Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

La Parrina – last stop in Tuscany

La Parrina is a unique Tuscan wine estate near the border with Lazio.  In general, terms is it on the Southern Tuscan coast now chiefly famous as a holiday destination.  Each year millions of tourists, principally Italians, flock to enjoy the Italian seaside experience of closely packed togetherness on the beaches, in the restaurants, at the concerts and outdoor events, with the occasional foray to the wonderful Etruscan sites inland.  This beautiful estate is just four kilometres from the sea and close to the organised chaos which is the ‘Old Aurelia’ trunk road. There are 450 hectares in all, 65 of which are under vine.  The estate’s uniqueness lies in its aristocratic history – it was a wedding present from a member of the Strozzi family to a Giuntini back in 1800.  Some noble lobbying led to it become a quality wine zone (DOC) in its own right back in 1971, the only such example in Southern Tuscany. You are quite far south here – nearer to Rome than to Florence.

The evening started with an aperitivo of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Adesso 2007 (£5.75), standing in for for the admittedly rather duller Trebbiano Toscano – surprisingly lively, this has kept its freshness, good.  After the warm-up act, we tasted three La Parrina whites.

Bianco, La Parrina DOC, 2009, 12.5%, £8.95

La Parrina bottles This wine used to be early and late picked Trebbiano, presumably to strike a balance between mature fruit and acidity retention.  Now it is 50% Trebbiano, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Sauvignon Blanc.  Initially the nose is quite neutral but with a few minutes in the glass it opens up with a mildly nutty and herbaceous notes. A lively palate follows in which the brightness of the Sauvignon and the roundedness of the Chardonnay play their parts.  Good citrus (lemon) finish.  All in all a pretty decent basic white.

Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario DOC 2009, 13%, £9.50

The Ansonica grape, like an Italian on holiday, loves the seaside. It is grown in the here in Southern Tuscany in the ‘Argentario coast’ quality area and on the islands of Elba and Giglio.  Widely thought to be the same grape as the Sicilian Inzolia, it is probably part of the ancient Greek heritage, recent studies having shown a relationship with the Rhoderitis and Sideritis varieties.  In recent centuries, it has been one of the main contributors to Marsala, the fortified wine of Sicily.  In this form, its own character was overwhelmed by ageing in a solera type system and with the addition of alcohol to make a fortified wine.  However, when picked early, to keep the acidity, and vinified under modern conditions it produces a good table wine, perfectly suited to the seafood dishes of the area.   This example was mildly spicy, with the textbook ‘fresh and underripe fruit’ notes, a juicy palate and excellent acidity. Some thought it needed the excitement of garlic prawns to go with it, others enjoyed this local variety.

Vermentino 2009, 13.5%, £12.75

If Ansonica is a bit of a local speciality, Vermentino is now the quality white grape of choice in Southern Tuscany. The examples here are perhaps not quite up to the very best of those from Liguria and especially Sardinia, but they can be very good.  We had two examples to try, starting with La Parrina’s version:  a more assertive nose with some honeyed notes, plus lemons and flowers, a lovely lemony palate, full in the mouth (notice how the alcohol level has crept up in the last three wines), good persistence.  With this, we compared a version which has made quite a splash in its few years of production: Solosole (‘just sun’), Vermentino, Poggio al Tesoro, Toscana IGT 2009, 13.5° This winery is a new joint venture between the Allegrini family (of Valpolicella and Amarone fame) and American wine importer Leonardo Lo Cascio.  They employ winemaker Alberto Antonini to work on their wines and the excellent standard of contemporary winemaking is very obvious (for example storing the picked grapes for a night at low temperatures).  The main differences here in comparison to the La Parrina example are a more refined palate if with the same lemony acidity, and much greater persistence.  Click here for more on Poggio al Tesoro.

By comparison with the five whites, on this occasion, we tasted just three reds – a gentle reminder that the Tuscan coast is not all about red wines.  The traditional grape is, of course, Sangiovese, famously acidic and tannic in upland Chianti and Montalcino.  Here, with reliable sunshine and onshore breezes, it produces much more immediately attractive wines for short and medium-term drinking.

Sangiovese 2009, 13% £9.50

This used to be plain old ‘Rosso’ but now can be labelled helpfully with its grape variety.  The old challenge was to soften Sangiovese enough to make it drinkable, but this wine more than passes that test. This has a mid-pale ruby colour, aromas of red cherry and some cherry stones, nice fruit in the mouth and remarkably soft tannins.  That is a testament first to very ripe fruit (the southern Tuscan coast has very reliable weather) and the absence of oak ageing. Very good, very drinkable.

Parrina Riserva 2007, 15%, £16.75

Reserva The label of this wine evokes the old Tuscan noble country house; the wine itself is typically modern – 70% Sangiovese may sound a lot, but in terms of assertiveness it is no match for 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.  But the wine is impressive – pronounced ripe fruit on the nose – especially blackcurrants – with vanilla and leather notes.  A dense fruit palate and a decent finish. The only question mark must be the 15° of alcohol which is perhaps a bit out of kilter with the fruit.  But this wine certainly has the guts to stand out in a crowd.  La Parrina also have a top wine which is 100% Merlot, called Radaia, not tasted here: see my note on it on the Tuscan coast page of this website.

Mediterra Toscana IGT, 2007, Poggio al Tesoro, Bolgheri, £12.95

Back up the coast at Bolgheri, Poggio al Tesoro produce a baby Super Tuscan – 40% Syrah, 30% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit from the older vines goes into the top wines, Sondraia and Dedicato a Walter; the younger vines are put through their paces in this more affordable blend (£12.95).  The wine is very contemporary in that whereas the first wave of international grapes to be planted in Tuscany were from Bordeaux, the last decade has seen the arrival of Rhône varieties  – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre for reds, Viognier and even Rousanne and Marsanne for whites.  This wine has bright, forward fruit, but principally blackcurrants and currant leaves – so the Cabernet dominates again.  A hint of smokiness might be attributed to the Syrah.  It has a super, fruit-laden palate and soft tannins again, very good if in a modern, almost New World manner.  Perhaps not very surprising given the American co-ownership and market.

line up La Parrina clearly continues to be in good hands, producing worthwhile whites and reds at reasonable prices.  The marketing looks a little old fashioned – the labels don’t show much family resemblance but the wines are good ambassadors for the Southern Tuscan coast in Italy and to some extent abroad – they have even arrived in North Hampshire!

Prices quoted are from Caviste for La Parrina and from the Wine Society for Poggio al Tesoro.

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