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.
At lunch with Martin Kerres from @valdonica sipping #mersino and #ballarino @PR_VINO @RealWineGuru @WineGalUnboxed pic.twitter.com/buLW8Fy0BO
— 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.
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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.
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49 thoughts on “Valdonica – A Winery in the Heart of Maremma”
Great photos and amazing experience. Florence sounds like an excellent place to taste fine wine and food. Keep it up with the great work!
Thanks Zaria, yes, it is a great place here for wine and food. 🙂
Am I the only one who has no clue what an oenologist is? LOL I love reading about your experiences–they sound so amazing, much like something from a movie such as “Eat, Pray, Love.”. Is it as much fun as it sounds? Even when I try to pick out the ingredients in wine, I’m not that good at it. I think I’ll stick to reading about it. 😉
Well ‘oenologist’ I found to be the translation of the word enologo, because according to me ‘wine maker’ does not do the word justice, because an enologo is much more than a wine maker. However, it is tricky sometimes to find English words that fully translate the Italian or French ones.
Again, Katarina, you’ve made my mouth water! I would dearly love to try the Saragio and Baciola! I guess I need to get Maremma! In the meantime though, I get to live this vicariously through you!
Thanks Susan, yes, they are lovely wines. 🙂
This sound lovely. Wine making really has to be a love to these owners for the amount of work that is involved. It’s all inspiring. Thanks for sharing.
Amazing opportunities that you are presented with.. great job Katarina.. and the cool thing.. I think they pair quite nicely.
Thanks Kristen, true they do pair nicely.:-)
As a former wine drinker, this simply sounds lovely. I no longer drink wine, but enjoy your story.
Thanks Karen, happy you liked the story. 🙂
When I read your posts I have this vision of you traveling far and wide to visit and review these amazing wineries. Tuscany I believe, is known for it’s wine and is a popular region to visit. As someone who doesn’t drink, I can only imagine how soul-filled these tastings are for the true wine lover. And for the vintner it is like they are introducing their “babies” to the world. Wonderful experiences you are sharing and having Katarina!
True Beverley, you pinned it down exactly. When you get into the wine world, it gets very fascinating and fulfilling, it is not really about drinking only, but about via the tasting feel the different territories and soil also. The vintners are indeed very attached to their wines, so, yes, almost like being their ‘babies’. LOL
So love reading your winery adventures. You always include history & factual info along with great photos. All that is missing is our tasting. Nice to know this winery is organic. Bet that is unusual & I see mostly males around the table.
Thanks Roslyn, I am happy you liked the article and my way of writing. We should try a group tasting sometime. Perhaps we could do a group session on Zoom or something. Wouldn’t that be fun? And regarding only men at the table, the wine world is still male-dominated and so also the journalist world here.;-)
This trip sounds absolutely amazing. I felt like I was there right next to you. It’s nice to read that wineries are getting on the organic bandwagon. Pesticides and chemicals kill and should not be used on anything we consume or put into our bodies.
Now will you please pass me a glass of your favorite wine from the trip? Thank you!
True, it is all about organic nowadays here.
Could send you a bottle of their Vermentino 🙂
Lovely to read ….can ‘almost’ taste the wine. Thank you for sharing the experience!
Thanks Teresa, great that you liked my article.:-)
It’s amazing how detailed and descriptive your post is, I could almost feel the breeze and smell the wine. I love reading blogs that display so much passion for the subject matter!
I have found over the years that my palette has improved, or maybe my knowledge of wines has?? When you discern what is appropriate for each meal type do you use a palette cleanser, like chefs with food?
Thanks Melanie, I am glad you liked my article. Regarding to discern the wines and for which type of meal they are suited, normally a bit of bread is enough, or a sip of water.
Awesome pictures Katrina! Looks like you had fun checking out this winery 🙂
Thanks Joan, yes, it was a fun lunch and interesting people too. And, of course, good wines!
Bruschetta and wine. Sign me up now please. I so enjoy your adventures. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Christy, we should arrange a live tasting! 🙂
Wow that sounds like a pretty lovely place to visit, thank you for sharing and lovely photos too.
Thanks Sonya, glad you liked the article.
As I know very little about wines, I love reading your articles. You tell us not only about the wines, and the areas they come from and the process of discerning the taste of each. I was very impressed to see that you noted the grapes were being grown organically.
Thanks Joyce, yes it is indeed all about organic production now.
Beautiful scenery; I’ve always wanted to visit Tuscany. Such an interesting place.
Thanks Carol, happy you liked the article.
Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better!
Reading through this post reminds me of my previous
room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks
What a lovely adventure you detail here! For anyone who has been hoping to get to Tuscany, this is an awesome peek!
Thanks Jane, if you want to know anything more detailed about Tuscany just give a shoutout. 🙂
Tuscany is definitely on my travel bucket list and reading about the wonderful wine and food you enjoyed makes it even more tempting. I love learning about the wine making process – it is so much more involved than a lot of people realize.
Thanks Tamuria, great that you liked the description of the wine making. Here I got a bit more detailed than usual, but because the oenologist very much talked about and emphasized it all.
Thanks Tamuria, you should come here. Happy you like my writing too.
I just loved this – I could envision the scenery, and if I had a more experienced palate, I’d say that I could practically taste the wine! I’d sure love the opportunity to stay at the B&B 🙂
Thanks Natalie, that’s great that my writing transmitted these feelings as it is what I am aiming for…:-)
Sounds like so much fun – and delicious! What wonderful adventures you have!
Thanks Mindy, yes, it was a very fun lunch.
Your enthusiasm is contagious! Do you think any American wines compare in quality to the European wines you feature in your blog?
That’s great that you can feel the enthusiasm. There are some very good wines produced in the US too, like in California and Oregon, for example, I am still not that familiar with those wines, I would need to taste more of them to make a comparison.
Sounds like a great time. Have you considered writing a book about your adventures? P.S. Love the bottles (especially the blue) and the labels. Very avant-garde.
Yes, it was Jackie! The bottles are very cool, indeed, I need to ask the owner about that next time. Yes, I have been thinking about writing a book, I just need time to do it all. 🙂
I don’t know much about wines, but I have always wanted to go to Tuscany! It looks beautiful.
Yes, it is a great place, and a place for healthy eating too, you do not need to drink wine only. 🙂
Your blog is not a good place to visit when I am eating more mindfully. Everything sounds and looks delicious.
True Rachel, :-)…however, the wine is an organic product and good for you in small doses.