New Releases from Tua Rita: A Celebration of Family Values

By | 1 March 2024

The latest releases from the Super-Tuscan estate in northern Maremma are, as ever, built for pleasure.


Robin Lee

Tua Rita is a family-owned winery in the northern Maremma, near Livorno in Tuscany, just within view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the verdant Val di Cornia. Dark cypresses pierce the heavenly October-blue sky, rows of loaded fermentation vats stand sentinel, barrels from last year’s vintage gently exhale their angel’s share, frog-green oil spills out of the frantoio. This part of Tuscany is, of course, renowned for Super-Tuscans—the luxurious, barrique-aged Bordeaux blends that garnered worldwide acclaim in the 1990s and 2000s and now rival the best wines from Napa, Stellenbosch, and Coonawarra.

The Piombino Channel between Italy and the island of Elba funnels the mistral winds and shelters this section of the coast from storms. In the summer, it is up to 7°F (4°C) warmer here than in Bolgheri 25 miles (40km) to the north, where most of the other famous Super-Tuscans originate. The freshness of the wines is preserved by a high diurnal range, thanks to the Cornia River, which flows down to the sea from the Colline Metallifere, rich in manganese, iron, and other trace elements that constitute the soils here, as well as the rose-colored marble in the vineyards. Tua Rita ranges from 330ft to 1,250ft (100–380m) above sea level, and the clay and calcareous soils, which are drier and less fertile than in Bolgheri, give structure to the wines. When Tua Rita was first established, the vineyards were planted in wide rows, with tighter spacing between vines and a high density of up to 9,000 vines/ha; but now, with smaller tractors available, the newer vineyards are planted with climate change in mind, with narrower rows and wider spacing within the row and lower density overall, at 5,500 vines/ha. When these vineyards come into production, the estate will be better equipped to face drought years such as 2022 and 2020.

Tua Rita is named in honor of the family’s matron, Rita Tua, despite the estate being managed by her hardworking and friendly son-in-law Stefano Frascolla. In the middle is Simena Bisti, Stefano’s wife and Rita’s daughter, who is occasionally spotted at the estate decanting freshly-pressed olive oil. The estate’s collaboration with consultant enologist Luca D’Attoma led to the production of their first vintage of Giusto di Notri in 1992, a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Today, the estate stands witness to the production of approximately 350,000 bottles a year from 71 ha (175.5 acres) big land.

The cellar follows simple methods of slow fermentation and gentle extraction over a maceration period of minimum 30 days. Bordeaux blends are aged in French barriques for 18 to 20 months and Syrah is aged for 15 to 17 months. Recently, terra-cotta amphorae were introduced. The Keir wines—an Ansonica and a Syrah—are entirely vinified in terra-cotta, with maceration periods of two and six months respectively.

In September 2023, Tua Rita’s UK importer, Armit Wines, displayed the latest releases including wines from the challenging 2021 vintage at London’s Mount Street Restaurant. Despite the opulent venue adorned with modernist masterpieces, Stefano maintained his modest demeanor, emphasizing that variety underpins the trajectory for growth and exploration at Tua Rita estate.

As is typical with many family operations, Tua Rita prioritizes production of what sells easily. D’Attoma believes that, in order to uphold tradition, contemporary thinking is often necessary. Contrary to many traditional wines, their creations do not appear to cater primarily to wine die-hards, scholars, or purists. Tua Rita originates from a region of Tuscany without an extensive wine legacy, and the Tua-Bisti-Frascolla family does not have traditional backgrounds in winemaking. However, in the midst of Berlusconi’s “Made in Italy” boom, they managed to launch their Bordeaux blends at the right time. It resonated with affluent foreigners who enjoy Italian culture but prefer the taste of Cabernet/Merlot to Chianti. According to Frascolla, “The older generation saw wine as a necessity; it was like salt on the table. But our customers see wine as a luxury, as something to underline a beautiful occasion.”

Tua Rita wines are crafted to bring pleasure and target those who prioritize pleasure. Their unique labels, inspired by the vibrant paintings by family friend Raffaele De Rosa, evoke times of indulgent feasts and large-scale entertaining. Despite their ongoing popularity in certain markets, these wines may not appeal to everyone in an era where lighter styles are regaining popularity. This could pose a future challenge for the estate. Since they are not traditional and do not typically accompany local Tuscan cuisine, these wines seem most suited for upscale Italian restaurants outside Italy.

“All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” wrote Tolstoy. The wines produced by Tua Rita can be likened to a happy family: authentic, full of personality, and not crafted by calculated design. These wines are made to enjoy. Even though they may not be the subject of many novels, seeking out a happy family is what many people strive for, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The following were among my top picks from the latest releases, in addition to one wine tasted at Tua Rita.

Keir Ansonica 2022

The pleasant aroma of tangerine peels, nectarine, and medlar are the standout features of this wine. It leaves a rich sensation on the tongue, similar to the silky richness of coconut milk, while maintaining its freshness. It ends with a subtle hint of fresh mint and chamomile. This is a straightforward yet highly enjoyable wine, bringing a blend of depth, intensity, and length to the table. 92

Keir Syrah 2021

Benefiting from a slow maceration process in terra-cotta, this wine is textured but surprisingly light on the tongue, especially for a Syrah. Notable tasting notes include black olive, sun-dried tomato, black cherry, and the earthy scent of cypress needles, with a smoky chipotle flavor hiding in the background. Soft tannins and hints of anise round out the finish. This wine is fresh and juicy, but avoids being overly ripe, placing more emphasis on its texture rather than the aroma. 92

Per Sempre Syrah 2021

Powerful, opulent, and glossy, with supple tannins and polished tones of coffee, cherry liqueur, charcoal, and pipe smoke. This wine, made in 100% new French oak, is balanced and well integrated. Smooth, luscious, and impressive, like a black mink coat swishing into the opera house. 94

Redigaffi 2021

This is an outstanding wine and Tua Rita’s flagship. Especially now that Masseto has started adding in Cabernet Franc, perhaps Redigaffi can claim the crown as Italy’s finest Merlot, a title to which it has a good claim in any case. Textural, luscious, and supple, with tight and firm tannins that are nevertheless giving and generous. The dark color is reflected in the dark mulberry flavors, with layers and depth and complex notes of bitter kale, spearmint, red roses, wild strawberry, and dark plum jam. 96

Redigaffi 7 Selezione 2019

This incredible wine selection that was tasted at the estate has only been made three times. It’s chosen from the best parcels and oldest vines of Redigaffi and is only bottled in a magnum. The texture is all-encompassing with strong but delicate tannins and expansive aromas that are intricate, appealing, and unexpected with an oriental twist. Deep cassis is layered with rye toast, walnut juice, and raw tuna. Softer notes of lapsang souchong, camphor, ylang-ylang, and even sauerkraut are also present. An extremely persistent finish lingers on, keeping its drinker curious long after the last sip has been taken. Truly unique and special, it scores a 98+.

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