Gloom and humidity: natural remedies

2020 vintage has arrived in cellar
6 October 2020

Dear friends,

                   Autumn has just begun and welcomed us with a drastic drop in temperatures and with rather humid and somewhat gloomy days. To fight against  both gloom  and humidity, I  have chosen three wines for this autumn quarter that will help you in this difficult task by warming your body and certainly also your spirit.

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The first wine I would like to propose to you is the Villa Calcinaia Sanforte IGT 2018 and to introduce this wine and this grape variety I am using an excerpt from the fantastic publication Native Wine Grapes of Italy by Ian d’Agata:

Sangiovese Forte, or Sanforte, first mentioned by Villifranchi in 1773, has a medium –sized, pyramidal and compact bunch with medium round berries. Its bunch and berries don’t weight much more on average than those of a standard Sangiovese clone, but Sanforte is more fertile and tends to produce more bunches per plant in similar conditions. Most important, it is a much earlier ripener than Sangiovese.  Roberto Bandinelli of the University of Florence told me that the variety’s name derives from its ability to pile up sugar in its berries; in fact, it was planted in the Lamole zone of Chianti Classico because of this very trait. Lamole is one of the highest, coolest parts of all of Chianti Classico, and therefore Sanforte was and is ideal to pump up the  Sangiovese based wines.The high-quality Villa Calcinaia estate, among others, has planted a small plot of Sanforte and is currently evaluating to plant more. I have tried numerous vintages of the Sanforte wine made at Villa Calcinaia, and I find it is a more massive wine than the Sangiovese made at the same estate. The wine is interesting because it retains a large dose of elegance, despite its size. There is plenty to like, from the violet and underbrush aromas to the dark red cherry and tarry, almost savory flavors.

Going back to what Ian wrote, I would like to highlight precisely this ability to accumulate the sugars of Sanforte which, together with the low tannic content typical of the grape, make it in my opinion an excellent match for Asian cuisine, especially the slightly spicy one.

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The second wine I would like to tell you about is one of our  crus of Sangiovese: the Villa Calcinaia Vigna Bastignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016. Vigna Bastignano is a bit of an exception in the panorama of Villa Calcinaia wines because it comes from a vineyard not too old, planted in fact in 2004, but which immediately showed a personality and a character that made it deserve a place among the estate crus together with the Contessa Luisa and La Fornace vineyards. The Bastignano vineyard, one of the original farmsteads purchased by Niccola di Andrea Capponi in 1524, is located in a natural amphitheater at about 280 meters above sea level and the vines are planted in curved rows that follow the course of the slope and on rocky soils where the protagonist is Alberese, a limestone typical of the Montefioralle area in the township of Greve in Chianti.

The vines in Bastignano are cultivated according to the training system called “Alberello di Lamole” and produce, thanks to this training system, the right amount of grapes, resembling, in the summer, many small cypresses . The grapes are harvested by hand and brought to the cellar in small cases. The grapes are then   partially de-stemmed, the percentage of whole clusters in 2016 was 50%, fermented in open tonneaux and gently pressed with hands and feet. Vigna Bastignano 2016 was aged partly in 10hl barrels and partly in 6hl cement egg for about 24 months.

It is a wine that does not open itself immediately but  must be waited for because behind its slightly gruff appearance there is  a colourful world made of underbrush, spices, small red fruits, graphite which makes it ideal for pairing with game dishes.

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The third wine for this autumn season , Villa Calcinaia Casarsa IGT 2014, has a long and interesting history which I will tell you here below.

In 1966, terrible flooding of the Arno river devastated Florence and its valley including the nursery where Villa Calcinaia sourced its vines that year. Beforehand the winery had never purchased external material and all the new vineyards were planted using the american rootstock which then would be grafted with cuttings coming from the existing vineyards. When the flood hit the nurseries all the tags indicating what varietal each vine was had been washed away.  In the spring of 1967 my father and his agent ordered vines from those nurseries to plant seven hectares of new vineyards. Thinking that they were planting these new vineyards with Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Canaiolo the estate unknowingly planted something else. My father’s agent, Mauro Gestri, soon discovered the error and recognized most of the varietals that had been mistakenly planted among which there were Gewürztraminer, Teroldego, Grechetto, Montepulciano and a few others. He also thought that the varietal planted in the vineyard named Casarsa was Malvasia Nera. For thirty years nobody questioned his assumptions but in 1996 I  started a collaboration with an ampelographer from the University of Florence, Roberto Bandinelli, to analyze all the old vines to salvage and repropagate the estate genome. When he went with me to the Casarsa vineyard he announced that the vines there were not Malvasia Nera.  They were Merlot.  I was shocked by the news because I was not planning to plant any international varietal on the estate and one of them had already been there longer than I have.  Following the old saying “if you can’t beat them join them” in 1997 I decided to start making a wine from that vineyard which is still today my only concession to the Supertuscan category.

After all these years I have been making this wine I must admit  that despite his foreign origin the Merlot from Casarsa has picked up a very strong local accent and taken the way of Chianti or as we say around here it definitely “chianteggia”.

This is the story of the birth of the only Supertuscan produced on the estate; in all these years I must say that the best pairing for this wine has been the duck with the orange sauce, a dish of ancient Florentine tradition whose recipe Caterina dei Medici introduced in France together with many other dishes of our culinary culture, especially the one that prepares every feast of the Assumption our dear friend Gigì.

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