Castelgiocondo is a large estate in the south western sector of Montalcino, itself the zone where the larger estates are congregated – Banfi, Camigliano, and so on. The countryside is more open here, less hilly and therefore more suitable for large-scale production. It also benefits from the wind from the sea, even if that is 80 kilometres away. The estate has 1000 hectares altogether with 260 under vine of which a smaller part, 60 hectares is devoted to the Super Tuscan ‘Luce’ project. Here we will concentrate on the Brunello which makes up the vast bulk of the production. The Frescobaldi family is based in Florence and Chianti Rufina so this is an outpost, but of course a very important one producing the grand wines of Brunello and Luce. The estate was bought in 1989 but the Frescobaldi wine-making expertise was brought to bear in the 1970s when the property was owned by a French and Italian banking consortium. The other benefit of this history is that Merlot has been grown here since those days under the French influence. The castle itself has been loving restored on the outside but is not lived in. Its garden room, however, makes a magnificent place to entertain guests with its cooling breezes and splendid views (above right). I would like to thank the Marchese and acknowledge his generosity hospitality shown to Janet and I on the occasion of tasting the current vintages of Brunello and the Riserva and two matching older vintages.
The winery is large and practical at floor level and beautiful and contemporary in the new below-ground level, using the same architect who created the much newer Ammiraglia winery in southern coastal Tuscany. The highlights here are the clever use of curves, the lighting and the little store of historic vintages of Luce:
The wood ageing programme for the Brunello is a little unusual in that the young wine is divided so that a quarter spends a year in 3rd and 4th year barriques while the rest is in the traditional large barrels. The sheer size of the operation is impressive. But presumably wine held in really large wooden barrels – the ones pictured below are 200 hectolitres and so hold 27,000 bottles each – is almost inert. In all the wine is in wood for 2½ – 3 years: old barriques don’t influence the flavour of the wine directly but smaller barrels do increase the effects of micro-oxygenation on wine because of the greater proportion of the wine in contact with the wood. I imagine the 1/4: 3/4 approach used here is intended to make the wines a little more approachable in its early years after release, five years and three months on from the harvest.
The wines we tasted were:
Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2007 – from an excellent vintage with only a few very hot days and steady growing conditions, this wine is approachable before the 2006 which may have a longer life. The wine now is already very drinkable, marked by good red and mainly black fruit character, cloves and a hint of leather from the wood ageing and a typical structure: lively acidity and powerful and fine, if still young, tannins.
The mature wine of the pair was Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2001 from another great, 5*, vintage, but now after 11 years, properly knit together. This was perhaps a less straightforward year with late frosts but then a good season and a splendid late September which made the vintage. These fully integrated wines are much more difficult to describe precisely because the various elements have come together into a unified sensation of ripe, rounded, edgy, perfumed fruit (black cherry, blackberry, hint of redcurrant). That edginess is very important as we are talking about Sangiovese with its fine astringency and refreshing character.
The Riserva is a selection from the best grapes in the best years which are harvested slightly later with the resulting wines requiring a six years of ageing before they can be released. They are explicitly made for long keeping. The current vintage is Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006 which is marked by a more powerful nose, great concentration on the palate and greater length – but it is obviously related to the standard wine. Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001 stands out for its excellent perfumed nose and rich velvety texture and medium plus length. These are very good wines which really repay keeping.
With many thanks to Marchese Leonardo Frescobaldi and to Nadine for a very good tour and your company.
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Page created 5 August 2012