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.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.