Uncorking a true Chianti is the easiest way to experience the amazing potential of Tuscan Sangiovese. By “true” Chianti, I am referring to wines hailing from the original, Chianti Classico zone, grown sustainably in poor soils on hillside sites, vinified by local artisans and raised in traditional large oak botti. This formula is responsible for wines that excel at table alongside Tuscan, or even generally Mediterranean-inspired, cuisine. It has created wines that seamlessly ally rusticity with nobility, offering a satisfyingly chewy bite when young and divine delicacy with bottle age. And best of all, these wines rarely cost more than thirty dollars per bottle. Castagnoli’s 2015 is one such Chianti: the vineyards sit at high altitude on unimaginably stony soils. Farming is biodynamic, and quite laborious—the steep slopes and intense sun demand strength and courage. And the cellar is no high-tech lab; the wines ferment spontaneously in open bins and sit patiently in old casks before being bottled with only as much sulfur as necessary. Castagnoli’s magnificent terroir is pristinely reflected in the glass. The 2015 vintage, which gave an abundant, healthy, well-ripened crop, maintains an excellent acidity that perks up each sip and leaves you salivating for your next bite. Thick and saucy, it echoes the flavors of herbs and stewed tomatoes with which you’d coat a serving of hot pappardelle. With balance, grip, and rustic, earthy nuances, this is the real deal, straight from the Tuscan countryside.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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