Drei Donà, Tenuta Palazza – Sangiovese, Cabernet … and Riesling?
Drei Donà was the very first winery that we visited in Romagna having flown to Bologna airport and driven straight down the Via Emilia (or rather its motorway equivalent) towards the sea at Rimini. This is a good introduction to this relatively affluent part of Italy – high-value engineering (including all those famous motoring names from Ferrari to Ducatti), a range of agriculture, attractive small cities like Faenza and Forlì, some holiday homes in the hills. Chianti Rúfina and Florence are just over 50 km away, if over the Apennines, but this is not wooded, hilly Tuscany but a strip of gentle hills on the edge of a very fertile plain.
The double name of the estate reflects the aristocratic name first, Drei Donà, and then the property name, Tenuta Palazza . In reality the latter is a smart, homely farm in a very pleasant setting, 155 metres above sea level. Of the current generation, Enrico concentrates on the vines here while his sister has a dressage stable. The picture on my Romagna homepage – fields, fruit trees, vines, distant hills – is from this property, while the tyre marks in the trademark clay tell you graphically what you need to know about the soil – to be more precise it is medium density clay with 20% sand, two metres deep over limestone and chalk. The estate was built up from 1900 with Enrico’s father active from 1981 onwards. It now has 23 hectares of vines and they make wine from the fruit of a further four hectares which are leased. The estate is in the process of organic certification.
The Sangiovese planted here has mostly been propagated by massal selection. The clones include the Romagnan R23 and the not entirely approved T19 but many clones are not identified. The approach to winemaking is pretty much textbook modern viticulture – increasing plant density to 5,500 per hectare, low yields (40 hl/ha), hard pruning of spurred cordons for 1-1.5 kg of fruit per plant with stainless steel and concrete vessels and expensive-looking new (and old) oak in the winery.
Le Vigne Nuove, Rosso da uve Sangiovese, Forlì IGT, 2011 – despite being called ‘red wine made from Sangiovese grapes’ in fact this also has 10% Cabernet in it for a fruit-led, no oak, fresh, young drinking style, the product of seven days of maceration. Ruby red in colour, fragrant, medium plus intensity cherry, violet and thyme nose and palate; medium-bodied, ripe tannins, medium length, warming for 14% alcohol. A high-quality wine for €6.
Notturno, Sangiovese, Forlì IGT, 2011 – a 100% Sangiovese from selected barrels which has spent eight months in tonneaux or barriques, mostly of second and third use, with a small (3-5%) percentage of American oak. Edgier, with marked floral and mineral notes, very good minerality on the palate, weightier chalky tannins, austere if with good fruit, good length. Textbook Romagnan Sangiovese.
Cuvée Palazza, Uvaggio Storico, Sangiovese, Riserva 2009 – a wine to be approached with anticipation, a sort of second edition of the traditional wine produced by Enrico’s father until 1979 and then revived recently. The ‘historic blend’ of the name is 90% Sangiovese and 10% other grapes (which turn out to be 3% Ancellotta, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, not that trad), fermented mostly in concrete tanks (now that is traditional!|) and then aged in 25 hectolitre large casks for two years. Fine floral (violet) and red and black cherries with a touch of richness on the nose followed by a lean but intense palate, lively grippy tannins and very long. Very good indeed.
Magnificat Cabernet Sauvignon IGT Forlì 2008 – from a single vineyard as it says proudly on the bottle, 20 days of maceration, the wine is then aged for 18 months in basically French barriques with 3-5% American barrels. Fruit sweetness, balanced red wine with fine acidity and quite high tannins, quite challenging for non-Italian palates.
For a relatively small estate, there is a surprisingly large range of wines. In addition to those above, there is also Pruno (a Sangiovese Riserva), Graf Noir Gran Reserva (Sangiovese, Negretto Longanesi, Cabernet Franc), Tornese Chardonnay/Riesling and a sparkling Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay, bottle fermented and kept on its lees for 2 years). There is no lack of ambition at Drei Donà and I look forward to getting to know these wines better.
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