Rocca di Frassinello


Just a few short weeks ago I discovered a wine produced in Maremma, and when researching further learned that the vineyard was in Massa Marittima.  At least, that’s where I thought it was, and turns out it’s actually about 30 minutes away.  I made a reservation for a tour and tasting, so off we went.

The wine is a joint Italian-French venture, creating a Bordeaux blend using Sangiovese, Cab Sav, Petit Verdot, Syrah.  The vineyards are vast, covering 180 hectares,  so this is not a small boutique winery!  They produce about 350,000 bottles a year.

In addition to very fine wine, the cantina itself is an architectural gem, created by Renzo Piano.  Absolutely every element has been thought out in terms of creating the exact right environment for the wine.

Seen from afar, the buildings recreates the medieval village with fortress walls, a tower, and the terra cotta coloring of the area. But these are not simply decorative elements; each one has its purpose.  Closer up we stood on the “piazza” inside the walls, to which the grapes are brought at harvest time (hand-picked),  gently laid on the Tuscan stone floor, and shielded from the weather with moveable “sails” (Renzo Piano also created the waterfront at Genoa), and by force of gravity the grapes find their way into the stainless steel vats below.

Perhaps the crowning achievement and the photo most recognized is the 40×40 square meter cantina, not supported by any columns, which maintains a constant temperature at 20 meters below the surface.  

Giuglio, our guide, explained that the interior floor can be flooded with water to maintain humidity.  Today some of the barrels were being steam cleaned.

The biggest surprise awaited us as we walked through a door into a. . . .museum!!  The site of the vineyard and cantina was also used by Etruscans for wine production, and the evidence remained in the remnants found in this “stamnos” with depictions of Dionysian handmaidens on the outside.   Many centuries before Christ this area was recognized as a place of perfect terroir for wine.

The museum itself was small and beautifully conceived.  Giuglio explained that in ancient times the wine was actually more like our vinegar, and additions of flowers, herbs, spices or cheese improved the flavor.  Cheese??  Yes. . .and now we use malolactic fermentation, not cheese.  But those Etruscans were on to something with that cheese!

But this, THIS was the piece that caught my attention, not the gold earrings, not the excavated jewelry , but this magnificent wine “punch bowl,”  recreated by a local potter.  I wont be bringing one home to 1270, but it gives me the shivers just writing about it.  Magnificent!

And finally, the tasting. . . 

What you WILL find in my cantina is the Rocca di Frassinello 2013, a top vintage.  I have the name of the US importer, although I was a jump ahead and had already ordered (and tasted) before our trip.

Wine, archaeology, architecture, all in one day, all in one trip.  

Now to be Italian. . .sleep during the hot afternoon!

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