Monica Larner - 31/10/2017
About this WINE
Castello dei Rampolla
Castello dei Rampolla’s pedigree and roots are firmly entrenched in the Super Tuscan category. The estate dates back to the 13th century and has remained in the hands of the Di Napoli family since 1739.
Inspired by the success of Sassicaia, Alceo Di Napoli made the decision to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese vines in 1965. In these early years, grapes were sold onto Piero Antinori, as he gathered the fruit for the first vintages of Tignanello. The first Castello dei Rampolla vintage was launched in 1980 to great success. In part, this was thanks to the watchful eye of Giacomo Tachis, an oenologist who had previously consulted on Sassicaia during its ascent to fame.
Production is tiny, spanning anywhere from 8,000 to 25,000 bottles a year dependent on the vintage. But, among those lucky enough to taste them, the Castello dei Rampolla wines have garnered an impressive reputation for their bold, nuanced style and propensity to age gracefully.
Winemaking at Castello dei Rampolla is minimalist, and current owner Luca Di Napoli made the move to biodynamic practices in 1994, three years after taking over from his father. Luca is also implementing a gentler oak regime, and has credited his wines’ jump in quality to this.
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.
Sangiovese & Merlot
Sangiovese and Merlot blends are especially common in the wine region of Tuscany, where they represent a modern twist of the Chianti blend under the Toscana IGT. This blend is also finding its feet in Australia and Claifornia.
A black grape widely grown in Central Italy and the main component of Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano as well as being the sole permitted grape for the famed Brunello di Montalcino.
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
The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and a grape that has been on a relentless expansion drive throughout the world in the last decade. Merlot is adaptable to most soils and is relatively simple to cultivate. It is a vigorous naturally high yielding grape that requires savage pruning - over-cropped Merlot-based wines are dilute and bland. It is also vital to pick at optimum ripeness as Merlot can quickly lose its varietal characteristics if harvested overripe.
In St Emilion and Pomerol it withstands the moist clay rich soils far better than Cabernet grapes, and at it best produces opulently rich, plummy clarets with succulent fruitcake-like nuances. Le Pin, Pétrus and Clinet are examples of hedonistically rich Merlot wines at their very best. It also plays a key supporting role in filling out the middle palate of the Cabernet-dominated wines of the Médoc and Graves.
Merlot is now grown in virtually all wine growing countries and is particularly successful in California, Chile and Northern Italy.