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WINO tasting (6/6)

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Located between Siena and Arezzo, the 60-hectare Fattoria di Caspri estate has nine hectares of grape vines and seven hectares of olive trees. The estate’s founding dates back nearly to the beginning of the Common Era, when Roman general Casperius Aelianus made it his home. The current main building is a relative youngster, having been built in the 18th century.

Farming has been organic and biodynamic since 2006, when the estate was acquired by its current owners. The soil tends to be light and sandy mixed with decomposed gneiss and a little clay. While the focus is on traditional grape varieties (mainly Sangiovese, Canaiolo Cillegiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia), the estate also has experimental plots of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The wine-making is identical for all the reds. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in small, non-temperature-controlled conical vats with indigenous yeasts. Total maceration time is three to four weeks. After pressing, the wine is transferred into old barrels for 18 to 20 months’ maturation. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added.

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Rosso di Caspri, Fattoria di Caspri ($31.21, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from young vines. 12.3% ABV. 650 cases made. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of bitter cherry, fresh herbs, slate, turned earth and a little ash. “Kind of meaty” is the first (and accurate) comment about the flavour of this medium-bodied and very dry wine. Red fruit, tingly acidity and fine astringent tannins made for a somewhat austere if appealingly rustic mouthful. Finishes clean. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Poggio Cuccule, Fattoria di Caspri ($41.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from 45-year-old vines. 125 cases made. 13.1% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Gorgeous, floral nose of cherry, fresh almond and old wood. Medium-bodied. A sip is like biting into a morello cherry. Fresh, fleet, intense and pure. The energy is palpable and the wine seems lit from within by glowing acidity. The tannins are fruit-cloaked. Minerals, wood and earth undertones add depth, not darkness. Finishes long and clean. Stunning Sangiovese. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2014, Casperius, Fattoria di Caspri ($67.31, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. 12.7% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Closed nose that with coaxing reveals red fruit, dried herb, violet, leather and mint notes and a whiff of barnyard. In the mouth, it’s fuller-bodied, smoother, rounder and less acidic than its flightmates, though it does share some of the Rosso’s meatiness. Depth, breadth and length it has in spades though it would probably benefit from a year or two to come together. Perhaps a little overshadowed by the Poggio Cuccule, I suspect this would prove wholly satisfactory on its own at dinner. (Buy again? Maybe.)

IGT Toscana 2010, Luna Blu, Fattoria di Caspri ($28.50 in 2013, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
An orange wine made from a 50-50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Macerated on the skins for four weeks before pressing. Matured in small wood barrels. No filtering, fining or added sulphur. Under 100 cases made. 13.3% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV at the time, now WINO. The newest vintage is slated to arrive later this spring.

Bronze with a rosé cast. Sultry nose of “elderflower,” sawdust and hints of apricot skin and dried tangerine peel. Rich and smooth in the mouth, bright acidity notwithstanding. Fruity yet dry, the flavours tending to citrus and spice with a mineral undercurrent. Faint tannins add a little grit to the otherwise sleek texture. Long. As mentioned in my October 2013 tasting note, the winemaker has stated that the wine would be at its apogee in 2017. In the event, while it may not be the deepest, most structured or even most involving orange wine, it is definitely a pleasure to drink. Paired beautifully with a selection of cheeses from Yannick, especially a raw-milk L’Étivaz. (Buy again? Moot. But I’m looking forward to the new vintage.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

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Odd flightfellows

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Colline Lucchesi 2013, Palistorti, Tenuta di Valgiano ($29.80, 12767840)
Sangiovese (70%), Merlot (15%) and Syrah (15%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines around 20 years old. Manually harvested. The sorted grapes are gravity-fed into open wooden vats and crushed by hand or foot. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts, one supposes) and macerated for around two weeks with occasional punch-downs and pump-overs. Racked, settled and gravity-fed into lightly toasted French oak barrels (5% new) for malolactic fermentation and 12 months’ maturation. Blended and transferred into concrete vats for six months’ additional maturation. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Appealing nose of cherry, tar, turned earth, Asian spices and a fresh, almost ferny note. A medium- to full-bodied mouthful of ripe fruit, bright acidity and firm but not rigid tannins. Despite the superficial sleekness, broad, deep and long. Beautifully balanced and complete, modern yet also terroirtorial. I’m usually unenthusiastic about blends of Sangiovese with international varieties but this is exceptional. It was also the only wine in the tasting that absolutely everyone around the table liked. The price seems more than fair. (Buy again? Yes.)

Swartland 2014, Family Red Blend, A.A. Badenhorst ($40.00, 12275298)
An unorthodox blend – around two-thirds Syrah with Tinta Barroca, Cinsault and Grenache – from estate-grown and purchased grapes. Farming practices are organic or nearly so. Manually harvested. The whole clusters, including stems, are crushed by foot and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete and wood tanks with twice-daily punch-downs. Given extended maceration (up to six months) before pressing. Transferred to 4,000-litre barrels for 16 months’ maturation. Blended just before bottling. Sulphur (pre- and post-fermentation) is the only addition. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Complex, warm-climate nose of prune, plum, eucalyptus, black olive, dark minerals and eventually dried herbs. Full-bodied, rich and dense, balanced and savoury. Round tannins and smooth acidity provide sufficient structure. The flavours linger long and tend to the darker side of the spectrum: black fruit, slatey minerals, smoke, leather, compost, animale and a volatile note that puts me in mind of charred eucalyptus but that one taster describes as “electrical tape.” Not quite my style but definitely drinkable and as Old Worldish as New. (Buy again? Would gladly drink if offered but doubt I’d buy a bottle.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

February 9, 2017 at 14:04

Very Volpaia

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Chianti Classico 2013, Volpaia ($26.65, 10858262)
Sangiovese (90%) and Merlot (10%) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Destemmed and lightly crushed. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs in temperature controlled (80-86F) tanks lasted 14 days. The wine was then left to macerate on the skins for seven more days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was transferred to Slavonian oak botti for 14 months’ maturation. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Textbook Chianti nose of cherry, dried leaves, tobacco and terracotta. Medium-bodied and silky textured. Lean fruit, bright acidity, Burgundian tannins, a mineral substrate and a drying, bitter-edged finish give it an appealing austerity. Balanced and approachable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Chianti Classico 2013, Riserva, Castello di Volpaia ($36.75, 00730416)
100% Sangiovese from organically farmed vines grown in five vineyards. The grapes from each parcel are vinified separately and the best barrels are blended to make this bottling. Manually harvested. Destemmed and lightly crushed. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs in temperature controlled (80-86F) tanks lasted 14 days. The wine was then left to macerate on the skins for seven more days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured for two years, 80% in used Slavonian oak botti and French oak casks and 20% in new French oak cask, then blended and lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Closed at first but eventually gorgeous: cherry, leather, sandalwood, “terracotta tiles” (per another taster). Lusher than the Volpaia though still medium-bodied. Ripe but not heavy fruit, animating acidity, wonderful minerals and real depth. Quite tannic yet balanced. The oak is discreet (more so than in some earlier vintages, if memory serves), not that I’m complaining. Very long mineral-, leather- and tobacco-scented finish. Pure and structured, rich yet austere in that way that few non-Chianti reds can be. Even better in five to 10 years. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

MWG October 27, 2016, tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

November 23, 2016 at 15:24

Sangiovese purissimo

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Chianti Classico 2013, Riecine ($28.25, 00134833)
100% Sangiovese from organically farmed grapes averaging 25 years old and rooted in limestone and clay in a 450-500 m high vineyard located near Siena. The estate is converting to biodynamic farming. Manually harvested. The destemmed grapes were placed in shallow bins, crushed by foot, then transferred to open-top vats and cement tanks for 40 days’ maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The grapes were pressed and the wine was transferred to a mix of cement tanks, used casks and big wooden barrels for 18 months’ maturation during which the wine is racked every four months. Residual sugar (per the winery): < 0.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Lovely nose: cherry, terracotta, leather, pencil shavings, blond tobacco. In the mouth, medium-bodied, very dry and nicely balanced, restrained but not austere. The ripe-sweet fruit is remarkably pure, aglow with acidity. Sleek tannins coat the teeth and gums with a light, lingering astringency. There’s some mineral depth (more may come with time) and a long spicy finish. That the wine blossomed when chewed and was best three hours after carafing indicates a certain development potential. (That said, a glass from a bottle opened 24 hours earlier was faintly oxidized and considerably less charming.) It may not be an archetypical Chianti – the weight and texture are positively Burgundian while the fruit, so direct in its expression, seems closer to a fine Brunello’s – but if you’re a Sangiovese fan, you don’t want to miss this elegant wine. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Written by carswell

April 20, 2016 at 12:39

Easy-drinkers from Tuscany and Touraine

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Rosso di Montalcino 2013, Altesino ($26.45, 11472345)
100% Sangiovese Grosso from younger vines in the Altesino, Pianezzine, Macina and Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyards. Given a one- to two-day cold soak and seven to ten days’ maceration with racking and pump-overs. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (28-30°C) stainless steel tanks and lasts 15-20 days. Matured six to eight months in old 5,000- to 10,000-litre Slavonian oak barrels and a minimum of three months in bottle. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Red berries, black cherry, iodine, marzipan and, as another taster noted, “umami.” Medium-bodied, silky textured and very dry. The deliciously pure fruit is structured by lacy tannins and bright acidity, while minerals and bitter black cherry mingle on the clean, nicely astringent finish. Faint tobacco and floral (violet?) notes linger. Fans of here-now Sangioveses need not hesitate. (Buy again? Yep.)

Touraine 2014, Le Bon ami, Domaine de La Garrelière ($26.65, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No chaptalization. Matured six to eight months in concrete tanks. Lightly filtered before bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Complex nose of Chinese preserved plums, pepper brine, black tea leaves and more. Medium-bodied, supple, smooth, fresh and pure. The fruit (cherry and black currant) comes with a faint green note pitched somewhere between cedar shoot and tobacco leaf. The acidity’s sleek and the tannins are low-key, though there’s a bit of astringency on the long finish, which also brings a hint of spice. Not a grab-you-by-the-throat wine but drinkable indeed. It may well gain depth and complexity with a couple of years in the cellar. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Written by carswell

March 23, 2016 at 10:11

Weeknight Sangiovese

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Chianti 2014, Cetamura, Coltibuono ($14.95, 12693916)
Sangiovese (90%), Canaiolo (5%), Ciliegiolo (3%) and Colorino (2%) from vines grown in the subzones of the Chianti appellation. Fermented “traditionally” (whatever that means) and matured in stainless steel tanks. Aged briefly in bottle. 200,000 bottles made. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Sélections Fréchette.
Cherry, spice, pencil shavings, terracotta, stems and a quick-to-dissipate horsey whiff of volatile acidity. Medium-bodied and fluid. The surface is pleasant but there’s not much depth. The lightly juicy fruit sours and dries on the mid-palate. Tame acidity and supple tannins provide a modicum of texture. If the flavours fade fast on the savoury finish, a tart stemmy/woody astringency lingers. While it doesn’t quite coalesce into a harmonious whole, doesn’t scream terroir and doesn’t deliver the kind of bang for the buck found in, say, the $23 La Ragnaie, it’s a decent enough weeknight Sangiovese and, hey, it runs less than $15 a bottle. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Written by carswell

January 29, 2016 at 15:12

Not Brunello and not Maremma

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Chianti Colli Senesi 2013, Le Ragnaie ($22.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The estate is located in the Montalcino hills and this would be a Brunello if the vineyard’s elevation weren’t so high (above 600 m). 100% Sangiovese from organically farmed 12-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermentation on the skins uses indigenous yeasts, takes place in temperature-controlled concrete tanks (maximum 28°C) and lasts 21 days. Matured 12 months in 250-litre Slavonian oak barrels, few if any of which I’m guessing are new. Lightly filtered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Textbook nose of dusty sour cherry and plum with notes of iodine, graphite/slate, spice and dried rose. A medium-bodied mouthful of pure fruit, racy acidity, light, drying tannins and terracotta minerals. Long, clean finish with telltale bitter licorice, tobacco and leather notes. Like mainlining Sangiovese, albeit one with a Burgundian texture. Exceptional QPR. (Buy again? Done!)

Montecucco Sangiovese 2010, Cartacanta, Basile Agricola ($24.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Located in Maremma near the Tuscan coast southwest of Sienna, the appellation gained DOCG status in 2011 (the 2010’s a DOC). 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented in temperature-controlled (maximum 28°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in French oak barrels, 24 months in the bottle. Unfiltered. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Candied mixed berries, herbs, ink and dried leaves. Richer, fruitier and less rustic than the Ragnaie. Nicely structured and well balanced. The dark minerally finish has a faintly bitter edge. Tastes a little primary at this point; though approachable now, will probably benefit from a couple of years in the cellar. Suave, food-friendly and fairly priced, this deserves to be on many restaurant lists. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

November 19, 2015 at 12:50