There was a new feeling in the October air which was crisp, foggy and fresh. It was a visit to Frescobaldi in Chianti Rufina 25 kilometres north-east of Firenze (Florence).
The hillsides are the same: vegetated, rocky, austere, perfect hideouts for wild boar and all the game that inhabits. It is also the environment that the Florentines such as the 31 generations of Frescobaldis respect as the home of sangiovese.
Hosting me at Castello Nipozzano is Rufina-born Stephania Morello, the company’s tasting and sales specialist for all things Frescobaldi at the estate of over 800 hectares.
As is commonplace, portion is vines, portion olive (the three widely planted varieties-frantoio, moraiolo and leccino in Toscana), and the rest unplantable due to the rugged nature of the landscape-unlike most Australian regions.
Frescobaldi participate in the Laudemio extra virgin (EVO) olive oil project among 30 estates. My oil sample was delicious-glistening green, mild pepper, hay and slippery spice on typical Tuscan dry/crisp bread.
Stephania outlines how the property supports only red vines; sangiovese predominantly but also cabernet sauvignon, franc, merlot and petit verdot established by a long banished relative (forced otherwise to ply the wine trade in Bordeaux) who returned in the 1880s.
Unlike the southern hemisphere, vines stay in the ground about 40 years; after that they are grubbed and new selections planted. The interval between replanting can be up to five years, as fallowed soil is regenerated, and no doubt the organic additives allowed to ameliorate.
Unlike the Bolgheri region on the coast where Bordeaux varieties were only introduced in the 40s (Sassacaia), and moreso from the 80s, Nipozzano has more prehistory with these varieties, grown in 25 hectares at 300 m elevation.
However there are no centurion vines to be found from the continual replacement mindset.
The wine made as cabernet sauvignon (60%), merlot (25%), franc (12%) and verdot (3%) is Castello di Niponazzo Mormoreto 2007 IGT (90), USD 56, 14.5%, celebrating 25 years of continuous production of this wine.
It’s style is unashamedly bold: ripe cabernet of the chocolate type, spicy cabernet (as McLaren Vale does in Oz), fully ripe and supported by the ripe floral notes of merlot. Up to two years aging in mainly new barriques puts the additional tannins on the palate that the structure deserves.
Production annually is 30,000 bottles.
Montesodi is the pinnacle sangiovese over the past 30 years from the property; 20 hectares, is planted on a plateau facing south-west to intercept the most sun at 400 metres. It now contains 34 different sangiovese clones. The grapes are left to hang to super-ripeness, producing 35,000 bottles.
Montesodi Chianti Rufina 2006 (96), USD 42, 14.5%, is sangiovese, single vineyard, low crop, high density planting which shows in the wine. Colour is dense, nose is dense, the wine focus is vanillin from a high use of new barrique, black cherry fruit intensity which concludes on the palate as a massive sangiovese drink. The lineage is 30 years.
Montesodi and Mormoreto are both harvested by hand and hand sorted; as I observed on the day of visiting. The rest of the 200 hectares are mechanically harvested to make one million bottles of Riserva Chianti (a big feat as there is no entry level wine).
Castello di Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2007 (90), USD 16, 13.5%, is outstanding. It has lovely cherry freshness, sour cherry fruit intensity, dryness, aged for 2 years in second fill barriques; sangiovese clones (90%), the rest colorino, malvasia nero and cabernet sauvignon.
Part of the Castello supports the ancient villagio Castello; once a hub of share farmers who lived and worked on the estate, one 73 year-old lady remains. Share farming had ceased in the 60s.
The castle was a Florentine fortress dating back to 1000, then a literary retreat and a long time Frescobaldi estate. Today it houses the Frescobaldi family wine library.
However I will recall the place as an estate making big Tuscan red wines.
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