New kosher wine with Tuscan soul

Eli Gauthier working the grapes.Photo provided

Eli Gauthier working the grapes.
Photo provided

At a recent wine tasting, I had the good fortune to taste something new and really rather nice. There is an impressive new kosher Chianti by Cantina Giuliano (cantinagiuliano.com), a new small kosher wine producer in the suitably small village of Casciana Alta, in the heart of Tuscany.

Besides wine, they also — according to their website — make their own olive oil and cured meats in-house, as well as bake pizzas and breads in a wood-fired oven; their fruits and vegetables are grown in their own garden, and they soon intend to add home-made cheese to the lineup.

The young but clearly talented Eli Gauthier, a religious Jew from Paris, is the proprietor and winemaker. He is accompanied by his wife Lara, originally from the same small village where the winery is situated.

In fact the winery is located in the same 250-year-old building where her grandfather, Giuliano, and the generations before him made wine — the family counts at least five generations there.

Gauthier is a passionate and enthusiastic winemaker and foodie, with a French winemaking degree and on-the-job experience in a high-end, nonkosher organic winery in Alsace.

To help Gauthier is wine consultant Luca D’Attoma, one of the top consultants in Italy. D’Attoma’s own winery, Due Mani, produces wines that are regularly in the 92+ points category from Robert Parker’s Wine advocate. If D’Attoma’s reputation is anything to go by, Gauthier is very lucky, indeed.

Cantina Giuliano has no vineyards of its own — the family long since sold it all off after Lara’s grandfather, Giuliano, passed away. So Gauthier sources grapes from local vineyards. As he informed me via Facebook messenger: “I’m buying really good grapes from the best vineyards around, Sangiovese, Merlot and Ciliegiolo on steep south-facing heavy calcareous [seashell fossils]-clay soils. I have a working relationship with the grape grower whereby I tell him the direction I want him to take and he works accordingly as long as I insure a high buying price.”

Under the kashrut supervision of Rav Eliezer Wolff, dayan of Amsterdam, as well as the OU, Gauthier is meticulous and hands-on: “I do everything myself and I would like to be able to keep it that way in order to lower costs and keep control of every step of the grape choosing and winemaking process.”

Cantina Giuliano, Chianti D.O.C.G., Primizie, Italy, 2014 ($18): New to the kosher wine world, this is lovely Chianti with real heart and soul, made from a blend of 70 percent Sangiovese, 17 percent Merlot, and 13 percent Ciliegiolo (pronounced “she-liay-joe-lo”; a local Tuscan variety).

Made more for finesse and early consumption than for oomph and long-term cellaring, this is very light and soft yet fresh, fruity, expressive and aromatic. It offers herbal and red berry fruit notes, with a nice dollop of fresh cherry. This is refined and elegant, yet friendly and vibrant, with very good structure and balance. It is refreshing and even charming, and represents terrific value. Overall, a most impressive first wine. Ready now, but should improve with a few years of additional maturation in bottle. Serve lightly chilled.

As this is brand new (still in the distribution pipeline for some areas), you might not yet see it in your favorite store or online retailer. It is available online, but do ask your local wine purveyor to try and order or stock it for you. Just tell them it is imported by Allied Importers, the same folks who bring in Dalton and Borgo Reale — they’ll figure it out. L’chaim!

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