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Delhi Wine Club
Argentiera: Fruit of Passion for Fratini Fratelli

Posted: Wednesday, 26 March 2014 18:20

Argentiera: Fruit of Passion for Fratini Fratelli

Mar 26: During one of the dinners at the World Wine Symposium last year at Villa d’Este, I was so impressed by two wines- Argentiera DOC Bolgheri Superiore and Giorgio Bartholomaus IGT (100% Merlot) from Argentiera Estate in Donoratico near Bolgheri in the Tuscan Maremma that I went to congratulate Marcello Fratini who gracefully invited me to the estate, writes Subhash Arora who accepted the invite and visited this new generation winery last month

Click For Large ViewI didn’t know at time that Marcello Fratini was not the sole owner but partnered with his elder brother Corrado who jointly owned the estate which was founded in 2000 by them in partnership with Antinori as equal partner and then bought out his share in 2006. I got the opportunity to meet Marcello at the winery last month on my way back to Florence after visiting ‘Benvenuto Brunello’, my annual pilgrimage to the 2-day Anteprima event that showcased Brunello di Montalcino ‘09 this year.

Driving through the gates, one drives what seems to be several miles on the rough road before really catching the beautiful wine estate perched atop a flattened piece of land on the hilly patch surrounded by vineyards with the sea barely 2 kms away and the hills adding to the fabulous view. I learnt only later that Argentiera is known for its luxury wines and is a member of the Opera Wine- an Association of premier Italian wineries of the status of Sassicaia Gaja, Ornellaia and Antinori.

Mall Developers and Builders

You need to be a billionaire to make millions in the wine business is the cliché. Here were two such appassionatos- Corrado and Marcello Fratini. Corrado is the elder brother and passionate about wines. They are together in every business, says Marcello and so the two got into wine business in 1999 with the objective of making top-ended wines in Maremma, known for iconic wines like Sassicaia and Ornellaia-even Gaja’s Ca’marcanda is in the neighbouring town of Castagneto- Carducci.

From what I could gather during my chat with Marcello, the brothers have been very successful  Mall developers and builders who developed 5 Outlet Malls in different parts of Italy-like Liguria, Barberino Outlets near Florence, Castel Romano near Rome, Noventa di Piave Designer Outlet near Venice and Napoli in collaboration with McArthur Glen Group. During the recent years they have expanded to China where they have set foot in Beijing, Shanghai and are scouting around in yet another city. Even the top hotel of Florence, Four Seasons had been built by the fratelli (brothers)  and for 6 years it had been their property until they sold it off to the Amir of Qatar. They still own two more hotels in Tuscan mountains, a special business in Abetone Ski Resort near the Tuscan and Emilia Romagna border in Pistoia where they own 65% of the pistes run by a Consortium of property developers.

Their background as developers has helped them design a beautiful winery built in 2005 with cost as no consideration. The stat-of-the art winery using gravitation method has seen antique floor and wall tiles on the exterior brought in from all parts of Italy. The cost of €18 million does not faze Marcello who spends considerable time at the winery which he says is for future generations.

Walk on the vine site

Click For Large ViewLocated on the Southern most side of the town of Bolgheri in Maremma the vineyards are located at a high point 150-200 m high. ‘In same vineyard soil can change at 2 to 3 places with clay and sandy soils,’ explains Federico Zileri Dal Verme, Managing Director of Argentiera who takes me around the vineyards and winery.. A passionate viticulturist and enologist by training, Federico has been with the company since the beginning. ‘For Bolgheri it is the highest point for a vineyard. There is a big difference of temperature- 3 to 4°C from the level of the sea with each 100 feet brining in temperature difference of 1°C, according to his reckoning.

Direction of vineyard is not important at this location. With leafy greens all over, ‘this is really a Terroir project. Personality of wines comes from soil and the local weather we have. Bolgheri has a hill range -the Colline Metallifere ( it was beautiful looking at it) which provides a unique micro climate to the vines. I can say now after 10 years of experience here that we make wine with freshness, elegance and minerality because of calcium present here,’ says Federico.

‘Minerality is there but the tannins are soft and not aggressive. To preserve the fruit, we grow 20-25 parcels individually and ferment each lot separately. To make great wine we need time and experience. We know the potential of the special vineyards but it does not mean out other vineyards won’t reach the top in a few years in future,’ explains Federico while conceding that in Bolgheri they are always in a hurry to bottle and bring out the wine because they have to present the wines for the Wine Guide. ‘It would be better if we tasted them a year later,’ he feels.

Helping hand from Derenoncourt

Click For Large ViewMarcello tells me during the exclusive tasting with him that they add 20% new barriques from Bordeaux and Burgundy every year but says that the top wines of the estate do not necessarily use the new barriques. ‘Our wines are not like Barolos where the tannins are tough and lot of clay in the soil and you need a lot of oak to soften them. Our wines are soft and already drinkable but will age for a long time too. 

Stephane Derenoncourt has been giving Argentiera a helping hand as a consultant winemaker. ‘I also have support of Derenoncourt who has been officially our consultant from the beginning. Of course now he is more famous. His assistant Julien Lavenu works with us on a regular basis whereas Stephane comes 6 times a year. He follows us and La Massa winery in Chianti Classico.’ Incidentally, Stephane has been consulting with Alpine Winery in Karnataka too, since inception.

International Grapes

As is predominant in this area, the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the most common varieties grown; Syrah has been added in small quantity as well but Sangiovese crop is negligible at 2%. Not many producers make 100% varietals in this area. Le Macchiole Estate, for instance is the only one who makes 100% Syrah in Bolgheri. I did not interrupt Federico totell him that that Masseto from Ornellaia was a superb quality iconic wine too and was 100% Merlot.

‘Villa Donoratico’ is the most popular label of Argentiera and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – an excellent value for money fine wine of which about 150,000 bottles are made each year.  ‘Argentiera’ is a doc Bolgheri Superiore wine- a Bordeaux blend of equal proportion of Cabernet and Merlot with about 10% of Cabernet Franc. 60,000 bottles out of a total current production of 450,000 bottles makes it a prestigious mid-level wine. The entry level wine ‘Poggio Ai Ginepri’ is a Rosso di Bolgheri and has Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah instead-a good value for money wine.

Pride of the estate and the top wines are mono-varietal Crus- 100% varietals made in three variants –Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Grapes from 20-25 parcels are vinified individually and matured for 12-20 months in wood before deciding on the blend. Marcello says they pay a lot of attention to the oak and working with 4-5 cooperages (oak barrel makers). ’There are many variables and we learn from experience only to decide which is suitable for which varietals’, he says modestly..

Click For Large ViewGiorgio Bartholomäus, the 100% Merlot that I had loved in Villa d’Este and attracted me to Tenuta Argentiera is the result of a careful selection of Merlot grapes grown on a plateau at 200 meters above sea level. It is one of the few mono-varieties produced in the Bolgheri area. The aging and the particular organoleptic qualities, have given rise to an elegant wine with great personality, broad, deep and intense to the palate.

Located at a distance of around 100 km from Florence, Argentiera is truly a new-generation project with most of the winery being underground. It is considered one of the biggest projects in Bolgheri for this kind of location, says Federico.

Marcello seemed very happy with his maiden presence at the World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este last November along with Federico and is confident to take part in the Symposium once again-it is implicit that he will bring a couple of other Gran Cru wines. One would have another opportunity to taste his delicious luxury Crus once again in the beautiful surrounds of the luxury hotel.

Subhash Arora




Susan C Says:

Subhash is correct when she says Bolgheri is in Maremma. La Maremma includes both the southern Grosseto area and northern Livorno area.

Posted @ June 21, 2014 11:55


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks Patrizia for your comments and also driving me to the estate. With such short time on hand, a few inaccuracies do crop up and we gladly correct them through the Comment-we do not change the text after publication. Nobody in the winery told me about Antinori connection and the year was through my research later- I feel it is an important fact that should be mentioned as a journalist. I thought the Crus were the top and most prestigious wines of the estate-they were twice as expensive as the Bolgheri Superiore Doc wines anyway. And yes, by underground winery I did mean the cellar. I hope there are no factual errors now. Subhash

Posted @ March 28, 2014 17:32


Patrizia Cantini Says:

Dear Subhash, The winery was founded in 1999 and not in 2000, and the connection with Antinori went on till 2008 and not 2006. The winery is not in Maremma but the south of Bolgheri which is in the province of Livorno. When you write about Derenoncourt, I hope you remember that they told you that the top wines do not necessarily use 100% new barriques. Another important thing about Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc being the varieties used is that the Bolgheri DOC Appellation rules allow the use of only these varieties. Villa Donoratico is produced mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and just a little part of Merlot. Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superiore is the flagship wine of the winery and is exactly as Sassicaia and Ornellaia. As you write, the entry level wine is Poggio ai Ginepri, the mid level is Villa Donoratico and the top level is Argentiera. Talking about the Crus , they stay in barrique 20 months and not 12-20 months. And the last thing: what do you mean for "most of the winey is underground"? The cellar . Regards, Patrizia Cantini

Posted @ March 28, 2014 10:05


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