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.

Santa Julia Malbec Rose Mendoza 2017

Estate: The Zuccardi family has been making wine in Mendoza since 1963, when Alberto Zuccardi planted his first vines. Now in his 90’s, Alberto is known as a pioneering force in both Mendoza and the Uco Valley. Today, the multiple estate vineyards and winery are headed by Alberto’s son, José, along with José’s eldest son, Sebastián, and daughter, Julia [the 3rd generation].

The Santa Julia Winery was established in the 1990’s in honor of Julia, as she is José’s only daughter. The family is committed to achieving the highest quality wines through sustainable practices, working to protect the environment, wildlife preservation and developing the community. Expanding to the Uco Valley, the family opened Valle de Uco Winery last year, where winemakers focus on research and development, while studying the variables that influence wines throughout the Uco Valley.

Philosophy: “To be natural, environmentally friendly and grow in harmony with the community of which we are part.”

Winemaking: Vineyards are farmed sustainably and are certified organic. Hand harvested grapes are from the Santa Rosa and Maipu vineyards in Mendoza.

Tasting Notes: Light coral pink in colour with a savory wisp highlighting aromas of white pepper, chalky minerals and geranium. Silky strawberry and cherry are accented by sea salt minerality and bright acidity. Citrus zest leads to the dry, zippy finish. A subtle, refreshing sip to accompany a wide range of snacks and light dishes. [It was fantastic with soft, fresh pecorino cheese and avocado toast.]

100% Malbec
Mendoza
Argentina
Produced and Bottled by Bodega Santa Julia
14% Alcohol
$11 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2019

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

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

A Friendly California Trio from Vinum Cellars

Brand: Vinum Cellars was founded in 1997 by first generation, California family winemakers, Richard Bruno and Chris Condos in Napa Valley. The duo met while students at UC Davis, and bonded over their love of Chenin Blanc. “Committed to experimenting and learning new winemaking methods while preserving an old world approach”, they combine unique methods such as experimenting with yeast strains, and using old French barrels for ageing.

The V Series is a line of “unique wines from classic regions for the every day”. All three wines are certified sustainable, small lots and hand crafted.

Philosophy: Winemaking begins in the vineyard, so they value their strong relationships with great grape growers, in order to develop the best fruit in the vineyard.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Chardonnay Monterey 2015

Winemaking: Grapes are from the famed Santa Lucía Highlands district. Fermented [full malo-lactic fermentation in barrel] and aged in 2 year old French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Deep gold in colour with aromas of fresh lemon tart, buttery toast and wildflowers. Vivid lemon and mango flavours are framed by bright acidity. Vanilla and traces of caramel linger on the long, creamy finish.

100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: A fine aperitif wine, but really shines with grilled wild caught Salmon/Halibut/New England lobster, with a mango cilantro salsa and dusted with a pinch of cayenne. Serve it with steamed broccoli rabe with a squeeze of Meyer lemon, dust with sea salt along with roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Rosé Paso Robles 2016

Winemaking: grapes were grown by Tony Domingos at Seashell Vineyard in Paso Robles’ Geneseo district. Cold fermented for about 30 days to “capture the natural floral, strawberry and berry aromas of these varietals”.

Tasting Notes: Coral pink in colour, very aromatic, with prominent floral notes complimented by strawberries, dusty earth and light peppery spice. Delicate strawberry and watermelon flavors are given a squeeze of fresh lemon acidity. Soft spice and earth notes compliment the dry, fruity finish. Wonderfully gluggable, versatile at the table.

Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: An excellent sipper on its own, however the acidity will stand up to most any dish. Try with roasted beet salad dusted with roasted almonds and goat cheese, seafood and fresh fish dishes.

Vinum Cellars ‘V Series’ Pinot Noir Monterey 2015

Winemaking: Grapes are from Monterey near King City, on the West side foothills of the lower Santa Lucia Highlands. Malo-Lactic fermentation and 9 months aging in used French barrels. Not racked, “because we like our Pinot Noir to ride the wave between oxidation and reduction”.

Tasting Notes: Transparent red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, black cherry, earth and toasted oak. Cherry, strawberry, black cherry and a shake of white pepper glide atop silky tannins, wrapped in food friendly acidity. Vanilla, oak and baking spices linger on the dry, fruity finish.

100% Pinot Noir
13.5% Alcohol
$14 [average price]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemakers: Drinks excellent on its own, or with cheese plates including Morbier, aged white cheddar, Stilton and Chèvre. Pairs well with wild mushroom risotto and shaved Reggiano with or without truffle oil. It’s a natural with duck breast, cassoulet or brick oven chicken. Earthy greens work well such as mustard, collard and beet greens as well as kale.

 

 

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Italo Pietrantonj ‘Cerano’ Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Superiore DOC 2016

Estate: The Pietrantonj estate has a winemaking history of more than 200 years, documents dated to 1791 chronicle the family’s commitment to viticulture and agriculture. The 100 hectare [60 of which are vineyards] estate is located in Vittorito and Corfinio, in the heart of the Valle Peligna, the birthplace of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape. Today the 8th generation passionately preserve the “commitment, traditions, and innovation” of the family’s winegrowing history.

Winemaking: Grapes came from the Cerano Estate vineyard [340 meters in elevation], in Valle Peligna, Vittorito. The soil is medium textured and predominately clay. Matured in steel, then aged in the bottle for 2-3 months.

Tasting Notes: Gem-like, transparent ruby red in colour with aromas of summer ripe strawberry, rose and brambly earth. A fruity explosion of wild strawberry, raspberry and a hint of texture adding, sour cherry seamlessly meld into the silky, clean fruit finish. Fantastic on its own, just brilliant with any dish.

Enjoy between 12 -14°C [54-57°F]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Its impressive structure and full character perfectly suit it for accompanying first courses, lighter meats, mixed boiled meats, and medium-aged cheeses. It is delicious with fish, particularly grilled and fish broth. The adventuresome will enjoy it with pizza.

100% Montepulciano
Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Superiore DOC
Italy
Bottled in the production zone by Italo Pietrantonj sas
14% Alcohol
€14 [Average price, currently not available in the US, I was lucky to enjoy this in Dublin, Ireland]
Enjoy now