2019 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana IGT "Carignano"
2019 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana IGT "Carignano"

2019 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana IGT "Carignano"

Tuscany, Italy 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$35.00

2019 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana IGT "Carignano"

In a world of commodified, commercial wine “brands,” here’s a completely authentic, unique wine of place instead. Whether your budget is $35 a bottle or $500 a bottle, this is the kind of wine you should be spending your hard-earned wine dollars on. Not only is it the (delicious) product of conscientious natural farming and winemaking, it is relentlessly interesting: Yes, it’s from Tuscany, Italy (not exactly unexplored terrain), but it’s from a part of Tuscany even most wine experts would be hard-pressed to describe. It’s crafted from a grape, Carignan (Carignano in Italian), that few would identify as “Tuscan” and even fewer would ascribe the appropriate respect and appreciation, regardless of where it’s grown. But it works on every level, because, as it happens, this grape and this place have a long history together. Normally, we think of the Tuscan Coast as the home of rich, opulent “Super Tuscans” from Bordeaux varieties; this is something else entirely, and it had us all swooning. It’s a refreshing, unoaked, mineral-drenched joy to drink, full of energy and purity. It’s a “natural” wine, but a clean, fault-free one. And it’s a steal at this price. You can’t afford to miss it.

The estate that produces this wine, Ampeleia, is tucked away high in the hills around Roccatederighi, a hilltop village in Tuscany’s Grosseto province that is miles away, literally and figuratively, from some of the more-famous wine villages (Bolgheri; Suvereto) that dot Tuscany’s Mediterranean coastline. Ampeleia was founded in 2002 by the internationally beloved natural wine maven Elisabetta Foradori, who hails from the more-northerly Trentino region and has become well-known for the wines she produces there. Elisabetta and her partners chose the young winemaker and viticulturist Marco Tait, also from Trentino, to head up operations at Ampeleia, and, 20+ years on, he’s still at the helm.

Although the Ampeleia vineyards fall within the Tuscan sub-region known as the Maremma, Roccatederighi is a different kind of “Maremma” than what most Italian wine aficionados are used to: Most of us think of coastal Tuscany as a place of low, rolling hills and fertile soils, with lots of pasture land and vineyards planted on a large scale. We think hot, “Mediterranean” climate. But Ampeleia’s vineyards are situated further inland, at high (up to 600 meters) altitudes, in a cluster of pre-Apennine hills called the Colline Metallifere (“metal-rich hills”). In years past, this was a huge mining area, and today the region falls within the Colline Metallifere Geopark, one of nine such parks in Italy recognized by UNESCO for their exceptional geological interest.

Tait and team organically and biodynamically farm a patchwork of vineyards at high altitudes around Roccatederighi, taking their cues as to what to plant based on the soil mix available to them in the site. Topsoils are generally thin mixtures of clay and sand, layered over a variety of metamorphic and volcanic rock, including schist and rhyolite. Given the elevations, the climate is a little more ventilated and cooler relative to places further west and south in the Maremma, and it shows in this wine: This is a brisk, fragrant, lower-a.b.v. expression of Carignan—not something we often see in more “traditional” terroirs like France’s Languedoc-Roussillon.

This 2019 hails from a small, secluded hillside parcel called “Campo al Finocchio” (“fennel field”), which has mineral-rich schist soil mixed with gray clay. Tait included about 15% whole grape clusters during fermentation, which lends the wine some nice Beaujolais-esque crunch, and aging lasted about 10 months in concrete tanks. This is a bright, juicy red, medium-ruby in color with pink and magenta highlights, redolent of blackberry and black cherry along with more savory notes of wild herbs, leather, and crushed rocks. It is medium-bodied and very lively, with well-rounded tannins. If you’re accustomed to chucky, syrupy Carignan, here’s something completely different. It will take well to a chill, and is tailor-made for outdoor dining, be it something simple like burgers or bistecca, or something more ambitious. Pull the cork, give it a splash-decant about 15 minutes before serving, and have a second bottle at the ready. Cheers!

2019 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana IGT "Carignano"

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