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Castello di Verrazzano Rosso 2009
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.
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery, and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, as well as in price from budget-friendly to ultra-premium, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano trailing far behind.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, perfect for Sangiovese as it ripens most efficiently on slopes with maximum exposure to sunlight.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright red fruit and not much more, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello in particular is sensitive to vintage variation, performing best in years that are not too hot and not too cold. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, the island of Elba and more inland, in Carmignano.
Tuscan blends tend to be big, bold, and modern in style, sometimes with noticeable new oak, whose high quality can often command super-premium prices.
Their composition of international grape varieties or mix of international and indigenous varieties makes Tuscan blends unique. Where did the idea come from? Well, a few Tuscan winemakers who had become disenchanted with Italian winemaking law in the 1970s retaliated and decided to get creative. They started making wine solely from international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah or adding these grapes to Sangiovese, in differing proportions, and the phenomenon was born.
The most famous Tuscan blends from Italy are called “Super Tuscans.” One of the most well-known, ‘Tignanello,’ created by Antinori in 1971, is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Marchesi Lodovico Antinori in 1981, with the help of renowned agronomist Andre Tchelistcheff, established Ornellaia. The property has changed hands but since 2002 Marchesi de' Frescobaldi has been the sole owner and its quality remains stellar. It is typically a blend of about half Cabernet Sauvignon, a third Merlot and the rest filled in with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Sassicaia, another, has earned itself an extraordinary reputation and global esteem, so much so that the Sassicaia property was actually awarded its very own appellation with the 1994 vintage. It is typically 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.