Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tuscan Tourists, 5 of 5




After an action packed day yesterday involving three wineries, each spectacular in their own right, it was another early start.

As has become habitual I donned my running shoes and went to explore the charming town of Montelcino (which I have come to learn translates literally as the 'mountain of oak trees'). I was rewarded well for my efforts: the morning mists gathering in the valleys provided a view nothing short of majestic (unintentional wine plug).


The hills in the town itself are seriously challenging but, perhaps fortunately, I don't have long as our next stop awaits: Gaja in Bolgheri

The approach to Gaja (pronounced Guy-ya) was somewhat confusing. Largely flat land densely covered in young tomato plants, spring onions and other such vegetable crops. This did not sit comfortably with what I knew of their fine, elegant wines. And nor should it: the secret in Bolgerhi is one not of aspect, but of soil.

Back in 1996 Angelo Gaja acquired this land following extensive topographical surveys which identified no less than 27 different soil types. There are a few small parcels of land which share the characteristics of Sasikaya, and one of these is where we were due to spend the next few hours.

Purchasing land is seldom easy, and this wine estate is far from the exception. After two years and eighteen visits a deal was struck, leading to the estate being named "Ca Marcanda" which, I'm told, translates as "Endless Negotiations".

The winery itself is impressive. The best way for me to describe it is for you to imagine what would happen if Google went into a joint winemaking venture with James Bond. Remove the shark-pool and you're pretty much there.

We're stood on a grassy hill as our host introduces us to the winery, describing how effort has been made to reuse and recycle at any opportunity, so huge parts of the building's structure are created from reclaimed piping or metal sheets. Far from trying to hide this, measures have been taken to proudly display it.

But this isn't the only trick of Ca Marcanda: imagine our surprise to be told we were standing on the roof! By covering it with a metre of soil (on which grows Olive trees and various other plants) the roof becomes a perfect insulator from the searing temperatures of the Tuscan summer.

Downstairs in the cellar it is evident that the architect has understood well the operational requirements of winemaking. There is an easy flow from sorting table to fermentation vessels to cask, all gravity fed. A rich, dry smell of vanilla greets us, testament to the brand new oak barrels awaiting their first fill.

As we walk across the cool, black tiled floor (made from volcanic basalt heated to 1,300 degrees!) the winery often appears more like an art gallery which happens to make wine. I get the impression they would not be upset to hear this.


BLOGGING CONFESSION:

This blog has been languishing in my 'draft' file for almost a year now. I lost the notepad I was working from and then, worse yet, lost all the photographs I'd taken due to my laptop dying.

Still, I thought it was worth hitting 'publish' on what I'd written so far,so that I can get back into the swing of regular blogging.

Apologies for failing to complete the series. Hopefully I'll come back to it if my notepad ever turns up!



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