Not ones to be dissuaded by a pandemic, Tuscan estate Fattoria Le Pupille launched its new white wine Piemme 2018 and second vintage of its outstanding Syrah Le Pupille 2016 last night, accompanied by a Michelin-starred meal delivered from the Maremma. In an event that simply oozed class, estate owner Elisabetta Geppetti gave the virtual stage to two of her children, Clara and Ettore, who are the next generation of winemakers at the iconic estate and are looking after these outstanding boutique wines.
“This is the type of wine that earns its ‘icon’ stripes rather than have the term thrust upon it by a marketing department,” writes Dean
The launch of the two new wines from Tuscan estate Fattoria Le Pupille – Le Pupille 2016 and Piemme 2018 – was an elaborate, lavish and heartwarming affair. Conducted online last night, estate owner Elisabetta Geppetti, flanked by two of her children Clara and Ettore, who each oversee one of the wines, explained how important these new Syrah and Petit Manseng were to her, being a connection with the past of the Maremma (the rugged Southerly part of Tuscany), after the success of Saffredi and her other international varieties.
The importance of the wines was illustrated by us select few being sent ahead a meal to eat along with them, sent from Michelin-starred Caino Montemerano Ristorante; a nod to the wines’ gastronomic potential, a further indication of just what can be achieved during Lockdown but also, one suspects, because our gregarious and generous hosts wanted to hold a social event – even if it was a virtual one.
Both wines are limited production, artisanal wines that speak of the land from which they come. The Syrah, Le Pupille 2016 is only in its second vintage having been launched at the end of January 2019, the Petit Manseng, Piemme 2018, is being treated as new, although the wine was given a sneak peek at the 30thanniversary tasting of the estate’s flagship Saffredi in November 2019, and impressive it was then too.
It was in the early 1980s when Elisabetta Geppetti took over the Fattoria Le Pupille estate and started to renew it with the help of Antinori’s legendary winemaker, the late Giacomo Tachis (creator of Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia) and Elisabetta’s father-in-law and mentor, Alfredo Gentili, (or Fredi for short – the name Saffredi being a tribute to him).
Although the Super Tuscans had been around for over a decade the decision to create a wine of Saffredi’s quality in the Maremma was a brave one, it not being an area of Tuscany renowned for making refined wines. Elisabetta Geppetti has proven her point with Saffredi now ranking as one of the top wines in Italy, and now with Le Pupille 2016 and Piemme 2018 it is the turn of two of her children Clara, who oversees Le Pupille and Ettore Arturo Rizzi who oversees Piemme to prove their point with these two outstanding wines.
Piemme 2018, Toscana IGT
Piemme is the transcription of the Italian pronunciation of the initials of the Petit Manseng grape, from which it is made as a single variety. The fruit comes from the Pian di Fiora vineyard with the vines planted 20 years ago for one of the components of the estate’s flagship white wine, Poggio Argentato. Ettore explained how a selection of the grapes are harvested later, to get more ripeness and powerful aromatics, Petit Manseng being a grape that has high acidity to cope with this. Even with this extra hang-time, Ettore explained that the grapes when they’re picked have an under-ripe look.
“After we try to avoid malaolactic fermentation as we want to keep the acidity, to build the wine vertically and not horizontally,” he said.
Piemme 2018 is a big and powerful wine in almost all respects but one that manages to hold it all together through the acidity of the 100% Petit Manseng and plain classy winemaking. The colour is deep, the aromatics lush and intoxicating; the palate rich and round, the acidity and alcohol on the punchy side – but at no times is it overblown or unwelcoming – this is not a big wine in the ‘over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay from the 80s’ sense. The power comes from the grape, the terroir and the sun, with extra hang-time responsible for the wine’s heft and not over-use of oak or malolactic fermentation which is sensibly avoided.
Medium to deep yellow on the eye; on the nose the wine is floral with orange blossom, chamomile, dried orange skin; the palate is fresh and open to start, slightly oily, and then it becomes complex with powerful just-ripe citrus notes, orange marmalade, wild honey, pink grapefruit zest. The structure is powerful but well balanced. You can feel the 15% alcohol but this is not a wine that’s meant to drunk in huge quantity – it’s an aperitivo, a gastronomic wine (great matched with chicken liver pate, or white truffle pasta) and a thoughtful wine. The type that earns its ‘icon’ stripes rather than have the term thrust upon it by a marketing department. It is different but reminded me of the style of Querciabella’s Batar Chardonnay in the way it is a ‘statement’ Italian white. Just 1,200 0.75 litre bottles are produced.
Le Pupille 2016, Toscana IGT
Le Pupille 2016 is made from 100% Syrah from two contrasting single vineyards in the Maremma, and with two different vinification approaches. The fruit from the larger, East-facing vineyard was fermented in open tonneaux with 5% whole-bunch, then matured for 15 months in the same vessels; the fruit from the smaller plot was vinified in terracotta jars, left on the skins for five months – the blend of the two wines is followed by maturation in a mix of new and aged 300l French barriques for 12 months and then bottled for three years.
On the eye the wine is medium purple with light edging; the nose has wonderful freshness and depth, it is clearly Syrah with black fruit, red plum, blue plum skin and pepper but has Mediterranean influences too – liquorice, cloves, spice, some savoury and earthy elements too, a bit of beef stock. The palate is dry-stone textured, the ripe tannins are there but well integrated, the palate is elegant with enough complexity and Maremma grit to it.
This is a wine that really speaks of where it comes from. It is not a ‘me too’ Syrah but one which wears its terroir on its sleeve, the intriguing vinification adding layers of complexity to an already interesting story. Just 4,700 0.75 litre bottles are produced.
Le Pupille 2016 and Piemme 2018 are imported into the UK by Armit Wines which is a supplier partner of The Buyer. You can read more about them here.