Posts tagged ‘castello di volpaia’
Last time, I listed a few of my favorite value white wines from Italy in 2010; now for the reds:
TORMARESCA “NEPRICA” 2008
This is a beautiful blend from Antinori’s wine project in Puglia, cleverly named for the first two letters of the three red varieties: NEgromaro, PRimitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon. It displays tasty black fruit and good spice with moderate tannins. It’s eminently rinkable right now with all sort of foods. In other words, a fun and uncomplicated wine! Priced anywhere from $8-12, how can you go wrong?
MASTROBERARDINO AGLIANICO “RE DI MORE” 2008
Aglianico is the wonderful red variety of Campania that is used to produce the classic Taurasi, one of Italy’s most distinguished wines. Many wineries produce a lesser, fresher version of Aglianico that is released earlier for younger enjoyment and Mastroberardino generally produces one of the most consistent bottlings. This 2008 Re di More is from an older clone of Aglianico and the wine delivers excellent complexity with flavors of black raspberry and mocha. Medium-full with polished tannins and light black spice, this can be enjoyed with lighter game and most red meats (especially grilled) over the next 3-5 years. (note- this wine is not imported in the US at the present time, so look for the winery’s Aglianico Campania IGT offering, which is also quite good at $20.)
CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007
There are so many beautiful examples of Chianti Classico from this excellent vintage; this from one of my favorite producers, is a steal at $20. Red plum and currant aromas, light black spice, very good acidity and moderate tannins combine to make a very typical and very drinkable Chianti Classico that will be a fine match with pastas, pork and veal dishes over the next 2-3 years.
PIO CESARE DOLCETTO D’ALBA 2009
No surprise here, as this has been one of my favorite bottlings of Dolcetto d’Alba for some twenty years now; combine that with the 2009 vintage, a year of excellent ripeness and depth of fruit and you have a recipe for something special. Gorgeous perfumes of mulberry, cranberry and toffee backed by impressive persistence, very good acidity and moderate tannins, this is delicious! Pair this with pastas or even duck breast (cherry or orange sauce) or many poultry dishes and you’ll have a great experience, especially considering you only have to spend about $22 on this wine!
CASCINA ROCCALINI BARBERA D’ALBA 2008
After reading notes about the wines from this new artisan estate in the commune of Barbaresco, I contacted importer Terence Hughes in New York who was kind enough to arrange an appointment at the winery with owner Paolo Veglio and winemaker Dante Scaglione, I am eternally grateful to Terence for that, as the wines here are brilliant. Veglio used to sell his grapes to Scaglione when he was winemaker for Bruno Giacosa; now he keeps them for his own label.
The Barbaresco is aged only in large oak casks and is elegant with a beautiful sense of place, while the Dolcetto is amazingly fruity and delicious. The Barbera is the best of all – there is subtle spice, but this is all about varietal purity and outstanding concentration. This has layers of flavor and outstanding complexity and is a impressive a Barbera as I’ve had in years. This is not only an excellent value at $27, it’s also one of the best wines of the year!
Aerial view of Castello di Volpaia
Chianti Classico is such a famous wine, yet few associate the wine with greatness. This probably has a lot to do with its image as an everyday red wine – one that is loved around the world, yet not a wine that is celebrated with more renowned Italian reds such as Barolo, Amarone or Brunello di Montalcino.
Perhaps if more estates in the Chianti Classico zone produced wines of the quality of Castello di Volpaia, the wine’s impact might be more felt by wine lovers and wine writers, as this is a first-rate company that is clearly one of the leaders in the area.
The driving force behind Volpaia is owner Giovanella Stianti, who is one of the most decisive and assured people I have ever met. Along with her son Nicolo, she directs operations at this estate with a sure hand, always looking to offer the finest quality to the modern consumer, all the while respecting the tradition of this land.
For years, Stianti (along with a few other local producers) fought to be able to produce a Chianti Classico with 100% Sangiovese. Of course, Chianti Classico has historically been a blended wine, even after the white grapes (Trebbiano, Malvasia) that used to be included in the cuvées were eliminated. But Stianti wanted the regulations on the book allowing for a 100% Sangiovese for Chianti Classico and a few years ago that was approved. Today, her Black Label Chianti Classico Riserva (one of the most complex and elegant of this type, in my opinion) is 100% Sangiovese and offers lovely varietal purity with fresh red cherry and strawberry notes backed by lively acidity and subtle wood notes.
She also produces another Chianti Classico Riserva known as Coltassala, a single vineyard wine aged in barrique. A blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Mammolo (a traditional grape in this area), this wine is riper and a bit more modern in its approach, yet is still quite elegant, thanks to the steady winemaking hand of Riccardo Cotarella, who Giovanella hired a few years ago.
These two wines have a fine track record and both can drink well anywhere from 5-12 years after the vintage. There is also a regular bottling of Chianti Classico that is a fine value as well as a Super Tuscan known as Balificio, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Finally there is a first-rate Vin Santo that has the caramel, honey and butterscotch flavors you find in a classic rendition of this wine; the 2003 is the current release and it is a beauty. The emphasis here – as in all the wines of Volpaia – is on elegance. Drink this wine – as a vino di meditazione – over the next 7-10 years.
Located in Radda in Chianti in the east central reaches of the Chianti Classico zone, Castello di Volpaia has become a leader in his area. Too often, Chianti Classico is still a moderate wine, one that drinks well tonight, but lacks structure for aging. Either that or producers will make them like jam, trying to win an international audience. Giovanella and her family go about their job in the proper way by producing wines of balance, structure and elegance. As I wrote earlier in this piece, this is the path to quality and it is a journey carried out beautifully at Castello di Volpaia.
One final note: This is one of the best-equipped wineries in all of Chianti Classico for visitors. There is a small trattoria in the square opposite the winery and there are many tasting possibilities in the winery itself. This includes not only the wonderful wines of the estate, but also extra virgin olive oil, honey and vinegars.
Everyone loves Tuscany it seems, so it follows that everyone loves Chianti. It is arguably the most-loved red wine in the world, if you think about it. Bordeaux and Burgundy may be more famous and regal, but the price of many examples of those wines keep them from being appreciated by so many people. Thus Chianti, historically a moderately priced wine, is seen in many more markets across the globe, giving more consumers the chance to embace this lovely Tuscan red.
The name Chianti has been around since the year 1100, when it was first used to describe a wide area in Tuscany’s central zone. The Etruscans who began viticulture along the region’s west coast, soon spread their efforts north and east, planting Sangiovese near the town of Siena, Pisa and Arezzo. It was in 1085 that the Ricasoli family began to produce wine at Castello di Brolio in Gaiole, one of Tuscany’s most famous estates.
Given the success of Chianti wine, farmers outside the center of Tuscany, wanting to cash in on the popularity of this name, started to produce Chianti throughout the region. Eventually the heart of the Chianti territory- the hills between Florence to the north and Siena to the south – became known as Chianti Classico, and today there are seven sub-zones that use the name Chianti with a geographical suffix, such as Chianti Colli Fiorentini (“the hills of Florence”) and Chianti Colli Senesi (“the hills of Siena).
The DOCG regulations are slightly different for Chianti Classico as compared with the other Chianti zones; basically the minimum amount of Sangiovese in Chianti Classico is 80%, as compared with 75% for the other zones. In the past, only local varieties, such as Canaiolo or Mammolo for red or Trebbiano or Malvasia for white were allowed in a Chianti blend, but the regulations were changed in the 1980s. Several producers, most notably Antinori and Le Pergole Torte, started to add Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon to the blend, leaving out traditional varieites. At first, these wines such as Tignanello, had to be called vino da tavola (table wines), as they did not conform to the Chianti regulations. But with the success of these wines and the more common use of international variteties from other area producers, the laws were changed. White varieties were banned from the Chianti blend a few years ago and today, Chianti can be made with small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvgnon, Syrah or other varieties; it can also be 100% Sangiovese. (A Riserva bottling of Chianti must be aged longer than a normale bottling; in the case of Chianti Classico Riserva, the wine must be aged for a minimum period of two years and three months in wood.)
Top estates of Chianti today include:
- Castello di Brolio (Barone Ricasoli)
- Castello di Cacchiano
- Castello di Bossi
- Badia a Coltibuono
- Castello di Volpaia
- Castello Monsanto
- Castellare di Castellina
- San Felice
- Le Miccine
- Rocca di Montegrossi
CHIANTI COLLI FIORENTINI
- Castello di Poppiano
- San Michele a Torri
Chianti was traditionally a rustic red; while that adjective can cover a lot of flaws, rustic really was an apt decriptor for old-style Chiantis. Made from Sangiovese, which is high in acidity with moderate tannins, these wines were aged in large casks, giving them a cedary quality. Usually displaying notes of brown herbs, dried cherry and tomato as the wines aged, these were simple, charming wines meant for food; even today, the traditional style of Chianti (such as the excellent wines from Badia a Coltibuono) works beautifully with any number of foods such as veal, pork or pastas with tomato-based sauces.
However, modern methods both in the vineyards and in the cellar have changed the style of many Chiantis (as of course have the blending laws). The wines today are deeper on color, while many are oakier, especially the ones aged in French barriques.
Perhaps the biggest difference between today’s Chiantis and the older botlings is the fact that today, yields are much lower. Left to its own, Sangiovese can be uncontrollable, often getting 12 tons to the acre. This means a lot of wine, but wine that is thin and too acidic. Yields are often cut to 4-5 tons per acre these days (sometimes lower) and the wines are much fuller and riper with excellent Sangiovese fruit character.
While the style of wines can be argued, there is no question that today’s Chiantis are better quality offerings. Here are thoughts on this subject from Francesco Ricasoli, owner of Castello di Brolio; “The wines of today are without discussion much better wines from the ones of the past. Chianti Classico today is tracking its way for the future with innovation but still keeping its roots with Sangiovese and preserving its own style that makes it unique worldwide. It cannot be “duplicated” elsewhere in the world.”
Whatever your preference for Chianti – traditional style versus modern style – the best bottlings do present the charm of Sangiovese, with its lively acidity and fresh red cherry fruit in a nicely balanced wine that everyone loves.