I was delighted to attend the “Romagna Sangiovese, Heart of Italy seminar at Simply Italian Great Wines Tour 2014 in NYC October 27th, presented by UCLA wine instructor, Master Taster, International Sommelier and all around knowledgeable and gregarious Giammario Villa. In addition to his personal insight into the region and winegrowers, he also revealed the US debut of Romagna Sangiovese Riserva 2011. [The Riserva is is aged for at least 2 years in the cellar, a minimum of 13% alcohol and recommended drinking beginning after 3 years of aging.]
Whilst Sangiovese is usually associated with Tuscany and Chianti, it has been cultivated in the Romagna region of northern Italy for centuries. It tends to produce wines that are more floral with bright fruit and softer tannins then its Tuscan counterpart. More specifically, the wines are known for their striking flavours of violet, black cherry and herbs such as thyme and oregano.
Romagna’s unique location between the Apennines Mountains of Tuscany and the Adriatic Sea give it a range of microclimates and also position it is as the link between northern and southern Italy. There is a balance of heat and cold temperatures, along with sea breezes from the Adriatic. The soil is clay limestone, which in addition to providing good drainage, is exceptionally well suited to Sangiovese.
All of the wines presented are from family run estates that like the majority of the Romagna region, practice a blend of environmentally friendly lute raisonnée, organic, and sustainable viticulture methods. They are passionate about family tradition, the future generations, and drink the wine they make, which is reflected in their philosophy that drinking Sangiovese “means taking a sip of this land”.
Romagna Sangiovese is not just food friendly, but is made to be enjoyed with food. With its tannic structure and crisp acididty, it enhances just about every dish all the while refreshing your palate. My favourite quote of the seminar came during the Q & A with Giammario and the winemakers, when there was a long pause before he ansered a question. Equipped with only water and plain crackers, Giammario stated “It’s hard to talk after taking a sip of Sangiovese Riserva”!
The tasting was given in order from east to west Romagna, in order to observe the influence of the ocean. Wines from the northwest tend to have more exuberant flavours and structure, whilst those hailing from the coast tend to be subtler in character. The general consensus of the winemakers and my fellow classmates was that 2011 is a fantastic vintage for Romagna Sangiovese, with many noting the aging potential of the wines we tasted. Unlike many other winegrowing regions, they did not experience peculiar storms or weather, in fact they had a very “typical” growing season, with the only change being “a little more sunshine”.
Whilst I enjoyed all 8 wines, below are my 4 favourites of the tasting, in order from east to west [numbers 2, 3, 5 & 8].
Tenuta Santa Lucia Sassignolo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva 2011
Estate: Saint Lucia Vinery came into its current form in the early 1960’s when the owner’s father’s estate was joined with his maternal grandfather’s estate for a total of 100 hectares of which 12 are vineyards. The estate is located at an altitude of 250 meters above sea level, in Mercato Saraceno in Val di Savio in the heart of Romagna. The vineyards are cultivated organically, and recently the family has incorporated biodynamic principles such as “the consideration of the influence of lunar phases (both in the vineyards and in the cellar)”. With this composite approach “the area regains its true identity, which is considered the basis for the growth and development of all the wines produced”.
Tasting Notes: Concentrated plum and cherry notes joined wrapped around a core of iron minerality, whilst crushed white peppercorn, vanilla and fruit lingered enticingly between each sip.
$25 [average price]
Tenuta La Viola ‘P.Honorii’ Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC Bertinoro 2011
Tenuta La Viola is a family estate located in Bertinoro, which is on Mount Cesubeo in Romagna. Passionate about crafting wine they believe “that the quality and the character of our wines mainly come from the skills and from the history of the people who have been working with us through the years”. ‘P.Honorii’ was the name Bertinoro was called during the Gothic invasions in the 5th and 6th centuries; it is their “outstanding” wine, crafted from the finest grapes of the estate.
Tasting Notes: Ruby red with garnet edges with aromas of current jam and earth. Straightforward and fresh with flavours of cherry and plum giving way to a pleasantly dry finish of subtle oak and fruit notes.
$36 [average price]
Giovana Madonia ‘Ombroso’ Romagna Sangiovese DOC Riserva Bertinoro 2011
Estate: Giovana Madonia is family estate located on a sunny ridge of the hill of Montemaggio, in Bertinoro. Officially established in 1992, Giovana Madonia’s grandfather was a passionate about wine and cultivated a few acres of vines producing enough for family and friends. Giovana expanded those few acres into 30 acres of vineyards and renovated the underground cellars of the 8th century villa. The grapes for Ombroso were sourced from a 15 acre vineyard planted in 1993/94 and will age wonderfully over the next 10-15 years.
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby red in colour with enchanting aromas of cedar woods, rose and raspberry. Dense yet elegant, with cherry and raspberry flavours gliding along graphite earth elements and smooth tannins, all enveloped by smoky herbs and sweet exotic spices on the plush finish.
$39 [average price]
Leone Conti Societa’ Agricola ContiRiserva Romagna Sangiovese DOC Superiore Riserva 2011
Estate: Leone Conti Societa’ Agricola is headed by Leone Conti, who started working with his aunt on the family land in 1988 and then took over in 1994. The estate dates back to the beginning of the last century and is located in Faenza, on the slopes of the Apennines in the heart of Romagna. Of the 108 acres, 44 are vineyards and 2.5 are given to olive groves. Leone considers himself “hopelessly in love with his vines” and strives “to make the very most of the vine, as good wines are a faithful reflection of the environment in which they are grown: a combination of soil, climate and growing methods”.
Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of smoky earth, wild flowers and cherry. Wild berries, cherry and plum notes lead the way, whilst graphite minerals, licorice and a vivid acidity provide an engaging backbone. Traces of oak join sweet fruit notes in the velvety finish.
$25 [average price]
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