For the first time we visited a winery in the Bolgheri area in Tuscany…with a Scottish connection!
Because of you know what, we haven’t visited our families for over a year, skipping the Italian Christmas for the very first time in 2020. Almost unforgivable!
This year, we made up by staying over a month between Piacenza (in the Emilia-Romagna region) and Florence. Both areas are famous (well, one more than the other…) for great food (of course, the lesser famous is the one with better food…Teresa might disagree with this statement) and delicious wine. This makes visiting our families even nicer. The only problem is the lack of whisky distilleries, with the next whisky trip planned weeks ahead. Nonetheless, we found a way to keep our palate trained with a different kind of experience.
In scotch whisky, red wine cask finishes are a relatively recent trend. Surfing the web, we realised that for more experienced whisky aficionados this might be still an unusual, and not always welcome, finish/maturation. Instead, for people like us that have been into whisk(e)y for a few years only, this feels pretty normal. Indeed, we were able to connect more easily with many red wine cask finished drams, such as the Arran Amarone cask, the Port Charlotte MRC, the Ledaig Sinclair Rioja finish or the Longrow Red(s). In our experience, French wine casks seem to be the most prevalent, but we are seeing more and more Italian wine casks.
Two drams that recently surprised us came from GlenAllachie: the first was a widely distributed 11y single malt, bottled at 48%; the second was again 11y, but cask strength and only available at the distillery (click here for more about that trip!). Both were finished in red wine casks from the Grattamacco winery, located on the hills in the Bolgheri area (Livorno Province), an officially recognized wine geographical denomination. In recent years (well, recent in “scotch time”) Bolgheri wine has become really popular, with over 60 wineries now active in the area. All of this just to say that one morning we woke up and said: “Why don’t we just try to check that out?” “Wine not?” (wink-wink).
So there we go! We booked a tour, took the car and drove! We left Florence quite early and after a quick stop for gas and to allow Gianluigi a second breakfast with a delicious pistachio custard croissant, we were on our way to discover a new place! The ride was almost two hours but quite smooth, in fact we arrived early. We thought about taking a walk, but after realising how frickin’ cold it was, we just rang the winery’s bell.
Michela, our guide, was already waiting for us. After our vaccination passes’ check, the visit started in the tasting room, which featured an amazing view on the hills and the Tirreno sea. Michela told us the story of the winery, which was founded in the late 70s by a guy from Lombardy, and sold in 2002 to the Colle Massari company. Compared to other wineries in the area, the estate is at a slightly higher altitude (around 2-300m on the sea level), therefore with a slightly different micro-climate.
After the introduction, we moved to the main production building. They harvest several grapes: Cabernet-Sauvignon (which is the main component of their red wines), Cabernet-Franc, Sangiovese, Merlot and Vermentino. Grapes are mechanically soft-pressed and cleaned to get the must, which is fermented in two types of vessel: metal big tanks or wooden 500 litres open vats (which smell great!). Then, we visited the cellar, where the casks are stored, divided by vintage. All casks are from the Taransaud tonnellerie (cooperage) and are of course made of French oak (Quercus robur)…the smell down there was amazing too! We could also take a look at what Michela called “the library”, where all the vintage bottles (starting from the early 80s) are stored. They use the casks up to four times, before selling them to other smaller wineries or to distilleries to make awesome whiskies (like the GlenAllachie). The vinaccia (leftover of the wine production) is sent to a distillery in Veneto region to produce Grattamacco grappa, and they also grow olives to produce olive oil.
And now, the wine tasting. First off, a white wine, made 100% with Vermentino grapes. We were both pleasantly surprised by how good it was (both not huge fans of white wines, but this one…WOW!). Second, the Bolgheri Rosso, made with four grape varieties (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc, Sangiovese and Merlot), fermented in the metal tanks, and aged 5-6 months. The third and fourth were the stars of the tasting: l’Alberello, single vineyard (less than 2 hectares, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Cabernet-Franc grapes) and aged for almost 18 months. Finally, the long awaited Grattamacco: fermented in oak vats, aged 18 months, mostly Cabernet-sauvignon (~65%) with an addition of Merlot and Sangiovese, with the percentages varying each year. These two wines were both sublime, and it was really hard to decide which one was the best! Anyway, thanks to this visit we sorted out a number of Christmas gifts.
Before going back to Florence, we had a nice lunch in a nearby restaurant (an “agriristoro”, actually), with delicious local food: wild-boar and beef roast. We slowly drove to the (quite small) Bolgheri village, where we took a walk, had a coffee and another glass of wine for the non-driver (Gianluigi): the mighty Sassicaia (mighty also for the price).
Overall, this was an amazing day and no less fun than the trips we usually do, the ones where we end up saying: “we should do this again asap!”! Being our first winery, we felt like total newbies again, but it was a great educational experience (btw, please correct us if we wrote anything wrong!). We have learned so much about this amazing nectar which has been on our families’ tables since we were kids. And the wine spoke for itself!
Grattamacco Winery Tour and Tasting
Price: 35.00 EUR pp (December 2021)
Tasting: 4 glasses of wine – Grattamacco Vermentino (white), Bolgheri Rosso (red), L’Alberello DOC single vineyard (red), Grattamacco Bolgheri (red)
Value for money: looked good to us, but we can’t really tell as this was our very first winery tour
Highlights: the view from the tasting room, the tour in the cellar and the wines…pretty much everything!
Things we did not like: nothing