Caparsa – organic Chianti vertical

Visiting wineries is very rewarding – there is nothing like seeing the vineyards and how the grower works with them, touring the winery and tasting in situ.  But occasionally you get a bonus  which doesn’t involve making appointments, finding the farm (much helped these days by GPS or by Google map on a phone) and spending time with the people.  Our ‘visit’ to Caparsa literally involved crossing the medieval street in Radda-in-Chianti – out of the hotel front door and into the Caparsa shop!  (Note: there is an entirely different estate in Montalcino called Caparzo.) 

IMG_9991Radda is a a real wine town.  There are plenty of general tourists around but the town is dominated by wine and is surrounded by vineyards. Here is the view looking back towards Radda from a minor road going south.

Paolo Cianferoni has been running the Caparsa estate (farm might be a better word) just outside Radda as a fully organic enterprise. His aim is to reconcile his production and modern approaches with the needs of the environment, to which he shows an admirable commitment.  The property has belonged to the family since 1965. 

We had the good fortune to meet him in the shop at our tasting.  He picked up our enthusiasm and plied us with tasting samples from a large range of vintages.  There is a bianco and a rosso, the basic wines we did not taste, a Chianti Classico (sometimes riserva depending on the quality of the year), a single vineyard, Doccio a Matteo, and finally both Vin Santo and late harvest sweet wines.  The vineyards are at 450m above sea level and face northeast.  

Paolo Cianferoni in vendemmia-1Chianti Classico ‘Caparsino’ The key characteristic of Caparsa wines is rusticity. There is not a polite word for faulty; rather the wines are vivid, powerful, full of sharp edges which you either like or have to wait for them to round out.  The Chianti blend is 97% Sangiovese and 3% Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo e Colorino and the wine is aged for two years in Slavonian oak casks.


2003 – good fruit, a good result in a very hot year, but presumably this is where the altitude (and therefore good day/night temperature difference which retains freshness) helps

2005 – declassified, ie not called riserva, as it was not a very good year, but a decent wine in a rustic style

2006 riserva –  slightly clovey, musty wood on the nose, excellent palate full of sharp cherry fruit, depth of flavour, powerfully tannic but in a controlled way, very good

2007 riserva – another very good year, great potential in this wine, depth of fruit again, very good

Doccio a Matteo Here the blend is 90% Sangiovese with 5% each of Colorino and Ancelotta, all grown in the named vineyard. The ageing is in barriques for one year, the barrels coming from a range of sources – Troncais, Allier, Vosges, American and Hungary.

1999 – a great year and a great result. By now the nose and fruit are reined in with ageing effects, but the wine is dense and really worth spending time with

2000 – excellent bright fruit still with a lot of the rough edges having been softened here.  Awarded the top Three Glasses award by the Gambero Rosso.  We bought a bottle of this and drank it later on the trip with friends, some of whom liked its assertiveness and others found it too much. 

2003 – the heat here has been transmuted into softness, a drop from the usual acidity level perhaps

2007 – an excellent depth of fruit, quite rustic still, decent length, will develop over next twenty years …

Chianti comes in various styles – light and quaffable, taut and elegant, powerful and substantial or rustic and demanding.  Caparsa’s organic wines definitely fall into the latter category. They are doing a great job in this particular style. 

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