From the Cellar: Caiarossa, a New Wine in an Old Country

The Tuscan winery makes new waves in the wine world

Oh, to be a new winery in an old country — well-funded and with the ability to blend, as you like, the best of new and old in a classic setting.

The 15-year-old Caiarossa estate is located in the Maremma coastal area of Tuscany, a place that was "re-discovered" over the past 30 years or so when many of the super-Tuscan producers, who dared use French grapes along with the traditional sangiovese, located here.

Caiarossa is not housed in an ancient castle or monastery but in a muted-red, barn-like, modern structure designed by Michael Bolle. Its plantings are primarily 11 varieties, mostly French. Its methods in the vineyard and cellar are old — but not old with local know-how and certainly not peasant rustic. Caiarossa reached to Austria for its biodynamic growing regimen — down to bio’s famous buried cow’s horn — and to China for the feng shui design of the winery itself, albeit the gravity-fed nature of it could be local.

Finally, it is owned by a Dutch entrepreneur, Eric Albada Jelgersma, who also happens to own two well-respected Bordeaux châteaux — Giscours and du Tertre.

I recently tasted a vertical of six vintages (2004-2009) of its primary red blend, simply called "Cairossa," and two of its second label, a sangiovese-dominated wine called "Pergolaia."

With a young winery, vertical tastings are particularly interesting because they hint at a direction that the wine is taking more than where it’s been. Like most bio wines (whatever their specific processes), there tends to be in each Caiarossa vintage more savory notes than are present in fruit-driven "modern" wines. And like so many oxygen-starved or reductive wines, the Caiarossa needs to be aired out or decanted before drinking — sort of like opening the windows and removing the furniture covers in a beautiful sun-lit salon that has been closed during the winter.

That said, the older wines, while delicious, tended to lean heavier toward the savory, especially the 2005 and the 2007, both of which emphasized forest floor fragrances, mushrooms, anise, dusty chocolate. The 2008, while still very closed, seemed to have a slightly better fruit balance. The 2009 Caiarossa — the current vintage you will be able to buy for about $65 per bottle — is even fruitier, although some of that can be expected in a younger wine. It has a mixture of very vibrant, somewhat-spicy dark cherries with a slight undertone of balsamic tanginess — very complex and quite good.

Like the 2007 Caiarossa, the 2007 Pergolaia also is quite savory and a little pungent, whereas the 2008 Pergolaia (about $27) showed more promise — dark cherry fruit rising above a very-lean, sangiovese citric, dusty-tannic structure with a nice touch of closing bitters. It’s an ideal food wine.

Then there is the white wine — the 2010 Caiarossa Toscano bianco ($45), a rare 50/50 blend of viognier and chardonnay, not always an auspicious pairing.

But here is works — almost-buttery, mellow-apple flavors with a good balance and somewhere between a southern Rhone white and a Napa chard, very-interesting and food-friendly.

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For Caiarossa, it’s been 15 years well-spent.