Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Takes a Lot of Sunshine....to Make a Super Tuscan Wine !!

I do want to share some more on Alsace wine but this entry is dedicated to my friend Alessandro Dondi at Castello di Bolgheri.

Check out the rich history and tradition of the Castello di Bolgheri by clicking on the above link.
I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro a couple of years ago while doing a tour of Tuscany with my California wine loving friend Sanjoy Ghose.
Castello di Bolgheri is located in the town of Bolgheri, on the Etruscan coast in the province of Livorno. We were scheduled to visit Ornellaia, the very well known and excellent producers of the Super Tuscan, Ornelaia. But since Sanjoy managed to get us to the coast way ahead of our appointment, we had plenty of time for lunch and a little sightseeing in Bolgheri. Just happened to walk into this delightful shop selling locally produced body lotions and creams. I asked the owner why do people drive all the way to the coast to visit Bolgheri. Ah, but of course, Bolgheri is where the famous Italian poet
Giosuè Carducci wrote the poem "Davanti a San Guido", giving everlasting fame to the Viale dei Cipressi ( Cypresses ) As you drive into the town of Bolgheri these stately 200 year old Cypress trees line the road on both sides for a 5 KM stretch.
Then, the charming owner of the shop, Beata, asked me what brought me to Bolgheri. When I told her I was on a wine tasting, wine writing tour of Tuscany, she insisted we meet her husband Alessandro, the wine maker at Castello di Bolgheri. What a marvellous turn of events that turned out to be.

I won't go into details about Super Tuscans. I am sure you know about Sassicaia and the other Super Tuscans but both Sanjoy and I were overwhelmed and duly impressed by the amazing Super Tuscans Alessandro has produced.

The vineyards are about 70 meters above sea level. They are planted facing west southwest. The rows are perpendicular to the Mediterranean Sea
which during the hot summer days allows the afternoon winds coming from the sea to cool the vineyard. The soils are sandy-clayey, skeletal and stone rich and a pH which is mostly basic. This "terroir" produces wines of great subtlety, smooth soft tannins and great complexity with rich aromatics. I noticed when Alex took us into the vineyards that he did a quick inspection of the Cabernet grapes, giving them a gentle squeeze. When I asked him about it
he explained that he wants the skins just

to start getting a touch of softness and that is when he wants to pick. Of course he does lab testing as well. Then he told us that they would be picking these Cabernet grapes tomorrow. Looking a few rows over, he indicated that those Cabernet, Castello was growing for Ornelaia, but that they were not planning to pick for a couple of weeks.

The close-up picture of Alessandro's grapes to the left shows them to be in perfect picking condition. Meanwhile back at the winery we tasted tank samples of the recently harvested Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Wow, I have tasted a lot of tank samples but these were amazing.

Now click on the map to enlarge it. As you can see, the Castello vineyards are located in the same ideal locations as the Ornellaia and Sassicaia vineyards. So what makes the Castello di Bolgheri wines so special? Because they are created by a winemaker with a passion. Truly an artist at work. One of the techniques he employs is called delestage. Very time consuming but with very beneficial results.
Alex joined the Castello in 2005 and as their cellar master here is his wine making philosophy. In his opinion when making a wine, the most important thing is to always have a clear picture in your mind of the kind of wine you want to make. Just like a good chef knows what he wants his dish to taste like, he images the texture,smells and tastes. He knows his grapes and the soils, then lets his feelings and emotions run with his artistic abilities.
And tasting his wines confirms that this winemaker truly makes a super Super Tuscan. In my opinion, among the very best of the Super Tuscans out there.

Fortunately for consumers here in British Columbia, finally almost three years after my visit with Alessandro, they are now available here in BC.
I am looking forward to visiting with Alessandro again and tasting what great wines are all about.

1 comment:

Cathryn Nesbitt said...

This is beautifully written, Wilf! Makes me want to jump on the next plane headed for the old country! The warmth of Italian people just can't be beat, no?
- Cathryn