Glimpsing the dramatic “terraces” for which this Chianti is named, you might wonder if you boarded the wrong flight and landed in Côte-Rôtie. Trained vertically at a single vine per stake (known as échalas training in France), these vineyards have much in common with those of the northern Rhône. However, when you look around, you notice olive trees separating the vineyard rows, their silver leaves waving lackadaisically in the afternoon breeze. The brilliant sunshine and crystalline skies have an undeniable Mediterranean accent, and a rustic stone farmhouse encircled by cypresses at the top of the hill confirms: you are indeed in Tuscany.
But the Côte-Rôtie comparison may not be so far-fetched, after all. Thanks to its high elevation and thin, rocky soils, this is a decidedly bright, aromatic, almost exotic Chianti, with aromas of black olive, violets, iron, and smoked meat, that nonetheless boasts the firm structure and aging potential of Tuscany’s memorable 2016 vintage. Decanting is advised; pleasure is assured.
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.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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