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Special Import

“Mare e Monti - Surf ’n Turf.”


Special Import

Is the term that comes to mind when considering the far-flung concerns of Vini Franchetti. A cult Italian wine brand originally from the outskirts of Southwest Tuscany. Established by Andrea Franchetti, who in 2002 reminded Jancis Robinson of “a youthful Yves Saint-Laurent”; he has since discovered and pioneered a number of notable Italian terroirs. In the early 1990s he successfully established Tenuta di Trinoro in the Orcia Valley in Tuscany as a highly sought-after producer of Super Tuscans; at the turn of the millennium, he started exploring the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, subsequently purchasing a piece of land now known as Passopisciaro. Significantly, the Passorosso (one of the wines from this estate), a 100% Nerello Mascalese wine (native to the island), was just designated Etna Rosso DOC - making it one of the few traditional wines in Franchetti’s lineup. {Side note: should the gravity of a DOC designation fail to have the desired effect on you, I’d kindly refer you to our Guide on Old World wine here} A third property was acquired in 2011, by son Carlo Franchetti, on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, which today specializes in producing Pinot Noir from the area. So you see: Mare e Monti. 

Tenuta di Trinoro

In a wine country regulated by rules and designations, Andrea Franchetti is a breath of fresh air, and one of the main reasons I simply HAD to get my hands on a few bottles to share with you {full disclosure, the available selection is what I could GET for now, but rest assured these wines provide an adequate, if not beautiful cross-section of Franchetti’s range}. His use of Bordelais style varietals in Sangiovese’s HOMELAND, illustrates his consideration of the terroir, planting what he KNOWS will thrive there and not just what he’s told to. With the true mark of a visionary, he takes leaps of faith studiously, meticulous in his investigation and subsequent implementation. His very existence proof to me that anyone can make the best wine in the world, ANYWHERE, as long as they have the drive, inspiration, and determination to do so. Having started out as a restaurant owner in Rome, then a wine distributor in the US, he came to winemaking later in life, as one does in finding one's passion, quite by chance. As the heir of a South Carolina textile fortune on his mother’s side and art royalty as family (Cy Twombley is his uncle), Franchetti bought a small house in Tuscany (‘small’ as in sitting on 200 hectares of land makes anything look ‘small’ by comparison) and decided to plant a vineyard on virtually virgin ground. The land not having hosted a vineyard for more than a century by all accounts. His subsequent success in Tuscany and with the help of some pretty serious wine friends, Jean Luc Thunevin of Château Valandraud and Peter Sisseck of Domino de Pingus (from whom presumably he still draws inspiration), he has made it his mission to plant vineyards in virgin vine territory and rediscover the abandoned vineyards of Italy. Case in point: Sicily.

Passopisciaro 

Franchetti was one of the first to start planting on the slopes of Mount Etna again, given its habitual destruction of the vines. Leading in what was to become a renaissance in Sicilian wines. Today, of Passopisciaro's range of wines, they make an INCREDIBLE Chardonnay on the slopes of Mount Etna, around 1000m up (see the Passobianco). The choice of varietal remarkable given the predominance of native grapes here, and yet also not THAT remarkable given the man. There are literally lava fields between the vineyards, though the lava provides unique flavour profiles that wines from the area have become prized for. The different minerals present in the lava-tainted soils have given rise to the notion of “Contrade”, feudal property lines, mapped out by local land registry subdividing vineyards into plots reflecting individual terroir characteristics - not dissimilar to Burgundy. Franchetti is lucky to have no fewer than 5 distinct Contrade wines in their portfolio, though it is important to note the very, very small production numbers, with 8 different wines sold, but only 800 cases in total produced annually - hence getting your hands on a bottle is an ACHIEVEMENT. Having spent a harvest in Sicily myself, I got the distinct feeling that we are mere mortals in the face of such raw power, and yet taking the CHANCE to produce something spectacular from vines that may just be gone in the morning…I still cannot tell if it is pure lunacy or genius. Suffice to say that each of these wines, by virtue of its origin may just be the last vintage and therefore definitely worth holding on to. 

New World Palates 

Given Franchetti’s pioneering spirit and his focus on terroir specific wines, I felt the South African palate would most definitely understand his particular brand of genius, as well as offer a gateway to potentially developing a deeper understanding of the Italian flavour profile. With that, I encourage you to explore these glorious examples of New World Italy and tell us what you think!

Published On: 11/14/2018

Nicolò S. Pudel

Twitter @npudel

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