Tenuta di Ghizzano and a double anniversary
The Tenuta di Ghizzano occupies the gently contoured hills of the Colline Pisane. Here, in coastal Tuscany, Pisa is less than an hour away. This 350 ha estate has been handed down through 26 generations of the Venerosi Pesciolini family since 1370. Today it’s in the safe custody of Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini. Ginevra’s father, Pierfrancesco, pioneered research into Sangiovese clones and experimented with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. That was at a time when Italian wine was in the doldrums but had the potential for excellence. Ginevra has followed her father’s work, creating vineyards and a winery in environmental balance that realises that gifts of this land. The wine labels say, “where the fruits of the earth come from a place in harmony with nature, there is already the potential for true excellence”. Amen to that.
Ghizzano has helped this wine area of Tuscany emerge; the IGT Costa Toscana dates from 2010, while the local Terre di Pisa DOC dates from 2011. The property includes 20 ha of vines, 20 ha of olives, and 150 ha of woodlands. From 2001 it also offers high-class Agriturismo.
Tenuta di Ghizzano produces around 80,000 bottles per year. The climate here is mildly Mediterranean; tempered by sea breezes that protect against temperature extremes and, particularly spring frosts. The soils here are mostly chalky clay-sand, studded with the seashells that indicate their origins as ancient sea beds.
There is a wide range of grape varieties planted, in several vineyard plots. They include the usual internationals that dominate this area of Tuscany. However, at Ghizzano, it’s Sangiovese that retains ascendancy. Meanwhile, the estate’s historic experimental vineyard dating back to 1989 is called Chiesina and contains all the winery’s grape varieties.
Everything here is about the lightness of touch. All the grapes are hand-harvested and taken to the solar-powered winery. After destemming, they undergo a further selection on a sorting table. Unusually, the grapes destined for the estate’s two top wines go into stainless-steel bins for treading with human feet. This costly ancient practice is a rare one these days outside of the Port producers of the Douro. However, they will tell you that this grape crushing method is still the best way of obtaining high-quality juice.
Fermentation is with natural yeasts. Furthermore, all winery operations are carried out by gravity without using harsh pumps.
In maturation, wood is primarily for ageing, rather than to impart tannins or flavours. In recent vintages, the use of new wood has reduced, while the winery is experimenting with concrete egg-shaped vessels.
The wine range
Tenuta di Ghizzano’s portfolio includes two excellent IGT Costa Toscana wines for easy young drinking, these being Il Ghizzano Rosso and Bianco. The Rosso showcases Sangiovese, with 5% Merlot, with 40,000 bottles. The Bianco blends 50% Vermentino, 30% Trebbiano Toscana, and 20% Malvasia Bianca, with just 4,000 bottles.
Following the Tuscan tradition, the winery also produces 1,300 half-bottles of intensely sweet Passito called San Germano. This IGT Costa Toscana blends 80% Trebbiano Toscana with 15% Colombana and 5% Malvasia Bianca.
However, this article features the two top foot-trodden reds that are celebrating their anniversaries, namely Veneroso and Nambrot, of which more below.
Veneroso 2015, Terre di Pisa DOC, 13.5%
The 30th-anniversary release, being a blend of 70% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s fermented in open 3,000-litre wooden vats and given 16 months maturation in used 500-litre French oak casks. First made in 1985, it was the first wine bottled at the Estate. It heralded Italy’s winemaking renaissance and the emergence of Supertuscan wines.
The grapes for the 24,000 bottles of Veneroso grow in the Torricella Bassa, Il Monte, and Chiesina vineyards. These lie at elevations of 180 metres and face south-southwest.
A youthful ruby-garnet colour, this was decanted for an hour to let it open up. In doing so, there’s a loose tea aroma redolent of Sangiovese, with a eucalypt note thrown in for good measure. The palate has a superb balance of acidity, fruit and tannins, with an attractive mentholated flavour mixed with sour cherries. A long finish shows a hint of grilled almonds.
Food-wise, Lasagne al Forno hits the spot for me. Veneroso with that ragù and béchamel sauce will have you returning for thirds, not just seconds.
Veneroso is a fantastic advertisement for the wines of Pisa!
Nambrot 2016, IGT Costa Toscana, 14%
The 20th-anniversary release, with 9,500 bottles. This time a Bordeaux-blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Petit Verdot. Again, it ferments in open-topped oak vats. Maturation takes 18 months in 225-litre French oak barrels, of which 30% are new.
The Venerosi Pesciolini family traces back to 820 AD with Nambrot, a Carolingian aristocrat. The wine name cites him. It was initially 100% Merlot, beginning with the 1996 harvest. However, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are now in the blend. The amount of new oak used has also reduced over time.
Again decanted for an hour, this is a young wine of brooding intensity and longevity. There’s an attractive cedar note on the nose, plus violets and tobacco. The youthful palate shows a real tension, with brown spices underpinning damsons and cherries. A black olive note alongside a graphite/pencil minerality adds complexity. There’s a long Italianate finish, slightly warming but very satisfying. Nambrot opens up in the glass in ten minutes or so, if you can resist it that long. As for food, choose from steak, lamb or game. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is an undeniable classic. Anything with truffles will work well too.
This wine is delicious now, and another couple of years will bring it to the peak. It’s up there with the best Italian Bordeaux blends. If this wine doesn’t make you catch the next flight to Pisa, then I’m afraid nothing will. Time to pack my bag!
I rate these wines highly. Hence I recommend that you join in with the anniversary celebrations by trying them yourself!
Tenuta di Ghizzano
Via della Chiesa Ghizzano, 19
56037 Ghizzano (PI)
More wines from this area can be found here.