Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Stella di Campalto

Stella di Campalto – refined biodynamic wines

Az. Ag. San Giuseppe

I was keen to visit this estate as it is a rare biodynamic farm on the Montalcino plateau.  It lies south of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and thus in the south east sector of the Montalcino zone.  The track to the old farm, San Giuseppe, is marked off the road but does little to prepare you for a steep descent into a dry valley which feels remote and far away from civilisation, so called.  No doubt that was exactly the attraction if the aim is to farm biodynamically in an area not really known for this.  The farm has now been biodynamic for a decade and the vines looked healthy and productive in the midst of the August 2012 heatwave and drought. 

During our visit, Stella was having a short, well earned holiday, the calm before the storm of the vintage.  We were shown around very capably by Gianfranco who has worked the farm for many years.  As with everyone we met, the only topic of conversation was the drought. It has not really rained here since March and the work in the vineyard is finished. They let the ‘grass’ grown between alternate rows but this vegetation is now reduced to brown foliage.  Gianfranco is straightforward about this year: if it doesn’t rain in the next twenty days, they will be in some trouble.  The danger is that the plants will close down. The grapes, already very small because of lack of water but still perfectly viable and would produce a good, small and concentrated harvest, could begin to dry out on the vine before reaching full ripeness.  But there is nothing to be done but to wait and hope for the weather to break. The vines are at least well established, the Sangiovese having been planted in 1999 and 2000.  There is also a tiny amount of Merlot and Syrah for a Super Tuscan.

fermentation vesselsbotti e barriques
What is noticeable in the small but spacious winery is the amount of wood.  The fermentation vessels are oak and of course the wine is aged in (medium-sized) oak casks. This represents a formidable investment for a winery which launched its first Brunello vintage with the outstanding 2004 vintage.  Stella’s Rosso, the ‘basic’ wine, is expensive – but then there are only six hectares of vines and it is a ten to twelve year wait between planting the vines and being able to sell the long-matured Brunello, having had to invest in all those expensive wood casks to mature it in.  But clearly there plenty of buyers as the wines sell out quickly. 

We tasted the upcoming vintages from the casks (August 2012):


‘Brunello di Montalcino’ 2009 – technically, as it has to say on every cask, this is ‘wine in the process of becoming Brunello’ as it is still within the period of four years of ageing plus a minimum of four months in the bottles, so this wine could be sold from January 2014 onwards.  Judging by this sample it will be worth the wait and the money!  It opens with a pronounced aromatic nose of berried fruit, with subtle liquorish, herb and coffee notes plus mature, developing fruit.  The palate is remarkably elegant already and the tannins are fine and give the wine a taut structure which will unfold in years to come.  This farm may be biodynamic but there is absolutely nothing rustic about the wines which are refined and remarkable. 

‘Brunello di Montacino’ 2010 – this wine, of course, is only at the mid-point of its development before it even gets into a bottle. At the moment, there is a less refined nose and palate and young rugged tannins.  It is more traditional in style with leather and animal notes – but then it is still being racked off two to three times a year and has a long way to go. 

With many thanks to Stella and to Gianfranco and Beatrice – after this visit, I can see exactly why a prestigious firm like Berry’s in London stocks your wines. 

Return to the Montalcino home page: click here

Page created 8 August 2012

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