Castello di Ama – the art of wine

Castello di Ama is one of the most photogenic wineries Janet and I have visited in Italy – and we have visited quite a few!   The new ‘cathedrals of wine’ come to mind, for example, Petra or Rocca di Frasinello.  Ama is very different to these.  The actual winery which is modern and inconspicuously tucked away in an ancient borgo, (village) which is extremely picturesque and set in a wonderful landscape.  And then there is the approachable modern art collection, cleverly integrated into the winery and landscape, as masterminded by Lorenza and Marco Pallanti.  Pictures tell a better story than words, with a collection including Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren and Cristina Iglesias.

The estate is pretty large and productive. The bald figures are 90 hectares under vine plus a further 40 hectares of olive trees, set 500 metres above sea level on rocky soil.  The vines are planted densely for quality, 5-8,000 plants per hectare.  Of the 350,000 bottles a year which are produced, 200,000 are Chianti Classico, but there is also a white wine, an interesting Pinot Noir blend and single vineyard Chiantis and Super Tuscans, including a prize winning Merlot.

We tasted a small part of the range where quality is high.

Al Poggio 2009 – 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Grigio, pale almost silver in colour, very exotic apple, melon and apricot fruit, some honey, some oak notes (all the Pinot Grigio and some of the Chardonnay have seen oak); fine, refreshing and long finish.

Il Chiuso 2009 – we played a guessing game about the proportion of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese in this blend.  I went for 60/40, Janet was right on with 40/60 – which I am going to regard as a victory for the Pinot Noir showing through!  Properly pale ruby in colour, and attractively light on the palate, with good strawberry and raspberry and some sour cherry notes.  Different from most red wines in Tuscany and very worthwhile.

Chianti Classico 2007 – the flag bearer for the estate, given the number of bottles produced and where the estate is situated. Superb bouquet of tea leaves and red berried fruit, good balance between depth of fruit on the palate and acidity/astringency, good length; a text book Chianti Classico.

Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico 2007, – this cru, ie a single vineyard wine made only in the best years, pushes the DOCG regulations to the limits, being 80% Sangiovese and the maximum 20% Merlot, the sort of blend to make the traditionalists grind their teeth!  However, as long as you give yourself the space to realise that Chianti comes in different styles, you can see that this is a great wine.  (Sadly we didn’t taste the traditional blend alongside it – Vigneto Bellavista, in which the 20% blender is Malvasia Nera. Both come in at over £100 a bottle.)  The grapes come from a 12 hectare vineyard at around 500 metres of altitude, now getting towards 50 years old.  Intense aromas of mulberry and dark cherries, layered, hints of smoke and tobacco which will develop with time, lots of potential to develop – really needs ten years in the bottle, a very good example of quality Chianti in an international style.

Thank you to Lucie for a great tour of the art of wine. The wines of Castello di Ama continue to set very high standards.

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