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2011 Chianti Classico Riserva, Villa Calcinaia, Greve in Chianti
The traditional Chianti Classico property of Villa Calcinaia in Greve-in-Chianti has been owned by the Capponi family since 1524. Conte Sebastiano Capponi is the 37th generation and significantly, the 1st generation of the family to manage the 200 ha estate in person; his ancestors employing agents during the feudal mezzadria/share-cropping system that characterised Tuscany in particular (and Italy in general) until the 1970s/80s.
‘Significantly’ because since Sebastiano took over the reins in 1992 - having graduated from Florence University with a degree in Political Science - there has been an appreciable rise in the quality of the wines, especially from 1996 when he employed Dr Federico Staderini as enologo/winemaker, and as a result of Conte Capponi’s switch to organic viticulture. It should be added that the estate doubles as a large pheasant and hare rearing pen for the three local hunts; a fact perhaps explained by Sebastiano’s Scottish roots, being related to the Arbuthnotts of Aberdeenshire!
The 27ha estate is located in the historic Chianti Classico commune of Greve-in-Chianti, in the Val di Greve. Greve was one of the original Chianti Classico villages, along with Radda, Castellina and Gaiole. The valley runs in a north-south direction; the west facing slopes characterised by sandier soils while those with a east, southeast aspect, on which the Villa Calcinaia estate is found are heavier with a larger percentage of galestro (schist) along with outcrops of limestone alberese giving more structure and minerally finezza.
Sebastiano has also been at pains to understand the various soils at his disposition, vinifying the blocks separately, notably La Fornace, Contessa Teresa, Contessa Luisa and Bastignano; the latter a single vineyard expression of Greve Chianti Classico introduced from vintage 2006. He also employs three different trellis methods: cordon speronata, alberello, and guyot in an effort to match the subtly different terroirs on the estate.
Vinification of the wines takes place in stainless-steel and cement, while ageing (affinamento) occurs in a variety of oak: both French tonneaux and in an increasing amount of larger slavonian botte grande of 10 – 30hl.
The wines reflect the open-hearted, sandy red berried charm of Chianti Classico from Greve, while having a notably intensity, traditional elegance and salty ‘salmastro’ minerality
David Berry Green, BBR Buyer
It is a high yielding, late ripening grape that performs best on well-drained calcareous soils on south-facing hillsides. For years it was blighted by poor clonal selection and massive overcropping - however since the 1980s the quality of Sangiovese-based wines has rocketed upwards and they are now some of the most sought after in the world.
It produces wines with pronounced tannins and acidity, though not always with great depth of colour, and its character can vary from farmyard/leather nuances through to essence of red cherries and plums. In the 1960s the advent of Super Tuscans saw bottlings of 100% Sangiovese wines, as well as the introduction of Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blends, the most famous being Tignanello.
Chianti Classico is a leading Tuscan DOCG zone which covers approximately 7,000 hectares between Florence and Siena. Its vineyards stretch into the Apennine foothills at altitudes of between 150m and 500m, and encompass two distinct terroirs and styles. The sandy, alluvial soils of the lower sites yield fuller, meatier wines while the limestone and galestro rocks of the higher vineyards deliver finer, more ethereal examples.
The origins of Chianti date back to the Middle Ages, although Chianti Classico was really born in 1716 when Grand Duke Cosimo III of Tuscany classified the zone, identifying the villages of Radda, Greve, Panzano, Gaiole and Castellina as the leading sites; these same villages still represent the nucleus of the Chianti Classico DOCG today. The regulations have been revised, however, to insist that the wine is made from a minimum 80 percent Sangiovese and a maximum 20 percent Canaiolo and ameliorative grapes (ie Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon); from the 2006 vintage, no white grapes are allowed.
Chianti Classico cannot be released until 1st October in the year following the harvest, while Chianti Classico Riserva must undergo 24 months of ageing before release, including at least three months in bottle. At the region’s top addresses, French barriques are gradually being adopted in the place of the traditional, larger slavonian botte.
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