castello di volpaia, chianti classico riserva 2015 (about $36)

Italian Wine for february, 2019

Volpaia is, first and foremost, a village in Tuscany and, secondly, a winery of the same name – or, is it vice versa?

Volpaia is a tiny walled hilltop village located a short distance from the wine-centric town of Radda-in-Chianti in the Chianti Classico zone. Although Volpaia has a history that dates back to the 12th century, it is still a live working village today. The Stianti Mascheroni family, owners of the Castello di Volpaia winery, own about 2/3 of the physical property of the village and most, if not all, of the approximately 60 residents work either directly or indirectly for the winery.

In the early 1970’s, with an eye to upping their game in the competitive world-class wine market, the Stianti Mascheroni family implemented a major update of their winery facilities. But rather than taking the simpler and far less costly approach of starting a new operation outside the village walls they decided to commit their energies instead to renovating and expanding their facilities in the small, historic village. Because the entire village is a living museum with historic status, all of the renovations had to be implemented without altering the structural and visual integrity of the ancient village. An expensive and time-consuming upgrade to be sure.

But the end result appears to justify the effort. The renovated winery is functionally and unobtrusively integrated into the city’s ancient architecture. Several historic sites have been converted into tasting rooms and offices and deconsecrated churches repurposed into vinification facilities complete with stainless steel tanks and/or ageing rooms. In this case, the “new” fits seamlessly into the “old”.

In addition to the physical plant, Castello di Volpaia also owns 114 acres of vineyards on the hillside leading up to the village and beyond. The vineyards are spread among several different parcels and all are certified organic. Situated at 1,300 to 2,100 feet above sea level these vineyard sites are high-elevation when compared with most others in the Chianti Classico appellation that typically are on low-rise hills or even flat land. The cooler growing conditions in the high elevation vineyards has the advantage of wide day/night temperature swings that permit the grapes to ripen slowly, develop aromatic complexity and retain natural acidity.

Castello di Volpaia’s 2015 Chianti Classico Riserva is 100 2015 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riservapercent Sangiovese grapes especially selected from several of Volpaia’s best vineyards. The grapes are fermented in steel tanks and aged in a combination of large oak casks (80 percent) and small barriques (20 percent) for 2 years. The wine is then bottled and aged for an additional 3 months prior to release.

The Riserva designation indicates the wine is a half-percentage point higher (14 percent) alcohol and is aged a year longer (2 years total) than regular Chianti Classico. While these may seem like small distinctions they can and do make a big difference in the texture and flavor profile of the wine.

The 2015 Castello di Volpaia Riserva is an elegant and generous Sangiovese wine that benefitted from a near-perfect sunny, warm and not-too-wet vintage. It has a ruby-red cast with fresh cherry, plum and herbal scents. It is richly textured with vibrant acidity, smooth tannins and ripe summer cherry and blackberry flavors with increased depth as it opens up. Regular Chianti Classico wines can be predictable, humdrum wines but this 100 percent Sangiovese Riserva just shines with ripe fruit flavors, balanced acidity and a firm, lingering finish.

This wine complements a variety of dishes and was a wonderful pairing with my mushroom risotto and flank steak cooked rare.

Not that I feel compelled to reference a higher authority but it’s worth noting that the 2015 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva ranked #3 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2018 in the world. 


©Richard Marcis
February 12, 2019

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