Galatrona from Petrolo is a great wine, of that I have no doubt. I have tasted numerous vintages and am always amazed that this Tuscan Merlot doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves. It is impeccably made and offers great potential for longevity.
Last Thursday, I met up with a group of friends and we tasted five great Tuscan Merlot blind, all from the impressive 2001 vintage, namely Masseto, Redigaffi from Tua Rita, L’Apparita from Castello di Ama, Messorio from Le Macchiole along with the aforementioned Galatrona from Petrolo. By some distance, Galatrona was the cheapest wine on the table.
Consider the indicative single bottle prices (including duty and VAT) of these 20-year-old wines:
These are, to my mind, the top five Tuscan Merlot, and Galatrona belongs in this set. In fact, the general consensus last Thursday was that it was second only to the great Masseto. Fortunately, I paid nothing like these levels for the wines shown, but it is worth noting that Galatrona is a very smart buy on release. Today the 2019 vintage has released at £360 per 6 bottle case in bond and I can also offer a few cases of very favourably priced 2010 at £345 per 6 in bond.
Some background on the estate…
Petrolo is situated on the eastern flank of the Chianti hills, an historical area delimited in 1716 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de' Medici, as one of Tuscany's top four wine producing zones. The Val d'Arno, where Petrolo is situated, was recognised as 'DOC Val d'Arno di Sopra' in 2011. The property is extensive and stretches over 272 hectares, of which only 31 are vineyards, situated between 250-450 metres above sea level. The estate has now converted to organic viticulture and includes 19 hectares of organically grown olive groves. The rest of the estate is arable land and woods.
Galatrona, which was first released in 1994, accounts for ten hectares of vineyard that was planted through the early 1990s with low vigour Bordeaux clones of Merlot. The vineyard is situated at an altitude of 300 metres on soils that comprise clay with shale, marl and sandstone. Merlot’s affinity with clay soils is well-documented – these soils help with moisture retention in the hot Tuscan summers. As winemaker Luca Sanjust has commented, today he has no need to prune heavily and thin the grapes, as the vine age is such that the vines have achieved a natural balance and intervention is only required in certain years.
What has always impressed me with Galatrona is the consistency – I can barely recall a disappointing year. It is less overt than some Merlot – Galatrona is a softly extracted style of wine and you quickly note that Luca Sanjust looks for elegance as well as intensity. The wine is aged in French oak barriques for 18 months, but the proportion of new oak is not excessive at just a third and is barely perceptible in the glass. 2010 is easily one of my preferred vintages – it was a classic Tuscan vintage, but crucially there was no water stress in the vineyard and the fruit matured gradually and evenly. I think it suits the style of Galatrona well, as above all 2010 retained freshness and poise. I find a more lifted perfumed quality in the 2010 than I do in some other vintages and it has really started to hit its stride with superb depth of ripe blackberry and damson fruit, silkily presented with complex spice and foresty notes just starting to show. This vintage showcases Galatrona’s structure – this wine remains focused with a mineral persistence; simply put it doesn’t lose its shape as some Merlot from less than ideal terroir can. It is a classy wine indeed, and one deserving of more attention.
I haven’t yet had the chance to taste the 2019, which was released this morning, though by all accounts 2019 has produced some very good wines. A cool spring with some heavy rains in May was followed by a hot June and, while there were some storms across the summer, there was a calm period of weather through harvest and the fruit was picked in fine condition. It was a later harvest than 2018 on account of the cool spring. I have included James Suckling’s tasting note below as it is the only one I can currently trace.