The Castagnoli vineyards, just outside of Castellina in Chianti, are a sight to behold: sprawling over stone terraces carved out of a steep hillside, they look out on the magnificent Tuscan landscape to the south, with towering Monte Amiata looming in the distance. The high altitude here—up to 450 meters—and stony soil, littered with flaky blue chunks of galestro (a schistous clay found locally), give a unique expression of Sangiovese showing minerality, lift, and exotic aromatics in contrast with the chunkier, more corporeal wines common elsewhere in the Chianti zone. Adding to this is the bright, fresh character of the 2014 vintage, a cooler and rainier year that yielded wines lighter in color and body than is typical in Tuscany. The result is a Chianti of great elegance and drinkability, refined by aging in large casks and still showing a pleasant fleshiness, thanks to the unfiltered bottling. It is the perfect match for rustic Mediterranean cuisine.
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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