Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Gussalli Beretta: from guns to wine

Gussalli Beretta, based in the northern Italian city of Brescia, is a name much better known to collectors of high quality firearms than to wine lovers. image But that may be about to change.  Under the name of Gussalli Beretta family wineries and distributed in the UK by Antonio Tomassini from Wine and Food Promotions, they have created a portfolio of wines from very different estates and parts of Italy.  Nearest to the Brescia home and an hour east of Milan is Lo Sparviero, a 30 hectare Franciacorta estate making both excellent, bottle-fermented, sparkling wine, white and rosé, and a still white and a red.  Of these four, the vintage 2007 Franciacorta sparkling wine stood out for its combination of subtle yeastiness, characteristic ripe red apple fruit and fine savoury notes.  The still Chardonnay is quite classy but is up against so much competition in the crowded UK market; more distinctive for its pale ruby colour and well profiled fruit is the Cabernet/Merlot blend, Il Cacciatore 2009.

The company’s Tuscan property is altogether more ambitious in its scale. It was bought in 2003 on a prime site in Chianti Classico between the wine town of Radda and the local landmark, the Castello di Volpaia.  In this sensitive landscape they have cleverly inserted a handsome new winery to process the 45 hectares of vines on the property.  Both Chianti Classico lines are worth trying – the easier drinking Poggio Selvale (90% Sangiovese, 5% each of Canaiolo and Merlot) and the wonderfully austere, 100% Sangiovese, Castello di Radda, both available in standard and riserva qualities.

The third estate offers the most diverse range and perhaps the biggest area for exploration for UK drinkers of Italian wines.  Aside from a couple of big names known to wine buffs, Abruzzo is chiefly known for its excellent value Montepulciano which is a staple of the UK supermarket trade – deep ruby in colour, simple plum fruit, an inexpensive ‘pizza’ wine.  But there is much more to Abruzzo’s offering than this.  First there are white wines of real character from the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo variety. This has the misfortune to have the same first name as the seriously dull and commoner Trebbiano Toscano and may (or may not) be the same as Puglia’s Bombino Bianco – see Robinson el al, Wine Grapes, 2012 for the inconclusive state of play.  Gussalli Beretta have bought the wine estate of the aristocratic family Orlandi Contucci Ponno. If a family has three surnames in Italian they will usually have family silver!  Their Trebbiano, Colle della Corte, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC, 2011 has marked complexity on the nose and intense lemon, apple and mineral notes on the palate.  Secondly, there is substantial rosé from Abruzzo, or to give it its proper name, Cerasuolo, the deep pink wines of Italy.   Vermiglio (ie the colour vermillion), Montepulciano Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC, 2011 is great ambassador of its style.  It is made from the free run juice of the deeply coloured Montepulciano grapes. It retains the freshness of a white wine but with the fuller body of a red.  Fully dry, it makes a great food wine for the fish and crustaceans of the nearby Adriatic coast. 

This estate has a large number of bottlings (Abruzzan Sauvignon Blanc anyone?) but we keep the best to last which showcases the third great feature of Abruzzan wine: full-on, top quality red wines from the local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo variety.  Orlandi Contucci Ponno’s example is from Abruzzo’s one DOCG: La Regia Specula, Colline Teramane DOCG, 2006.  Far from being a simple red wine, this is made from the best fruit from the vineyard which bears the name of an old observatory.  It is aged in a mixture of medium-sized, 20 hectolitre, barrels and stainless steel. The best Montepulciano grapes do not need a lot of oak.  It is released after two years but really needs time, and plenty of it, in the bottle. Deep in colour with just ten days of maceration on the skins, the nose and palate show intense plum and prune fruit with herb and vegetal overtones, vibrant acidity and a good tannic structure well hidden by the fruit.  An outstanding wine and one that would repay ageing. 

All in all, the Gussalli Beretta wines are welcome additions to the Italian wines available in the UK. They would fit naturally on the shelves of independent wine merchants or on restaurant wine lists.  Closer to home, I would very happily have them in my cellar or on my table. 

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