By Sourish Bhattacharyya
THE WORDS ‘Sangiovese Bianco’ made me sit up and read the media release from Fratelli, a homegrown company with Italian ties and a wine portfolio that has found a growing band of loyal followers.
‘Sangiovese Bianco’, clearly, is an oxymoron. The name Sangiovese, which is used to describe the Italian workhorse grapes of a deep purple hue that are used to make Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscans and even the delicious dessert wine Vin Santo, is derived from the Latin root words sanguis and Jovis, which when combined mean ‘the blood of Jove’, the king of gods (or the Roman Indra). The name obviously has something to do with the colour of the deep red wine with hints of purple.
Now, isn’t making a white Sangiovese a waste of the grapes that go into it? The question comes immediately to one’s mind, especially after tasting the Sette 2010, an opulent blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, which has all the hallmarks of the genius of Piero Masi, Tuscany’s master winemaker. But when you know the wine is from Fratelli, with Masi’s stamp on it, you have to sit up and take notice.
Masi, after all, has 40 years of winemaking experience behind him and he has brought them bear on the 60,000 Sangiovese vines that are being nurtured in Fratelli’s vineyards at Akluj in Maharashtra’s Solapur district, 170km south of the prosperous western city of Pune. And Fratelli (www.fratelliwines.in) has successfully powered the Indian equivalent of the Cal-Ital movement, which is what Californian winemakers, many of whom are of Italian ancestry, flagged off when they started to experiment with Italian grape varieties, starting with Sangiovese.
All grape juice is white. It’s extended contact with grape skins that imparts colour to red wine; when this contact is controlled, the result is a rose or a blush wine. To produce Sangiovese Bianco, according to the Fratelli media release, an innovation has been put in place to rule out any contact between the juice and grape skins. The MRP for the wine is Rs 695 in Maharashtra and Rs 850 in Delhi.
Masi, unsurprisingly, is ecstatic. “Typically grown on sandy and rocky soils, the Sangiovese grapes are strategically planted to avoid overexposure to the sun,” he is quoted as saying in the media release. “Such practice imparts delicate yet refined aromas of coconut and bougainvilleas. On the palate, hints of vanilla and violets along with a light body characterise this rare white wine. Fratelli has truly created an exceptional wine.”
The tasting notes convey a similar upbeat sentiment. “Floral and apple notes,” the tasting notes read. “It’s acidic and fresh but has a smooth and creamy body. In the summer, it will taste great with grilled fish, seafood, chicken and greens or pasta salads. In the winter, it will taste amazing with a mixed green salad of romaine, arugula, herbs and gorgonzola cheese, as well as grilled fish, seafood and chicken.”
You need to be brave to produce a rarest of rare white wine. Fratelli has shown it has got that something that you must have to take the market by storm.