Thursday, October 31, 2013

Castellare di Castellina in the Chianti Classico region in Tuscany

One of the days while staying in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany I toured a few of the
wineries in the reknowned Chianti Classico region as discussed in one of my previous blogs, Chianti region. A very well known producer, Castellare di Castellina, was one of our stops. Loredana gave us our tasting and explanation of the vineyards.
Castellare di Castellina in Tuscany

The owner has three vineyard sites, one in Tuscany, “Castellare di Castellina”, one in the Maremma area of Tuscany, “Rocca di Frassinello”, and the other in Sicily “Feudi del Pisciotto”. Rocca di Frassinello is about five times the size of Castellare and is a joint venture with Domaines Baron de Rothschild-Lafite. Just some tidbits about these vineyard sites regarding the labels for Castellare di Castellina display all the endangered birds of the areas and the labels from Feudi del Pisciotto include designers like Versace and Valentino. Part of the profits from the wines sold there get donated to those involved and learning the arts in Sicily.
Grape harvesting at Castellare di Castellina

In the Chianti region there are over 400 Chianti Classico producers. They have about 57 acres and produce about 200,000 bottles annually and this is considered a mid-size producer. They have 4 different vineyard sites named Coniale, Piano a Casa, Pendicciaccia and I Sodi Di San Niccolo. Of the wines I tasted the 2008 I Sodi Di San Niccolo was the best. This is their Super Tuscan and is their prized wine. It's the best voted Tuscan wine ever and has won numerous awards. It has fantastic structure, beautiful length and rich fruit.
grape harvesting in Castellare di Castellina in Tuscany

While we were there they were in the middle of harvesting working very long days. It takes them about 6-7 weeks to harvest their grapes and a crew of 30. Ten of those folks are their normal crew during the slow season and the other 20 are folks brought in from the area that they get year after year. Eighty-five percent of those grapes being harvested are the Sangiovese grape, the principal grape in making Chianti. They had already picked their merlot and chardonnay grapes and were working on the rest. This region is known for their reds, but some producers also do make some whites. Here they do produce chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, but only 1,000 bottles so it's not for tasting, only for sale. 

Multiple times they have made the Top 100 on Wine Spectator and some of their wines have earned the 3 Bicchieri del Gambero Rosso, which comes from the Italian food and wine magazine, Gambero Rosso. The 3 Bicchieri, “meaning 3 glasses”, is the highest rating from a blind tasting of experts valuing them as extraordinary wines. With so many producers in this region it's such an honor to stand out from the rest like Castellare does and produce such a quality product.

As you know I am a huge fan of Italian wines and Castellare was just another reason why I love this region and the wines that are produced here.  Visit them at Domini Castellare di Castellina.

Discover Tuscany with this beautiful detailed map.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

150 Vins - Celebration of the Grand Cru of Bordeaux in Monaco

Upon my recent visit to Italy for my wedding, we spent three days of our honeymoon at the French Riviera, or as the Italians says La Costa Azzurra. This was my first visit there so needless to say there was a lot to see in such a short period of time. One of the days we spent in Monaco, more specifically Monte Carlo, which was definitely one of the richest places in the world. Between the jewelry, clothes, cars and boats it was astonishing to see how some people live.  

Hotel de Paris Monaco 150 vins Grand Cru
One of the interesting things that we came upon in front of the Monte Carlo Casino was circular display called “150 vins”. It's a celebration of 150 years of the Monte Carlo SBM (Societe des Bains de Mer), which is a public company that runs some of the big establishments in Monaco like the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris. This event started June 22nd for 150 days where the Hotel de Paris brings up 150 Grand Cru Bordeauxs from their cellars for tastings by the glass. The wine cellar of the Hotel de Paris is personally funded by Marie Blanc, whose husband created the SBM back in 1863. This wine cellar is now to become the largest wine cellar in the world with over 350,000 bottles and is about 16,145 square feet.  
It was pretty neat that right in the center of the roundabout between the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris they had a circular display of all baby vines that were actually growing grapes to celebrate this event. Unfortunately while we were in France we didn't travel to visit any wine regions since there were so many amazing places to see like Nice, Monte Carlo and Cannes. There is always tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Brunello di Montalcino, the king wine of tuscany!

Steps towards better wine quality production in Italy began in the 80's with the creation of the DOCG, Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, which had stricter regulations for producers from the original DOC category. The first wine granted the DOCG status was Brunello, which I'm writing about today. The others were Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, discussed in the previous blog, and the Piedmont regions with the wines known as Barolo and Barbaresco.

Montalcino Tuscany vineyardsBrunello is made from a clone of sangiovese, but it is not combined with other grapes though as Vino Nobile and Chianti can be. It also requires more aging, four years with at least two of those years in oak barrels. Their riserva requires five years of aging with at least half of that in oak. With this part of Tuscany in the town of Montalcino being a little warmer, it has deeper, richer flavor profiles and fuller versions of sangiovese.

One of the biggest producers in this region that helped to make Brunello what it is today is the producer Biondi Santi, which I'm hoping I'll be able to stop and visit while there. In the late 19th century he planted brunello in his vineyards. At this time many folks were only drinking light style Chianti and sweeter wines. He let the skins macerate with the juice and then aged the wines at a time when all of these steps were unheard of. They didn't even have a road out to Montalcino until the 1960's. Due to his efforts he paved the way for this amazing wine to be what it is today.

It's one of the most expensive wines in not only Tuscany, but also all of Italy along with some others from Piedmont, but is also very ageworthy. These wines can age over 40 years. I myself have some that I brought back to the states years ago that have been aging about 15 years and its recommended you don't drink them for at least 10 years. Some of the wines from this area need the time to settle down from their youth and develop further in the bottle. So don't be fooled when they say wines aren't ageworthy. It all depends on what you're drinking, but as a society we typically don't have the patience and usually stop in to a store to buy a wine we will drink that night. The best part about opening these bottles years later are the memories that are revisited from the times spent at the winery. Do yourself a favor and splurge one day, hold on to the wine and open it years from now for a special occasion and you will experience a treat. I'll share with you some of the producers that I have visited that are a treat. Shoot me a message or leave a comment.