How on earth did a man from the Wirral end up in Chianti?
A. I came to Chianti over 20 years ago to see the other side of the wine world. I was selling wine in the UK and wanted to give a harvest a go. I loved Italian wine and came to Tuscany after, amongst other things, having read Nicolas Belfrage’s book, Life Beyond Lambrusco. Wasn’t a bad experience all in all, as here I still am.
You’ve been in Tuscany for two decades what is it that keeps you here?
A. Looking around you is a big part of the answer. I never take for granted just how beautiful Tuscany is and it still manages to take my breath away. I get to make wine (both a job and a passion) in one of the most beautiful places on earth with one of the world’s most noble, if ever so slightly underrated varieties, Sangiovese.
Q. Where were you making wine before joining Montecalvi in 2017?
A. I started with my first harvest at Riecine, many moons ago. I’ve made wine in Martinborough in New Zealand and Oregon in the US. I helped set up the wineries Il Borghetto and Valdonica back here in Tuscany and now I’m at Montecalvi.
How did you come to join Montecalvi?
A. The owner, Jim Drake having recently bought Montecalvi, was in London talking with the father of Italian wine journalism, the same Nicolas Belfrage (who, I am very honoured to say has become an old friend). He asked Nic to give him the names of winemakers in Tuscany and in amongst them, thankfully, my name popped up.
You’ve been described as a revolutionary in Chianti Classico for your work with Sangiovese. What can we expect from the forward vintages at Montecalvi in terms of style?
A. Montecalvi was a winery I knew and whose wines I loved when I first arrived in Tuscany. They were beautifully made, complex and standout. Every winemaker has their signature, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, so I hope that, going forward they’ll be beautifully made, complex and stand out with a bit of my wine-stained thumbprint on them.
Q. What plans do you have as winemaker at Montecalvi?
A. No big plans. Montecalvi is almost perfect as it is.
Where is your favourite place to eat and drink in the region?
A. If I tell you, then maybe everyone will go there and I won’t be able to get a table anymore. Twisting my arm, I’ll divide the answer in to four very important categories; the four staples: food, beer, wine and cocktails. Papaveri e Papere in San Miniato is hands down one of the best restaurants in Tuscany; King Grizzly in Florence for great Italian artisanal beer on draught; Le Volpi e L’Uva in Florence has the most eclectic mix of wines from all over Italy; and The Art Bar, Florence has been mixing drinks for ever and still makes world class cocktails without the fuss.
Q. In your view, what about Montecalvi sets it apart from other estates?
A. In the end, depending on who you are, everything and nothing.