Posts tagged ‘michele scienza’
I love the style and scope of Italian white wines, especially the gorgeous aromatics of the best bottlings from Friuli, Alto Adige and Campania. These are the best known whites in the country, but there are some gems I love that are produced in small quantities, so their fame is minimal. I’m thinking here of Pecorino from Marche and Abruzzo as well as Erbaluce from Piemonte or the occasional Fiano from Sicily (Planeta) or Falanghina from Puglia (Alberto Longo).
A few years ago on a visit to Bolgheri, along Tuscany’s west coast, I discovered the white wine from Guado al Melo, an excellent small estate in this famous red wine district. Like several properties here, the winery grows Vermentino, a white variety that is seen along the coast, both here and on the island of Sardinia. Most examples are made without any oak aging, so as to preserve the pine and pear aromas; the perfumes are a trademark of this wine along with its vibrant acidity. Most are fairly straightforward in their approach, with an appealing freshness along with a bite of saltiness in the finish, no doubt a result of the plantings near the sea.
Of the examples of Vermentino from Bolgheri, the most intriguing for me is the Bianco from Guado al Melo. The trick here is the addition of a variety rarely seen in Italy, Petit Manseng. Grown primarily in southwestern France, Petit Manseng is a white mutation of Manseng Noir; thus it is also known as Manseng Blanc. The aromatics of this variety – quince and apricot – are among the reasons that owner Michele Scienza planted this variety. Son of famed Italian viticultural historian Attilio Scienza, Michele has more than 30 varieties planted at his Guado al Melo estate.
The blend for the Guado al Melo Bianco is usually around 90% Vermentino and 10% Petit Manseng; the latter variety adds complexity and a bit of texture and rounds out the palate. It is very appealing in its youth, but thanks to the excellent acidity of the Vermentino, it ages well. I recently tasted the 2002 vintage (actually a fine vintage in Bolgheri, despite being below average in most of Tuscany) and it displayed lovely freshness and complexity. This may be an exotic white, but there is a nice earthiness in the older bottlings. In its youth, I’d recommend it with Asian cuisine, but as it ages, it becomes a more appropriate partner with veal or lighter game – it’s a serious white wine and proof of the ongoing need by the country’s finest producers to craft new styles and new wines.
Last week at VINO 2010 in New York City, I attended several seminars, ranging from the wines of Calabria to one feauturing wines from Sardegna made from the Cannonau grape. For this post, I’d like to focus on the seminar about the wines of Tuscany’s western coast.
Led by Piero Selvaggio, the gracious owner of Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica, CA (as well as Las Vegas), this tasting and seminar dealt with the wines of two separate zones in western Tuscany; Morellino di Scansano to the south and further north, the famous territory of Bolgheri.
The wines from these areas are quite different in nature. Morellino di Scansano is made primarily from Sangiovese, while Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the main types used in Bolgheri. Professor Attilio Scienza, arguably Italy’s most knowedgable authority on indigenous Italian varieties (his last name in Italian fittingly translates as “science”) spoke about the soils of these lands and why particular varieties were well suited to specific zones. He also asked all of us to note the youth of the producers who were present to speak about their wines. These young vintners, armed with the knowledge of their parents and grandparents, are forging new paths in Tuscan viticulture.
The wines of Morellino di Scansano (Morellino, or “little cherry” is the synonym for Sangiovese here) can be quite traditional, made with 100% Sangiovese and aged in large oak casks or they can be quite modern in their approach, often blended with small percentages of Cabernet Sauvigon, Merlot or Alicante, a variety that adds very deep purple, almost black color to the wine. The wines selected for this seminar were primarily traditional in style; my favorites were the 2005 Villa Patrizia “Le Valentane” and the 2008 Celestina Fé. The former offers black cherry and tar notes with a lightly spicy finish and should drink well for another 3-5 years. The latter is a wine meant for earlier consumption (2-3 years), but one that shows remarkable subtlety, finesse and elegance. There are lovely strawberry and red currant flavors with silky tannins, subtle wood notes and lively acidity. I love wines like this, which display not only beautiful varietal character, but also a gentle hand of the winemaker.
I’ve written previously about Bolgheri; this seminar showcased some of the area’s lesser-known producers. These estates, such as Guado al Melo, Batzella and Poggio alle Querce may never be as famous as Ornellaia or Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), but they are first-rate and display the excellent to outstanding quality of this zone. My favorite wine of this seminar was the 2006 Guado al Melo Bolgheri Superiore, which is produced from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. Medium-full with flavors of marascino cherry and black currant, this is impeccably balanced and has the structure to age for 10-12 years and perhaps even longer. It is an excellent, almost textbook example of what a top notch Bolgheri red is all about. This estate, incidentally, is run by Michele Scienza, the son of Attilio.
Selvaggio made an important point; that despite the use of Bordeaux varieties, these wines had a Tuscan character. I agree and I believe a major reason for this is the fact that the vineyards are so close to the sea – usually 3-7 miles – which moderates temperatures and preserves acidity.
This was an excellent look at one of Tuscany’s newest viticultural chapters and I want to thank the Italian Trade Commission, BuonItalia and the producers for making this event so memorable!