~ Is this the Centuries old road traversed by Anglican Monks? ~

If you’re student of wine and a student of history, it will be fairly easy to realize that Tempranillo has its origins in Spain and doesn’t “belong” in Tuscany.  Right?  Well, sort of.  

I first brought the story of Pietro Beconcini to you a few years ago and since then, I’ve continued to enjoy their wines and recently began a series of tastings featuring their current releases. Based in San Miniato, in the Province of Pisa, the estate is located along a primary route of pilgrimage that Anglican and Spanish monks routinely traversed while making their pilgrimage to Rome.  

The ancient Via Francigena passes directly through what is now Pietro Beconcini’s wine estate, alongside the very vineyard that provides the Tempranillo for Beconcini’s wine.  Religious pilgrims, on their way to Rome arrived from all over Europe, since the two main routes of the Via Francigena originated in Canterbury England and Santiago di Compostela in Spain.  At the time, priests, in addition to their religious charges, were also responsible for overseeing agricultural undertakings.  

~ San Miniato ~
New vineyards were started in those days by planting grape seeds, primarily because over long journeys it was easier to carry a small container of seeds rather than an awkward, heavy bundle of vine cuttings. This fact strengthens the results of Beconcini’s DNA research, which indicates that a high percentage of tested genetic material is identical to Spanish Tempranillo, but with small obvious evolutionary differences expected in a vine that was started from a seed and not from a mature cutting.
Fast forward to 1993 and the story progresses…….
In 1993, a grouping of 213 vines, obviously very ancient, were discovered on Beconcini’s estate.  While researching their origins, experimental wines made were jokingly referred to as “Grape X”. By 1997, with research still ongoing, massal selections were made from the budwood of the ancient “Grape X” vines and planted elsewhere on the estate.  

In February of 2004, the final results of the extensive DNA clonal research were completed and “Grape X” was revealed to be Tempranillo.  The years leading up to this discovery were not wasted by Beconcini.  Experimental and ambitious techniques were applied to “Grape X” in learning how best to create wine from this “unknown” varietal.  

With the 2004 vintage, Vigna alle Nicchie was born.  Nicchie, in the Tuscan dialect, is the name given to the bits of fossilized sea shells that are a prominent factor in the soil composition of the area and inparticular, Beconcini’s estate.  In Leonardo’s own words:
“During the years of the ongoing research, I finally made the decision to produce an ambitious Tempranillo, using even extreme procedures, such as partially drying the grapes before fermentation.”    
The results speak for themselves and today, we’re focusing on the newest release, the 2010 Vigna Alle Nicchie. In the glass, the wine is a deep color, an impenetrable black red with a lively, bright hue at the rim of the bowl.   

As mentioned above, the grapes are typically harvested in mid-late September after which they are left to dry until almost mid October. By that time, they have lost 25% of their weight.  The grapes are then fermented in cement and then spends two full years in a combination of French (70%) and American (30%) oak.  A full 12 months bottle aging is finished before the wine is released shortly after its 4th birthday. 

The aromas from the 2010 are intense. Grilled and cured meat, loads of cherry, menthol, baking spices and new leather are complex and powerful.   On the palate, the wine is fresh, lively, structured and intense.  Full bodied and long, with wild cherry, fennel, mocha, mineral, and salume flavors, this is unique and delicious.  Another wonderful wine from 2010 and the best version of this vineyard I’ve tasted.  97 points.  About $50 retail.

~ 100% Tempranillo from Pisa, Tuscany ~


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