The team sheet looked rather familiar – Fiscali, Magnum, Wardy, Raw, Leechy and myself. Dusty, Vestier and Boycey all not quite managing it this year. Six intrepid explorers; ready to test themselves, a wine region and several restaurants to the max. For the full retrospective of the three previous “editions” please see the links below.
May 2014 – Burgundy – a very special trip
May 2015 – Piedmont – Foxes behind ears
May 2016 – Rhone Epic – En Parallel
The format for 2017 was to follow that laid out previously – if it ain’t broke…
Pre-trip dinner was attended by half the team just about making it quorate. Wardy was in charge and the three wines went down well. One of the “Firsts” this year was rose on the trip, we’d never done one before but they snuck into this trip at a tasting and pre-dinner drinks. Chez Wardy the line up was Bugundian Rose 2016 from none other than Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey who we had a great visit with all the way back in May 2014, Haut Bailly 2000 a classical claret, from Magnum, that Wardy was still raving about the next morning & Guado al Tasso 2007, from Raw, who we would be visiting on the Friday morning.
Thursday morning arrived and all but Leechy who would be joining us at Friday lunch boarded the “Oxford – Pisa” express…everything was slipping into an ominously comfortable pattern, a little like a bunch of 6 year olds on Christmas morning. A couple of bottles of Tattinger Comte de Champagne 2002, courtesy of Magnum, kept us very comfortable in-flight and before we knew it we were being greeted by our driver for the next few days and incorrigible music fan – Fabrizio Colombaioni (we came strongly recommended by the team at Biserno and was top notch). Fabrizio does nothing to dispel the cliche of the Italian driver as being fast and without compromise. With Fiscali and Wardy’s spines in a new alignment we ended the 45 minute drive to Tenuta di Biserno our lunch destination.
I work with these wines all the time and have done since the estate started, a few other blogs can be found HERE including one of a previous trip. We were greeted by the charming Niccolo Finizzola, winemaker Helena Lindberg and consultant Colleen McKettrick as soon as we arrived. A glass of, yes you guessed it, Rose this being the Sof Rose 2016 was quickly placed in our hand and we were given some background by Niccolo on the veranda. Sof was drinking really well, it is a blend of Syrah and Cab Franc and has really good fruit. The lunch that followed was just delicious, fresh ingredients done relatively simply with amazing flavours. Even the fact that we were quickly onto politics, and Brexit more specifically, didn’t dampen the enjoyment. First up with lunch was Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Lodovico Antinori’s estate in Marlborough, New Zealand – another first as we’d not managed to notch a Kiwi wine before on the trips. This was zesty as it should be but without dominating acidity. Then it was time for the reds as anitpasti gave way to pasta Insoglio 2015 from the adjoining estate of Campo de Sasso (also where the Sof comes from) is a wine I love drinking at home, rich fruit but not heavy in weight it is perfect Tuesday/Wednesday pasta wine.
We were now onto the Biserno wines themselves – Il Pino di Biserno 2014 – leading the way. Cedar and some tobacco, juicy midweight. There is very little Biserno 2014 and no Lodovico in 2014 (it was a tricky, wetter and cooler vintage) so this has a lot of very good fruit in it. It should drink from now on and offers a great introduction to Biserno. Biserno 2012 was next and is a wine I have tasted a few times. It has a pungent, full and delicious nose with oodles of decadent fruit. Yes it will be better and better over the next 3-6 years but it is so easy to appreciate and enjoy now. We were then turned into taste test guinea pigs as we tried the Biserno 2013. Lodovico is a little unsure whether to physically release the 2013 onto the market just yet, we were impressed though it is clearly a full year behind the 2012 in development the fruit is a little redder and the whole package will meld in the next year. We finished the lunch with a glass of Tokaji 6 Puttonyos 2007 from Baron Bornemisz which is a tiny estate Lodovico has out there. It had a nice zesty citrus edge to balance the sweetness. We were really sorry to leave what had been a really great visit. The wines here go from strength to strength anf the welcome was exceptional.
We were next due at Guado al Melo literally 10 minutes down the road. Driving past the restaurant we would be at for dinner later. Guado al Melo was a recommendation from a friend and was a stark contrast to Biserno in many ways. After a tour around the winery, one that tries to be as self-sufficient as possible, we were given a tasting by owner/creator/winemaker Michele Scienza. This property was bought in 1998 and the entire estate was re-planted in 1999. Michele is 4th generation wine producer, originally from Trentino.
Criseo 2015 – The only white in this tasting. Quite kerosine like with oily mineral texture and then an almost sweet oak like character, a good textured rich white.
Antillo 2015 – Essentially a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon with a tiny little Petit Verdot in there. Freshly fruited, almost carbonically so, darker fruits but easy to enjoy, some spice.
Rute 2015 – This is a belnd of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot with 15 month ageing of which only 10% is new wood. Black fruits but not heavy, will age well for 2-4 years.
Jassarte 2013 – Is only ever about 3000 bottles and is from a whole spread of Georgian varietals. Lavender, tar and some rosemary, nicely delicate oak use, some iodine, really interesting.
Atis 2013 – The blend here is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Dark fruit and a little cedar, very vinous, a rich full wine. Bold but good.
Energy levels were still good but a brief interlude was needed so we dropped our bags at our, eccentric hotel and had a brief break before we gathered from pre-dinner drinks at the “Ward-Hargrove” suite.
“Magnum” was rattling through the “contribution” bottles he had brought and we were straight into his – Domaine Tempier Rose 2016 from magnum for apertivo time. It was an excellent choice once chilled down, nicely fruited but with a proper old school vinous feel – I struggle with notes for rose but this was very good. A good wine that happens to be a rose if that makes sense!
Into the wagon and off down the road to Osteria La Magona. I was excited about this place – really good meat and a nice list, what could go wrong? One thing we do not do on these trips is specifically go hunting 2 and 3 star restaurants. We want authentic places that want to sell good wines not have them sat on a list, we also want to be able to relax. When Wardy declared loudly that “I am fully aware that nobody finds me funnier than me” we think the other dinners and the staff got the idea…fortunately I think they enjoyed us and much as we enjoyed them! We were looking forward to Leechy joining us the next day, we also felt it a shame he missed Magona…he’d have loved it.
We had sharing dishes to start – none of which will have done our Cholesterol anything but harm, delicious all round. With these we had two whites Paleo 2015 from La Macchiole & Vistamare 2013 from Ca’Marcanda (Gaja) and set Wardy off on his easy red – Promis 2015, Ca’Marcanda, Gaja. Paleo has a nicely toasted feel, a little like a combination of serious white Bordeaux and chardonnay – it is after all a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The Vistamare is a blend of Vermentino (aged in steel) and Viognier (aged in wood) and has generous but fresh feel, nicely appetising. I have to say I have always liked many of the Italian whites, as a nation they often seem rude about their own abilities here. The Wardy red – Promis – is a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese and offers really good succulent drinking, nothing pretentious.
Starters done and the restaurant filling up we were onto the main dish – two massive slabs of steak. This restaurant is linked to Tuscany’s most famous butcher Dario Cecchini. The meat was brilliant but one of the gastronomic finds of the trip was a side of “leek fritti”, we had three!
So what to drink, well having arrived and ordered four bottles of wine and masses of food our request for corkage was not met with even a moments hesitation, we launched into one each of Wardy’s bottles – Volnay 1er Cru Les Champans 2011 from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey and then Chateau Figeac 2004. The Volnay is the first red I have had from PYCM, 2011 is a tricky red vintage too. It was excellent to see that all he has done is make a tender wine that is all Pinot fruit with good minerality, no efforts to make a powerhouse where a balanced one would not be possible anyway. The Figeac was really good, cool fruits and balanced, it invited on to drink it, just what it should be.
Tignanello 2001 from Antinori had all this time been sat in a decanter. It was a little brown on first tasting but the two hours of air had worked very well. This had a good orange and red bricky fruit with a bit of creosote, balanced and savoury. Massimo Piccin who owns Sapaio was sat at another table and sent over a little of the 2009 to try, we were impressed and immediately went to order Sapaio 2008 from the list, he gave us the bottle which was very kind. It is a Cab Sauv/Cab Franc/Petit Verdot blend and is a nice mix of richness and easy drinking pleasure, impressive. He seemed to enjoy the Figeac we sent his way!
Osteria La Magona is a winner, you should go, great fun to be had.
Back at the ranch and before a slight altercation with a vociferous German who made lot of noise about wanting to go to bed (contradiction?!?!) we enjoyed one of Raw’s bottles – Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Stella di Campalto – a rich style of Brunello that is starting to mellow nicely.
A good day done (about 10 producers and 21 wines) we overnighted at Casone di Ugolino and prepared for what would be a bigger Friday – some big names to tick off.
A prompt start saw us away from the lodgings and off to visit Guado al Tasso at 9am. Vestier had lined this visit up, so a thank you due there. We were received by the charming Luisa Foschetti who immediately joined us in the wagon, with a colleague Rachele, and we headed off in land across the estate. What I had never realised was the true scale of the Guado al Tasso estate, they have 300ha under vine with 210ha of that in the one site where we were. Now 210 ha in one lump would fit a lot of golf courses! As well as vines they also have forests with wild boar. Production takes in four main wines, which we tasted later. We were given a tour of the impressive cellars and got a really good feel for the place.
We then made our way to a lovely little outhouse that had been set up as a tasting room with brilliant meats and splendid focaccia. In all honesty we would have skipped breakfast if we’d known.
We tasted four wines:
Vermentino 2016 – 100% Vermentino, made to be drunk fresh and clean as an aperitif or with sea food, it does exactly what it should, well made energetic and fruited.
Il Bruciato 2015 – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot & 15% Syrah, this needs a little time but has a rich nose and some good structure, just 6-18 months should see it soften nicely I think.
Cont’Ugo 2013 – 100% Merlot and only the third vintage of this wine (there will be no 2014), a selection from the estate. Good balance and nice, quite opulent fruit, good flesh, quite extrovert. One to follow.
Guado al Tasso 2014 – As mentioned regarding Biserno, 2014 is a difficult vintage but this is a good wine, medium bodied but quite rich at the same time, they must have done lots of selection to get to here – a fine effort.
It was after the tasting as we reflected on how well we had been looked after that we were all pushed near to tears as Luisa, innocently and politely asked Wardy “do you mind if I kiss you (goodbye)?”…If Luisa had asked anyone else it would have been amusing but to ask JCW was too much for us to bear…
A very fine visit done we had 25 minutes to “kill” before Sassicaia and we did this my following Fabrizio’s advice and going into the Bolgheri town for a little shopping. La Bottega di Elena was the recommendation and I think Mr Ward thought he was in again with Elena welcoming him with almost open arms. Olive bought and pain meds for Mr Magnums back procured we had the 5 minute drive down “the” road in Bolgheri to…
Here we were greeted by the elegant and enthusiastic Elena Branchini. Another host who not only gave us a great insight but shamed our lack of Italian with another performance of immaculate English. We were shown the barrel halls, with individual rotating barrels that I hadn’t seen before.
The first Sassicaia was 1945 (they had two bottles of it there – 10.5% alcohol) but the first vintage that was sold was 1968. The estate comprises 13 plots of around 45 years old vines and around 30% new wood is used. We tasted 3 wines (along with more meat and some cheese) and I have to say we were very impressed.
Le Difese 2015 – The 2002 was the first vintage of this wine. Fresh and clean this was very impressive, totally unpretentiously easy to drink, gentle, elegant.
Guidalberto 2015 – Was a step up, richer, the fruit a little degraded but in a good sense, the volume a shade higher, good structure.
Sassicaia 2014 – Cool red fruits, a very classy elegant and tender Sassicaia, nothing forced, a little darker character on the palate but this is, to be crude, every bit as Burgundian as it is Bordelais. Impressively understated.
As we knew we would be coming across lists with Sassicaia on them we asked Elena for her ideas on a vintage to drink now. She mentioned both of 2010 and 1998. It had been a terrific visit, I like the confident but introverted nature of Sassicaia.
The text had been received – Leechy was en route from Pisa to join us for Lunch @ La Pineta. Every person we had mentioned La Pineta to had given it the unreserved thumbs up. One even said the best fish restaurant in Italy. We had a splendid time here but not until we had explained the brief to the team – confusingly there are twins who serve in the restaurant. We explained we wanted to order lots of wines, have the tasting menu (except for one person – no prizes for guessing who) and be in our wagon heading to Montalcino by 3.15 (we had arrived at 12.45). Once this was digested we all took of our regulation blue blazers welcomed Leechy “aboard” and got cracking.
Raw’s phone nearly ended up in the sea (25yards away) but with the deal done we were off and running. Mr Magnum decided that our intent needed to be reinforced so set about the wine list in something of a frenzy. We had agreed that a white only lunch would be a new innovation and probably sensible given the food.
Poggio alle Gazze 2013 Dell’Ornellaia was the first bullet fired and is certainly a complex chap being a blend of 69% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Viognier, 12% Vermentino & 7% Verdicchio. There is a nice toasty edge to this from a little bit of barrel fermentation and this all blends in well to give a medium bodied slightly waxy wine.
Cervaro 2011, Castello della Sala from the Antinori estate in-land was next up, from magnum. I was pleased to have this as it was very much on the target list. It’s a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Grechetto, I know the wine quite well. The 2011 is spot on now to my mind. Waxy, Oily and again a little unctuous this is a mellow wine of texture rather than fruit power. It worked well with the food.
I decided to chip in with a suggestion now and was pleased to discover that none of the team knew the co-opertive of Cantina Terlano so we had:
Pinot Bianco Verberg Reserva 2007 from Terlano in magnum. This is 100% Pinot Bianco (Blanc) from up in Alto Adige. It totally belies its 10 years of age. Both peach and citrus show but as with the previous two wines it is the texture and mouthfeel (hate the phrase) where the wine excels. I don’t own any Terlano but I need to.
Mr Magnum was back at the helm for our final magnum of the lunch – Terre Alte 2011 from Livio Felluga. Now this is a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco & Sauvignon and is a wine I knew of but had never had (as far as I am aware). I really liked it, there was a real sense of the sea about the saline nose, the 6 years of ageing had taken the edge off any primary fruits and made this more complete. As we settled up and ordered a quick coffee we decided something sweet with the petit fours was called for – Muffato della Sala 2011 from Castello della Sala by Antinori – was the choice and very nice too.
The food here was superb, no mucking about with foams etc, just good ingredients done superbly well, I hope the pics do it some credit.
It is definitely a place to target, the wine list also being good and it is only about 45-50 minutes from Pisa (25 minutes for Fabrizio!). We now got into the van for the 2 hour transfer to the Montalcino area. Fiscali cranked up the spotify and we were on a nostalgic ride from AC/DC through James, Transvision Vamp and The Levellers to ZZ Top. There was one “mute” moment when a “delta neutral trade” had to be administered but otherwise it was a smooth journey at great speed.
We arrived at our next destination – Casanova di Neri – just after 5pm as planned. It was a fly-by tasting – our only Brunello estate visit.
Ibbianco 2016 – A blend of 85% Vermentino and 15% Grechetto which has a vibrant freshness and a dash of spearmint about it.
Rosso di Montalcino 2014 – had a nice easy note of wet meat and a few herbs, a gentle, easy drinking expression of Sangiovese.
Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – Was long and bright with good drive and a certain immature gentleness. I liked this and could drink a fair bit of it.
Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2012 – This is a different location, the wine has more body and a succulent texture, very good.
Pietradonice di Montalcino 2015 – This is their Cabernet Sauvignon and is an altogether different scenario, richer more decadent but understandably not as true to the location.
We then dropped our bags at the Albergo il Giglio and had a quick break before re-gathering in the bar for a bottle of fresh and uplifting Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV (G&T for Wardy). Wardy wasn’t totally sure why he had a washing machine in his room but there we go – he never offered to wash anything.
Spotify was back in action next as we drove the 45 minutes to dinner at il Silene. I was very excited to be going here as I have been a few times before and love Roberto Rossi’s cooking.
There was an extra flavour (or colour more accurately and that colour was blue) to the evening as Fiscali is a massive Chelsea fan. There was a strong possibility/probability that they would win the league on this very evening. Should this scenario play out then Fiscali had made it very clear that there would be a special bottle or two (as if we weren’t doing well enough!!). However, the catch here was that the result, either way, would not be definite until after 10pm continental time. Given that a special bottle would certainly be best decanted and not rushed a compromise was suggested – the bottles would be ordered and the payment would be split, or not, depending on the result – suddenly the number of Chelsea fans around the table was six not one!
With a latish goal all was good! I will now do the notes one by one below. This was wonderful evening, we were well looked after with splendid food – no menus needed. Everyone was in the “zone”.
One special moment later on in the meal is certainly worthy of re-telling. Wardy takes a lot of, well deserved, grief on these trips but he is to a degree the cheerleader, always ready with any amusing quip/action/re-action/inappropriate comment. As he got tired later in the evening he came back from a trip to the loo and to everyones horror said “here you go have my Soldera it’s a little wasted to me now”…what he didn’t realise was that an executive decision had already been taken to do this exchange so what he was about to do was poor his now Volnay into someone else’s Soldera…the look on his and the potential recipients face as his genuine “generosity” was declined, in an animated fashion(!), was priceless – most amusing and will live long in the memory!
Fiscali’s magnum for the trip was Corton-Charlemagne 2011 from Bonneau du Martray, it was a little shy on the mid-palate to start with but with time in glass it grew and grew and became a little more opulent and a little more saline, really rather lovely. Magnum and I had then lined up a pair of Brunellos – Brunello di Montalcino 2006 from Il Poggione and Brunello di Montalcino 2006 from Sesti. I know a lot of people rave about the 2010 Vintage for Brunello and for sure it is good and sold well but for me the proven and proper vintage is 2006. I think the Sesti just about edged it for people but I am more of a fan of the masculine and less compromising Poggione, both were good. Sesti a little bit more supple.
It was time for my magnum now and it goes back to the Piedmont trip – Barolo Cascina Francia 2007 from Giacomo Conterno. I was delighted with how good it was. The 2007 vintage was a “showy” one but Roberto (Conterno) doesn’t really do showy, this was all soft cool red fruits and lovely with the food. The second of Wardy’s Volnay 1er Cru Les Champans 2011 from PYCM was next up and drank just as well, it was a good foil to the Barolo.
We then entered the aforementioned “Special bottles” phase. I have always loved, adored is a better word, the Soldera wines. We started out with the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2002 a freak of a wine. 2002 was a bit of disaster for many European wine regions (certainly Tuscany, Barolo, Rhone etc) and poor in many others (Bordeaux, Spain etc), only Burgundy, Champagne and Germany seemed to escape. Two Italian producers totally bucked the trend – Giacomo (Roberto) Conterno and Gianfranco Soldera. No real reasoning and for sure some good fortune is involved but this Brunello 2002 is a gorgeous wine, tender, underling spice but a lovely, almost perfect melding of red and black fruits. To have it alongside a Sassicaia 1998 from Tenuta San Guido was special and also goes to show the vast differences in this massive region. People say Northern and Southern Rhone are different regions well Bolgheri and Brunello certainly are! The Sassicaia 1998 is an over-performer with darker fruit but a mellow bell-pepper note and a lovely ferrous side.
As though things weren’t special enough the Soldera stakes were now upped! Pegasos 2005 Toscana Rosso, Soldera and Brunello di Montalcino 1996, Soldera were both ordered. I was particularly excited as I had had neither before. In 2005 there where two barrels that Gianfranco was just not quite so happy with, evolving differently, he released them as Pegasos 2005. This had such an adorably sweet fruit character, red ripe fruits and a little wafting of white pepper, simply put it is just delicious. The 1996 was, as one might expect a little more strict and serious. The savoury and worn leather side just shows that bit more. I loved it, old cigar tobacco and bruised fruit, even a brown plump prune if that makes sense. The only people I know who regularly make wines that are so adorably drinkable on release and then age well too are Francois Mitjavile and Gianfranco Soldera. I’d love them to meet but I have a feeling it would be a meal that might never end.
We left Il Silene late but very happy, a special evening – thank you Roberto and team.
Back at the shack and to see us through to 3am in our courtyard it was time to re-visit the Chateau Figeac 2004 – still classical and and the Guado al Tasso 2007 – nicely done, but taste buds now exhausted.
It was probably a good thing we had just the one visit on Saturday morning. Tenuta di Trinoro is about 45 minutes from Montalcino and there were certainly a few delicate bodies on arrival at 10.30. The amazing sense of space when you get there is quite something and we were very well looked after by Carlo (Franchetti).
This is an estate I know well from several tastings down the years but it was my first visit. A real highlight for me. It was excellent that we also got to taste many of the wines from the Passopisciaro Estate on Etna as well.
After a look at the vines and some great snippets of information from Carlo we adjourned to the tasting room – a cool shaded kitchen. We actually started in Sicily from a tasting perspective.
Passobianco 2015, Tenuta di Passopisciaro is 100% Chardonnay, it sees no oak at all. It is a wine I buy regularly (“It’s in your price range” as Magnum said to Ward) – it has a cool ripe Chablis feel, lanolin and mellow herbs.
Passopisciaro 2012, Tenuta di Passopisciaro is a 100% Nerello Mascalese, a light skinned red variety with obvious links to Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. It is a wine that, for me has many of the traits of a top white wine as much as red. Strawberry fruits and some white pepper.
Contrada Rampante 2008, Tenuta di Passopisciaro – The first of three single vineyard wines from Etna now. This has a mulled fruit character and quite a bit of richness. In honesty it was my least favourite of the three, down to age I think.
Contrada Porcaria 2010, Tenuta di Passopisciaro – This was more vibrant and actually a little fuller in body, black pepper too, delicious now for me.
Contrada Sciaranuova 2013, Tenuta di Passopisciaro – This had white pepper and strawberry fruit, nervously energetic, really good.
Sancaba 2015, Rosso Toscana – This is from another estate and is specifically the vinous child of Carlo. Sancaba is an acronym which stands for San Casciano dei Bagni, the small town at 650m altitude where Carlo grows Pinot Noir, it is a rugged borderland that marks the end of Tuscany and the beginning of Umbria and Lazio. There was no 2014 made. I had the 2013 recently and was very impressed. The 2015 sees no new oak (the 2013 saw a little, not that it showed). This is red fruited with cream and has a definite Pinot feel but with a nicely ripe core!
Campo di Magnacosta 2014, Tenuta di Trinoro – Now we were back on the actual estate we were at. Magnacosta, Tenaglia and Camagi are all specific sites on the vineyards down by the winery. Magnacosta has a cool berry fruit, good sweet attack, then a lovely gravelly, cool stone, followed by a nicely mineral palate with a little freshness, good-greenness. Understated and balanced.
Campo di Tenaglia 2014 , Tenuta di Trinoro – A thick limestone soil. More vibrant, more full, good fruits, juiciness. A shade richer.
Campo di Camagi 2014, Tenuta di Trinoro – Expressive, balanced, a nice tightening dryness on the palate, really lovely, good fruit combines well with the good acidity.
Le Cupole di Trinoro 2014, Tenuta di Trinoro – The second wine, by selection, to the Trinoro itself. Like raspberry coulee, lovely freshness and a bit of good greenness, I am very impressed with this, a very good Cupole and all the more so when you think of the wetter season.
Palazzi 2014, Tenuta di Trinoro – Always 100% Merlot, extrovert and almost excessive, rich and full, this is high-octane. Hedonistic.
Tenuta di Trinoro 2014, Tenuta di Trinoro – Concentrated and deliciously focussed, the move over the last few years to mellow the alcohol and if you like the turn down the volume is a good move to my mind. A very classy wine.
Franchetti 2013, Tenuta di Passopisciaro – One last wine as Fabrizio was revving the engine, this is back on Etna and is a rather extreme wine, 70% Petit Verdot & 30% Cesanese d’Affile (the blend varies widely from vintage to vintage). It has a real port-like richness but then a more savoury palate, iodine and licorice, a good rich wine for when you want a savoury excess.
Carlo had given us a brilliant insight into three estates and almost countless varieties, so very generous on a Saturday morning. As we left Wardy had a “brief” moment of geographical and cultural confusion as he asked Carlo if he was going “Bullfighting” in Rome later that day…time for lunch surely…
Now the Saturday lunch on this trip is key – everything builds to it. What we always look for is a superb location that, understands the ethos of the long vinous lunch…the kind of place where staff aren’t looking at their watches and just give good advice and good relaxed but prompt service. We’ve been lucky so far and we hit the spot again here.
Ristorante la Botte Piena in Montefollonico is a place you need to go. Sit outside if you can, we did. No prizes for guessing who got to the list first…yep that Magnum chap. Before we wanted to ask if the Rhone magnum that Leechy had brought would be ok to drink there we decided to get ordering. A spot for the post lunch line-up pic (“Shelfie”, “benchy”) had been identified. Leechy tried hard to contact home, not getting a signal the phone hit the table with a “well, you saw me try!” – We were off and running…
Isole & Olena Chardonnay 2013 & Filip Fruilano 2013 from Miani where the whites to get us going. The I & O was all minerals and ripe stones fruits, the Miani was a little subdued and a shade flat…such a good producer but just not quite firing here. Magnum had a nice idea next, a trio of 2001 Brunellos:
Brunello di Montalcino 2001 from Salvioni – This is a house I do not know as well as I should but its a cracking wine, all tar and roses with a bit of Iodine, my pick of the three.
Brunello di Montalcino Phenomena 2001 from Sesti – this is the top Cuvee from Sesti and has more richness, not quite as good as the straight 2006 the previous night, to my mind, but good.
Brunello di Montalcino 2001 from Poggio di Sotto – A wine I have had before, the middle ranking of these three for me, good weight, full maturity, nice.
Now we went older, the Tignanello 1986 was muted but I almost insisted we do the 1988, a really special vintage in Tuscany. Tignanello 1988 from Antinori – this is fully mature, leather and sweet forest floor flavours, soy and some red fruit, a nice contrast. By this time we has overcome the idea of the Rhone magnum so Leechy’s L’Ermite Ermitage 1999 from M.Chapoutier (who we visited last year) was decanted into two decanters, one for each end of the 6 man table! This was ferrous and dark fruited, at a great stage of it’s evolution, savoury but deep and serious, a little bacon fat and great with the food. Raw had one of his moments and fired off an order for Barolo Riserva Madonna 1999 from Podere Rocche dei Manzoni a nice wine but may be slightly out of its depth here. Raw always keeps us on out toes, we can only assume the Beaujolais and Patagonia Zinfandel sections of the list were rather bare. Sorry Raw!
Time to get serious again now – the prices for top wines on this list were in places offensively good so in we ploughed.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2005 from Soldera was not quite as precise as the previous evenings Solderas and maybe on reflection outside on a warm day was not the perfect place but this was still very good, bruised fruits and maturity, the degraded fruit and gentle tannins making it delicious for right now. We followed it up with Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2000 from Soldera which I have never had before. The 2000 vintage is a more tricky one, placed between two superb vintages. This was more gentle, very good though. We then went for a few younger wines from names we felt we had missed so far.
I spotted Rosso di Montalcino 2009 from Cerbaiona on the list and felt it had to go! Really really lovely this is exactly what Rosso should be like, fruited (red) and easy drinking with the tannin volume turned down a notch from Brunello, spot on! Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo Riserva 2012, Fontodi was another to catch the eye, firstly we hadn’t had a single Chianti and secondly I remember being impressed by the 1997 a while ago. It had a richer more lush feel but contrasted well and got the nod generally. On the topic of names we hadn’t yet had – Pergole Torte 2011 from Montevertine seemed an obvious wine to take on, it proved popular and a success, it’s a little while since I had had Pergole Torte but I’ve always been a fan.
Thinking back to the trip to Sassicaia the previous day (28 hours that felt like three weeks!) we had taken the advice of Elena the night before and had a good bottle of 1998 so we should really take her up on her other piece of advice – Sassicaia 2010, Tenuta San Guido. She was spot on, young yes but delicious and quite showy for “Sass”, if I remember rightly (unlikely by this stage!) this got a few WOTL votes. Examining the list Barolo Pie Franco 2011 from Cappellano “shouted” at me to be drunk. This is a hard wine to find and usually has to be bought about 6:1 with the normal (also v.good) Barolo Pie Rupestris. The price was silly and fortunately the wine lived up to my excitement, refined to the max. Magnum then, wisely, ordered a livener – Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV – there is probably no one wine that has appeared more on this blog than this, another note is not needed – it hit the spot though!
As we started to joke about missing our dinner booking and managing to get the obligatory pics taken there was one last order – Muffa Nobilis 2014 from Palazzone – which I remember liking, but more than that I can’t offer you. The pictures that were taken and the consumption recorded did seem to have gone down rather well with the locals!!
One of the most notable things about Tuscany, as almost anyone who has been will say, is the stunning light you get, especially in the evening. As we drove from lunch to dinner with the music loud we actually stopped for a few photos…they won’t appear here but, Joshua Tree…eat your heart out!
The dinner, that we didn’t need, but cracked on with was at Trattoria Il Pozzo a recommendation from a friend. In a fit of sensibleness we decide that we would keep the dinner wines to “entry level”. I’d like to go back here again as it had a really good local feel to it.
The wines were – Rosso di Montalcino 2013 from Poggio di Sotto, Le Cupole di Trinoro 2014 from Tenuta di Trinoro and Guidalberto 2011 from Tenuta San Guido all went well with the food but note taking was a thing of the past. Wardy decided bed was a better bet than any more food or drink.
Having worried on the way out that we might not get through all the wines we had taken with us we realised there was just one left – the 2nd bottle of Brunello di Montalcino 2005 from Stella di Campalto this we “saw away” on our terrace after dinner. The “job” so to speak, was done. The return journey was all that remained. The adrenalin of there always being a next day always serves to keep you going once one hits Saturday evening it can be different.
The flight back from Grosseto to Oxford was a quiet one…I’ll admit to needing a spitoon on arrival…a few days off the “juice” beckoned.
It had been another memorable few days – great team, great people, lovely places, great food, delicious wines, terrific tunes and most importantly a lot of time laughing!
Before signing off a few people to thank. To the chaps for the invite and the welcome, to all the producers we saw who were unfailingly welcoming and added so much. To Natasha for her travel help. Christelle and especially Valentina for her work on the itinerary. Also to other friends in the trade, and at the producers I am lucky to work with directly, for the recommendations. Fabrizio keep rocking! You never know we might just be back…