Sunday, June 9, 2024

A Taste of Castellina in Chianti with Cecchi Wine Estates

Some months ago I had the opportunity to attend a virtual tasting with the renowned Cecchi family showcasing wines from a few of their estates hosted by Andrea Cecchi, owner and winemaker of the Cecchi wine estates, along the Cecchi enologist, Maria Bracali, and PR agency Wellcom.   

The Cecchi Winery 

The Cecchi wines were first established by Luigi Cecchi in 1893 due to his passion for wines and winemakingToday the winery is led by Andrea Cecchi, the 4th generationThe Cecchi headquarters was established in the 70’s in the heart of the Chianti Classico territory, Castellina in Chianti.  This year is their 130th anniversary celebration. 

The Cecchi family first started in Castellina in Chianti, but over the years has expanded to include 6 estates in total.  Five estates are located within the Tuscany wine region with an expansion into Umbria with one of their estates.  Andrea said his mission is to “develop the terroirs, but the different personalities and identities”.  

Cecchi wine estates
Map sourced from Famiglia Cecchi
Outside the Cecchi headquarters, their first acquisition was Villa Cerna in the 60’s, which is located in Castellina in ChiantiThey renovated the villa converting it into a winery as well as the almost 200 acres of vineyards.   Following Villa Cerna, they acquired Val delle Rose in 1996 located in the southern part of Tuscany known as the Maremma in the Grosseto provinceThis estate occupies 460 acres of vineyards used mostly for the Sangiovese grape in producing Morellino di Scansano DOCG wines along with some VermentinoAround the same time in the late 90’s they broke out into the Umbria wine region acquiring Tenuta Alzatura in Montefalco for the production of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines across 3 parcels of land over about 70 acres of land along with some Trebbiano Spoletino. 

The next acquisition for the Cecchi family was another estate in Castellina in Chianti, Villa Rosa, which they purchased in 2015 with about 90 acresLastly, a few years later, they bought about 15 acres of vineyards in Montalcino near the Sant’Antimo AbbeyThis winery has not been named yet, but is planned to be used for the production of Brunello di Montalcino.   

Cecchi’s values are focused on close attention to the environment in which they live and grow their grapesAndrea stated that the passion lies in the agriculture. Good land helps to produce good wines. They were the first Tuscan winery to install a wastewater treatment plant in the early 90’s that helped to reduce energy consumption and purified waterThey also put this treatment plant at their Val delle Rose estate in 2012In 2021 they also converted the Tenuta Alzatura and Val delle Rose estates to be organic. 

The Cecchi family has always taken an experimental approach to winemaking working with new clones, paying close attention to vineyard management to produce high quality grapes along while investing in new technology within the cellarsThey also have recovered and preserved several native grapes.  

The Cecchi Wines 

I tasted the following wines during the virtual tasting 

  • 2021 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG SRP $20-25 
  • 2019 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva $35-40 
  • 2018 Cecchi Valore di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione $60 
  • 2020 Villa Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico DOCG $25 
  • 2019 Villa Cerna Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva $35 
  • 2020 Villa Rosa Ribaldoni Chianti Classico DOCG $30 
  • 2019 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione $70  

Andrea shared that their grapes are fermented and aged seperately and blended during the bottling process in order to demonstrate the characteristics of the vintage and the wines eleganceThe wines also spend malolactic fermentation in stainless steel to maintain control during the wine’s delicate phase.  

Gli Scudi Wines 

Let's take a look at the wines by estate starting with the Famiglia Cecchi Gli Scudi” wines. These wines are grown in Castellina in Chianti, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. They have a more international taste with use of the barrique versus the large barrel used in the Villa Cerna and+ Villa Rosa wines

Cecchi Gli Scudi Chianti Classico wines

The 2021 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG is the flagship of the Castellina in Chianti estate and their first Chianti Classico wine made. Made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% other local grapes. Fifty percent of this wine is estate grown and 50% is made from growers. It’s crucial that the partners show the distinctive characteristics of the brand which include the expression of the varietal, balanced tannins, freshness and good structure. 

This wine spends 6 months in barriques and 2 months in the bottle. Ruby colored with black cherry aromas and a touch of spice. Dry and medium-bodied on the palate with notes of cherry, tobacco, and a hint of olive towards the lengthy finish where the tannins smooth out. A nicely made, ready to drink Chianti Classico. 13.5% SRP $20-25 

Next from the Cecchi estate is the 2019 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. This is their “cru” wine made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine spends 12 months in barrique and tonneaux with 3+ months in the bottle. Ruby in color with a brick rim. Heavier on the aromatics than the last with aromas of ripe cherries and spice. Medium-bodied with bright acidity with more tannin present than the last. Cedar notes on the lengthy finish. ABV 14% SRP $35-40  

Last up on the Cecchi Famiglia wines is the 2018 Cecchi Valore di Famiglia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. This was my personal pick of the litter from the Gli Scudi wines. Per the requirements of the Gran Selezione, this wine is made from 100% Sangiovese to show the elegance and purity of the grape in the territory where it shines best. The vineyard was planted in 1965 and they made this wine for the first time in 2015. The soil is made of flysch from the Apennine Mountains. The wine is aged 15 months in tonneaux and 3 months in cement vats with 12+ months in the bottle.  

Ruby in color with a tinge of brick. A perfumed nose of cherries, rose petals and a rustic, earthy edge. Lots of sapidity on this wine with tart cherry notes, spices and polished tannins with a toasty finish. An ageworthy wine that I’d love to see evolve in the bottle over the years. ABV 14.5% SRP $55 

Villa Cerna wines 

Next up we have the historical estate of Villa Cerna bought in 1962, but was built in 1011 A.D.   The 2020 Villa Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico DOCG is grown in soils rich in clay. Primocolle stands for first hill as it was the first hill discovered in Chianti Classico. This wine is made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino that spends 9 months in barrique and 3+ months in the bottle. Ruby colored with a brick tinge and savory aromas with black cherry, spice, leather and a hint of balsamic. Juicy on the palate with good acidity, deep cherry notes, baking spice and tobacco. An enjoyable, drinkable now Chianti Classico. ABV 13.5% SRP $25 

The 2019 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG is 95% Sangiovese with 5% Colorino as well. The wine spends 14 months in barrique and 12+ months in the bottle. Ruby colored with a brick edge. Rich black cherry on the rose with spice and tobacco. Medium-bodied and dry, with darker cherry notes, cocoa, cedar box with a tinge of smokiness. A complex, savory wines with aromas and flavors that may you come back for more taste after taste. My favorite of the Villa Cerna wines! ABV 14% SRP $35 

Villa Cerna Chianti Classico wines

Villa Rosa wines 

If I really had to lean towards one of these three states it was the wines of Villa Rosa. The Villa Rosa estate is situated on 80 acres at various altitudes with clay soils. These are historical wines with great aging potential. The 2020 Villa Rosa Ribaldoni Chianti Classico DOCG is made from a single vineyard with 100% Sangiovese. The difference between the production of these wines in comparison to the Villa Cerna wines is the use of concrete after maceration. The wine is aged 12 months in tonneaux with 6+ months aging in the bottle. Deep ruby colored with beautiful aromatics of juicy, ripe black cherries. Medium bodied and nicely balanced with juicy cherry notes with great sapidity. ABV 14.5% SRP $30 

The 2019 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG is also made from 100% Sangiovese. Maria, the enologist, expressed how this estate is in the middle of cypress woods and how the wildflowers and broom influence the vineyards and the wines. This wine is aged 12 months in oak casks and spends 12 months in cement plus 6+ months in the bottle. Deep ruby colored with a perfumed nose, bright black cherry with spice. Medium-bodied and dry on the palate with sour cherry and silky tannin. My pick from the Villa Rosa selection. ABV 14% SRP $70 

Villa Rosa Chianti Classico wines

The personality of the Cecchi labels demonstrate a “balance between innovation and tradition, along with the unique characteristics of the vintage”.  Today the Cecchi estates produce 8.5 million bottles grown over 830 acres of vineyards.  

Pairing Chianti Classico with Food

Usually if I'm going to enjoy my favorite grape Sangiovese I'll tend to pair it with a red sauce based pasta dish or with beef.  Since I don't have the access to wild boar, one of my favorite Tuscan specialties, or even the known fiorentina bistecca, I had to settle for some grilled steak tips.  

steak tip pairing with Chianti Classico
I also wanted to make something light for these warm days that may also pair well with Chianti Classico and looked into some typical Tuscan dishes.  That's when I realized I had never made panzanella before.  Panzanella, also called panmole, is basically a dish I've pretty closely created a dozen times with a variety of different additions throughout the years.  It's a Tuscan based salad made with dried bread, ripe tomatoes and a oil and vinegar based dressing.  You can add some cucumbers as well like I did and usually top it off with some fresh basil.  Since I grew my garden from seeds this year it's taking my basil a little while to become an herb I can use in cooking, but I had made some homemade basil recently so I decided to add some of that into the dish.  The perfect summertime meal when you just need something light and not too heavy.

Chianti Classico pairing with Panzanella
To be honest the array of Chianti Classico went well with both dishes.  I can always enjoy a Chianti Classico on it's own, but these wines weren't too heavy or too tannic to not pair well with the panzanella and I couldn't complain about it's natural pairing with the steak tips.  What are some of your favorite Chianti Classico pairings?

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Cecchi wines to try for yourself.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  Importers: Volio Imports and Terlato Wines

Friday, May 17, 2024

National Pinot Grigio Day with Villa Sandi

Annually on May 17th the world celebrates National Pinot Grigio Day. Since my allergies have been kicking in this week and my taste buds haven’t been the best, I wanted to share a bottle of Pinot Grigio that I tried from Villa Sandi at Easter. With the warm days creeping upon us in the northeast I couldn’t think of a reason not to suggest this refreshing white wine to celebrate not only today, but the start to the weekend. 

Since today is all about the Pinot Grigio grape let’s take a look at the grape itself. You may ask yourself, is Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris the same grape? The answer is yes! You will hear it called Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris depending on the country or parts within the country in which you find this grape. Pinot Grigio is typically found in Italy, specifically the northeastern part of Italy in the regions of the Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino-Alto Adige. You will find Pinot Gris in France where it originated, along with Oregon, and New Zealand. In California you may see it called either Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris. 

Pinot Grigio is a grayish grape, hence the name Grigio in Italian that translates to graw. As the grape ripens it becomes pinkish with some slight purple huesd It is not actually a grape variety itself, but it is a clone of Pinot Noir. Although it is difficult to generalize this grape across the world as it has a range of flavor profiles and textures depending on where Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris is grown. Overall, it produces white wines that are dry with a lower acidity that display fruity aromas and notes of citrus, stone fruit, tropical fruits, apple and pear. I fell in love with the many styles of Pinot Grigio in Collio upon my trip last summer. Such a wide variety of styles including their unique orange wines which are a must try!

Pinot Grigio grapes
Copyright of Consorzio Vini DOC delle Venezie

The Wine 

Villa Sandi is owned by Giancarlo Moretti Polegato and the winery’s headquarters in a 1622 Palladian style villa are found in the heart of the Prosecco wine region. You can read more about the winery in my previous feature on Villa Sandi.  

Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC map
Copyright of Consorzio Vini DOC delle Venezie
The 2021 Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC is grown in one of the 20 territorial DOC’s that fall under the Pinot Grigio from the delle Venezie designation. This was a bright pale straw color in the glass. Not heavy on the aromatics, but very light and crisp on the palate. Notes of citrus and tart green apple. A pleasant, easy drinking wine to pop open on any occasion and only priced at $10-12. ABV 11.5%
2021 Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC

Enjoy your Friday and start it off by popping a bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio this National Pinot Grigio Day!

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Pinot Grigio wines to try for yourself.

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

A Taste of the Languedoc

It’s been awhile since I joined my fellow wine writers of the #Winophiles group, but I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to share some wines from the Languedoc I tried along with what I learned about this wine region of FranceI must admit my French wine knowledge is lacking, but I’m always intrigued by the wines of FranceI’m an old world wine girl, hence my love for Italian wineIt’s always easier to gravitate towards what you know, but you don’t learn unless you put yourself out there to try new thingsI attended a virtual wine tasting awhile back hosted by Gregory & Vine and Laura Maniec-Fiorvaniti, Master of Wine and owner of the Corkbuzz in New York CityLet’s dig into the Languedoc and get a taste of what it has to offer. 

The Languedoc wine region is located in the southeastern part of FranceThis area has a rich winegrowing history dating back 2,500 yearsThe region is mostly dominated by red wines at 59% with almost equal parts split between white and rosé wines at 21% and 20% respectivelyThe Languedoc has 23 AOC’s with over 3,000 winemakers including small growers, negociants and cooperatives farming across 90,000 acres of vines. 

Languedoc Rousillon wine region
Languedoc-Rousillon wine region - sourced from Wikipedia

The Languedoc is abundant in sunshine receiving over 300 days of warm sunIt has many climatic influences from the Mediterranean Sea and the cooling Atlantic wines along with the hillside and mountains influences to the north.   

For those conscious of organic wines, the Languedoc is the leading wine region in France for the most organic vinesAt the time of the virtual tasting they were at 33% and growing so I’m sure the numbers have incraesed since thenOver 25% were in the process of converting as well making up 6% or organic vineyards worldwideQuite the astonishing number if you ask meOne of the wineries that I’m highlighting today, Chateau Maris, is one of the pioneers of the region for not only organic, but sustainability and biodynamics as well. 

There is quite the diverse range of styles and terroir and the wines can be grouped into 5 classications: sparkling, sweet wines, the AOP Languedoc, village designations and sub regional areas.

Languedoc AOC wine appellations
Languedoc wine appellations - sourced from Wikipedia

The Wines 

The Languedoc produced the first sparkling wine in the world that came from Limoux in 1544 The Limoux AOC is located on the southwestern side of the Languedoc regionThis area has a cool, moist climate with crisp, dry winds from the Atlantic from the west and warm Mediterrean winds from the eastThe soils there are mostly rocky filled with limestone and sandstone.  

Limoux AOC wine appellation
Limoux AOC - sourced from the Wines of Languedoc
I tasted the 2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC which is owned by a famous rugby player whom owns over 17 estates in southern France.  Gerard grew up working alongside his family’s wine estate until he took it over in 1987 upon the passing of his father.  Five years later  he founded the Gerard Bertrand winery. 

The 2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC is named after the Abbey of St. Hilaire near Limoux that traced back to 825The abbey used to house monks who discovered effervescent winesThis wine is made up of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc and 15% Pinot Noir.  Produced in the traditional method, this pale rosé did not macerate the Pinot Noir with the juice, but went through a light bleeding.  This wine was light salmon in color with a tinge of orange. Aromas of citrus and yeast.   Dry on the palate with notes of citrus pith. ABV 12.5% SRP $23

2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC
Next up is the area of Pic-Saint-Loup AOC located in the hills and mountains in the northern part of the Languedoc. This area has dry, hot summers with cold winters. It is known for producing red and rosé wines made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. The soils of this area are composed of red sanstone known as “ruffe” as well as Jurassic limestone, basalt and schist. The volcanic subsoils of this area lend to minerality in the wines.  


Pic-Saaint-Loup AOC wine appellation

I tasted the 2015 Chateau de Lancyre Vielles Vignes Pic-Saint-Loup that comes from old vines, averaging 30 years old. This wine is made up of 2/3 Syrah and 1/3 Grenache. Laura called this wine a “steakhouse wine”. Intensely colored to match it’s big, dark fruit flavors. This wine has a meaty structure, but also an elegance about it. SRP $21ABV 14%

2015 Chateau de Lancyre Vielles Vignes Pic-Saint-Loup

Lastly is the Minervois La Liviniere AOC named after the village of La Liviniere. It’s meaning translates to a place planted with vines after the original name, Lavineira. In Minervois is Chateau Maris, a pioneer of the region for organic and biodynamic farming and sustainability practices. Wine Spectator labeled them as “one of the 5 most environmentally friendly wineries in the world”. They are Biodyvin and Demeter certified and is the first and only B Corp Certified European winery. They are known for making terroir driven wines.  

Minervois AOC wine appellation
Minervois AOC - sourced from Wines of Languedoc

I tasted the 2019 Chateau Maris La Touge La Liviniere Minervois AOC which is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache that is vinified and aged in cement eeggs. Full-bodied, this wine has a meaty structure and is full of juicy black fruits and ripe red raspberries with a touch of pepper and herbs. ABV 14.5%, SRP $21 

2019 Chateau Maris La Touge La Liviniere Minervois AOC

Join my fellow wine writing friends as they share additional wines with some pairings from the Languedoc.

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Languedoc wines to try for yourself.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.