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.

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
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Caravaglio Antonino
12.5% Alcohol
$18 [average price]
Enjoy now

Monte Zovo Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2013

Estate: The Cottini family has been passionate about land and wine since 1925, when Carlo Cottini founded the family estate. Today, his great grandchildren, Michele and Mattia, are carrying on the family’s tradition of respecting the land and crafting the best wine possible. Monte Zovo takes its name from the hill on which it is located, encircled by the vineyards, in both the Bardolino and Amarone della Valpolicella regions of Veneto, northern Italy. There are over 100 hectares of vineyards, along with 25 hectares of woodland.

The estate is currently in its second of the required 3 years for organic certification. They are already certified “bio-diversity friendly”. The modern winery makes 100% of its energy needed for winemaking from a biomass feeder fed by grape and vine compost.

Winemaking: Grapes are from the estate’s renowned Roccolo vineyard. The 45 hectare vineyard is at an elevation of 500 meters, making it one of the highest altitude vineyards in the Amarone DOCG. The limestone soil sits atop a substratum rich in clay, which contributes to the wines distinctive fresh character. Grapes remain in the drying facility for 120 days, during which time they lose 30% of their weight and develop concentrated sugars. The grapes are destemmed and pressed in January. Fermented for 20-24 days at controlled temperature [20-24 C]. Aged for 18 months in 60 liter and 150 liter oak barrels, the blended wine is then aged 6 months in large casks, followed by 12 months in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: Transparent garnet in colour with lush aromas of cherry, strawberry, mocha and spice. Decadent layers of dark fruit, chocolate and espresso, along with a mercurial herbaceous element are framed by silky tannins and fresh acidity. Black cherry, black pepper, and vanilla linger endlessly between each sumptuous sip. Intense, dynamic and agile, a spectacular expression of Amarone.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Risotto, braised meat, red meat, game, aged cheese, or simply a wine to meditate over.

Blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Bottled by Azienda Agricola Monte Zovo
16% Alcohol
$37 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2033

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

Herència Altés Garnatxa Negra Terra Alta DO 2016


Winery: Altés Herència was established in 2013 as a collaboration between renowned importer Eric Solomon and Nuria Altes, owner of the Herencia Altés estate. Located in the Terra Alta region of northern Spain, the estate consists of some of the oldest vineyards in the area. Beginning with 4 wines in 2013, today the estate has expanded to a collection of 9 wines, along with the purchase of additional vineyards, for a total of 60 hectares of old vines.

Philosophy: The family protects and cares for the old vine vineyards, devoted to crafting wines of depth and character that express the “distinct terroir, a particular place with its unique soil, aspect and climatic condition”.

Winemaking: Vineyards are farmed sustainably and organically, and are in the process of conversion to certified organic. Grapes came from vineyards at 400-530 m above sea level with clay and high calcareous soil. A blend of young and old vines [40–100 years old] are mixed “to create an affordable, lively, and elegant version of Garnatxa showcasing the delicate Pinot-side of the variety”. Grapes were lightly pressed “pressing to achieve the best juice and sweet tannins”. Fermented in concrete, and aged 5 months in concrete tanks.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of wild berries, sweet herbs and a hint of baking spice. Bursting with fruit; cranberry, blackberry and Morello cherry are accented by a shake of black pepper and brambly vegetal notes. Velvety tannins, fruit and spice carry thru to the plush finish. A fantastic value.

100% Garnatxa Negra [Garnacha, Grenache]
Terra Alta
Bottled for Herència Altés by R.E. -3890-T
14.5% Alcohol
Enjoy now

Casebianche ‘Il Fric’ Rosato Paestum IGP 2016

Estate: Seeking a better quality life, Elisabetta Luorio and her husband Pasquale left their careers in architecture in Naples to return to Elisabetta’s family’s farm, Azienda Agricola Casebianche. The estate is located in the famed “Magna Grecia” coastal region of southern Italy that was settled by the Greeks in 800 BC. The 14 hectare property [of which 5.5 hectares are vineyard] is just inland from Agropoli in Campania, southwestern Italy. The area’s winemaking roots go all the way back to those ancient Greeks; grape cultivation and wine drinking are a predominant theme in the artifacts discovered in the region.

Passionate about non-interventionist winemaking, Elisabetta and Pasquale follow organic and biodynamic methods. In addition to the vines, there are also olive and fig trees, along with citrus groves. For an in depth look at the estate, check out their bio page on their importer’s site, Giannoni Selections.

Winemaking: Grapes are from the 1 hectare Dellemore vineyard with clay and limestone soils. Hand harvested, and gravity fed, a 6 hour maceration before skin removal gives the wine its intense colour. Bottled and re-fermented in the bottle by adding grape must to create its sparkling quality. No sugars, yeasts, or sulfites are added, not disgorged. Certified organic.

Tasting Notes: Copper-red in colour with aromas of fresh summer strawberry, wild flowers and a thump of Brothers Johnson funk. Chalky mineral driven, with fresh strawberry and raspberry gliding about light, frizzante bubbles. Finishing clean and fruity. Engaging, expressive, funky and refreshing, this was fantastic on its own, and with vegetable tartare and smoky polenta.

Winemaker’s Note: It is recommended to invert the bottle before opening in order to reintegrate the lees.

100% Aglianico
Paestum IGP
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Casebianche
12% Alcohol
€14 [I paid around €20 in a restaurant in Florence.]
Enjoy now