• Simon Reilly

The wonderful wines of Fabbrica Di San Martino

I sneaked out of the office early yesterday to attend the 6th Vaults Tasting at the Winemakers Club in Farringdon. I say sneaked out, but given I resigned last week I didn’t put much effort into the sneaking. I just left.

Sadly the new job is not in the wine trade. On the basis that I have earned £510 from wine writing in the 15 months since I started Wineloon, I have decided the economics don’t quite stack up. On the plus side, it does mean I get invited to trade events such as the Vaults tasting.

I could write a long blog post about the fantastic array of wines on show, but the truth is it was very busy and I only had a little over an hour there so I only made it to the tables of Otros Vinos (check out their Verdevique 2014, a blend of Tempranillo/Garnacha from Granada, its freakin' amazing), Wines Under the Bonnet (2NatureKinder's 2016's are incoming and based on the Fledermaus I tasted last night they are going to knock the brilliant 2015s out of the park - stay tuned) and Tutto (their flavour-packed 2014 Valfaccenda Roero Nebbiolo was probably my wine of the day).

I only made it to 3 from the 9 merchants showing their wares. Those are not good numbers, I admit, but what else can you expect from a part-timer?

On reading the full Vaults listing list on the train on the way home I did wish I had stuck it out longer as there were some fantastic looking wines from the other merchants. I particularly regret not trying the Filipa Pato Baga that Clark Foyster were showing, the Domain Bobinet Saumur Champignys that Gergovie were showing, pretty much all the Spanish wines Carte Blanche were showing, the Jura delights Vine Trail were showing, the Ziereisen Syrah from Baden that Howard Ripley were showing and the surely wonderful Meinklang that Winemakers Club were showing.

If, on reading this list of enticing treats I didn’t get round to tasting, you are asking yourself “why am I reading this shit blog about wines he couldn’t be arsed tasting” (and I wouldn’t blame you) then get yourself over to David Crossley’s WideWorldofWine where there will be a much better, more detailed account of the wines on show that day.

For those of you still reading, I am going to talk about the wines of one man, and one man only. The charming Giuseppe Ferrua, winemaker at Fabbrica Di San Martino in Tuscany for the last 20 odd years. Giuseppe was showing his wines with Tutto (his UK importer for the last 3 years) at the Vaults and he kindly talked me through his wines.

Here is Giuseppe at the Vaults:

Giuseppe married well. His wife’s family have owned the property for years. The property itself has only changed hands once in its 300 year history. Of the 20ha estate, only 2.5ha are laid to vine. The rest is other crops you’d expect in Tuscany; olives, honey, fruit. They also have a thriving Agri-tourism business.

Giuseppe started as winemaker in 1995, by 1998 the estate was certified organic and in 2002 he started dabbling in biodynamics. The dabbling became habitual and he was certified biodynamic in 2008. Biodynamics still sound like voodoo shit to me, but you can’t argue with the results. He tries to intervene as little as possible through the wine-making process and uses very little sulphur, just a snifter during bottling.

I tasted four wines and I was very impressed by the quality and character of the wines across the board. All the wines were made from local grapes (OK, the whites are local-ish). They were all blended wines, which gave them that complexity and excitement I think you only get with blends of indigenous grapes. That sensation of not quite being able to decipher what all the flavours are running across your palate but you know you like them. Your eyes bulge and you smile.

Here are my thoughts on the wines:

Fabbrica di San Martino, Bianco, Colline Lucchesi, Toscana, 2015 – a blend of Vermentino, Malvasia and Trebbiano. This had one day of maceration, then 6 months in small, old, oak barrels, 6 months in steel tanks and then 6 months in bottle before release. Really dark gold, almost orange in colour. Delicious honeyed stone fruits, with vanilla in the background and a great mouth-filling texture. It tastes like tinned peaches and custard yet has the acidity on the finish to give real balance. Giuseppe told me he recently had a bottle of the 2007, which he said looked orange like a Slovenian amphorae wine but tasted absolutely delicious, so this stuff can age. A really exciting wine.

Fabbrica di San Martino, Arcipressi, Colline Lucchesi, Toscana, 2015 – a field blend of 18 varieties from seventy year-old vines, this sees no oak. Really delicious berry fruit but just a little full just now, due to the warm vintage and needs time to settle down. This has lots of promise though.

Fabbrica di San Martino, Tosca, Colline Lucchesi, Toscana, 2014 – 70% Sangiovese and the rest a blend of Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo and Colorino. Really delicious red berry fruit, this is lighter than the Arcipressi and remarkably fresh on the finish.

Fabbrica di San Martino, Rosso, Colline Lucchesi, Toscana, 2013 – the most prized wine of the four, this was more serious. It had delicious cherry sweetness and was so complete and seamless from the front palate to the long fresh and balanced finish.

The Rosso has the same mix of varieties as the Tosca. Giuseppe tells me this is traditional in Tuscany as Sangiovese is a very late ripening grape, not normally picked until October. By this time of year the weather can turn quickly and damage the crop of Sangiovese, so to ensure that growers get a decent crop every year they have traditionally planted a blend of earlier ripening local varieties as well so that all their eggs are not in one basket.

The same approach is used in Chianti, where to Giuseppe’s despair, they also use international varieties. “I don’t know why people plant Merlot in Tuscany, I hate Merlot, I’d never use Merlot in my wines”.

I’m not sure if he’s seen Sideways or not, but happily it didn’t matter, as I managed restrain myself from doing my Miles impression…

If you want to try Giuseppe’s wines, and I suggest you do, they are available in the UK from Tutto Wines.