Argentiera of Bolgheri

Bolgheri mapTenuta Argentiera lies in Tuscany’s Bolgheri zone, home to many of the original ‘super-Tuscans’. Vineyards cover 85 hectares of the estate. Bolgheri lies closer to the coast of Tyrrhenian Sea than Chianti Classico for example, but Argentiera also enjoys some of the highest vineyard elevations of the region, rising from 68 to 205 metres. That could never be described as ‘high altitude’, but summer temperatures in the highest vineyards are four degrees celcius cooler than those on the Bolgheri plains.

First planted in 1999 by the Fratini family and subsequently guided by Piero Antinori, in 2016 the estate was sold to Austrian-born businessman Stanislaus Turnauer. At the winemaking helm since 2009 (aided by Bordeaux super-consultant Stephane Derencourt) is Nicolò Carrera. Having graduated from Pisa university he has had an interesting career, making wine with Torbreck in Australia and Tuscan estate Tua Rita, but perhaps most pertinent here in Bolgheri where Bordeaux varieties reign supreme, with Margaux’s Château Palmer too.

The Land

As well as its elevated vineyards, Argentiera is one of the closest estates to the coast. Four separate vineyard plots represent different soil compositions and terroirs, from reddish sands at lower levels, through silt and clay, ascending to a limestone plateau. It’s a geological timeline from coast to mountain.

Vineyard map

Though a quarter of the estate’s vineyards are planted to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates. Nicolò stresses the importance of Merlot too, which thrives where it is planted on north-facing clay slopes. Smaller proportions of Petit Verdot and Syrah are grown, as well as Vermentino for white wines.

The Cellar

Built underground to take advantage of gravity rather than having to pump grapes, juice and wine, there are sorting tables for arriving fruit, and an array of cement and stainless steel fermentation vessels, as well as more experimental ‘eggs’. The barrel cellar contains 700 barriques and 220 500-litre tonneaux.

The Tasting

I recently had the opportunity to taste a selection of the tenuta’s wines along with Nicolò Carrera and General Manager Leonardo Raspini. The tasting included two vintages of the flagship Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore, composed mostly of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and matured in French oak barriques.

We also tasted the Villa Donoratico cuvée which is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and made in 500l oak tonneaux, and a sample of a new white wine, Scenario, from the 2022 vintage. All three vintages represented, 2020 – 2022 were dry with low rainfall, a trend Nicolò has noticed more and more over recent years.

The Wines

(2024) Quite a different blend from the Argentiera for this wine from the low-lying and sandy Villa Donoractico vineyard: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and there's 10% Petit Verdot too. Eighty percent was aged in 500-litre French and Austrian oak tonneaux, the remainder in French oak barriques. There's a plum and cedar, quite meaty nose here, subtle notes of clove spice. In the mouth sour cherry floods the palate along with dry, fine and sandy tannins. There is sweetness here, cassis-ripe plushness of juicy black fruit emerging, but very keen acidity, that grippy tannin and the plum-skin bite of extract coats the mouth. This would benefit from some time in the cellar I think, though it unfurls in the glass.
(2024) 48% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc, this spend around 16 months in 225-litre French oak barrels plus a year in bottle. The vintage was regular and dry, with any rain events well-timed for grape maturity. It's a sumptuous wine, the colour a little more developed and structure apparent in the 2021 vintage here subsumed under a cloak of velvetty fruit density and ripeness. Those classic cedar and nutmeg spice notes are still there, and the buoyant cherry fruit, but it is dark and plush on the palate, a cassis touch leading into firm, sandy tannins that themselves have a chocolaty texture and weight. Acid is balanced in a wine that is absolutely delicious now, for drinking while the 2021 comes together perhaps?
(2024) Of the two vintages tasted, Nicolò Carrera believes this is possibly the one that needs more patience. It certainly a classically-framed, structured wine, notes of cedar, game and a gravelly minerality give the aromas a certain density, with a rich and ripe red fruit pulp layer beneath. In the mouth that firmness suggested by the nose carries through. This is braced by tannins, but those tannins are fine and smooth, which along with a bittersweet chocolate and black cherry density of fruit, coats the mouth in a velvety but concentrated weight. This serious and structured wine does drink now, but I suspect Nicolò Carrera is right that it will show at its best given several years in the cellar. Price at time of review is for the previous vintage. Please use the wine-searcher link below for latest pricing and availability.
(2024) Nicolò Carrera describes this vintage as 'complicated' and very dry and hot, with almost no rain in July and August, but September was fine and really suited their white wine grapes. This new wines is a Vermentino designed to be fresh and drinkable, but also worthy of ageing. Made in a combination of ceramic eggs and barriques. Small, creamy and nutty notes over ripe yellow apples, some interesting perfumed highlights that are floral and herbal. There's a feeling of lime and Ogen melon skins too. Lovely texture. mouth-filling, with very good freshness, lots of lemon juice and orange brightness. Pre-release sample at time of review, only 3,000 bottles produced. Please use the wine-searcher link below for prices and availability.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *