Tuscany is divided into several wine zones and Wine Travel Guides currently has two guides to wine tours in the heart of the region including some of Tuscany’s finest reds. Below, Donna Jackson, who lives in Italy and spent four years in Tuscany, tells us about Bolgheri in the south west of the province of Livorno near the coast – another important area for fine reds.
Bolgheri, a town located in the comune of Castagneto Carducci, on the edge of the Maremma area south-west of Florence, is the birthplace of Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia fine wines in the Super-Tuscan trend. In the last twenty years wine from Bolgheri has received attention for the quality of its wines, and also from traditional Chianti winegrowers who did not approve of the new blends being employed with the venerable Sangiovese. Some pioneering winemakers here began blending the grapes of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, producing a style of wine more in line with the Bordeaux tradition. This region was ruled out as an optimum region in the past because of its proximity to the sea – it was said to produce wines with a salty flavour.
In 1994 the classification of DOC Bolgheri Rosso and Rosso Superiore signified recognition of the use of these different grapes, and these appellations now incorporate ten estates. Rather ironically, pioneer, Satta’s Vigna a Cavaliere (100% Sangiovese) is not recognized by regulators, and only managed to achieve the IGT designation. One further category was created – that of DOC Sassicaia – the first and only single estate in Italy to achieve this. Quite a distinction which is reflected in the price, and because internationally and especially in the USA, people recognise them as fine Italian wines, but are often unaware of the origins in Bolgheri. The same is true of other Super-Tuscans: Ornellaia and Belvedere’s Guado al Tasso are more often associated with the famed Antinori family rather than with the land from where they are produced in Bolgheri.
I particularly like the wines from the Grattamacco estate of Colle Massari in Castagneto Carducci whose Bolgheri and Grattamacco wines are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. I recently tasted the Bolgheri 2006 vintage which had a lovely intense ruby colour in the glass and on the nose; ripe fruits, plum and a hint of smokiness. On the palate: good mineral quality, plum with strong tannins and a long finish. The wine could be laid down for awhile to improve, but was a good match for the typical Tuscan fare we ate with it. I had pappardelle con porcini and my partner a huge saucepan of caciucco – a rich tomato seafood soup that Livorno is famous for. This wine would pair very well with game too.
The present-day name of Castagneto Carducci was given to the ancient fief in 1907, in honour of the poet Giosue’ Carducci who stayed there as an adolescent and who always remained tied to it – originally it was called Castagneto Marittimo. Dominated by the castle of the della Gherardesca counts, Castagneto Carducci has all the charm of a typical Tuscan village with steep streets. Today, only a section of the walls remain, facing the sea. The local Spar sells the makings of a good picnic to enjoy with the view.
In Via Carducci, there is the house where the poet lived in 1848 with the ‘Centro Carducciano’. A visit to Castagneto cannot end without a walk to Piazzale Belvedere, located in a panoramic position, from where there’s a great vista right to the coast. Giovanni Chiappini’s estate in the centre of Bolgheri is lovely for a walk among the cypress trees, accommodation is available there. We couldn’t resist the cypress road walk at Bolgheri and then reluctantly got back into our car to drive back to Livorno, to my parents-in-law who live just down the road. We’ll be back.