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Carmignano, A Small But Mighty Appellation

When serving Tuscan wines, thoughts usually turn to pairing them with Italian food and hearty fare. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to think outside the box when drinking these wines. Countess Beatrice Contini Bonacossi, (“Bea” for short) family proprietor of Tenuta di Capezzana certainly thought beyond Italian food as she guided us through a tasting of her wines at Hakkasan, a Cantonese restaurant in New York City.

Beatrice Contini Bonacossi Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Capezzana, established in 804 is Tuscany’s oldest wine producing estate located in the northwest corner of Tuscany in Italy’s smallest appellation called Carmignano. 

Capezzana was once home to the Medici family. During the 16th century when Catherine de’ Medici married King Henry of France, she had Cabernet Sauvignon vines imported to the Capezzana vineyards, making it the first Italian planting site of French Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1920, Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi purchased Capezzana and it has remained in the family ever since. Alessandro’s grandson Ugo was instrumental in establishing Carmignano’s own DOC in 1975 and DOCG in 1990. Today, Capezzana produces over 50% of all DOCG Carmignano, a wine made primarily with Sangiovese and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and other local varieties.  The estate has 247 acres of vineyards and 356 acres of olive groves. Bea said, “ We have 30,000 olive tree, some are fifty years old.”

Now in its fourth and fifth generation, three of Ugo’s seven children are part of the day-to-day operations. Bea is the proprietor and global ambassador, Filippo is head of the winery’s finances and olive oil production and Benedetta is the winemaker. Their brother Vittorio who passed away in 2012 was an integral part of the winery and began working with his father at the age of 18. He became an agronomist who eventually took over the management of the company, the vineyards and olive groves.

Family Photo Photo credit: Capezzana

Capezzana has a unique climate due to its location being in close proximity to the Apennine Mountain range. As Bea described it, “We have a special microclimate, with warm summer days and cool breezes in the early evening. There are no sea influences due to the mountains. The winds carry moisture to the vineyards.”  And as for the soil, Bea explained, “We have a diversity of soil, one can find 3 to 4 different soils in one vineyard.”  Soil types are typically clay, sand and schist. 

Vittorio’s wish was for all of Carmignano to become organic, so he began the process in 2008 with Capezzana. Through his determination and passion, Capezzana became fully organic and was granted organic certification beginning with the 2015 vintage. It was the first certified organic commercial winery in Carmignano. Bea stated, “I hope my brother’s dream comes true for all of Carmignano to become organic one day. It is at 50% now.”

We began our exploration of the estate’s wines with a sample of their organic olive oil. The olive oil was poured into small cups and Bea showed us how to taste it. We put our hand over the top of the cup and swirled it to release the aromas.  Then after breathing in the aromas, we were supposed to “slurp” a mouthful and inhale nosily in order to heighten the flavors. I don’t think anyone was very demonstrative with slurping!

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2018 is a blend of 60% Moraiolo, 30% Frantoio, 5% Leccino and 5% Pendolino olives. The olive oil is superb. It has fruity and earthy aromas with a hint of artichokes. The palate offers light fruit balanced with a touch of pepper and nuttiness. This is an elegant olive oil that can be drizzled on anything. It is light enough to enhance the food but not overpower it.
SRP:  $38

Next, we tasted a stellar lineup of red wines served with a selection of delicious appetizers and main dishes.  And I must say that all the wines complemented each course.

Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC 2016 is a new vintage release made with 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Canaiolo, 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged for 12 months in Allier barrels and then rests for a minimum of 3 months in the bottle prior to release. This is a fresh and youthful wine with intense aromas of dark cherry, berries and a hint of baking spice. It has lots of fruit on the palate with blackberry and dark cherry lingering on the finish. Nicely balanced with soft tannins.
Alcohol:  13.5%
SRP:  $17

Villa di Capezzana DOCG 2015 is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in barrique and tonneaux for 12 months and then rests in the bottle for a minimum of 12 months. It has lovely aromas of floral mixed with red and dark fruit and hints of spice. The palate offers lush fruit, anisette and spice. Although this is an intense wine, it is fresh with structured tannins and a lengthy finish.
Alcohol:  14%
SRP:  $27

Villa di Capezzana DOCG 2009 is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in barrique and tonneaux for 12 months and then rests in the bottle for a minimum of 12 months. This wine is rich and well structured with concentrated dark fruit both on the nose and palate. Licorice, dark chocolate and spice continue onto a long finish. Silky tannins and balanced acidity add to the richness of this wine.
Alcohol: 14%
SRP:  $65

Trefiano Riserva DOCG 2015 is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Canaiolo. The wine is aged in barrique and half new and half old tonneaux for 18 months, then rests for at least 24 months in the bottle prior to release.  This is the estate’s first organic vintage. Bea said, “To honor my brother Vittorio, his name is on the bottle.”  The wine has a lovely bouquet of ripe dark berries, cherry, plum and hints of pepper. Concentrated layers of ripe fruit, hints of herbs, pepper, spice and espresso envelop the palate. It is an elegant wine that is beautifully balanced.  
Alcohol:  14%
SRP:  $55

Trefiano Riserva DOCG 2013 is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Canaiolo. The wine is aged in barrique and half new and half old tonneaux for 18 months, then rests for at least 24 months in the bottle prior to release. A powerful bouquet of dark and red fruit, spice and dark chocolate set the stage for a concentration of rich dark fruit led by black cherry, plum and spice. This wine is silkier than the 2015 vintage, but all the elements remain.
Alcohol:  14%
SRP:  $55

Ghiaie Della Furba IGT 2012 is a Bordeaux-style blend made with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah and 20% Merlot. Bea said, “My father decided he wanted to make an innovative wine.” The wine was first created in 1979 by Ugo and Vittorio and was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The blend was modified in 1998 with the addition of Syrah and today the blend is as above. The wine is aged in barrique for15 months, followed by a minimum of 12 months in bottle prior to release. Aromas of red fruit, cherry tobacco, spice and herbs are enticing. The palate offers dark and succulent fruit mixed with hints of fennel and spice. It is structured and well balanced with a long silky finish.
Alcohol:  14%
SRP:  $60

And lastly, an elegant dessert wine was poured.

Vin Santo Riserva DOC 2011 is a blend of 90% Trebbiano and 10% San Colombano. The grapes are dried through natural methods on cane matting from harvest through to the following February and then vinified in traditional small chestnut, maple and cherry casks. The wine is aged for five years and in bottle for a minimum of 3 months. Bea said, “It is a wine that doesn’t follow any pattern or rule. It is my child.”  Heady aromas of perfume, almonds and candied fruit spill onto the palate with added notes of fig, spice and orange zest. This is a sweet and decadent wine that pairs well with desserts and aged cheeses.
Alcohol:  14.5%
SRP:  $55

In addition to producing elegant and expressive wines that have finesse and structure, Capezzana also has a cooking school and wine bar on the premises.  It is an “all in the family” venture.

I would like to leave you with a quote taken from Capezzana website.

“The taste of the area of origin is the thing that interests us most to carry on, that is the scent of the land that enters, unique and unparalleled in our wines.”

Until next time…

Cheers!

Penny

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