The past six months have been particularly rich in tastings of top Tuscan wines. Two of them, Luce and Siepi, I’ve written about in forthcoming articles for The World of Fine Wine. Others I’ll be covering in a blogpost soon, but today it's Caiarossa
The estate's flagship wine
I’m starting with Caiarossa because I don’t get to taste the wines as often as some other top Tuscan estates and, when I do, I’m always struck by the way the reds fuse complexity and seriousness of purpose with glorious suppleness and approachability, even, as here, in challenging years like 2013 and 2014. I barely knew the white Caiarossa but loved the 2016 (below).
The reds were made by Dominique Genot, the director and winemaker with whom I tasted a few years ago and who has now established his own domaine, Mas Llossanes in Roussillon, leaving another French winemaker, Julian Reneaud, in charge. That the winemaking should be in French hands isn’t surprising. Caiarossa, founded in 1998, has been under the same (admittedly Dutch) family ownership as two Bordeaux châteaux, Giscours and du Tertre in Margaux, since 2004. More than that, the grape varieties are largely French. There's some Sangiovese and one wine, Pergolaia, is largely Sangiovese, but the other nine varieties (yes, nine) are French: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Alicante for the reds and Viognier, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng (the latter for a sweet wine, not tasted). All are planted by plot according to the soil – calcareous and rich in sandstone and sand at lower levels, iron-rich higher up and more clayey on a hillside site a few kilometers away. Either way, the signature red soils give the estate the ‘rossa’ part of its name.
The wines are classified as IGT Toscana and come from 31 hectares spread across three sites on a wooded 70-ha estate, run biodynamically from the outset (certified biodynamic in 2005 and organic in 2003). It lies high up at 600m asl and relatively isolated in the beautiful Val de Cecina, not far from the Tuscan coast and to the north of the Bolgheri region. The grapes are hand picked and hand sorted and fermention is with indigenous yeasts.
"Perfect with roast partridge but it would go just as well with roast or grilled meat, or aged hard cheeses"
Pergolaia 2014, Toscana
Sangiovese with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; fermentation with indigenous yeast in concrete; malolactic in concrete and wooden casks; ageing in mainly old tonneaux for 12–14 months, then 10 months in concrete and large wooden tanks before bottling. 13%
Med ruby. Lively aromas of cherries with sweet plum behind and some raspberry coming in on the palate. A definite red fruits profile and an altogether mouthwatering combination of savoury, earthy spice, crunchy red cherry, aromatic herbs and almond nuttiness. Med body with soft tannins and tangy cherry acidity. Drink over the next five or six years. Would match a bistecca alla fiorentina as much as a meaty ragù, more tomatoey sauces, or carpaccio, bresaola and other charcuterie.
Aria di Caiarossa 2013, Toscana
Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; fermentation with indigenous yeasts in concrete; malolactic in concrete tanks and wooden casks; ageing in barriques and tonneaux for about 14 months (15% new), then 6 months in concrete tanks. 13.5%
Medium deep, lively ruby-purple. Blackcurrant and mulberry on the nose with classic Bordeaux-blend cedar aromas, together with some spicier sandalwood. Appetising, plush palate, with graphite and tapenade flavours adding savoury depth to the dark berry fruit and fine-grained tannins. Drink over the next four years, especially with lamb scottadito, other red meat or aged hard cheeses.
Sangiovese-based Pergolaia and the Cabernet Franc and Merlot-led Aria, the second wine of Caiarossa
Caiarossa 2013, Toscana
The flagship wine; a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, with Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Alicante, exclusively from Podere Serra all’Olio; each fermented separately with indigenous yeasts in concrete and wooden tanks of varying sizes; malolactic in concrete tanks and wooden casks; aged in tonneaux and barrels (about 30% new, the rest up to 3 years old) for 11 months for Alicante and up to 20 months for Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon; 6 months in concrete after blending. 14%
Med deep ruby. Very expressive nose: perfumed and spicy with incense and sandalwood and sweet, fresh, black fruit and cherry. The same spice and fruit on the palate with the addition of fresh herbal notes, savoury smoke and creamy coffee. Fleshy but profound, with a persuasive fine-boned structure, effortless tannins and lifted freshness. Impeccable balance and great length. Lovely now and any time over the next decade and probably considerably longer. A perfect match for roast partridge, but it would go just as well with roast or grilled meat, duck or aged hard cheese.
The impressive dry white made from Viognier and Chardonnay
Caiarossa Bianco 2016, Toscana
Viognier and Chardonnay from the estate’s chalkiest soils; harvested in August; fermented with indigenous yeasts in old oak barrels and tonneaux for 2–3 months; lees stirring 1–3 times a week for 3–5 months. 13.5%
This opens up beautifully in the glass, so decant it if you’re impatient. Initially very delicately, subtly floral and spicy, with the oiliness of Viognier offset by a fresh, green fruit character and oak (at this stage it seems almost more like a young Pessac-Léognan than either a Condrieu or a Burgundy). Gradually jasmine and honeysuckle emerge, along with juicy peach, fresh lemon and spice and a generous, creamy, downy peach-skin flavour and texture. The oak gives depth but stays in the background and the freshness remains. It was a good match for sautéed prawns (with lemon and garlic) and mayo and with a mature goats’ cheese, but could also be paired with lobster pot pie, scallops, delicate white fish, creamy chicken dishes or Parmesan.
Photographs by Joanna Simon