Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


Mongrana, Querciabella, Toscana, Italy 2006

Querciabella is a small Italian property based at Greve in the heart of Chianti. Their considerable reputation rests upon a range of superb hand-crafted biodynamic wines (see my Querciabella review). These include the Super-Tuscan Bátar, Palafreno and Camartina plus a delicious Chianti Classico DOCG.

Owner Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni has expanded by planting a new vineyard in the Maremma – a low lying area about 50 miles away on the Tuscan coast. Like other Tuscan winemakers he saw the vinous potential of this region where land is available at more affordable prices than in Chianti. Consequently, Querciabella has 36 hectares growing Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot near the town of Albarese.

2005 was the first vintage made from these vines, christened Mongrana after Ariosto’s epic poem of 1516 called Orlando Furioso. The review here is of the second, brand new 2006 vintage just released.

Mongrana is roughly 50% Sangiovese with equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These young vines are of course biodynamically farmed and yields are restricted to 45-50 hl/ha. The grapes are hand picked and then fermented separately in temperature-controlled stainless steel before maturation in cement vats.

Just a small part of the crop is matured in oak barriques for 3 months and this is added back at final blending. The barriques are not used to add oak flavour which would only mask the youthful fruit qualities. Instead they introduce a little more maturation from exposure to oxygen, so bringing extra complexity to the final blend.

Given that this is a very young wine, Mongrana was decanted for an hour. A dark cherry coloured core and a purplish rim show the evidence of youth.

Decanting really helps open up the nose – there are typically Italian aromas; sour red cherries accompanied by dried herbs and spices.

The palate shows plenty of juicy fresh acidity. Initially cherry flavours are to the fore then hints of cassis and damson appear alongside cloves and cinnamon. Final hints of earth and almonds on the finish make this typically Italianate and moreish.

There’s a medium body and an elegant balance of acid, alcohol and fruit. It is refreshing to see a modern wine released at a very palatable 13% alcohol and while the fruit is relatively straightforward it has a racy exuberance so typical of young vines.

Being so young, the tannins are still a little grainy and need a longer to resolve fully. However, there is nothing harsh on offer here and because this is a wine designed to accompany food the tannins play a complementary part. Charcuterie, fillet steak or spinach and ricotta pasta all work well.

This wine will improve over the next couple of years and possibly beyond that. However, I recommend drinking it young while it’s fresh and energetic with food. Querciabella’s other wines are more suitable for bottle ageing.

Mongrana is positioned as the entry-level wine in line up. That shouldn’t put you off as it is a fine introduction at a very sharp price – $17.99/£8.99 is a bargain given the pedigree of this great Tuscan estate.