Alessandro Cellai is a very engaging chap: he calmly pours small tastes from great bottles that he has made or supervised.
From the village of Castellina 400 metres up in the Tuscan hills comes his owner’s Castellare Chianti Classico 2008 (US$15), a great drink now with plenty of that bitter-sweet crunching sensation. Made from 95 percent of the sangiovese grape, and 5 percent another thinly-planted red grape-canaiolo.
Actually Castellare have taken to tradition using the term sangioveto, not sangiovese, as the former was the original name of the grape in Etruscan times, and vines around this property are clonal descendants of the ancient original. The vineyard of 22 hectares is organically managed.
The single vineyard wine from Castellare is Vigna Il Poggiale Riserva 2007 (US$30), first made in 1997, still a little stiff in the mouth but generous un the black cherry flavours of sangiovese (90 percent sangioveto, 10 percent canaiolo).
The property’s top wine is all barrique-aged: I Sodi di S Niccolo 2007 (US$44); a thumping-tannic wine with heaps of fleshy flavour concentration-Cellai says he green harvests three times to reduce and manage his crop (85 percent sangioveto, 15 percent malvasia nero). San Niccolo is describing the ruins of the Romanesque church which lies in the vineyard.
Castellare have also joined with Bordeaux producer Domaines Rothschild-Chateau Lafite to plant a 75 ha property-Rocca di Frassenello in southern Tuscany (Maremma), the source vines being cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot from France. The vineyard was planted between 1999 and 2002 with syrah being added in 2009.
In Bordelais naming fashion the entry level wine is Poggio Alla Guardia 2007 (US$22); hefty wine, 14percent alcohol, merlot 45 percent, cabernet 40 percent and sangioveto 15 percent with lots of savoury fruit and fine tannin.
The mid-level wine is Le Suchere di Frassinello 2007 (US$35); 50 percent sangioveto, 25 percent cabernet, 25 percent merlot, more heavily oak aged from 50 percent new and 50 percent second use oak.
Next comes the Estate-named wine; Rocca di Frassinello 2007 (US$57); 60 percent sangioveto, 20 percent cabernet, 20 percent merlot, one serious wine of enormous depth and no doubt rivalling our Brunello friends nearby for flavour intensity. Aged in 70percent new oak, 30percent second fill.
The finale however is given to the single vineyard merlot wine, made famous by a nearby Ornellaia’s wine-Masseto, which has turned heads in many countries. Rocca di Frassinello’s wine is called Baffonero 2007 (US$150); one very special wine.
In part that is due to the particular vineyard precision where bunches are progressively removed until each vine ripens only one bunch-extreme viticulture here-and when harvested each berry is selected for use in the wine or not. Baffonero 2007 is one seriously dense wine, 100percent new oak for thirteen months, also closely planted at 6000 vines per hectare.
My impression of Castellare marketing is to preserve a little of the past, and embrace new and novel ideas, but every so often grab on the Tuscan roots and hold on to what is very out-dated, but original, such as the black malvasia grapes still planted in the vineyard.
Back in Castellina Alessandro has released his own range of wines from high-planted vineyards under the label Poderi Monastero with pinot nero (pinot noir) and cabernet merlot; again using extreme winemaking, cold macerating at 0oc for twelve hours and later introducing American oak into his aging program.
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