Michele Ranieri (Tuscany, Massa Maritima)
DOC Maremma, IGT Toscana Rosso e Bianco
We met Michele on the final day of a week-long jag through the Tuscan Maremma, a mountains meets the sea region near the city of Grosseto, on the Mediterranean. Just north of the city one finds the village of Massa Maritima, and the lovely Parco Naturale di Montoni. The important trade here is the raising of cattle. Otherwise, one might spot olive groves or other cash crops, and maybe some grazing horses. There appears to be very little wine made here, with the region more of a crossroads between Umbria and Tuscany, and the more popular zones of Montalcino about an hour or so inland.
Yet growing grapes is exactly what Michele Ranieri is doing, along with his father, in this lesser known part of Italy. The attraction for me of course, is Michele's size (his business size, not his frame). I've been talking about the little guy for years, you know? I'm totally interested in what most importers are not--small productions, farm smallholdings, permaculture, all that jazz. And also, hyper-local. Michele delivers on all those things.
We met with him for the first time in May 2022. He had a small table set up just outisde his house and winery, with good quality glasses. He sat down with us, tattooed arms, 5'oclock shadow, and nearly perfect English and talked about his project, his life, his family, and his wines with an almost poetic pace. Three of us sat there listening to our questions answered with precision and prose. Who the hell is this guy??
We're the first to bring Michele's wines to the US, and in fact, one of his first sales outside of Italy. Granted, this is reasonably new business, with Michele quitting the Milan rat race as a graphic designer and returning to his boyhood home to start a family and join his father in the vineyards. He is busy each year making 1500 bottles of this and 2000 of that. I instantly liked him, and was sold even further when he presented some cheese (from the lady down the street), and good salami (from the guy that lives just over the ridge) to go along. I can't recall more thoroughly enjoying a first visit with a winery in a very long time.
With this quarterly club offering I want to introduce you to Michele's whites as a 6-pack, two bottles each of three different bottlings that are just perfect bottles for enjoying over the coming winter.
SOLO Manzoni 2021--This is a wine made popular around here by the annually delicious Maso Thaler version. I was surprised to see it growing near the coast in Tuscany vs. high in the mountains of Sudtirol though! Michele's version is more salt air than mountain air, more rich and honeyed than peachy and racy. The Mazoni cross is a clone of Riesling and Pinot Blanc. Look for a dry wine here that you will immediately fall in love with.
SOLO Viognier 2021--Yeah, yeah. I know. I've said for years that Viognier grows well in one place on the planet--Condrieu in the northern Rhone. But I gotta say--I was immediatley smitten with this wine, benefitting from it's cool vineyard location near the sea, and grown on nearly pure sand at just 60 meters of elevation. With just 1500 bottles produced, and just like the Manzoni, this will grab you by the nostrils upon first sniff.
Sardonico 2022--Michele named this wine while thinking about Mona Lisa's smile--sardonic. A sort of ironic twist on the whole idea of "I know something you don't know". With this wine, the above two grapes--Viognier and Manzoni, are joined by the more traditional Tuscan Trebbiano to make a wine with considerable complexity. Fresh and persistent, great acidity, and will hopefully transport you to the Tuscan seaside.
I hope you enjoy them all!