and Cultivated’s annual bespoke wine and food tours for small groups in the Italian autumn to drinkable destinations.

We are regular hosts to Italian tours; with two in 2013, Tuscany–Piemonte and afterwards Sicily. Guests get to know their coach drivers, see starred chefs serve their plates, have winery owners and guides make them welcome and discover quality views from their hotel suites.

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