Wednesday Wines – Episode 170 – Ultima Pietra First Taste

 

It was a great privilege to taste the ultra-rare wines from Ultima Pietro this week. This is only the second vintage release of these high-altitude Tuscan wines, and with fewer than 9000 bottles made over the three labels, they are likely to be snapped up. It is always exciting to have a sneak preview of new wines, and it is patently clear that there is staggering potential here. Standing on the precipice of greatness, with the highest standards and a no-compromise attitude Ultima Pietra is set for stardom. I am already confident about putting these wines alongside established ‘Super-Tuscans’, and to think this has been achieved in just two vintages is impressive.  They are coming to the UK soon and guide pricing is noted below.

Here is some blurb from Ultima Pietra about this sky-rocketing estate – 

Located in the heart of Southern Tuscany, just outside the charming hilltop hamlet of Trequanda, with views of Siena to the North and Montalcino to the West, Ultima Pietra is the ridge where two geographical and geological formations collide, creating a patchwork, complex ancient terroir. With a 500m altitude, the site has a constant breeze and an enviable diurnal temperature range.

In these parts, woodland, wild shrubs, wheatfields, olive groves and vineyards live in harmony, creating a timeless landscape, but unlike neighbouring regions, this is not a site for Sangiovese. At Ultima Pietra Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon are better suited, producing beautiful wines that express their origin.

The land was acquired by Margot Stone Bowen and her family in 2015. Back then, there were just wheatfields and a century-old olive grove. It required a deep commitment to restore and nurture the land using organic farming and biodynamic principles, and a 3.2-hectare vineyard was established. Teeming with biodiversity, this estate is coming alive, and despite the young age of the vines, the trio of wines made here is truly remarkable.

2021 Ultima Pietra Chardonnay £80

Coming from a single parcel of 1,720 vines exposed North/North-West, the grapes were picked in a nocturnal harvest on 2nd September. Partial skin maceration for 24hrs was followed by fermentation in stainless steel and then nine months on its lees in 2nd and 3rd passage barriques with batonnage. The 2021 was an 1834 bottle production. With a dynamic acid line running the length of the flavour, this is a taut, citrus and lemongrass-themed wine with discreet oak detail. Unlike the richer, heavier Chardonnays in the region, this wine is tense, refined, and mineral-soaked, reflecting its unique origins.

2020 Ultima Pietra Rosso £80

Made from 43% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from South facing vineyards including 7,300 vines of Merlot, 5,150 vines of Cabernet Franc and 2,200 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was harvested between the 19th – 29th of September and fermented in oak casks for 18-20 days, with pump-overs and delestage. It was aged for 18 months in oak, followed by six months in concrete. 4360 bottles were bottled on 9th September 2022. With a Right Bank Bordeaux recipe, you might imagine this is a full-flavoured, sun-soaked, Tuscan red with lashings of oak, but no. Instead, the high-altitude setting brings grip and control, and these traits straighten up the palate and bring length and restraint to proceedings. Classy, bright, layered and refined, this is a fascinating discovery.

2020 Ultima Pietra Merito Merlot £150

Merito is a limited release of the best single varietal of the vintage. In 2020 the star of the harvest was Merlot, so this release is 100% Merlot. It was harvested on 19th September and fermented in oak casks for 18-20 days with 20% whole bunch. It spent 27 months in Mittelberger oak, and 1596 bottles were bottled on 13th December 2022. This is a beautiful wine with the most restrained and fine-grained tannins I have ever seen in an Italian Merlot. Dark and luxurious but not heavy or oaky, freshness is balanced by flavour intensity, and the oak control is spot on. While it tastes luxurious and all-pervasive already, with perfectly integrated tannins, I cannot wait to taste it a couple of years down the track.