Poggio Lamentano 2021 Vino d'Italia

View from Poggio Lamentano over Grattamacco to Castiglioncello di Bolgheri

A real find, from Bolgheri. Above, the view from Poggio Lamentano over Grattamacco to Castiglioncello di Bolgheri. From £35 or €50 a bottle or £210 for a six-bottle wooden case

It’s not often I come across a wine that’s completely new to me and end up giving it a score of 18 out of 20 – an extremely high mark from parsimonious me. But this is that wine, a blend of 30% Sangiovese with bordeaux grapes from one of the highest spots in Bolgheri.

The man behind it, Davy Żyw, senior buyer at Berry Bros & Rudd, explains its genesis and provenance far better than I can. Read on.

‘My grandparents moved to Tuscany in the 1960s and acquired Poggio Lamentano, a farm in the rural coastal region of Bolgheri. As my Polish artist grandfather Aleksander Żyw painted, my Scottish granny Leslie learnt to farm and work the plot’s ancient olive grove. To date, we have made extra virgin olive oil every harvest since 1962.

Poggio Lamentano house through the olives
Poggio Lamentano house through the olives

‘Bolgheri has seen many changes over the years, notably from neighbouring wineries producing the Supertuscans, bringing the region into the limelight. Due to the age of our trees (many over 200 years old) and the farm’s hillside terroir, the character of our oil is bold, pungently perfumed, fiercely peppery and utterly delicious. It was the first single-estate, extra virgin oil olive to be imported into the UK, endorsed by Elizabeth David as “one of the supreme pleasures in my life”. Now it is in such demand that it is strictly allocated only to loyal customers. Our oil is equally at home on the family dining table, as well as Michelin-starred restaurants and, like all good extra virgin olive oils, it has the magic to elevate simple meals into something extraordinary, transcending even the most technical cookery.

‘We have always known our potential for world-class wine production, due to our location on one of the few hills of the region and our proximity to many exceptional wine producers (we are above Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda and next door to Podere Grattamacco). Although we planted some vines long ago – my uncle Michael maintains we have the second-oldest Cabernet vine in the region, Sassicaia having the oldest – we never made wine for sale.

Clearing the land c 1970
Clearing the land c 1970

‘With my experience in the wine trade (Plumpton College, sommelier at Le Gavroche, PDM at Tesco, global buyer at Direct Wines and now senior buyer at Berry Bros & Rudd) I wanted to bring our family’s dream of wine production into reality. I have teamed up with friends and local winemakers, Luca Marrone of Grattamacco and Giorgio Meletti Cavallari, to create a distinctive wine influenced by our famous neighbours, but also respectful of the terroir and ancient Tuscan traditions.

‘The inaugural vintage, 2020, sold out on ballot in November 2022, every penny of profit beng donated to motor neurone disease research (as is a percentage of proceeds from every subsequent vintage). This cruel, incurable degenerative neurological disease kills most sufferers within two years of diagnosis. I am now in my sixth vintage living with the condition. 2021 went on sale in November 2023. Vintage 2022 will be released in November 2024. Life really is too short to drink anything but awesome wine.

‘I love the Supertuscans and a lot of the great local wines of Bolgheri. But many are homogenous in style; we achieve great ripeness in the area giving sweet fruit, often this ripeness is enveloped in sweet oak and the resulting wines are very international. Superb wines, yes, but many have lost their coastal Tuscan flavour and Mediterranean soul. I wish Poggio Lamentano to step away from this stylistic uniformity of the region to better represent the character of our hillside vineyards with less obtrusive winemaking. We use amphora instead of oak, which has a marked influence on the quality of tannins, retaining purity of fruit without adding any sweet taste.

‘In our view, the results are a clean style of wine which is lighter than so many of the region. A crunchy, infused style without sweet oak influences, retaining the terroir’s sapid character with a savoury Mediterranean taste. A primary wine which drinks from release but will allow for medium-term cellaring (about 10 years). Our Vino di Tavola [sic] classification is both practical for our production size but also a nod to the origins of the original Supertuscans of the area. We continue to be inspired by the Supertuscans. But we do not claim to be super, instead we make an Extra Tuscan Wine by placing the character of the vineyards first, and blending native Sangiovese to best articulate a different side of Bolgheri’s terroir.’

Poggio Lamentano bottle

I should stress that the following enthusiastic tasting note of mine is based simply on the exceptional quality of the wine; I am not pleading with you to help finance research into the cruel condition affecting Żyw (and so many others).

Full bottle 1,455 g. 40% Cabernet (Cabernet Sauvignon co-fermented with Cab Franc), 30% Merlot and 30% Sangiovese from the highest vineyards in the region, between Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci with galestro, calcareous and sandy soils. Three-week fermentation, open-top tini with soft infusion on skins, 12 months in Tava amphora and then 12 months in bottle before release. No fining or filtering. Label is painted by the producer’s uncle, artist Michael Żyw. Organic (not certified on label). Only 1,333 bottles produced per vintage.
Deep crimson. Superbly aromatic wine which manages to combine Tuscan bite with Bolgheri opulence. Lovely, ripe tannins and great delicacy and lift. Really a very special bottle. Extremely long with great balance and complexity. What more could you ask for? £35 does not seem remotely too much for this complex wine. A gem. It's almost smooth enough to drink without food but this is not recommended. And I may well be underestimating its longevity.

The wine is 14% alcohol. I suggested a score of 18/20 and a drinking window of 2024–2032.

The 2021 is currently available from retailer Valvona & Crolla and restaurants Timberyard, Montrose and The Palmerston in Edinburgh (where Żyw is based), or direct via info@vinolamentano.com. Żyw will ship wooden cases of six bottles for £210 plus shipping anywhere in the world. Or you can buy bottles at €50 each from the cellar door of Giorgio Meletti Cavallari in Bolgheri. Valvona & Crolla charge £35 a bottle for the 2021.

The 2022 vintage will be released later this year (I have not tasted it) and will cost more. Probably £225 for six bottles from info@vinolamentano.com.

Find more recommendations from the 2021 vintage in Bolgheri here.