The Tuscan coast has its own special wines. The real specialty is the Ansonica grape, Tuscan’s version of the Sicilian grape known as Inzolia. Not surprisingly it also does well on the local islands of Elba and Giglio. For red wines there is the now usual mix of Sangiovese and/or Alicante plus the foreign legion, Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah according to the grower’s taste.
Featured wineries: La Parrina and Il Cerchio.
This estate is very unusual in Tuscany for having its own DOC: La Parrina, granted in 1971. We are now close to the sea and were it not a little kingdom of its own, the DOC would be in Costa dell’ Argentario for whites or Capalbio for red. The estate lies directly behind Orbetello which in turn is on reclaimed land behind the Argentario peninsula/ island with its bustling ports and mountain. The estate is now run as a rather upmarket agriturismo with a good restaurant where they are helpful in enabling you to try a range of wines. They have as many specialist cheeses as wines, so all in all it scores highly on the gastronomic front.
Tasting at dinner in 2007: Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario DOC 2005 – ie Ansonica grape from the wide DOC area, not just the estate: mid straw colour, nice waxy nose, fruity with lemon hints; Parrina Rosso 2005 (100% Sangiovese), delicious fresh red fruit; Parrina Rosso Riserva 2001, 70% Sangiovese much beefed up with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, a deep ruby red with garnet tinges, ‘stupendous nose of dark fruits and well integrated oak’ (I wrote at the time), some tar, excellent persistence; Radaia IGT Maremma Toscana, 100% Merlot, they were very proud of this, lots of black fruit especially mulberries, rather lacked freshness (perhaps it was the hot 2003 vintage?), we much prefered the Rosso Riserva. They also produce a Vermentino and a Sangiovese based red, Muraccio.
Update: I tasted the Radaia 2006 in 2010 and it was much better than the 2003 – a brilliant year contributes a real freshness to the density of fruit, very drinkable, a fine Super Tuscan. La Parrina Bianco 2009 is a splendid inexpensive white, a three way blend of Trebbiano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with nice lime notes and a rounded palate.
Many people have dreamed of leaving the big city and settling into a new life on a small holding or organic farm. Most of us (wisely) don’t attempt it, others have a go and soon find that the grass is somewhat greener on the other side. Corinna and family tell the story of falling love with the Maremma while still working in Milan, buying a traditional plot of land (if of 9 hectares), working it in holidays and eventually moving here in 1992. She is absolutely certain that she made the right choice and now she has the wines to prove it. But it is a life of complete commitment to the land, organic farming, the plants and animals – we met her when she working in the vineyard on a Saturday in late August, just about the only period growers can go on holiday during the growing season. There are three hectares under vine.
There are just two wines produced here, a red and a white. With so many tourists around and restaurants to supply, they bottle in bottles and halfs. They do have their own bottling unit – a one bottle unit for the family concern. The red is 90% Sangiovese plus Alicante, called Valmarina Sangiovese. It’s pleasant, slightly rustic in style, easy drinking, and of course made from organic grapes. The white is a similar 90/10 blend, here of Ansonica the predominant partner, plus Vermentino. The DOC is Ansonica, Costa dell’Argentario, 2009. You can see the characteristic yellow colour in the photo with a green tinge. When you first pour the wine it is seems quite neutral but, give it ten minutes in the glass, there is real development – a combination of white fruit and herbaceous grassiness. The texture is interesting too – not the typical sleek, polished, finish of standard modern wines, but more substance, more texture. It speaks for its quality that this wine is offered at the Tuscan Wine School which has a shop front right in the heart of Siena, with the whole gamut of Tuscan wines to choose from. Ansonica can be a rather basic thirst quencher on the beach or the restaurants of the nearby coast, but this example shows there is much more to it than that.
Many thanks to Corinna and her family – back in the 1990s you made a good choice!
There is a whole wine sub-culture on the islands of the Tuscan archipelago, especially on Elba. Key features are the sweet passito Aleatico, ie made from semi-dried grapes, and whites made from Ansonica. The Oxford Companion to Wine is a bit dismissive of modern efforts (‘correct but hardly inspiring’), in contrast to its fame in the ancient world (insula vini ferax, an island with abundant production of wine, Pliny). I look forward to visiting the islands and seeing if there are more positives to be found.