Collazzi Libertá 2012, Toscana
B alance usually is the key to any good wine, especially a blend. That is what you will find in the Collazzi Libertá, a delightful Tuscan blend.
Some would call this wine a Super Tuscan because it focuses on the French grapes of Merlot and Syrah instead of the traditional Sangiovese. I prefer to just call it a super wine.
The blend is 15 percent Sangiovese to go with 55 percent Merlot and 30 percent Syrah, creating a powerful, food-friendly wine. In the glass it is a deep red, almost purple.
There is a slight floral aroma, leading to lip-smacking dark fresh fruit tastes, especially plum. The wine is full-bodied, with sweet tannins that allow the fruit to show through. The aftertaste is complex and long, with some toasted oak notes.
The winery says its goal is to achieve balance among Merlot’s soft tannins, Syrah’s spicy richness and the elegant fragrance of Sangiovese. They certainly achieved that.
The wine spent three month in barriques and 12 months in stainless steel tanks, with another two months of bottle aging before release.
“We do everything by hand,” winemaker Alberto Torelli told me during a visit to the beautiful estate a few miles south of Florence, Italy. Great care is taken to insure the freshness of the grapes that go into the wine. “Each vineyard is within 10 minutes of the cellar.
“There is no mold on the grapes. We handle the grapes without oxidation coming in. I want the skins tender. We don’t crush the berries, just pump them into the tank under pressure and temperature. The grape collapses.”
They pump twice a day for 30 days in the steel tanks to get maximum color extraction.
“We do a cold soak,” said Torelli. “Others do hot, and that gets color, but it destroys the flavor.”
In the sometimes bewildering world of Italian wines, you usually can predict the quality of the wine by the care the winemaking team takes with the vineyards and grapes. When I visited during harvest, the care Collazzi takes with its vineyards was obvious.
Besides a green harvest, they stripped leaves off the vines three times, to allow the proper amount of sun to reach the grapes. There was an electric fence to keep out a pack of wild boar. After harvest 200 sheep will roam the land to eat the grass and provide natural fertilizer. They want to keep things natural to let the terroir show through in the wine.
The owners started replanting the 50 acres of vines in the 1990s, and the average age of the vines is 15 years. Torelli joined the company in 2004 and has continued the replanting, taking out Pinot Noir seven years ago and grafting Cabernet Franc onto the roots.
“The grapes are perfect now,” he said, pointing to plump bunches hanging on the vines. “We did a green harvest in July (cutting off excess grapes to force quality into the remaining grapes), and the sugar concentration is going up. Harvest is going well this year.”
The beautiful Villa Collazzi is another point of distinction. One of the most impressive villas in Tuscany, it is set high on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards. Built on the ruins of a Roman fort, it was designed by Michelangelo, but not completed for nearly 400 years. It is a gorgeous building with many antiques inside, including tapestries from the 15th Century and a 13th Century Chinese tapestry.
England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana spent two weeks there in 1985 or 1986 and it was the site of a special dinner for the Queen Mother, mother of Queen Elizabeth. Torelli said in World War II there were three German tanks in the garden.
The Libertá name comes from a donation that the City of Florence made to eight local families, among them the former owners of Collazzi, who had fought for the city’s freedom.
Winery: Encompassing 960 acres, Collazzi is owned by brothers Carlo and Bona Marchi. They have invested heavily in the development of the 50 acres under vine and the 300 acres of olive trees (about 20,000 trees).
The olive oil is not sold in the United States, but is very popular in Japan and Italy.
They also have invested in production facilities, combining Tuscan tradition with modern techniques.
“This started as a small estate, but it is growing fast,” said Torelli, who takes care of everything from the vines to the final bottling. “It is a private jewel.”
The investment has paid off with consistently highly rated wines since the first vintage under the Collazzi label in 1999. Besides Libertá, the estate produces Collazzi, a Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot that is aged in oak barrels for at least 18 months.
They also produce I Bastioni, a traditional Chianti Classico composed mostly of Sangiovese; a small amount of Petit Verdot; Otto Muri, from the white grape Fiano; and two kinds of organic honey.
On the estate the microclimate is normally warmer and drier than the surrounding area. Part of the estate lies in a natural amphitheater, with a perfect south-westerly exposure. The high amount of sunlight and the high daily temperatures allow a prolonged, complete ripening of the farming products, consistently each year.
When Torelli arrived in 2004 the winery produced 6,000 bottles. That is up to about 120,000 bottles a year, with a capacity for 400,000 bottles. Torelli said they keep production down because he prefers to work only with estate grapes. They also produce table wines and bag-in-a-box wines.
Goes with: We had this with a very nice roast chicken, baked potatoes, creamed corn and veggie sticks. I felt like Teri and I were back in Tuscany.
The rich fruit flavors and mild tannins perfectly complemented the savory chicken and potatoes. I think the wine would pair well with almost any poultry.
It also would go well with appetizers, cold cuts, steamy pasta dishes with meat sauces, stewed meats and pungent cheeses.
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