An Afternoon Discovering the Beauty of Panzano Sangiovese at Podere Le Cinciole

The stunning view of the rolling hills of Panzano from the vineyards at Le Cinciole. Click on the photo for the full panorama.

I love wine. I love Tuscany. However, I am terrible at choosing which wineries to go to. I want to visit all of them and return to those I’ve been to and love. So rather than take up the arduous task of figuring out where to go [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, sustainable, as natural as possible, expressive wines. She curated a day in the rolling, dramatic yet serene hills of Chianti Classico that was truly an amazing experience. [So amazing, she is putting together my next adventure!] Head over to Curious Appetite to see her bespoke food and wine tours both in and outside of Florence.

Le Cinciole is located in the heart of Chianti Classico, outside of the picturesque village of Panzano. Named after the property’s ancient Etruscan-Roman name, which designated the immediate area as “the lands of Quintius,” the estate was purchased in 1991 by Milan natives Luca and Valeria Orsini. Leaving their city life and careers behind, they radically changed directions and dedicated themselves to revitalizing the land and vines, and rebuilding the cellar, simultaneously learning how to become grape growers and winemakers. Their commitment, devotion and hard work paid off, today they are recognized for their quality and expressive wines. Wine Advocate has declared Le Cinciole as one of their favourite Chianti Classico estates, saying “its wines epitomize fragrant, elegant high-altitude Sangiovese…for finesse, focus, and personality these wines are hard to beat”.

I was fortunate to have Valeria take me on a tour of the vineyards and cellar, along with a guided tasting of her wines. She was warm, hospitable and wonderfully patient with all of my questions. Her dedication and commitment to the land is exhilarating, and that energizing quality is one of the many characteristics reflected in their wines.

The estate is certified organic and only natural and sustainable products and methods are used. Fertilizer is obtained from composting the grape skins and the pruning bits from the vines and trees, along with manure. Wheat grass and barley are grown in between the vines. Not only do they supply nutrients to the soil, the roots help aerate, as well. With the life of the soil their focus, they also work with biodynamic preparations. Their dedication to organic farming [and Valeria’s organization efforts] prompted the surrounding vineyards who were not already following environmentally friendly practices to adapt to organic farming. Currently, 90% of the neighboring vineyards are organic.

Compost pile of grape skins and pruning bits.

Over the years, and particularly the past few years with unprecedented extreme weather conditions, Valeria has seen how valuable these methods are; their healthy soil and strong vines were able to stand up to the extreme heat that the area had last summer.

The estate has 13 hectares of vines [9 hectares are Sangiovese vines, the remainder are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Caniaolo], along with 5 hectares of olive groves. At 400-450 meters in elevation, their vineyards are some of the highest in the area. Their Petresco vineyard has limestone soil, the rest of the soils are the famed Chianti Classico galestro mixed with sand and chalk.

Galestro, shale, clay and limestone.

Only natural yeasts are used. Depending on the wine, cement tanks, eggs or large barrels are used for aging. Classical music is played in the cellar, as “it is good for people and good for wine”. Always experimenting and learning, Luca and Valeria are experimenting with crafting a wine without sulphites.

The cellar: Chianti Classico 2015 barrel aging, along with one of the cement eggs.

The Wines:

Podere Le Cinciole Rosato Toscana IGT 2016

From vines in argillaceous slate and Pietraforte sandstone soils. Grapes were picked a little early to maintain low alcohol. Following a brief maceration with the skins, only the free-run must is vinified. Aged in stainless steel, bottled in the spring the year after the harvest during the waning moon.

Light coral pink in colour with delicate aromas of summer ripe strawberry, a wisp of smoky earth and chalky minerality. Mineral driven, with strawberry, red currant and a hint of wild flowers. A drizzle of honey compliments the bright acidity, finishing dry and crisp. Lithe, clean and crisp, each cheerful sip disappears rather swiftly.

100% Sangiovese
11.5% Alcohol
$13 [average price]
Enjoy now

Podere Le Cinciole ‘Le Cinciole’ Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Across Chianti Classico, 2014 was a very difficult year. At Le Cinciole they had to deal with very low temperature in the summer, along with white flies. The weather affected the grapes to such a degree that their production was significantly decreased. Rather than make 6 fair wines, they selected the best grapes across the vineyards, and cut their production down to only 3 wines; Rosato, Chianti Classico and Aluigi. They were unable to make olive oil at all.

Grapes are from vineyards 450 meter in elevation, with Pietraforte, sandstone schists and clay-calcareous marly soil. Natural vinification with spontaneous fermentation in cement tanks, followed by 18 months in oak casks.

Transparent ruby red in colour with aromas of candied violet, raspberry, strawberry, cherry, damp terracotta, and a shake of white pepper. Well balanced, with cherry, raspberry and earth framed by silky tannins and bright acidity. Cherry, spice and a clean, earthy minerality return on the dry, elegant finish. Light and agile, an easy drinking, fantastic Chianti Classico, that becomes even more remarkable in view of the challenging vintage of 2014.

100% Sangiovese
13% Alcohol
$18 [average price]
Enjoy now

Podere Le Cinciole ‘Aluigi’ Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

In honor of Valeria’s father, ‘Aluigi’ means “dedicated to Luigi”. Sangiovese grapes are carefully selected from a single vineyard. Soil is galestro clay-limestone schist over sandstone. Natural vinification with spontaneous fermentation in cement tanks, aged in big barrels for 2 years, refined in cement vats for 1 year, followed by 6 months in the bottle. Unfiltered.

Brilliant ruby red in colour with delicate aromas of cherry, wild flowers, clay minerality, earth, herbs and a hint of anise. Well balanced and elegant, with layers of cherry, plum, black pepper, thyme, earth and a trace of sour cherry. Silky tannins and fresh acidity fuse into red fruits, baking spice and woodsy oak on the lengthy finish. Pure and clean, a spectacular expression of Sangiovese and the terroir of the hills of Panzano.

100% Sangiovese
13.5% Alcohol
$40 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2028

Nero and Tigre, coming to say goodbye as we left.

Boschis Francesco ‘Vigne in Pianezzo’ Dolcetto di Dogliani DOCG 2015

Estate: The estate’s winemaking history began in 1919 when Francesco Boschis planted the first vines. Located in Dogliani, just south of Barolo, in Piedmont, northern Italy, and headed by Mario and Simona Boschis with their sons Marco, Paolo and Chiara. The estate consists of 11 hectares of vineyards along with beehives for making honey. Outside of the family, there are no other employees. “The family prefers to keep their property small and to concentrate on the vineyards that are most suitable for Dolcetto and for the other varieties that are grown, such as Grignolino, Freisa and Barbera.” The family is known for their complex, powerful, age worthy wines. Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine stated: “What sets the wines from this lovely farm estate apart is their consistency, and on occasion rusticity, with intense, vigorously flavoursome fruit”.

The watercolors and engravings on the labels are from local artist Teresita Terreno. Each label depicts a particular season and distinctive feature of the family’s land. The strawberries on the label of Dogliani Vigne in Pianezzo represent its release in Spring [the first wine of the range released].

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from environmentally friendly farmed vineyards located on Pianezzo hill, planted in 1985 and 1997 with calcareous, clay soils. Fermented on the skins for 6-7 days in stainless steel, aged 8-10 months in fiberglass lined cement and steel tanks, unfiltered.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with raspberry, cherry, dusty earth, soft spice and floral aromas. Tart, juicy, berry fruit is complimented by fresh acidity and dry tannins. Black cherry fuses with almond skin on the distinctive finish. Fantastic with a wide variety of dishes.

100% Dolcetto
Dogliani DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Boschis Francesco
13.5% Alcohol
$13
Enjoy now

Caravaglio Malvasia Bianco Secco Salina IGP 2016

Beginning with only his family’s 2 hectare farm, and a goal of producing quality wines that respect the land, Nino Caravaglio established his family winery in 1989. Over the years he was able to slowly acquire additional plots; currently the estate consists of 20 hectares divided into about 30 plots, stretching across the islands of Salina and Lipari. Certified biological by the French organization, Nature et Progres since 1989 [long before most certifications existed], the estate has also been certified organic by Ecocert since 1994. Following in the footsteps of generations before him that respected the land as a source of life, he is “starting from an excellent raw material”. Respecting and preserving the land is an “ethical imperative”.

Philosophy: “Wine is made first of all in the vineyard, then in the cellar.”

Winemaking: All wines are made with minimal intervention and indigenous yeasts. Technology is used “to control temperatures, decantations and nothing else”. Grapes are from 20 small plots of land with sandy, volcanic soils.

Tasting Notes: Gold in colour with aromas of lemon, apple, wildflowers, saline minerals and a trace of brioche. Bright lemon, apple, pear and a nutty hint are accented by sea salt minerality and fresh acidity. Citrus zest shines on the zippy, clean finish. Creamy, silky and fresh, each glass will empty rather swiftly.

90% Malvasia di Lipari, 10% indigenous varieties
Salina IGP
Italy
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Caravaglio Antonino
12.5% Alcohol
$18 [average price]
Enjoy now

Carlos Serres Crianza Rioja 2013

Estate: A pioneer in Rioja, Carlos [Charles] Serres left Bordeaux and founded one of the first wineries in the Haro area of Rioja in 1896. Fleeing phylloxera, Serres, an already famous French wine consultant, “found in Haro the perfect terroir to make Bordeaux style wines, with a climate and terrain which reminded him of the best terroirs in Bordeaux”. Merging French winemaking techniques with the Rioja terroir, Serres’ visionary approach focused on international export and was a phenomenal success. Forever changing the way wine was understood in the area, he remains “one of the key personalities in Rioja’s winemaking history”. Family owned and operated, with 150 acres of vineyards with an average vine age of over 30 years, it stands out as one of the few estates in the Rioja region that has been producing wine for over 100 years.

Winemaking: Grapes are handpicked from vines 10-20 years old. Aged 14 months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, followed by a minimum of 6 months ageing in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: Transparent garnet in colour, highly aromatic with black currant, black cherry, forest floor, vanilla and a trace of pencil lead. Layers of blackberry, plum, cherry and crushed black peppercorn are framed by silky tannins and fresh acidity. Fruit, spice and a hint of toasted oak linger between each sleek sip. Easy drinking and easy to pair with just about any dish. [It was fantastic with Mexican spiced roasted sweet potato, onion, pinto beans, soy chorizo, mole sauce and cilantro crema over a bed of pepper and lime wild rice.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Extremely versatile. A perfect match for Mediterranean cuisine such as vegetable or fish dishes, rice, pasta, beans, red and white meats, cheese.

85% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha
Rioja
Spain
Estate Bottled by Carlos Serres S.L.
13% Alcohol
$12 [average price
Enjoy now thru 2019

 

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Estate: A historic winery in Montalcino, Tenute Silvio Nardi’s was founded by Silvio Nardi in 1950 when he purchased the Casale del Bosco estate. Tenute Silvio Nardi’s three estates, Casale del Bosco, Manachiara and Bibbiano, are made up of 36 podere, or individual vineyard plots, located to the east and west of the town of Montalcino, at elevations ranging from about 800 to 1300 feet. The estate is renowned for its “finely rendered Brunellos that highlight the specific terroir of the plots where they are grown”. Since 1990, Silvio Nardi’s daughter, Emilia Nardi, has been at the helm, continuing and advancing the family’s positon as a distinguished leader in Brunello, along with being recognized as one of the most respected women in the wine world.

Winemaking: Grapes are hand harvested from hilly vineyards with northwest/southeast exposure at 350 meters in elevation. Vines are an average of 20 years in age, with jasper and shale soil. Only the best 70% of the grapes are selected to make the wine. Aged for 12 months in new and used oak barriques, followed by 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels, then bottled aged for a minimum of 6 months.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour, exceptionally aromatic with violet, dusty earth, leather, cherry, raspberry, sweet pine forest and white pepper aromas. Cherry, leather, tobacco, earth, black pepper, clove and a floral trace are layered over silky tannins and good acidity, fusing seamless to the lengthy finish of dark fruit, spice and earth. Elegant, refined and complex, an engaging Brunello to enjoy for many years to come.

Pairing Suggestions from Emilia Nardi: Juicy steaks, rich fishes like sturgeon or grouper or rich pasta dishes.

100% Sangiovese
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Tenute Silvio Nardi S.S.
14% Alcohol
$47 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2035

Rated 92 points by Wine Spectator
Rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rated 91 points by Decanter

 

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.