Wine Tastings & Tours

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Critical Wine Montaretto 2013

The Wine Anarchist has been to many wine events, fairs, tastings and such like during his long and illustrious career, but this particular event ranks amongst his favourites.  Each year over the Easter weekend the sleepy hillside village of Montaretto, above the seaside resort of Bonassola in the Province of La Spezia in Liguria livens up to the sound of music and the boisterous crowd attending the Critical Wine Fair.

The organisers, 'Terra e Liberta', have set out to give a platform to small wine producers, especially those who produce organic wines.  Many of the producers are in fact so small that they can't afford to get organic certification.  Some 30 producers from all over Italy have turned up for this year's event.

What the Wine Anarchist particularly likes about this event is the informality of it.  No pin-stripe suits or shirt ties in evidence anywhere as he was accustomed to in his days when he plied his trade in London.  Nooo, you are more likely to see jeans and dreadlocks at this event!  And much jolliness on the streets as people drank out of their glasses they were supplied with at the entrance.

...or failing that, simply straight from the neck:

...and the Wine Anarchist made new friends.  Here you can see him on the left of the picture:

As you can see the weather wasn't so good this year.  Easter Sunday was great, but we opted to go on Easter Monday, where plenty of alcohol was required to keep warm.

Anyway, whilst the WA was trying to elbow his way through the crowds he tried to keep up some pretence of professionalism and attempted to write some notes on the wines so as to be able to communicate some of them to his readers.  So here are some of my personal highlights (all the producers mentioned are organic):

Vignaioli di Maremma 'Il Cerchio'
 In 1988 Corinna and Valentino and their son Beniamino from Milan bought a 9 ha estate in the Maremma in southern Tuscany.  They started producing wine initially commuting between Milan and Capalbio, but after 4 years they moved south permanently to cultivate the land full-time and organically from the outset.   The wines they produce are impressive and well worth of note:

  • Ansonica Costa dell Argentario DOC 2011 -  To some readers the Ansonica grape is better known as the Inzolia of Sicilian fame, but here it makes it's northern most appearance in the southern coastal strip of Tuscany as well as on the island of Elba.  This particular offering also contains 10% of Vermentino, which is ubiquitous along the whole Riviera coast.  The wine is quite full-bodied with a marked mineralilty.  Dried apricot fruit pervades the palate and lingers on a long, soft and warm finish.  It weighs in at a hefty 14% AbV.  On the stand it was sold at €7, which counts as a bargain to the WA for this great wine.
  • Valmarina Sangiovese IGT Maremma Toscana 2010 - 85% Sangiovese with 15% Alicante.  Ruby colour with a good tannic structure underpinned with some lovely ripe bitter cherry fruit and a tart long finish.
  • Tinto Alicante IGT Maremma Toscana 2010 - Alicante is the local name for what is known as Cannonau in Sardinia or Garnacha in Spain or Grenache in France.  The grape came to southern Tuscany from Spain in the 16th century.  This wine has a deep ruby colour with purple reflections.  The nose displays rich fruit of the forest characters.  It is full-bodied with a meaty texture and rich spicy notes.  The lovely rich fruit is underpinned by a good tannic structure.  Hugely intense and warm.  An excellent and unusual wine recalling the wines of the Priorat in Catalunya.  €11 a bottle.
There were a number of producers from Piemonte amongst them the family concern of the Cantine del Castello Conti in Maggiora in the province of Novara. This little family run business cultivates a mere hectare of vines in the little known DOC region of Boca just south of the Italian lake region.  Father Ermanno established the company in 1963.  After his wife gave birth to a third girl he despaired.  He needed a son to take over the business, but the 3 sisters proved him wrong.  Since they have taken over they created the new brand name of 'Rosso delle Donne'.  At the show they had 2 wines on offer:

  • Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo DOC 2010 - A light orangey colour, light in body, but delicate and elegant with aromas and flavours of sweet and ripe wild strawberry but with a marked acidity.  The finish is long and dry. €8
  • Boca DOC 2005 - This was my first wine from this DOC, but it brings to mind the wines of the Valtellina, displaying more elegance rather than the power of Barolo or Barbaresco.  The wine is made of 75% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolino and 5% of Uva Rara, which is also known as Bonarda Novarese.  The colour is garnet red, showing it's age.  It has intense minerally caharcters, reflecting the volcanic soils on which it is grown.  The fruit is like the basic wine of sweet wild strawberries, much more intense.  The tannins are starting to integrate nicely and the acidity is in balance making this a really enjoyable elegant wine.  However at €23 a bottle it is also on the pricey side...
Also from Piemonte hails Lo Spaventapasseri ('The Scarecrow') in Mombaruzzo in the province of Asti.

I didn't taste all their wines (there's a limit on how much the Wine Anarchist can consume in a day...), but this was a selection of their wines:

  • Vino Rosato da Tavola Pinot Nero 'Rugiada' - a lovely aromatic, delicate and fresh rosato with hints of rose petals on the nose, a tingling acidity and a long finish.  Only a Vino da Tavola, because Pinot Nero is not considered traditional in the region.
  • Freisa d'Asti DOC 2011 - Freisa is one of the lesser known grape varieties of Piemonte producing wines of considerable tannins and acidity, like the Nebbiolo.  This offering has marked notes of eucalyptus and a big structure which needs some time to open up and come into it's own.  It's promising a good future though with some underlying sweet fruit and a long finish.
  • Cento Filari 'Piasi' Appasito - This absolutely stunning dessert wine is made from semi-dried Barbera, Freisa and Aleatico grapes.  The colour is light ruby.  The nose reveals sweet chocolate raisins, sweet overripe strawberries and stewed plums.  It only weighs in at 13% AbV.  The palate is sweet without being cloying and balanced by a great acidity.  The texture is smooth as silk and some tannins further help to keep the wine in balance.  This would do very nicely with a a light chocolate dessert.
Also from Piemonte was La Corte Solidale from Berzano in the Province of Alba.  Unfortunately they don't seem to have a website, but they can be contacted on, 0131 806084.  I only tasted one of their wines (I was flagging a bit...), which was very good indeed, their Barbera 'Selvatico'.  Selvatico meaning wild, i.e. no additives at all and wild yeast fermentation.  This wine had real flinty, minerally characters and some wild berry and sweet strawberry fruit.  It showed great character and length and was good value at €7.

From the Abruzzo hailed Emanuele Rasicci from the aptly named Contraguerra (against war! where else in the world do they name a place 'Against War'?) in the province of Teramo

He wasn't really bored, this is just his photogenic pose...  He showed these wines:
  • Bianco Controguerra DOC - Made from 50 Tebbiano d'Abruzzo, 25% Passerina and 25% Pecorino.  This wine is delicate with some earthy characters and dry flinty notes.  There is little fruit, but marked minerality
  • Rosato Montepulciano, which was pleasant delicate and fresh
  • 3 vintages of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG.  The Colline Teramane sub-region is considered the best part of the Abruzzo for Montepulciano and has therefore been elevated to DOCG status (as opposed to simply DOC for the rest of Montepulciano... It's all a bit technical... I'll explain another time).  First came the the still youthful 2010, with nice red berry fruit and a good structure and backbone.  The 2009 displayed more mature plum fruit flavours and some complex herbal notes with a long finish.  The 2007 to my mind, whilst showing some nice mature bouquet of wild herbs, the fruit was drying out a little and may just be a tad over the hill.  The 2 younger vintages sold at a very reasonable €5 whilst the 2007 at €7.
 Emilia Romagna was represented by Gualdora from Ziano Piacentini in the province of Piacenza

This winery has only been going since 2008 but has been an absolute revelation and a real tribute to good winemaking.  The stars of this selection for me were the the Blanca 2012 and the na' de na'.

  • Blanca Colli Piacentino DOC Malvasia Frizzante 2012 - The Malvasia used in this wine is Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, which has almost Moscato-like aromas.  The nose is floral, with elderflower and lemon blossom aromas.  The palate is lightly fizzy with juicy lemon fruit and a long appealing finish, yet absolutely dry.  This can just be sipped on a sunny day on the terrace or as an apperitivo.  An absolute stunner! Give another bottle of this sensuous stuff to the Wine Anarchist any day and he'll be a happy man!
  • OTTO Colli Piacenti DOC Gutturnio Superiore DOC 2011 - A 60/40 blend of Barbera and Croatina (the local name for Bonarda) this has rich ripe fruit and a silky texture finishing long.
  • Val Tidone Rosso IGT 2010 - 70% Barbera, 20% Bonarda (and 10% something else, unless I was to drunk to pay proper attention...) aged for 14 months in French Barrique.  This wine is rich and full with marked vanilla oak spice, dark chocolate notes and a long finish.  It'll need a couple of years to come together in my view.
  • na' de na' 2011 Vino Rosso - na' de na' is dialect for absolutely nothing and  refers to the fact that it is completely additive free and fermented with wild yeasts.  Another example that it is perfectly possible to produce a commercial wine without the aid of additives.  If you want to be critical of this wine, it showed a slight cloudiness, but that did not take away from the aromas and flavours of this well made wine.  It's made from 80%  Bonarda and 20% Barbera, a third of which has been aged for 14 months in barrique (not new).  Dark chocolate notes and rich ripe fruit finish in a long tart finish.  Complimenti!
    NB: On re-tasting the wine at home, we found a brilliantly clear wine.  At first the wine shows a very tight structure with notes of basil thyme and eucalyptus.  It needs to be open for a couple of hours before the richer fruit flavours show themselves.  It would be interesting to see what it would be like in a couple of years time.

Lazio presented another little surprise package in the Podere Grecchi from Vittorchiano in the province of Viterbo  
This estate was set up in 1973 as a traditional nut and cereal farm by Carlo Buzzi.  In 2005 his 2 sons Massimo and Sergio, two guys after my own heart, turned it into a wine estate making excellent commercial wines from mostly international grape varieties.  If that sounds boring, i.e. who wants yet another Chardonnay or Merlot, try these wines, which might just convert you from an ABC (AnythingButChardonnay) drinker to really appreciating these wines again.
  • Poggio Grecchi 2012 Lazio IGT Chardonnay - This actually contains 10% Sauvignon Blanc and it really shows.  The colour is pale golden.  The nose is highly aromatic and lively with great gooseberry, pineapple and lychee fruit.  The fruit carries through on the palate, broadening nicely;  There is a fresh acidity and a decent length.  This, in the humble opinion of the Wine Anarchist, is not far off a good white Bordeaux at a mere €5... AND organic too.  What more can you ask for?
  • Poggio Ferrone Colli Etruschi Viterbesi DOC 2011 - This is made from Merlot with just a splash of Cabernet.  The colour is a deep ruby.  The aroma distinctly recalls freshly ground coffee as well as some blackberry and plum fruit.  The palate carries on with a sweet plum fruit and some nice vanilla spicyness, which I'm assured does not come from barrel ageing as the wine only sees stainless steel during its maturation.  For a Merlot it also has a firm structure and a long, juicy finish.  Really well made wine, also at a bargain €5.
Do check out the links on the different coloured text for more info on the wineries, where to visit them and how to get hold of their wines.  They all deserve your support.

And finally, as this is my first blogpost and just to give you a final impression of the atmosphere in Monateretto a little video of some drunken revelers dancing.  If you find yourself at a loss for something to do at Easter next year, come to Montaretto.  you can even pitch your tent on the local football pitch.


  1. Congratulations my big friend!...and cousin!
    another great move forward! will enjoy this blog as much as the other one!

  2. ...and the wine as we go along... ;)

  3. Tasting new wines is a wonderful way of spending time in my opinion. Cheers!