panorama  › Wine 24

Colombaia rosé: emancipating Sangiovese from its dark side

by Claudio Celio

The first time you see the winery, you can’t help but be swept off your feet by the beauty of the vineyards and location. Colombaia – where Helena and Dante chose to make their wine – is at Colle Val d’Elsa, a little on the margins of Tuscany’s classic winemaking sites, quite close to San Gimignano and to the heart of Chianti Classico as well.

A stone house is surrounded by four hectares under vine, which Helena and Dante have tended biodynamically for over ten years now, solely cultivating native varieties (Sangiovese for the reds, Trebbiano and Malvasia for the whites) and never looking up from the vineyard save to admire a view so breathtaking you’d take it for a Leonardo da Vinci canvas.

The terrain is clayey, rich in shell fossils; vines are mostly old – planted some 40 years ago.

In the winery, vinification is based on natural criteria: fermentation is spontaneous, using the indigenous yeasts naturally present in the bunches; any kind of manipulation of the wine is avoided, therefore no clarification, filtering or stabilization.

Of all Helena and Dante’s many good wines, I’ve always had a weak spot for their fizzy ones, particularly their fizzy rosé, Ancestrale. Unlike the Metodo Classico spumantes, this wine’s perlage is the outcome of just one natural fermentation in the bottle, followed by painstaking remuage and manual dégorgement. The grapes are Sangiovese, with very brief skin contact after pressing so as to endow the must with its lovely rosy hue.

I tasted almost every vintage produced and found it equally appealing and satisfying year after year.

“The year 2015 was a very hot year in Tuscany, as in many parts of Italy,” Helena Variara tells me, which fractionally softened the wine’s acidity in favor of “greater fullness and maturity.”

Pouring the rosato into the glass, the rich froth straightaway brings in notes of yeast and bread crust before an underlying core of red floral aromas comes to the fore – roses and, with the [hotter] 2015 vintage, the slightly fleshier geranium.

As we mentioned, the palate in this 2015 version is rounder and more structured, rich and complete, with a slightly hot, feral nuance that gives depth and intensity to one’s tasting experience.

Colombaia’s fizzy rosé is a wine that manages to emancipate Sangiovese from the more austere side of its personality, offering a more laid-back and accessible version of the classic Tuscan. This rosé is very versatile with food. I personally like it quite cool, even with structured meat dishes.