Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tenuta Poggio Rosso: Wines from Populonia

Tenuta Poggio Rosso is about as close to being an Island Estate as a continental estate can be: It's located on the thinnest part of the Promontorio di Piombino (south of Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast), at an elevation of 35 meters, 700 meters from the Golfo di Baratti (to the north) and 3 km from the Golfo di Follonica (to the south), and this means that it is well aerated, and protected from the fierceness of the summer heat, while temperatures do fall off during the nights.

The perfect place for a winery, and there were vineyards on the property at one time. However, the former owner died in the early 1990s, and his second wife's sons, who inherited the land, lived in Switzerland. They had no interest in becoming winemakers, and instead looked over EEU agricultural law, discovering that there were economic incentives for those interested in restoring coastal Mediterranean scrub forests. So they ripped out the vineyards and planted trees.

In orderly rows that could be thinned, recalls Diego Monnelli, whose father and uncle bought the 20-hectare property in 2002, adding that they were able to thin the groves, and then move what they thinned (there are laws against simply chopping down trees) to make break winds for the vineyards they planted -- about 6 hectares, a bit more than 4 of reds, and the remainder whites, and for about 600 olive trees.

Given the youth of the vineyards, which just entered into production a couple of years ago, one cannot expect great wines, but I was pleasantly surprised by the four wines that Diego and his cousin Chiara, who run the estate (the family's primary business is the production of equipment to monitor industrial processes) presented at Il Cibreo, in Florence.

Before we get to the wines, a word about the palm tree that figures on their labels: It's based on the mark of an Etruscan amphora maker whose kilns were nearby, and whose amphorae have been found as far away as Egypt. And, while we're at it, the names of the wines: They are all Etruscan, and are another reference to the area's long and rich history.

We began with a 70/30 Vermentino-Viogner blend; they have 3/4 hectare of Vermentino, which is somewhat more productive -- 50 quintals/hectare -- and a hectare of Viogner that yields 35 q/ha. The wine is in part barrel fermented and in part tank fermented, and spent 9 months on the lees, with regular battonage; it was bottled at the end of the summer. This is the second vintage.

Phylika Toscana IGT Bianco 2009
Brassy yellow, with a fairly rich bouquet with some apricot and bitter almonds, slight honey, slight greenish apricot skins, licorice root, and nice underlying minerality. On the palate it's fairly rich, with pleasant apricot fruit supported by minerality, spice and some gunflint bitterness and savory notes that flow into a clean savory finish with some vegetal apricot accents. Pleasant, and will drink quite nicely as an aperitif or with delicately flavored fish, and evolves beautifully in the glass too, gaining both fruit and interesting savory notes Impressive, and it will be interesting to taste future vintages from more mature vineyards.
2 stars

We then tasted an unlabeled experiment, a 2009 Viogner that they decided to bottle in purezza because they had a little extra. A thousand bottles, tank fermented and then with nine months of battonage. Brassy gold with tawny reflections. The bouquet is quite mineral, with some brambly accents mingled with heather and sea salt. On the palate it's pleasantly languid, and quite mineral, with mineral acidity that flows into a clean slightly sour mineral finish. Nice depth and promises very well for the future; it's a touch coarser and distinctly more mineral than the Phylika, but very much alive and has great potential. It also improved markedly in the glass during the course of the meal, revealing ripe apricot fruit that balances the minerality. We suggested that they come up with a label for it and put it on the market.

We then shifter to reds; they have Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot (which they're not happy with and will remove) and some Sangiovese. Ultimately, they want to produce varietal wines, but haven't gotten there yet.

Tenuta Poggio Rosso Tages Rosso Toscano IGT 2006
This is a Sangiovese Merlot blend, and this is the second vintage (there was no 05). It's impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim, and has a fairly rich, tart bouquet with sour cherry fruit supported by slight greenish accents and some cassis, though what really stands out is the brambly character of the Sangiovese. It's pleasant and reveals fairly rich complexity, though it is evident that the vineyards are young. On the palate the Merlot is more apparent; it's fairly full with moderate dusky berry fruit supported by very smooth tannins that have a cedary overlay and flow into a clean rather bitter tannic finish. It's pleasant but the vineyard needs time; the wine has nice potential but the fruit isn't as rich nor as full as it will be in a few year's time. In short, something to keep an eye on for future vintages.
2 stars

Tenuta Poggio Rosso Velthune Rosso Toscano IGT 2006
This is a Cabernet Sauvignon. It's deep pigeon blood ruby with violet rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with graphite shavings and forest berry fruit mingled with bitter accents and slight grassy herbal notes, while there are also alcohol and pencil shavings. Pleasant and fairly rich, though the youth of the vineyards is shown by a certain lack of complexity. On the palate it's medium bodied with pleasant minerality and considerable graphite shaving bitterness, supported by minerality and smooth rather bitter tannins that flow into a clean bitter tannic finish with leafy underbrush accents. Quite nice, though future vintages will be better.
2 stars

Diego said that for them 2006 was long and hot, and yielded awkward wines; he has great hopes for the 07 vintage, which is more agile and displays greater finesse.

As I said, Tenuta Poggio Rosso is located on the neck of the Promontorio di Piombino. It's a very pretty area, and if you are in Tuscany you could either make a day trip of it, combining a winery visit with a visit to Populonia or the Parco Archeominerario di San Silvestro (or both), or if it's hot, a swim in the Golfo di Baratti. You will also pass by them if you are heading to Piombino to go to the Island of Elba, which is also well worth a journey.

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