Most of the Italian masterpieces of the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries were carved out of marble. Since the 1980s, Italian viticulture has had its Renaissance in the form of wine, but not much was often thought about combining the two. ‘Man needs to realise his dreams,’ said Yannick Alléno, presenting Fuori Marmo 2019, a unique marble-aged Cabernet Sauvignon from the Costa Toscana IGT at his three-star Michelin restaurant, Pavillon Ledoyen, in Paris last week.
The idea was born in 2019 during a dinner with two of his friends in Italy: Paolo Carli of Henraux marble quarries and winemaker Olivier Paul-Morandini of Fuori Mondo. Paul-Morandini owns a small estate in Campiglia Marittima, not by chance one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance in Maremma Toscana.
He produces wines concentrated in freshness and elegance: low yields, early harvest, short macerations for the reds; mostly no oak except for a delicious, Burgundian-style Sangiovese vinified as a white wine.
When commenting on the vertical style of the wines, Alléno asked: ‘Why haven’t you ever tried to age the wine in marble?’ Paolo Carli of Henreaux did not object to the idea, admitting that technically it seemed possible. Paul-Morandini, the man who created the 112 emergency number for European citizens, signed himself up for the challenge.
See Aldo Fiordelli’s tasting note below
What originated as a joke ended up resonating with the three of them; the never-before-attempted notion of ageing a wine in white marble from Carrara. The idea turned into a project which then turned into a search for a 34.8-ton block of marble. Carli worked deliberately for five months to produce two ovoid amphorae of 17.5hl, weighing over two tons apiece, and at a cost of €100,000 each.
Paul-Morandini then spent six months trying to understand the interactions between the two materials before immersing the wine in an initial test. He treated the marble with tartaric acid to minimise the porosity of the matter and thus the oxidation of the wine.
Before Fuori Marmo, other projects of wine in marble had been attempted. In Valpolicella, biodynamic-certified estate Musella ages a 100% Garganega in red marble vessels of different shapes and volumes. In Tuscany there is a winery built into the marble, where Podere Scurtarola also ages a white wine which is not officially available on the market. Across the border in Austria, Domäne Wachau has produced Steinwerk since 2018, made from Grüner Veltliner grapes fermented and matured in a large chunk of Wachau marble and a granite stone vessel.
Two and a half years later, the Fuori Marmo project makes its official debut as a Cabernet Sauvignon IGT Costa Toscana 2019 grown on clay-limestone soil from the Fuori Mondo estate, facing the Tuscan archipelago at 200 metres above sea level. Gentle extraction, a short six-day maceration from yields of 25 hl/ha and long ageing in white marble produce a perfectly balanced wine with velvety tannins and a flowing depth of complexity.
‘I say this with great humility, we have achieved a beautiful result. It is now time to unveil it,’ declared Alléno. According to Paul-Morandini, Gérard Margeon – who buys wine for the Alain Ducasse group – compared it to the reds of Tinos in Greece, an island famous for its marble.
There is a lot of elegance and an extreme freshness compared to the average wines of Maremma; it seems to be closer to a northerly Cabernet Sauvignon as opposed to a Tuscan one. Having said this, it is admittedly difficult to pick out a ‘marble minerality’ in the wine. Yet it remains a unique example of the craftsmanship and beauty of these marble eggs and the emotion of tasting a wine aged in white marble from the Apuan Alps.
The wine will cost €1,085 per bottle and production is limited to just 1,000 standard bottles, 120 magnums and 80 double magnums. The wine is available at Maremma restaurant in London.