Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Most bottle photos courtesy of the Frescobaldi Estates
A recent tasting of the Frescobaldi family’s wines
Sangiovese wines are some of the most important and most beloved wines of Italy.
Tuscany, Umbria and Campania and their many DOCs and DOCGs produce more Sangiovese wines than any other viticultural area of the world. In Tuscany, the Sangiovese grape is more ubiquitous than any other cultivar.
The Sangiovese grape was first cultivated in Tuscany by the Etruscans from wild vitis vinifera indigenous vines. The grape requires a long growing season, as it buds early and is slow to ripen. The grape is quirky, it requires sufficient warmth to ripen fully but too much warmth will weaken the intense flavors and coloring and the acidity will become uncomfortably elevated.
For the last couple decades Sangiovese wines blended with amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir or other indigenous varieties such as Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo and Colorino are produced by growers that prefer not to be affiliated with any local consortium so as not to be restricted by a consortium’s blending requirements; other growers prefer to have less than the minimum required by a consortium Sangiovese content and more of the French varietals. Many of these producers are well known wineries with high enough reputation and owners that can afford to go their own way because of the quality of their bottlings.
Since the 1300s the Florentine Frescobaldi family, a family that started their fortunes as medieval bankers, produces some of the best known Sangiovese-based wines in a number of estates throughout Central Italy. The family owns 11 different estates in Italy, with 6 of them in Tuscany proper.
Tenuta Luce Della Vite, one of their best known estates produces a number of red wines including Super Tuscans.
They just released their 2020 vintage of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot from the Luce della Vite estate. Called Luce (the first wine made from older vines) and Lucente (the second wine made from younger vines) they are both delightful. At our recent tasting of the 2020 vintage of both wines, the consensus was that they were exceptional wines; the Luce rated at 95/100 points the Luciente at 92/100.
Tenuta CastelGiocondo, another of the family’s better known estates is in Montalcino. Located south of Siena, the estate was one of the first few to produce Brunello di Montalcino in the 1800s. At our tasting, the 2017 Reserva that I have been aging since I got it garnered 97/100 points.
An ancient stronghold East of Florence from the year 1000, the Castello Nipozzano, is a historic and illustrious property of the Frescobaldi family. It produces Montesodi, a great expression of Sangiovese, a Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG wine with the Sangiovese grapes harvested by hand. A brilliantly ruby red colored wine, it is dry, with a firm structure and the dense texture typical of the best Sangiovese wines. At our tasting the 2020 vintage garnered 91/100 points.
In the heart of the Maremma is the Tenuta Ammiraglia Estate. Its vineyards undulate upon the nearby hills of the Tyrrhenian coast. Best known for its elegant Aurea Gran RosÚ, the estate's signature wine which is a blend of Syrah and Vermentino, Aurea draws on wine making techniques typically used for white varieties, relying on a white production process even for the Syrah grapes. The Aurea sample rated at 89/100 points.
One of their most renowned wineries, Ornellaia, located in the Bolgeri DOC, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Maremma, with wines that normally retail in the $258 to $300 range for a regular bottle, does not use any Sangiovese in most of their blends preferring a classic blend of French varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pettit Verdot. Only Le Volte, first released in 1991, has a 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. A Salmanazar (9 lt. bottle) of Ornellaia 2005 was sold for USD$33,600 at a recent Christie's auction. At our tasting, a 2020 Bolgeri Superiore Red garnered 98/100 points. A truly superb wine!
For further information see: https://www.frescobaldi.com/en/estates
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