Maremma masterclass report: In the zone

In our Febuary issue we highlighted the relatively untapped potential of Tuscany’s Maremma region. And recently, we co-hosted a masterclass in London with Zonin, and found out why the family had pioneered the area. By Patrick Schmitt MW

At the start of this year, before we had been invited to co-host a masterclass with the Zonin family, we were looking at which Italian fine wine region to profile for our February edition of the drinks business.

Having discussed the options, we decided against focusing on the country’s leading Bs – Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo – even though they are home to so many increasingly soughtafter brands. We also opted to bypass Chianti Classico – another area on the rise – as well as Etna DOC, despite the fashionability of ‘volcanic wines’.

Instead we chose to look closely at the Tuscan coastal area of the Maremma – and it was sheer coincidence that a few months later we should be working with one of Italy’s most important winemaking families to shine the spotlight on this same region for key figures in the UK trade. Why did we select Maremma for the pages of db? Although the fine wine reputation of Bolgheri – a village in the region – has been established for decades, the wider Maremma is less illustrious, but is a fast-changing, youthful area attracting a lot of investment from the new and established winemakers of Italy.

It’s also a place that is producing wines of great critical acclaim. And it’s an unusual region for Italy, because it employs Bordeaux grapes in a country that’s so rich in native varieties – although Maremma produces exceptional results with Italian vines too.

But why did Zonin 1821 choose to present the wines of Maremma to a London audience? For the company, it is “the other Tuscany”, and a “new frontier”, with great potential to produce fine wines with distinctive characteristics. It also offers this family business the option to make something with a French influence in Italian soil.

Furthermore, while the high-quality Bordeaux blends may have put the region on the map, Maremma has rapidly built a reputation with Vermentino – one of the most popular white varieties from Italy today. So, the Zonin family, which has estates in the finest terroirs of Italy, saw the potential of Maremma, and in 1999 they acquired a property at the foot of the hills of Montemassi, called Rocca di Montemassi. At a masterclass in London’s Asia House on 24 April, seventh-generation Zonin family member Francesco Zonin explained what motivated the group to make the investment, focusing initially on the area’s history.

“Maremma is a recent place for Italy,” he began, pointing out that it was a swampy area that only became suitable for agriculture after Mussolini cleared and drained it.

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