GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

A few from Castello di Volpaia

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 21, 2008.

Wines tried:

2004 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 91pts
2005 Castello di Volpaia Coltassala 93pts
2004 Castello di Volpaia Balifico 90pts

I had dinner last night with young Nicolo Mascheroni Stianti; currently working the US markets trying to get the word out about his families wines. We shared bottles of Castello di Volpaia wines and they all gave very solid showings running the gamut from classic to modern but each speaking with a clear voice, relaying it’s Tuscan origins!
The Stianti family owns the majority of the 12th century village from which the winery takes it’s name. Volpaia is a preserved hilltop town harkening back to more peaceful times. An unusual fact about the label of the Castello di Volpaia is that the crest on the label, a drawing of a fox climbing a hill, refers not to some regal family association but rather to the simple origin of the village’s name. Volpaia refers to a fox’s lair and rests on the crest of a small hill,: the inspiration for the simple crest!

Behind the restored facades of these medieval homes and deconsecrated churches lies a complex warren-like wine cellar and olive press all interconnected via a network of stainless steel pipes. The village itself has been converted into the winery and thus it is easy to pass through town thinking one has missed the winery. As cagy, and respectful of the land as that may be don’t be fooled into thinking that the village itself isn’t still a vibrant community It is in fact a growing rural, agricultural community, home to some 50 plus people who form the core of the staff of Castello di Volpaia. This village of people tends to every aspect of the winemaking process, which includes the organic farming of all the vineyards and olive groves, to the manual harvest, and even the production of honey and vinegar.

The wines are made with a combination of modern and traditional techniques; the reds under-go a cold soak to extract the maximum pigment and polyphenols from the skins but undergo a fermentation with natural yeast, for example. In an effort to retain the genetic diversity of the vineyards and avoid reliance on only one or two clones of the vine, the Stianti family cultivate a plot of library vines from which stock is taken to replant the vineyards as needed. There is even a small plot of pre-phyloxera vines here, which have survived due to the sandy soil and high elevation of the vines.

Barrel ageing is undertaken in a blend of large French and Slavonian wood and French barriques, the overwhelming majority of which are neutral. The style of the Volpaia wines is really dictated by the slopes that are home to the vines. Sitting at elevations of approximately 1500 feet above see level, and in the cool Radda zone of Chianti, the grapes here have to struggle to fully ripen and the wines will never have the power and richness of those from warmer climes. What they do have however is balance, transparency, fine acidity and the minerality of their limestone rich soils.

Sangiovese and many Tuscan wines based on Sangiovese are a tricky subject. They are inherently wines for food and they rely on their ability to work with food and their gentle and slightly rustic grace to distinguish themselves. Many examples have been produced over the past two decades where this grace is replaced with incongruous power and blends have come to market where foreign grapes mask the delicacy of the indigenous Sangiovese. It is a delicate balance, but the Stianti family, who have owned Volpaia for over 150 years, are cognizant of the limits one can expect from this fine terroir and have chosen to walk the path of tradition and allow the wines to express only what the grapes can offer, nothing more but nothing less. It is true that these wines may exhibit a bit of obvious wood in their youth but this tends to be quickly absorbed and does not interfere with the fine aromatic expression these wines are capable of.

2004 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva - 100% Sangiovese While needing a bit of time to get going this has classic notes of tobacco, leather and limestone on the nose. There is a nuance of vanilla and lovely grace notes of smoke and slightly herbaceous/herbal sod. This offers up a wonderfully feminine and firmly mid-bodied feel with fine acidity and rich flavors of leather, red currants, a touch of rust, and limestone with nice richness on the back end and solid length. Over the course of the evening this puts on weight and the fruit darkens but never becomes too heavy. Very fine, balanced Chianti that is sure to please. 91pts.

2005 Castello di Volpaia Coltassala - Produced from 95% Sangiovese and 5% mammolo. In contrast to the open and giving 2004 CCR this bottle opens very slowly with intriguing notes of vanilla tinged jammy blackberry fruit that is framed with gentle toast notes and a very fine mineral vein that grows in intensity. After about an hour this really blossoms with fine perfumed scents of violets, hot beach sand, hot iron, subtle cinnamon and a light top note of fine cigar smoke. In the mouth this will appeal to those who prefer balance and precision over power and weight. Opening with great cut, this it tight and almost tough with emerging notes of oyster shell and very small red currant fruit but the balance and definition are wonderful and the sapidity and austerity of the wine keep one coming back again and again. With time the wine fills out a touch and gains a sneaky length as the tight core of fruit turns towards blackberry and ends with a subtle mint tinged hard candy note. 93pts

2004 Castello di Volpaia Balifico - One-third Cabernet Sauvignon two thirds Sangiovese di Volpaia, a clone from the property. This offers up the classic scents of these Sangiovese/Cab blends yet even at this relatively high percentage of Cabernet it does not dominate the nose. There are balanced notes of leathery fruit and cool, crisp Cabernet notes with a gentle edge of tomato leaf. Gaining a bit more depth with air the lightly smoky, spicy chili notes of Cabernet become more assertive yet in the mouth the feel is that of the austere and sapid Sangiovese but with the deep black currant fruit of Cabernet augmenting the cherry tones of the Sangiovese well. This retains juicy acids and has good length in a rounder and fruitier style than the other wines. Definitely a crowd-pleaser and while perhaps as complex as the other Castello di Volpaia wines this is a bit on the smooth and polished side. 90pts


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