Do you know Montescudaio? For Gianni Moscardini, owner and winemaker at Sator wines, this tiny enclave is home.
Montescudaio is part of the alta Maremma and lies about 30 kilometers north of Bolgheri. Due west of Siena, this tiny DOC was created in 1976 and spans only 200 acres. As a comparison, the Poggio all’Oro vineyard on the Castello Banfi estate is roughly 200 acres! The DOC sits in some wonderful terrain with Livorno to the north and the Sassicaia DOC to the south.
Blending is a bit of a mixed bag for Montescudaio. In order to be labeled under the DOC, red wines must be at least 50% of the named variety (i.e. Sangiovese) while the remainder can be any other red grape permitted by law. This includes Teroldego, Ciligieolo, Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. As a result, typicity and style can vary widely. Because of this, it’s critical to understand the goal of the winemaker. One of the regions best wineries is Sator.
The land where the Sator winery lies today has been in the Moscardini family for centuries. However, it wasn’t until 2004 when winemaker Gianni and his wife Roberta decided to plant vineyards. Covering only 13 hectares, the estate lies about 180 meters above sea level and is divided into 4 separate vineyard plots. Each varietal was specifically planted in vineyards where soil and exposition were deemed ideal. As a result, the wines from each vineyard display unique terroir. However, Sator’s style of elegance shines throughout.
Gianni insists on elegance for his wines but that doesn’t interfere with his expression of the land. Because of this, he often professes that “the secrets of tradition melt together with a careful and intelligent understanding of the land.” This concept is stretched intrinsically into the aging regimen for Sator’s wines. Depending upon the variety, Gianni will mature the wine in stainless steel, cement or oak. His precision is already reaping dividends despite the relatively young age of the estate.
Selected Tastings – Sator Wines
The labels of Sator’s wines feature a square logo comprised of five words that are intricately placed among each other to form a palindrome. As you view the logo from left to right, you also progress from top to bottom. The meaning is significant. Referred to as the “Magic Square of Sator”, the tale behind the logo is still a bit of a mystery: Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera and Rotas are loosely translated to mean: “The farmer, Arepo, works with great effort”.
The 2016 Sator Sileno Sangiovese is a beautiful medium violet color that fades slightly at the rim. Bright and focused on the nose with scents of red flowers, crushed cherry and herbs. Fresh, lively and juicy on the palate this is straightforward and enjoyable. The entry level Sangiovese of the estate. Vinified in stainless steel and aged 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle before release. 100% Sangiovese and a nice value around $18. 88 points. Available directly from the winery. Find this wine.
Continuing with the Sileno line, the next wine I tasted was the estate Merlot.
The 2017 Sator Sileno Merlot is a deep garnet color in the glass. Again, freshness is the hallmark here. There are no adverse impacts from the hot vintage at all. Pure blackberry, lavender and menthol on the nose carries through to a bright, juicy palate that is fruit driven and complimented with toasted spice and mint. Really a pretty effort and a great value around $19. Like the Sangiovese, this 100% Merlot is vinified in stainless steel and then spends 6 months in oak and 6 months in bottle prior to release. A due bicchieri winner. 90 points. Find this wine.
The final wine in the Sileno line is the mono-varietal Ciliegiolo. Ciliegiolo has been enjoying a re-birth of sorts. The formerly blending grape has found a productive home in Maremma as I’ve written about previously.
The 2018 Sator Sileno Ciliegiolo is a bright violet color and 100% Ciligiolo. Bright aromas of cherry and raspberry are accented with hints of flowers. On the palate, the raspberry and cherry fruit are juicy and mouthwatering. Pure notes of lavender and rosemary accent the fruit of this young sample. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is then split aged for 6 months. Half of the wine goes into oak and half goes into cement before six months bottle age. It’s 2016 sibling received due bicchieri. 89 points. About $18. Find this wine.
Finally, we closed with one of the estates flagship reds; Opera Undici. The name Opera Undici can be divided into two meanings. The word “opera” refers to a traditional opera. The wine is a blend of 3 different grapes that are harmoniously combined together like the instruments of an orchestra. The number “undici” (eleven) refers to the first vintage of this wine, 2011.
The 2016 Sator Opera Undici is an interesting blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Teroldego and 25% Ciliegiolo. In the glass, this deep violet colored wine gives off aromas of blue and red flowers, crushed plum and cherry, Tuscan herbs and soft wood notes. It’s enticing. On the palate, this is full bodied and muscular. The cherry flavors carry the most weight and the lasers of herbs, leather and minerality pierce throughout. The Sangiovese and Teroldego spend 18-20 months separately in barrique. The Ciliegiolo ages in cement. After blending and bottling, the wine spends a year in bottle before release. This is delicious and yet another gorgeous 2016. Due Biccheri. 94 points, available directly from the winery. About $35. Find this wine.
Sator seems poised for a break out. In addition to the wines reviewed above, they craft a premium mono-varietal Cabernet Franc, Vermentino and Rosato. The latter will be reviewed later this year as part of my Tuscan Snips series. In the meantime, think about supporting this small family operation and #HelpItaly by ordering direct to consumer.
I would like to thank my friend Daniele Sassi for encouraging me to discover the wines of Sator.