Finding Roots in Chianti: Castellare di Castellina


I distinctly remember visiting the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago a few years ago as I was beginning introduction into the world of wine and winemaking. Although all wineries present were fascinating, I was particularly captivated by the pride that each Italian producer took in the mastery of their craft and the desire to represent the territory, culture, and people from which the wine came in each perfectly made bottle of wine. There was one wine maker in particular which stood out to me during that event and whose simplicity and dedication to tradition was evident from first to last taste.
Castellare di Castellina

Castellare di Castellina vines

What makes this Chianti maker different?

Castellare is owned by a winemaking family that began their journey in vinification almost forty years ago in the small Tuscan town of Castellina in Chianti. Now, it would be a logical question to ask what makes this one Chianti maker different than the seemingly endless groups making this iconic Italian wine throughout the region. Is it the barrels? Is there a particular unique method? What about the grapes? In short, it’s a mix of all these things portrayed in one very clear message, tradition. This past June, I had the fortune of visiting Castellare di Castellina as a guest of my world renowned travel writer, wine enthusiast, tour operator, and, coincidentally, wonderful wife, Martina Zuccarello, who works at the “Spumante and Movie Star” renowned travel agency of Select Italy in Chicago, Illinois designing tailor-made tours for Americans to experience the Etruscan Peninsula. During this trip we were met by Nardis, a young and passionate member of the Castellare team who showed us the inner sanctum of their ongoing project and identity of making classic wines. At this point it was clear that this winery was one that was true to its rustic roots and the earth from which it came. There were no modern humidifying machines. No automated pickers. No bells and whistles or homages to their greatness. No technological advancements that leave you scratching your head. Everything lead back to the vines, the earth, the grapes, and using the natural processes that the earth provides in order to make one of the highest quality wines I have ever tasted. It just was. And in this fantastic simplicity, the winery takes pride. They simply made wonderful wine in the only way they knew how, by developing the flavors and aromas of local grapes and traditional methods.
 Baron Bettino Ricasoli created the Chianti recipe in the middle of the 19 century

Baron Bettino Ricasoli created the Chianti recipe in the middle of the 19 century

Old winemaking traditions and indigenous grapes

When I say local grapes, I truly mean local. The winery created their signature Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva with a special indigenous strain of Sangiovese grapes, referred locally as “Sangiovetto.” These grapes are the original clone of the varietal and nearly unheard of in modern commercial wine making, but because Castellare di Castellina is so dedicated to tradition they chose to go back to the source. And they chose wisely – the unique bouquet expresses the air and earth of that specific micro-environment. When aged in new barriques (not all of their wine is), the wine also develops notes of tar, chocolate, vanilla, aged fruits, and licorice. All of their wines expressed the essence of Sangiovetto and the territory: lavender, evergreen, and rosemary could be tasted, representative of the land and vegetation surrounding the locale.
Equally striking was the philosophy and wine of Castellare was the winery itself, which was more remiscent something found in Hobbiton, for our readers of the LOTR persuasion, than a Tuscan villa. A dirt road lined with rosemary bushes and wildflowers lead to two sister farmhouses built of local stone and hidden beneath the hillside covered in moss. The tasting room was dimly lit with a dark, wooden table spanning the space and a library of wine decking the walls. Each wine we tasted was completely reflective of the essence of Castellare and its dedication to the tradition, terroir, and indigenous grapes of the region. This amazing cantina was unmistakably representative of what the essence of Italian wine making is intended to be, a portrait experienced by all the senses of Italy.
Are you interested in visiting Castellare di Castellina? Contact our Food and Wine Specialist, Martina, at martina@selectitaly.com to schedule a visit and tasting.

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