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.

Chianti Classico as Far as the Eye Can See

It has been just over 300 years since Cosimo III de’Medici; the grand duke of Tuscany established the boundaries for the production of Chianti. Now known as the only production zone for Chianti Classico, the 70,000 hectares [173,000 acres] consists of 10,000 hectares [25,000 acres] of vineyards located in the center of Tuscany. Only within this area can wines be designated ‘Chianti Classico’.

Courtesy of Chianti Classico Consorzio

The production of Chianti Classico wines are overseen by the Chianti Classico Consorzio. Chianti Classico must be comprised of a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and a maximum of 20% indigenous or international red grapes. The wine has to have a minimum of 12% Alcohol and 12 month minimum of ageing. The trademark black rooster [the historic symbol of the Chianti Military League] is found on every bottle of Chianti Classico. For more details on Chianti Classico, please visit the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico site here.

Organized by the Consorzio Chianti Classico, I was delighted to attend Chianti Classico Collection 2017 held at Stazione Leopoldo in Florence, Italy on February 14th. Held every year in Florence, the ‘antiprima’ tasting featured 2015 [barrel sample], 2014 and 2013 vintages of Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, IGT, Vin Santo and the new premium category Gran Selezione. Presenting 675 wines from 185 different estates in Chianti Classico, it was truly Chianti Classico as far as the eye can see!

A quick note about vintages:
2014 was a challenging year; the growing season was cool and damp, making it stand out from the previous hot seasons. The overriding consensus is that the success of the wine is entirely up to the savvy talent of the producer.
2015 has been hailed as a phenomenal year, so hot and dry, the Sangiovese bunches were smaller then usual, which is actually quite good for the varietal. Ripe and juicy, its predicted these will be spectacular, with long aging potential. All of the 2015 wines presented were barrel samples.

I wish I had the time to taste more, if not all the wines, but I feel that this is a good goal to work towards!

Below are the wines that I feel conveyed the classic, traditional personality, and the ones that expressed a unique, intriguing identity of Chianti Classico.

So happy to be surrounded by Chianti Classico.

 

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico 2015


Sweet aromas of cherry, watermelon and candied flowers. Very fruity and accessible with cherry, white pepper and traces of vanilla bean, culminating in a clean, dry finish.
90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino

Castello di Volpaia ‘Volpaia’ Chianti Classico 2015


Interesting and intriguing, with aromas of cherry, anise and black pepper. Dark fruit and tarry earth wrap around a spicy core. Finishing spicy with a hint of truffle funk.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2015


As I find all Isole e Olena wines to be; well structured and elegant. Subtle cherry, dusty earth and floral aromas introduce cherry, sour cherry herbaceous flavours. Clean minerals highlight the spice driven finish. Balanced, with a good synthesis of flavours already.
80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah

L’Orcio a Ca’ di Pesa Chianti Classico 2015


Great play of fruit and spice with black cherry, black pepper, anise and a lengthy finish of toasty oak and hints of baking chocolate. A bit of complexity to the layers, yet light and easy drinking.
95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino

Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2015


Desert dry, with cherry, fennel and a hint of funk. Minerals and savoury elements on the dry finish. Straightforward and simple, with a bitter edge.
90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino

 

Casaloste Chianti Classico 2014


I find Casaloste wines to be a classical expression of Sangiovese, and this does not disappoint. Soft aromas of leather, pepper and thyme. An herbaceous streak runs thru cherry, wild berry, leather and light spice flavours. The clean, dry finish is accented by earth and espresso elements. Well balanced and accessible.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

Castelvecchi Captondo Chianti Classico 2014


Bold and big with concentrated ripe, sweet fruit, black pepper and savoury elements. Earth and clay minerals are the backbone of the dry fruit finish.
88% Sangiovese, 12% Canaiolo

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2014


Genteel and elegant, with soft layers of cherry, black pepper, wisps of peat and traces of funk, accented by the spice driven, plush finish.
80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah

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Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

casaloste2011

Estate: Founded in 1994, by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi, along with his wife Emilia, Casaloste is located in the Greve region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Casaloste, together with the other Wine producers of Unione Viticoltori di Panzano has strongly supported and financed The Experimental Station for Sustainable Viticulture (Stazione Sperimentale per la Viticoltura Sostenibile- SPEVIS). The institution aims to find environmentally friendly solutions for winemakers. Not only certified organic [since 1994], the estate also operates “off the grid”. They produce all of their energy needs thru its solar photovoltaic system and biothermal renewable plant fuels.

Winemaking: Aged in French oak barrels of 25 and 35 liters and in barriques “for a period of about 12 months”.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth and soft spice. Soft and velvety, with cherry and strawberry over layers of white pepper, leather and earth. Plush tannins, fruit and soft spice linger between each sip. A lovely, classical balance of fruit/spice/earth/leather notes Chianti Classico is renowned for.

90% Sangiovese, 10%Merlot
Chianti Classico DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi
14% Alcohol
$16
Enjoy now thru 2018

Ruffino ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2007

ruffino07

Estate: Cousins and Tuscan natives Illario and Leopoldo Ruffino founded The Ruffino estate in 1877 with a dream to make well-known wines in the heart of Tuscany. In 1913, the winery was sold to the Folonari family, and generations later the estate has established itself as a leader in Chianti, creating modern wines for “the contemporary lifestyle” by using a blend of century-long tradition and current technology. Purchased in 2011 by Constellation Brands, the estate is still headed by the Folinari family; Adolfo Folinari, and are “renowned for consistency and quality”, crafting all of their wines to be enjoyed with food.

Winemaking: Twenty years after the first release of ‘Riserva Ducale’ in 1927, ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ was produced to commemorate an exceptional vintage year. Continuing the tradition today, Riserva Ducale Oro is only produced in the best vintages, “If the grapes don’t meet the winemaker’s exacting standards, the wine will not be made.” The commemorative label celebrates the 60th anniversary of production.

Grapes are sourced from the estate vineyards Gretole and Santedame. The wine is aged for 36 months, part in oak, part in stainless steel and part in concrete vats.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet with brick edges in colour, with aromas of plum, leather, black pepper and a hint of earthy funk. Concentrated cherry, current, and plum flavours harmonize with earthy truffle and wisps of smoky oak. Licorice, black pepper along with a hint of espresso comprise the lengthy finish. Smooth and well balanced, light tannins and acidity make this pleasant on its own, or with a variety of standard, classic dishes [such as tomato based dishes, roasts, risotto].

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Traditional Italian dishes such as pasta Bolognese, wild boar ragù, and eggplant Parmesan. It’s also wonderful with classic American dishes such as grilled ribeye and roasted vegetables.

80% Sangiovese, 20% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Chianti Classico
Italy
Bottled by Ruffino SRL
13.5% Alcohol
$45 [average price]
Enjoy now

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

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

isoleolenacc

Estate: Isole e Olena was established in 1950 when the De Marchi family purchased and combined two adjoining estates, ‘Isole’ and ‘Olena’, each of which dated back hundreds of years. The estate is located in the hills of the western Chianti Classico region, between Siena and Florence. Today, 4th generation winemaker Paolo De Marchi heads the estate. Considered by many to be “the dean of Chianti” Paolo is known for his extensive work with the Sangiovese grape, research on soil mapping and planting density, along with overall improvement and modernization of the Chianti Classico region. A pioneering force of the “pure Sangiovese movement”, the estate’s flagship wine ‘Cepparello’, first produced in 1980, is 100% Sangiovese.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards with limestone, clay slate, and sandstone soil mix. An ideal blend, the soil allows “for sufficient drainage in times of heavy rain and retain moisture during droughts”. Aged 12 months in a combination of oak casks and barriques, with 15% new wood. Aged in the bottle for 4 months before release.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth, woods, cigar box spice and a touch of clove. Wild berry and sour cherry flavours meld with leather, black pepper, sweet and spicy clove and herbaceous traces in the full body. Silky tannins and bright acidity compliment the clean, saline minerality on the dry, fruity finish.

80% Sangiovese, 17% Canaiolo, 3% Syrah
Chianti Classico DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Isole e Olena
13% Alcohol
$29 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2023

Rated 90 points by Wine Enthusiast