Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sacred and Profane

Life in Italy is pretty interesting. Even on a seemingly normal Tuesday all kinds of things can happen.

Gionni was asked to present Selvapiana's 1996 Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva at an event last night. The event was one of the evenings organized for Artusi week, a celebration of gourmand Pellegrino Artusi.

The event was called Il Sangiovese Incontra Il Sangiovese, and included a tasting of 6 wines made of Sangiovese from Tuscany, and six wines made of Sangiovese from Romagna (as in Emilia Romagna).

I was invited to attend, and even scored a seat on the second row.

A view of the frescoes watching over my wine glasses
Twelve producers and enologists presented their wines as more than 40 lucky journalists, and others in the food and wine sector, followed an intense and surprising wine tasting. The spectacle was guided by none other than Leonardo Romanelli and Giorgio Melandri.

Did I mention the evening unfolded in a deconsecrated church? As if the wine tasting and the presence of famous food and wine writers weren't enough, the event was framed by religious frescoes in the San Carlo di Barnabiti Church.

The tasting was organized with the wines paired off in twos,  one from Tuscany and one from Romagna. (I'll be getting a bit boring in this next part, so if you don't care much about wine just skip down to the bottom where I talk about my dinner .)

The first pair:
Romandiola, Sangiovese di Romagna DOC "Il Malatesta" 2010 (retails at around 6 Euro)
 Bibi Graetz, Rosso Toscano IGT "Testamatta" 2007 (retails at around 75 Euro)

Not sure why they served these two back to back. The Romagna was much younger, frutty, purple in color- it almost felt like a vin novello. The Toscano, a Super Tuscan, was full bodied and tannic and reeked of barrique. The Romagna was a kick in the stomach while the Toscano was a shock to the tongue (it was like being french kissed by stick of oak). Tasting this pair of wines together was was like comparing ricotta cheese and parmegiano reggiano. I like both, but they were very different in style, age and characteristics.

 The second pair:

Villa Venti, Sangiovese di Romagna DOC "Primo Segno" 2008 (retails at about 10 Euro)
  Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007 (retails at about 18 Euro)

This was a fairer match. Both were full bodied, tannic, complex, persistent... and each could stand more time to age in the bottle to soften up a bit. The Chianti had nice acidity, while the Romagna had a bit of minerality that made it interesting.

The third pair: 
Podere la Berta Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva "Olmatello" 2008 (retails at about 18.50 Euro)

Villa Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 (Retails at about 12 Euro)
This was another pair I thought unfair to compare side by side. The nose on the Romagna was a bit strange. I smelled white flowers and even a bit of baby powder. It was like my grandma had just bathed in the glass. Much more pleasant to drink, however- good tannins, plenty of acidity and alcohol. I think the wine was just too tight when I drank it. It needs a couple of years in the bottle and about an hour to breath before being served. In my tasting notes for Vignamaggio, I wrote: "f-ing good!". This of course is not approved by the sommelier association of Italy, but I think it gets the point across.

The fourth pair:

Azienda Agricola Gallegati Romangna Superiore Riserva DOC "Corallo Nero" 2006 (retails at about 16 Euro)
Castello di Monsanto Rosso Toscano IGT "Fabrizio Bianchi Sangiovese" 2006 (retails at about 25 Euro)

This was a fair match. Both wines were full bodied, persistent, overly tannic (needed more bottle aging or at least more time to breath in the glass!), and both had good acidity, but maybe not enough to allow much bottle aging (3-5 years?)

The fifth pair: (by this point my tongue was fried from all the alcohol, so I think the last four wines won't get a completely fair rating)

Tenuta Pertinello Colli di Romangna Centrale Sangiovese DOC "Pertinello" 2008 (retails about 16 Euro)
Castello di Querceto Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT "La Corte" 2006 (Retails at around 25 Euro)

The Romagna was described as "nervous but agile" during the tasting.  This wine won the Three Glasses, tre bicchieri, award from Gambero Rosso. I cannot tell you what I thought. It was just too much after the preceding 9 wines. I'd like to try it again with a nice meal.
On the other hand, even though my tongue could barely take another beating of alcohol and tannins, La Corte was my favorite of the Tuscan wines presented. It was excellent. Full bodied but elegant. The only wine I could not bring myself to spit out. I drank it all from my glass.

And the sixth, and last, pair:

Castelluccio Rosso Forli IGT "Ronco dei Ciliegi" 2007 (About 16 Euro Retail!)

Fattoria Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva 1996 (About 28 Euro Retail)

This was the biggest surprise for me, since I've had the pleasure of tasting lots of Bucerchiale vintages. I'm a big fan of Selvapiana's wines, especially their reserve. I originally thought the 2007 from Forli wouldn't stand a chance. Quite the contrary. The Castelluccio was my favorite of the wines of Romagna. It was the only wine I could not bring myself to spit out, despite the fact that it was the 10th wine I tried and didn't think my tongue could take another drop of Sangiovese. Tasting notes: "Now we're talking!"

On the other hand, I found the Bucerchiale to be a poor choice of vintage. 1996 unfortunately showcases only the cons of the single field reserve, while other vintages (especially the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2006...) show off the best of the Chianti Rufina's heart and soul. I feel bad saying something negative since I have personal ties to this winery, but if anything I am being honest, and hopefully if anyone else reads this who attended the tasting they will not let the 1996 ruin their opinion of the winery.  In other words, Bucerchiale is a phenomenal wine, but not the 1996 vintage.
6 Romagna wines on left, 6 Tuscan wines on right

So, what does one eat after 12 glasses of wine? Something hot! We went to a staple of Florentine eateries, Trattoria Casalinga, and started with tortellini in brodo, in broth, and zuppa di farro, spelt soup.  Then we shared the bollito rifatto alle cipolle, boiled beef stewed with tomatoes, and fegato con salvia, liver with sage together with a mixed salad. This was a perfect, hearty meal after a day on my feet and an evening on my tush in a cold church!

A quick side note:
My friend Christine, who is a writer and art historian and a Taste Florence guide, once remarked that Gionni looks like one of the many faces she's seen in frescoes and paintings in the museums and churches of Tuscany.

I'll include a photo I took of Gionni last night and a copy of one of my favorite frescoes of all time and let you be the judge!

Lorenzo il Magnifico


  1. brava! i love your blog, toni! " was like being french kissed by a stick of oak." hah!

  2. Non mi somiglia per niente,
    Beautiful and iteresting blog, brava.