Wine is the product of a creative mind, they say, with each winemaker adding his personal artistic touch to the wine giving it a different taste or perception to the consumer. But Bibi Graetz wines are literally a true expression of an artist, considering that he is a painter from a family of artists, whose creative journey took him into the world of wines in 2000. Till then, the vineyard planted on his family estate Castello di Vincigliata, a castle in Fiesole, outside of Florence, produced only house wines.
For winemaker Graetz, wine is another art form, which he excelled in no time without any formal wine education. Says Graetz, “Initially I had a winemaker on board for three years. During that time, I learned everything about wine on my own. I have never opened a book of wine.” On being asked as to how he decided the flavour of his wines, he is quick to retort, “I don’t decide the flavour of the wines. The terroir determines that.” In 2003, his wine Testamatta was awarded Best Red Wine at the Bordeaux Vinexpo. Since then he has risen from artisan to cult winemaker and is considered one of Italy’s most ingenious and original winemakers.
Born and raised in Italy, Bibi uses only indigenous grapes to make his wines. He says, “I like to make wines using only local varieties such as Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino. I want to do something different with Tuscany grapes.” Most of the grapes used in Graetz’s wines are grown in vineyards in Fiesole, and Ansonica from the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast.
Along with the wines, Bibi has created beautiful art labels in the form of paintings, and given abstract yet unique names to his wines, such as “Testamatta,” or “crazy head,” Soffocone or “Suffocation,” (if you know Italian, you would understand why we can’t mention the literal translation) and “Casamatta,” or “crazy house.” For Graetz, the paintings on the label are an expression of the wine. He says, “The Soffocone label was the only one that was made before the wine was produced. Otherwise, first the wine is made and then the label is designed.”
Tasting Bibi Graetz
The four Bibi Graetz wines presented at the tasting, and making its foray into the Indian market, are:-
Casamatta Bianco 2011 : Made from 90% Vermentino and 10% Muscat grapes, this white wine is full bodied, soft-textured, and crisp, with good acidity and mouthfeel, and aromas of lemon and apple. Meant to be drunk young, this is an elegant quaffing wine that would also pair well with cheese, light salads or snacks. I feel this wine would also pair exceptionally well with seafood. Alcohol level is at 12%.
Casamatta Rosso 2011: Made from 100% Sangiovese, the Casamatta Rosso presents a very different side of this grape. This red wine has balanced acidity and is fruit forward with flavours of plum and cherry, with a slight hint of spice. The tannins are light that enable one to enjoy it with red meats and perhaps even a spicy Indian dish! The alcohol level is at 12.5%.
Soffocone Di Vincigliata 2009 : Made from a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo, and 3% Colorino, this Bibi Graetz creation is an elegant wine from the beginning to the end of its journey on the palate, with its tannins emerging only towards the end. With a deep ruby red colour, and good acidity, this wine emitted flavours of red fruit, leather, vanilla, and subtle oak. It would pair well with flavoured white meats (especially Mexican food), Indian masala dishes, and anything made on the Tandoor! The alcohol level is 14%.
Testamatta 2009 : This is Bibi Graetz’s flagship wine produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes. This wine is deep red in colour and creamy in texture, with aromas of red fruit and chocolate. A rich, elegant, and powerful wine, Testamatta is intense, gorgeous, with good tannins, and would pair well with red meats, spicy Italian food and perhaps even a mutton curry! The alcohol level is 14%.
Each of these exceptionally high quality wines is handcrafted right from the vine to the bottle. Graetz explains, “All work done on the vineyards is manual. All the shoots are chosen, and we limit the amount of shoots per plant so that each one has its own balance of sun and shadow.”
Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park, the importer of these wines, has an interesting story to tell on what prompted him to bring these wines to India. He says, “I got fascinated by wines from Bibi because of the labels and the look of the wine bottle. I then tasted the wines and found them to be superb. I met Bibi in Florence and we hit it off right away! He was very interested in the Indian market and I invited him to come before 2013. He has kept his promise!”
Judging from the so far encouraging response to these wines, Kadakia is confident that they have a long-term future in India despite the wide array of Italian wines already present here. He explains, “They stand out - not only in terms of looks - but also quality. In addition, being available as wine by the glass, many will get to try these wines and once they have tried it, they will surely upgrade to Soffocone and Testamatta.”
The Casamatta are available at Rs. 2200 a bottle, while the Soffocone and Testamatta are priced at Rs. 6,500 and Rs. 17,000 respectively. Considering their handmade quality coupled with a unique artistic touch, these highly-rated wines the world over are well worth their price in India! Kudos to Bibi Graetz for introducing us to a different wine style marked by elegance and a polished finish bottle that resembles a sleek sculpture!
Meeting this acclaimed winemaker Bibi Graetz on behalf of delWine and tasting his iconic wines, was nothing short of a fabulous experience!
Rishi Vohra CSW
Rishi Vohra is the Mumbai Correspondent of delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators - USA. He has done an MBA in Sustainable Business from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law from WWF-India. His debut fiction novel, ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai,’ was released recently in bookstores and is already a bestseller.