Castello di Nipozzano – Frescobaldi east of Florence


For the last few summers, we have struck gold with our first visit on arrival in Tuscany. We tend to fly to Pisa and from there have driven to Villa Capezzana in Carmignano (2010), Ca’ Marcanda, Gaja’s property in Bolgheri (2009) and Castello di Terricio (2008). This year we have kept up this literally noble tradition through the kind invitation of Marchese Leonardo Frescobaldi who was set to show us around the Castello di Nipozzano personally, had it not been for a muddle over times of my making. While getting over my embarrassment, we were shown around with great grace by Giacomo Fani, the warm-hearted and knowledgeable PR manager. It is a magnificent site. The old castle was restored as a summer residence to get away from the stifling heat of Florence 25 kilometres away and to make the most of the elevation of the Rufina wine zone (200-550m). There are 240 hectares of vines here, mostly Sangiovese but with some Bordeaux varieties as well. My preference is for the former; the Marchese is particularly proud of the Super Tuscan ‘Mormoreto’ of which more shortly.

On this occasion, we not only tasted the wines of this estate but also those of the neighbouring and yet higher Castello di Pomino (450-730m). Here Frescobaldi grows some of the best Chardonnay in Tuscany. IMG_9639

Pomino Bianco DOC 2010 – Chardonnay has been here since the middle of the 18th century. This wine, mainly a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, is part (25%) fermented in barriques and then aged for three months in stainless steel and two months in used barriques before it is bottled. Straw coloured, moderately assertive nose of apple and apricot. Delicious quite exotic fruit on the palate, a tiny hint of oak, some minerality, quite complex and long. A really worthwhile Chardonnay.

Pomino DOC Benefizio Riserva 2009 – Chardonnay from the single Benefizio vineyard 700 metres above sea level. This is given the serious treatment – 12 hours of maceration on the skins at 5° C, then fermented in new French oak barrels, slow fermentation with batonnage over 30 days, then aged in new barrels for 10 months. Tasted at just under two-year-old, the wood is still very evident – yeast, smoke and leather, but there is also pineapple and banana. Much longer than its younger sibling, full in the mouth and quite subtle. IMG_9653

Pomino DOC Pinot Nero 2008 – we saw this later in the supermarket and snapped it up to taste. Mostly it is just too warm in central Italy for Pinot Noir but this is an exception. Moderately fragrant, slightly farmyardy, but good raspberry/strawberry fruit, so good Pinot Noir character. Light (as most Pinot should be) and highly drinkable.

From the Castello di Nipozzano estate:

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2008 – even with the ‘riserva’ tag, this is the staple of the estate (a million bottles) made from 90% Sangiovese, the rest being Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly purple edge to a pale ruby red, pretty vibrant, good fruit predominantly in the sour cherry spectrum. The ageing is two years in used barrels, resulting in subtle toast notes and a roundedness which will develop in time. A very worthwhile wine produced in quantity.

Vigneto Montesodi Chianti Rufina Riserva 2008 – 100% Sangiovese from the 20-hectare Montesodi vineyard at an altitude of 400m. 2008 was a demanding year with a very cool and wet spring but then good weather in the second part of the season rescued the year.  At this age, the wine has high acidity and tannin but it has hardly started yet. Great concentration of red fruit and a slightly balsamic edge, plus oak notes, from two years in French oak. Very promising – try again at two-year intervals for 10-20 years.

I noted above that the Marchese is very keen on his Super Tuscan, Mormoreto, and he had kindly organised a small vertical tasting of this wine, which is made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, given the conventional ‘top wine of the estate’ treatment:

IMG_96352008 – deep, almost impenetrable, ruby; rich nose and palate of a classic red and black fruit. Somewhat reminiscent of the big wines of Bolgheri but with that excellent hallmark of Rufina, austerity, which is no doubt due to the altitude, if here only 300m. Perfectly drinkable now with robust food but will improve with years in the bottle.

2005 – with three extra years this has developed well. While 2005 was not the greatest year in Tuscany, this shows what a quality producer can do. A pronounced and beautifully clove, rich blackcurrant and cherry nose.  The fruit has softened and mellowed but the levels of tannins remain, showing that this could go on for many years more.

1999 – from a year with good sun in July and September, some rain in August and good day/night differences, and an early harvest date.  On the nose the fruit is no longer to the fore and has been replaced by a rich integrated nose, dense fruit on the palate, overall, refined and full of character.

The history and scale of the Frescobaldi enterprise are impressive. In addition, they are impeccable hosts – and we benefitted from their hospitality which I acknowledge here.  They do produce large numbers of bottles, both on these estates and the others, mainly in Tuscany.  But alongside their advantages, there is a real commitment to quality, to the particular possibilities of their various estates, and to being a flag bearer for Tuscan wine as a whole.

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