Tenuta La Badiola: the Maremma’s new ‘drinkable water’

La Badiola is a well-funded winery, part of the Terra Moretti group which includes the Franciacorta flagship, Bellavista.  It is part of a very beautiful estate which once belonged to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II and now boasts the winery, the estate house, a temple to gastronomy (Ducasse was the founding chef) and is hoping for a golf course which has been held up for 10 years by the back-and-forth of Italian bureaucracy.  It was acquired in 2000 and after the usual soil tests planting began with a focus on Vermentino and international varieties. At just 32m of altitude and some richer soils on the plain this is not Sangiovese country.  Vermentino and a bit of Viognier were planted on the poorer soils, while Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Alicante (the Tuscan name for Garnacha) have found a home in the richer plots. Cabernet Franc – the new darling of the Tuscan coast – will follow in due course. 

Clarity of purpose: three wines

As one would expect from this stable, the wines are beautifully made and strikingly there is a clear marketing strategy. Just three wines are made, named poetically after the local stream, Acquagiusta.  Literally this means ‘correct water’, i.e. drinkable water, unlike the water in the malaria-infested marshes that used to cover this coast in the past.  While most companies proliferate bottlings, La Badiola has chosen to limit its range and concentrate on quality and reliability at a reasonable price.  

Of the three wines I particularly liked the rosé. The winemaker Pier Giuseppe D’Alessandro explains his key decisions. First, plant Alicante specifically for making rosé, for its perfume, ripe fruit and low tannins.  Then pick early to avoid too much alcohol and retain acidity. He is clearly proud that none is added. Ferment at a low 15-18ºC to retain the freshness and the fruit.  The depth of colour can vary from year to year as does the length of keeping the must on the skins to pick up colour. 

The wines 

Acquagiusta Rosato, Maremma Toscana DOC,  2016, 13.5% – 100% Alicante, a bronzy pink; herbal and red berry nose, quite full bodied, finishes dry and salty, very delicious and suited to drinking on its own or with food. 

Acquagiusta Vermentino, Maremma Toscana DOC, 2016, 13.5% – another technically advanced wine.  A small portion is picked early for raised acidity, the majority follows around mid-September, while the final small portion is picked a week later for added richness.  The biggest challenge is not to lose any of the aromatics of Vermentino,  a relatively low aromatic variety. Blanketing with dry ice has been found to be the most effective way to exclude oxygen and keep temperatures low.  The final wine shows melon and apple fruit, a pleasant leafiness and decent length. 

Acquagiusta Rosso, Maremma Toscana DOC,  2015, 14% – a three-way blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in roughly equal proportions.  A small percentage is aged in used barriques to add some texture but this really leads on its immediately attractive bright plummy fruit. The blend makes for some complexity and the wine finishes well with sufficient structure to balance the fruit. 

In short the wines of Tenuta La Badiola are extremely thought-through and well made wines with immediate appeal for drinking on release and in the next couple of years.

With thanks to both the estate itself and to Maremma Toscana DOC for its support for this trip.  

June 2017

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