Wine tour: from the land of Brunello to the Maremma

From June 26 to July 6 2014, Tuscany hosted the 4th edition of Melodia del Vino, a musical journey through Florence, Grosseto, Siena and Livorno, stopping at some of the region’s most striking wineries. In my previous article, I talked about the first two locations of the musical event, which are also superb examples of modern architecture: Antinori nel Chianti Classico and Petra. The tour continues in the land of Brunello di Montalcino and reaches the Maremma in the south of Tuscany. Have a nice trip!

Castello Banfi in Montalcino
Castello Banfi in Montalcino

Castello Banfi: the Brunello castle in Montalcino

Among the hills of the Val D’Orcia landscape stands the medieval Banfi castle, today a symbol of one of the major producers of Brunello di Montalcino wine in Tuscany. But the history of Banfi started only in 1978, when the Italian-Americans Mariani brothers arrived in Tuscany after a long experience in wine importation in the United States.
The view from Castello Banfi
The view from Castello Banfi

They came to Montalcino and started some major research with the University of Milan about the Sangiovese grape. Familiar with the international market, especially the U.S. one, they decided to create an innovative winery for the production of premium wines. Mariani set up the company, whose name derives from the Italian aunt who welcomed them to Italy: Theodolinda Banfi. The company now owns 2,830 hectares of land, 850 of which are vineyards. It produces 10,000,000 wine bottles per year, including Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, whites and famous Super Tuscans made based on Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot.

Pink castle: tasting rosè at Banfi castle in Montalcino
Pink castle: tasting rosè at Banfi castle in Montalcino
 
A well-deserved rest at L'Andana estate, owned by the Moretti family and the chef and hotelier Alain Ducasse
A well-deserved rest at L'Andana estate, owned by the Moretti family and the chef and hotelier Alain Ducasse

Rocca di Frassinello: from a small idea to a big designer cellar

From Montalcino we travel through the countryside and arrive at Rocca di Frassinello. The Rocca Frassinello winery is located in Gavorrano (Grosseto) and was born from an idea of the winemaker and journalist Paolo Panerai with the support of the entrepreneur Domain Baron de Rothschild-Lafite, giving rise to the first joint venture between an Italian and a Frenchman. During the ‘90s, Paolo Panerai, manufacturer of wine for 30 years in the Chianti Classico, discovers the great potential of the Maremma in terms of wine production and aims to create a competitive Super Tuscan wine. After purchasing the land with his French partner, they decided to ask for the intervention of the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano.

Rocca di Frassinello wine cellar in Gavorrano
Rocca di Frassinello wine cellar in Gavorrano
Rocca di Frassinello is red, like the terracotta used for Maremma’s roofs. Most of the perimeter was designed for the manual selection of the grapes during the harvest season and its large windows welcome guests into an essential shopping area that aims to highlight the surrounding landscape.
Vermentino vineyards at Rocca di Frassinello estate
Vermentino vineyards at Rocca di Frassinello estate
The winery boasts 500 hectares, 78 of which are devoted to the cultivation of red vines and Vermentino. Rocca di Frassinello produces about 350,000 bottles of wine a year that combine Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Among the most famous labels there are: Rocca di Frassinello, Le Sughere di Frassinello, Baffonero, Ornello and Vermentino Maremma.
The magnificent barrique cellar and tasting room of Rocca di Frassinello hosts the Melodia del Vino show every year
The magnificent barrique cellar and tasting room of Rocca di Frassinello hosts the Melodia del Vino show every year
Inside the cellar, a highly theatrical space, conceived by Renzo Piano as a magnificent tasting room, hosts the Melodia del Vino show every year.
Rocca di Montemassi estate in Roccastrada
Rocca di Montemassi estate in Roccastrada

Rocca di Montemassi: past and future of the Maremma

We stay in the Maremma and from Gavorrano we go towards Roccastrada. Next stop: Rocca di Montemassi winery. The Etruscans were the first to plant vines in this area. Even the Romans called the area Ager Cosanus, the land promised to Bacchus, where they produced the wine that was served at the Emperor’s tables. In 1998, the Venetian family Zonin acquired a 430-hectare property, 160 hectares of which are planted with vines.
Rocca di Montemassi estate in Roccastrada. The lake
Rocca di Montemassi estate in Roccastrada. The lake

Together with Sangiovese and Vermentino, which are clear markers of Tuscan identity, they grow Syrah, Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Merlot and the white Viognier.

Break lunch at Rocca di Montemassi: pasta with pine nuts, basil and fresh tomatoes sauce 
Break lunch at Rocca di Montemassi: pasta with pine nuts, basil and fresh tomatoes sauce 

Their main values are respect for history and local traditions. The cellar was built from a restored local villa. The same attention is paid to their vineyards, which grow in a windy area between the Gulf of Follonica and Marina di Grosseto. Here the wind swings from the sea to the hills in the morning and from the hills down to the sea in the afternoon.

Vermentino vineyard for Calasole wine at Rocca di Montemassi 
Vermentino vineyard for Calasole wine at Rocca di Montemassi 

Dominating the green rolling landscape there is Montemassi Castle, built in the 11th century and today a symbol of their brand. Among their most famous labels include Rocca di Montemassi, Le Focaie and Calasole.