Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review of the wines has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.
The US importer of the Italian winery Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi has been so nice as to mail me samples of a range of wines that are literally just being launched in the US market as we publish this post so I could try them out and see how I liked them… which I gladly did! Needless to say, the opinions in my review are my own and are untainted by the fact that the wines I reviewed were free samples (which is something that, however, I greatly appreciated as it gave me the opportunity to preview a range of wines that I was not familiar with!)
The wines that I am going to review are made by well-known Tuscan producer Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi and they are part of a line called “Ammiraglia”, after the name of the estate (Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia) where the grapes from which the wines are made come from.
In order not to make this post unbearably long, I am going to break it down into two parts: (i) this post will provide information about the producer, the estate and the Ammiraglia range in general, and (ii) the next post is going to focus on my tasting notes of the three wines in the Ammiraglia lineup that I had the opportunity to taste.
About the Producer
The Frescobaldi’s are an Italian (florentine) family of noble descent that, among other endeavors, have been in the wine business for quite a while. More specifically, the oldest documented reference to their wine production activities dates back to… the year 1300 (!) at the historic estate of Tenuta di Castiglioni in Val di Pesa, southwest of Florence.
According to the Frescobaldi’s records, their wine business took off pretty well pretty soon, as by the beginning of the 1400’s great Italian Renaissance artists such as Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi had become loyal clients. One century later, the Frescobaldi wines were served at the tables of the Papal Court and the Court of Henry the Eighth of England.
According to the Frescobaldi’s Web site, in the second half of the XIX century they were also at the forefront of wine making innovation in Italy, as in 1855, at their estates of Nipozzano and Pomino, they were the first in Tuscany to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while in 1894 at Pomino they built the first Italian gravity-fed cellars.
About the Estate
Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia is the Frescobaldi’s latest project. This estate is situated in Magliano, near the town of Grosseto, in that beautiful, sunny and wild part of coastal Tuscany that is known as Maremma. Commercial production of the Ammiraglia wine range started recently, with the first vintage of two of the wines in the lineup being 2006, while the remaining two wines were introduced in 2009 and 2012 (see below for details). Even the state-of-the-art, environmentally conscious Ammiraglia estate winery was completed and became operational only in 2011.
About the Ammiraglia Range
The Ammiraglia lineup comprises four wines:
1. Vermentino Ammiraglia: the only white wine in the range and its newest addition (first vintage: 2012)
2. Terre More: a Bordeux-style blend (first vintage: 2009)
3. Pietraregia: a Sangiovese-based Morellino di Scansano Riserva (first vintage: 2006)
4. Ammiraglia: a varietal Syrah (first vintage: 2006)
However, currently only the first three wines in the Ammiraglia range have been imported into the US and therefore will be covered by my review. Word has it, though, that it will not be long before even the missing Syrah joins the other three wines on US wine store racks (probably, as early as next year).
Before we wrap this post up, here are three general observations on the wines that I have tasted – two good and one… not so good. 😉
– The good ones:
(A) The price: if these wines deliver in terms of quality (I don’t want to spoil the outcome of my reviews here, so stay tuned for the next post!) I think they are going to sell really well: two of the three have a suggested retail price of $18 and the third one (the Pietraregia) of $25: certainly appealing.
(B) The capsule: the three wines come with a nice tin capsule, which I like so much better than cheap feeling and cheap looking plastic capsules. Besides, tin foil is much easier to take off in the context of a proper wine opening procedure (yes, at some point I will write a post about what this entails exactly!)
– The not so good one (at least to me): only one of the three wines that I tasted (the more expensive Pietraregia) utilizes cork as a closure. The other two resort to a synthetic closure in a color that vaguely resembles cork.
Now, I realize that retailing at some $18 these two wines are not premium segment wines and using synthetic instead of cork helps keep the retail price down; I understand that they are not meant for long-term aging and this takes care of the question marks about the long-term effectiveness of synthetic closures; and I also appreciate that using synthetic avoids the dreaded TCA taint problem (AKA, the occasional corked bottle) altogether. I get all that, of course. Still, my personal reaction to a synthetic closure in a bottle of wine is not one of excitement: I don’t know, I may be old school and everything, but to me, it just makes the bottle feel cheap.
By the way, if you are interested in the whole wine closure debate, I have come across a pretty interesting article published by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture summarizing the outcome of research conducted in 2007 at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center regarding the “Effects of Wine Bottle Closure Type on Consumer Purchase Intent and Price Expectation” that essentially shows how consumer appreciation and price expectations of a bottle of wine (a Chardonnay and a Merlot) were affected by the use of a screw cap, a synthetic closure or a real cork (the article also cites the outcome of previous studies on this topic).
Anyway, forget about my prejudice about synthetic closures: this is the end of part 1 of this review. On the next post, we will get to my actual tasting notes of the three wines that I got to taste, so stay tuned for more! 🙂