Monday, March 23, 2009

Marco Capitoni's Podere Sedime: An Orcia Vertical

Tuscany has a great many appellations, and while the major ones get the lion's share of the attention, the lesser ones can be very nice. The Orcia DOC is named after the Val D'Orcia, a beautiful valley that extends south from Siena towards Monte Amiata, and indeed, if you drive to Montalcino from Siena you will follow it for a while before turning right to head up to the Land Of Brunello.

For that matter, should you be going to Montepulciano/Pienza you'll follow it further before turning left at San Quirico, and should you decide to continue straight, taking the old road from Florence/Siena to Rome (a truly magnificent drive) you'll follow it even further.

It's little wonder, considering that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is produced to one side of the valley and Brunello di Montalcino to the other, that the Val D'Orcia should be wine country too. However, until fairly recently it was a different sort of wine country, with wines made primarily for local consumption, and quantity being sought much more than quality. This is changing; in 2000 the Orcia DOC Appellation was established, and though its area is large enough that there is considerable pedological and climatic variation from one extremity to the other, producers have accepted it with considerable enthusiasm, and I was pleasantly impressed by the Cantina Viticoltori Senesi Aretini's Orcia DOC, which I tasted a few weeks ago (tasting note here; scroll down).

I was therefore quite interested when Maddalena Mazzeschi contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in tasting through the Orcia DOC Marco Capitoni makes at Podere Sedime, which is not far from Pienza.

He actually makes two different interpretations of Orcia DOC: The disciplinare says, for Rosso Orcia DOC, that the wine must be at least 60% Sangiovese, with the remainder other non-aromatic varietals authorized by the province of Siena, including up to 10% white grapes.

Marco doesn't use them, but says that when planning the blend of his primary wine, he had to keep in mind the fact that before the recent series of very hot summers, Sangiovese didn't always ripen perfectly where he is. Since he and his family live off the land -- in the past they had more grain than they do now, and also livestock -- he didn't feel comfortable putting all his eggs in a slightly iffy basket, and decided to plant some Merlot as well, just to be certain of having at least part of the harvest fully ripe every year. Harvesting is manual, and fermentation and malolactic fermentation are in steel. In keeping with the international character of the blend (80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot), he decided to age his primry wine, which is called Capitoni Orcia DOC, in barriques for a year.

At the same time, he planned a second Orcia DOC wine, Frasi, to be made from the oldest vines of the Podere, with a much more traditional blend -- 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Canaiolo. Harvesting is again by hand, and fermentation is again in steel; the wine then spends two years in large wood casks prior to bottling.

Unfortunately, Nature did not cooperate with his plans; He and Fabrizio Ciufoli, his enologist, made the first vintage of Capitoni Orcia DOC in 2001, using the international blend containing Merlot, and planned to start with the traditional wine in 2002. The rains quashed that idea, and the searing temperatures of 2003 prevented them from making it then. 2004 looked good, until hail wreaked havoc on the vineyards just before harvest time. So they finally were able to make the first vintage of Frasi in 2005; the name (Phrases, in English) derives from Marco's decision to define each vintage with a quote, and this particular vintage is dedicated challenges, and more specifically to a hare: Una lepre a correre sfidai, la raggiunsi… mai! -- A hare to race I did challenge; never did I catch him up!

The wines, tasted on a blustery March day of 2009. We began with Capitoni Orcia DOC

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2001
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is bright, with dusky berry fruit laced with cassis and supported by bitter graphite shavings, cedar, and dappled shade. On the palate it's fairly rich, with tart, bitter black cherry fruit that has black currant underpinnings, moderate acidity, and is supported by tannins that have a slight bitter splintery burr, and flow into a clean fresh rather bitter finish that has a black currant underpinning. It's pleasant, and still quite young for a 2001; in a rather aggressive key, and will drink quite well with succulent meats, though I wouldn't necessarily think to drink it by the glass far from the table.
2 stars

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2002
Deep black almandine with black reflections and some brownish overtones towards the rim. The bouquet is more mature than that of the 2001, as one might expect given the difference in vintages, with some balsamic notes and mentholated brambly accents with underlying polished saddle leather, and some acidity. Nice balance. On the palate it's fairly rich, with cherry and black currant fruit supported by smooth cedar-laced tannins that have some underbrush to them, and flow into a fairly long clean dusky brambly finish with savory accents. It's a nice expression of a difficult vintage, and has held up very well; it will work well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and though it is mature, will also age nicely for a few more years.
2 stars

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2003
Deep black almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. Charged. The bouquet is fairly intense, with dusky red berry fruit laced with cassis and supported by warmth and balsamic acidity with some greenish accents that brings a sunlit afternoon to mind; it's clearly from a hot vintage. On the palate it's rich, and very smooth, with sweet rich black currant laced berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and by sweet smooth tannins that have a clean bitter burr, and flow into a clean slightly bitter finish with fruit and mentholated accents. Pleasant, and a nice expression of another difficult vintage; it's nowhere near as jammy nor as cooked as some 2003 wines are, the one thing I did note is that the Merlot is quite evident, perhaps because it weathered the searing summer temperatures better than the Sangiovese.
2 stars

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2004
This vintage was struck by hail, on September 16, and they therefore had to hurry everything into the cellars. They helped it with a a taglio migliorativo (adding a percentage of a different vintage to the wine) of the 2003. Deep black almandine with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, with cedar and hints of cumin seed mingled with red berry fruit and spice, with some slightly smoky acidity as well. It opens nicely too, gaining hints of yellow peach with time that does a nice job of complementing the berry fruit. On the palate it's full, with bright, rich black currant-laced cherry fruit supported by moderate bitter acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that do have a cedary underlay, and flow into a clean fruit laced bitter finish with some savory accents. It's pleasant, and has profited nicely from the addition of the older vintage. It will drink very well with succulent, not too fatty red meats.
2 stars

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2005
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with greenish vegetal accents that have savory overtones, and are mingled with cedar and some stable straw. With more swishing black cherry fruit also merges, with hints of black currants too. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich cherry and black currant fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have some cedary overtones, and flow into a clean fairly bitter finish. Quite smooth, and pleasant in an approachable key; it is rather obviously from a cooler wetter vintage, and s such shows that Marco was right to plant the Merlot; just Sangiovese would have been much less ripe, with less fruit too. What we have is instead welcoming, and though the weakest wine of the tasting, will drink nicely with foods.
2 stars (barely)

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2006
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with mentholated red berry fruit supported by cassis and deft spice. Pleasant, and quite approachable in a fairly international key. On the palate it's full, with rich cherry and black currant fruit supported by moderate acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fairly fresh fruit laced finish. Pleasant, in a very approachable international key, and will drink nicely with succulent, not too fatty meats, and also with hearty legume based vegetarian dishes. The Merlot does have a positive, and profound influence.
2 stars (almost 3)

Capitoni Orcia DOC 2007
Just bottled. Deep black cherry ruby. The bouquet is still developing; it's fairly intense, with cedar and red berry fruit supported by some graceful acidity, and by black currant fruit. On the palate it's fairly rich, with bright berry fruit supported by considerable cedar that flows into a rather splintery cedar-laced berry fruit finish. It's still very young, and needs at least a year to come together, but promises nicely. A score at present won't do justice to what it will become.

Taken as a group the Capitoni Orcia is quite approachable in a distinctly international key, with the Merlot contributing considerably to the aromas of the bouquet and to the mouthfeel, smoothing and poloishing the tannins. They are wines that traditionalists will find less interesting than those with more international tastes, but that are pleasant to drink, and will do a fine job of accompanying foods.

Frasi Orcia DOC 2005
Deep black almandine with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with mentholated berry fruit supported by slight cedar and spice; it's pleasant, though the imprint of the vintage is apparent in a duskiness that the fruit has, and also the fruit's displaying relatively less richness -- the botte, which was new, contributes in a more obvious way than it would in a better vintage. On the palate it's bright, with lively red cherry fruit supported by tannins that have a warm slightly greenish burr, and flow into a clean fresh sour cherry finish. Quite elegant in a lesser vintage key, and will drink nicely with stews or roasts, and will also work well with grilled meats; fagioli all'uccelletto, tomatoey Tuscan beans with sausages, comes to mind. A nice expression of a difficult vintage that has a story to tell.
2 stars

Frasi Orcia DOC 2006
Recently bottled
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is rich, with bright cherry fruit supported by dusky spice and clean fresh berry fruit acidity. Welcoming and quite fresh. On the palate it's fairly rich, with lively cherry fruit supported by clean fresh berry fruit acidity, and by tannins that have a slight greenish burr and flow into a clean tart berry fruit finish. Quite pleasant, and will drink very well with grilled meats or light stews, and also has the capacity o age well for a number of years. A very nice expression of a good vintage, in a decidedly traditional key, and it offers much to think about and enjoy. One of those wines that., at a tasting, one hates to pour out.
88-90

More information? Alas, Marco doesn't have a website yet (though I hope he soon puts one up, also because they're putting a couple of rooms together, and his wife is a fantastic cook). In the meantime, you can check his page on Maddalena Mazzesch's site, and also check the site of the Consorzio Orcia DOC.

1 comment:

Will Conley said...

I agree Kyle, some of the lesser Italian appellations can actually be beautiful. You should check out Il Mio Vino ("My Wine") - it's just a magazine that deals ONLY with Italian wines - and focuses on the more affordable ones from smaller producers. You can get it on newsstands in Italy, but they just recently released an English language version online. Check it out, you can grab a free issue here.