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Francesco Anichini of Vallone di Cecione: A Man Rooted in his History and Land Just as his Vines

Francesco Anichini’s family has been farming and living on the same land for centuries. Sharecroppers; it wasn’t until 1985 that the family came to own the land directly. Tucked into the rolling hills and valleys of Panzano, in the heart of Chianti Classico, the estate is one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces of land I’ve seen.

The name Vallone di Cecione stems from a combination of the historical name of the field [Vallone] that descends from their house [which dates back to the 14th century] to the valley below, and Cecione, a small area in which there are two other farms. Today, Francesco Anichini proudly and passionately farms the 8 hectares of land; half is vineyard, the other half olive groves. Francesco and his family, along with his parents who are still involved with the farming, all live in the family property, which has housed the Anichinis since the 1300’s.

The estate has always been organic and natural, never once in its long history has a chemical ever been added to the soil. The estate was certified organic in 2010 and has been biodynamic for the past 6 years. Vineyards are south and southeast facing and at an elevation of 450 meters, with predominately clay soils.

Roses grow amongst the vines, not just for beauty, but also as an early detection system for threats to the soil/vines/grapes.

As the family were sharecroppers, every usable piece of land was given to crops. Vegetation such as fava beans, clover, wheat and arugula grow where they have for centuries, right alongside the vines, providing nutrients such as nitrogen into the soil. As Francesco says, “Everything returns to the soil as fertilizer.”

In addition to touring the picturesque vineyards with Francesco*, I had the good fortune of having him lead me thru the journey of each of his wines. With the sun setting over the Panzano hills in the background, it was a phenomenal experience**.

Vallone di Cecione ‘Rosato di Allegra’ Rosato Toscano IGT 2016

Winemaking: Every wine has history at Vallone di Cecione, Allegra is the name of Francesco’s daughter, whose birth year coincides with the very first vintage of the Rosato. It was amed after her in dedication as the newest member of the Anichini family. The label is a photo Francesco took whilst working in the vineyard. Black and white, the bright red lady bug captures the eye. Ladybugs are a symbol of many winemakers that farm organically, as it represents a healthy ecosystem, additionally it is an insect that has always brought the family luck. Francesco describes it as great satisfaction, and as “a great wish for Allegra and for all those who believe in these choices”.

All of the labels of Vallone Di Cecione feature a purple colour theme, which symbolizes the family’s shared love for ACF Fiorentina, Florence’s professional football team.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel vats [about 21 days] with 24hr contact on the skins.

Tasting Notes: Bright transparent ruby in colour with aromas of summer strawberries on the vine, cherry, and a trace of funky earth. Juicy raspberry and strawberry are layered over dashes of cranberry and red currant, accented by an herbaceous streak. Clay minerality compliments the fruity, dry finish. Silky layers of super fruity goodness, this is fantastic to guzzle down on its own, and drinking more like a light red, easy to pair with a wide variety of dishes.
100% Sangiovese
12.5% Alcohol

Vallone di Cecione Malvasia Nera Toscana IGT 2016

Winemaking: This is the first vintage of Malvasia Nera Francesco has made. He regards this as an interesting, easy drinking grape, and less rustic than Caniolo.

Grapes are from the “Allegra” vineyard, located in the lower area of the estate. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement barrels for about 10 days, followed by 2 months on the lees. Aged 6 months in terracotta amphorae. Only 300 bottles were made of this first vintage.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with inviting aromas of blackberry, black cherry, leather, clove and peppery spice. Spice driven, with plush black cherry, black currant and plum framed by tart acidity and wooly tannins. Wild berry preserves, clove and black pepper saturate the velvety finish. A sumptuous fusion of savoury spice and intense dark fruit, powerful yet so easy drinking you won’t realise the bottle is empty.
100% Malvasia Nera
13% Alcohol

Vallone di Cecione Canaiolo Toscana IGT 2016

Winemaking: Considered predominantly only as a blending grape, to Francesco Canaiolo is a symbol of the generations of winemakers that have come before him. He remembers his grandfather enjoying it as an everyday drinker; fresh and ready to be drunk before Sangiovese. Calling it “the poor brother of Sangiovese”, Francesco crafts his Caniolo as a nod to all of the farmers of the past, dedicating it “to those who have appreciated it before me, to those who will appreciate it today, tomorrow and to my whole family”.

Indigenous yeast fermentation in cement barrels [helping preserve the floral aromas], with maceration on the skins for 2 months, aged in cement tanks. The label is a picture of his family from 1984.

Tasting Notes: Dark ruby red in colour, very aromatic with black cherry, raspberry, rose petal, black pepper, warm summer earth and a trace of licorice. Layers of vivid black cherry, Morello cherry, raspberry, rose petal and an herbaceous whisper of Tuscan underbrush are framed by wooly tannins and fresh acidity. Crushed black peppercorn and all of the cherries plump the dry, lengthy finish. Striking, plush and expressive, this will swiftly disappear from your glass.
100% Canaiolo
13% Alcohol

Vallone di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Winemaking: 2014 was a notoriously difficult year in Tuscany. It was the first year in the family’s history that they did not make olive oil, and their Chianti Classico production was dramatically reduced by 4000 bottles. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in steel vats for about 20 days, with the following passage on its lees for about 3/4 of a month. Aged for 8 months in large chestnut barrels and at least 4 months in the bottle.

Although it was a problematic growing season, in the hands of a good producer, the wines have a unique character. Francesco’s 2014 Chianti Classico is silky smooth and accessible. Not a candidate to cellar, but one to enjoy now.

The label is a photo of his parents from 1975. It captures the first harvest that plastic baskets were used. Plastic revolutionized work in the vineyards, as it is light and washable.

Tasting Notes: Brilliant garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, peppery spice, rose petal, tree bark and a hint of fresh turned earth. Silky layers of cherry, raspberry, white pepper and a nuance of bitter nuttiness fuse with fresh acidity and dry tannins. Fruit and spice linger between each sip. Thoughtful and graceful, a gem from a challenging year.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Caniolo
13% Alcohol

Vallone di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Winemaking: 2015 is known all thru Tuscany as a high-quality vintage, especially true in Chianti Classico. For Francesco, it was a dry, yet great year. The wines have strong tannins and will develop and age well. For this vintage the wine was bottled young and quickly. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in steel vats for about 20 days, with the following passage on its lees for about 3/4 of a month. Aged for 8 months in large chestnut barrels and at least 4 months in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: Transparent red-violet in colour with aromas of sour cherry, black cherry, truffle, forest floor, white pepper and rose petal. Silky layers of all the cherries [red, black and sour] accented by white pepper and floral notes, all atop an herbaceous undercurrent. Fresh acidity and robust tannins compliment fruit and spice on the dry, lengthy finish. A refined edge to each velvety sip, lovely on its own or as a versatile companion at the table.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Caniolo
14% Alcohol

Vallone di Cecione Campo dell’Orzo Toscana IGT 2015

Winemaking: The best selection of Sangiovese grapes, from vines planted in an area that Francesco’s’ grandfather, Giovanni, had as a garden for barley used to feed the animals. Francesco was inspired by this field to craft a wine that reminds him of his grandfather, of “those who preceded me and the good times of my childhood in Cecione”.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts, vinified in cement tanks with a very long maceration on the skins, aged in large oak barrels for about 1 year. The label is a picture of Francesco and his grandfather in the early 1980’s.

Tasting Notes: Dark red-violet in colour, very aromatic with wild berries, herbs, violet, cherry, peppery spice, forest floor and traces of truffle. Spice driven, with all the cherries [red, black and trace of sour] fresh herbs and warm summer earth highlighted by fresh acidity and firm tannins. Finishing dry and fruity, with a pop of licorice. Sleek and balanced, a fantastic expression of Sangiovese.
100% Sangiovese
14% Alcohol

Francesco’s dedication, passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of his history and vines has left a lasting impression on me. I’m sure after reading my tasting notes it’s easy to see that his wines are among my absolute favourites.

*I want to visit all of the wineries and return to those I’ve been to and love. Rather than take up the arduous task of choosing who to visit [and the headache that is getting in and out of Florence in a car], I enlisted the assistance of Coral Sisk at Curious Appetite. I gave Coral a list of my favourite winery characteristics, such as family owned, as natural as possible, and expressive. She curated a day in the rolling, dramatic, yet serene hills of Chianti Classico that was truly an amazing experience. Head over to Curious Appetite to see her phenomenal bespoke food and wine tours both in and outside of Florence.

**I visited Vallone Di Cecione at the end of November of 2017. I returned to the States with a case of Francesco’s wines and the above tasting notes are from my enjoyment of his wines from May-July 2018.

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