A Tuscan Icon – Petrolo Galatrona: 1998-2012
D’AGATA | SEPTEMBER 6, 2016
Galatrona is one of Italy’s most famous and
best Merlots. In fact, with few exceptions, it is Italy’s Merlots that have
reached the highest pinnacles of quality amongst wines made with international
grapes. Clearly, no international grape variety in Italy can boast four
monovariety wines of the caliber of Masseto, L’Apparita, Redigaffi and Messorio.
Galatrona, from the picturesque Fattoria di Petrolo estate, located just
outside the Chianti Classico zone near Montevarchi, is right up there with the
best of them in most vintages.
The Galatrona vineyard
At Petrolo, owner Luca Sanjust has always
surrounded himself with some of Italy’s brightest wine minds. Giulio Gambelli,
one of the all time greatest Sangiovese experts, was the first to realize that
the clay rich soils in the lower parts of the estate were better suited to
other varieties, Merlot first and foremost among them. Merlot was first planted
in 1990 initially for Petrolo’s Sangiovese-based Torrione. Enter Denis Durantou,
the ultra-talented owner of Château L’Eglise-Clinet in Pomerol (and other high quality
properties), who over the years has become a good friend of Sanjust’s. Durantou
believed that making a great Merlot was highly likely in Petrolo’s soils, and so
the Merlot, originally destined to be a blender, got the chance to shine on its
own. And shine it has.
Petrolo's vines with the Petrolo tower in the background
While Galatrona bears the virtually unknown
Valdarno di Sopra DOC on its label, an ancestor of that denominazione, was long associated with high quality wines. In
fact, back in 1716, Archduke Cosimo III Medici passed a famous edict in which
the four best wine production areas of Tuscany were clearly identified; Valdarno
di Sopra was one of the four (Carmignano, the central part of Chianti and Rúfina/Pomino
were the other three). In 1834, a well known viticulture expert of the time,
Giorgio Perrin, documented that the area where Petrolo’s vines grow was always
renowned for high quality Sangiovese and for uve francesi (“French grapes”), the latter of which had apparently
long been cultivated there by the locals.
Galatrona (the name is that of the medieval
tower situated at the top of a high hill on the estate, roughly 550 meters (1,804
feet) above sea level, most likely derives from an ancient Etruscan word) is
made from the eponymous single vineyard planted in 1990. Originally one and a
half hectares large, the Galatrona vineyard is now roughly ten hectares. The
first vintage of Galatrona was 1994. Yields are famously low (roughly 500g - slightly
more then 1 pound - per vine) making for an exceptionally concentrated wine,
but one that usually manages the neat trick of staying light on its feet and
refined at the same time, and that has a striking savory quality. Winemaking is
similar to that of many of the world’s great red wines, with maceration on the
skins that usually lasts slightly over two weeks with careful pumping overs.
Malolactic transformation takes place in new French oak barriques where the
wine ages for approximately 18 months (the first 6 months on the fine lees).
Annual production averages around 20,000 bottles, only 5% of which are sold in
Italy (Galatrona is a huge favorite in Petrolo’s export markets). With the 2013
vintage, Sanjust’s willingness to experiment and try new things has transpired
in the production of a Galatrona aged in amphora, repeating the experiment
already performed with his 100% Sangiovese Boggina. Current plans call for the
amphora-Galatrona to be made in small volumes only.
But whether it’s aged in amphora or not, I
suspect that when it comes to getting the best possible wine in every bottle
sporting the Galatrona label, all of us can rest easily. After all, Luca
Sanjust likes to say that “…in the end, all my job really amounts to is leaving
this gorgeous piece of Tuscany I have been fortunate enough to farm over the
years in even better shape than when I first started out”. With that sort of
passion and commitment, Galatrona is destined to remain the bright star that it
already is for many years to come.
See all the wines from youngest to oldest
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