Ampeleia - Cabernet Franc 2017

We drink a bottle of Cabernet Franc 2017 from the Ampeleia winery in Tuscany.

After what felt like a million tasting glasses full (or rather almost empty, depending on the tasting sip) of Riesling last week, the return to the small series of wines from Italy is a welcome change. Unlike the last wines in this series, this time I even know the grape variety. Namely, there is Cabernet Franc from Tuscany. Elisabetta Foradori, that’s right, the Elisabetta Foradori from the first wine of the series, found the Maremma environment so beautiful that she bought an estate here in 2002 with investor friends and founded the Ampeleia winery. Incidentally, this was also new info for me and the Foradori-heavy selection happened rather unplanned. I just had a craving for Cabernet Franc. Marco Tait is responsible for the winery’s cellar. He knew the Foradori winery from an internship during his studies and basically jumped into the deep end with Ampeleia pretty much immediately after his education. The fact that he is still there shows that it must have been a good decision. But there are also quite a few parallels between the two estates. The vines are farmed biodynamically and there is other agriculture going on around the vines. So there is also animal husbandry and olive groves, for example. The vineyards for the Cabernet Franc are relatively high at about 500 meters above sea level around the winery on limestone and clay soils. The grapes are harvested by hand and aged in concrete tanks before being filled without filtering.

There is a lot of spice and earthiness in the wine, which together with a portion of fruit and a bit of scrub ensure that there is really something going on in the nose. Sometimes you wonder where the fruit has disappeared to, because so much herbaceous spice has spread, only to wonder a few moments later where all the cherry suddenly came from. The only thing I can’t find right now is the green bell bell pepper so often found in Cabernet Franc. When drinking, this is enormously juicy and the tannin has casually defied the few years on the bottle. There’s a surprising amount of fur on the tongue, not scratchy, but it does pack a punch. This is exactly what you need after a week of Riesling. That slightly rustic elegance, that bit of scrub, that bit of unadjusted attitude and at the same time it being very elegant. Never fat, never overbearing, simply great. With more air, a bit of rose and lilac comes into the nose and then you have such a complex mix of things you think you recognize that you don’t even know how it’s all supposed to fit in your own nose.

The next evening it continues in exactly the same way. At the beginning, it is a bit too cold and then relatively closed because of that. Too cold is with wine but the easiest problem to solve and so it really opens up again after a few moments. And that’s when a bit of green bell pepper came in. The tannin still has no desire to play charmer, but together with the cool freshness and cherry fruit it offers a perfect blend. As mentioned, slightly rustic elegance. This drinks really nice, but I think I need to buy another bottle of this to have tasted this really young as well. It honestly doesn’t seem like much has happened in terms of maturity. And just as exciting would be the other direction on the timeline, where that will go with another 5-6 years on the hump. Unfortunately, as always with wine, and with everything else too, more time just takes more time and for the moment this one was the only bottle in my possession anyway. For a tiny window into the future, however, I do leave a little left in the bottle for a final reunion on the third evening.

And indeed, the tannin has softened considerably, but at the same time it has lost none of its lovely cherry fruit. It’s different, but no less beautiful. I don’t think you make a mistake forgetting this for 10 years, and you make just as little mistake opening the wine as it is now after fewer years. Whether it’s a mistake to open this very fresh, I’m yet to find out. But that will be another story. Here and now I am very happy with this bottle.

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