When you phone up a wine maker in Chianti to see if you can drop in on a visit, you do not really expect a pleasant Irish lilt on the other end of the phone. However, Sean O’Callaghan, has been the enologist at Riecine, now a 11 hectare estate, since 1991, so what you see is Sean’s kingdom. Everywhere you see expressions of his decision making, of his continuing search for the last drop of quality out of this Gaiole estate: the functional modern winery filled with casks of various sizes, the vines on the hillside under the winery in conversion from Guyot to the old-fashioned Alberello (‘small tree’) system and the concentration on Sangiovese alone. In this he is supported by American owner, Gary Baumann, who we had the good fortune to meet on the day of our visit. Gary has backed the vision in the shape of buying top quality vineyards and building a new winery and, of course, going with Sean’s expertise and instincts. With Monica in the office they are a well-focused team with a clear aim: ‘to produce the finest Sangiovese-based wines in the world’.
We tasted the wines of this estate including La Gioia which includes fruit from further south in Tuscany and so is IGT Toscana, rather than Chianti Classico:
Chianti Classico 2009 – tobacco and liquorice notes from the oak ageing, perfumed fruit, excellent depth of flavour, good tannic zing, delicious wine from an excellent vintage
Chianti Classico riserva 2007 – superb subtle ‘warm’ nose of spices, tobacco, cloves, blackberry and mulberry; attractive palate; very long, excellent. Won a much coveted 5 star (out of 5) Decanter rating and and an amazing score of 19/20: ‘sleek and fresh with intensity rather than weight’
La Gioia IGT Toscana 2006 – deeper colour, very spicy (cloves), blackcurrant, preserved fruit, high level of tannins. As noted, this wine has fruit from the much warmer Montecucco zone of the Maremma, further south, and in the past has had a small amount of Merlot. However, from 2010 Riecine have stopped using the grapes from the Maremma, experiencing some difficulties as the seasons have got hotter.
La Gioia IGT Toscana 1998 – we were in luck: this 13 year old bottle had been opened for other visitors and we got to try it too: great development in the fruit, mulberry under spirit, almost porty, beautiful palate, very very long, still good grip
We left our impromptu visit in no doubt that Sean and the whole team are producing Chianti of the highest quality with a profound sense of place and with a heartening conviction about the potential of Sangiovese.
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