The great majority of estates on the Montalcino plateau are small and family run, four hectares, six hectares and so on. But of course there are big estates too. In terms of sheer land controlled, the American owned Banfi heads the list, followed by the Frescobaldi property, Castelgiocondo. Nearby Camigliano is also up there in the top four.
Camigliano is a tiny settlement, one of the four hamlets (borgi) of Montalcino, with a population of 33. Unsurprisingly it has a very long history going back to Roman and Etruscan time, but it is now dominated by the winery of the same name with its splendid and practical, new (started 2004), underground premises. The history of this winery really starts in 1957 with the purchase of the site by Walter Ghezzi and its development by his son, Gualtiero. Of the 550 hectares land, 90 are vineyards, 40 olive groves and then there is cereal growing and woods. It is a magical combination of ancient hamlet and contemporary high quality winery.
The winery has very much kept up with times and indeed provides an instructive show case for the history of wine making in Tuscany. Once where there was only wood casks, typically on large scale, there are now various generations of stainless steel, with increasingly sophisticated temperature control. In between there was the lined cement containers which did a great job in holding wines at a stable temperature, but lack modern controls. We can illustrate this series of developments below – large barrels which would have been used for fermentation but now are used for ageing Brunello in particular; cement vats, two generations of stainless steel; French barriques mainly used for ageing wines made from international varieties and, of course, bottles. All we are missing is a) animal skins and b) demijohns …
From the estate’s range we tasted (August 2012):
Gamal, IGT Toscana, 2011 – a new production made from 100% Vermentino grapes, a white variety more typically associated with the Tuscan coast and Sardinia. Fine citrus nose, quite austere and classy, refreshing palate. Avoids the clumsiness of some Vermentino on the coast. A good if unusual use of relatively low lying, warm vineyard site.
Poderuccio, IGT Toscana, 2010 – being a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese and given six months of ageing in French barriques. Pronounced, impressive red and black fruit on the nose and palate supported by a good whack of alcohol and authentic Montalcinese acidity and tannin. Great quality for €7.
Rosso di Montalcino DOC, 2010 – technically declassified in that this land is registered to produce Brunello but instead is used to produce 120,000 bottles of the more affordable Rosso which spends six months in traditional, large barrels. We move at this point into a different aromatic field, the more restrained blackberry fruit being accompanied by some leather and tea leaf notes.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2007 – from the warmer, more accessible 2007 vintage, this has been in large barrels for the required two years of ageing in wood, plus a year in stainless steel and a year in bottles. This is a modern approach to ageing, which preserves fruit at the expense of leather/ animal/ forest floor aromas in young wines. The result is a fine aromatic elegant, wine, extremely attractive and drinkable now, well balanced despite its 14.5% of alcohol with enough substance to age in the medium term. Very creditable, production of 170,000 bottles, €27.
In addition to the above, the estate top quality production also includes a Brunello Riserva called Gualto and a botrytis-affected Moscadello in tiny quantities called L’Aura. With many thanks to Paola – exceptional host - for a memorable visit to a memorable place.
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Page created 3 August 2012