SALVATORE FERRAGAMO II WOWS PACKED CROWD AT EATALY WITH HIS TUSCAN WINES
by Andrew Chalk
There was hardly a spare seat in the house on Wednesday night as Salvatore Ferragamo II, CEO of Il Borro winery in Tuscany, presented his family wines. The name is significant. His grandfather was the famous fashion designer who founded his eponymous company in1928.
Salvatore Ferragamo, S.p.A originally made shoes, but blossomed after World War II into a luxury producer of leather goods and clothing with over 600 company stores worldwide. Salvatore had six sons and one, Ferruccio, purchased Il Borro in 1993 as part of the purchase of a (then) run-down village named Borro. The name means ‘the ravine’ and comes from its location near two ravines. Salvatore Ferragamo II is his son and runs Il Borro as a self-directed company today. Ferruccio and Salvatore restored the small town and in it created their pride and joy, a luxury boutique hotel Il Borro that is now a member of the Relais & Châteaux organization.
Winemaking has transitioned to organic agriculture and biodynamic principles. This includes livestock to create the closed loop type of farming specified therein. Today, the definitive grape of Tuscany, sangiovese, is the backbone of the winery’s output, although chardonnay is raised as meticulously for white wine.
Guests at this rendition of Terra Wine Around, which I attended as a media guest, were treated to a four-course meal Tuscan feast from chef Michael Lawson who, it has to be said at the outset, can really cook. In fact, if this menu is typical of Terra (the Eataly restaurant in which the event was held) then he is a candidate for best Italian chef in town. From antipasti to housemade gelato, he and his crew produced a flawless meal.
It was fitting that the Il Borro wines were full of innovation to pair with the food. As an aperitif we enjoyed a glass of Il Borro Bolle di Borro Rosé 2013, A metodo classico sparkling wine that might be more meaningfully described as a vintage brut Champagne, but out of the Tuscan sun. It was made of 100% sangiovese and, on a balmy 100o Dallas day, just the refreshing ticket to start things off. Sangiovese is not the first grape a Dallasite thinks of for rosé, but the only thing wrong with this one is that there is so little. Order now to avoid disappointment.
Antipasto was paired with Il Borro Lamelle Chardonnay 2020. A wine that would never be confused with most New World chardonnay. It undergoes no malolactic fermentation, a step that retains crispness reflecting the higher acidity of malic acid retained. Like a green apple, it excites the mouth producing salivation, something in which it is assisted by the food. The severe character is emphasized through aging in stainless steel, not the ubiquitous oak. When you buy this wine, you may find 2021 in the market as vintages are currently in transition. The Italian lead at distributor Serendipity Wines assured me that the character remains.
Panzanella, a sensibly-sized portion of smoked croutons, local tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and cabernet vinaigrette wowed with the smoky aromas and the crunchy texture of the croutons juxtaposed with peak-ripeness cherry tomatoes rich in sweet flavor. So good was it that, in a selfless gesture to reduce food waste, I ate the portion delivered at our table for someone who had not shown up.
Primo saw us tasting another rosé, although this one omitted the bubbles. Il Borro 2021 Rosé was a classic dry rosé, in the hue of wild-caught salmon. Appropriate, since the dish was Cacciucco, a Tuscan fisherman’s stew with clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, monkfish, tomato, all presented with flash by the addition of a bruschetta-sized piece of toasted bread, laceratingly crisp on it own, but submissively softening in the broth. A joint triumph of food and wine.
Secondo took us into red wine territory, which is rightfully Tuscany’s pride and joy. We had two wines. The Il Borro 2017 Polissena Sangiovese, Toscana IGT and the Il Borro 2017 Toscana, IGT. The Polissena is a bold, structured wine that will age for a decade. It is pleasant now, but a little tight and not fully giving of its complex fruit complexion and earthy underpinnings. Let it resolve for best enjoyment. The Toscana is a sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon blend. A Super Tuscan as they are known. Like the preceding wine, it can be drunk now but will improve with 5+ years of age. A notably good value in the rarefied world of Super Tuscan pricing.
Both wines were paired with the same entrée, Ragu d’Anatra e Polenta. My dish-of-the-meal. Duck ragu with seared polenta, braised kale, and parmigiano reggiano DOP. The shreds of duck were limpid and rich in flavor, the polenta the ideal starch foil for the meat to prevent the eating becoming monotonous. Savored in the mouth with a helping of Tuscan wine, it was memorable. This is one of those dishes that a chef should present on one of those cooking shows where they are judged dish by dish. It will win over all but a militant vegan on the judging panel.
Our dolce, that course that can be omitted in so many cultures, but not Italian, was Gelato e Cantucci, an almond biscotti and single scoop of the most delicious vanilla gelato I have had for months. Make my scoop concrete mixer size. It was made in-house and cemented my impressions of Michael Lawson’s skills.
Il Borro make a grappa but we were given a treat, made in very small quantities. Il Borro 2015 Alessandro dal Borro Syrah. Transitioning to a Rhône at this stage was a clever move. Seven years of age on the wine did not do any harm either. Totally new impressions of dark fruit, forest floor, and herbs meant that this was a wine to sip and enjoy.