Alfio’s Bowtie Diaries – DAY 3: Maremma and Montepulciano
Southern Tuscany and Montepulciano were on the agenda for today, but before we got on the A1 (the main interstate that runs from Florence down to Rome) we made a quick visit to Andrea Bonacchi’s Montalcino property, Molino della Suga. Andrea showed us the recent renovations he made to his estate, including a new guest house overlooking the winery from its kitchen – I wouldn’t mind making a meal in here! Since it was 7:30am and I had just ordered a doppio from the roadside gas station, we figured it would be best to take a rain check on tasting Casalino Brunello di Montalcino, another great Brunello that we carry in our Tuscan section.
Back on the road, we headed south to Mantellassi vineyards in the southwest region of Tuscany, Maremma. For those of you not familiar with the area, we were about two and a half hours south of Florence, or so we thought. The car’s GPS couldn’t find our next destination (perhaps it had too much Brunello from the day before?) and we found ourselves on top of a mountain at a local grocery store that sure enough sold Mantellassi wines, but was not the family estate nor our next appointment. All was not lost, we befriended a local man who was able to lead us in the right direction, which was back down the mountain and to the town of Scansano, 45 miles away. Mantellassi is operated by Giuseppe Mantelassi and produces a type of wine called Morellino di Scansano – you guessed it, another name for Sangiovese grapes! The Mantellassi family played a key role in obtaining a DOC appellation status for Morellino di Scansano wines, as Mantellasi is considered one of the most prestigious Morellino producers.
Trying to make up some ground from the previous GPS debacle, Alfio took the helm and we were off to the Montebelli estates in Caldana near the southern province of Grosseto for lunch and a visit with the Tosi family. The Montebelli estates, owned by Carla and Lorenzo Tosi, has a full agriturismo, a country hotel. Carla and Lorenzo’s son Alessandro (along with winemaker Claudio Gori) run the operations for Fabula wine, which is produced on the property. Claudio is a well known enologist in Tuscany and has worked with many Tuscan producers to refine their art of wine making. Alessandro and the Tosi family pride themselves on producing wine without using chemicals and as they say, “not playing around with wine or the soil, but only using what the land gives us.” The Tosi mantra of using no pesticides and maintaining an organic estate creates a serene and relaxing retreat in nature for all of their guests to enjoy.
After lunch with the Tosi family, we headed back north with better GPS coordinates to the noble city of Montepulciano and to Palazzo Ricci. Montepulciano is located directly east of Montalcino (for those of you keeping track of our geographical location) and like Montalcino, is a medieval hill town and commune. Montepulciano produces two very classic wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montepulciano, both made from the iconic Tuscan grape, Sangiovese. In the center of Montepulciano is Palazzo Ricci, a Renaissance palace and home of Cantina Del Redi. Antonio Gaudosio, export manager for Redi, set us up with an incredible tour of the cantina whose architecture has remained untouched for over 500 years. The name Redi, comes from the 17th-century poet and scientist Francesco Redi, who immortalized the excellence of wine from Montepulciano in his famous poem Bacco in Toscanawhere he states that “Montepulciano is the king of every wine.”
After tasting some excellent wines and a brief history lesson at Palazzo Ricci, we met up with Luca Gattavecchi at Poggio alla Sala, an estate that he and his family purchased over 15 years ago. Luca’s philosophy to making wine is quite simple and eloquently put, “Our concept of wine is very traditional; we are not quick to follow new trends; we try to produce wine according to tradition, thinking of it not merely as a drink but as an important part of our lives: a glass of wine always marks important occasions in our lives.” And Luca is right – any of his wines would help you celebrate a special occasion, especially the Poggio alla Sala Vino Nobile Riserva!
Luca and family also make wine that carries the family name, Gattavecchi, which they store in a 7th or 8th-century B.C. cellar just up the road from the Montepulciano clock tower at Cantina Gattavecchi.
Cantina Gattavecchi also serves as their family restaurant and it is here where we ended our third day with a fabulous feast of food, wine, and music with Luca’s friends and family.