When wine enthusiasts begin thinking of the Bolgheri region of Tuscany, much of the discussion centers around the grand estate of Tenuta San Guido, birthplace of Sassicaia, one of Italy’s most famous wines. Yet tucked away amidst the rolling hills, Mediterranean forests and pastures is the Estate of Castello del Terriccio. Kissed by the tranquil sea breezes, Terriccio enjoys exceptional terroir and produces exceptional wines which stand among the finest from Bolgheri.
Established in the 1920’s by the Ferri family, Terriccio traces it’s roots to ancient etruscan times when the original fortress was used as a sentinel for Siena; to warn of approaching invaders. Deeply rooted in agriculture, for much of the 20th century the estate was a working farm – a tradition that continues until today.
With 1,700 hectares along the Tuscan Coast, the estate has rich farmland dedicated to cereal, grain and barley production. Despite the size, only 900 hectares are cultivated and a mere 62 of those under vine. Historically central to the early trappings of the estate were the raising of Competition Show Horses who graze leisurely on the farms lands.
|~ Castello del Terriccio stands watch over the Mediterranean ~
Wine production began in the 1970’s, but the estate didn’t flourish until the 1980’s when family member Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana took control of the Estate’s direction. Until that time, production centered mainly upon two delicious white wines, but in witnessing the success of Bordeaux varietals cultivated in the region, Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana sought out and retained reknowned enologist Carlo Ferrini to oversee production premium Bordeaux blends. The challenge had been set and beginning with the 1993 vintage, Lupicaia was born. The impact was immediate, as the debut wine received the coveted “Tre Bicchieri” award from Gambero Rosso. The following year, Ferrini created Tassinaia to great acclaim further cementing the estate’s footprint as a producer to be reckoned with.
Ferrini is now intimately involved with production on the estate and considers himself an “Estate Consultant” rather than a wine or vineyard consultant. His approach is holistic and his goal in the cellar is to maintain the precise terroir which is unique and special at Terriccio. His primary role focuses upon red wine production, while Graziana Grassini focuses upon making the whites.
|~ Owner: Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana ~
|~ Over 60 Show Horses are Stabled on the Estate ~
Selected Wine Reviews
For this article, we are able to sample a large swath of Terriccio’s production. We began with one of the estate’s two white wines; Con Vento.
2011 Con Vento
Con Vento means “With the Wind” in Italian and is a direct nod to the gently rolling wheat fields that sway in the maritime breezes. This has been depicted on the wine’s label, which features two golden lines “blowing” in the wind. Con Vento is made predominantly from Viognier but other various white grapes complete the blend. The wine spends 6 months on the lees and is completely fermented in stainless steel before being bottled.
The 2011 is a medium golden color and seems to take it’s hue from the wheat fields surrounding the vineyards. The aromas are precise and powerful. Lemons, wet stones, flinty minerals and grapefruit mingle nicely. In the mouth, the wine has more body than one might expect and added complexity from the lees aging. Tropical fruits join lemon and white peaches and the flinty mineral streak from the nose runs throughout the midpalate. Finishing crisp, clean and lemony, this may be one of the best whites from Italy I’ve ever had. It was dynamite with grilled swordfish with a cool relish. 90 points, SRP about $24.
|~ This funky split image was taken with Stem on Granite but Bottle on table! I combined both images ~
|~ Con Vento was served with Grilled Swordfish with a fresh “Puttanesca Relish” – Stunning Combination! ~
Capannino was the very first red produced by Terriccio way back in 1970 and takes it’s name from an area of the estate where the show horses are stabled. It is a blend of all red varietals on the estate similar to the style of the Bordeaux clarets whose blend approximates the percentages of the vineyard plantings. Present in the wine are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine is refined for 1 year before release with 6 months aging in steel and a further 6 months in large French oak barrels.
Created to be enjoyed in it’s youth, the wine can also “round it’s edges” with a year or two aging bottle. The 2011 Capannino is a dark violet color. I found the aromas on the nose to be very intriguing. There’s a floral essence that seems to permeate all – presumably attributable to the Cabernet Franc – despite the number of grapes in the blend. Juicey, savory plums dominate the palate with additional notes of freshly turned earth and rosemary. The wine displays a sense of “baby fat” in it’s viscous nature and I think this will be even more complex and interesting with a few years in bottle. Delicious with chicken cutlets and gnocchi with sage butter. 88 points. SRP about $13.
|~ Capannino: Stock image courtesy of Castello del Terricco ® ~
|~ Winemaker Carlo Ferrini crafts the reds at Castello del Terriccio ~
Created in 1994, Tassinaia is a benchmark Super Tuscan for the region and one of the first to feature Sangiovese grown in Bolgheri. Tassinaia bears 2 green lines on it’s label, which pays homage to the rich grasslands on the estate. A blend of 34% Sangiovese, 33% Cabernet and 33% Merlot, Tassinaia exudes personality from all three contributors in a classy, elegant package.
The 2006 is a deep violet color clear to the rim. The nose exudes a complex bouquet – really aromatic given the youth of the wine. Present are notes of crushed berry and plum, tobacco, menthol, anise and cocoa powder. On the palate the wine is massive and tannic, but completely ripe and very fleshy in texture. The core of black fruit is accented by savory herbs, mint, coffee and warmed clay and bricks. This is powerful but very elegant. Decanted for 60 minutes, it was great alongside a roasted rack of pork. I’m convinced this will be nothing short of miraculous when it’s 10 or 15 years of age. Stunning and a great value. 93 points with potential for more. SRP about $38.
|~ Tassinaia is aged for 14 months in new & used French oak barrels ~
|~ Vineyards of Terriccio with the Sea on the Horizon ~
2001 & 2006 Lupicaia
Lupicaia is the flagship wine of the estate and was first created in 1993, when Carlo Ferrini arrived at Terriccio. From it’s first vintage, Lupicaia garnered a “Tre Bicchieri” award and has done so many times since. The two dark red lines on the label are meant to symbolize the color of the soil in the Lupicaia vineyard. The wine takes it’s name from folklore. Legend says the corner of the estate where the vineyards for Lupicaia are located where dominated by wolves, (Lupi in Italian) and that one day hunters ambushed the wolves here as they were on their way to hunt sheep.
Lupicaia is 85% Cabernet, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. Traditional fermentation occurs in stainless steel and the wine ages in French barrique for 18 months before resting a year in bottle prior to release.
The 2006 is a deep black color with a reflective violet rim. The nose of the wine is what I call Classic Italian Cabernet – the seemingly perfect combination of Bordeaux aristocracy and riper fruit from the Italian terroir. There’s black fruits, tobacco, cedar, and graphite that combine harmoniously. On the palate the wine is brutish monster. Very chewy with a large core of blackberry fruit kissed with roasted coffee and cured olive. This reminds me of Mouton Rothschild. Not as fleshy or foward as Tassinaia, this one needs lots of cellar time. Try in 2020. 93 points. SRP about $90.
|~ The 2006 was decanted for 60 minutes & served alongside Fiorentina Steak ~
|~ The Soil of Lupicaia ~
The 2001 Lupicaia offers a glimpse of where the 2006 can go. Decanted for 60 minutes, this beauty threw an enormous sediment that had to be filtered from the wine. At 13 years of age, the wine is barely showing it’s maturity in terms of color – it may be as dark as the 2006. On the nose, the wine seems “warmer” – perhaps more welcoming. The core of black fruit is accented with warm turned earth, sweet pipe tobacco, cedar, and Indian spices. On the palate is where the maturity is naturally noticeable. The tannins are still present but greatly resolved. What’s left is velvety black plum, espresso bean, worn leather and earth flavors. This is simply gorgeous. I love it! 95 points. Upon release, $75.
|~ The 2001 was taken from my personal cellar for this article ~
Interview with Estate Manager Giuliana Cavazza
Not tasted for this report was a new wine for the estate created in 2000 called simply, Castello del Terriccio. Who conceived of the new wine and decided to base it in Syrah? Were the Syrah vines new plantings or were they previously blended into some other wine?
Giovanni, the 2000 vintage was the first for Castello del Terriccio and we are proud that it received “Tre Bicchieri” for it’s very first vintage. The decision to create this wine was of the owner Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana, who had discovered a passion for Rhone wines.” The Castello del Terriccio is 50% Syrah 25% Petit Verdot and 25% other varieties depending upon the vintage. The Syrah vines we use to make Castello del Terriccio are new plantings that are used solely for this wine.
It is interesting that you employ two winemakers at Terriccio – one for your reds and one for your whites. Who made the decision to hire different winemakers for red and white wines and why? What added value does this bring to the wines?
Ferrini specialises in red wine production. His long, exemplary career started off in the Chianti area, so you can understand his direction. Graziana Grassini started her dealings with Terriccio because Dr. Rossi is always keen to encourage young local talent, so we decided she was a good partner. She has only just started consulting, and she works very closely with Terriccio. Of course the decision was Dr. Rossi’s.
Horses….is the estate still an active horse farm?
Yes, very much so. We have about 60 horses for show jumping. It’s always been central to what we do here at Castello del Terriccio. They are magnificent animals. Dr. Rossi tells the story that a Tuscan man once told him: “The two best things in life are raising horses and making wines” and he is fortunate to do both!
I read that the original vine cuttings for your Cabernet and Merlot that were used to establish the vineyards here at Terriccio were brought directly from Bordeaux. Is this true?
Ha! It is true but it’s a bit of a secret! They do indeed come from top Bordeaux houses and also Guillaume Nurseries.
I read a lot on your website regarding Carlo Ferrini’s holistic approach. Given his role as an overall estate consultant, what would he say is more important for the finished wines – the work in the vineyards or the work in the cellar?
This is easy, Giovanni! If the work is done properly in the vineyard little needs to be done except exalt that work in the cellar. He does everything possible to maintain the freshness and true character of the fruit through every step of the process. It is therefore difficult to say if one is more important than the other. For sure his works starts in the vineyard, but if you see his wines as his children, he follows the growth from that first flowering on the vine to the moment it leaves the estate to reach the restaurant table in New York, Paris, London or Hong Kong. And your cantina!
I understand that level of passion and desire. And without the control at each step, it’s hard to guarantee the results.
That is exactly right. And he is a perfectionist, although at first he may not like to admit that. But all great winemakers are and he surely is one of the best in all the world.
|~ Carlo Ferrini ~
Finally, what is new at Terriccio? What is cause for excitement or concern?
This is a timely question Giovanni. We have a new project in the works, and something that Dr. Rossi has been waiting for the right moment to release. However, being a perfectionist as well, he is not quite ready to announce it. I will just say, watch this space for a new wine in 2014.
I will surely look forward to that. Giuliana, grazie for a few moments. Buona Fortuna in 2014.
Grazie a lei Giovanni!
To find out more about Castello del Terriccio, visit their website at www.terriccio.it