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L’Aietta trio

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In 2001, Francesco Mulinari, then a 17-year-old high school student, decided to make wine from some abandoned Sangiovese vines growing on a 2.5-hectare plot of land that his parents had acquired as a picnicking spot and natural playground for their children. Located just outside the wall surrounding Montalcino, the spot, known as L’Aietta, had been the site of an army encampment during the 1555 siege of the city. When applying for a production permit, he – well, actually his mother, as he was underage – learned that the parcel lay within the Brunello di Montalcino appellation. His first vintage, the 2001 and officially a Brunello, consisted of 720 bottles.

In 2004, Mulinari replaced the old vines with bush vines, as the hard rock would have made installing posts difficult. The land is so steep – the tiny parcel is divided into 18 terraces – that all work is done by hand. In 2002, he acquired another hectare of Sangiovese vines in nearby Castelnuovo dell’Abate, eventually replacing them with bush vines too. He more recently took over a 2.5-hecatre plot in Monecucco, from whose grapes he makes a Chianti-style blend (Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino) and a raisinated sweet white (Malvasia di Candia, Vermentino and Zibibbo). He works this last vineyard with a horse.

Farming is rigorously organic (certified in 2013); harvesting is manual; wine-making is non-interventionist. The winery, the smallest in Montalcino, has very little technology and only tanks and barrels. All farming and wine-making is done by Mulinari by himself. Current production is around 7,000 bottles a year.

Vino Spumante 2013, Brut, Metodo Classico, L’Aietta ($55.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese Grosso from organically farmed vines averaging 15 years old and located in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyard. The grapes are harvested based on their acidity, not their maturation, and before their colour is fully developed (green harvest fruit, in other words). Macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts) for 30 days in stainless steel tanks. The still wine is matured for one year in large Slavonian oak barrels. Secondary fermentation and one year’s maturation take place in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 11.5% ABV. Around 700 bottles made. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Pale pink. Initially closed nose with notes of cheese, modelling clay, bread dough and eventually red berries. Light effervescence. Smooth despite the bright acidity. More savoury than fruity. The mineral underlay lasts well into the long, saline finish with its peekaboo berry notes. Elegant, tasty, unusual and rare, though is that enough to justify the champagne-rivaling price? (Buy again? If feeling flush.)

Rosso di Montalcino 2015, L’Aietta ($37.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese Grosso from organically farmed vines averaging 15 years old and located in the Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyard. The grapes are macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts) in stainless steel tanks for 30 days. Matured one year in large Slavonian oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 2,600 bottles made. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Classic nose of cherry, tobacco, herbs and graphite. Velvety smooth on the palate. The ripe fruit is illuminated by soft-glow acidity, shaded by minerals. Stealth tannins turn more assertive on the spicy finish. Will probably be even better in a year or two. Lovely though one of those wines that shows better at the dining table than at a tasting. (Buy again? Yes.)

Brunello di Montalcino 2012, L’Aietta ($71.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese Grosso from organically farmed vines averaging 15 years old and located in the L’Aietta vineyard. The grapes are macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts) in stainless steel tanks for 21 days. Matured two years in large Slavonian oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 2,200 bottles made. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Complex, evolving nose of red and black berries, smoke, graphite, tobacco, leather, oak, spice and maybe mint. Fuller, rounder, deeper and longer than the Rosso. Satin-textured. The beautifully pure ripe fruit is structured by round, firm tannins and fluent acidity. Dark minerals, nose-echoing tertiary flavours and Asian spice overtones add complexity and interest. Very long. A noble wine that’s delicious now but still a youngster. Probably a stunner in five to 10 years. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 6 of 9

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Written by carswell

November 30, 2017 at 13:51

The Dovecote and the Boar

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Rosso Toscano 2010, Colombaia ($36.73, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate’s name translates as dovecote. This is a blend of Sangiovese (80%), Malvasia Nera (10%), Colorino (5%) and Canaiolo (5%) from biodynamically farmed 40-year-old vines planted in fossil-rich clay soil. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks. Matured 18 months in 26-hectolitre Slavonian oak botti. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny dose of sulphur dioxide is added at bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.

Initially odd nose (“a weird mix of bubblegum and asphalt”) that eventually settled down into a classic bouquet of cherry, black cherry, tar, leather, “rose,” ink, beet and sawed wood. Medium-bodied and fluid in the mouth. The ripe fruit floats on a steady stream of smooth acidity while the supple, resolving tannins have enough torque to give some grain to the otherwise silky texture. A faint rumbling of minerals is joined by incipient tertiary notes on the long finish. Well balanced, true to the grape, speaking of its place and probably at or near peak. Roasted boar, anyone? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 8 of 9

Written by carswell

October 18, 2017 at 11:55

WINO tasting (6/6)

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Located between Siena and Arezzo, the 60-hectare Fattoria di Caspri estate has nine hectares of grape vines and seven hectares of olive trees. The estate’s founding dates back nearly to the beginning of the Common Era, when Roman general Casperius Aelianus made it his home. The current main building is a relative youngster, having been built in the 18th century.

Farming has been organic and biodynamic since 2006, when the estate was acquired by its current owners. The soil tends to be light and sandy mixed with decomposed gneiss and a little clay. While the focus is on traditional grape varieties (mainly Sangiovese, Canaiolo Cillegiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia), the estate also has experimental plots of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The wine-making is identical for all the reds. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in small, non-temperature-controlled conical vats with indigenous yeasts. Total maceration time is three to four weeks. After pressing, the wine is transferred into old barrels for 18 to 20 months’ maturation. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added.

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Rosso di Caspri, Fattoria di Caspri ($31.21, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from young vines. 12.3% ABV. 650 cases made. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of bitter cherry, fresh herbs, slate, turned earth and a little ash. “Kind of meaty” is the first (and accurate) comment about the flavour of this medium-bodied and very dry wine. Red fruit, tingly acidity and fine astringent tannins made for a somewhat austere if appealingly rustic mouthful. Finishes clean. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Poggio Cuccule, Fattoria di Caspri ($41.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from 45-year-old vines. 125 cases made. 13.1% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Gorgeous, floral nose of cherry, fresh almond and old wood. Medium-bodied. A sip is like biting into a morello cherry. Fresh, fleet, intense and pure. The energy is palpable and the wine seems lit from within by glowing acidity. The tannins are fruit-cloaked. Minerals, wood and earth undertones add depth, not darkness. Finishes long and clean. Stunning Sangiovese. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2014, Casperius, Fattoria di Caspri ($67.31, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. 12.7% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Closed nose that with coaxing reveals red fruit, dried herb, violet, leather and mint notes and a whiff of barnyard. In the mouth, it’s fuller-bodied, smoother, rounder and less acidic than its flightmates, though it does share some of the Rosso’s meatiness. Depth, breadth and length it has in spades though it would probably benefit from a year or two to come together. Perhaps a little overshadowed by the Poggio Cuccule, I suspect this would prove wholly satisfactory on its own at dinner. (Buy again? Maybe.)

IGT Toscana 2010, Luna Blu, Fattoria di Caspri ($28.50 in 2013, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
An orange wine made from a 50-50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Macerated on the skins for four weeks before pressing. Matured in small wood barrels. No filtering, fining or added sulphur. Under 100 cases made. 13.3% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV at the time, now WINO. The newest vintage is slated to arrive later this spring.

Bronze with a rosé cast. Sultry nose of “elderflower,” sawdust and hints of apricot skin and dried tangerine peel. Rich and smooth in the mouth, bright acidity notwithstanding. Fruity yet dry, the flavours tending to citrus and spice with a mineral undercurrent. Faint tannins add a little grit to the otherwise sleek texture. Long. As mentioned in my October 2013 tasting note, the winemaker has stated that the wine would be at its apogee in 2017. In the event, while it may not be the deepest, most structured or even most involving orange wine, it is definitely a pleasure to drink. Paired beautifully with a selection of cheeses from Yannick, especially a raw-milk L’Étivaz. (Buy again? Moot. But I’m looking forward to the new vintage.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

Odd flightfellows

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Colline Lucchesi 2013, Palistorti, Tenuta di Valgiano ($29.80, 12767840)
Sangiovese (70%), Merlot (15%) and Syrah (15%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines around 20 years old. Manually harvested. The sorted grapes are gravity-fed into open wooden vats and crushed by hand or foot. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts, one supposes) and macerated for around two weeks with occasional punch-downs and pump-overs. Racked, settled and gravity-fed into lightly toasted French oak barrels (5% new) for malolactic fermentation and 12 months’ maturation. Blended and transferred into concrete vats for six months’ additional maturation. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Appealing nose of cherry, tar, turned earth, Asian spices and a fresh, almost ferny note. A medium- to full-bodied mouthful of ripe fruit, bright acidity and firm but not rigid tannins. Despite the superficial sleekness, broad, deep and long. Beautifully balanced and complete, modern yet also terroirtorial. I’m usually unenthusiastic about blends of Sangiovese with international varieties but this is exceptional. It was also the only wine in the tasting that absolutely everyone around the table liked. The price seems more than fair. (Buy again? Yes.)

Swartland 2014, Family Red Blend, A.A. Badenhorst ($40.00, 12275298)
An unorthodox blend – around two-thirds Syrah with Tinta Barroca, Cinsault and Grenache – from estate-grown and purchased grapes. Farming practices are organic or nearly so. Manually harvested. The whole clusters, including stems, are crushed by foot and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete and wood tanks with twice-daily punch-downs. Given extended maceration (up to six months) before pressing. Transferred to 4,000-litre barrels for 16 months’ maturation. Blended just before bottling. Sulphur (pre- and post-fermentation) is the only addition. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Complex, warm-climate nose of prune, plum, eucalyptus, black olive, dark minerals and eventually dried herbs. Full-bodied, rich and dense, balanced and savoury. Round tannins and smooth acidity provide sufficient structure. The flavours linger long and tend to the darker side of the spectrum: black fruit, slatey minerals, smoke, leather, compost, animale and a volatile note that puts me in mind of charred eucalyptus but that one taster describes as “electrical tape.” Not quite my style but definitely drinkable and as Old Worldish as New. (Buy again? Would gladly drink if offered but doubt I’d buy a bottle.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

February 9, 2017 at 14:04

Very Volpaia

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Chianti Classico 2013, Volpaia ($26.65, 10858262)
Sangiovese (90%) and Merlot (10%) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Destemmed and lightly crushed. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs in temperature controlled (80-86F) tanks lasted 14 days. The wine was then left to macerate on the skins for seven more days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was transferred to Slavonian oak botti for 14 months’ maturation. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Textbook Chianti nose of cherry, dried leaves, tobacco and terracotta. Medium-bodied and silky textured. Lean fruit, bright acidity, Burgundian tannins, a mineral substrate and a drying, bitter-edged finish give it an appealing austerity. Balanced and approachable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Chianti Classico 2013, Riserva, Castello di Volpaia ($36.75, 00730416)
100% Sangiovese from organically farmed vines grown in five vineyards. The grapes from each parcel are vinified separately and the best barrels are blended to make this bottling. Manually harvested. Destemmed and lightly crushed. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs in temperature controlled (80-86F) tanks lasted 14 days. The wine was then left to macerate on the skins for seven more days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured for two years, 80% in used Slavonian oak botti and French oak casks and 20% in new French oak cask, then blended and lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Closed at first but eventually gorgeous: cherry, leather, sandalwood, “terracotta tiles” (per another taster). Lusher than the Volpaia though still medium-bodied. Ripe but not heavy fruit, animating acidity, wonderful minerals and real depth. Quite tannic yet balanced. The oak is discreet (more so than in some earlier vintages, if memory serves), not that I’m complaining. Very long mineral-, leather- and tobacco-scented finish. Pure and structured, rich yet austere in that way that few non-Chianti reds can be. Even better in five to 10 years. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

MWG October 27, 2016, tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

November 23, 2016 at 15:24

Sangiovese purissimo

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Chianti Classico 2013, Riecine ($28.25, 00134833)
100% Sangiovese from organically farmed grapes averaging 25 years old and rooted in limestone and clay in a 450-500 m high vineyard located near Siena. The estate is converting to biodynamic farming. Manually harvested. The destemmed grapes were placed in shallow bins, crushed by foot, then transferred to open-top vats and cement tanks for 40 days’ maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The grapes were pressed and the wine was transferred to a mix of cement tanks, used casks and big wooden barrels for 18 months’ maturation during which the wine is racked every four months. Residual sugar (per the winery): < 0.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Lovely nose: cherry, terracotta, leather, pencil shavings, blond tobacco. In the mouth, medium-bodied, very dry and nicely balanced, restrained but not austere. The ripe-sweet fruit is remarkably pure, aglow with acidity. Sleek tannins coat the teeth and gums with a light, lingering astringency. There’s some mineral depth (more may come with time) and a long spicy finish. That the wine blossomed when chewed and was best three hours after carafing indicates a certain development potential. (That said, a glass from a bottle opened 24 hours earlier was faintly oxidized and considerably less charming.) It may not be an archetypical Chianti – the weight and texture are positively Burgundian while the fruit, so direct in its expression, seems closer to a fine Brunello’s – but if you’re a Sangiovese fan, you don’t want to miss this elegant wine. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Written by carswell

April 20, 2016 at 12:39

Easy-drinkers from Tuscany and Touraine

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Rosso di Montalcino 2013, Altesino ($26.45, 11472345)
100% Sangiovese Grosso from younger vines in the Altesino, Pianezzine, Macina and Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyards. Given a one- to two-day cold soak and seven to ten days’ maceration with racking and pump-overs. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (28-30°C) stainless steel tanks and lasts 15-20 days. Matured six to eight months in old 5,000- to 10,000-litre Slavonian oak barrels and a minimum of three months in bottle. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Red berries, black cherry, iodine, marzipan and, as another taster noted, “umami.” Medium-bodied, silky textured and very dry. The deliciously pure fruit is structured by lacy tannins and bright acidity, while minerals and bitter black cherry mingle on the clean, nicely astringent finish. Faint tobacco and floral (violet?) notes linger. Fans of here-now Sangioveses need not hesitate. (Buy again? Yep.)

Touraine 2014, Le Bon ami, Domaine de La Garrelière ($26.65, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No chaptalization. Matured six to eight months in concrete tanks. Lightly filtered before bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Complex nose of Chinese preserved plums, pepper brine, black tea leaves and more. Medium-bodied, supple, smooth, fresh and pure. The fruit (cherry and black currant) comes with a faint green note pitched somewhere between cedar shoot and tobacco leaf. The acidity’s sleek and the tannins are low-key, though there’s a bit of astringency on the long finish, which also brings a hint of spice. Not a grab-you-by-the-throat wine but drinkable indeed. It may well gain depth and complexity with a couple of years in the cellar. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Written by carswell

March 23, 2016 at 10:11