Wine column for week of February 18

Stefano Cialli is a dreamer. His passion for wine took him from a successful career as an accountant to running a small family winery in rural Tuscany in north-west Italy.
His aspirations remind me of that bad joke about how do you make a small fortune in the winemaking business? Answer: Start with a large fortune. It is a cynical joke, and reflects the fact that people who make wine focus on passion rather than profit.
Dr Cialli, who has a PhD in economics, planted 10 hectares of grapes between 2001 and 2004, near Livorno on the west coast of Tuscany.
The vineyard’s name comes from the location where Caialli planted his first grapes in 2001, at Renicci.
Dr Cialli remains optimistic and is looking for buyers in the Asian market. He retrained as a winemaker, and he and his wife do everything on their 10 hectares from winemaking to planting to pruning through to bottling and marketing.
Cialli makes memorable wine. One can taste the passion, from his entry level Renicci red through to the Spirasole, his flagship red.
The wines are blends, combing the native grapes of Tuscany like sangiovese with French imports like merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.
All wines are cellared for several years before release. The current release is the 2007.
I especially loved his 2006 and 2007 Spirasole, Bordeaux blends in which merlot dominates. The 2006 is 85 per cent merlot, and the 2007 is 70 per cent merlot, with cabernet sauvignon as the backup.
The 2006 is the first release from the last vineyard he planted, in 2004. It has soft tannins, tastes of rich fruit cake and ripe plums, and hangs around in the mouth for an eternity – the sign of a great wine.
Merlot is Dr Cialli’s favourite grape, and he loves its richness and plum-like flavours and elegance. “The cabernet adds acidity, structure and finesse.”
Fermentation occurred for 25 days on the grape skins for the 2006, and 20 days for the 2007. This gives the wine an intense and dark colour.
About 70 per cent of these wines are aged in new French barriques for a year, with the rest in one-year barriques. A barrique is one of the smallest barrels, and contains 225 litres.
The wine spends some years in the Renicci cellar before being released.
The wine called Spirasole has a name combined from the Italian words for a person’s dying breath (spira) and sun (sole), suggesting a poetic soul seeking a beautiful name for his passion. For me it is the wine one would want to drink if it were one’s last chance to taste wine before dying.
The 2006 is drinking beautifully now. I sampled several glasses at different locations. The 2007 needs more time to be appreciated. Both would taste better if decanted for a few hours before being consumed.
The 2007 did not offer much aroma at first, but as the glass warmed in my hand it opened like a magician waving a wand through a field of wild flowers, and tasted of dark chocolate and mint.
The tannins from the small oak barriques give the wine a slightly chewy texture and refined structure, like a fine Italian sports car aching through the curves of a Tuscan mountain road.
Only 1,400 bottles of the 2006 were made and 2,000 of the 2007. They cost 30 euros a bottle (about 300 HKD) can be purchased via the vineyard’s web site at http://www.renicci.
* Published 21 February 2013. Find a link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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