Celebrity wines are becoming quite numerous, and they are often met with a mixed response. When the celebrity attaches their persona to the wine consumers often flock to the wine, wanting to determine for themselves whether or not it is a good wine. Critics tend to receive the wine with much more skepticism, after all the top selling wines in the US are not receiving critic’s choice awards. However, like all rules there are exceptions. Tenuta Il Palagio, the Tuscan winery owned by Sting and his wife Trudy Styler, produces wines critics and consumers can enjoy.
Sting grew up around the shipyards of northern UK drinking beer. In fact The Australian shares Sting’s explanation to Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2011, “I’m from the north of England so I drank beer from age 16 on and younger. I didn’t have a glass of wine until I was in my late 20s. I have a job in the winery — I go down and play to the wine. I practice down there. And you know, if I play it true, the wine is better.” Initially it is reported Sting did receive some criticism from critics as another celebrity trading on their status to make wine. However, rather than cave to the critics, Sting sought to prove them wrong.
Sting and Trudy purchased Il Palagio, a 16th century Tuscan estate, in 1999. At purchase the estate was in disrepair. They took time to restore the estate to its previous glory, while also purchasing neighboring land to expand the total hectares to 364. Initially they began selling olive oil and honey. The estate houses six cottages that beginning in 2013, are open to the public to rent for approximately $10K a week. As romantic as all of this sounds it is the wines that are the true success.
Sting brought in two important consultants to insure the quality of Il Palagio’s wine portfolio. Paolo Caciorgna is a notable Italian enologist and wine consultant. I have personally enjoyed some of the wines he has consulted on as well as his own portfolio of wines and speaking first hand I can say they are outstanding. Furthermore, having had the honor of meeting Paolo and tasting through his wines with him I can say he is a humble master of his craft. Sting also brought on American Alan York, who is a specialist in building biodynamic vineyards. The results are quality wines that stand on their own merit, regardless of their celebrity owners.
“Wine is like a beautiful piece of music already written. An opera that the musician or the tenor has to perform. The notes are always the same, but the result is always different and often exciting. Every day I work to become a good interpreter of the grapes; grapes that with great care and sensibility are cultivated by using all the instruments, antique and modern, that allow me to express their quality.” ~ Paolo Caciorgna, Enologist
In 2016, Sting was named by Wine Spectator Magazine as one of Italy’s Top 100 Wine Producers. This put Sting among Italy’s most prestigious wineries including Antorini, Frescobaldi, Gaja, Vietti, and San Guido to name a few. The wine that received this recognition was the 2011 Il Palagio Sister Moon IGT. This level of recognition removes Sting and Trudy’s wines from the “celebrities who make wine” category, and places them in the “Italian wines you must try” category.
“When I say, ‘Try my wine,’ people look at me quizzically. Sure, I’ll try your rock star wine. Then they taste it and recognize its good,” Sting told the website Cool Hunting in 2014, via The Australian
There are two wonderful reasons I was able to try Il Palagio wines. One reason is my dear friend, winemaker, and highly successful wine shop owner (Enoteca Pontevecchio in Florence), Tony Sasa. The second reason is my dear friend, and the one and only Dallas Wine Chick, Melanie Ofenloch. I was working on a wine project with Tony, as part of that project I introduced him to Melanie. Tony works with Sting on the marketing and distribution of Il Palagio in the US. Tony sent the wines to Melanie, she and I tasted through them together.
2014 Tenuta Il Palagio Casino Delle Vie IGT Tuscany Italy ($22): Predominately Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; medium ruby; medium+ aromas of freshly picked red and black berries, dried herbs and roses, medicinal notes, dusty earth, oregano, licorice; elegantly restrained with juicy fruit balanced with depth of earth on the palate, medium acidity and tannins, medium body with a pleasant lift off the palate creating a juicy finish; I am totally thinking mushroom risotto with this wine. Named after a property on the Il Palagio estate, when translated the name means “little house by the roads,” but colloquially it can also mean “the muddling of the ways,” a philosophical suggestion of the paths we all take in life.
2014 Tenuta Il Palagio Sister Moon IGT Tuscany Italy ($44): Blend of 40% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot; medium ruby; medium aromas of baked black cherries, blackberries, black raspberries, and plums, black pepper, dried floral notes, baking spice, cocoa, licorice, graphite, and dusty earth volcanic in nature; tension on palate between elegance and rustic nature, lots of depth and texture, medium+ acidity and tannins that are driven by minerality, fuller in body with a long finish; this wine begs for wild boar or rabbit ragu. This wine is named after Sting’s song Sister Moon, it was the first IGT wine produced by Il Palagio and the 2011 vintage was named one of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
2015 Tenuta Il Palagio When We Dance DOCG Chianti Italy ($14): Predominately Sangiovese with 5% Canaiolo and Colorino; medium+ ruby; medium aromas of ripe red and black fruit, roses, lavender, eucalyptus, dried herbs, medicinal notes, graphite; this everyday sipper lands right in the middle of the previous two wines, elegantly refined, bright on the palate with a nice lift, medium acidity and tannins, highly approachable, smooth and balanced, incredible value; pair with classic Chianti cuisine such as venison meatloaf and ravioli. This charming everyday wine is named after Sting’s song When We Dance. Look at the label and tell me how could you not buy this wine?
Overall I must admit I was not really expecting much from these wines. I had read the Wine Spectator feature on Il Palagio, Sting and Trudy so I knew they liked the wines, but I don’t pay much attention to celebrity wines. I am now completely sold! So sold I will gladly buy these wines for myself and share them with friends. They each taste way beyond their price point, delivering high quality Italian wines. They are also fairly easy to find at larger wine retailers and online. I encourage you to seek out Il Palagio wines, give them a try, and let me know what you think.
My Song Selection: Il Palagio also makes a “Message in the Bottle” wine that I have not tried. Seems like the perfect song to pair since the message in these bottles is delicious!
Get your own Tenuta Il Palagio wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!