Today’s wine is a wholly unique kind of “super-Tuscan,” in that it isn’t the type of super-Tuscan most of us know or understand. Most of the iconic wines in this admittedly amorphous category are inspired by Bordeaux, but this one marches to a different drumbeat.
Along the Tuscan coast especially, where legendary wines such as “Sassicaia” and “Ornellaia” were born, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have established as strong a foothold as native varieties. But that’s recent history. At Poggio La Mozza, located near Grosseto in southwest Tuscany, they went back much further in search of inspiration: to the 1500s, and the Spanish Aragon Dynasty, which once controlled this region. “Aragone” is named for those Aragons, who maintained a series of garrisons along the Tuscan coast, including the star-shaped Forte Stella in Porto Ercole, which gets a graphic nod on the label. Comprised of Tuscany’s signature Sangiovese with healthy percentages of Syrah, Alicante, and Carignan, today’s 2011 is resolutely Tuscan at its core—crying out for a grilled bistecca, in fact—but it takes you on a fascinating journey throughout the Mediterranean basin: Provence, the Rhône, Corsica, Catalunya, Valencia…it’s a powerful, expressive melding of woodsy savor, inky fruit, dusty minerality, and wild-herb aromatics. Crafted by one of Tuscany’s greatest winemakers, Maurizio Castelli, it is also entering its prime after some significant bottle age. And then there’s the value proposition: You simply don’t see many wines with this combination of breed and maturity at a sub-$40 price point. Need I say more? Snap this up!
Aragone is a staple of wine lists in restaurants owned by Joe and Lidia Bastianich, who also own La Mozza. Headquartered near Grosseto in the town of Magliano in Toscana, the La Mozza property consists of 36 hectares of vineyards in the arid, rolling hills of the Maremma (a part of Tuscany that was the setting for many of the “Spaghetti Westerns” of yore). Rain is more scarce here and the soils a touch richer than central Tuscan terroirs like Chianti Classico, so the staple Sangiovese grape takes on a slightly darker, more fruit-forward character here—as exemplified by the local Morellino (“little dark one”) di Scansano. The La Mozza vineyards, about 45 minutes southwest of Montalcino, are also more open and less densely forested than those of central Tuscany, more closely resembling the rolling, scrub-covered plains of southern France or Spain. There are several “hot climate” grapes that thrive here—Syrah of course, but also the gutsy Carignan and the Grenache-derived Alicante Bouschet, which is famed as a teinturier (a “coloring” grape with dark skins and juice alike).
Maurizio Castelli, who is the consulting enologist at La Mozza, has worked with many of the top wine estates in Tuscany, including the pioneering Grattamacco winery in Bolgheri; Poggio di Sotto and Piancornello in Montalcino (among many others); Boscarelli in Montepulciano; and a host of estates in Chianti Classico, where he began his career in the early 1970s as an inspector for the local consorzio (producers’ association). He has assorted clients elsewhere (including the Bastianich winery in Friuli-Venezia Giulia), but Tuscany is his specialty—and his longtime home.
Grown in clay/sandstone soils with some pockets of limestone, the varieties in “Aragone” are hand-harvested and completely de-stemmed before fermentation in a combination of stainless steel vats and open-topped French oak tonneaux barrels. The wine is then aged in 25% new French oak barrels (of varying sizes) for 18 months, then another 12 months in bottle before release. If you do the math, you’ll quickly deduce that this wine has now enjoyed some significant bottle age, which has landed it in its sweet spot. In the glass, it’s a deep ruby-black moving to garnet and a hint of brick-orange at the rim, with a wild and inviting nose of Morello cherry, black plum, currants, licorice, dark chocolate, leather, and tobacco. It is richly concentrated but not slick and sweet—rather, it has the very “upright” structure of Sangiovese and a hint of rusticity reminiscent of Bandol Rouge and other structured southern French reds. There are some red fruit and wild herb notes reminiscent of Spanish Garnacha as well. Although it drinks like a champ now after 30 minutes (or more) in a decanter, it’s still got more evolution ahead of it—and a price that makes the decision to “stock up” an easy one. Serve it in big Bordeaux stems at 60-65 degrees and serve it with grilled ribeye and some white beans. Or, if you really want to embrace the ‘Mediterranean melting-pot’ spirit of the wine, check out the sweetly spiced braise in the attached recipe. That’s going to be really good. Enjoy!
Sangiovese 40%, Syrah 25%, Alicante 25%, Carignan 10%
25% New French
Clay, Limestone, Sandstone