Last Wednesday, March 30th, I was invited to a lunch in Florence with other wine writers to meet with the owner of Valdonica winery in Maremma, Martin Kerres and his oenologist Tim Manning. Furthermore, two of Martin Kerres daughters were with him at the lunch too. The lunch took place at the Residence Villa Cora which is located on the hills above the city center of Florence, between Piazzale Michelangelo and Porta Romana, with a view of the Boboli Gardens. So it was in this suggestive surrounding that we sat down to have lunch and get to know the wines from Valdonica winery better.
A brief background…
The Valdonica winery is very young as it was founded in 2006 by the Austrian Martin Kerres. He says that he had not at all planned to buy a winery, in reality, he was looking for a summer house in Tuscany but found the Valdonica estate close to Massa Marittima and the mineral springs in the province of Grosseto. After some year, Martin Kerres moved to Tuscany to change his life and dedicate himself to the wine production at Valdonica. They also have an agritourism, or B&B, where you can enjoy the beautiful Tuscan countryside and be fairly close to the seaside. The estate embraces an area of 210 acres of which about 25 acres are vineyards where they cultivate the grape varieties Vermentino, Ciliegiolo, and Sangiovese. The vineyards are located 500 m.a.s.l. and the wine produced is within the denomination Monteregio di Massa Marittima.
During the first years, the Valdonica winery rented vineyards in the surrounding areas where they also cultivated some international grape varieties. From 2012, they decided to have their own vineyards and to only cultivate indigenous grapes. Since 2012, they are also certified as an organic wine producer.
A lunch with wines from Valdonica winery
The white wines
Martin Kerres started by presenting himself and his winery as well as the B&B that they are running at Valdonica.
— Katarina Andersson (@ricasoli99) March 30, 2016
As we were listening and enjoying the appetizers consisting of bruschette, we were served the first wine, namely Mersino IGT Toscana 2014. This white wine is made with the grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Vermentino. While we were all sticking our noses in the glass trying to feel the different aromas, Tim Manning explained that this wine is made in a traditional way, without added yeast. The fermentation process continues for 6-8 months, after which the juice remains on the lees for another couple of months. The wine is then bottled after 12 months. It is a fresh and enjoyable wine with an intense straw yellow hue.
The second wine of the day was Ballarino Maremma DOC Bianco 2013 which is a 100% Vermentino. Before explaining this wine, Tim Manning told us a story about how he years ago tasted a particular Vermentino from Corsica that he liked very much. It was a full-bodied and complex wine, and when he some years later found himself at Valdonica to make white wines, he wanted to create and make a Vermentino just like that one in Corsica.
Returning to the Ballarino wine, 30% of the grapes are handled separately in the same manner as the red grapes. This means that the grapes are destemmed and pressed to thereafter be transferred to the tanks that are normally used for the fermentation of red wine. The must undergoes a spontaneous fermentation and the fermentation then continues for about two months. The must or the wine is thereafter racked off and transferred into wood barrels where it is aged for 12 months. The other 70% of the grapes are vinified more or less in the same way as the above-mentioned Mersino wine, thus being aged in steel vats for 12 months. After this period, the two parts are aged together for another 6 months and bottled. It is a mineral wine with smokey undertones and notes of fruit and dry fruit. It is a wine with character. (Note! The info about the vinification processes for the white wines is from my notes of Tim Manning’s explanation, so if anything has been misunderstood, just drop me a line.)
The red wines
The lunch continued, and with the pasta course, we had the first red wine Arnaio IGT Maremma 2013 which is made of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Arnaio is named after the area with the same name close to Valdonica. Here I am not going to talk in-depth about the vinification process to not be too tedious, but rather continue directly to describe the wine. It is aged both in steel vats and in a mix of barrique of 228 l and barrels (tonneaux) of 500 l for 18 months total. It is a ruby red wine with notes of red fruit, such as red cherry and black currant, a soft influence of the oak and non-intrusive tannins. It is a very pleasant and drinkable wine, as also the other lunch guests around me repeatedly confirmed. For me, who until Wednesday noon, was fairly ignorant about the whereabouts of Tim Manning and his work apart from having seen his name mentioned, I was informed by my fellow lunch pals that his wines have a clear Oregon stamp. In fact, you can feel a more international, so to say Oregon style if you wish in his red wines, which is probably a result of his travels and work in that part of the world in the past.
The last two wines we tasted with the second course were Saragio Monteregio Massa Marittima DOC 2012 and Baciòlo Monteregio Massa Marittima DOC Riserva 2012. The Saragio is a 100% Sangiovese which is aged for 18 months in barrique of French oak and in bottle for 12 months. It is a wine with notes of red cherries, black pepper, some vanilla and tobacco from the wood, and elegant tannins. It is a full-bodied and structured wine.
The Baciòlo is also a 100% Sangiovese which is aged for 24 months in barrique and 12 months in bottle. It has a purple hue with hints of garnet red. It has aromas of cherry, flowers, such as the violet, black pepper, wood, leather, and balsamic undertones. It is well-structured, with elegant tannins and it is full-bodied on the palate.
Some post-lunch thoughts
The Valdonica winery might be young on the market, but their wines are very interesting. The white Vermentino wines are fresh and mineral, the red wines reflect the territory and the have the typical traits of Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo. I very much liked all their red wines, but, of course, Saragio and especially Baciòlo are for more structured meals, while the Arnaio is, as mentioned above, very easy to drink and enjoyable also for an aperitivo with some snacks or cold cuts. Furthermore, I am grateful for having been invited and having had the opportunity to meet and listen to Martin Kerres and Tim Manning talk about their wines. Valdonica is definitely on my list of wineries to visit soon.
Written by Katarina Andersson.