Speaking Italian well has its perks: when Italian bigwig producers and enologists come to Texas, I generally get an invitation to dinner and am always seated next to said bigwigs.
Last night, I was the guest of Tunisian-born pharmaceutical giant Claudio Tipa and his enologist, Milanese-born Maurizio Castelli, called a “Tuscan legend” by my friend, top wine dude and author, David Lynch in his Vino Italiano.
I’ve never been a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown in Tuscany, but I’ve always had a weak spot for Grattamacco. Despite the fact that it’s way out of my price range, I’ve had the good fortune to taste many older vintages over the course of the years.
Contrary to what one might expect, Claudio and Maurizio were very much alla mano, as the Italians say, easy-going and fun to talk to and I thoroughly relished Claudio’s account of the day he told erstwhile Okie oilman and fascist importer Bob Chadderdon to go to quel paese. I was also fascinated by what Maurizio had to say about his work in Georgia, the obstacles of making wine in a war-torn country, and the grand potential of that region to become a world-class producer of fine wine.
Grattamacco has remained true to its roots, as conceived by its founder Milanese industrialist Piermario Meletti Cavallari, in 1977: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese aged in large recycled cask.
While other Bolgheri producers have ripped out their Sangiovese, Claudio stood by the original owner’s vision when he purchased the estate’s hill-side vineyards in 2002. It’s the Sangiovese that gives the wine its trademark acidity and in my view, what makes it taste like Tuscany.
The 2001 was stunning, with earthy tones and bright, nervy acidity. The 03, 04, and 05 were honest expressions of the vintages (far from spectacular IMHO) and the 2006 showed immense promise for its future. (From what I’ve tasted so far, a lot of people made great wine in Tuscany in 06.)
I also really liked Claudio’s 2008 Montecucco Rigoletto, an entry-level wine from his flagship Colle Massari. It was everything I want a Montecucco to be: juicy and grapey, with bright, bright acidity and balanced alcohol. The Ciliegiolo was the star of this blend with Sangiovese and Montepulciano, giving the wine that classic cherry note on the nose that reminds you that Montecucco is a sibling of Morellino and not Montalcino.
The Colle Massari Vermentino was also very good, unctuous and aromatic, honest and real. Chef Todd Duplechan’s foie gras Boudin wasn’t bad either.
Did I mention that Italian majors have all the fun?
In other news…
TGIF: Thank G-ja it’s Friday! I’m so tired of working and am very much looking forward to the weekend with that super fine lady of mine.
Buon weekend, ya’ll!
Some other time perhaps you can relate the stories from Georgia. I have a strange fascination with Saperavi…
Nice notes, and I appreciate the devotion to Italian varieties in Italy. Seems like an obvious connection, but there is quite a lot of big-pub praise for Merlot and Cab in Tuscany. Sigh.
Jeremy, last week I met in Elba island in his new winery, Fattoria delle Ripalte http://www.fattoriadelleripalte.it/ Piermario Meletti Cavalleri, the “father” of Grattamacco. I’m sure that also in this new, fantastic terroir, (see the pictures in Web site) Piermario will be able to realise great wines, from Vermentino, Aleatico (but also Grenache and Carignan) grapes…
@Evan it was fascinating to hear Maurizio talk about Georgia. He told me that he’s brought some amphorae to Tuscany. It will be interesting to see what he does with them.
@Franco I saw (and envied!) your trip to Elba on your blog. I’m dying to taste his Vermentino and Aleatico… We’ll look forward to your post…
Jeremy take note: also a very charming rosé wine from Aleatico grapes. A really stunning rosé
You have all the fun. I would have loved to be at that dinner. Great post.