Spring has sprung in Chicago but we are still in that freezing cold one day, to warm the next, and repeat kind of weather. It was so refreshing and fun to “travel by the glass”, lead by Regine Rousseau of Shall We Wine , to the wine region of the Maremma Toscana DOC on the Mediterranean coast of Tuscany, Italy last month.
The luxurious and lovely Gibson’s Italia set at the heart of the Chicago river was the perfect setting to learn about the the region, the producers and their wines.
The seminar opened with Francesco Mazzei, the President of the Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana, along with Luca Pollini, Consorzio Director describing the area: mountains, scrubland, pine forests, wild boar, horsemen (butteri) and the Med. They had me at ” the sea and the mountains”.
The Maremma region which basically encompasses the province (think county for Americans) of Grosseto which is also a city in the area as well. Grosseto Province is about the size of the state of Delaware. It is in the southern part of Tuscany bordering the region of Lazio (Rome) with miles and miles of Mediterranean coastline that include parkland and wilderness. If you are thinking of a beach, food, wine, vacation, once this Covid period is officially over, this is an area to look into. Most of the area, in the Middle Ages was a swamp that was eventually drained and became scrubland. Mount Amiata (on my bucket list of mountains to climb) is in the northeast. Mount Amiata provides the rain shadow effect that keeps the weather dry for all those Brunellos of Montalcino more inland. In the north as well are the Colline Metallifere ( Metal bearing hills) which as far back as the Etruscans, were mined for minerals. In the southeast corner of the province are the gorgeous “Tufa Towns” like Pitigliano and Sorano. These are towns built upon the tufa rock of the area and are beautiful gems sitting on red rock hills. The wines cover a large range of varieties both local Sangiovese, Ciliegio and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other international varieties as well as grapes of the Mediterranean like Vermentino.
The Maremma region was so undeveloped that there are wild boar, wild horses, birds and other animals. A tradition in the region is the “butteri” (cattle herders). Even though wine growing dates back to the Romans, most of the area has been wild for a long time and over 50% of the vineyards are organic. There are numerous parks and nature preserves like the Maremma Regional Park covering over 9,000 hectares ( 22,000 acres) with over 8.500 undeveloped acres (21,000 hectares) around its border.
The DOCs within the DOC
Generally, consumers are not looking at which DOC is on their bottle, when it comes to purchasing a Super Tuscan wine. The key questions I get asked are in regard to grape blend and price. It is one thing to know the difference between Chianti DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and VIno Nobile di Montelpulciano DOCG. But when it comes to Super Tuscans, the blend is generally between Sangiovese and Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and you can ,also, throw in some of the Rhone varietals, Syrah and Grenache. The Tuscan coast, of which the Maremma has a long coastline, is really about the Mediterrean grapes, Vermentino, Grenache and its siblings and the local Italian grapes Ciliegiolo. In many ways consumers view Super Tuscan wines the way they view Napa and Sonoma wines, red blends that they know by brand. There are DOCGS within the Grosseto/Maremma Region, Morellino di Scansano DOCG (the Morellino biotype of Sangiovese 85%), Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG (90% Sangiovese) and Suvereto DOCG (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese). There are many DOCs, that based on popularity and history were created over the years within Grosseto province: Monteregio di Massa Maritima DOC . Montecucco DOC, Bianco di Pitigliano DOC, Capalbio DOC, Parrina DOC and Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario DOC (thanks to Italian WIne Central for all this information on the DOCs). The Maremma DOC is an all encompassing one and the name “Maremma Toscana” points to this very specific region. The DOC gives the latitude in winemaking and grapes for all these specific DOCs to be included. A very smart thing is that bi-varietal labeling is included. As a retail salesperson I see many consumers using their phone apps and looking rather than seeking help and they are reading the labels. Americans are very varietal-focused so to see the main 2 grapes in a blend is really helpful to clarify immediately the nature of the blends.
We went through tasting the wines below. All the wines were very fresh, juicy from the ripeness but not overripe and cloying . They all had a little bit of garrigue notes (Mediterranean scrub). The fruit was ripe but the wines were not sweet at all, just very vibrant which I guess is what the Maremma is all about.
La Biagiola Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2018 “Tesan” – 60% Sangiovese, 40% Alicante Nero (Grenache) From a Tufo Town, Sovana. Ripe red fruit, liquorice, a full body from the volcanic soil. 15% ABV Looking for a distributor Approx. $14 (All the prices are approximate)
Argentaia Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2018 “Col di Lupo” Magliano in Toscana – A very old Roman Medieval town going back to the Etruscans, 60% Sangiovese, 40% Merlot, Red currant, blackberry 13% ABVLooking for a distributor $29
Quereciabella Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2018 “Mongrana” 50% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon Morello cherry, blackberry, blueberry, cocoa, liquorice, 13.5% ABV one of my favorites Produced by Querciabella Grapes Biodynamically grown $20
Tenuta Casteani Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2014 “Terra di Casteanni” 70% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot, Aged in french Barriques 18-24 months plum, red fruits, balsamic and sweet spice 14..5% ABV $34
Villa Pinciana Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2013 “Terraria” 45% Sangiovese, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot 15 months 50% old barriques, new small barriques 225L 13.5% ABV Looking for importer$55-$59.95
Poggio Cagnano Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2018 “Selvoso” 60% Ciliegiolo, 40% Merlot, 13% ABV Cranberries, strawberries and lavender$22
Fattoria San Felo Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2019 “Balla la Vecchia” Magliano in Toscana 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot I wrote down juicy for this one, red and black fruit. $21.99
Fattoria Il Casalone Maremma Toscana DOC Cabernet 2018 “Poggio Colombi” 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 18 months in French barrique followed by months in bottle. 14% ABV I put stars at the top of the page so I think I really likes this one.$17
Casteprile Prelius Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2015 “Prelius Prile” 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot 18 months in French Oak Barrique $40
Fattoria di Magliano Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso 2015 “Poggio Bestiale” 35% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot 16-24 months in medium toasted 225L french oak barriques (fine-grained woods having had a minimum of 24 months seasoning) then 1 year of aging in the bottle 14% ABV $40
As Covid lockdown slowly ceases and we ease into back to normal, it truly is a luxury to sit at a table, sip wine in glasses rather than tiny paper cups and learn about a wine region, its people and producers. So this was a very joyous day, learning about a new region and seeing old friends in the Chicago wine media and trade. Thank you to IEEM who worked so hard and made this happen and thank you to the Consorzio for bringing the beauty of the Maremma to Chicago for a day!!!