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Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2008
Stewards of Chianti Classico, Castello di Verrazzano has played an indelible role in Tuscan winemaking and American history. Owners Luigi and Silvia Cappellini pour their passion into the estate, producing traditional wines that deservedly enjoy an incredibly loyal following around the world.
A founding member of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, Verrazzano has made wine since the earliest times. The property occupies the site of former Etruscan and Roman settlements and was home to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first to discover America’s east coast, landing at the bay of New York in the early 16th century.
The Verrazzano castle and surrounding gardens dates back to the 10th century (1150). The estate’s vines have been cultivated since 1170 and the historic cellars have remained in continuous production.New life was breathed back into Verrazzano, when in 1958, Luigi and Silvia Cappellini purchased the estate and restored the neglected manor house and surrounding gardens.
Since acquiring the estate, the Cappellini family has replanted Verrazzano's vineyards, which fan out from the forest limits down to the valley below. Located on a hilltop in the Greve, the heart of Chianti Classico, Verrazzano’s 220 acre estate includes 52 hectares of vineyards at altitudes between 280 and 400 meters above sea level, higher than average Chianti Classico vineyards.
Though present in southern parts of the Classico area, limestone is unique to Verrazzano which is in the cooler, northern part of the zone. This singular combination of limestone soil and cooler growing conditions accounts for the wines’ muscularity and finesse.
The true lifeblood of the vineyards comes from the surrounding Verrazzano-owned woodland area, which acts as a cocoon for the vines; offering pollution protection and maintaining freshness. In addition, the entire winery is heated by wood from these forests.
The Cappellini's joy and sense of pride in their home is evident everywhere one looks. Warm and generous hosts, they welcome a constant stream of visitors at their beautifully restored estate. Sustainability is a priority of Castello di Verrazzano winery: fertilization is organic and vineyards are weeded by hand. Green harvesting is also practiced, resulting in a heightened concentration of flavor in the remaining fruit. Harvest is conducted entirely by hand.
Famous for its food-friendly, approachable wines and their storied history, Chianti is perhaps the best-known wine region of Italy. This sub-zone of Tuscany has it all—sweeping views of undulating hills, the hot Mediterranean sun, hearty cuisine, and a rich artistic heritage. Historically packaged in short, round, straw-covered bottles known as “fiaschi” and containing insipid red liquid, Chianti today is typically not your Italian grandfather’s pizza wine. The heart of the Chianti zone is known as Chianti Classico, as the region has expanded its boundaries over time to capitalize on the wine’s fame, thus diluting its reputation. Within Chianti there are seven other subzones with unique characteristics, including Colli Senesi, Colli Fiorentini, and Chianti Rufina.
Chianti wines are made primarily of Sangiovese, with other varieties comprising up to 20% of the blend. Generally, local varieties are used, including Canaiolo, Mammolo, and Marzemino, but international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah have also been approved in more recent years. Basic, inexpensive Chianti is simple and fruit-forward and makes a great companion to any casual dinner involving red sauce. At its apex, it is savory and rustic with high acidity, firm tannins, and notes of tart red fruit, dried herbs, fennel, salami, balsamic vinegar, and smoky tobacco. Chianti Riserva, typically the top bottling of a producer, can benefit handsomely from a decade or two of cellaring.
The perfect intersection of bright fruit and savory earthiness, Sangiovese is the backbone variety in Tuscany. While it is best known as the chief component of Chianti, it reaches the height of its power and intensity in the complex, long-lived Brunello di Montalcino. Elsewhere throughout Italy, it can make inexpensive wines for daily consumption ranging from inoffensive to deliciously easy. On the French island of Corsica, under the name Nielluccio, it produces excellent bright and refreshing red and rosé wines with a personality of their own. Sangiovese has also enjoyed moderate popularity in California and Washington State over the last few decades.
In the Glass
Sangiovese is a medium-bodied red with savory flavors of tart cherry, plum, tomato, fresh tobacco, anise, thyme, oregano, and dried earth. High-quality, well-aged examples will take on notes of smoke, clay pot, leather, gamey meat, potpourri, and dried fruits. Corsican Nielluccio is distinguished by a subtle perfume of dried flowers.
Sangiovese is the ultimate pizza and pasta red—its high acidity, moderate alcohol, and grainy tannins create an affinity with tomato-based dishes, spicy meats, and anything off the barbecue.
Although it is the star variety of Tuscany, cult-classic “Super-Tuscan” wines may contain no Sangiovese at all! Since the 1970s, local winemakers have been producing big, bold wines (with price tags to match) that are typically monovarietal or a blend of one or more of several international varieties—usually Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or Syrah—with or without Sangiovese.