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A Savory 2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano

September 21, 2019 Leave a comment

I always look forward to a bottle of Carmignano from Tuscany.  Once a bottle starts shedding its tannins, the blend of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon can be deep and enjoyable.  The 2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano is one such example.  This delicious wine is on the upslope of development and will be enjoyable for several years to come.  I bought it at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano – $28 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Degrazia Imports. This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. There are softening edges to the blue fruit but the stand-up acidity and supportive, woodsy structure will allow this wine to develop for several more years. The focused core of fruit persists through this savory, weighty wine. Deliciously Carmignano. ***(*) Now – 2029.

Two Wines from Capezzana in Carmignano

The gentle hills surrounding  Florence and Siena have been home to vineyards since the Etruscans.  The wines of this region have been known as Chianti since at least the 14th century and have been regulated ever since. In the 14th and 15th centuries several reforms were passed to regulate the grape harvest of Chianti.  In 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany established new regulations demarcating the regions of Chianti, Pomini, Carmignano, and Valdarno di Sopra and providing the wines with legal protection.  The wines of Carmignano were specifically praised throughout the centuries and into the 19th.

Portrait of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici, Baldassarre Franceschini, Florence,1677

The wines of Carmignano were known in nearby England and even in California.  In fact they were even known to Agoston Haraszthy, who founded the famous Buena Vista winery in 1856 where Charles Krug was the winemaker.  He spent almost eight months traveling to study foreign viticulture and vinification.  His report was published in 1862 providing guidance to Californian winemakers.  Here are impressions of these wines from four diverse sources.

“We must not here however forget the Aleatico nor that analogous wine from Chianti near Sienna. The Carmignano is esteemed and it is said that a wine resembling claret is made at Artimino.”
London Magazine, September To December, 1825, Volume III, London, 1825.

“Tuscany has in general the best Italian wines. The red somewhat thick and dark and resemble the Bordeaux inferior quality but the white ones are dainty and aromatic.”
“The Carmignano is raised on the hills of Carmignano the vintage is from the last days of September to the 10th of October. A few days previous the grapes are spread on mattings and often turned to get some dry grapes raisins. The other ones are bruised and worked well every twelve hours in the seven first days with forks or the feet In about a fortnight the fermentation ceases and the husks and stems are only from time to time pressed down. After the lapse of twenty days the vats are covered and when the wine becomes clear it is decanted into barrels to which for each barrel a certain quantity of the above dried grapes well smashed is added and well mixed with the mass. A new fermentation then takes lace which commonly lasts from six to eight days.”
“Grape Culture, Wines, and Wine-Making”, by A. Haraszthy, Commissioner to Report on the Improvement and Culture of the Vine In California, New York, 1862.

“Tuscany –  Some of the finest of the Italian wines exhibited at Vienna came from that continuous vineyard and olive ground the sunny province of Tuscany famous alike for its fragrant Chianti and Pomino its Artimino and Carmignano growths its Verdea the favourite wine of Frederick the Great and more especially for its luscious Montepulciano.”
“Accounts and papers of the House of Commons”, Forty-Three Volumes, Vienna Exhibition, Session 5 March – 7 August 1874, Volume LXXIII Part IV, London 1874.

“Among the agricultural products of Tuscany wine is much the most important and owing to its exquisite flavor and comparatively cheap cost of production is becoming favorably known in the principal markets of the world. Among the brands which have gained the greatest favor are Chianti Pomino Rufina Nipozzano and Carmignano. Unfortunately the wine is still produced by the ancient Tuscan processes and the new methods are regarded with little favor. The result is that one can not always depend on obtaining the same grade of wine from tlie same producer as too little care is taken in the selection of the grape or to the alcoholic or saccharine gradation. Some of the more important growers here of late appreciated these defects and are making an effort to correct them. Notwithstanding the general regard of the Tuscan farmer for the methods of his forefathers there is a good opportunity for the introduction of tools and agricultural implements of all sorts.”
Commercial Relations of the United States with Foreign Countries during the Years 1895 and 1895″, Volume II, Department of State, Washington, DC., 1897.

By the early 20th century the wines of Carmignano were generally grouped with those of Chianti.  The creation of Chianti Montalbano zone in the 1930s included the vineyards of Carmignano.  A Google image search will reveal images of old Carmignano labels bearing the designation Chianti.  In the 1960s a consortium was formed which succeeded in the establishment of the Carmignano DOC in 1975 and Carmignano DOCG in 1990.  Just a few years later Barco Reale di Carmignano was granted DOC status allowing the production of a second type of wine from the Carmignano region.  Today this small region of almost 300 acres is home to just over one dozen producers.

Carmignano, Image by Colle Da Vinci (flickr)

The hills in this part of Tuscany typically sit below 500 meters with a few reaching 900 meters.  The vineyards of Carmignano are at low altitudes of up to 400 meters.  The weather is a bit more temperate than Chianti Classico with the harvest a few weeks earlier. The wine may be a blend of 45-70% Sangiovese , 10-20% Canaiolo Nero, 6-15% Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, up to 10% Trebbiano Toscano, Canaiolo Bianco,and Malvasia Bianca Lunga, and up to 15% other permitted grapes.  Carmignano DOCG wines must be aged at least ten months in wood and not released for sale until the second July after the harvest.  The Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC wines share the same varietal restrictions but have no aging requirements.  Though Cabernet Sauvignon might be considered an international varietal in Italy, it was introduced to Carmignano in the 16th century by Catherine de’ Medici.  She married King Henry II of France and is credited with the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from France.  They were locally known as Uva Franceca.

Though the Capezzana, Barco Reale di Carmignano is a “young” Carmignano this bottle certainly requires more age.  On the first night it was not attractive for the flavors were very lean and tight.  On the second night it had fleshed out to become more appealing.  The Villa di Capezzana is quite young as well but currently shows appealing leather, wood box, and some ripe fruit making it more interesting than the Barco Reale di Carmignano.  I would cellar this for several more years for the fruit to mature and the tannins to resolve.  I suspect this will last for some time.  For an interesting post on Capezzana vintages back through the 1930s check out Kyle Phillip’s Italian Wine Review.   These two wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2007 Tenuta di Capezzana, Barco Reale di Carmignano – $13
Imported by Moet Hennessy.  This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Canaiolo which was fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in Arriel barrels.  This wine had drier flavors of tart red fruit with a touch of balsam.  There was a perfume to the wine with the lean flavors putting on weight with air until the second night they were blue and red fruits.  There was an old-school balsam and perfume notes with drying, grippy tannins in the finish.  The fruit is still youthful and the wine was slow to open.  ** 2015-2022.

2005 Tenuta di Capezzana, Villa di Capezzana, Carmignano – $30
Imported by Moet Hennessy.  This wine is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was fermented in stainless steel then underwent malolactic fermentation in French oak before aging for 15 months in barrique and tonneaux.    The nose revealed tobacco, red cherry, wood box, and perhaps some musk.  In the mouth the black cherry flavors mixed with leather and wood box notes.  The acidity was tart with the flavors leaner midpalate before dusty, drying tannins came out in the finish.  The fruit was riper in the aftertaste.  **(*) 2015-2025.