Towering over a boundless panorama of rolling hills and saturated with scents of wild herbs and flowers, the Castagnoli vineyards are a Tuscan paradise. Among the steep, terraced rows of alberello-trained Sangiovese vines, outcrops of layered blue galestro stone peek out from beneath the soil and litter flaky debris all about. And yet the vines seem quite happy growing out of almost pure rock, perhaps thanks to the biodynamic preparations intended to fertilize the land and boost the plant’s immune function. In the cellar, the most basic “technology”—open-top fermentation bins and used barrels—suffices to usher the transformation of grape to wine. Salita is a declassified Chianti Classico from the estate’s most prized parcel, a sun-drenched incline that yields a full-throttle Sangiovese loaded with the flavors of its terroir.
Castagnoli is a small estate in Castellina on the western edge of the Chianti Classico DOCG. This estate possesses a striking terroir,, one of Chianti’s most beautiful. Owner Alfred Schefenacker is the driving force behind this estate with amazing potential. He is intent on developing it into one of the finest estates in Chianti. The Castagnoli terreno is one of cool climate, high altitude Sangiovese but one with depth and concentration. Aromatics are on display, a medium-full bodied frame with smoked meat, olive and rosemary to complement the fruits, solid acidity and tannin. It is a unique style born of a unique terroir, and it possesses an elegance that makes it immediately drinkable and very pleasurable though it will age well.
Perhaps no region is tied to Italy’s reputation as a producer of fine wine as much as Tuscany. Since Etruscan times, viticulture has played a prominent role in this idyllic land of rolling hills, and the Tuscan winemaking tradition remains as strong as ever today. With a favorable Mediterranean climate, an undulating topography offering countless altitudes and expositions, and a wealth of poor, well-draining soils, conditions are ideal for crafting high-quality wines. Add to that the rich gastronomical tradition—Tuscany is home to some of the country’s finest game, pastas, salumi, and cheeses—and you have the blueprint for a world-class wine region.
This is Sangiovese territory; in fact, it is arguably the only place in the world where Sangiovese reaches a truly regal expression. In spite of a rocky history with fluctuations in quality, traditionally produced Chianti has reclaimed its status as one of the country’s most reliable, food-friendly reds, while the rapid rise of Brunello di Montalcino shows the grape’s potential for grandiose, opulent reds allying power and finesse. Traditionally-minded growers have stuck to using only indigenous grape varieties and employing techniques like aging in massive wooden casks known as botti, creating wines of terroir that shine at the Tuscan table.
Tuscan wines have had a place in our portfolio since Kermit’s first visit in 1977. While the names of the estates have changed, the spirit of those first unfiltered Chiantis he imported live on through our current selections.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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