Two elderly wines with a long story attached.
Over the weekend, I dug out a couple of oldish bottles to try. Both had a bit of a story, and both were far better than I expected.
Tenuta di Valgiano 2007, Colline Lucchesi
60% Sangiovese, 20% each Syrah and Merlot.
Wonderful wine, medium-bodied, with a lifted bouquet of maturing, lightly leafy dark fruits; the palate is elegant and long with black pepper, savoury dark cherry fruits, nicely judged tannins and good mineral acidity. Superb.
I first met Saverio Petrelli when we were fellow students on an MW course down in Sète in the mid-1990’s. He somehow managed to tear a ligament and spent most of the course hobbling around on crutches. However, he bore his injury with great humour and was great fun to be around. He had just joined a new estate in Tuscany, near Lucca, as winemaker, having worked in Castello di Rampolla, I think. The estate was Tenuta di Valgiano.
A few years later I met him at Vinitaly, where he served me some wonderful local Tuscan foods, including some superb olive oil from the estate, along with his wine. I was working for Searsons, and soon arranged to import the wines (and superb olive oil) into Ireland. We took in several shipments, but I then left the company. When I retuned as consultant buyer six years later, they were no longer importing the wines, but had a collection of mature vintages. Some were great, others showing their age a little. Valgiano by now was fully biodynamic, and Saverio apparently one of the leading lights in the movement in Italy.
Fast forward a few years, and I was eating in Bistro One in Foxrock and talking to the owner, Mark Shannon. He had a holiday home next door to Valgiano, and imported the wines, and very kindly gave me a bottle of same as I left. I stuck it in my cellar, and somehow never found the right occasion to open it. Until Thursday night, when I felt like something different and cracked the bottle open, or rather Coravined a glass, as I was the only one drinking red wine. It was delicious; see tasting note above. I consumed the rest over the weekend. Drinking a glass of wine that has a story is always special, and this evoked some lovely memories of times past.
As for Saverio, I haven’t seen him for years, but browsing online he looks, like me, older, greyer, and, I am sure, wiser.
PS I see I am not the only Irish wine writer to fall for Valgiano; Paddy has a lovely post on https://thevineinspiration.org
Batič Zaria 2006, Vipavska Dolina (Kakovostno Vino ZGP)
Orange in colour, lightly fizzy, with dried fruits, nuts, orange peel, spice and a strong mineral streak, finishing dry. Fascinating wine to sip over an evening. It went brilliantly with blue cheese (the new health food by the way. I am with them on this one).
I visited the Batič winery around 2005 on one of the strangest and most enjoyable press trips I have ever been on. It is in the Vipava Vally in Slovenia, not far from the Italian border. We had an interesting visit and a great tasting, and nibbled on the estate’s own Prszt (Slovenian prosciutto) and cheese. As I remember, father Ivan and son Miha produced some very good Cabernet Franc, a lovely rosé, and some very good whites, ‘made like red wine’ as they called it then. Basically the juice was left in contact with the grapes for extended periods, giving a unique flavour. We tasted a number of these on our visit, particularly in Vipava, where Batič is located.
Later that year, I was asked to choose my two favourite wines of the year for the A&A Farmar Wine Guide 2006, and included the Batič Sivi Pinot Rieserva 2003 – a Pinot Gris. I wrote then:
‘Is this a rosé or a white wine? Made from Pinot Gris, it was macerated on the skins for ten days, taking on a rosy hue. As a wine it is quite amazing; tantalizing, complex aromas of strawberries and light red fruits; a big, rich, broad palate, concentrated, slightly oily, some shortbread biscuits too; plenty of rich, ripe strawberry fruits; long and fascinating. Quite unlike any other wine I have tasted.’
A few months later, a case of wine arrived on my doorstep, accompanied by a lovely heartfelt letter from Ivan Batič, thanking me for writing about his wine. I felt a little guilty accepting the wines, but as I couldn’t send them back, I enjoyed them over the next few years; all except for one bottle that lurked somewhere in my cellar. I took it out over the weekend, expecting very little, but was very pleasantly surprised. It is made from seven grape varieties, Pinela, Zelen, Ribula Gialla, Vitovska, Klarnica, Rumeni Muskat and Chardonnay. They are grown biodynamically in the same vineyard, picked at the same time and co-fermented. This is an orange wine, fermented on the skins in open vats with no temperature control. Orange wines are controversial, but I loved this one.
I see on the internet the Batič winery is still gong strong, but sadly they are imported into Ireland – yet.
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