Discovering the Orcia DOC wines

During the event “Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Bianco delle Crete Senesi” in San Giovanni d’Asso, the Consortium of Orcia DOC organized a tasting of 10 Orcia DOC wines with the participation of Donatella Cinelli Colombini as the president of the Consortium, and as guide the international wine journalist Walter Speller. When I received the invitation to the event I immediately confirmed my participation, because even if I am living in Montalcino for some time, the Orcia DOC wines are still not very well known, because it’s a young denomination and, of course, the tasting of a Brunello di Montalcino or Nobile di Montepulciano are more often required during the wine tastings. But in my opinion, for those who love the territory of the Orcia Valley and love to visit this part of Tuscany, they should also know better the Orcia wines and its producers. 

The Orcia DOC wine denomination and its production zone 

To be honest with you, before the tasting I knew only a few wineries that produces the Orcia DOC, for example Podere Forte and Donatella Cinelli Colombini. In fact, I didn’t know that from the foundation in 2000 the Orcia DOC consists today in more than forty different wineries producing the Orcia DOC between the rolling hills in the southern part of Tuscany, more specifically in 13 different towns of the Orcia Valley: from Buonconvento to Pienza, from Castiglione d’Orcia to Trequanda, from Chianciano Terme to Torrita di Siena and so on. This production zone is characterized by family estates that try to cultivate their vines with the maximum of respect to the nature with its ancient soils and beautiful countryside. Moreover, this respect is combined to good competences in oenology and viticulture. During the tasting ten different wineries have been presented and what I mostly liked of the tasting was that Walter Speller tried to emphasize the importance of the meaning of the Orcia DOC for each producer and why it should be so important to appreciate and know this young denomination of the Orcia Valley and what we should expect for the future. 

The Orcia DOC wines and the tasting 

During the tasting, each producer was given 5 minutes to present his wines and the work in the winery. Of course, thanks to the guide of Speller, the passion and character of every single producer became well emphasized. At the beginning, he underlined that the Orcia DOC is still young and that just now the most part of the vineyards are entering in a mature age of production (average age of the vineyards is between 10-12 years). For this reason, in some wines there is still a lack of complexity, but in the next years, this complexity can be fulfilled, as the wines are showing strong potential. So, in the following part you will find a short list of the wines being tasted and at the end I will write you my summary about what the Orcia DOC is. 

This Orcia DOC wine is a 100 % Sangiovese and is produced in the zone between Montalcino and Torrenieri. The producer counts on a long maceration process together with the grape seeds and skins, this to obtain the maximum in color and tannin extraction. This means, the alcoholic content (14%) and the tannins are his allies, as he emphasizes, and are important for the conservation and longevity of their wines. In my opinion this wine is warm and still a bit young, because the tannins are still very strong, but I think after some more time of refinement in the bottle you should taste it and may-be you will be surprised of its potentiality. 

This company counts a lot about not using sulfites. Of course, this is a great challenge, but not impossible for a pure Sangiovese wine, as longevity is one of the typical characteristics of this grape variety. In the nose, this wine is fine fruity with fragrances of jam of red fruits, in the mouth you can find soft tannins, but with less persistence. 

I like the choice of Donatella to use for this DOC 65 % Sangiovese (60% is the minimum requested by the Consortium) and 35 % “Foglia Tonda”, an autochthon grape variety, also known as “urban” grape a lot, because many times ago it was often produced near the town Siena. For the maturation the estate uses tonneaux and small oak barrels which gives to the wine fragrances of fruit jam and a balsamic roundness, as well as a soft character in the mouth. It is a wine ready to drink now and characterizes very well the authenticity of these two Tuscan grape varieties. 

Also this wine estate has chosen to produce a 100% Sangiovese, which is cultivated at an altitude of 480m above sea level. The producer emphasizes that the vineyards are situated between the rivers Orcia and Asso and in this way the hills are well aerated. This aspect together with the altitude gives the wines its fresh character with a good acidity and fine balance. Moreover, the producer didn’t filter the wine to respect its natural characteristics. I think you can already drink it or simply let it refine in a bottle and enjoy a glass in another year. 

The disciplinary code of the DOC “Orcia Sangiovese” says that this wine has to consist of at least 90% of Sangiovese grape. For the remaining 10% the wine estate chooses Colorino and Malvasia Nero grapes. The soil, where the vines are growing is clayey and rich enough of shells with a good presence of potassium, iron and phosphor. Thanks to the rich soil and the quite rolling hills and altitude of 350m above sea level, as well as to the well balanced refinement in barriques and tonneaux, this wine presents a good complexity and harmonious structure. 

Also this winery decided to use the two autochthon grape varieties Sangiovese (70%) and “Foglia Tonda” (30%), because in the opinion of the producer “thanks to this choice we obtain real honest wines” Their vineyards are situated in Castiglione d’Orcia and are characterized by an evident freshness. For the refinement in oak, they prefer to use new barriques and some tonneaux, so we can find a lot of tertiary aromas, especially toasted wood, tobacco and a bit of leather. In the mouth I taste a good balance between tannins, acidity and salinity that confirms the characteristic of the territory of the Orcia Valley: “very diversified, but ventilated and fresh”, as the producer emphasizes. 

And finally we tasted also a wine of organic production. The Orcia Valley already presents a good standard of protection and respect to the nature, so that is why this winery chose to produce only organic wines. I think that in this Riserva we can find a very good complexity between fruity fragrances, as well as tertiary aromas, especially tobacco and chocolate. In the mouth you can feel a good freshness with a good degree of acidity and soft tannins. It is a harmonious wine and presents “our territory with our passion and hard work” excellently, as the producer says. 

In this wine we find an union between the two autochthon grape varieties: Sangiovese (90%) and Colorino (10%), which are cultivated at an altitude of 500m above sea, level. The producer started an interesting challenge, because he decided to cultivate the vineyards where there were never produced before. Moreover he choose the “albarello-sapling” as planting system, because he followed the recommendation of the old men of the village that said that this kind of planting system where used in this zone many times ago. The producer focuses a lot on the “tradition and passion for its vines, not only on technique”. For this reason we find a warm and strong wine, but in my opinion it is still to young to drink and there is a small lack of complexity. Considering his good acidity and persistent tannins, it should be tasted after two more years of bottle refinement and maybe you will discover the strong character of the wine and its producer better. 

This winery of Pienza has chosen to use the Sangiovese together with a bit of Canaiolo and Colorino grapes for its wine. It is one of the few wineries with older vineyards: they were planted in 1973 at an altitude of 450m above sea level. For the refinement in oak they use the traditional way, that means big oak barrels, which give fragrances of licorice and honey notes to the wine in the mouth. In the opinion of the producer “The Orcia DOC wine presents a great potentiality and a good possibility to choose between the diversified territory of the Orcia Valley the right soil to produce a great wine.“ 

The tasting finished with this pure Sangiovese wine and I think a better conclusion than with this wine wouldn’t have been possible. The wine is fresh, well fruity with a good balance and surprising clean note in the nose. In the mouth it is round, soft, elegant, but persistent. In my opinion, this characteristic is given - thanks to a good work and balance - in the winery, by a well-controlled maceration process and a refinement for 24 months in not to big oak barrels. I think that this wine represents the Orcia DOC as a good harmony between territory, the respect to the nature and its vineyards, as well as the accurate attention of the working processes in the winery very well. As the producer emphasizes, “This balance we can find in the freshness, the tannicity and in the acidity of the wine and of the Orcia DOC”. 

What is the Orcia DOC today? 

As I already hint before and as Walter Speller underlined, the Orcia DOC wines are still not perfect, because they are still evolving and need a little bit more of complexity. However, the producers are following a good approach and are working hard to let this DOC become the “Mirror of this territory”. 

At the beginning of the tasting, we received a brochure and followed the presentation of Donatella Cinelli Colombini with the title “Orcia, the most beautiful wine in the world” and this is what the Orcia DOC has to represent: It has the potentiality of the ancient soils, of the beauty of the Orcia Valley, but at the same time it can express the youth of the vineyards and the freshness of the vines thanks to the altitude they are cultivated in and to the good ventilation of the territory. Moreover, it can state well the strong and not easy character of the Sangiovese grape variety. At last, thanks to the union and collaboration of the producers they can underline the uniqueness of the territory and represent this by this new denomination. In this way the Orcia DOC does not mean that it is improving by the other famous wines, but thanks to its freshness and its young character it can give a new value to the territory. The Orcia Valley as a wonderful and open countryside, with its clear air and ventilated vineyards can only be represented in the best way by its own wines: the wines of the Orcia DOC.