La Selva – German organic farming in southern Tuscany
I have been meaning to visit La Selva for many years and so I was delighted it was one of the options put on for journalists for the second edition of Maremmachevini in June 2017. There are many types of winery in the Maremma – grand projects which look great in glossy magazines, humble artisan sheds and everything in between. But there are very few estates that have pioneered organic farming on a large scale and which see wine as just one of their 200 food products. While we speed tasted a good range of wines (wine trips always run late and if you are the last stop in the day …) we also had some examples of their pesto and similar, delicious products.
This estate started out in 1970, at least two decades before the Maremma gold rush which saw the establishment of many new wine businesses. It farms 850 hectares of land, mostly in one piece. 200 hectares are devoted to olive trees and 35ha of vineyard producing the fruit for about 200,000 bottles of wine a year, 70% red. Unusually it is also an estate which from early on created its own distribution and selling chain. La Selva has a depot in Munich from where sells its products into supermarkets and other chains in Germany’s huge organic food market. 90% of its wine is exported and whereas this used to all go to Germany, now the estate’s success in other markets means that Germany only accounts for 40% of the exports. This is an important story. For the wine lover and in wine writing, wine quality and how wine is made tends to dominate completely. But anyone in the trade will tell you that at least 50% of the challenge is how to sell your wine. La Selva has made a great success of this side of the business. It is made more remarkable by the fact that the first generation started the entire project from scratch with no farming or winemaking experience! I think congratulations are in order.
In general, La Selva is aiming for the easy-drinking, good value market but with the added features of organic fruit and plenty of local colour. It is a perfect fit for its German homeland. Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2016, 14% is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, aged in stainless steel. Simple red plum fruit and a hint of plum jam too. This is fruity and will be widely appreciated. For me, the combination of very ripe Sangiovese with even plummier Merlot means that I miss the sour cherry and tealeaf note of Sangiovese. (My preference would be for the blending grape to be Ciliegio or similar.)
Speaking of which they bottle a 100% Ciliegiolo 2014, Maremma Toscana DOC, 13% which is aged in French oak barriques for eight months. This is a very good result from the nightmare 2014 vintage which required drastic selection and even then 20% of the juice was drawn off to concentrate the final wine. Sour red and black cherry with a violet floral note, crisp acidity, decent length. A lovely everyday bottle with local character.
Prima Causa, IGT Maremma Toscana, 2012, 14.5% – a blend of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, aged for a year in barriques, 33% new. The winery’s Italian website often speaks of ‘the warmth of the Maremma’ and this wine certainly exemplifies that. Good quality Super Tuscan.
Pugnitello, Rosso Toscano IGT, 2012, 14.5% – a lot of store is now being put in southern Tuscany on this variety only identified near Cinigiano in 1981. From the 2107 harvest, the variety can be bottled as Maremma Toscana DOC, a change which reflects that interest. The wine shows deep colour, dense blackberry and herbal fruit, powerful lively tannins (sounds better in Italian: tannini vivaci) and very good length. Difficult to grow and I think it will take some time before winemakers discover how best to vinify it. At the moment it is something of a wild beast but it doesn’t lack character. It would go well with the massive local steak known as a Fiorentina
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