The grand finale for me of the Best of Wine Tourism Awards was our Chianti wine tasting at the Villa Petriolo, Cerreto Guidi, not far from Florence.
I realise that “beautiful” is in no way a technical term to describe wine, but the Maestrelli sisters and their wine maker produce exactly that – beautiful Italian wines.
The Villa Petriolo received the Best of Wine Tourism award for “sustainable wine tourism practices” and while Villa Petriolo has no official organic status, there is a care for the land here that you won’t always find on a more industrial scale of wine production.
In addition, the old villa has been preserved in its rough state, with the sisters keeping many of their father’s artifacts and collection items.
The roof beams have been added to over the years to keep the structure sturdy, and there has been no primping of the house to provide fancy tasting rooms or appealing tourist wine shops.
The Maestrelli sisters provide a simple and sincere welcome, and we had the opportunity to taste a range of Villa Petriolo wines, guided by Silvia Maestrelli, who also fed us with hearty Tuscan antipasti, salads and salumi.
Silvia says it’s her aim to make refined, elegant wines with no pretensions to full-bodied, new world tastes or commercial stunts (like the sparkling sangiovese we tasted at another wine producer).
They have achieved beyond that with wines difficult to describe, but that stay with you – forming a kind of benchmark for future wine tasting as well as giving you an experience further than just describing a perfume or structure.
Chianti wine tasting and tours: Villa Petriolo The wines have a deceptive simplicity but one which leaves you thinking, and tasting again.
That is the case with the 100-percent Canaiolo Villa Petriolo produces which functions as their red wine aperitif wine.
The Villa Petriolo L’Imbrunire 100% Canaiolo is intriguing at first, just because it is so rare to find this grape used on its own.
It has pleasant, fruity notes and a light structure that lends itself to many dishes, and even first courses.
It’s exactly the kind of wine you could drink all Sunday – easy, approachable but still elegant.
Whether it’s the biodynamic practices they use in their Chianti vineyards, or the cement vats that were too expensive to replace but provide for frank, open wines, the Villa Petriolo examples just get better.
The Villa Petriolo Chianti is a fruity Chianti which has no oak age, undergoing ageing for eight months in the cement vats.
It is made from 95 percent sangiovese and five percent colorino.
If you’re looking for something a little special and with a bit more structure, and I suspect this is Silvia’s favourite wine, there is also the Villa Petriolo Chianti Rosae Mnemonis.
Not only is it a 100% sangiovese Chianti, it is also a cru, with the grapes sourced from a single vineyard with 20-year-old vines.
The vinyard called the “vigneto delle rose” gives its name to the wine, and with more fermentation and ageing in cement vats, this is a stunning example of truly refined and polished Chianti.
It has deeper, spicier notes and is full bodied and intense, but still with softer tannins and no touch of greenish immaturity whatsoever.
Investment in the vineyards and cellar is significant at Villa Petriolo, which has also expanded into wine production in Sicily where Silvia wants to continue her vision for her wines.
Planting new vines of merlot, we also had the chance to taste the Villa Petriolo pure merlot which is one of the greatest examples of merlot I have tasted.
There was some controversy surrounding this variety for Silvia, who once famously declared in the local Italian press “if I want to drink merlot, I will go to Sant Emilion”.
But the stamp of Villa Petriolo personality has made it onto the Serberto merlot as well with a deep, fruity nose, well-balanced tannins and overall superb structure.
It really is refreshing, and not least because we’re in Chianti, to find wine producers going back to making good merlot for a grape variety that has been so pilfered and criticised over the years, around the world.
Other wines we tasted were the Villa Petriolo “Supertuscan” Golpaja which was perhaps the only example for me which doesn’t quite fit the wine making philosophy, but then I’m not a huge fan of Supertuscans anyway.
We also finished with the Villa Petriolo Vinsanto which washes down very nicely – perhaps too well, given that it is a precious drop which has a full two to three years of fermentation followed by another five years of ageing in barrels, but is only released when deemed ready.
It is rare to find wines with such character and refinement across the whole range.
Villa Petriolo produces not only individual wines but bottles a winemaking philosophy as well, which comes out when tasting.
These were by far for me, the best quality wines we tasted on the Best of Wine Tourism Awards tour.
While the quality of wines is not the main factor of these awards, Villa Petriolo can back up its wine tours and tastings, and innovative marketing projects (including an annual literary award) with some truly lovely wines.
Definitely a stop for purist wine enthusiasts during a Chianti wine tour.