Paul Howard Articles, Blog, Italy, Sustainability

Argentiera fortress

Tenuta Argentiera – You Got The Silver

Tenuta Argentiera is in Bolgheri DOC, a winery in Tuscany at the top of the fine wine podium. From seemingly nowhere, Bolgheri enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. That was during this century, though now-fêted pioneers sowed the seeds some decades before. Bolgheri is one of several places in Italy where Bordeaux grape varieties make stunning wines. However, it’s known for being the area of Italy where these grape varieties eclipse all others. Consequently, it harbours some of the world’s best examples – Bordeaux blends and monovarietal wines with distinctive Italian flair.

Bolgheri DOC

The Bolgheri DOC is a small area that measures just 13 x 7 Km. It was established in 1984 for white and rosé wines, and in 1996, red wines were added. This looks curious today, but there were few vineyards then, let alone red ones. The revised 1996 DOC was also the first Italian appellation based on zoning studies. Yet the total DOC vineyard area then was only 250 hectares.

Meanwhile, Consorzio statistics show 73 member producers with 1,370 hectares of vineyards*. It’s extraordinary that 50% of the area under the vine was planted between 2000 and 2009! It shows how rapidly Bolgheri expanded thanks to massive inward investment. Further DOC expansion has wisely been curtailed, at least for now.

Given its stellar reputation and worldwide attention, you might wonder why Bolgheri isn’t DOCG. But in this specific case, what extra value would that add? Demand continues to outstrip supply. Furthermore, creating new world-class wineries and offering quality without compromise isn’t cheap. It’s little wonder that the wines are expensive, though no more so than their illustrious peers.

Meanwhile, the DOC is straightforward: it covers Bianco, Rosato and Rosso wines. Monovarietal wines have also been allowed since 2011. The reds have two levels based on ageing time. The Rosso has maturation for 10-12 months. However, Rosso Superiore stipulates a minimum maturation of two years, of which at least one year must be in the barrel. IGP status is also available for nonconformists.

The Vineyards

The red Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) account for 77% of Bolgheri Vineyards. Syrah, at 6.6%, can be added to them to make up an all-French red contingent. In stark contrast, that ubiquitous Tuscan favourite, Sangiovese, occupies only 1.28%. White varieties are also in the minority at 12.3%. They are predominantly Vermentino, with a bit of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.

An excellent map of the vineyards reflects the suitability of the Bolgheri terroir for top-class wine growing. This is greatly influenced by proximity to the sea, altitude, and the complexity of soil types. The soils range from calcareous/stony to sandy/pebbly. Mineral content is also both high and varied.

Stone Pines in Bolgheri

Stone Pines in Bolgheri

In Bolgheri, the land hugging the coast is mostly sandy beaches with dense stands of Stone Pines. Consequently, the vineyards start slightly inland, east of the coastal road, the Roman Via Aurelia, linking Pisa to Rome. The vines commence on flat plains as low as 10 metres above sea level. Moving inland and eastwards, they rise towards dense natural forests, with the highest hills peaking at 380 metres.


Tenuta Argentiera Origins

The 153-hectare Tenuta Argentiera estate is on the southern tip of Bolgheri DOC and closer to the sea than most other wineries. It includes the low and flat coastal plain adjacent to the sea and the higher Donoratico hillsides that run parallel to the coast. This is the driest part of the DOC.

The name Argentiera means silversmith and refers to the history of Etruscan silver mining and working here. Indeed, Tenuta Argentiera has its roots in the remains of the Donoratico Castle. The foundations bear the signs of the Etruscans and the Romans. Later, the Serristori family, based in Florence since 1178, took control of Donoratico in 1512 and built a Villa in 1660.

The wine estate was created in 1999 by the Fratini family, Florentine entrepreneurs, and was historically known as Tenuta di Donoratico. The first vintage was in 2004. However, in 2016, Stanislaus Turnauer, an Austrian entrepreneur, took ownership of the estate.

Although the ownership changed, there was a continuity of purpose and people. Federico Zileri Dal Verme (the project creator) is currently the CEO (and a former President of the Consorzio). Oenologist Nicolò Carrara joined in 2009 with a CV including Torbreck, Tua Rita and Château Palmer. There has also been continuing input from wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt. He is rightly considered one of the best interpreters of Bordeaux styles, with the hallmarks of elegance, terroir and individuality. Leonardo Raspini then joined as General Manager in 2019 and is also a member of Consorzio’s Technical Committee.

The Estate Today

Tenuta Argentiera has 86 hectares of vines and produces 500,000 bottles of premium wines annually. The vineyards occupy four distinctive and separate sites. These are Poggio al Ginepri, Ventaglio, Argentiera, and Villa Donoratico. Their characteristics are tabulated below for brevity. They include some of Bolgheri’s highest and lowest vineyards.

Tenuta Argentiera Vineyards

Name Size (Ha) Varieties Altitude (m) Wines
Poggio Al Genepri 25 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Vermentino 17-68 Poggio Al Ginepri Rosso, Eco di Mare Vermentino, Scenario Vermentino
Ventaglio 1.5 Cabernet Franc 73-83 Ventaglio Rosso
Argentiera 43 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah 144-205 I Pianili Rosato, Argentiera Rosso
Villa Donoratico 11 Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon 30-73 Villa Donoratico Rosso

Proximity to the sea brings cooling breezes. It also brings luminosity, as the sea acts like a mirror, reflecting light into the vines. Of course, increasing altitude means more diurnal variation and lower temperatures. In summer, the high vineyards also average a temperature that’s 4℃ less than those on the low plain. This factor encourages slow ripening and acidity retention – an increasingly important attribute in these days of climate change.

Tenuta Argentiera View

The winery and the view

There is a sustainable philosophy in the wine-growing here. This is to be expected given the previously virgin land, Derenoncourt’s involvement, retention of biodiversity, and the quest for wine excellence.

The Tenuta also has an impressive gravity-based winery and cellar. The bulk lies iceberg-like, hidden beneath the Donoratico hillside under imposing and fortress-like architecture.

From Tenuta Argentiera, the views are as breathtaking as the wines. Offshore lie the small islands of Elba, Capraia and Gorgona. Corsica can be seen in the far distance on clear days, of which there are many.


The Wines

This article focuses on two top Bordeaux blends, Villa Donoratico and Argentiera. However, there’s also a preview of a brand-new white wine. Called Scenario, it will be released in autumn 2024. So, let’s start with that. All the wines were decanted for at least two hours before tasting,

Scenario,  Bolgheri Bianco DOC, 2022. 12.5%
Scenario 2022

Scenario 2022


This wine is 100% Vermentino, hand-picked, with low-temperature fermentation. It matures mainly in Clayver 400-litre stoneware vessels. The rest was aged in untoasted long 320-litre French oak barrels. The Clayver vessels ensure slow and regular micro-oxygenation, aiding freshness and aroma retention. Meanwhile, the longer barrels have more surface area than usual. This is ideal for lees ageing, hence the richness of flavour and texture.

After nine months in these vessels, blending and bottling occur before an expected 14-month bottle maturation. This first release is scheduled for September 2024; only 3,000 bottles were made. Hence, this premium wine is designed for further ageing and development after release.


This is a pre-release preview of a luxury Vermentino designed for ageing, with barrel work making it stylistically akin to a white Burgundy. Oak and vanilla flavours are still dominant, though there are plenty of hallmark acacia and saline nuances. I expect the wine to settle down and absorb the influence of wood over the next few years. There’s a good balance with moderate alcohol, a rounded texture and a long finish. It’s not designed for immediate drinking (their alternative, Eco di Mare Vermentino, meets that requirement). Hence, this is a work in progress. The final wine will have more integration and complexity. However, it’s clear at this stage that this is a carefully made, super-premium white wine.

Clayver Vessels

Clayver Vessel

UK availability will be from importers Berry Brothers. The price is TBA, but it’s likely to be similar to Villa Donoratico, the next wine.








Villa Donoratico, Bolgheri Rosso DOC, 2021. 14.5%
Villa Donoratico 2021

Villa Donoratico 2021


Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Merlot 30 %, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 10%

In 2021, hot, dry conditions required more work in the vineyard on soil management, and the vines’ northern exposure also helped mitigate the effects of heat. Harvest commenced in early September. Fermentation, maceration, and malolactic fermentation were in stainless steel tanks, taking 25 days at 28-30°C. Maturation for 12 months in French and Austrian 500-litre tonneaux then followed.


A dense ruby colour. The aromas are of black cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry, with white pepper, cedar and cocoa appearing as it opens in the glass. The palate has velvet-smooth tannins and a richness of black fruits, impeccably balanced by acidity and alcohol. There are some cocoa and tobacco notes before a long, spicy finish. It’s drinking now, but it will develop further over the next few years. Villa Donoaratico is delightful and what Bolgheri Rosso is all about. It also serves as a preview and benchmark to the Bolgheri Superiore below. Xtrawine, £30.84


Here are two comparative vintages of the Bolgheri Superiore: Argentiera 2020 and 2021.

Argentiera, Bolgheri Superiore DOC, 2020. 14.5%
Argentiera 2020

Argentiera 2020


Merlot 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Cabernet Franc 7%.

There was regular warm summer weather, though it was arid until heavy thunderstorms at the end of August. Harvest began in the second week of September, which was unusually cold and wet. Great care was taken to ensure optimal grape ripeness and that the grapes were not damaged or diluted.

Fermentation and maceration occurred in stainless steel tanks for 25 days at 28-30°C. Being a Superiore, the secondary, malolactic fermentation and maturation took 14-16 months in 225-litre French Oak barrels. After blending and bottling, the bottles were aged for another twelve months before release.


This wine justifies the Superiore designation as a clear step from the Rosso. Being young, the aromas don’t fully unfurl, but black fruits, menthol, and espresso notes beckon invitingly. There’s potent alcohol on the palate (figure rounded up?). Yet, the alcohol isn’t intrusive, thanks to a dense mass of black fruits accompanied by hints of Macchia, caressing acidity and super-finely polished tannins. This is the more open and relaxed vintage, partly because it’s a year older but partly because of the vintage conditions. The extended finale shows a mineral streak with liquorice and cloves. This is a super-sophisticated wine worth dressing up for. It’s best left to mature for at least 2-3 years.

This is the more elegant of the two wines and hence shows better than the 2021 at this early stage. However, it will probably be ready in two or three years and will go on developing for a decade or more after that. So perhaps not as ultimately long-lived as the 2021, though both expressions have many years ahead. Berry Brothers, £76.00

Argentiera, Bolgheri Superiore DOC, 2021. 14.5%
Argentiera 2021

Argentiera 2021


Merlot 48% Cabernet Sauvignon 45% Cabernet Franc 7%.

This was the same blend as the previous year above, as this cuvée can differ in ratio each year. The winemaking process was also precisely the same, so it need not be repeated again. Hence, the differences between 2020 and 2021 (apart from one being a year older) are entirely due to contrasting harvest conditions. 2021 was dry and hot, contrasting with 2020, which was unusually cold and frequently wet. Hence, the harvest began earlier, on 2 September, and had a shorter duration of 25 days.


Despite a similar stated level of alcohol (perhaps this one is rounded down?), it’s an even richer and denser expression. There’s more power, tannins, and edge, yet the balance is impeccable and the wine sensual. It’s a complete package that needs more integration time to demonstrate harmony and elegance fully and develop some secondary complexity. Ultimately, this vintage has the extra structure to age longer, perhaps 20 years or more. But it will also take a little longer to reach its peak, so put it away for at least five years. This wine should be available at Berry Brothers soon—price TBA.


And Finally

Bolgheri View Argentiera

Evening View

Unquestionably, Tenuta Argentiera is at the top of the Bolgheri podium. It sits alongside its illustrious peers in Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy, and internationally. That’s no mean achievement!

I am grateful to Leonardo Raspini and Nicolò Carrara for sharing these wines.

You Got The Silver.



Tenuta Argentiera
Via Aurelia, 412/A
Località I Pianali
57022 Donoratico (LI)

What3words Location


*The Consorzio per la Tutela Vini dei DOC Bolgheri e DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia provided background context, a map, and statistics.

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