Bolgheri in south-east Tuscany is home to some of the most famous wines on the planet – think Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Masseto – but those stellar Super-Tuscans are better known than the small town they hail from. Despite Bolgheri’s centuries-old history, from a wine perspective the region is something of a newcomer, with the average age of vines a mere 15 years old. As such, a handful of estates are doing something about it.
More than 60 Bolgheri producers have joined forces to create Bolgheri DiVino, an extravagant event held on the Viale dei Cipressi with 1,000 guests, 400 waiting staff and a kilometre-long table. It’s about more than just a celebration; its aim is to create a sense of unity among its producers. Albiera Antinori of Guado al Tasso, one of three key producers involved, says: ‘Our direction is clear. We all have a good sense of where the appellation should go. We’ve got producers of many different backgrounds – local, foreign, big and small, young and old. You can feel the terroir in the wines, but everyone is finding their own interpretation and expression of the land.’
And the wines themselves? Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends dominate, but there are many and varied combinations of the Bordeaux grapes with or without the addition of Syrah or Sangiovese. Plus, Cabernet Franc is on the rise. Below, we’ve picked out 10 of Bolgheri’s key producers whose wines serve as a great introduction to this burgeoning region.
Azienda Giorgio Meletti Cavallari
Giorgio Meletti Cavallari grew up at Grattamacco, one of the great names of Bolgheri founded by his father Piermario. He took over the 350m-high Campo di Piastraia vineyard in 2002. The Impronte is a blend of Cabernets with a fresh briar intensity that fills you with confidence. The palate has intense and concentrated dark fruit with a savoury, even meaty edge.
Fine estate newly acquired by the Banfi family of Montalcino. Its 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (with 10% Cabernet Franc) is as polished and accomplished as all Banfi wines, balanced with a superb juicy finish. Delicious, if a little too international in personality.
A 14-hectare estate acquired by Irish geologist Neil McMahon in 2017, who immediately set about modernising the style of the wine, running the estate on rigidly scientific principles and partnering with UC Davis on various projects. The Greppicaia Bolgheri Superiore is a fresh and modern blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
One of the oldest estates in Bolgheri, Casa al Piano dates back to 1698 and has been producing wine since the early 1990s. Its five hectares of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon produce savoury, dry, sophisticated blends. The Casa al Piano Merlot/Cabernet is a fine, powerful example.
Tenuta Guado al Tasso
The Antinori family has been making wine in Tuscany for more than six centuries, but in Bolgheri only since 1990 (though they’ve owned it, by marriage into the equally aristocratic della Gherardesca family, since the 1930s). It’s now run by Albiera Antinori and making intense, concentrated, silkily-tannined Cabernet/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Syrah/Petit Verdot blends.
Tenuta Sette Cieli
Estate bought by the Ratti textile family as a stud farm and turned over to Bolgheri DOC wines in 2012 by Ambrogio Ratti, who was convinced of its quality. It’s now making concentrated, dry Cabernet/Malbec blends and a delicious 100% Cabernet Franc (which could do with slightly less new oak in the elevage).
Five hectares farmed by a couple who planted in 2000. Podere Ritorti has a sweet nose leading to a light palate given texture by really attractive rustic tannins. Fine acidity and a delicate perfume. A charming, modern, unpretentious wine.
Federico Aldrovandi bought one hectare in 2014, and only produces Bolgheri Superiore in the best vintages. The 2017 Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and bright with sweet fruit, saddle leather and a hint of herb. The tannins are soft, the acidity good and brisk. Very charming.
Founded in the 1980s by Eugenio Campolmi and Cinzia Merli (one of the triumvirate of powerful women who run the Bolgheri and Sassicaia DOC), Le Macchiole considers itself one of Bolgheri’s historic wineries. It produces highly regarded varietal wines from Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc; also Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Poggio al Tesoro
This newcomer was acquired by the Allegrini family of Valpolicella in 2001. It sets great store by its soprastrada vineyards (an area of Bolgheri considered best for vines), located in the higher land to the east of the Bolgherese road, considered some of the best in Bolgheri. From here it produces an excellent 100% Cabernet Franc called W – Dedicato a Walter. In addition, the highly regarded Sondraia, from vineyards abutting Ornellaia, has Super-Tuscan ambitions.