Discovering Argillae: Wine for Food

On the Hello Grappa press tour we visited the Bonollo Distillery, in Tuscany, to have a tour and then to taste their grappa.  After the tour of we were invited to lunch by Maria Carla Bonollo and her daughter Giulia Di Cosimo.

It was one on the few nice days and the view from the Piccola Trattoria Guastini in Torrita di Siena terrace was fantastic.

What we did not know but soon found out was that Giulia is involved with the Argillae Winery in Orvieto in Umbria and we were going to have her wines with lunch.

Giulia told us about the Argillae estate. Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, founder of the biggest Italian Distillery, Bonollo, Spa. Today the Argillae estate is managed by his granddaughter Giulia.


She said the estate covers an area of about 220 hectares between the hills of Allerone and Ficulle, northwest of the town of Orvieto. The soil is mostly clay, limestone and rocks but what makes it unique she said is that the area was once covered with water and it contains a lot of fossils such as seashells from the Pilocene period. These fossils enrich the soil with mineral components, which pass into the wine.

The terroir is mostly clay-calcareous and Giulia said this type of soil stays cooler than other soils and works well in hot regions like Umbria. The clayey part retains the water and this helps the grapes during the dry season, while the calcareous part drains well, avoiding diseases caused by stagnation and humidity. Argillae in Latin means clay.

They do everything they can to protect the environment; to her it is not a philosophy but a way of life.

The Wines

Tasting and drinking these wines was an unexpected pleasure. These are my kind of wines. All of the wines are vinified in stainless steel so that the natural aromas and flavors of the grape can be found in the wine. They are all excellent food wines and were perfect with the dishes we had for lunch.

Spumante Bianco Brut Metodo Charmat NV 100% Chardonnay from a careful selection of grapes from their own vineyards. The training system is guyot and there are 3,333 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place in August. The grapes undergo a brief maceration process and are lightly pressed. The must is vinified at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. The second fermentation is in autoclave (charmat method) and is followed by a few months refining on the lees to enhance its organoleptic properties. The wine remains in bottle for 3 to 4 months before release. This is an elegant wine with citrus notes, hints of peach and pineapple, good acidity and a long finish. Giulia spoke about how difficult it is to produce a Spumante and how, unlike other producers in the region, they produce it at the winery.

Tortino di Cipolla su Crema di Pecorino di Pienza — Our appetizer was a little onion tort on a bed of pecorino cheese sauce.

Umbria IGP Bianco 2017 made from 100% Grechetto The training system is guyot, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September. After a careful selection in the vineyards, cold maceration takes place. There is a brief pressing and the juice is racked and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks before the wine is bottled in February/March. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, a touch of jasmine, good acidity and what Giulia referred to as the typical almond finish.

Orvieto DOC  2016 made from Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc. The training system is Guyot. For the Grechetto and Procanico there are 4,ooo vines per hectare and for the others 3,333 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place in September. Each variety is vinified separately. The grapes are lightly pressed and the juice is racked and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on the lees until it is bottled in February/March. Giulia said she wished to pay homage to the regional tradition of Umbria by creating a fresh dry white wine with intense aromas of flowers, citrus and tropical fruit. The wine has nice mineral notes, good acidity and a refreshing finish.

Pici al Ragu Bianco di Chianina – Hand rolled spaghetti with a meat sauce made from the local Chianina beef.

Umbria Rosso IGT “ Sinuoso” 2017 means smooth or round. Made from 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Montepulicano. The soil is clay-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There are 3,333 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place in October. After destemming and crushing there are 15 days maceration with regular must pump-over on the skins. Both the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation are in stainless steel. The wine is subsequently fined for several months and is periodically racked with the addition of oxygen. The wine remains in bottle for 3/4 months before release. This is a fruity red wine with hints of cherry, black current and plum with a long finish.

Anatra al Fiori di Finocchio Selvatico con Sformatino di Zucchine — Roast duck with wild fennel served with baked zucchini

After lunch we went back to the Bonollo Distillery for a grappa tasting- it was a perfect afternoon.


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