I spend as many weekends as possible in Maremma, an area of Tuscany that Tommaso and I have kind of adopted, having purchased a small home in a very tiny hill town a few years ago. The area retains its agricultural charm and we relish the silence that is only punctuated by shots in the woods and Ape’s making their way up our winding hill. We tend towards the same routines when we come here, not traveling very far: the beach in the summer, and staying closer to home in the fall and winter, reading books and going for hikes on the trails just outside our door. But within about an hour’s range there are a number of wineries in Maremma to visit and lately, with my newly kindled passion for wine, we’ve been trying to see a few of them.
Maremma offers a more temperate climate than further inland in Tuscany thanks to the nearby coast, though its wines are less well known. In Maremma there is one DOCG, seven DOCs, two IGTs and three Strade del Vino or wine roads. The area within an hour’s range from our home in Sticciano is considered the Alta Maremma Grossetana, and this area is home to the Strada del Vino Monteregio. This area produces red and white wines falling under the discipline of Monteregio DOC and grows a lot of Sangiovese, as well as the white grapes Trebbiano toscano, Vermentino, and Malvasia bianca. Further south down the coast you’ll find another wine road, the Sapori Colli di Maremma, with the DOCG Morellino di Scansano and four DOCs: Ansonica dell’Argentario on the coast and on Giglio Island, Bianco di Pitigliano, Capalbio, Parrina e Sovana. Inland from here you find the Strada del Vino Montecucco e dei Sapori d’Amiata, producing Montecucco DOC.
Still an area that is “new” in every way, having only been drained properly of its marshes about half a century ago, in the past 25 years various larger wine producers like Zonin and Antonori have been investing in this territory to round out their offerings. These investments have brought significant winery architecture to Maremma, giving us a most excellent list of Maremma wineries to visit! My list is not at all complete but gives you a taste, literally, of what’s available, ranging from mega wineries with archistar designs to small family run affairs worth visiting for the personal touch… and for the wine!
Antonori’s cantina at Castiglione della Pescaia is tucked into the hillside so that you literally cannot see it from the front that faces towards the sea. When the family bought the property in 1999, sustainability was their first priority in designing the cellar, constructed vertically to unify every phase of wine creation on three visible levels, from receiving the grapes, to vinification, to storage and ageing of the wines in oak barriques in the basement level. A helical staircase gracefully unites the space. I’ve written more in depth about the architecture and wines of this winery here.
Le Mortelle produces three wines under the DOC Maremma Toscana denomination. Botrosecco is a Cabernet Sauvignon/ Cabernet Franc blend, while Poggio alle Nane is 80% Cab Franc and is their top of the line. A fruity white wine called Vivia blends Vermentino, Viognier, Ansonica, vinified separately and blended together later.
Winery tours are available daily and year-round upon reservation at (+39) 0564 944003.
Rocca di Frasinello
This stunning winery is a joint venture between the Italian Castellare (Panerai family) and the French Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), who purchased five farms to form the 500 hectares (of which 90 currently planted with vines) that make up Rocca di Frasinello, near Gavorrano. The grapes grown are the best of French and Italian varietals, and the wines also reflect both owners’ long experience in the industry.
For our visiting pleasure, the owners worked with some of the most important names in architecture, art and design. The building is by Renzo Piano, who combined functionality with harmonic beauty. There’s a a museum inside the cellar designed by architect Italo Rota, creator of the Wine Pavilion for the 2015 Milan Expo, which allows visitors to immerse themselves in the sounds and visions of the world of the ancient Etruscans. And American photographer David LaChapelle was commissioned to create a piece called “Rapture of the Grape” which is on permanent display.
"The idea of an amphitheater #winecellar at @roccadifrassinello is not a silly one," says #architect #renzopiano , "I like to think not of thousands of silent spectators but of 2500 barrels silently doing their job." I love the way that he has anthromorphasized the ageing process and made us all participants.. . . . . . . . . #maremma #contemporaryart #architecture #winery #winelove #tuscany #igersgrosseto #whatitalyis #travelgoals
Visits are available by appointment from €20 per person upwards, including viewing the cellar and museum, and tasting of wines. See here for info.
Val delle Rose
Tuscan giant Cecchi’s Maremma Estate is called Val delle Rose, and I had the opportunity to visit this impressive estate recently during their summertime concert series, which combined music, food, wine and great views for a lovely evening out. 185 hectares of which 100 currently cultivated produce wines under the DOCG Morellino di Scansano and DOC Maremma Toscana denominations, where the star varietal is Sangiovese. Particularly impressive, and new this year, is a single varietal wine dedicated to Ciliegiolo, normally used in small percentages. We’re very much in love with Vermentino Litorale, which we like to consider our house white, for summer fish dinners.
The recently constructed cellar and hospitality areas are absolutely worth visiting, and visits with tastings are held at any time Monday through Saturday, 9am to 6/7pm (seasonal), with no reservation required! See www.valdellerose.it/en
Rocca di Montemassi
The same year as the Antinori family purchased their Maremma estate, in 1999 Zonin also invested in the area, creating Rocca di Montemassi. Before I started drinking wine, we came across this winery some years ago on our way back from the excellent Coop in Ribolla, since I spotted a sign for the Museo della Civiltà Rurale that they have created here, and I was in my “hunting for Maremma authenticity” phase. The museum is a fascinating collection of farming tools and a snapshot of what life was like here not all that long ago.
The winery is a huge one: 430 hectares of which 160 planted, creating wines in the Montereggio DOC appellation. They produce six wines, with the top of the line cru being a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon. A fresh white made of Viognier grapes – becoming more popular here – transforms the native Northern Rhône grape into a Maremman speciality thanks to the particular light and the minerality of the area’s rich soils.
Visits available daily upon reservation, see www.roccadimontemassi.it
Head down some backroads from the charming town of Suverto, which is topped by a castle ruin, and you’ll find an imposing modern gate leading you to an architectural masterpiece by Mario Botta. The architect’s characteristic use of geometric shapes stands out from the landscape, although more than half of it is submerged into the cultivated hill behind it. Petra is part of the Terra Moretti Group, which in the same area also developed L’Andana (an important resort in Castiglione della Pescaia).
We’re in the north now, in the Val di Cornia, where you can see the sea in the near distance, and feel the effects of the Libeccio wind that kisses the grapes. An impressive wine shop allows visitors to visit at any time, though they prefer advanced booking for wine tours, which give you access to the beautiful cellars. Before going in, an interesting immersive and interactive video is available to explain the winery’s philosophies. Interestingly, the staff is 70% female – even the pickers I saw this August (an early harvest this year) were women, and apparently only the tractor drivers are male!
Suvereto DOCG is a newly formed regulation (since 2011), formerly a sub-zone of the Val di Cornia DOC. Petra produces two lines – Belvento, with its attractive animal labels, is their lower end (mechanically harvested from the vines in front of the cantina, these cost €8.50 and are very nice to bring when you go to dinner at a friend’s house), and PETRA which is their top line. We tried 4 wines and brought home a case, mixing their perfectly balanced base called Hebo, with Viognier and Vermentino whites for our summer drinking pleasure. See www.petrawine.it
It’s harder to find small wineries in a landscape dominated by megagroups, but we did find Muralia, quite by chance, and these wines stand up absolutely to the competition. A small, family run producer on the plains below Roccastrada, we first tasted Muralia in a local slow food restaurant, and then noticed a road sign on the farm-road shortcut we often take to get home. At that time, we visited unannounced, though being an agriturismo with not a lot of staff, calling ahead might have been more appreciated.
Nonetheless, we met and were welcomed by owners Stefano and Chiaradonata Casali, who lived and worked in Milan but chose to move to Maremma and change lives rather than “being slaves to foreign multinationals”. Starting from zero, Stefano has personally dedicated everything to creating his line of wines, which have recently received international recognition with top scores from Decanter Magazine and others. I wrote a longer story about our 2014 visit here. If you’d like to visit, or to stay in their charming apartments on the property, see: