In favour of simplicity: Introducing Bertinga
“One producer, two grape varietals, three different vineyards.”
Stéphane Derenoncourt’s fall into winemaking wasn’t intentional but happened almost by chance. As any lost 18-year-old, he came across the prospect of a career in wine when visiting his local job centre in Northern France, which soon resulted in him hitchhiking to Bordeaux where he initially found work picking grapes. Fast forward a few decades and he’s now one of the world’s most celebrated winemakers, counting huge names such as La Gaffeliere, Domaine de Chevalier and Carmes Haut-Brion amongst his arsenal.
In recent years his consultancy, Derenoncourt Consultants, have branched beyond France, taking on winemaking ventures across Europe, Turkey, Lebanon and beyond. With a vested interest in the idiosyncratic characteristics of specific regions, Derenoncourt dismisses the desire to replicate viticulture from notable areas, in the favour of creating wine that is both distinctive and poetic. “I always try to find out more about a place, its culture, its gastronomy,” he tells Decanter in reference to his projects that take place beyond France. In turn, to Derenoncourt, wine isn’t just a beverage, but a portal into the specific histories of the places, people and cultures of which he surrounds and immerses himself.
Looking ahead to the next few years, Derenoncourt’s latest stint at Tuscan wine estate Bertinga could not be more fitting. Established in 2015 in Chianti Classico, Bertinga inherited one of the most coveted plots in the region – The Gaoile – with the intent to craft wines that offer a portal into the histories of this storied region.
Whilst Bertinga also employs the foreign Merlot grape varietal, the estate’s Commercial Director Luca Vitiello intends to differentiate themselves from the “Super Tuscans”, who are also famed for their Franco-Italian blends. Noting the “international” style that these particular wines are privy to, with reference to Bordeaux through the high usage of new French oak that typifies their winemaking, Bertinga are grounded in creating wine that is introspective. Instead of imitating their European neighbours, they wish to evoke the pulsating beat of Chianti’s Galestro and Alberese soils, through a winemaking style that is both classically Italian and draws on the terroir-driven practice of which Derenoncourt is known.
However, whilst the estate tries to differentiate themselves from their bigger, brasher neighbours, Vitiello doesn’t shy away from the associations that many may have between wines from a similar region. “I’m sure that if we have to pick a shelf section in a store or a page on a wine list for Bertinga then that would be the ‘Super Tuscans’ one as there is no other category that would fit,” Vitiello tells Forbes, showing an acute awareness of the sheer quality of Bertinga’s wines, and the canon that they slot within.
With many accolades under their belt, this self-belief is not one that is dumbfounded. Exploding onto the international wine circuit in 2020, their 2016 vintage was debuted to much critical acclaim. The Volta di Bertinga 2016 was coined “the best Merlot tasted this year in Italy”, by judges at Gambero Rosso’s 2020 Tre Bicchieri, whilst the 2019 was ranked in Suckling’s “Top 100 Wines in the World”. Refusing to let youth get in its way, Bertinga is an estate that hit the ground running from the moment it was established.
Fast forward a few years and the Tuscan winery was denoted “Best Emergent Producer” in the 2022 Guida Essenziale Vini d’Italia, displaying this producer as one whose initial success was anything but a fluke, as they continue to create breathtaking wines that reach new heights with each vintage.
Custodians of Sangiovese and Merlot, the mechanics of Bertinga are simple. One producer that cultivates two varietals, creates four different wines across three different vineyards in a bid to express the varied personality traits of these grapes, and the limitless effects that terroir can have on the end result. Across The Gaoile, Bertinga owns three different vineyards which all host different characteristics:
Bertinga: Nine hectares, 420 metres above sea level, its soils comprise compacted and heavy limestone and rich clay – perfect for nurturing Sangiovese, whilst its cool temperatures have proven wonders on the steady ripening of Merlot.
Vertine: With Sangiovese vines of up to 25 years in age, its long roots benefit from the rocky Galestro and calcerous Alberese soils of where they lay their foundations. Overseen by a 500-year-old castle, Vertine is a reminder of the enduring history of these grounds, helping to foster wines that are a product of Chianti’s ancient past.
Adine: The Sangiovese cru Punta de Adine originates from this specific vineyard, situated at a whopping 540 metres above sea level, and featuring a treacherous 60 metre decline, where vines cling to its rugged slopes.
Located within the sublime Bertinga valley, all three vineyards allow for different expressions of Sangiovese and Merlot, with a practice that is driven by focusing on the particularities of a single parcel of vines. Across these three plots Bertinga produces only 5,000 cases a year, where a 1/5 of production is often held back for later release.
Still relatively under-the-radar, Bertinga remains a hidden gem created by experts for experts. Representing some of the finest wine being crafted today, with a winemaking practice that is as romantic as it is successful, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for this spectacular Tuscan estate.