Sassotondo, the Cellar Dug into Tuff

We visited Sassotondo, a winery located in Alta Maremma, in the province of Grosseto. The winery owns 72 hectares of land between the municipaities of Sorano and Pitigiano in the middle of the DOC Bianco di Pitigliano, Sovana and Maremma Toscana. The winery was founded in the early 1990s by the agronomist Carla Benini and her husband Edoardo Ventimiglia, a documentary filmmaker. With regards to altitude, the vineyards should be on hills, even if they lie on a succession of plateaus, discontinued by deep gorges dug into the tuff by seasonal flowings.

The location is on the extension of the volcanic basin of Bolsena and tuff is the main element in soil structure. In this area, the houses are made by tuff, the vineyards are planted on tuff and, in an area below the vinery land, the underground cellar is dug into the tuff. In the last room on the cellar, 30 meters away from the entrance, and separated from the rest of the cellar by a long corridor and 14 metres below the ground, the barrel are stored to take advantage of ideal naturally provided humidity and temperature conditions.

Today the vineyards stretch a total area of about 12 hectares: with 9 hectares devoted to red grape varieties (Ciliegiolo, Sangiovese, Teroldego and Merlot) and 3 hectares dedicated to white grape varieties (Trebbiano, Greco, Sauvignon). But Ciliegiolo, a historic variety from Maremma, has found its ideal terroir in this area, especially in the old San Lorenzo vineyard, just in front of Pitigliano municipality.

The vineyards have been run with certified organic farming methods since 1994, Sassotondo is the typical Maremma farm that has enhanced great biodiversity, with perennial crops such as vines and olive trees alongside cover crops, pastures and woods. Since 2007 the vineyards have been run according to the dictates of biodynamic sviticulture.

We tasted 5 wines from the winery, two white and then three Ciliegiolo, one rosé and the other two two were red (three out of the five Ciliegiolo produced).

Here is the tasting description.

Bianco di Pitigliano Isolina 2021                                

Wine made mainly fron trebbiano, with a balance of Sauvignon and Greco. The grapes, grapes are sourced from the vineyards of Sovana, the vines are cordon trained, spur pruned, or Guyot trained on tuff. The grapes are selected in the vineyard, harvested by hand and then vinified separately. The maceration with the skins lasts from 12 to 24 hours, while the fermentation with wild yeasts take place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats and can last for more than two months. At the end of the fermentation the wine is matured on the lees for another 2 months before being blended.

The wine is a deep straw yellow wine with a consistent structure. On the nose we sense floral hints of elderberry, then fruity hints of white peach and green apple, followed by minty and herbaceous scents. In the mouth the wine is dry, with a vibrant fresh-savoury component balanced by well delectable alcohol strength. The finish is long and lasts with “green” minty tones.

Numero 6 2020

The wine is produced from Greco and Sauvignon grapes from the Sovana vineyards dating back to 1995- The Sauvignon Blanc is cordon trained and the Greco il double guyot trained with a plant density of 4,800 vines per hectare. The grapes are selected in the vineyard and hand-picked. The wines are separately fermented, used in both cases wild yeasts: The Sauvignon undergoes short skin maceration and is then fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats; the Greco undergoes a longer skin maceration and is fermented in barriques. After blending, the wine matures for 12 months in second-usage barriques.

The wine is golden yellow in colour. It has an olfactory spectrum ranging from orange blossoms to ripe white peach, then from resin to fresh balsamic notes. The wine shows good structure, and its fresh-savoury components balance the soft one. The finish is very pleasant, and closes with long lasting herbaceous hints.

Lady Marmalade 2021

This wine is produced from Ciliegiolo grapes from the vineyards located in Pitigliano and Sovana. Just like the previous samples, the grapes are selected in the vineyard and hand picked. The free-run juice is immediately separated from the skins after destemming, when the colour from the skin has not yet completely been released. Fermentation with wild yeasts takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats at 18 ° C.

The wine is of a cherry pink colour, with complex hints of wisteria, cyclamen, followed by fruity hints of raspberry, wild strawberries and a sprinkling of pink pepper. It is full bodied. The acidity and the minerality are balanced by well perceivable alcohol. The finish is long with floral tones.

Maremma Poggio Pinzo 2019

Poggio Pinzo is the result of a project on the potential of growing Ciliegiolo and on volcanic soils. This selection of grapes takes its name from a micro-terroir characterised by the presence of material from the eruption of the Poggio Pinzo Volcano, near Bolsena Lake. The vinification takes place in clay jars with a capacity of about 7 – 8 hectolitres, where the destemmed grapes are fermented. After fermentation, the jars are filled with wine and sealed. The wine further macerates on the skins for about 12 months and is then pressed, It then spends further time in stainless steel vats before being bottled.

The wine is bright ruby in colour. The aromas have fruity notes of sour cherries, cassis, cherries preserved in spirit, followed by myrtle and more complex spicy notes of pepper and flint. The taste of this wine is intense and long lasting, with clear flavours of volcanic origin, silky tannins and a good freshness. The finish shows long lasting balsamic tones.

Maremma San Lorenzo 2017

This is the best selection of ciliegiolo grapes coming from a 60 years old vineyard, run since 1994 with organic farming methods. The vineyard is extended about two hectares and is located in front of Pitigliano municipality, on sub acid tuff soil of medium texture, with 4,800 old vines that are Guyot trained. The normal vine replacements are made with massale selection of young plants grown by a vine nursery. The grapes are selected in the vineyard and are hand-picked. The fermentation takes place with wild yeasts and the maceration lasts for about 15 to 20 days. The wine matures for 18-30 months in 10 hectoliters Slavonian oak barrels and then ages for 12 months in bottle in the cool underground cellars before release.

The wine shows a deep ruby colour and immediately indicates a great body in the glass. On the nose we smell ripe cherry and blackcurrant, followed by spicy notes of pepper and cloves and at the end tobacco and licorice root. In the mouth, this wine is elegant, with acidity and smooth tannins balanced by a great softness. The finish is long with notes of cloves.

San Lorenzo was the worthy end to the beautiful tasting of artisanal wines and a unique experience in a magical place, with a cellar dug into tuff, in the middle of the vineyards among medieval villages.

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Wine Lover, Sommelier AIS and Marketing Expert

Previously, the wine was white or red for me, sometimes it was the middle ground, sometimes it had bubbles, or it was sweet. Then I started this journey in the knowledge of wine, with its many expressions, types, and the countless territories perfect for growing vines.
I met some wonderful people, with whom it is always possible to be amazed and often excited, while tasting a glass of wine.

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