Antinori purchased Le Mortelle, a sizable property not far from Castiglion della Pescaia (a town on the Tuscan coast) in 1999, and spent a number of years deciding exactly how to proceed – Le Mortelle was originally part of a larger complex called La Badiola, which came into being in the mid 1800s, when the Grand Dukes of Tuscany drained the marshlands, eliminating the malaria endemic in the region, and then concentrated on raising beef cattle in the area.
There were about 15 hectares of organically farmed orchards when Antinori arrived, planted to peaches, plums, apricots, pears and blueberries, and they are still there, yielding fresh fruit and organic jams and preserves. And to the orchards they have added 160 hectares of vineyards, primarily planted to Cabernet and Sangiovese, and more recently to several white grapes, in particular Ansonica, Vermentino and Viognier.
The first red vintage was harvested in 2009, and presented this summer.
Le Mortelle Poggio alle Nane Maremma Toscana IGT 2009
This is a 60-40 Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and is deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with black currant fruit and cherry fruit mingled with sea salt and some vegetal peppery accents that are enough to provide depth and reveal the varietal, but not so much as to really condition the wine, while there are also hardwood ash accents, some cedar, and berry fruit acidity, and as it opens further, cocoa, which also comes through in the finish. Very nice balance in a rich ripe international key. On the palate it’s ample and smooth with rich rather jammy plum fruit supported by tannins that have a savory cedar-laced burr and by deft mineral acidity with hints of underbrush that flows into a long savory underbrush laced finish with some cedary notes and underlying plum. Quite pleasant in a rich fruit driven international key, and it will work very well with a porterhouse cut or a roast that’s not too fatty. If you like the style you will enjoy it very much. If you are instead traditionally minded you will find it good, but not necessarily your wine.
After tasting the wine, we visited the cellars, which are very modern and most impressive; the grapes enter at ground level and go into small suspended conical steel fermentation tanks whose number is such that they can ferment the grapes parcel by parcel and varietal by varietal; the fermentation takes 15-20 days, and the resulting wine is then fed by gravity feed to the barrique hall, which is several meters below ground and therefore remains at a constant temperature. The barriques, about 750 in all, are primarily French, though there are also some from the forests of Tokay in Hungary, which are somewhat sweeter, contributing chocolaty accents to the wines.
After visiting the cellars, we were offered a lunch in the vineyards, which was quite nice, and were also introduced to Le Mortelle’s other two wines:
Le Mortelle Botrosecco Maremma Toscana IGT 2010
This is the opposite of Poggio alle Nane, a 40-60 Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Lively cherry ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with red berry fruit mingled with grilled bell pepper and some sweet jammy black currant fruit accents, spice, and some black peppercorns. Fresh. On the palate it’s medium bodied and quite smooth, with rich black currant fruit supported by tannins that have some underbrush and bell pepper accents, supported by dusty cedar. Fresh and quite approachable, it’s a wine that will work well with roasts or stews, and also hearty meat-based first course dishes.
As I noted, they also make a white:
Le Mortelle Vivia Maremma Toscana DOC 2011
This is a blend of Vermentino, Viognier, and a little Ansonica. Pale brassy yellow with brassy reflections and greenish highlights. The bouquet is rich, with sweet honeydew melon and some loquat mingled with pleasant floral accents, slight heather, and some gun flint. Pleasant in a luscious to voluptuous key, and as it opens hints of banana also emerge. On the palate it’s bright, with fairly rich fruit, a mix of loquat and green apricot, supported by some peppery spice and slight heathery acidity that flows into a fairly long savory finish in which brightness and fruit balance nicely. It will work well as an aperitif, or a tutto pasto, with the meal.
Bottom line: Nice wines, and a beautiful winery well worth a visit should you be in the Maremma.