Castello della Sala – Antinori, “Cervaro della Sala” 2018 (about $55)

Italian Wine for july, 2020

White wines of Italy tend to be overshadowed by Italian reds and all too often don’t get the respect they deserve. And that’s particularly true for whites from central Italy that often get overlooked in favor of the area’s famous reds such as Brunello, Vino Nobile, Chianti Classico and Sagrantino, to name a few.

So, it’s always a pleasure to review a distinctive white wine like the 2018 Cervaro della Sala from Piero Antinori’s estate, Castello della Sala, in Umbria. Made primarily of Chardonnay, it is a distinct, complex and structured wine that I would rank as one of Italy’s finest wines – red or white. This vaunted ranking is obviously shared by others as the Cervaro della Sala is a serial recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchieri award.

Castello della Sala is the Umbrian outpost of Marchesi Antinori’s extensive wine empire. The estate has approximately 420 acres of vineyards on gently rolling hills on Umbria’s western border with Tuscany, about 11 miles north of the scenic and historic town of Orvieto. With its gently rolling hills and good day-night temperature variations the area is well positioned for growing white varieties. Castello della Sala’s vineyards consist primarily of Italian as well as international white varieties but red Pinot Nero has also found this to be an ideal growing environment so some is also planted here.

The 2018 Cervaro della Sala is made of estate-grown Chardonnay with a splash of Grechetto to add some fresh acidity to the mix. The Chardonnay grapes are harvested the last week in August and the Grechetto 2 weeks later. After a brief period of skin contact the Chardonnay’s primary and secondary (malolactic) fermentation as well as ageing take place in small oak barriques which gives the wine a touch of wood as well as some additional texture. 2018 "Cervaro della Sala" from Antinori's Castello della Sala winery in Umbria

After about 3 months the Grechetto, which was separately fermented in stainless steel tanks, is added to the Chardonnay and then bottled where the completed wine rests for a few more months before release to the market.

First produced commercially in 1985, the Cervaro della Sala is distinguished in that it is one of the first Italian white wines to have both malolactic fermentation and ageing take place in oak barriques.

The 2018 Cervaro della Sala has a light straw yellow with a green tint at the edge. It is full-bodied with good mouthfeel and ripe pear, crisp apple and citrusy fruit flavors, all complemented with lively acidity. It is a firmly structured and flavorful yet elegant wine and – unusual for most white wines – has good ageing potential. While drinkable now it has the texture and acidity that will enable it to age gracefully for years to come.

It’s such a delicious and elegant wine you’ll find a second glass impossible to resist.


©Richard Marcis
July 10, 2020

To see reviews of other selected wines of the month, see Wines of the Month.

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