Rocca di Frassinello: The Rise of the French-Italian Masterwork

Artistry, architecture, culture, and fine dining are some of the things that characterize Tuscany. Each year, the picturesque Italian region never fails to attract flocks of travelers within its bounds, drawing artisans, connoisseurs, and history buffs out of their motherlands. For a frequent visitor, Tuscany is also home to a bustling wine lifestyle and some of the most piquant liqueur in Europe. Rocca di Frassinello happens to be the epicenter of those vintages.

Rocca di Frassinello is as much of an art piece as it is a vineyard. Bearing the rich architecture of Tuscany, the winery is a sight to behold, both on the outside and from within. Its main structure’s exterior appears like the combination of a stylish factory, a majestic courtyard, and a high-end restaurant. Scenic as it is, visitors go there primarily for the wine, and for good reason.

 

The Historical Pairing of French and Italian Viticulture

French vintner Domain Baron de Rothschild-Lafite, known for producing excellent Bordeaux, intended to expand his winemaking operations to Italy, which happens to be France’s competitor in winemaking. For Rothschild-Lafite, it wasn’t really a competition; traversing to a different nation meant perfecting the art of vine husbandry and raking in profits while at it.

Castellare di Castellina, a distinguished wine estate in the region, caught wind of the Frenchman’s plan and went on-board, bringing forth the very first collaboration between French and Italian wine producers in Rothschild-Lafite and Castellare owner Paolo Panerai.

Challenges were aplenty for the famed winemakers. While planning the construction of Rocca di Frassinello, they had to contend with the region’s substandard soil quality and the high price of land. They scoped out various regions in Italy and settled on the Marema region, which bore decent soil and affordable plots of land. The pair eventually acquired 500 hectares and began planting varietals in the year 2000.

The pairing of Panerai and Rothschild-Lafite came with distinct advantages, primarily with their combined knowledge in viniculture. Rothschild-Lafite is an expert when it comes to growing French strains of Cabernet, Shiraz, and Merlot among others, while Panerai’s Castellare happens to be the site where distinguished Tuscan varietal Sangioveto was expertly grown. Before long, fine vintages were produced, which until now, continue to reap praises from wine critics and wine enthusiasts all over the world.

An Architectural Masterpiece

Normally, a vineyard would have a lush expanse, modern-looking structures, and an obscured wine cellar. The people behind Rocca di Frassinello followed the norm, but added elements that allow the property to stamp artistic imprints on the minds of visitors. No one less than the most prominent Italian architect at that time – Renzo Piano – was tapped to work on the vineyard’s aesthetics, facilities, and cellars.  

Piano certainly lived up to his billing. He crafted a stylistic singular building that housed all of the vineyard’s main functions, including production, storage and wine tasting. Each room and hallway is color-coded according to function and earmarked with opulent interior design. A thin tower stands tall at the heart of the structure, which is styled similarly to another Piano creation – the Padre Pio Pilgrimage church in Italy.  

Piano recognized how majestic the environment surrounding the building is, reminding him of a magic carpet ride. Thus, he went on to erect a flying carpet-inspired terrace built for meetings and fine dining. Not done, he designed a grand wine cellar that appears like the ancient gladiator coliseums in Greece. The structure is sturdily built, as it encases enormous beams that make up the building’s integrity.

Simply put, Piano created a modern art piece and then implanted a large scale wine facility within its halls. Rocca di Frassinello, at this point, isn’t just a vineyard; people viewed it as a full-fledged tourist attraction.

A Taste of Rocca di Frassinello’s Wine

With all of the hype surrounding the French-Italian pairing and Renzo Piano, Rocca di Frassinello had to come up with wine that exceeded the expectations of critics. As it turned out, the combined winegrowing expertise of Rothschild-Lafite and Panerai proved a force to be reckoned with in the wine world, perfectly matching Piano’s artistry in designing structures.

Rocca’s Le Sughere di Frassinello is a bold red wine characterized by a dark berry bouquet, reminiscent of Rothschild-Lafite’s French Bordeaux. Panerai’s influence comes in the form of mixture – it blends the Tuscany native Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Sangiovese strikes a balance between the varietals on the taste buds.  Strong yet balanced tannins are present.

Not surprisingly, the Le Sughere has gained favorable recognition from Italy’s and the wine world’s top critics. Wine Advocate gave it an overall score of 93, while Wine Spectator awarded it with a 91, making the Le Sughere one of the top wines in the world in 2011. Italy’s wine authority, Gambero Rosso, also gave the wine a haul of praises.

The grand cru Rocca di Frassinello 2004 is arguably the vineyard’s crowning glory. Apart from gaining impressive reviews from critics, the enologists of Cabellere and Rothsman-Lafite actually claimed that “I’ve never achieved a wine of such quality and elegance so soon.” The production of latter variants brings excitement, as the wine matures further.

Rocca also has a pleasant starter wine in the Vermentino, which is the first white made from the winery. It has a light body complemented by fruity notes, making it slide down the tongue with ease. It pairs up with snacks and summer meals. Once the wine matures, it is expected to gain favorable attention from wine enthusiasts worldwide.

Rocca di Frassinello, as a vineyard, is a delight to the senses, blending Tuscany’s natural beauty with remarkable architecture. As a wine producer, it dishes out a mishmash of French and Italian viticulture, and then delivers with a bevy of bottled masterworks. Travelers are more than welcome to visit the vineyard and sample the place’s charming reds and endearing whites. Those in the Asian region can head over to Singapore and catch Rocca’s storied wines at Singapore Wine Vault.