100 Most Iconic Wine Estates:

Elio Altare Barolo, Piedmont
It would not be an overstatement to use the word ‘legend’ to describe Elio Altare. His Barolos are sublime and his mentoring of the young guns in Piedmont has changed the local landscape forever. He is considered to be one of the most forward thinking and subtle of Barolo producers thanks to his death to use of French oak barriques. He likes to craft his Nebbiolo wines in the same shape and size as the great Pinot Noirs of Burgundy. This means that you can approach them earlier; that they are fine, long and sensual and that the tannins are grainy without being brutal. His Barolos Vigneto Arborina, Brunate and Ceretto are the equivalent of ultra-fine Grand Crus and just as expensive, but don’t forget that he also makes an incredibly well-priced Barbera, Dolcetto and a clutch of Lange Nebbiolos. Explore these wines and never look back.
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Aldo Conterno Barolo, Piedmont
In 1961 Conterno and his brother Giovanni inherited the Giacomo winery. Eight years later they split up, with Aldo creating his own estate – Polderi Aldo Conterno – in Bussia in Moforte d’Alba. A classicist at heart, Aldo didn’t mind dabbling in some new fangled techniques. So by the 70s, endeavouring to tame the famed Nebbiolo tannins, he reduced fermentation lengths and changed from submerged cap method in favour of gentler pumping over. These sound old hat now, but at the time these are tantamount to heresy! One thing he wouldn’t change was the use of large Slavonian oak barrels. He left barriques for his young rivals and continued to make his reserved, age-worthy Barolos Granbussia Riserva, Romirasco, Cicala and Colonello in his traditional style.
Gaja Barbaresco, Piedmont
Giovanni Gaja founded his wine estate over 150 years ago. Four generations later, one of the most switched on and charismatic movers in the wine business, Angelo Gaja, continues to amaze fans with his sensational Barolos and Barbarescos. His low-yielding, single vineyard wines kicked off the vogue long before others followed and he has set the pace for the progressive winemakers of Piedmont. His Barbarescos, Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildìn and Costa Russi are legendary. His Barolos Sperss, Conteisa, Dagromis are also heroic. But, it is his modern, rule-flouting cuvées which have attracted the most column inches and – in most cases – praise from those who taste them. Darmagi is a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux blend, sold as Langhe Rosso. Sito Moresco is a pioneering Nebbiolo/Cabernet/Merlot blend which Gaia & Rey is a Piemontese Chardonnay and Alteni di Brassica is a Sauvignin Blanc! Wild, unhinged or just pure genius – you decide.
La Spinetta Barbaresco, Piedmont
Giorgio Rivetti is a multi-talented and inspirational genius with a magnificent portfolio of incredible wines. Having just taken on the management of the famous Contratto Metodo Classico wines in addition to his Casanova Tuscan estate, he has a lot on his plate, but it his Piedmont wines that have gained him critical acclaim. From the shockingly pure Barbera Ca’ di Pian and the majestic swagger of Barbera Gallina, to the vital, nervy Nebbiolo Langhe via noble Barolos Campè and Garetti and his stellar flight of Barbarescas Gallina, Starderi and Valeirano. Giorgio also makes fantastic Moscatos, Biancospino and Bricco Quaglia.
Allegrini Valpolicella, Veneto
The Allegrini family has been making wine in the Veneto since the 16th century. Based in Valpolicella, (which translates to the ‘valley of many cellars’) the father of the company was Giovanni Allegrini. Giovanni was a pioneer whose faith in his Valpolicella vineyards established the foundation of his family’s world-famous wine business. After Giovanni’s untimely death in 1983, the company was inherited by this three children, Walter, Franco and Marilisa. The company makes some of the most vital and rewarding wines in the whole of Italy. It is rare to find a top restaurant without their wines on the list; they’re widely admired by sommeliers, chefs and restauranteurs. Allegrini is a favourite producer of two historic styles of wine – Valpolicella Classico and Amazon Della Valpolicella Classico.
All of the Allegrini wines come from their 100ha Estate spanning the three towns of Sant’Ambrogio, San Pietro in Cariano and Fumane. Each of their vineyard sites brings. Different element to the final wines.
Situated in the foothills of Funane, Palazzo della Torre is named after the beautiful Renaissance property, Villa della Torre, also owned by the family. This 26ha vineyard is responsible for the Palazzo della Torre wine made from Corvina, Rondinella and a touch of Sangiovese. It is made using the ripasso method, which involves ‘building’ the intensity of the wine by fermenting it a second time with the introduction of juice gathered from partially dried grapes. This technique results in heavenly, mouth-coating style of Valpolicella.
La Grola is the other historic Valpolicella vineyard in the portfolio, a majestic 30ha site located in the town of Sant’Ambrogio. This special microclimate makes the La Grola wine, made from Corvina and Syrah.
On the summit of the La Grola hill lies the 2.6ha vineyard that produces the flagship red of the same name, La Poja. Planted in 1979, Giovanni Allegrini identified this as the exact position for him to make his dream 100% Corvina masterpiece. Sitting on top of the hill, the soil is very poor, stony and high in limestone; the whiteness of the surface at the mirror under the vines reflecting the rays of the Sun back onto the bunches of grapes. This results in incredible ripeness and complexity – La Poja is one of the finest versions of pure Corvina out there.
Allegrini’s Amarone is the most majestic and harmoniously balanced in the region. Made from 100% partially dried grapes, which lose around 40% of their volume other the three or four month process, this intense, rich, chocolate and prune-scented wine is utterly heavenly. So many Amarone styles are parched, with hot alcohol, sinewy fruit and a medicinal aftertaste. Allegrini’s version is the embodiment of luxury. A Recioto della Valpolicella Classico is also made and named after Giovanni Allegrini himself. This sweet red style is balanced to perfection by the stellar talents of his son, Franco.
While the source of the fruit are second to none, the winemaking here is remarkably sensitive to. The introduction of French barrique to complement the large Slovenian botti has helped the wines enormously as well as the shorter time spent in oak allowing the complex flavours to impress themselves fully.
Pieropan Soave, Veneto
Pieropan is the preeminent winemaker in Soave and it was founded by Leonildo Pieropan. Over four generations this dedicated family has perfected the art of making stunning wines in a region which has very few standout heroes. You will usually see mass-produced Soave on populating supermarket shelves rather than fine wine merchants’, but Pieropan’s wines dwell in private collections, chic boutiques and on the finest dining tables in the world. Pieropan started producing white wine in the 1860s and this family firm, was, in fact, the very first to bottle a wine with the word Soave on the label, in the early 1930s.
Today Nino Pieropan, his wife Teresita and his sons Andrea and Dario run the estate. While they had some vineyard holdings in the neighbouring Valpolicella, it is their pristine, crystalline whites from their home in Soave which truly captivate the palate. At the lower end of the scale, Soave Classico, made from Garganega and Trebbiano is the benchmark for all others to aspire to. There are plenty of estates whose top wines are not as focused and serene as this cuvée. Above this wine are two distinct Soave Classicos, both of which would be wise to follow closely indeed. Firstly Calvarino, the first single vineyard Soave in existence, bottled almost 50 years ago in 1971.
The name is derived from the vineyard itself, ‘Little Calvary’; reflecting the difficulty of getting from the bottom to the top and working between the vines. The basalt soils here give the wine a distinct, taut, mineral theme. Beautiful and demure in its youth, this wine ages elegantly over six or seven years, but you mustn’t feel guilty about drinking it young as it is tremendously rewarding. The Garganega and Trebbiano grapes are often picked in two distinct passages through the vines, ensuring that every grape is optimally ripe. Fermented and aged in glass-lined concrete tanks the structure of wine is assembled via its contact with its lees, nothing more. The integrity and complexity of Calvarino comes direct from the vineyard itself.
The other fabulous cuvée comes from the La Rocca vineyard. Situated on the Monte Rochetta hill, just underneath Soave’s medieval fortress, this vineyard is responsible for rich, structured, age-worth Soave. Made exclusively from Garganega and first released in 1978, this is the ‘Grand Cru’ in the portfolio and restraint must be exercised, only drinking it from six years of age onwards. The next stunning Pieropan release is the Le Colombare, a Recioto di Soave. Made from late-picked grapes, from the most exposed parts of the bunches, Recioto benefits from the grapes being partially dried on bamboo mats for five months and then aged for two years in large casks before release.
The Peiropans have made Recioto for over 100 years and it is their own favourite wine in the line up! Ageing like clockwork, this one of of the most restrained sweet wine styles that you could drink with a game terrine or foie gras as much as a fruity pudding. However, if you are looking for a wine to compliment your cheese course then the final expression from the La Rocca vineyard will have you gasping for a glass. Passito della Rocca is another tried great style wine, but this time made from 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Riesling with the balance being made up with Gargantua and Trebbiano. The grapes are dried approximately for three months followed by fermentation and two years ageing in French oak barriques. This makes for a decadent surprise; the old gold colour, and honey, dried fruit and nut notes are sensational. This style of sweet wine, with its gripping natural acidity and lusty fruit, makes for a very talented and food – friendly wine indeed.
Castello del Terriccio Maremma, Tuscany
Castello del Terriccio can be found in the province of Pisa, 30 kilometers from the city itself, in the very most northern part of Tuscan Maremma. A little off the beaten track but well worth the journey, this estate makes two particularly fantastic wines, Lupicaia and Tassinaia under the guidance of Master Winemaker Carlo Ferrini. Lupicaia is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend and it tastes of bitter chocolate, cinnamon, plums and black cherries. Tassinaia blends Cabernet, Sangiovese and Merlot for an epic and all-enveloping sensory explosion. Both of these Super Tuscans are from the very finest of top drawers and come highly recommended. With Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah all grown on the property and even a very posh rosé you really must induce traduce yourself to Terriccio.
Isole e Olena Chianti Classico, Tuscany
The two villages were joined to make one property by the De Marchi family in the ‘50s. Since 1976, Paolo De Marchi has run his 45ha state making some of the best wines in Tuscany. His Chardonnay Collezione De Marchi is a joyous, silky, tropical wine with a long, sultry finish. He also makes an elegant Syrah and sprightly Cabernet, but his Chianti Classico which displays sensational purity and élan. Above this wine is his Super Tuscan, Cepparello, which is bottled under both screw cap and cork, showing that Paolo is very much a man of the world. Cepparello is a tour de force that is incredibly enticing in its youth but that age is extremely well, too. One last wine made here is truly world-class – the Vin Santo which displays traditional dried grape notes and barrel nuances alongside a heady cocktail of exotic fruit and spice.
Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico, Tuscany
Legend has it that in the early 13th century, the Lords of Florence and Siena decided to determine their common border in the Chianti region by organising a horse race. When the cock crowed, a knight would set out from each city riding towards each other and their meeting point would mark the border. The Florentines cunningly chosen emaciated cockerel, which was on his last legs and desperate for a feed. Not surprisingly, this rooster crowed long before dawn and so the Florentine knight had a huge head start. He has covered a great distance before meeting his rival on the outskirts of Siena, at Fonterutoli. Since then, the black rooster has been the emblem of the wines of Chianti. The castle of famous has been owned by the Mazzei family since 1435, but they have been involved in winemaking in the region since the 11th century. In fact, Ser Lapo Mazzei is considered to be the ‘father’ of the Chianti name. He wrote the first known document using this denomination and bearing his signature, dated 16th December 1398.
Another Mazzei, this time Filippo Mazzei (1730-1816) was asked by his wine-loving friend Thomas Jefferson to put a vineyard at his estate in Monticello Virginia, USA. There are many more historic, eureka moments associated with this family, but it is today’s Lapo, who oversees the property with the help of his sons Filippo and Francesco. They run the estate at Fonterutoli and also two further wine properties, both making extremely impressive wines, in Maremma (Belguardo) and Sicily (Zisola).
Fonterutoli’s wines are of an extraordinary quality. Even their entry level wine, Badiola, is thoroughly delicious. This crunchy cherry-style Sangiovese, blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a welcome refuge in an ocean of largely indifferent expensive Chianti. Keep your eyes peeled for this wine on restaurant wine lists – it will no doubt get you out of a tight spot. One step above this wine is the Chianti Classico itself made from 90% Sangiovese with 10% being made up of Malvasia Nero, Colorino and Merlot. This is a benchmark Chianti and it is the wine that does the legwork for the brand internationally. With over 120 parcels of vines, this is a producer who can afford to choose the very best.
Above this level are three more wines and these are the creations which have enjoyed this estate position in this century of legendary wine producers. Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva, named after the great man mentioned previously, is the Riserva level Chianti and it sees a little more new oak and accordingly sports a more intensity of fruit. More of a keep than the straight Chianti Classico, this is a wine that will mellow beautifully with time. Next we come to the spectacular Castello de Fonterutoli Chianti Classico, which is a masterpiece. This wine loads complexity on to the palate via its use of 36 different clones of Sangiovese blended with 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This diversity of material brings infinitesimal detail and nobility to the palate of this wine. Finally there is a Super Tuscan wine in the portfolio called Serpi, made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot. With silky tannings, stunning length and the élan that one associates with this particular estate, Siepi is a wine that will take Fonterutoli well into its 25th generation of Mazzeis in effortless style.
Sassicaia Bolgheri, Tuscany
Now a protected and famous landmark, the entrance to this historic estate couldn’t be more distinguished. A magnificent, three-mile avenue of cypress trees, planted in the early 1800s by Guidalberto della Gherardesca, takes you from the village of Bolgheri to Tenuta San Guido. It sets the pulse racing as you arrive down this splendid drive and when you are tasting the wines made here you realise that you are somewhere very special indeed. Fast forward 150 years from the planting of this avenue and you come to the moment when this estate dipped its toe in the wine business. When Clarice della Gherardesca married wine lover Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, the beginnings of Sassicaia, which means ‘stony field’, were born.
One could venture that this terrific Tenuta made every estate re-evaluate what they were doing in the late 70s and early 80s and why. Collectively the country seemed to raise its game when Sassicaia became the talk of every town. This historic estate not only put the region of Bolgheri on to the map, but it also created the very first Bordeaux-style red wine in Italy. Tenuta San Guido is the home of the very first ‘Super Tuscan’ wine – as these brooding, expensive, age-worthy creations, made from non-indigenous grapes, became known.
Sassicaia was created by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, a keen wine connoisseur of the Piemontese wines, where he grew up, and also one of the great Bordeaux. His inspiration came from the one of his illustrious ancestors, great-grandfather Leopold, who catalogued, in great detail, two tomes of Italian and foreign vines. In 1948, Mario used his knowledge to make his first Tuscan wine using Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings, from plant material organisation from an old vineyard in Vecchiano (Pisa) that belonged to the family of the Dukes of Salviati. He decided to plant Cabernet because his stony soils were similar to those found in Graves, in Bordeaux. Initially the wines were solely used for home consumption, and they apparently aged very well. In the late 60s Mario sought advice from Giacomo Tachis (the most famous and inspirational wine consultant) and the great Emile Peynaud (the godfather of French winemaking). This prescient decision improved the quality of wine made at this estate. The first release of Sassicaia properly came in 1968 and in the coming years the estate began to amass a following of fascinated and faithful acolytes. Nobody back then could have predicted what would happen in the next decade because in 1978, the 1972 vintage of Sassicaia won a Decanter Magazine blind tasting against some massive names from Bordeaux and some Cabernet specialists from further afield. Ironically the bottles wore the lower quality classification of Vino da Tavola (the lowest marque of all) on their labels, because at that time, neither D.O.C. nor D.O.C.G. existed in the Bolgheri area for red wines at all. This classification has subsequently been changed a little under intense pressure from the wine producers and the collectors alike, via the largely meaningless IGT class (Indicazione geografica tipica – or rather ‘tastes like where it comes from’) to the new D.O.C. Bolgheri Sassicaia – the only estate in Italy that has got its kind of “private” DOC. Nicolò Incisa della Rochetta, son of Mario and Clarice della Gherardesca, took over the estate from his father, after he died, in 1983. He continued to run a very tight ship, broadening the portfolio and maintaining his father’s high standards. With the Antinoris as cousins (the producers of Ornellaia) there is a quietly competitive spirit in Tuscany which has pushed the production of these exceptional Super Tuscan wines to rival the finest reds in the world. Add to this perfectionism a uniquely Italian flair and these ones are a heady concoction of glamour, integrity, nobility and a laser-guided sense of place. The Tenuta San Guido estate is a huge 2600ha property of which two thirds includes wild woodland at altitude and an environmental oasis nearer the coastline. Gentle hills sweep down to the Tyrrhenian Sea and the dunes from a height of 400m, and as well as 85ha of vines there is also a stud farm for breeding glorious Dormello Olgiata breed of racehorses. There are now three red wines made here. La Difese, a 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese blend has recently joined the portfolio, and it would be wise to start here if you are to climb the Sassicaia ladder. Made to drink on release, around 10,000 cases are made each year. In 2000 a second wine was released called Guidalberto – a slightly larger production and made from a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. This wine alone is worthy of great praise such is its complexity and charm. The great wine, Sassicaia, sits atop the portfolio and with a production of 15,000 cases per year it is around the same output as a medium-sized Bordeaux Château. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the driving force variety planted here, but, Cabernet Franc is used in Sassicaia for fragrance, and Merlot and Sangiovese (Tuscany’s most famous local variety) were only introduced later to the estate when they were created to develop the portfolio.

Poliziano Montepulciano, Tuscany

Dino Carletti bought a 22ha estate in 2961, in order to get in touch with the earth and culture of his birth place of Montepulciano. From the start he set out to make top flight, handmade wines. His company took the name from the Italian Renaissance classical scholar and poet, Angelo Ambrogini (1454-1494), known as ‘Il Polizano’, who was born in Montepulciano.
In 1978 Dino’s son Federico decided to study agriculture in Florence which led to him taking up a post in general agriculture in the North of Italy. This experience stood him in good stead for his return home where he could apply his skills to his family wine business. Times were tough in the 90s and Federico left no stone unturned in his pursuit of perfection. His relationships with consultants Carlo Ferrini and Maurizio Castelli have meant that he surrounded himself with star talent which has rubbed off. The key to success from his desire to capture the essence of Montepulciano coupled with modernising the viticulture and vilification sides of the business. Consequently, the wines immediately possessed a sense of place, all the while remaining approachable in their youth, beautifully generous, as well as detailed and complex with the ability to age.
With 30ha of vines around the winery and further plots in the greater region totalling 120ha vines in all, this is a sizeable business. Nearly half of the vineyards were planted between 1962 and 1980 with the Prugnolo Gentile variety – the local name Sangiovese. This material came from native species collected in the vineyards from the 40s and so these old vines form the historic heart of the wines. The younger plantings include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a variety of clones of Sangiovese and another selection of Prugnolo Gentile. This diversity allows for the layering of flavour which is so prevalent in the wines from this noble estate. There are four main red wines made at Poliziano and every single one is a star. The Rosso di Montepulciano is the entry level wine made predominantly from Sangiovese with a dash of Merlot. This is a beautiful, forward, black fruit cocktail of a wine with seamless tannins and it embodies the true character of the region.
Its price tag puts it firmly in the everyday section of your wine rack which is remarkable, considering the charm and refinement on board. One step up, you find the magnificent estate wine Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. Prugnolo Gentile is the star here, with 15% Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot in the mix. With 12-16 months ageing in 20% new French oak and 80% in older barriques and tonneaux, this is a wonderfully balanced and incredible distinction throughout its stunning length. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Selezione Asinone comes from the Asinone vineyard and it is only made in the best vintages. Needless to say this is the pinnacle wine from the entire region and it is as fine and regal as any Brunello di Montalcino or top Chianti. A keeper, Asione will last for more than a decade with ease, so you ought to let it slumber until the mighty tannins have relaxed.
There is one more wine, Le Stanze, which is a Cabernet/Merlot blend and in true Super Tuscan style it sees full, new, French oak treatment. Unlike many of the super-polished wines made from international varieties in Tuscany, Le Stanze manages to keep its feet in the ground and retain the strong characters of the region – which is the reason why it tastes so good. Federico has managed to balance modernity and authetinticiy so beautifully at Poliziano. His wines show the Carletti family passion for their history, culture and their unique place on Earth.
Argiano Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany
The wines from this exciting producer in Montalcino flirt with a slightly more modern style than many, while keeping their roots firmly interred in the soils of this noble region. I favour the richness and fruit purity of these majestic Brunellos and with non of the stewed oak characteristics of many backward-looking estates; Argiano’s reds are paragons of excellence. Interestingly, Argiano is thought to be where, in ancient times, a search was made to find Are Jani, (or the legendary alter of the Roman Janus) the god of new beginnings. The name of this property and character of the wines would seem aptly aligned.
Situated on the top of a hill, to the south-west of Montalcino, the Villa was build in the Renaissance period by the Peccis, a noble family from Siena. It has been passed down to today’s owner Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano, of vermouth fame, who took on the business and its stunning estate in 1992.
In the past, renowned wine guru Giacomo Tachis consulted to this fine property and his aura undoubtedly still lingers, serving them well. Since Tachis retired, the hugely talented Hans Vinding-Diers has taken the helm and his enormous experience as a global, ‘flying’ winemaker has maintained the balance of ancient and modern. If you have never heard of the Hans before, conjure up an image of a Dane born in South Africa and brought up in Bordeaux – he is a rare talent and his impact at this estate is remarkable. One factor seems to affect flavour more than any other – the oak maturation regime used. Argiano favours a blend of two sorts, using a combination of new and once used French barriques for the first four to six months of the wine’s life, and then transferring he wine into larger Slavonian oak casks (called botti) for the next 18 months. Careful selection of ripe grapes, temperature control and this sensitive oak maturation plan enables the Argiano wines to retain wonderful, full fruit notes and heavenly succulence not eh palate. It also means that they are remarkably balanced in their youth, but age extremely well, too.
Argiano makes several different takes on the Brunello di Montalcino theme. All of the reds come from vineyards at altitude, where cool nights and often breezy days allow the vines to ‘relax and regroup’ each evening, harnessing their flavours and loading complexity into their grapes during the long, slow ripening season.
Another factor which explains the consistency of the vintages at Argiano is the estate’s relative proximity to the Monte Amiata, one of Tuscany’s highest peaks which shelters a lot of the area from the worst of the weather. The twin hallmarks of Argiano’s Brunello di Montalcino are: silky tannins and generous amplitude of fruit on the palate. These are not heavy wines, but long, lithe and elegant reds with complex red and black fruit notes perfectly integrated with oak and wild herb nuances. It is the subtlety and effortless calm that makes these wines so alluring. Sangiovese can be an awkward, angular grape, but kid-glove handling transforms it in to an ethereal pleasure. The Brunello’s younger sibling is the Rosso di Montalcino, also made from 100% Sangiovese, coming from the vines that encircle the winery. This is a forward-drinking red which dials back the power of the Brunello, but lacks nothing in terms of charm and complexity. So often Rossos are lean, sinewy and raw, but the Argiano version is utterly charming. Another wine made here is Non Confuditur. This is the Latin motto of the former owners, the Lovatelli Gaetani d’Aragona family, and it means ‘not to be confused with’, which is good advice because this delightful red, first made in 2002 is a modernist, early-drinking take on the Super Tuscan model. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese, it is the perfect wine to introduce newcomers to the charms of Montalcino’s reds, before you hit them with pure Sangiovese. Clearly using Bordeaux and Rhône grapes in the mix, covers a lot of familiar bases for one’s palate.
Argiano’s Solengo, meaning ‘lone wild boar’, is an iconic Super Tuscan in Montalcino. It is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Syrah, harvested from the finest plots of land on the property. Vinding-Diers has finessed on Tachis’ original Solengo project brining élan to this wine. Rich and plush on the palate, this cuvée is a hedonistic joy. It ages like clockwork and mellows beautifully after a decade. The final great wine at Argiano is Suolo. Invented by Vinding-Diers, Suolo is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes from two single vineyards – Vignoli, the oldest plantings from 1966 and Olivera, planted in 1989. Suolo means ‘soil’ and this devastating red is a study on the exact characteristics of each exceptional plot of plant. A tiny production is made each year, including 60 magnums. With such an inviting list of heady red wines you must make Argiano a priority listing in your cellar.
Ornellaia Bolgheri, Tuscany
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded by Marchese Lodovico Antinori in 1981 and from the inaugural 1985 vintage this exceptional estate, in the stunning surroundings of Bolgheri, established itself almost overnight as one of the ‘must-buy’ Super Tuscans. I visited Ornellaia very early in its life and the wines were already some of the best in Italy. Today they vie not just with the Tuscan elite but with the whole industry’s top Bordeaux blends. In 2005 Frescobaldi bought the estate and under this new management the wines and continued to improve. In addition to Ornellaia there is a stylish Merlot made here called Masseto. This is one of the finest Merlots in the world and certainly the top version in the country.
Planeta Menfi, Sicily
Since its inception in 1985 the Planeta winery has turned the market on its head with its pioneering dynamism. The Planeta cousins, Francesca, Alessio and Santi have provided the energy behind this phenomenon. Following the win of the Cantina dell’Anno (Italian winery of the year award in the highly respected Gambero Rosso wine guide) in 1999, the winery was blazing an unbelievable trail. A range of stunning single varietals included a Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc blend called Burdese and a Fiano called Cometa which hit all the high notes. These are not only the boldest and most influential modern wines made in Sicily, but they are also among the most professional and exciting wines in the whole of Italy. Planeta simply doesn’t do anything by halves; their desire to innovate, while smashing rules, at the same time as celebrating indigenous varieties means that they invariably reward the drinker from the very bottom of the ladder to the top. This achievement is nothing short of breathtaking.
In addition to these flagship wines, Planeta also makes a sensational Moscato di Noto – one of Italy’s most notable sweet wines. The two entry level wines La Segrata Bianco and La Segrata Rosso are certainly not ‘secrets’ anymore because they are seen on the smartest dining room tables in the world. With 17 generaltions of experience, it is not surprising that there is some expertise in the filed of local varieties and Greciano, Carricante, Moscato di Noto, Fiano, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese and Nero d’Avolo all feature in the portfolio. In addition to their lovely wines there is a beautiful olive oil made at their Capparrina estate, near the beaches of Menfi. With nearly 100ha of groves this is a very serious operation, too.
Obsessive about entertaining, the new boutique hotel La Foresteria, in Menfi, overlooking the vineyards, is probably the best place to explore the historic Sicilian countryside, drink their cosmic wines, enjoy their celestial food and immerse yourself in the heavenly Planeta way of life.
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