San Gimignano's Vernaccia producers have continued with their custom of meeting with white wine producers from other regions, this time selecting the wines of Calce, a town in the Pyrenees whose wines are Vins de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, made with Grenache blanche and Greanche Gris, and Macabeu.
I confess I am not familiar with the appellation, but the folks at the Consorzoio said they weren't either; rather, a winemaker happened to taste a wine from Calce and they decided to contact the appellation and went to visit. The region, which is surrounded by mountains, but is only about 15 km from the sea, has a very long tradition of winemaking, with vines, many of which are trained to what is essentially the Alberello or bush system, planted in stony parcels of land protected from the winds, which blow furiously, by stone fences. The appellation comprises about 400 hectares of vineyards at altitudes ranging mostly from 50 to 200 meters, though some sections reach much higher elevations, up to 6-700 m. There are three sets of soil conditions: a swath of schists, a swath of calcareous soils, and the a swath of marls.
The varietals are aromatically fairly neutral, and though not exceptional, are able to transmit the characteristics of the terroir quite well. In other words, they speak of the land, and if the land is good give excellent results. The wines from the calcareous terroirs are mineral but light, while those grown on gray shits have a much duskier minerality to them. We tasted 6 wines from Calce, and then 6 from San Gimignano:
VDP des Cotes Catalanes Horizon Blanc 2008 - Domaine de l'Horizon
Brassy white with brilliant golden reflections. The bouquet is moderately intense and spicy with a fair amount of gunflint and mineral acidity supported by hints of gunpowder and slight smoke, with slight sour citrus as well that gains depth from just a hint of the mold that sometimes grows on oranges. Bracing and very fresh. On the palate it's bright, and fresh, with powerful minerality with sage and lemon essences, and underlying savoriness, supported by resinous accents that gain in intensity as the wine flows into the finish, which also has brambly, almost barky accents that emerge with time. It's a step in a very different direction (for me), but quite pleasant to drink, and will work very well with grilled or roasted fish, and will also work well with fried fish or meats and vegetables; because of its structure and the savoriness will work well with oriental dishes.
VDP des Cotes Catalanes Matassa Blanc 2007 - Domaine Matassa
Rich brassy gold with slight pinkish accents and brilliant brassy reflections. the bouquet is fairly intense, with savory sea salt mingled with sage and other herbs, some citric notes, and gunflint that gains in intensity as the wine opens. On the palate it's quite mineral, supported by lemony acidity and slight hints of resin -- not as powerful as those of the Horizon -- that flow into a clean mineral finish that gains depth from sour lemon acidity and is quite long. A zesty wine that is a little more polished than the Horizon, mostly because it's a year older, and will work very well with grilled or roasted fish, and would also be nice with creamy flavorful risotti or pasta dishes. A great deal of power and will age well too. And it gets better and better in the glass.
VDP des Cotes Catalanes La D 18 2008 - Domaine Olivier Pithon
Pale brassy white with slight pinkish overtones, and brilliant golden reflections. The bouquet is mineral with some acidity and as it opens granitic accents. Quite harmonious. On the palate it's more delicate than the first two, which are from calcareous soils, though from the same cloth, with savory minerality supported by acidity, and by a slight languidity that has something cheeky to it, and flows into a mineral finish with moderate acidity and some brambly accents. It's less extreme, and more approachable, and will drink well with grilled fish or roasted fish, and will drink quite quickly; because of its approachability it will work well with oriental foods as well.
VDP des Cotes Catalanes La D 18 2005 - Domaine Olivier Pithon
Deep, almost tawny brassy gold with some pinkish highlights and brilliant old gold reflections. The bouquet is elegant, with considerable granitic minerality and some tree bark, with slight bitterness, and hints of struck flint as well. Co9nsiderable harmony. On the palate it's full and rich, with bright lemony acidity and considerable granicic minerality that flows into a long, very mineral, rather tannic finish. They say 2005 was a hot vintage for them, but one wouldn't guess it; there's no ripe softness to it, and the gunflint and sea salt in the finish lasts and lasts. We are far removed from oaked whites of the new world here, and the wine displays tremendous character. If you like powerfully mineral wines that do their own thing, you will enjoy it.
VDP des Cotes Catalanes Coume Gineste 2008 - Domaine Gauby
Pale brassy white with brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is fairly intense and quite fresh, with terrific minerality -- it's like sniffing crushed rocks -- supported by some mineral acidity and by hints of petroleum and beeswax (which are pleasant) as well, and heather as it opens. Quite harmonious and a great deal of depth, and very different from Horizon, which is the same vintage. On the palate it's elegant, with rich savory minerality supported by slight lemony accents and hints of resin and slight hazelnut skins that flow into a fairly long finish with savory mineral accents that lay a burr over the tongue, and slight hints of hazelnut. Quite elegant and quite approachable, and will drink very well with grilled or roasted fish, and also with fried fish or meats and fried vegetables. Quite pleasant, and if you like the style, with is unabashedly aggressive, you will enjoy it.
VDP des Cotes Catalanes Coume Gineste 2002 - Domaine Gauby
Brassy gold with brilliant brassy reflections and slight pinkish overtones. The bouquet is frankly mineral, with with gunflint and crusjed rock supported by slight sea salt and some greenish vegetal accents, though the moinerality is what carries it. On the palate it's ample and rich, with elegant savory minerality laced with sour lemon and flows into a clean sour lemon finish, and though it's quick to write it's extremely essential, and displays tremendous harmony and depth. They say the French wine writers call this wine naked -- all the unessential is pared away -- and I can understand them, If -- as is the case with all of the wines of this appellation -- you like the style, you will enjoy it very, very much.
Very impressive, and much more mineral and bracing than one would expect southern wines from hot dry areas to be. An eye-opening discovery. They are wines of tremendous character, and as such are demanding; they're not wines that will accept one's simply opening them while thinking about other things, but rather will demand and capture the attention of their drinkers.
After Calce, Vernaccia di San Gimignano:
Tenuta le Calcinaie Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2009
This was harvested a bit earlier than usual because 2009 was quite hot and the ripening was ahead of schedule, so to capture freshness he anticipated things. It's brassy white with brilliant brassy reflections and slight greenish highlights. The bouquet is fairly intense, with savory accents mingled with hops and citrus and some underlying sweetness. On the palate it's fairly direct, with bright brambly mineral acidity with some herbal accents that flows into a fairly bitter finish. Lively, and will drink well with grilled or fried fish.
Mattia Barzaghi Impronta Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2008
Mattia is from the same town in Lombardia as Giovanni Panizzi, and started out working with him before deciding to strike out on his own. This is his first vintage, and he said he prefer to harvest sooner rather than risk overripeness, and that he doesn't like malolactic fermentation. Pale brassy white with greenish overtones and brassy reflections. The bouquet is quite mineral, bringing to mind granite struck by a hammer, and though pleasant is fairly direct. On the palate it's savory, with honeydew melon and citrus fruit supported by citric acidity and some underlying bitterness, and flows into a clean bitter finish. It's pleasant, and very nice as a first vintage; the winery will be worth watching.
La Lastra Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2008
Brilliant brassy white with brassy reflections. The bouquet is moderately intense, with butterscotch that may be from the yeasts mingled with pineapple; it's very different from Mattia's wine, also because they prefer to overripen their grapes, and the aroma cast is much riper. On the palate it's quite mineral -- minerality eclipses fruit -- with sea salt and underlying bitterness that becomes quite powerful as it flows into the finish. Deft, and a very different stylistic approach; if you like polished white it won't work for you because the mouth is more wild, but if you like the style you will enjoy it.
Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2007
Brassy greenish gold with golden reflections. The bouquet is rather languid, with butterscotch and lemon supported by some savory minerality; there's something fairly voluptuous about it. On the palate it's ample, with rich butterscotch laced minerality and lemony fruit -- though the minerality overshadows -- that flows into a fairly long peppery finish with slight butterscotch overtones. Minerlaity in spades, and it's a well made wine; if you like the style, which revolves around ripeness and deft oak use -- not overuse -- you will enjoy it very much, though you shouldn't expect one of those butterscotch laced new world oaked wines.
La Castellaccia Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2006
This is their first vintage, from a vineyard planted in 1999. Pale brassy white with slight greenish reflections. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up some minerality and slight sage and vegetal accents with underlying sea salts. On the palate it's bright, with lively lemony acidity supported by some minerality and by slight greenish accents that flow into a fairly long sour finish with some bitter mineral accents. It's quite pleasant, in a brash and rather aggressive key, and will drink very well with grilled meats or fish, and will also age well for many more years. A convincing first vintage.
Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2001
Giovanni, who was a fixture in the Consorzio and also its president for a time, left us this year, and it seemed a bit funny not to see him standing at the head of the hall. But we had his wine, I could almost see his slightly lopsided grin. It's lively greenish gold with brilliant greenish reflections. The bouquet is powerful, and elegant, with butterscotch-laced citric accents and some savory notes, and also some alcohol. Quite pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's ample, with rich butterscotch laced lemony fruit supported by slight vegetal bitterness that flows into a clean savory finish with slight butterscotch accents. Beautiful, and though it does have a slightly different feel to it -- the wood use reflects the stylistic preferences of the time -- it has a great deal to say, and is a wine with things even the more traditionally minded among us will find to ponder.
Calce's wines displayed tremendous character. So did San Gimignano's, though in a different way, and I was quite impressed by their decision to present wineries that are barely out of the starting blocks, but already doing interesting things. They only underline Vernaccia's potential, while the 2006 also brings up another point, that Vernaccia is much better suited to aging than many people give it credit for, and if consumers had the patience to give it a year or two (or more) in bottle, it would richly reward them.
After the morning session the winemakers presented their wines, and this year there was also a tasting room for those who wanted to taste in a more structured setting. I tasted a mixture, some wines from winemakers I know and others from winemakers who are unfamiliar to me. An important thing to keep in mind is that these wines -- unlike those presented in the morning session -- had just been bottled, and are therefore still coming together. The impressions should therefore be taken with beneficio d'inventario, i.e. advisedly. I am planning to taste through everything towards summer, when the wines have a little more bottle age.
Mattia Barzaghi Mattia Barzaghi Impronta Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is young, and floral, with white blossoms and hints of almonds mingled with minerality and some lemony accents as well. Nice balance and quite fresh. On the palate it's bright and rich, with lively lemony fruit supported by clean savory lemony acidity and some bitterness that flow into a fairly tart finish with underlying bitterness. Pleasant in a fresh, saucy bracing sort of key, and will drink quite well with grilled or roasted fish and will be perfect at a cookout by the sea; thanks to its lively acidity it will also work well with fried fish or meats. Simple, and fun, and if you like the style you will enjoy it very much.
Mattia Barzaghi Zeta Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy yellow with greenish highlights and brilliant brassy reflections; it's just a hint cloudy. The bouquet is intense, and fairly vegetal, with bitter minerality as well, and some bitter almonds, and also slight honey. An interesting combination. On the palate it's fairly full, and rather languid, with ample greenish lemony fruit and acidity supported by bitter accents and some savory notes that flow into a long bitter sour lemon finish that gains depth from savory accents and peppery spice. It's pleasant, in a vigorous way, and will drink nicely with rich fish or vegetable based pasta dishes or risotti, and also with grilled or roasted fish, and with white meats. Quite powerful, and has the capacity to age well for several years.
Mattia Barzaghi Cassandra Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva DOCG 2009
Fairly deep brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is powerful, with a fairly intense shot of butterscotch laced with pungency and some bitter spice; it's oaked and the oak is at present overshadowing fruit, though this is in part youth. On the palate it's fairly rich, with lively lemony fruit on the outset, which surrenders to a bitter rather savory oaky veneer that flows out and covers it, flowing into a rather bitter finish with some sour lemon accents. It needs time, at least a year, to come together and balance out.
Casale Falchini Vigna a Solatio Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy greenish gold with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is rich for a just-bottled wine, and savory, with some minerality and some lemony citric acidity and slight underlying brambly bitterness. On the palate it's medium bodied in a pleasantly vegetal way, with artichoke greenness, and bright mineral acidity and a savory rather bitter burr that flows into a clean bitter finish with lasting savory accents. It's pleasant in a brash and direct sort of way, and will drink well with vegetable based risotti and pasta sauces, and fish dishes. Expect it to go quickly.
Casale Falchini Ab Vinea Doni Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2009
Lively brassy gold with greenish highlights and brassy reflections. The bouquet is fairly intense, with deft spicy butterscotch and warm citric accents supported by some vegetal notes and slight gunflint. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich decidedly vegetal lemon fruit, a cross between lemons and artichoke almost, supported by bitterness and mineral acidity that flow into a greenish finish. It's still coming together and needs another 6-8 months for the nose to develop, but is promising nicely It will be pleasant with flavorful fish based first course dishes, including fish stew/soups such as cacciucco, and will also be nice with grilled or roasted fish, or succulent white meats.
Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
A tank sample; it's cloudy yellow with brassy reflections. The bouquet is fresh and rich and in the air, with fairly bright hops (of the kind used to make beer) and greenish spice mingled with alcohol and gunflint. On the palate it's full and rather languid, with fairly rich sour lemon fruit supported by minerality and sour lemon acidity that flows into a long sour lemon finish that has intriguing salty accents, like salt crystals bursting on the tongue. It will be pleasant in a rather voluptuous, fairly international key.
Cesani Sanice Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2008
Brilliant brassy yellow with brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is powerful, with fairly intense dusky butterscotch supported by vegetal and citric accents and by some spice; it shows nice polish in a fairly international key. On the palate it's full and languid, with rich soft lemony fruit supported by lemony acidity that honeysuckle had its corners buffed smooth, and by some cedary almost pencil shaving savory bitterness that gradually emerges in the finish and carries at length, accompanying the lemon as it fades into savory bitterness. Pleasant and approachable in an international key, and if you like white wines that have felt a touch of wood you will like it. If you are instead less in favor of oak you will like it less, though it is and will remain quite approachable.
Le Fornaci Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy white with brassy reflections. the bouquet is fairly intense, and mineral, with gunflint and some vegetal accents at the outset that are joined by the heather of a Tuscan field and mingle with savory notes and slight spice. Refreshing. On the palate it's mineral, with savory bitter sour lemon acidity that flows into a greenish bitter finish with some alcoholic warmth. It's more bitter than acidic and also quite mineral, and is a bit less approachable than some; if you like soft smooth whites it won't work as well, but you will enjoy it if you prefer more aggressive wines.
Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Lively brassy yellow with brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with greenish vegetal accents mingled with some pungency and brambly accents. It's still coming together. On the palate it's ample and decidedly bitter with lively almost artichoke bitter vegetal accents and sour lemon fruit supported by some savoriness and brambly tannins from grapes that flow into a fairly long bitter finish. It's pleasant, in a bitter key, and will drink well with hearty fish or white meats, and will age nicely for several years.
Teruzzi & Puthod
Teruzzi & Puthod Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy yellow with greenish reflections. The bouquet is eye opening and gives an impression of softness, like sinking into a feather pillow, with floral accents and hints of bitter almonds, and some underlying sweetness as well, and as it opens some gunflint. It's atypical with respect to the other wines tasted. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense lemony fruit that is supported by and then gives way to savory bitterness that carries into a long savory bitter finish. It's approachable in a richer and rather softer key, though it does display the savory bitterness typical of Vernaccia, and will be a good bet if you prefer whites that are little softer.
Signano Poggiarelli Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Brassy white with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is quite pleasant, with heather and some hints of bitter almonds mingled with minerality and some white blossoms. Beautiful depth and considerable finesse. On the palate it's bright, with rich mineral-laced lemony fruit supported by gunflint bitterness and some savory accents that lead into a fairly long clean bright mineral finish. Very pleasant, and will drink quite well with fish or white meats now, and also has the capacity to age well for a 5-8 years. Will be worth seeking out.
Podere La Castellaccia
La Castellaccia Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Brassy gold with brassy highlights. The bouquet is still developing, though swishing brings up some bitter accents and some gunflint. Minerality in the making. On the palate it's fairly rich, with bright minerality that's pleasantly full and supported by slight bitterness, which is not as intense as it was in many of the other wines tasted, and by some peppery spice with mineral acidity providing direction. It's pleasant and approachable, in a softer key because there is minerality and spice from grape, but not the intense bitterness some of the other wines display. It made me think, and this is a good thing. It is also clearly developing, and will I think go interesting places.
La Castellaccia Astrea Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy yellow with greenish reflections and brilliant brassy highlights. The bouquet is still coming together, with fairly bright minerality supported by some bitterness and slight vegetal accents, in particular artichoke leaves, and some underlying citric acidity. On the palate it's bright, with rather languid lemony acidity and fruit supported by some dusky greenish bitter vegetal accents, and by slight peppery spice that flow into a bright savory finish with mineral and citric accents. Pleasant, in a powerful key, though it needs another year to come together, and will at that point be quite pleasant with flavorful fish or white meats.
Pietrafitta Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy white with slight greenish highlights and brilliant brassy reflections. The bouquet is fairly intense with floral accents and some greenish notes, and slight lemony fruit as well, and a fair amount of alcohol too. Quite approachable in a direct, rather up-front key. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense bitter mineral laced lemony fruit supported by some savory accents that gradually fade into bitter warmth. It's direct and up front, a wine that is not long on complexity but that will work nicely with what it's served with, not demanding center stage, and will be fairly versatile because it's neither strongly mineral nor tremendously acididic. It will also work well with Chinese.
Casa Alle Vacche
Casa Alle Vacche Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Bright brassy gold with brilliant brassy reflections. The bouquet is intense and greenish, with almond fuzz and some vegetal accents supported by savory minerality and some gunflint as well. On the palate it's fairly rich, with lively minerality supported by mineral acidity and some gunflint bitterness, that flow into a clean rather savory finish that resolved into almost peppery spice. It's deft, and fairly agile, and will drink nicely with grilled or roasted fish, and also with white meats. Pleasant and if you like the style you will enjoy it.
Il Lebbio Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2010
Pale brassy yellow with bright brassy reflections. The bouquet is smoky, with airy bitterness as well mingled with quite a bit of gunflint and some mineral acidity. On the palate it's ample, and more citric than I might have expected, with lemony fruit supported by lemony acidity and dusky bitterness that flow together into a fairly long bitter finish that does have some hints of loquat to it. Pleasant, and quite approachable; it will drink well with fish or vegetable based risotti and pasta dishes, and will also drink nicely with grilled or roasted fish, and with white meats, while there is enough acidity for it to work well with fried fish or meats and vegetables. In short, versatile.
Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi
Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi Vernaccia Titolato Strozzi 2010
Pale brassy yellow with greenish highlights. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up floral accents and some lemon mingled with sea salt and slight butterscotch. It needs time. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense lemony fruit supported by savory minerality and peppery bitterness that flows into a spicy bitter finish. It's quite approachable, and also fairly direct, and will drink well with flavorful fish or white meats, and also will work well with fried meats or fish because it dies have a fair charge of peppery acidity to it.
Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi Cusona 1933 Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2009 Pale brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections. The bouquet is fairly intense in a greenish key, with herbal notes and hints of artichoke leaves mingled with gunflint and some bramble and tree bark. It's quite young but shows promise. On the palate it's ample and soft, with less acidity than I had expected; there's fairly bright lemony fruit supported by brambly minerality more than acidity, that flows into a smooth citric finish with a discreet vegetal underpinning. It's pleasant, in a less aggressive way, and if your preference is for white wine that are not oaked -- no butterscotch here -- but are also not aggressively acidic, but with enough acidity for good direction, you will enjoy it. It will drink nicely with the rich pasta dishes (perhaps not meat sauces, but many others) and risotti, as well as the obvious fish from the oven or grill, and also with creamy white meats.
My overall impression was that the 2010 seems to be a good vintage, with lively minerality and considerable life. Should be nice.
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Between Here And There - I took this shot during the Pelleginaggio Artusiano in the spring of 2011. The mirror is somewhere between Castrocaro Terme and Portico di Romagna (on the ...
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