A Decade of Seeking Maremma Perfection – Tasting the Immaculate 10th Vintage of Val di Toro…

I recently tasted the delicious Val di Toro X Vendemmia 2015 red from Anna Maria Cruciata and Hugh Maxwell, owners of the dynamic Val di Toro estate in the Maremma that lies between Grosseto and Scansano. Wow, I thought, has it really been ten years since I first tasted their maiden release red? A decade of growth and a decade of fine tuning has now resulted in one of their greatest red creations to date.

The 2015 vintage was an incredible year in the Maremma and also a year Hugh and Anna decided to put their organically grown Sangiovese grapes into large new Slavonian oak botte where it was aged for 24 months before being bottled. The results have been captured immaculately in bottle and represent the pinnacle of the Val di Toro journey to quality.

 

Val di Toro 2015 X Vendemmia Maremma Toscana Sangiovese, 14.5 Abv.

Always a dense, concentrated red wine, Val di Toro has never lacked intensity or depth. But what the 2015 reveals is definitely a vinous revelation and a notable step up in quality. The aromatics portray a picture of beauty, seductive perfume, sweet red cherry, sandalwood, resinous sappy oak spice, vanilla pod, aniseed root and a bold lashing of caramelised red cranberries. The palate is regal and broad, incredibly fine grained and suave with a fine balance and ambitious textural harmony. Who knew Sangiovese tannins could be so sweet and sensual? Still very youthful, there are no edges to speak of and elegance and finesse are the words that inspire a palate built around intensity, sublime balance and succulent length. In many ways, the addition of the botte ageing has added an almost “Brunello’esque” gravitas to the wine and an intriguing extra level of complexity and allure. This is surely a wine that will age and improve for a good 10 to 15 years but also a vinous delicacy that is so delicious to drink in its vibrant halo of youth.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gaja Highlights Their New Tuscan Releases at a High Profile Masterclass in London…

In 2019, as Angelo Gaja reaches 78 years old, he has for the first time all his children, Gaia, Roxanna and Giovanni all working together representing the family’s multiple estates. So it was perhaps extra fitting that today Angelo Gaja was awarded the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wines’s Winemakers’ Winemaker Award at Prowein in Dusseldorf.

However, for this tasting in London, Gaia and Giovanni started by profiling the family’s most recent Gaja winery acquisition in 1996, running through the full range of Ca’Marcanda wines produced in Bolgheri, coastal Tuscany, home of legendary neighbours Guado al Tasso, Ornellaia and Sassicaia.

Ca’Marcanda is also the Gaja winery that has seen the most marked increase in quality over the past 5 years as new plantings age and the family slowly learns the true potential of the estate’s terroir that includes 27 different soil types.

Tasting with Gaia Gaja and Giovanni Gaja at the Lanesborough in London.

75 hectares were bought in Bolgheri in 1996 with another 50 hectares subsequently acquired near Bibbona, outside the DOC Bolgheri appellation, for fruit that goes into the Vistamare white and Sangiovese grapes for some of their non-DOC reds.

Ca’Marcanda Vistamare 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of Vermentino and Viognier, the wine shows vibrant pithy aromatics loaded with white citrus, salty maritime notes, green apple, ripe pear, sweet blossom and chalky, stony notes. Despite the vintage’s rain, there is a fine stony green apple fruit concentration, rasping white citrus and a delicious fleshy texture.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Giovanni, Gaia and UK agent, Patrick McGrath MW from Hatch Mansfield.

Ca’Marcanda Promis 2017, 13.5 Abv.

55% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese blend. An incredibly hot, dry year but not in the mould of 2003. The year started dry and hot so conditions were far more anticipated. Over ripeness has been avoided yielding a fine opulent example with plushness, sweet black berry fruited nose from tiny berries that embraces the subtle chocolatey mocha, nutty, oak notes and chalky, dusty mineral tannin on the finish. Very mineral and powerful, perfectly representing the small, thick skinned grapes vinified in this vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ca’Marcanda Magari 2017, 14 Abv.

A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. The aromatics immediately show ample complex lifted perfume notes with layers of violets, lavender, coastal garrigue and sweet dark black bramble berries. Silky soft elegant texture, there is impressive freshness and generosity framed by chalky mineral graphite tannins, sweet blueberry and black cherry fruit concentration and a delicate concentrated cassis confit length. A wonderfully composed and orchestrated red blend with a lot of class.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda 2016, 14 Abv.

A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. The flagship Red comes from the “almost perfect” 2016 vintage where Gaia said everything was in perfect balance and harmony. Already very open and “friendly”, the Carmacanda shows dense dark black currant depth, sweet cassis, graphite spice and a very restrained, fresh, crunchy concentrated finish with real verve and nerve, tension and generosity. The 17 degree C diurnal temperature shift between day and night during vintage really shows its imprint through bright, linear, vibrant glassy acids framing the pure, precise black fruits. Sublime precision and pinpoint elegance with substantial power and drive. This wine has class and quality written all over it. Possibly the finest Camarcanda flagship expression produced to date.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gaja Winery owns wine estates in Barbaresco (Piedmont), Pieve Santa Restituta winery in Montalcino (Tuscany) and Ca’ Marcanda winery in Castagneto Carducci (Tuscany). In 2017, the Gaja family undertook a joint venture with the Graci family. Together they purchased vineyard acreage on the southern slope of Sicily’s Mount Etna, where you can find Nerello Mascalese and Carricante varieties. Plans for the new Gaja winery are currently awaiting planning permission in Sicily.

Passion and Precision in the Heart of the Maremma – Tasting the New Release Podere Val di Toro Vermentino…

It is not very often that a new winery just drops in for an impromptu visit to introduce their wines and you fall completely in love with the entire range. Well that’s what happened when I first tasted Hugh and Anna’s wines from their Maremma winery Podere Val di Toro, situated between Grosseto and Scansano near the Tuscan coast.

Fast forward 7 or 8 years and the range has grown to include one of the most delicious up and coming cult Rose wines made in the mould of Whispering Angel but utilising Sangiovese grapes, as well as one of the very finest Vermentino whites in the Maremma where conditions are perfect for this aromatic variety.

With the close proximity to the sea, a soil rich in minerals and ample sunshine, the Auramaris Vermentino has garnered awards thick and fast including several 90-plus ratings and a 5 star award from Decanter Magazine.

Anna Maria Cruciata and husband Hugh Maxwell

Podere Val di Toro Auramaris Vermentino 2017, DOC Maremma Toscana, 13.5 Abv.

Primary, taut, vibrant and fresh, this young Vermentino positively bristles with new vintage energy. The aromatics are correspondingly fresh, pure and primary packed full of waxy green apples, creme soda, lemon grass, dried straw, honeydew melon and dusty crushed gravel minerality. The palate entry is also ultra mineral, reminiscent of sucking on wet river pebbles, classically dry and restrained showing a seamlessly balanced mouthfeel. The addition of 15% Grechetto increases the harmony and complexity of this wine and there is no shortage of green apple pastille and crunchy white peach fruit laced with subtle rock candy bon bon length. Sleek, classical and quite grown up, the Auramaris is one of the finest Vermentino examples in Tuscany. Drink now to 2024+.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Certified Organic through BioAgriCert.

http://www.valditoro.it

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi Masterclass with Elisabetta Geppetti…

Elisabetta Geppetti was only 20 years old when, in 1985 she first took the reigns at her family’s tiny 2 hectare property near Pereta in the Scansano zone. At this time, Tuscan wines were often seen as being of underwhelming quality and fine wines in the Maremma itself were practically non existent.

The original Sangiovese based wines of Le Pupille were made under the Morellino di Scansano appellation. So when Elisabetta proceeded with her vision to add an international dimension to the estates wines, the Maremma’s first quality Super Tuscan was born.

The Cabernet Sauvignon based blend Saffredi was first released in 1989 with the 1987 vintage, made in consultation with Giacomo Tachis, one of the founding fathers of Italy’s Super Tuscan wine style. The Tachis era ended in 1996 and subsequent consultants involved with Saffredi have included Riccardo Cotarella, ex-Chateau Latour winemaker, Christian Le Sommer and currently, Luca del Toma.

As various consulting winemakers have taken the reigns and made their mark, so the Saffredi blend has slowly evolved, starting off initially as a pure Cabernet Sauvignon wine until 1990, after which Merlot, Syrah and Alicante have all played differing supporting roles. Today, the modern expression of Saffredi relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all harmoniously blended to produce one of the most highly sought after reds in Tuscany.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1992, 12 Abv. (Giacometti Tachis)

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Real depth and allure from this small vintage, the nose is a perfect melange of tertiary and creamy savoury red berry fruits. Plenty of graphite, woodsmoke, diesel rag, blood orange, liquorice stick and sweet earthy bramble berry confit notes. Cool and fine, this is really classy, the work of a master, with a tender touch and soft chalky tannins, stony minerality and spicy, macerated black berries and rooibos tea notes on the long finish. A real rarity.

(Wine Safari: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1998, 13.5 Abv. (Riccardo Cotarella, brother of Renzo)

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Rich, aromatics, with sweet leather, savoury plums, liquorice stick and sweet herbal pot pourri notes. Quite lactic and chocolaty, very sleek, elegant and fine boned, this has powdery pithy tannins, and a wonderfully fine texture. So seamless, complex yet vibrant with beguiling leather, aniseed root, creamy strawberries and raisined savoury black cherries on the long, cool, finish. Really grows on you.

(Wine Safari: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2004, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

First thing that strikes you about this wine is its purity, clarity and modernity. Perhaps the intensity of the superb 2004 vintage helps shape its character. The nose is dark and seductive, vital, brimming with black cherry, kirsch liquor, saline cassis and black current leaf notes with a subtle backing of graphite, herbs and liquorice. Seamless balance, vibrant acids, a creamy intense palate breadth and wonderful harmony reinforce this wines pedigree. Very fine indeed.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2007, 14.5 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 10% Syrah

The aromatics are laden with dark black fruits, black cherry spice, Kirsch liquor and creamy black current, cassis, pastille confectionary notes. Another superb vintage in Tuscany, the palate of the 2007 shows more coffee bean, bruleed cherry and a hint of molasses and liquorice spice. A complex, animated expression, with layers of graphite, crush gravel and subtle savoury Syrah black pepper seasoning. Plenty of life ahead of this wine.

(Wine Safari: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2010, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

Another lifted nose with plenty of youthful fragrance. There is a dark broody depth suggesting both a higher alcohol and ripeness level. Aromatics of sweet raisined cherry, black berry, tar, graphite and liquorice tease the palate with subtle layers of caramelised cherry, and vanilla pod spice. Deep, dark, fleshy depth shows some alcohol lift, picante, sweet black berry Syrah spice, but remains compact, full bodied and elegant with admittedly more muscle and ripeness.

(Wine Safari: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2013, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

A wine that shows its Cabernet base from the start. Violets, cedar, graphite and wood spice mix with liquorice, black current leaf and bramble berry spice. Still youthfully taught, the minerality rises to the fore without too much coaxing out the glass. Like the 2004, the purity and clarity of the crystalline black current and cassis fruit is so impressive and mouth watering, but lacks none of the flesh, density, and earthy power of previous vintages. Another excellent vintage in Tuscany, 2013 combines the best characteristics of fresh acids, harmonious fruit depth and all round complexity.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2015, Toscana, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

Opulent classical Tuscan aromatics of sweet cherry, tannery leather, tobacco, aniseed root, and pot pourri. Complex notes of wood smoke, liquorice stick, graphite and saline sweet black berry develop. There is plenty of intense concentration and the palate is fine and suave showing fleshy red cherry and salty earthy red current fruits that drift across the palate lubricated by fine, creamy, polished tannins. Like all great Tuscan 2015s, the palate is under pinned by vibrant fresh acids, adding to the wonderful harmony and palate impact of this impressive wine. Drink now or keep for 20+ years.

(Wine Safari: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Superb Limited Release Val di Toro T3 Special Reserve 2010 Maremma Toscana IGT…

Today one of my favourite Italian producers popped in for a tasting of their new vintages. Hugh Maxwell and his wife Anna have been producing beautiful wines in the Maremma at Val di Toro since 2006. If my memory serves me correctly, I was the first wine merchant to buy their wines in the UK.


But today I was in for a big treat as Hugh brought along a very special bottle to taste. Having bought and sold a lot of Val di Toro’s 2010 estate wine, what a surprise to be given a bottle of the T3 2010! Standing for Tonneau No.3, this batch was identified at the time of production as possessing extra special qualities and so it was decided to separate out this tonneau and age and bottle it separately.


A blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Montepulciano, this wine would require at least 85% Sangiovese to qualify as Morellino di Scansano DOC, however that was never Hugh and Anna’s intention, hence the Maremma IGT classification. Here is my verdict…

The site of Val di Toro, near Grosseto

Tasting Note: As you raise the glass to your nose, it becomes evidently clear this is a special wine. Brimming with lifted perfume and aromatic complexity, this wine seduces from the outset. Lashing of caramelised cherry, kirsch liquor, raisined cranberries, vanilla pod and clove spice flow out of the glass. It’s hard to move past the opulence and extrovert character of the nose. Another swirl and yet more aromas waft out the glass… sweet tobacco leaves, cedar wood spice and aniseed root.


The palate certainly does not disappoint either. Richly textured, the layers of liquorice, sweet caramelised cherries, vanilla pod spice, sour plums and salty black currant are tightly woven together with just a hint of volatile acidity adding a mouth watering vibrancy. The finish is long, pithy and super intense, with sweet creamy tannins and lingering notes of plump sweet blood oranges, tart maraschino cherries and liquorice stick. Wow! This wine really reminds me of a top notch Brunello di Montalcino from a ripe vintage with extra complexity from a few years in bottle. This is indeed a profound wine that unfurls over the hours and builds to an epic crescendo. I don’t know who’s decision it was to separate out this single tonneau, but congratulations. You raised an Adonis of a wine! 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)