I was recently the guest of the Romagna Sangiovese Consorzio for the launch of the new vintages called 2017 Anteprima, Vini ad Arte. The event takes place in Faenza, 40 minutes from Bologna. The new Sangiovese and Albana, the local white variety, are introduced, the press are invited. And it’s a bit of a festival too with a public tasting. Wrapped up into it is the ‘Master del Sangiovese’ competition for AIS-accredited sommelier. The whole event takes place in the genuinely impressive Museo Internationale delle Ceramiche, MIC to its friends. The museum hosts an outstanding collection of ceramics so you can admire a Picasso or a contemporary ceramic in between sips of wine … For me this was a great chance to catch up what has been happening here in Romagna since my first visit of 2013.
The wines shown were:
The challenge for the top growers in the region has been twofold. First, they have to distinguish themselves from inexpensive Romagna Sangiovese which is grown on the fertile plain and is a supermarket staple. Second, they have to find a space in the market which is mainly filled with Tuscan wines. Further the soils here are varied but often with a clay content which tends to produce more robust wines. So the challenge is to introduce more elegant wines with capacity to age while not losing early drinkability.
Overall it was clear from the various tastings over this two day event that quality is rising. By way of context we were treated to a tasting of 15 wines from the 2009 vintage. Admittedly this was a hot and difficult vintage. A fair number of wines were overly oxidised for their age and some lacked fruit. But others – Zerbina, Drei Donà and Fattoria Nicoluccio for example – were complex, developing, wines of stature. But the really noticeable thing was how much more consistent the new vintages were: the early drinking Sangiovese Superiore were fragrant and floral with both 2015 and 2016 being excellent vintages. The 2013 Reservas with sub-zones were the stars of the show. My highest scores went to the two wines from Drei Donà. This is no big surprise as this estate has long been equated with high quality. But I also gave good scores to Fratta Minore, Masselina, Trerè, Morini Alessandro, Giovanna Madonia and Uccellina. There was further a big group of producers who I scored just half a point lower than these. So, all in all, these were all either bright and youthful or complex, structured and balanced wines which I would be very pleased to buy and to cellar.
Most of the second day was devoted to visiting Predappio. Having been to Bertinoro, we therefore saw something of two of the most important sub-zones. The weather was kind for the Predappio day – cool, dry, pale late winter sunshine. At Tenuta Pandolfa we had a good introduction to the soils of this 900ha sub-zone. While being mostly clay, it is at the confluence of chalky soils more common in Bertinoro, sand in Modigliana and sulphur-rich clay as the land rises in Predappio Alta. Six wineries introduced their wines through the day. The highlights here were:
Bro, Bianco Forlì IGT, Noelia Ricci, 2015 – clean as a whistle Trebbiano with light lemon and grassy notes. No oak, no lees stirring, brilliant acidity.
Il Conte Pietro, Romagna Sangiovese DOC, Piccolo Brunelli, 2015 – from a cool site at 350m of altitude, aged in a large neutral cask. Fresh, brilliant, rasping Sangiovese with raspberry and mulberry fruit. Light tannic structure and racy acidity. Just what I want in high quality Sangiovese for drinking over the next few years.
Tre Rocche, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore, Fattoria Nicolucci, 2015 – another excellent example of crisp fruit and restraint in oaking, new style Romagnan Sangiovese.
Cru Raggio Brusa, Romagna Sangiovese Riserva Predappio, Condé, 2013 – single vineyard wine made from 100% Sangiovese, aged for 30 months in large neutral casks, just about to be bottled. Very fine dense dark plum fruit, very fine tannins, impressive, many years ahead of it.
If you love Sangiovese – and indeed lean, structured Italian white wines – Romagna really should be on your horizon.