Lupicaia, Castello del Terriccio, 2005

Castello del Terriccio is located in the heart of Maremma, near Pisa, not too far from Mar Tirreno. The estate was founded a few centuries ago, but the vineyards have been planted only in the late 80s.

The location of the land and the wisdom behind the choice of where to plant the vines ensures that there is a perfect balance between exposure to light and breeze from the sea. A peculiarity is that, at sunset, the vines are exposed to the light reflected by the sea, which acts as a mirror, extending the duration of the daily exposure.

The land is filled with copper and iron, with the right mix of sand and clay, and this is one of the reasons why the wines made here are so beautifully complex and bold.

Dr. Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana, founder and owner of this winery, has chosen the name Lupicaia as a blend of two concepts, the same way he blends grapes and varietals to create his impressive wines. The suffix is easy to spot, -aia, it was a wise move, or a cheap shot, depending on how you see it, as that suffix is clearly there to help the wine benefit from the success of the more famous Sassicaia and Ornellaia. The prefix however, is very specific to the land where these grapes are grown. “Lupo” means wolf in Italian and Dr. Rossi chose this term because his land, in the past, used to home several wolf packs and the slopes where the vines are today where their favourite hunting spots, in that they could surprise their victims with a jump from above.

You have to appreciate the majesty of this blend, a piece of real history, very connected to the land, with a marketing finale to help the wine rise to the level of the more famous cousins. Some have criticised the winery for this, some appreciate the wit. My best advice would be to try the wine and decide if it’s worth the -aia suffix or not.

The first vintages of their flagship wine, Lupicaia, were a bit more ambitious and daring, it was a pure cabernet sauvignon (sometimes with drops of cabernet franc) aged in new oak, delivering quite unpredictable but astonishing results. When a winery makes a wine like this, they are most likely facing a future with limited sales as wines with character tend to split the market in lovers (a few) and haters (the majority, as they are used to more conventional approaches). This is why Castello del Terriccio decided to make this wine more appealing to a broader audience and, starting 1995, they added Merlot, essentially creating a Bordeaux blend. This move makes the wine less specific, but definitely more approachable by lots of wine lovers who have tried (and might be used to) wines from France. A move like this is risky because, while it’s true that a bordolese blend appeals a broader audience, it’s also true that for many it is easy to compare with a wine from that region, and hence it is more difficult to stand out. Luckily, oenologist Carlo Ferrini could achieve levels of excellence in this quest, creating a wine that, compared to his north-of-the-Alpes cousins, is standing its ground and would not give up easily in a blind tasting.

This 2005 is the perfect companion for grilled meat or mushroom risotto. If you can pace yourself and take it to the dessert, it will pair excellently with chocolate and aged cheeses.

The nose presents notes of plums, cassis, blackberry, herbs, licorice, mint, sage, the cabernet sauvignon earthy notes are distinct with dried leaves, violets, wet soil. These are the smells of autumn, if you happen to like this season, and it’s amazing variety of foods, then this wine is a perfect companion.

Palate is powerful, fierce, bold. Dark fruits and oak components blend perfectly, making a first impression of toasted notes and mediterranean spices, followed by wild fruits jam. Finale is long and persistent

I would recommend 1h decanting, as I always say, if you have the discipline not to drink it, you should serve it after 30 minutes and leave it on the table, checking how it evolves over your meal.

If you want to tease a friend of your who likes Bordeaux wines, give him a blind tasting of this and have fun hearing him guess whether it’s left bank or right, or perhaps mentioning some Chateau whose name typically makes the bottle cost twice as much as this one.

You can find this wine here: