Alberto from Roccapesta explains Morellino di Scansano

Published: 11-02-2017

Alberto Tanzini, owner of Az. Agr. Roccapesta, which we would argue produces some of the finest Morellino di Scansano wines made, visited us here in London to host a masterclass for our team on the terroir of the region as well as introducing his wines to some of London’s finest restaurants. Below is a summary of what we have learned!

Recent vintages in Morellino

2013 was a great vintage. Growing conditions were very good throughout the year. Low pathogen pressure along with sunny days ensured excellent grape maturation. It was possible to harvest grapes at their optimum maturity and therefore the best expression of each wine could be achieved.

2014 was a challenging vintage. What made this vintage particular was the high amount of rain throughout the year and the lack of sunshine even if it wasn’t raining. The lower ripeness level of grapes produced very good entry level wines (fresh, fruity, drinkable) but was challenging for the production of more structured wines. Therefore neither Roccapesta Riserva nor Calestaia were produced. Additionally the production of Roccapesta was of 20’000 bottles only, instead of 40’000 as only perfect grapes were selected to produce it.

2015 This can confidently be called a very good vintage with ideal growing conditions. There was the perfect amount of sun and rain fell mostly during the night. There was no risk of diseases at all, hence the levels of sulphur and copper which needed to be used were very low.

2016A challenging vintage because the season was extremely dry and some of the wines suffered dry stress. The upside is however that the temperature was nothing short of perfect for the ideal maturation of grapes. The outcome is a smaller production (30% less than previous years), but therefore quality is very good.

About Morellino di Scansano

You might have already been to Tuscany on holidays and yet you might not have heard of ‘Maremma’, which is the area that reaches from the sea into the mountains of about 1800m altitude in the southern part of Tuscany, close to Montalcino. It is a fairly remote area and maybe therefore not quite as well known. The soil here is made up of volcanic soil, clay and limestone.

In the vineyards...

Alberto works as closely to nature and with least impact on it as possible. Yet he doesn’t call himself an organic/ biodynamic winery. In his opinion biodynamic farming is excellent for the soil management and insect bio-diversity of agricultural fields but doesn’t necessarily make sense for the growing of wine grapes. The way he explains it is very reasonable to me: In biodynamic and organic farming it is perfectly acceptable and in fact very common to spray “natural” copper on vines (the famous ‘Bordelais mixture’ is made up from copper, lime and water and has been used in vineyards for the past hundred something years). There are two apparent downsides to this, the first one being that copper is easily washed away by rain - meaning that if it rains shortly after the vineyards have been treated with copper, the treatment would have to be repeated. The second and in my humble opinion nearly a bit disturbing fact is that “natural” copper needs hundreds of years to degrade once it hits the ground! At Roccapesta modified copper is in use which clings onto the plants much better than normal copper, hence only a tiny fracture of the amount sprayed in organic/ biodynamic vineyards is used. This would not be allowed if they were certified organic, despite it having less impact on the ground. All other products used by Alberto are also allowed for organic viticulture. No herbicides or pesticides are employed at all.

At Roccapesta vineyards are treated with some 'bio stimulanti’. You can imagine these to be a bit like vitamins for vines, they strengthen the plants from the inside, hence less other products need to be used to protect them of vineyard diseases. Also a clever, new machine is used at Roccapesta to treat vineyards if chemicals are needed and it collects any excess of products again which leads to less of any product to be absorbed into the ground.

In other words vineyards are treated as a team of natural beings, In fact all vegetal and animal varieties -the ones which are under the surface as well as in the air - highly influence the life of vineyards. Until few years ago the approach was to kill everything so that no enemies could attack the vines. It turned out to be quite a big mistake, the worst diseases are always increasing when no competitors survive. Biodiversity plays an important role in Roccapesta’s vineyards and even the bright red wax capsules which close their bottles are made by vineyard bees!

Winemaking techniques

Alberto is visibly excited about the appointment of his new winemaker Gianluca Colombo. Aged 37, Gianluca gained his experience in winemaking in Piemonte where he previously worked for Caviolo & Cordero and his first vintage at Roccapesta was 2016. Convinced of his talent, Alberto leaves freedom to Gianluca to enable him to express it in his winemaking.

Changes so far are that grapes were harvested earlier in 2016 and wines were fermented at lower temperatures which led to less extraction and more elegance and deeper colour.

Tasting Notes

2014 Ribeo

This is the most fruit forward wine of the estate and it comes from 10- 15 year old vineyards. It is aged for 1.5 years out of which 12 are in concrete and 6 are in bottle.

It has a medium intense ruby red colour and smells of savoury herbs and spices. On the palate it offers heaps of sour cherries and it has a medium intense, slightly drying tannin. I think this can make a great start to a meal and go with various antipasti or white meat dishes.

2013 Roccapesta

This is the main wine of the estate and it offers the best expression of the Roccapesta terroir as the best vineyard parcels are used for it. The blend is made up from 96% Sangiovese and 4% Ciliegiolo (which means translated “something that reminds of cherry fruit”). The vineyard is now 15 years of age and is harvested about 10-15 days after the Ribeo. 40 barrels are produced and only 1-2 of these are are exchanged for new ones each year with the intention to mellow the tannins rather than adding any oaky flavour to the wine. The barrels are bigger than your usual barriques (500-600l) and they are French-made by Tarancaud and Seguin-Moreau. After 12 months in oak, Roccapesta spends a further year in bottle. Morellino di Scansano requires 6 months ageing and the Riserva version 24 and the total of Roccapesta is usually longer than that.

A wine of brilliant ruby red colour with light garnet hues. On the nose I smell predominantly red cherries and berries as well as a hint of smoke or tar. This has lovely balance packaged in a medium body. Additionally to its red berry fruit flavours such as cranberries and raspberries this has some savoury notes too and it really is a mouth watering wine.

2010 Calestaia

The vineyards of this pure Sangiovese were planted in 1975 and the grapes end up in big open top fermentation tanks made from oak only shortly after the grapes have been picked by hand. During the fermentation punch-downs are done manually/ After the fermentation the wine is transferred into 2500l barrels for 2 years and then it spends a further 3 years in bottle before the wine is released.

The wine has a medium intense ruby red colour with subtle garnet tinches. On the nose it is ripe and rich with black cherry fruit, white pepper, marzipan and ripe strawberries as well as a hints of cedar wood. Your first sip is medium plus bodied with ripe, well integrated tannins. This wine is of excellent balance and stays in your mouth. Classy!

By Anja Breit 

Leave a comment: