I often tell Italian winemakers that I think it would be better if they made wines from locally indigenous Italian grapes as I believe that they have such a great array of such that they could (and in my view should) be highlighting the varietals that grow so prominently in the country.
This view came to me a few years ago after tasting some of Tuscany’s ‘super Tuscans’ that command super high prices for wines that, essentially, taste similar to those wines from Bordeaux that are made from the same varietals. However, at a recent tasting of wines from Tenuta di Ghizzano with owner and winemaker Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini I found that good things can come from Italian wines made from French grapes.
Tenuta di Ghizzano is a small winery located in the village of Ghizzano about 200 metres above sea level, located on the Tuscan coast, 40 kilometers from Livorno and 40 kilometers south of Pisa. The winery and olive mill are situated around the tower built by the Venerosi Pesciolini family in 1370. Thus it is a winery with a rich and long winemaking heritage and tradition.
The Tenuta di Ghizzano estate consists of about 865 acres, 50 of which are cultivated as vineyards, 50 as olive groves, 370 with cereal crops and 370 as woods and poplar groves. Their aim is to keep investing in natural agriculture and viticulture practices to offer the market limited quantities of outstandingly high quality wines that respect the characteristics that wine can express in this area, without forgoing the style, elegance and wealth of perfumes offered by these gentle hills.
Sitting down with Ginevra at Piedmontese restaurant La Piola recently we did a tasting of two of the wines that are available here through their importer, Heritage Wines. We tasted the Veneroso Tuscan Red IGT which is a blend of 70 per cent Sangiovese and 30 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Not only that but I was fortunate to taste both the 2009 and 2010 vintages that showed how vintage variation is important in such a small wine producing area (something that Ginevra was keen to highlight and a method of making wine that reflects the vintage rather than making wine to a recipe that makes it taste consistent year in year out).
The 2010 was divine, smooth and velvety with a lovely palate and clean long finish of great fruit. The 2009 was a little more rustic and masculine with clearly defined tannins and one that certainly needed (and went very well with) the food that was on offer at La Piola.
The second wine we tried, again in a flight was their Nambrot, of which we tasted the 2006, 2007 and 2008 (I also later tasted the 2009 during Vinitaliy’s Soiree at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair). Nambrot is a wine that, on face value I would probably not choose to drink as it’s comprised of 70 per cent Merlot, 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 per cent Petit Verdot thus going against my best intentions of drinking wines from Italy only made from indigenous grapes. It must be said though that I was blown away by the complexity and elegance of the 2008 vintage which I found most pleasurable both on the nose and on the palate. It was silky smooth with a subtle richness that really complimented the veal that was served with the flight of wines.
The 2007 I found to be the most “Italian” in style and was a firm favourite with the others around the table. Much more rustic in style and certainly had all the hallmarks of being Italian, it was to be honest difficult to say that these were Bordeaux blends as such care and precision had been taken into portraying the land from which the wines came that it could have been 100 per cent Sangiovese for all I knew! The 2006 was much like the 2008 but with some complex nuances that showed how well these wines can age.
It was, in all honesty an enlightening experience and, as always it was a pleasure to be proved wrong and find wines made in a style that I would not have otherwise chosen to drink. I will most certainly be revisiting these wines as much as possible with the current vintages available in the city and, for years to come, be anticipating the new vintages as each one is unique unto itself and a treasure trove on intrigue awaits you inside each bottle opened.
Tenuta di Ghizzano wines are available from Heritage Wines in Hong Kong and you can find out more about them from their website www.heritagewines.com.hk or you can contact Roberto on firstname.lastname@example.org