Pursuitist had the opportunity to taste the delicious wines produced by Aia Vecchia with Elia Pellegrini, a member of the Pellegrini family who own the winery that is based in Tuscany, Italy.
Elia, 24, joined his family’s winery three years ago, after retiring from a professional soccer career. He played for several different teams including AS Livorno Calcio, after signing his first contract at the age of 18, but chose to retire after suffering a knee injury. The Pelligrini family were grape growers in the area for several generations before producing their own wine under the Aia Vecchia label.
The idea for the label started when Elia’s grandfather, Alfredo, became friends with the famous Hungarian winemaker, Tibor Gal. The winemaker helped the family in selecting terrain in Castagneto Carducci and Maremma Grossetana. The vineyards were planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
The family presented their first wine, the Lagone, in 1998. “The winery is young—like me,” says Elia with a grin.
In 2001, the family purchased additional land in Maremma and planted Vermentino, Viognier and Sangiovese. Today, the family owns estates in the Bolgheri area on the Tuscan coast and the other in Maremma.
Aia Vecchia consists of 118 acres of vineyards split between two estates: “Podere Aia Vecchia” which is located on the plains near the Mediterranean coast, and “Casa Vecchia” which is situated high in the hills facing the sea, among the most famous historical vineyards of Bolgheri. According to Elia, Bolgheri, is a very restricted area that is only 1,000 hectares in size (some of Italy’s best known producers have a long and successful wine producing history here).
Aia Vecchia focuses on Bordeaux varietals purchased in Bordeaux and planted Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, which are used to produce Lagone and Sor Ugo. The Vermentino is made on the estates of Magliano in Toscana (Grosseto) and Orbetello (Grossetto) which is planted with Sangiovese, Viognier and Vermertino and Merlot grape varieties. The company produces one additional red wine that is not exported to the U.S.
With Elia as our guide, Pursuitist tasted the Vermentino (95% Vermentino, 5% Viognier). We learned that the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks for four months before being aged an additional two months in the bottle. The wine’s appearance was straw yellow in color with green reflections. The bouquet was fresh with a distinct aroma of citrus. The wine was superb with a medium body and great flavor. According to Elia, it is best served as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to summer meals and seafood appetizers. The suggested retail price for the Vermentino is a mere $12, but don’t let the affordable price fool you—this is an excellent wine.
Next, we tasted the Lagone wine (Merlot 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Cabernet Franc 10%). This wine, we were told, was aged in oak barrels of various types for 12 months, before being aged in the bottle for six months. Its color was a deep red and it had delicate aromas of wood and vanilla. The wine was full-bodied and elegant with undertones of berries, black cherries and hints of spices. According to Elia, it is best served with white meats, red meats and cheeses, although is versatile enough to be served with a first course as well. The suggested retail price for the Lagone is $15.
The last wine we tasted was the Sorugo, which is a Bolgheri Superior DOC (Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 5%). This wine was aged in oak barrels that are 100% new French Allier for at least 18 months before being aged in the bottle for an additional 12 months. The wine was excellent with undertones of forest fruits and spices and a powerful, mineral-rich, complex taste. This wine, we were told, pairs well with first courses, white and red meats, cheese and all of the game dishes. The Sorugo’s suggested retail price is $35.
According to Elia, the company’s production is 250,000 bottles each year, of which 70% is for export. Elia has taken the helm of representing Aia Vecchia in the U.S. market and doesn’t use a general distributor in Italy. By cutting out one layer of distribution, the company is able to pass on the savings to the consumer with a lower price for its wines. “Our goal is to offer the highest quality at a good price,” he says.
In the U.S. Aia Vecchia is represented by Dalla Terra, which is a direct importer of a limited selection of Italy’s finest wines. Founded by Brian Larkey in 1990, Dalla Terra operates a “winery direct” model that offers an efficient method of shipping, distributing and marketing wine, that bypasses the national importer in the traditional three-tier system, allows distributors to buy directly from the producer. This models eliminates the high mark-ups and costs of a traditional national importer, so that Dalla Terra’s wines usually cost less than those of comparable quality.
In addition to the U.S., Aia Vecchia’s wines are distributed to Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, France, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Austria, Luxemburg, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Singapore and Zanzibar.
Photos courtesy of Carrie Coolidge and Aia Vecchia