Follow the cypresses and they will inevitably lead you to the top of a charming Tuscan hill in the heart of an authentic rural property... Welcome to Tuscany !
A university year ends in Strasbourg with the diploma dedicated to geosensory wine tasting (Towards the wine-growing region through geosensory tasting) and the opportunity comes to continue research work around this method. Wine tasting is truly like an endless encyclopedia : learn to feel the soil, its subsoil and above all the bedrock through the touch feeling of wine in the mouth! Direction Tuscany for the practical part during a short week dedicated to the visit of great wine appellations with a common theme: the discovery of the terroirs and the tastings. The wine association called "Les fêlés du terroir" was created following the establishment of the University Diploma in order to pursue the practice and research of the key messages given by a wine through linking the terroir to the mouthfeeling during the tasting. Both an oenology club and a tasting club, the group is above all driven by curiosity, the sharing of strong moments, the discovery of beautiful bottles and the meeting with wine professionals who are part of this quality approach through wine tastings, cellar visits and great encounters with winegrowers.
Tuscany is an ideal training ground. At the end of October, the climate is still very mild, the autumnal light diffuses lovely colours on the landscapes whose hues vary towards orange, red and fawn! Here is an idyllic setting to let go, predispose all of our senses and put into practice one of the soil science courses in the university program: landscape observation! Our eyes are lost far on the horizon line with these countless hills with soft and rounded edges. On some, a perfect alignment of cypresses draws the way to the large wine and agricultural properties. Tuscany is one of the most prestigious wine appellations in Italy benefiting from the highest level with the DOCG* mention. Moreover, a clear distinction must be made between the old traditional wine regions and the new appellations of Tuscany. The former are found in the heart of Tuscany while the latter are generally developed around traditional centers. Note the controlled and guaranteed denominations of origin (DOCG*):
Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The whites from Tuscany in San Gimignano
Let's start our getaway in the heart of the Cesani family estate, which can also accommodate you (meals included) in agritourism in the heart of their 27 hectares of vines. The sister Letizia is responsible for the production part but the 76-year-old father Vincenzo is still active in the property as the rule dictates: the father in agronomy and the daughter in the cellar! The family notes a decrease in production each year with global warming but continues to produce around 100,000 bottles a year, in rosé, white and red. The specifications limit production to 90 hl per hectare (or a maximum production of 3 kg per vine). This year, the grape was smaller and therefore less juice could be extracted. Planting density is limited to between 4000 and 4500 vines per hectare. Tuscany is known for its sangiovese, the mythical black grain with aromas of beautiful red cherries! On the other hand, Vernaccia is the only white grape variety really recognized as an emblem in Tuscany, originating from the San Gimignano region. According to the local winegrowers, this variety of white grain is classified in the category of non-aromatic grape variety... But, to our French noses, we agree on an aromatic yet very present of white flowers and fresh fruits. Winegrowers must display a minimum of 85% Vernaccia with authorization to add accessory varieties classified as non-aromatic and possibly Sauvignon and/or Riesling. This is the first wine to receive the appellation DOC in 1976 and DOCG in 1993, the supreme appellation equivalent to a grand cru. The variety, very productive, is quite resistant to diseases but the cluster remains compact, which presents the risk of accumulating humidity and the diseases associated with it. On the vine side, the father chose Guyot pruning, the most suitable according to him. The white does not have to go through barrels.
Letizia therefore ages the wine on fine lees in concrete vats, preserving the freshness of the wines. For the reds, the sangiovese can age in barrels, alongside the merlot, the ciliegiolo The selection of the best red wines for the assembly will be made after fermentation to obtain the “riserva” classification. For the vernaccia, on the white wine side, the selection will be made in the vineyard before continuing fermentation under 5 to 7 degrees in stainless steel tanks followed by a gradual rise in temperature for 4 to 5 weeks. Vernaccia is consumed quickly in Tuscany even though this variety can develop beautiful aromas over the next 10 years. On the terroir side, we are 70 km from the sea, at a time when the sea was shallow having deposited blue sands and clays, favorable to this grape variety. San Gimignano extends over an altitude of 100 m to 600 m, an interesting contrast from an agricultural point of view. Today, viticulture is mainly concentrated between 200 and 360 m. Faced with global warming, the Tuscans try to climb in altitude but it remains difficult because the land is occupied by forest where the soils differ greatly and are less favorable to vines. Near the historic center, there are areas with a strong limestone tendency, which gives the palate airy wines as if hovering on a cloud, elegant and fine. The characteristics of the soils of Tuscany remain the alberese, an extremely compact limestone mixed with sand. In the Chianti classico area, on the other hand, we find the galestro, a clayey schist, easily crumbly with a gray color. In terms of weather, the rains here are concentrated in 3 months: November, February and May (May helping to avoid the upcoming drought).
Leaving the estate, let's visit the medieval town with its intact architecture of San Gimignago, known for its important trade at the time of saffron, cultivated around the town. This spice was used to color textiles, making the village prosperous.
Around the artist Poliziano, in Montepulciano
The visit continues at the Poliziano estate, a name also famous for the ancient great humanist poet born in 1454 in Montepulciano. The property is still recent according to our French perspective, 1961 (here the notion of generation to generation as in France is not known). The grandfather bought the first 20 hectares of the property which have now become 155 hectares of vines and 30 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of olives. The son then developed a diversity of wines thanks to his experience in agronomy, a style recognized today in Montepulciano. Then, Fabio arrived as an oenologist to ensure harmony between “terroir and wine”. At the end of October, the olive harvest ends whereas a few years ago it started a month later in November. As for the vines, all the harvests have been completed since October 4th. Here, Sangiovese is called Prugnolo gentile. Clonal selections were put in place 20 years ago, gradually modified to adapt to climate change and obtain silky tannins and better acidity management. In recent years, the climate has gone in opposite directions to those expected by the estate. The teams thus tend to leave the leaves and avoid leaf stripping to avoid overheating. The more clayey soils are conducive to water retention... because there has been no more rain since the end of March in this year 2022, which also experienced several weeks at more than 35 degrees non-stop. Continue this local discovery with the discovery of Montepulciano, a renaissance city unlike the medieval town of San Gimignano: here, the griffin is the animal symbol of the city for its mixture of the strength of the lion and the intelligence of the eagle.
Wine and olive oil geosensory comparative tasting at La fèlsina
Fèlsina may be a name that speaks to you? And for good reason, it is a large estate of 600 hectares, located in Castelnuovo Berardenga and is one of the most prestigious in Tuscany to the point of being referenced as an example at the Cité du vin de Bordeaux! The property was created by a Florentine family in the 16th century and designed as a market town with a church, the masters' villa, stables and the granary. The stables were transformed by the grandfather into a place for aging wines with casks built on site according to the spaces of the old horse boxes between the pillars. Lit by lights from renowned artists, you will be able to observe various volumes of casks where the wine rests there for a year. Go down a majestic stone corridor and you arrive at the barrel cellar, dating from the 19th century, with a very present humidity level to keep the elasticity of the wood. It is stirred every day during fermentation then 2 to 3 times a week. Silence reigns between the new barrels and those of third passage. Further on, the desks welcome the bottles reserved for sparkling wines according to the traditional method (60% Sangiovese, 20% Chardonnay 20% Pinot noir), stirred by hand. And the supreme grail comes during the ascent to the old granary where the famous raisined wine slowly rests in small barrels which will produce Vin Santo after 10 years of rest. This famous Italian sweet wine is made in these wax-sealed barrels. Evaporation during these 10 years will cause a loss of 15% of Vin Santo, resulting in fresh sweet wines known for their persistent acidity. The estate produces 400,000 bottles with 95 hectares of vines and 50 people. And to understand behind the scenes, the team takes us to visit the “ranch” surrounded by the “rancia”, a parcel of vintage. Within the old stone building rests all winter the Malvasia and the Sangiovese: the windows are open on both sides, creating a current of air to dry out the bays of grapes using the technique of passerillage. It will take 100 kg of grapes to produce 30 liters of Vin Santo. In Tuscany, during mass, the priest does not drink wine but Vin Santo, the holy wine!
The evening ends with a wine tasting after an introduction to the tasting of olive oils (12,000 olive trees on the property), from the lightest to the strongest, and according to the plot selection. We heat the jars of oils in our hands until there is no longer any difference with our body temperature because olive oil is tasted at 36°C. The leccino offers us aromas of artichoke and fresh walnuts while the corregiolo offers great amplitude in the mouth, just like its terroir, with an aromatic complexity of fruit, pepper, saline notes and a long bitter finish. .
Don't leave the estate without a visit to the charming city of Arezzo, known for its antiquities.
The dream of an industrial entrepreneur : create a biodynamic wine estate to reflect terroir, Podere Forte !
This recent estate, since it was only built 25 years ago, today reaches the size of 500 hectares, of which 14 hectares are cultivated with vines. Just like the city of bricks, Siena, was built on 3 hills between the 13th and 14th centuries with 7 small valleys inside including the famous campo square dedicated to the forum for political assemblies, the Podere Forte estate is is installed on the sides of a hill after the acquisition by Pasquale Forte of “podere Petrucci” (Podere meaning the quantity of cultivable land in proportion to the potentiality, potere in Italian, of work of the family established on the exploitation). Petrucci is the original family name from the historic 15th century in Siena. If you have the honor of visiting this isolated, quiet place, surrounded by hills as far as the eye can see, you will walk among the 120 hectares in one piece of the first acquisition of the estate where everything is concentrated: vines, animals, olive grove . This is the highest vineyard, located at an altitude of 520 m. The teams, passionate about researching and experimenting with biodynamic techniques, are also planning to plant the next vines even higher to study the soil and better prepare for climate change. Here, we find vertical schist soils, sands, clays and limestones. We stop on a first plot to observe the soil profile: clay-loam on limestone shale! Complex ! The resulting wines will be equally so and will give you an inexplicable emotion...
The parts that are too clayey are difficult to work with the horse. Total grassing is with alternating phases. Here, Sangiovese's feet date from 2003. The team sows grasses, legumes and crucifers depending on the type of soil. The soils are difficult to work because of the long dry spells after the rapid growth of grasses over a short period (with the spring rains). The vine is managed in a trellised goblet to avoid too low departures with the Sangiovese. The threads guide upwards and limit acrotony. Initially, there was an imbalance with 3 branches. Then, setting up two branches for the next season was the ultimate choice. The system of wires makes it possible to balance the growth of the branches and to gather the leaves easily for possible treatment if necessary. Look up and we see in the distance behind the region of Maremma, the driest region of Italy. The estate was authorized in the summer to put horizontal tarpaulins over the vines to protect them from the heat. The wines will carry the appellation DOC Orcia.
According to this entrepreneur from the automotive industry, Mr. Forte who met Jacky Rigaux: "the place is the marker of taste" and here, we can identify the 2 vintages. In memory of the oenologist Giulio Gambelli, a great connoisseur of Sangiovese, Mr. Forte and Jacky Rigaux organized "Henri Jayer" meetings to perpetuate the "terroirs and local wines" approach, a confidential meeting in a small committee reserved for an exclusive limited number of guests. The second cru of vines is surprisingly positioned in an amphitheater with 8 soil profiles therefore 8 plots marked by heterogeneity, with a majority of clays on one side (cooler, richer, more fertile) and on the other hand more calcareous clays. The vines are 100% Sangiovese with two types of rootstock. A few vines of Cabernet Franc complete the plots, as its aromas of red pepper fried in olive oil evoke memories of Monsieur Forte's childhood. The Sangiovese is rigorously selected in a mass manner on their own plot.
The fact of being isolated from other vineyards and surrounded by forests allows easier management in biodynamics, with 7500 vines per hectare. Passionate about science, the teams carry out a lot of research work on erosion, water evacuation with facilities to limit erosion, optimization of water management with recovery systems , the use of 2 mares sometimes working 6 hours a day including long preparation times.
My favorite wine to end in style at the Podere Forte estate:
Petrucci Anfiteatro Cru 2018, the one from amphitheater plots with notes of sandalwood, a complex nose, burlot cherry, liquorice, cinnamon, a nose of truffles.
In the mouth, the wine is fine with a polished grain, the salivation is vertical, airy, fresh, with radiant energy... the fabric felt in the mouth is similar to silk... could it be the side of the plot on a limestone base? Count 200 euros budget for the bottle!