Visiting Bolgheri wine region
The road along famous wineries
Just one hour driving from Pisa you can find the beautiful Bolgheri wine region. The Bolgheri region is a wine zone in the Maremma that runs parallel to the Tuscan coast in the province of Livorno, named after the town of Bolgheri. Perhaps you already know that Bolgheri is a relatively young wine region in Tuscany. Some pioneers started in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with winery pioneers like Sassicaia, Grattamacco and Michele Satta.
The region is close tot he sea and flat and low in altitude. The region is easy to ride and the wineries are very close to each other so it’s easy to plan more visits in one day.The area is beautiful with medieval hamlets and lush countryside, lined with cypress trees and olive groves. The weather is also fabulous due to its proximity to the coast in Southern Tuscany.
Bolgheri became an internationally known region following an event in 1974 arranged by Decanter where a 6-year-old Sassicaia won over an assortiment of Bordeaux wines. Prior to this, Bolgheri had been relatively anonymous producers of ordinary white wines and rosés. Due to the particular characteristics of the soil and micro climate sunny, dry and moderately windy, the red grape varieties of Bordeaux origin tend to thrive, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
The current set of DOC regulations for Bolgheri red wines became approved in 1994. Before the creation of this DOC, the "Super Tuscans" from the area were typically sold under the simpler designations Vino da tavola or IGT Toscana.
The sub-zone Sassicaia has its own appellation declaration, with up to 85% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Created as a subzone of the Bolgheri DOC in 1994; established as a separate DOC in 2013. In principle, the wineries in the Bolgheri are making great quality wines. Big names like Antinori Guado al Tasso, Ornellaia and Gaja but there are ofcourse also smaller producers like Grattamacco, Macchiole and Campo Sughera. Moreover, there is no space left to place vines, so the soil is also extremely expensive.
The white wine grape most often used in Bolgheri Bianco is Vermentino, which may account for up to 70 percent of the wine. Vermentino is a white-wine grape grown in various locations around the western Mediterranean: northwestern Italy, southern France and the neighboring islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
Here below a list of wineries we visited during our small holiday.
After studying at the agricultural school of the University of Pisa, Michele Satta originally started his career with a fruit and vegetable grower. Today, he translates the love of nature that he has cherished from an early age into viticulture. He produces his wines in a cellar carved out of the rocks in Castagneto Carducci within the Bolgheri appellation.
Twenty five years ago Michele Satta was one of the pioneers of Bolgheri DOC. Antinori released its first Guado al Tasso, with the 1990 vintage. At that time, the entire Bolgheri area consisted of just 275 acres of vines. There were only six producers: Tenuta San Guido, Piermario Meletti Cavallari of Grattamacco, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Guado al Tasso, Eugenio Campolmi, who founded Le Macchiole and Michele Satta.
The path taken by the innovative winemaker Michele Satta was new at Bolgheri. So he set - supported from the beginning in his decisions by his wife Lucy - in addition to the international varieties Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah on the noble vine Sangiovese. Already with the first harvest in the year 1990 it showed, how big their potential is. Nevertheless, this fascinating grape variety is still relatively rare in the relatively young growing region.
In total he makes three red wines under the Bolgheri flag: a basic wine, "Piastraia" and finally "I Castagni". The first two have Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah in the blend, while the their top wine, is a rare blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Teroldego. A pure Sangiovese is also made ("Cavaliere"), quite unusual in Bolgheri, which therefore has to bear the IGP label. The white IGP wines are a Viognier on the one hand (called "Gioven Re") and a blend of Vermentino and Sauvignon on the other ("Costa di Giulia").
My favorite red is the Castagni Bogheri Superiore (91 TSW points). Here below my review:
In the glass an intense dark ruby color.
On the medium+ nose aromas of blackberries, cherry jam and plums with hints of vanilla, coffee, licorice with light mint hint.
On the palate dry, medium++ bodied with medium+ acidity and tannins. Well balanced and layered with a great finish. Would be great to give this a try after 5/10 years.
Campo alla Sughera
In the late afternoon (after some time at the beach) I had a visit at Campo alla Sughera. It’s a beautiful boutique winery with 16.5 hectares vines started by the the German Knauf family who saw their dream come true twenty years ago in the form of a wine estate in the Italian region of Tuscany.At Campo Sughera, Isabel Knauf and her cousin Frederick Knauf are today pursuing a clear goal: making elegant wines with a distinctive identity – including one of the most popular Bolgheri Doc Superiore.
During my visit I walked through the vineyards, had a look at the winery and had a barreltasting in the barrelroom. We finished with a lovely tasting in the tastingroom.
They have a selection of 4 different wines. One white “Arioso” with 100% Vermentino and three red wines. Adeo the most fruity style wine, “Arnione” the Bolgheri Superiore and “Campo alla Sughera IGT” which is only produced in the best vintages. It’s a blend of Petit Verdot (50%) and Cabernet Franc grapes (50%). Two years separate aging for each variety in barriques followed by 36 months in the bottle.
Their wines are with great finesse. Not so broad-shouldered but more discreet,elegant and clear wines.
In the cellar they work in harmony with nature and with respect for the natural laws. A gravity system was implemented here a good twenty years ago. The deep cellar also offers ideal climatic conditions, with constantly low temperatures and a natural humidity – without the need for temperature control. Vinification is handled as a slow process without any time constraints. For less extraction, the must is not stirred so often. Their objective is to preserve the freshness of the harvested grapes; They do not want any ripe, dark aromas. As the warm and dry climate produces highly mature grapes, they employ a light toast for the red wine barrels, too. Campo alla Sughera use large wooden barrels rather than the classic barriques.
This year (20th Anniversary) they changed their winelabels. For the winery’s twentieth anniversary there will naturally be a special edition, but that is all they are saying at the moment.
La Tana del Pirata
In the evening we had dinner with a great view and sunset at La Tana del Pirata close tot he beach. They have a great winelist with excellent wines from the Bolgheri region but also an international selection.
They offer first courses like the famous 'exaggerated' spaghetti and maltagliati (homemade pasta) with bream and truffles, grilled fresh fish, catalane, grand royal shellfish plateau, seafood crudité sand homemade desserts.
Our choice was ‘the catch of the day’ where you can choose which fish and how you want to prepare the fish. When you visit the Bolgheri wineregion it’s a beautiful place to have a great dining experience.
Website restaurant: www.latanadelpirata.com
In the morning we visited Podere Sapaio. We had a tour through the new cellar and after that we visited the vineyards and the estate. It’s a a beautiful place with 25 hectares of vines and a landhouse with a tasting room. Located between the municipalities of Castagneto Carducci and Bibbona, the 25 hectares are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot; varieties.
At the helm is Massimo Piccin, an engineer from Verona, who has been able to realize his dream here since 1999. One of his mottos: "Great wines can't do without men's great passion". The soil originated in the quarter and mainly consists of sand beds and permeable limestone soils. The wines undergo their alcoholic fermentation on steel and the "malo" is done in oak barrels. Refinement takes place on the French barrique for 8 - 18 months depending on the cuvee and the vintage.
Also here you can find the cool summer breeze from the sea and the “chain of hills” that preserve this microclimate.
Podere Sapaio only produce two wines.
Podere Sapaio Volpolo – Not longer under the Bolgheri DOC but IGT from 2015. The reason? The grapes that make up the wine do not come from Bolgheri but from nearby Bibbona. The Bibbona vineyard was planted in 2003, 9 hectares in a hilly area overlooking the sea. The choice for the Bibbona area was a quality choice.
Podere Sapaio – Sapaio Bolgheri Superiore is still under the Bolgheri DOC. The wine has a great evolutionary potential and will acquire personality over time.
The winery is currently in biological conversion. 25 Ha of vineyards, 100 thousand bottles every year. The names “Volpolo” and “Sapaio” recall two ancient Tuscan vines and have been chosen to highlight the local origin of the products, starting from their appellation. The crown, however, symbol of the company, wants to be a tribute to the nobility of wine and the territory, fully respected in the vineyard and in the cellar.
Guado al Tasso
Next stop of our Bolgheri trip was the visit of Antinori´s Guado al Tasso estate. We got a great tour along the vineyard, the cellar, a winetasting and a tasteful lunch at the new restaurant Osteria del Tasso which is also at the Antinori estate. The lunch was really perfect and we paired it with a glass of my favorite wine `Guado al Tasso` 2016. There is also a garden where you can have dinner or just sip a good glass of wine.
The 1000-hectare Guado al Tasso estate extends from the coast to the hills, where the vineyards are grown on rocky and slightly calcareous soils. It´s also the biggest player in the Bolgheri area. The vineyards are surrounded by rolling hills, locally also called the "Bolgheri Amphitheater". This creates a unique microclimate, with a cooling wind that cools the vines from the hills at night. This allows the grapes to mature perfectly. The combination with the versatility in soil types gives the Guado al Tasso wines their characteristic aromas.
The name Antinori is closely linked to this luxurious wine region on the Tuscan coast. Piero's father took possession of this estate when he married Carlotta della Gherardesca, her family had owned this area (10,000 hectares) since 1800. All the top estates in Bolgheri originate from the Antinori family, Carlotta's sister, Clarice married Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta and the estate was divided into two parts: Tenuta San Guido (from Sassicaia) and Tenuta Guado al Tasso. Later, Piero's brother, Ludovico, got hold of a piece by Tenuta San Guido and, with Piero's help, founded the other famous Tenuta Ornellaia.
The wines produced at Guado al Tasso all have a reference to the family history. The letters DG always appear on the bottle. These stand for "Della Gherardesca", the original inhabitants of the estate. The name Guado al Tasso is derived from the badgers that live in the many streams that flow through the estate. The size of the estate and the variety of types of soil make this place a true paradise for planting different grape varieties. In addition to the Guado al Tasso, the 100% Merlot is here; Cont’Ugo, the 100% Cabernet Franc; Matarocchio, the Vermentino, Scalabrone rosé and the little brother of Guado al Tasso; Il Bruciato.
Guado Al Tasso 2016
My notes on this great 2016 vintage. A tangy and lingering wine, complex.Intense ruby red colour, very subtle and fragrant aromas with hints of red berries, plums and cherries with stronger hints of chocolate, herbs and liquorice. Close-nit, velvety tannins on the palate with chocolate, blueberries and a hint of vanilla in the aftertaste. I bought some bottles to keep in my cellar.
During our small Bolgheri vacation we stayed at Agriturismo La Cipriana. It’s a wonderful place next to the vineyards with a beautiful swimming pool and nice rooms. When you are looking for a nice place to relax and visit some wineries this is the perfect spot. We also enjoyed the breakfast every day just beside the vines.
The Cipriana winery is a historical company in the area of Bolgheri (it is the thirth founded in the area, the first bottle of San Martino dates back to 1978); it is located at the foot of the town Castagneto Carducci and it is owned by the Fabiani brothers, vine growers since 1975. Since 2001, Laura Fabiani, Carlo's daughter, has been in charge of the company, which with its passion, energy and determination has contributed to the development of production and has acquired a position of great value in the vast panorama of Bolgheri viticulture.
La Cipriana has about 8 hectres on vineyards and 3 of olive grapes and recently bought new vineyards. The company’s cellar is entirely underground in order to guarantee an optimal temperature for the vinification and ageing processes; the vinification takes place in cement tanks at a controlled temperature, exclusively using grapes owned by the Cipriana company.
During our stay we also had a nice wine tasting. We tasted the Peau D'Ange - Rosato Toscana IGT. It´s a blend of Merlot and Syrah. Very nice freshness with a beautiful Provence look. Paguro - Bolgheri Vermentino DOC. A 100% Vermentino with nice freshness and acidity. Cipriana - Bolgheri Rosso DOC. The Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Vigna Scopaio - Bolgheri Rosso DOC. A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice structured, smooth with dark and red fruits. And last but not least the San Martino - Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC. A Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
Here my tasting notes of the Bolgheri Superiore 2015 and 2016 which wasn’t ready for the market yet.
The Bolgheri Superiore wine, that takes its name from the famous poem of G. Carducci "San Martino" is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot vineyard.
My tasting notes:
In the glass a dark ruby red color with purple reflections.
On the medium+ nose delicate aromas of blackberries, cherries and cassis with hints of black pepper, balsamico and vanilla.
On the palate dry, medium++ bodied with medium+ acidity and tannins. Well balanced with a light peppery finish. Enjoyable red with aging potential.
Website Agriturismo and winery: www.lacipriana.com