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.

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.

Tenuta Sette Ponte ‘Crognolo’ Toscana IGT 2015

Estate: Tenuta Sette Ponti lies on ancient and historic land in the heart of the Chianti region at the end of the Via del Monte, known locally as the Via dei Sette Ponti. The estate is named for the seven medieval bridges crossing the Arno River on the road from Arezzo to Florence. The property belonged to Princesses Margherita and Cristina Savoia d’Aosta, and was purchased in 1957 as a hunting retreat by architect Alberto Moretti. His son, “luxury goods entrepreneur” Antonio Moretti has “transformed the 750-acre estate into a multifaceted farm property that is today one of Tuscany’s most innovative, quality-driven producers of world-class Super Tuscans”. Consisting of 150 acres total, vineyards are at an altitude of 200 to 300 metres [600 to 900 feet].

Winemaking: Minimalist and sustainable methods are used in the vineyards. Grapes are hand harvested from vines in clay, sand and Tuscany’s unique stony galestro limestone soils. Fermented in a combination of temperature controlled and lined open-top tanks. Aged in French Allier barriques for 10-14 months, and 5-6 months in the bottle. ‘Crognolo’ is named after a wild bush that grows on the estate, its first vintage was 1998.

Harvest Note from the Winery: 2015 has shown to be a very good vintage. After a mild and rainy winter, the vegetative start was in the second week of April with the arrival of spring and higher temperatures. The spring rains helped a lot the vegetation and ensured the water supply for the following summer. In June and mid-July temperatures were above the seasonal average, but by the end of July the temperatures lowered, returning to the average thanks to long rainy days, which was really good for the vines. The grapes were of an excellent quality. The wonderful structure and the elegant, soft tannins are the main elements of this vintage.

Tasting Notes: Inky red-violet in colour with aromas of dark berries, spice, anise and a wisp of smoky cedar. Plush, silky layers of blackberry, cherry, fig, plum and tobacco envelop a spicy core, integrating with firm tannins and fresh acidity. Spiced oak, dark fruit, chocolate and earth linger extensively between each sip. Well balanced and suave, each glass will empty rather swiftly.

Pairing Suggestions from Giovanna Moretti: Delicious with full-flavored meats, game and roasts. Specifically, she serves it with traditional tortellini en brodo (soup), turkey stuffed with chestnuts, and boiled cotechino or zampone meats served with a green sauce and mustard fruit. She suggests opening the wine approximately an hour before eating and serve the wine slightly under room temperature [62-63 F, 16-17 C].

100% Sangiovese
Toscana IGT
Italy
Bottled by Tenuta Sette Ponte
14% Alcohol
$26 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2022

Rated 90 points by Wine Spectator

 

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

Piazza del Castello Rosato Toscana IGT 2016

Brand: A label of the Botter family, Piazza del Castello Rosato hails from the Tuscan hill town of Radda. There, below an 11th century castle is the wine’s picturesque namesake, Piazza del Castello. The grapes for the Rosato are sourced from hillside vineyards surrounding the Piazza.

Winemaking: Cool fermentation and brief ageing in stainless steel tanks.

Tasting Notes: Coral pink in colour, with summery aromas of strawberry, apricot and rain washed slate. A subtle savory undercurrent accents fresh cherry, peach, tart red currant and lively acidity. Loads of vivid red grapefruit and clean minerals highlight the dry, zippy finish. Refreshing and easy drinking, this is a thirst quenching Rosé perfect on hot summer days.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winemaker: Light salads, light pastas, flatbreads with grilled/roasted veggies, seafood, shellfish, goats’ cheese, and as an aperitif.

100% Sangiovese
Toscana IGT
Italy
Bottled by Casa Vinicola Botter Carlo & C.S.P.A.
12.5% Alcohol
$13 [average price]
Enjoy now

Sample submitted for review purpose.

A Glass of Chianti Colli Senesi with Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti

I was introduced to Daniele Rosti and his expressive wines by John Fodera via the wonderful world of Twitter. When John saw my tweets from the Chianti Lovers event in Florence, he advised that I go to the Campochiarenti table and meet his good friend, winemaker Daniele Rosti. Elegent and refined, just like his wines, it was a delight to speak with Daniele about his family estate. For all of those interested in the day-to-day trials and rewards of cultivating grapes, his Twitter account, @campochiarenti is a must follow.

The knowledgable and friendly Daniele Rosti of Campochiarenti.

Estate: Located in the Chianti Colli Senesi region in the Tuscan hills, the Campochiarenti estate traces its history back to the end of the 10th century when the church of Saint Nicholas along with its monastery was built. About a thousand years the later, the Rosti family purchased the 50 hectare [123 acre] estate and revitalized the vineyards and buildings. Today 14 hectares [34 acres] of the estate are organically farmed vineyards, with vines between 10 and 40 years in age. Chianti Colli Senesi and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are the main wines produced by the estate, so it follows that Sangiovese and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are the main grapes grown. However, there are quite a range of other varietals cultivated, such as Ancellotta, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Malvasia, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero and Pinot Grigio, which allows Daniele to create terroir driven wines outside of the typical framework of the region.

Philosophy: “Quality grows in the vineyard.”

Winemaking: The Chianti Colli Senesi wines are a blend of 85% Sangiovese along with a blend of 15% of grapes that are a “typical variety of Tuscany” [Caniolo Collina, Colorino, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Mammolo, Foglia Tonda]. Traditional fermentation in concrete tanks with long maceration on the skins, aged 9 months in large oak barrels in addition to a minimum of 4 months in the bottle.

Campochiarenti Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2015
Although young, this already has a complex, espressive character. Silky layers of red fruit, earth and anise, culminating in the distinctive salt and pepper spice, dry finish. Complex yet so versatile, this can pair with just about every dish.
14% Alcohol
€12.50 [From the Campochiarenti website, not currently available in the US.]

Campochiarenti Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2011
Genteel and refined, with cherry, blackberry, plum, tobacco and a hint of floral. The distinctive salty spice of the estate’s terroir lingers between each sip. Soft tannins provide the backbone, whilst it is a powerful wine, it is elegant. At 6 years old, the colour is still ruby red and the fruit level is very high, Daniele says that this has yet to reach its peak, and will continue drinking well 5-10 years more.
14% Alcohol
€16.30 [From the Campochiarenti website, not currently available in the US.]

Media event sponsored by Consorzio del Chianti.