Rocca di Montegrossi Tasting
Last Tuesday we had the honour of a visit from Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi from our Chianti Classico Estate, Rocca Di Montegrossi. Although I have known and loved these wines since listing them in restaurants during my sommelier days, it is always a pleasure to speak to the people behind the wines. There is so much more to learn! Marco is a man of understated class, very much like the wines that he produces.
Located in the area of Monti in Chianti, one of the finest regions of Chianti Classico, Marco explained that his family’s link with the area can be traced back to the 11th Century and to the foundations of Chianti wine itself. Rocca di Montegrossi currently has 20ha planted to vines and produces five different wines. Like the Ricasoli-Firidolfi family, these are wines of top pedigree.
Starting with the absolutely delicious 2015 Rosato, made from 100% Sangiovese (sourced from the vineyard of San Marcellino), Marco explained that they had changed the process of winemaking for this wine over the past couple of years. Traditionally, it was made in a saignée method, where the juice is ‘bleed’ from red grapes and after contact with the skin of the grapes, creating a richer, deeper coloured wine. In recent vintages, Marco has started to make the rosato by gently pressing the grapes and leaving the wine in contact with the skins for only a few hours. This lends itself to a more delicate and lighter style of rosato. He explained that this is not just a wine for the summer time, but a wine that can be very versatile with most foods, except red meats. It tends to open up after about six months in the bottle.
Moving onto the flagship wine of the estate, the 2013 Chianti Classico. 2013 was a cooler vintage in the Chianti region, producing wines with freshness and structure. This was absolutely enchanting now but the quality of this wine really deserves some years of cellaring to truly show its greatness. As Marco said, “I don’t think anyone is going to let it last that long”. I certainly don’t think I can hold back from drinking this.
The 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘San Marcellino’ is a massive step up in quality and complexity. This 7ha single vineyard surrounds the Church of San Marcellino, with Sangiovese vines over 50 years old. The wine sees about 5% of Pugnitello added to the blend, giving it additional structure. 2010 was the first vintage labelled under the Gran Selezione requirements and although these rules and regulations are stricter than the Chianti Classico laws, Marco feels that they do not go far enough to guarantee quality. Therefore, he goes above and beyond minimum standards required with the San Marcellino being aged for 28 months in barrique (225L) and tonneau (900L) and then an additional 2 years in bottle before being released. This wine certainly transcends any idea of your ‘standard Chianti’ and will reward you with some cellar time.
The 2011 Geremia is a step outside of the Chianti box for Rocca di Montegrossi. This Bordeaux blend, with the predominant grape always being Merlot, usually about 65-70%, and the rest of the cuvée made up from Cabernet Sauvignon. Although this is not within the Chianti Classico structure, it certainly has the Rocca di Montegrossi DNA of quality. Marco talked about the ripeness of the Merlot grape and how lucky that they were that their vineyards were located so high (about 500m above sea level), so that the temperatures stayed cool, even in hot vintages, and the Merlot never over-ripened and became jammy or alcoholic. He also mentioned that they had been planting more Cabernet vines, but that is for a secret project that he can’t mention………….. Just don’t tell him that I mentioned it. I guess we’ll just have to watch this space.
The absolute star of this show (for me) was the final wine, 2006 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico. Vin Santo is the process of drying out the botrytis affected grapes, usually on mats. This is a similar process as the Vin de Paille from France or Straw Wines from the New World. Unlike other producers in the Chianti region, Marco dries out the Malvasia Bianca grapes by hanging them up on nets in sheds. This is a more labour intensive process, but it allows them to quickly and efficiently pick out any bunches that may get affected by Grey Rot during the drying process. This is much less likely to be seen if the grapes are drying out on racks, which is the process that most producers use. The statistics on this wine are amazing: 416 grams residual sugar per litre (Sauternes is usually about 100g); 6-7 years ageing in barrel and then a further 2 years in bottle; approximately 800-2,000 bottles produced in only the top vintages (depending on the vintage); only 8-9 litres of wine produced from 100kg of grapes. After tasting this wine, I knew for certain that I’ll be buying a three pack for Christmas day to accompany the traditional Christmas pudding. The flavours lingered in my mouth for a full 5 minutes and I certainly didn’t spit out this nectar. Marco mentioned that this wine can be left in the fridge for a few months after opening. Obviously he has never been to my house, it wouldn’t last 2 nights…
This was an amazing way to start a Tuesday morning. I have long admired these wines since being introduced to them back in 2005 and this morning re-invigorated my love for the wines and Rocca di Montegrossi as a producer.
By Luke Robertson
Luke's Tasting Notes
2015 Rosato Toscana IGT, Rocca di Montegrossi
A very different style to early vintages of Marco’s rosato. A lot lighter in colour and texture.
This rosato is extremely fresh and clean with loads of strawberries and cream on the nose. The palate displays similar flavours to the nose with a delicious creamy texture to the wine. This is a fantastic alternative for those looking for a traditional Provençal Rosé.
2013 Chianti Classico, Rocca di Montegrossi
Attractive spicy and brambly fruits with blueberries and sweet berried fruits. The aromas almost remind me of freshly baked blueberry muffins.
The palate opens with lovely crunchy berried-fruits. This wine has a supple texture to it with firm, but ripe tannins. There is a freshness on the finish that just lifts the structure of the fruit and leaving you wanting another sip.
2010 Chianti Classico ‘San Marcellino’ Gran Selezione, Rocca di Montegrossi
The intensity of this wine jumps out of the glass, filling the air with notes of sweet blueberries and blackberries, chocolate and sweet spices. There is a hint of cedary oak on the nose adding to the complexity.
The palate is extremely rich, intense and inky. Again, you can find flavours of ripe blueberries and blackberries with a firm texture. The finish is extremely long, lingering in the mouth for about 15-20 seconds. The freshness and acidity shows the coolness of the vintage. This is extremely complex now, but I think that it will be even better with another 2 years of time in the cellar and will last for at least another 10 years.
2011 Geremia Toscana IGT, Rocca di Montegrossi
Sweet, baked, black fruits with loads of cooking spices fills the nose. There is a ripe attack on the palate that fills out, leading to cedary and earthy flavours and firm, finely grained tannins.
2006 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, Rocca di Montegrossi
What a way to finish the tasting. It’s hard to put into words how great this wine is. Pretty much all that I wrote was “xmas pud. Yummy”
Not sure that I can use that as a proper note. So….
Amazing complexity. Notes of toffee, cinnamon, dried fruits, brown sugar tart. Extremely viscous in the glass with the wine holding onto the sides of the glass. After being so captivated by the aromas, the palate delivered even more. Very similar flavours on the palate as what I discovered on the nose, with an additional layer of orange peel, coffee, raisins, treacle and more. The wine absolutely coats every part of the mouth and lingers for over 5 minutes after swallowing it. Somehow, even though this wine is extremely viscous and intense, it is not cloying and you could easily drink a bottle without realising it. This wine will last decades.