THREE OF THE BEST WINERIES TO VISIT IN TUSCANY
From a rural poor area, Maremma has become a symbol of oenological excellence in Tuscany. Maremma’s modern wine cellars created new styles of landscapes where architecture is in harmony with the territory. We investigate three of the best in the region. Some of the best-known architectural wineries are Tenuta Ammiraglia, Rocca di Frassinello and Petra.
1. TENUTA AMMIRAGLIA
It’s in the Blood: Founders of Tenuta Ammiraglia
The owner of Tenuta Ammiraglia, Marquis Lamberto Frescobaldi represents the 30th generation to head Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. Frescobaldi started producing Tuscan wine in 1308, and it is easy to imagine Lamberto as a young boy listening to family legends about his famous ancestors – musicians, scholars, politicians and bankers. Generations of Frescobaldi have been supplying fine wines to royalty and nobles of different European courts. Lamberto joined the family business in 1989 as the head of vineyard investments. Later, in 2013, he became the president. Now the family runs their business across seven gorgeous estates from equally impressive HQ in Florence.
Marquis Lamberto is an enthusiastic and creative businessman, known not only for expanding the company’s holdings but also for breaking some unusual business deals like creating wine production on the prison island of Gorgona – this project gives inmates income and work experience.
Perfect Spot: Location of Tenuta Ammiraglia
The estate of Ammiraglia covers 150 hectares of vineyards caressed by the marine breezes, kissed by the sun and cradled by rolling hills. Located in Maremma’s Magliano, on the southern tip of Tuscany, Tenuta Ammiraglia is set in a territory of undeniable natural beauty that gets just the right amount of sun and reflected light from the Tyrrhenian Sea – a winning combination for growing wine grapes of the highest quality.
Heritage and Innovation: Winemaking Expertise at Tenuta Ammiraglia
Lamberto Frescobaldi is pretty much a hands-on winemaker with an understanding and appreciation of many aspects of this challenging but lucrative business. He started working at the family’s vineyards at the age of 8 and later got formal agricultural education in universities of Florence and California, learning all aspects of winemaking. The University of California at Davis remains one of the best schools in the world for viticulture and enology. Despite huge financial success and pressing responsibilities, Lamberto’s favourite job is planting new vineyards. The estate boasts a manmade reservoir that helps to keep the vineyards fresh during dry months.
Smooth Sailing: Architecture of Tenuta Ammiraglia
Poderi della Capitana where Tenuta Ammiraglia is located was once given as a dowry to the captain of the Ammiraglia ship. To commemorate this historical fact, Lamberto Frescobaldi gave the estate the name of the fleet. The building, designed by Piero Sartogo and Nathalie Grenon, resembles in its forms the prow of a ship pointing toward the sea. The building combines outstanding design with technology and respect for the environment. First and foremost, it is a workplace, designed for producing wine of the highest quality. To avoid loss of quality and energy, architects opted for a single-storey design, where grapes are moved by the force of gravity and wine is not pumped back up to the surface from the underground cellar at the end of the cycle. Despite its modern design, the cellar blends perfectly with the surrounding environment.
Elegant and Lively: Wines of Tenuta Ammiraglia
Coastal breezes and the Mediterranean sun impart local wines with rich mineral aromas. In addition to their rich history, Frescobaldi’s wines are also associated with modern innovation. As a result, Tenuta Ammiraglia produces a range of elegant and lively wines. Aurea Gran Rosé Toscana IGT is a grand wine that is a shining star of the estate. This fascinating rose wine is carefully produced by a team of women, who use Vermentino grapes with a little bit of barrel-aged white Syrah “vin di reserve”. Other wines of note are Alìe Rosé, Massovivo Toscana IGT and Terre More Toscana Cabernet DOC.
Your Visit to Tenuta Ammiraglia
Tenuta Ammiraglia’s hospitality team welcomes visitors for tours, events, drinks and lunches. From simple wine tastings to comprehensive bespoke tours flavoured with insights into agronomy and secret winemaking techniques – any itinerary would delight your visual senses and taste buds.
Where: Località La Capitana, 58051 Montiano GR, Italy
2. ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO
Perfect Duo: Founders of Rocca di Frassinello
Rocca di Frassinello, the state-of-the-art winery, rises above the Tuscan hills that lie between Gavorrano and Ribolla in the Grosseto province of Maremma. A vision of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, famous worldwide for his striking urban designs like Centre Georges Pompidou and the Shard, the winery’s red-brick building combines the best features of both traditional Tuscan architecture and a chic industrial aesthetic. Piano’s modernist design was created with an idea of bringing a new unique wine on the market – he needed to make a statement worthy of Dr Paolo Panerai’s new venture.
Knowledge is Power: Expertise of Rocca di Frassinello
Yes, this slice of paradise is owned by Paolo Panerai – a former editor of Panorama, Il Mondo and Capital magazines. Today he is a man behind the influential financial publishing house Class Editori Spa. When it comes to wine, his two prized assets are an iconic Tuscan winery Castellare di Castellina in Chianti Classico, and the legendary Baron Eric de Rothschild of the revered Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite. Rocca di Frassinello was born of collaboration between the two, where Castellare brings its expertise in cultivating local Sangiovese, and Lafite contributes its knowledge of classical French grapes like Merlo, Cabernet and Syrah.
Super Tuscans: Wines of Rocca di Frassinello
Panerai is used to the best and he aimed high. The goal was to create exceptional bottles that could rival famous Super Tuscan wines. This ambitious goal has been achieved: Rocca di Frassinello is now known for producing Baffonero, one of Italy’s finest Super Tuscan wines. The soils here, equally divided to Italian and French grape varieties, possess similar characteristics to those of Chianti and Montalcino. Even though the estate is located further to the south; sea breezes help to moderate higher temperatures. Except for the exquisite and pricey Baffonero (100% Merlot), all other wines are blends. The vineyard produced its first vintage of approximately 130,000 bottles in 2004.
Architectural Statement: Design of Rocca di Frassinello
Piano’s ground-breaking design eliminated the use of pumps: during the harvest the grapes are brought to a large open square, which Piano named the “sagrato” or “churchyard”. There they are carefully sorted and then left to fall in the fermentation tanks through small openings in the floor. Thus, grapes don’t get “stressed” – an important small detail for achieving a big result. Below the sagrato sits the vast wine cellar designed as an inverted pyramid. The underground location of the barrel room allows to naturally maintain a stable humidity and temperature. The cellar houses the estate’s 2,500 barrels and occasionally provides a unique setting for a concert or a private dinner. Piano’s design is an elegant but a highly functional building.
It’s a Journey: Your Visit to Rocca di Frassinello
A wine tour at Rocca di Frassinello is a fascinating journey through time, from the futuristic architecture of Renzo Piano’s cellar, to Italo Rota’s exhibition within the cellar – The Etruscans and Wine at Rocca di Frassinello – whose ancient finds prove the profound history of winemaking on this site, dating back almost three millennia ago.
The journey ends with a wine tasting in the pavilion where the Rapture of the Grape is displayed: a work by the great American artist David La Chapelle, who was inspired by Rocca’s unique sense of place.
Concluding the visit, a short walk leads to Rocca di Frassinello’s Etruscan archeological site, San Germano, accessible from within the property. To have a full understanding of how a “wine factory” works, guests are offered to stay in Rocca di Frassinello Guesthouse nestled in a wing of the cellar and immersed in the silence interrupted only by the sounds of nature.
Address: Località Poggio la Guardia, 58023 Giuncarico GR, Italy
Family Business: Founders of Petra
In 1997 Vittorio Moretti and his second child, Francesca, came to Maremma on holiday and discovered a beautiful estate nestled among the rolling hills and olive groves, caressed by the breezes from the Follonica Gulf. Seduced by this breath-taking landscape and probably lower prices compared to the rest of Tuscany, Vittorio Moretti – a business-savvy developer from Lombardy, bought an estate that now covers over 300 hectares of land and founded this boutique winery. Now Petra is part of Gruppo Terra Moretti – Vittorio’s wine empire that also includes the Tuscan estate La Badiola, Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi. Moretti decided to delegate the scepter of his wine kingdom to Francesca in 2016, when she became the company’s CEO.
Such a Perfect Place: Location of Petra
The beautiful Petra winery is situated in Suvereto on the southernmost tip of the province of Livorno. Sitting on the edge of the Tirreno Sea, this peaceful estate is surrounded by the ferruginous hills of the Val di Cornia. The area is blessed with beautiful and mild Mediterranean microclimate that allows Sangiovese and other grapes to thrive. The slopes are planted with white varieties like Vermentino, Malvasia, Trebbiano and Clarette. But these rich soils are also perfect for reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and some Alicante.
Planting with Precision: Expertise at Petra
The vineyard is vast and has many sites with various soils that are farmed with respect for sustainability. The arrangement of grapes is based on careful studies of the soil and climate conditions of each site. Some are made up of tufo (volcanic stone), clay and calcareous alluvial in the lower areas. The mineral-rich soil of the Petra steep slopes produces strong and complex wines. The vineyard’s patchwork of grape varieties has been planted by Francesca Moretti in collaboration with Attilio Scienza, an internationally renowned expert in viticulture. Oenologists Beppe Caviola and Augusto Graziano are responsible for the vinification.
Architectural Statement: Mario Botta
Petra vineyard is famous for its state-of-the-art cellar and architectural design by the renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta. It is one of those wineries often described as wine cathedrals. Coincidently or not, another Botta’s well-known project is the one of Cathedral of Evry. Mario Botta, famous for designing the San Francisco Museum of modern art, went beyond designing an impressive wine cellar. His all-encompassing approach included the outlay of the vineyards, and his painstaking attention to minute detail meant that a modern and impressive building is designed to please the eye and simplify the working routine for Petra’s staff. The winery digs 150 meters deep in the ground to create a tunnel-like wine cellar – a slightly theatrical project based on Vittorio Moretti’s own vision. Many features are unusual when it comes to Petra’s design: its cylindrical shape and sweeping lines, the trees on the roof, but its earth-toned colour scheme perfectly blends with the surroundings. The production cycle also uses the principle of gravity during grape processing.
Notable Wines from Petra
Wines of Petra are expressive, aromatic and modern in style. Petra Rosso, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet, is the real star of the house. The four high-end wines produced here are Ebo, Petra, Quercegobbe, and Zingari.
Zingari Igt Toscana Rosso (Petit Verdot and Syrah, with a bit of Sangiovese and Merlot)
Ebo Val di Cornia DOC (50% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot)
Quercegobbe Merlot Igt Toscana Rosso (100% Merlot)
Petra Igt Toscana Rosso (70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Merlot)
It’s a Journey: Your Visit to Petra
A visit to Petra is a wine buff’s dream. The attentive and knowledgeable staff developed several itineraries to maximize pleasure of your time spent in this oenological oasis. Tours last from 1.5 to 3 hours; the longest includes lunch accompanied by 3 Petra wines. Tastings take place in a lovingly restored farmhouse that represents a connection to the area’s past. To see more Botta’s work drive southward and visit a colorful and slightly crazy sculpture garden called Niki de Saint-Phalle’s Tarot Garden.
Where: Petra Winery, Località San Lorenzo Alto,131. 57028 Suvereto – Tuscany
By Elena Leo