Anyone that has even a passing acquaintance with Wine Alchemy knows of my love of the wines of Tuscany and in particular those from Chianti and the new lands of Bolgheri and the Maremma. Furthermore, my passione for the wines of the Querciabella estate seems to only increase with each new vintage. Organic since 1988 and biodynamic since 2000, owner Sebastiano Cossia Castaglioni has pursued quality and innovation relentlessly while continuing to expand his vineyards and cuvÃ©es; first at his 74 hectare estate in the heart of Chianti Classico and then developing 32 hectares in the Maremma, down on the unspoiled Etruscan Coast.
This spring there was a new Super-Tuscan wine released into the Querciabella range: Turpino. Like Palafreno and Mongrana, the wine gets its name from an Italian epic poem. It neatly slots in next to Mongrana.
Turpino is a blend, of 40% Cabernet Franc with 40% Syrah and 20% Merlot. Not that unusual for a super-Tuscan these days perhaps. What I do find unusual is that it is a blend of regions. Fruit from the high altitude Chianti Classico vineyards brings cool elegance but this is combined in equal proportion with fruit from the warmer and plusher sea-level Maremma. While there is something almost heretical about this to the terroir-purist in me there is no doubting that adopting this approach has created an exciting and entrancing red wine, a heady blend of the traditional and the modern. This is fresh-thinking new-world Italian at its finest.
That combination of the traditional and the modern extends to how the wine is made, by winemaker Manfred Ing. Each grape variety is micro-vinified in oak fermenters using only natural yeasts and only the free-run juice is used. (What happens to the press wine is not known.) French barrels are used and only 20% of them are new so that the wine is not overtly marked by wood flavours or additional tannins. Cabernet Franc is given a tighter grained barrel given its more tannic characteristics. After sixteen months the blend is made, with another eight months integration in tank before bottling. 20,000 bottles have been made. As with all Querciabella wines, no animal products are used in production, so the wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. As an aside, biodynamic vineyard preparations usually involve cow-horns, but not here – a ceramic alternative has been developed.
Given this wine is at the early stages of a potential 20-25 year lifespan, it is youthful and not yet at peak – that must be 2-5 years away at least. So this is a wine to buy and keep for now. At this stage then, Turpino was given every encouragement to express itself; first it was decanted quite roughly and then left for a couple of hours and, following Sebastianoâ€™s advice, ensuring it was warm in the glass at around 18Â°C. I then used a Riedel Pinot Noir glass so I could get a good swirl and release the aromatics. All that paid off handsomely!
This deep coloured red wine already has terrific aromatics and intensity. Red cherry and damson fruit scents are accompanied by an attractive pencil-shavings note (step forward Cab Franc). On the palate the fruit is at once seamless yet multilayered, with an attractive balsamic touch. Thereâ€™s richness and elegance here rather than muscular power, a melange of fruit flavours balanced by fresh acidity and polished soft tannins. In that I was reminded of the wines made by Ridge in California (praise indeed), there is a new world feel but without excessive alcohol or lushness. That balsamic note lingers for some time on the finish if you let it. There are all the ingredients necessary for Turpino to improve further in bottle over time. I am always struck by the purity and sheer drinkability that Querciabella achieve, you almost have to force yourself to linger over each glass.
In short, Turpino is an excellent new addition to Querciabellaâ€™s fine range, bringing something new and different. Truly then a super super-Tuscan.
Given the sheer numbers of super-Tuscan wines created over the past few years is there really any more room for yet another? Yes, when it is as fine as this and from such a great estate. Where there are others clearly wearing the Emperorâ€™s new clothes, Turpino is the real deal.