Monterosola's stylishly labelled wines: two whites on the left, then four of the five reds
I haven’t visited Monterosola in Tuscany, but having seen photos and tasted six of the eight wines I’m keen to go when we’re all travelling again. Geographically, it's very neatly located. The estate sits high up at 430m on a plateau to the east of the Etruscan city of Volterra in the Province of Pisa, between Bolgheri 50km to the south-west, San Gimignano and its DOC area to the east and Chianti Classico to the east again. Siena is about 55km south-east and Florence about 75km north-east. On a clear day you can even glimpse Corsica. The wines go under the Toscana Rosso and Bianco IGT and the consultant winemaker is Alberto Antonini. Always a smart move to get him involved.
The property has been owned since 2013 by Bengt and Ewa Thomaeus from Stockholm. Originally they were looking for a summer home with a vineyard, but after a while it became a search for somewhere permanent in Tuscany. Monterosola was the 30th property on their list and was in good shape, had an agronomist in place and was producing high quality wines. The Thomaeuses could also see that it had further potential, so they bought 120 hectares of neighbouring land at the same time and embarked on an ambitious project to improve, increase and make production environmentally friendly. In 2019 they produced 70,000 bottles. This year the aim is twice that.
Growing conditions are similar to those in Brunello di Montalcino. The 25ha of vineyards are on rolling, mostly south-facing slopes for the red wines and north-facing for the smaller output of white wines and the soils, described as well-drained clay, limestone, sand and fossils, are rich in minerals and salts. Constant breezes keep disease at bay and smoothed the way to organic cultivation.
In 2019, after four years of construction guided by local architect Paolo Prati, viticulturalist Stefano Dini and Alberto Antonini, Monterosola’s new five-storey, subterranean cantina and visitors’ centre was opened. Made of local Volterra stone and using innovative technology to facilitate sustainable winemaking, the north-facing structure is a building within a building, allowing self-circulating air to regulate the temperature around the cantina with a goal of using 70% less energy than traditional cantinas. The fermentation vats are tulip-shaped concrete and grapes go directly from the sorting table to them by gravity. Fermentation is with naturally present air-born yeasts. On the visitor front, there are galleried tasting rooms looking over the cantina, event spaces and courtyards, all in a setting that takes in olive groves and a man-made lake.
What Monterosola has inevitably lacked since early last year is visitor numbers to appreciate it all, but on the plus side the launch of an online wine shop and a VIP wine club (offering discounts and seasonal offers) means the wines are readily available. In addition to the six wines I tasted, there’s a pure Viognier (Per Mare), a Syrah Cabernet blend (Il Domito) and a Grappa.
Cassero 2018, Toscana Bianco, 15€
Unoaked Vermentino, fermented with the yeasts naturally occurring on the grape skins and then aged on lees until bottling in June 2019.
Pale primrose colour with aromas of citrus zest, fresh herbs – notably dill – and peach. Succulent, rounded palate with a salty, crisp finish and notes of citrus peel and bitter almond; fullness and flesh appetisingly offset by freshness and vitality. 14%
Primo Passo 2018, Toscana Bianco, 23€
The Thomaeus family’s original white wine (hence the name) is a blend of Grechetto, Manzoni Bianco and Viognier; . Like Cassero, it's unoaked, fermented with naturally present yeasts and aged on lees until bottling the following June.
Temptingly aromatic with fresh and dried flowers, greengage and citrus; full and textural in the mouth with notes of fresh pears, spice and cream, as well as greengage, and a lively bitter-sharp grapefruit-peel twist on the finish. Rich and complex, with mouthwatering bitterness and energy. 14%
Mastio 2018, Toscana Rosso, 15€
Unoaked Sangiovese vinified wiht natural yeasts in concrete.
Deep, vibrant ruby and brimful of juicy plum and cherry fruit, a refreshing cherry tang and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Confident, supple and approachable. 14.5%
Crescendo 2016, Toscana Rosso, 27€
Sangiovese hand-harvested and sorted on the vine, then by cluster, then after destemming by berry; fermented with natural yeasts, aged in French oak barrels for 15 months and bottle-matured for 30 months.
Black fruit and dried-cherry sweetness and freshness with cedary, sandalwood spice and suggestions of gamey richness and roasting coffee beans. Combining power with polished tannins, finesse and length, this is ready now but with plenty of life ahead. 14.5%
Corpo Notte 2016, Toscana Rosso, €38
A blend of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, hand-harvested, sorted and fermented and aged as for Crescendo: 15 months in French oak barrels then bottle-maturation for 30 months.
Dark, concentrated ruby colour; an exuberant cherry perfume with a blackcurrant undertow; and a deep, concentrated palate with spice, cedar, bitter-chocolate and sweet leather notes, ripe, velvet-textured tannins and Sangiovese’s autumnal sweet-sour intensity. A wine for rich, savoury ragùs and roasts. 14.5%
Canto della Civetta 2015, Toscana Rosso, €53 for 2016
The online shop is now selling the 2016 but it’s worth sharing my note on the 2015: both were very good vintages. This is pure Merlot from south and some north exposures, hand-harvested, sorted, fermented and aged like Crescendo and Corpo Notte for 15 months in French barrels and 30 months in bottle.
Deep, saturated colour; sensuous nose of violets, dark plum, black fruit and graphite with a lift of sweet leaf and green capsicum. Powerful, well-built, but immediately accessible with velvet-smooth tannins and baking spice and chocolate framing the fruit and delicate, sweet, green-leaf fresh note. 14.5%
Photographs by Joanna Simon