Bolgheri meets 3 Italian Masters of Wine with the 2021 vintage – Live from Vinitaly 2024

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April 14th, 2024: continuing the “Iconic Women in Italian Wine” annual series at Vinitaly, developed by Managing Partner of Vinitaly Stevie Kim in 2022 and now in its 3rd edition, an exclusive lineup of esteemed representatives of the Bolgheri region made of Albiera Antinori, Priscilla Incisa Della Rocchetta, Cinzia Merli, Denise Cosentino, Gaia Cinnirella and Marilisa Allegrini, together with Italian Masters of Wine Gabriele Gorelli MW, Andrea Lonardi MW, and Pietro Russo MW, presented “Bolgheri meets 3 Italian Masters of Wine with the 2021 vintage”. The Masterclass explored the Bolgheri region’s rich heritage and unique terroir while delving into themes of Bordolese tradition, Bolgheri’s storied history and future challenges.

Gabriele Gorelli MW jump-started this sold-out session with an overview of Bordeaux blends around the world, reminding us that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most planted red grapes in the world. The key to the success of this style blend is their coastal locations and the climate in the places where they grow best. Gorelli noted that Bordeaux is the location with the most rain; Napa in California has medium amounts of rain, as does Bolgheri in Tuscany, and Aconcagua in Argentina has the least rain. Andrea Lonardi MW added that “light was my first memory of Bolgheri. Climate change will affect the region sooner rather than later.

The learning objectives for the session went beyond the tasting of these iconic Bolgheri wines and delved into the realm of the future of one of Italy’s premium wine regions. Understanding the evolution of these wines from their inception in the 1970s and ’80s to the current day is a fascinating means of seeing how climate change and the change in style demanded by consumers have impacted the wines of Bolgheri. With a spellbound audience of over 100 guests, Gorelli described Bolgheri in glowing terms that took us straight to the terroir:  “Coastal, with an energy injection from the seaside, endless sunshine and pine forests.” And then we dove into the wines, as presented by their producers.

First up was Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2021, made with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta spoke about how the sea mitigates the climate surrounding the vineyards and the theater of hills that protect the vineyards, as well as the variation of the soils. She said, “My grandfather Mario was already [in Bolgheri] in the 1940s and he saw that the international styles could do well there. The wines we make are elegant and fresh, with a sense of the macchia mediterranea.”  She also commented, “2021 was a lucky vintage for Bolgheri, no particular challenges, a vintage year you wish to have every year.

Guado al Tasso 2021 came next, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Albiera Antinori said, “First of all, the consumers, the wine lovers, even us nowadays are looking for wines that are elegant, lighter, less muscular.”  To combat too much heat in the recent long, hot summers in Tuscany, Antinori explained that “we are changing the old vineyards, moving back to 5400 planting density, putting the vines higher up so the wind can cool them down.”  The changes her family is making can be  challenging as “the balance of tradition and innovation is always very difficult until we understand that tradition is really an innovation that proved itself positive.

Ornellaia was our third Bolgheri wine, with Pietro Russo MW pointing out that this wine is an example of how “Bolgheri can really manage and be modern even in difficult vintages.”  Looking at the blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petit Verdot,  Denise Cosentino, the young enologist, new to the Bolgheri area, recounted that, “In Bolgheri, these grape varieties gave their own specific identity, this Italian taste, this Italian touch.”  She has worked with these varieties all over the world, including China, yet she loves working in Bolgheri because “we have an open mind mentality here, it’s very exciting for a young winemaker like me. The determination and courage of the producers are inspiring and they encourage the new winemakers.

Number four was 100% Cabernet Franc ‘Paleo’ from Le Macchiole, with Cinzia Merli present to discuss her wine. However, she began by saying, “I prefer to speak about responsibility. We are part of an ecosystem, we have to do everything with a lot of attention.  Every action can provide a consequence.” Clearly, sustainability will be crucial to the future of Bolgheri and Merli discussed the very targeted actions they are taking at her winery. “We started to plant the vines in the middle of nature, with fruit trees, olive trees, to respect the diversity.” They are planting local trees, leaving spontaneous grasses, using lighter-weight machinery and more sustainable cellar practices. With their Bolgheri Rosso 2022, they reduced the weight of the bottle, despite concerns that consumers continue to be drawn to heavy bottles. The upcoming new generation of drinkers is looking for these types of moves toward lower carbon footprints and Merli added that her winery is also moving toward self-sufficient, off-grid energy.

Marilisa Allegrini presented the fifth wine, Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter 2021, made with 100% Cabernet Franc. She spoke of her two decades of history in Bolgheri, where she “arrived in 2001 and immediately fell in love with the area. The human aspect was very important to me because I was welcomed in a very warm way. There is a great interaction between the players from the area and those who come from outside. It is unique.” She explained the decision to create a pure Cabernet Franc wine by saying, “I think Cabernet Franc is the best expression of the Bolgheri way, so the new consumer trend is going to freshness, enhancing the specific character of the grape. I think it was a good decision in 2007 when the rules changed to allow wines made from one single grape.” She strongly believes in the future of the region and she commented that putting “a wine in a cultural, historic, artistic place is a fantastic way to explain the wine. Bolgheri has started in the best way and I think it will be a very good way for the future.

The final wine was Masseto 2021, presented by another young enologist, Gaia Cinnirella. The wine is 100% merlot and Cinerella commented, “Masseto is a unique place that we want to translate into the bottle. It must not tell my story, it must tell its own story.”  She went on to discuss the common theme of climate change in Bolgheri explaining, “ Climate change effects can be prevented, especially in the vineyard.  This is the key to protecting the style of this wine.  We can improve our work without forgetting our roots.”  Exploring appropriate vineyard practices to combat climate change challenges such as excessive heat and sunlight, Cinnirella said, “We have to manage the training system, we have to study more, but we have to stay positive with these challenges.”  Cinnirella’s enthusiasm for her work was evident and her final remark revealed her deep passion: “Bolgheri means for me the opportunity to give my contribution to the making of a great wine.

Gorelli wrapped up this engaging and inspiring session by telling the audience, “In Bolgheri we have the wines telling the story of the region. This great group of women say what they think and do what they say.

Missing the tasting notes for the Bolgheri wines? So are we; however, the sold-out session, standing room only, and waiting list of very sad people in the hall who couldn’t get in meant that we were relegated to standing and listening only, rather than tasting. We have to say, undistracted by the excellent wines, we thoroughly enjoyed the joy and passion these six women brought to the stage, their partnership with the three MWs and the illuminating perspectives discussed about tradition, innovation, consumer trends and climate change.

 

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