Maremman Christmas – La Parrina goes head to head with Massa Vecchia

After the excitement of the old Palo Cortado sherry, I choose to compare these two excellent wines from the Tuscan Maremma. On your left is the top wine of the tiny Massa Vecchia, near Massa Marittima, mostly Sangiovese with some Alicante, from the single vineyard, La Querciola.  On your right, you have the riserva of the La Parrina estate, one of Italy’s few single estate DOCs, where the complementary grapes are Cabernet and Merlot.  These two wines share a great deal: they are both predominantly Sangiovese from the excellent 2007 vintage, made from grapes grown on the warm Tuscan coast (where on the whole international varieties make the grandest wines), and both are wines of real ambition.  La Parrina is the most southerly of the two properties, close to the seaside resorts of Orbetello, while Massa Vecchia is 15 kilometres inland from Follonica.  I have written extensively about Massa Vecchia here, and touched briefly on La Parrina in this piece from 2007.

Massa Vecchia and La Parrina

Having made the case for the similarities between these two wines, the wine making could not be more different.  La Parrina is a textbook modern estate.  The challenge here is to preserve as much fruit as possible from this hot, coastal site. Sangiovese not really being primarily about fruit, that is no doubt why Cabernet and Merlot play an important subsidiary role.  Well into its sixth year, La Parrina’s riserva still has a youthful ruby colour and gives off attractive cooked plum and black fruit notes. The palate is satiny and full, warm and satisfying. It is not that complex but the tension is there – ripe fruit, contrasting acidity and a fine tannin structure.  It has been in some classy oak – a mix of large and small, to round it out rather than to add flavour.  This is a very good example of modern wine making on the Tuscan coast.

By contrast, La Querciola has a distinctly garnet hue and is not star bright, though clear enough. It had thrown a prodigious sediment in the bottle.  The style is slightly oxidative as the wine is made with as little intervention as possible and was aged in fairly old barriques which you can see in the pictures in my earlier post.  But there is remarkable complexity here – sweet fruit under the mild oxidation, the smells of the Mediterranean scrub land, earth, a vegetal note and some emerging coffee themes. The wine really opened up with time in the glass with strong iodine hints and the fragrance of mature fruit.  On the palate the tannins are long and smooth, helped along by a high glycerol level and a herby, sapid finish. A modern classic in the most traditional style imaginable.  If we must have a winner, Janet and I made much greater progress down the Massa Vecchia bottle.

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