A Different Kind of Super Tuscan: Bibi Graetz, his Wine, and a Philosophy of Life

Super Tuscan wines are often thought of as innovative blends of indigenous Sangiovese with other “modern” grape varieties like Merlot or Syrah, which were traditionally never used in Tuscan winemaking. This is not always the case, however, and the real distinction of a Super Tuscan wine lies in the winemakers freedom from government regulations concerning production. Thus, these wines typically bear an IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) level appellation and a distinctive name. The IGT appellation allows winemaker more freedom, even though generally it’s a low-level denomination within the traditional hierarchy of Tuscan wine categories.

One example is the winery of Bibi Graetz and his famed wine called Testamatta, which loosely translates as “crazy head.” It’s 100% Sangiovese, but Graetz rejects regulation in how he makes his wine, which is in many ways very traditional. An artist raised in a family of artists in a castle surrounded by vineyards, Graetz had no formal training in wine production. He also refused to follow contemporary DOC or DOCG strictures in making wine when he decided to take over vineyard production about 20 years ago, and thus he received the Super Tuscan label.

Graetz refers to his viticulture as “gardening,” and he now has over 50 small vineyard sites scattered across the golden Tuscan landscape, representing about 74 acres. Needless to say, he applies his artistic training and creativity to his wines, of which Testamatta is the standard bearer.

All vineyard work is done by hand, accompanied by careful personal observation of the vines and grapes. These are old vines, up to 135 years old. “The whole process in the vineyard is mine; the respect for the plants, the way we work with our plots. Our wines are pure, and you feel a purity that you normally don’t find in Sangiovese,” Graetz said in an interview. His winemaking, too, is special, rare, and hands-on. He ferments in traditional 225 liter oak barriques using wild yeasts, punching down by hand and personally monitoring winemaking to produce unique wines that express traditional Tuscan terroir.

Each bottle is a personal representation of Graetz and his commitment to old vines and winemaking techniques. Testamatta, in particular,  expresses his philosophy of life: “impeccable sources, from our amazing old vines of Sangiovese grown on top sites across Tuscany to our rare Ansonica vineyards on the Island of Giglio, to a painstakingly artisanal approach to winemaking, to the unique name of the wine,” said Graetz.

The 2018 Bibi Graetz Testamatta received an astounding 100 points from Decanter magazine. Critic Jane Anson refers to a wine that transports you to the “intense underbrush of Tuscany.” This is a wine that can age for decades.  It features mouthwatering minerality with flavors of ripe berries, sage, and white pepper. The grapes come from five different vineyards where the youngest vines are 50 years old, all organically cultivated. You can buy this wine now at Bottle Barn, for easy shipping across the USA, and set it down to age for a couple of years. Compare it with other Tuscan wines from our curated collection too!

Written By: Charlie Leary

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