Friday, June 04, 2010

Tenuta Belvedere and Fattoria Le Sorgenti: Interesting and Unusual Tuscan Wines

Tenuta Belvedere is a historic Tuscan estate located in the hills of Rosano overlooking the left (southern) bank of the Arno River, upstream from Florence in what would be the Chianti Colli Fiorentini Appellation. They have chosen, however, to bottle their red wine as and IGT because of limitations imposed by the rules governing the Appellation (among other things bottle size; they want, and the DOCG doesn't foresee, half-liter bottles).

Though the decision to bottle is recent -- these are their first vintages -- they have always had vineyards; at present they have slightly under 2 hectares in production (1.5 ha red grapes, and 0.2 ha white grapes), all dating to 1970, and trained in the traditional archetto style. They are also retraining an additional 2 hectares of red vines to the Alberello style. Cultivation is strictly organic, and harvesting is manual, while the fermentation merits a few words.

Langravio, their Sangiovese, is fermented in cement without temperature control (a practice also followed by Gianfranco Soldera, who says temperature spikes give nuances one cannot otherwise get), and then aged in tonneaux. Noesis, their white, is instead fermented in orce, terracotta urns, and also aged in them for 8 months. The medium does have an impact; I noted an intriguing minerality of a kind I hadn't encountered before in it and now I know why. Neither wine is filtered.

Bottom line, this is a small estate, and just starting out, but they are doing interesting things and it will be very interesting to follow them as they gain experience and the new vineyard, planted to the Alberello style, enters into production and matures.

Tenuta Belvedere Noesis Toscana IGT 2009
Lot 10-10
This is a blend of the traditional Tuscan white varietals, Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Colombano. It's a fairly charged straw yellow with brilliant reflections and hints of gold in the rim. The bouquet is powerful, with quite a bit of alcohol mingled with heather from a Tuscan field and some sage, with fairly intense savory accents as well and some cut Granny Smith apple. Quite powerful, in a muscular sort of way. On the palate it's ample, with fairly intense lemony fruit supported by brisk mineral lemon acidity and slight greenish tannins that flows into a long bright citric finish that lasts, and lasts, and lasts, gaining bitter savory accents as the acidity fades. Extremely powerful, but it does display a certain grace as well. It's not a wine I would serve as an aperitif, because it will overpower most antipasti, but it will work well with what follows, especially rich dishes; one could serve it with rich fish or vegetable-based pasta dishes or risotti, but where it will really shine is with flavorful fattier grilled fish, along the lines of salmon, or with fried foods, both fish and meat, and of course fried vegetables. It's particular; if you like the style you will enjoy it very much. But if you prefer softer, more graceful whites, you may find it over the top. Until you pair it with fried chicken and fried vegetables…
2 stars

Tenuta Belvedere Langravio IGT Toscana 2007
Lot 01-09
This is a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Mammolo and Colorino, and is deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim fading to pink. Imposing. The bouquet is powerful, with brooding cherry fruit supported by India ink bitterness and nutmeg spice, while there are also mentholated accents, and as it opens saddle leather and cut tobacco. Nice balance and considerable power. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with rich cherry fruit supported by deft slightly bitter acidity and by tannins that lay a smooth dusty trail across the tongue and flow into a clean bitter dusty finish. It's still quite young and needs time to finish coming together -- I would give it a year at least, and perhaps two. In terms of style, it is powerful, with considerable extraction and deft oak that has added quite a bit of polish to it while tempering the acidity as well; if you prefer lighter zestier expressions of Sangiovese you may not like it as much, but it is deft, like a well coordinated muscular athlete, and I much appreciated the fact that while the fruit is concentrated, it's not overripe. If you like the style, it will work very well with a porterhouse steak, cooked rare.
2 stars

For more information on the Tenuta Belvedere check their website,

Fattoria Le Sorgenti

The Fattoria Le Sorgenti is located upstream of Florence, on the Arno's left (southern) bank, and their vineyards are situated such that they are influenced by the river, which helps to mitigate extreme summer temperatures, while also helping to guarantee good day-night temperature excursions. Though they also produce Chianti Colli Fiorentini, they chose to send me their IGT wines, which also include French varietals; I found them quite impressive, and eminently approachable. They are wines of the sort one puts out at the table, and soon has to replace because they go well with foods, and one's guests have all emptied their glasses and are asking for more. This is, I think, a Good Thing.

They have 16 hectares of vineyards, at altitudes ranging from 100 (Trebbiano and Chardonnay) though 450 (Sangiovese and Merlot) meters above sea level. Cultivation is strictly organic.

And this takes care (in a cursory manner) of the land; what of the fattoria? It began as a farm in the 1300s, and was transformed into a villa in 1585 by Alessandro D'Agostino Gerbi; it subsequently belonged to the Leopardi family, and in 1885 was renamed Fattoria Le Sorgenti because of three springs on the property. The Ferrari Ricci family bought it in 1959, and now Gabriele and Elisabetta Ferrari manage the estate, while their son Filippo sees to the winemaking. Quite well:

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Sghiràs Toscana Bianco IGT 2006
Lot 1 08
This is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and is brassy gold with golden reflections and white nail. The bouquet is powerful, and frankly oaky, with a great rush of savory butterscotch mingled with prominent gooseberry and some tropical fruit, and supported by savory accents and some savory mineral acidity. Nice balance in a very charged international key. On the palate it's ample, elegant, and more languid than I expected, with fairly rich minerality supported by moderate mineral acidity and by butterscotch laced bitterness that flows into a clean bitter mineral finish that's quite long. Pleasant, and will drink nicely as an aperitif with rich antipasti, or with flavorful, but not oily grilled fish, for example a sea bream. It will also be nice with soft, not too pungent cheeses such as Taleggio or Camembert, and dishes that include them as an ingredient, and I would be tempted to serve it with vegetable tarts, sformati, and similar, and igf you want to look further afield, sushi. Quite nice, and if you like the style, you will enjoy it; the oak is apparent but not predominant.
2 stars

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Sghiràs Toscana Bianco IGT 2007
Lot 2 09
Brassy gold paling to white nail. The bouquet is quite intense, and much fresher than that of the 06, with floral accents and more intense tropical fruit than the 06 -- papaya and hints of mango -- that balance gooseberry, which here finds itself in a duet rather than a starring role, while there are savory cedar notes from wood and some greenish butterscotch too. Zesty, in a fairly rich international key. On the palate it's ample and languid, with clean minerality that has slight hints of gooseberry and tropical fruit, and is supported by mineral acidity and clean butterscotch bitterness that flows into a moderately long finish. It's more delicate than the 2006, and will consequently work better with more delicate antipasti or with slightly lighter main courses; I would be tempted to serve it with steamed or boiled fish,
2 stars

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Gaiaccia Toscana IGT 2006
Lot 2 09
This is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Alicante, a varietal closely related to Grenache that contributes to color and complexity. The wine is deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. Its bouquet is intense and fresh, with cherry fruit supportred by India ink -- almost quinine bitterness with graphite shavings as well, and as it opens spicy notes and cassis. Pleasant in a clean fruit driven key. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich cassis fruit supported by spice and smooth sweet tannins that have a slight peppery burr, and flow into a clean fresh cassis finish that gains depth and direction from graphite shaving bitterness, and reveal some leafy underbrush as the fruit fades. It's pleasant and quite approachable, and will drink very well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and also has the capacity to age nicely for a few years. Though I might drink it now to enjoy its freshness. Expect the bottle to go quickly, and if you like wines of the international style it's worth seeking out.

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Gaiaccia Toscana IGT 2007
Lot 1 09
Deep pigeon blood ruby with purple-violet rim. The bouquet is fresh, with violets and cassis fruit supported by wet leather and spice, and by pleasant freshly ground back pepper. Zesty in a cheeky sort of way. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich cherry fruit supported by dusky cedar laced tannins and moderate underbrush with some wet leather graphite bitterness that flows into a clean fresh cassis finish with underlying bitterness. It's not quite as rich as the 2006, and this is vintage variation; by comparison it's a bit more nervous and a bit more bramly, and while this will make it less pleasant to drink by the glass, the brambly accents of the tannins will work quite well with quickly grilled meats or light stews, and also be nice with more powerfully flavored meats, for example lamb chops.
2 stars

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Scirus Toscana Rosso IGT 2005
Lot 2 07
This is a Taglio Bordolese, a Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot blend, and is almost impenetrable pyrope deep black reflections and cherry in the rim. The bouquet is powerful and dusky, with jammy berry fruit, cassis and cherry, supported bys savory underbrush and intriguing spice, which has hints of well salted grilled pepper to it, and also by hints of gum Arabic and cedar. Nice balance and considerable depth in an international key. On the palate it's rich, with powerful cherry cassis fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and by moderate more mineral than fruit cidity, while the tannins are smooth and have a slight cedar backing, and flow into a clean fresh finish with bitter graphite shaving undertones. It's quite pleasant and quite approachable, and a fine expression of the 2005 vintage, which was cooler; the fruit isn't as intense as it might be in a better vintage, but they accepted this and worked with it rather than trying to bulk up the wine by other means (e.g. concentrators or new oak), and the result is rather graceful. A fine wine to open with a steak or a crown roast, which will bring much happiness to a special meal, and worth seeking out if you like wines of the more international style.

Fattoria Le Sorgenti Scirus Toscana Rosso IGT 2006
Lot 2 08
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is powerful, and quite young, with cedar and grilled belle pepper mingled with cherry fruit and some vinous warmth, also dusky brooding aspects. It's pleasant but still coming together, and will profit from another year of bottle age at this stage. On the palate it's ample and rich, with powerful cherry cassis fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and dusky dried leafy underbrush, and by deft tobacco laced mineral acidity, while the tannins are already smooth and silky, and flow into a clean rich cherry finish with slightly bitter tannic underpinning. Impressive, and very pleasant to drink; one could drink it already but would be mistaken to do so because when the nose catches up with the palate it will be fine indeed, in a rich fruit driven but not opulent nor overripe key, and will also age nicely for 5-8 years at least. It will be very nice with grilled meats or hearty roasts, and will also work well with game, for example stewed wild boar. Worth seeking out., but do give it the time it needs.

For more information on the Fattoria Le Sorgenti, which also offers beautiful accomodations just a short distance from Florence, see their site, at

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