Talk about a Sangiovese Trail and the mind immediately takes you to the beautiful Tuscan countryside and its lush wines, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Super Tuscans. This is only natural as Sangiovese is a grape, so firmly rooted in the Central Italian landscape, that it is difficult to picture it in any other scenario.
So imagine someone taking this fussy little fella outside its natural environment, planting it far far away in a remote village in rural Maharashtra, India and producing not one, not two, but five different styles featuring this temperamental Italian superstar, Sangiovese, which literally means “Blood of Jove” referring to the Roman god Jupiter.
Had anyone told me this five years ago, I would have probably scoffed in disbelief and asked them what they were smoking. But this was before Fratelli Wines and Piero Masi happened to India.
It took a maverick Italian winemaker, Piero Masi, from Tavarnelle di Pesa, a small town in Chianti Florence, creator of the famous “Chianti Classico Casa Sola”, someone with a deep cultural connect with Tuscany and enough experience with this Italian varietal, to hero the Sangiovese in his wines at Fratelli Vineyards in Akluj Maharastra.
After months of extensive research Fratelli’s Chief Winemaker, Masi, chose a clone of Sangiovese, most suited to the mineral and limestone rich arid Akluj soil, nurturing and tending it, till it took roots and began yielding good quality fruit. He managed to tame the asperity of this highly acidic light coloured grape and produce wines with a distinct character.
A winemaker’s expertise lies in how well he can use one grape to show its many different expressions and this is what Piero Masi has done with the Sangiovese in Akluj.
However it takes a couple of vintages even for the best in the business to make good wine and now Fratelli Vineyards can proudly display what it has achieved with the Sangiovese, by showcasing it in a manner like it did at a recent seven course “Modern Indian Dinner” held at Pluck, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, where five styles of Sangiovese were paired with some excellent dishes.
Magandeep Singh, India’s most well known sommelier, wine educator and host of countless television shows on wine and spirits along with Craig Wedge, Brand Director Fratelli Wines, explained the story behind each of the labels.
The trail began with Fratelli Vineyards Sangiovese Bianco. This crisp refreshing white wine with a smokey mineral thread running through is made from 100% Sangiovese which is a red grape. A technique which requires great expertise indeed.
Next was Fratelli Vineyards newest label Fratelli Vineyards M/S Red Sangiovese, a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Syrah. M stands for Piero Masi while S is for Steven Spurrier, a man whose exploits relating to Judgement of Paris have been well documented in the film Bottle Shock.
A couple of months back when I had tasted M/S Red, I found it had a few rough edges. But now the oak and the fruits seem better integrated and the tannins felt smoother. Fruit showed well and the wine had a spicy lingering finish.
Third was Fratelli Vineyards Classico Sangiovese, a simple straightforward crowd-pleaser with a nice juicy vibrancy. This wine is a great introduction to Sangiovese for those who are not familiar with this grape. Since there is no oak used, the fruit shines in all its glory.
Fratelli Vineyards Vitae Sangiovese was next. This is a single vineyard wine and comes from Plot C in Garwar. Keeping up with growing trend world-wide towards single vineyard bottlings, Fratelli has come up with another first in India. Their endeavour is to make a Burgundy style Pinot Noir from low yields, low extraction and use of new french oak.
Some of the greatest wines of the world like Burgundy grand crus and premier crus come from single vineyards and the most revered name is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
The last wine of the evening was Fratelli Vineyard’s flagship Sette, a wine which hardly needs an introduction. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and tiny bit of Cabernet Franc, fashioned after Super Tuscans, this wine created a benchmark, by showing the world that India was capable of producing age worthy premium quality wines. The 2012 vintage of Sette is their best yet as it the most balanced.
All the wines at the Sangiovese Trail were paired with dishes made with a lot of creativity, keeping in mind the flavor profile of each wine. Tristan Beau de Lomenie, the suave French General Manager of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity is a wine lover and a proponent of “Farm to Table “concept. A lot of ingredients which went into the meal that evening at Pluck came from his hotel in-house farm.
Meanwhile the House of Fratelli India is ready to come out with more firsts. I will not be surprised if we have a Brunello style 100% Sangiovese from them in the near future.
By: Lavina Kharkwal
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