I had the absolute pleasure of attending a virtual session with Tenuta Licinia last month where we explored three incredible wines. In the heart of Tuscany, where the art of winemaking was nearly lost in the 20th century, Tenuta Licinia emerges as a vibrant revival. Jacques de Liedekerke, a visionary since the 1970s, embarked on a thirty-year journey to resurrect the historic Sasso di Fata vineyard. It wasn’t until 2006 that the first vines took root, breathing life into the land.

In 2020, the reins passed to James Marshall, Jacques’ grandson, who now crafts the wines with a passion for tradition and innovation. The journey extends beyond the vineyards, encompassing a mere 6.5 hectares, harmoniously coexisting with 60 hectares of lush forest. Nestled near the enchanting village of Lucignano, perched on the Valdichiana’s northern edge, Tenuta Licinia aims to revive the rich winemaking history of this Etruscan haven.

Lucignano’s landscape, steeped in history, witnessed the decline of winemaking throughout the 20th century. Tenuta Licinia aspires to bring back the finesse of wine production, not only to the village but also to the surrounding region. Descending into the Valdichiana valley, the soil tells a tale of deep fertility, yielding wines with less distinct character. However, as you ascend the rocky hills surrounding Lucignano, a new chapter unfolds.

These elevated hills, ever-changing in geology every 50-100 meters, unveil a patchwork of terroirs. Amidst this dynamic landscape, the subsoils prove to be the unsung heroes, adding complexity to the wines. Selecting specific, confined areas becomes paramount in cultivating wines of the highest caliber.

Guided by three fundamental principles, our winemaking philosophy takes flight. Firstly, our wines defy the norms of weight and heaviness, opting for a more nuanced approach. Secondly, cleanliness reigns supreme – a commitment to purity from oak influence and chemical off odors. The result? Wines that reflect not just the land but also the passion that breathes life into Tenuta Licinia.

At Tenuta Licinia, crafting identitarian wines is more than a pursuit—it’s a celebration of the unique synergy between vine and subsoil. They meticulously cultivate a diverse range of subsoils, with three levels: grande quartiere, primo quartiere, and Borgo quartiere. This is amazing and absolutely showcases in the wines which are also just stunning; absolutely stunning!

They’re certified organic since the first vines were planted, the winery prioritizes soil microbial life for healthy root development, ensuring the long-term vitality of their plants. Embracing biodynamic principles enhances the vineyard’s health, aiming for the most sophisticated grapes possible.

The 2019 Sasso di Fata marks a paradigm shift in Tuscan Cabernet, embodying a distinct close style with grapes sourced from a small vineyard with unique subsoil. Limited in production, the 3.5 Ha vineyard boasts schist subsoil, reflecting a uniqueness in the wine. Practicing biodynamic and certified organic viticulture, the focus is on nurturing healthy vines with low yields and they do it well. Comprising Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Cabernet Franc (25%), and Petit Verdot (5%), the 2019 vintage experienced a unique growing season marked by cold spells and a warm ripening finale. Vinified for 16 months in second passage French oak Tonneau, the wine exhibits an expressive yet racy nose with fresh fruit, floral notes, and cassis that follows though on the palate. The balance with wood, a saline finish, and a graphite schistose note complete this deep and pleasing wine, capturing the essence of its origin.

We also got to taste the 2021 Sasso di Fata, which was freshly bottled just a few moons before the virtual tasting (so cool!). The Sasso di Fata IGT Toscana Rosso 2021 is a captivating blend featuring (55%) Cabernet Sauvignon, (35%) Merlot, and a small amount of (10%) Cabernet Franc. Cultivated on a small 3.5 ha vineyard, this gem nestles in unique soils. James Marshall, the winemaker, shared his excitement about the 2021 vintage, noting, “Stylistically, we’re steering in the right direction. It offers a unique take, a departure from the big, grand style of some Super Tuscans, and this one…leaning more towards the Burgundian style”.  When the wine is in the glass, it unveils brilliant notes of spice, rich red fruit, dark plums, and crushed blueberries. It’s full-bodied and showcases moderate acidity and tannins, delivering an exceptional experience even at this early stage. The 2021 Sasso di Fata proves Tenuta Licinia’s commitment to crafting wines that defy conventions and unfold a narrative of their own!

The inaugural release of the 2019 Montepolli marks the genesis of a new wine, embodying the close style with grapes sourced from a small vineyard boasting a distinct clay limestone subsoil. Crafted in limited quantities, this wine is an “ode to texture and smoothness”, emphasizing ‘textural accessibility’ even in hot weather. The small 2.5 Ha Montepolli vineyard, situated at 360m altitude with a west/south west exposure, practices biodynamic and certified organic viticulture. With a focus on nurturing healthy vines, the 2019 Montepolli blend features (47% ) Merlot, (22%) Cabernet Sauvignon, (19%) Cabernet Franc, and (12%) Petit Verdot. After 16 months in second passage French oak Tonneau, this wine boasts an expressive nose with ripe strawberry and some dried strawberry aromas, complemented by hints of balsamic and leather. On the palate, the strawberry notes persist, accompanied by a bitterness, winter herbs. You can feel the merlot tannic structure on the finish, it’s a classic.

These wines are ideal with food, and I tasted all three with different dishes. The 2021 Sasso di Fata I enjoyed on a Sunday evening with a selection of grilled steak and vegetables; a classic pairing. The char from the grill really played nicely with the rich red fruit and tannins. The 2o19 I enjoyed while being “Tuscany inspired” and made a Wild Boar Bolognese over some Paccheri pasta I brought back from Italy over the summer. It was a pairing that took me straight back to Tuscany and boy am I wanting to go to Italy again more than ever now! The 2019 Montepolli was exceptional and I enjoyed this with some braised short ribs over polenta, a bit inspired by Italy with an American twist. The short ribs went so well with the hints of balsamic and leather in this wine; it was a divine pairing!

Always remember to eat what you like and drink what you love. Please pair responsibly!