Why is this Wine so Yummy?
About Isole e Olena
Isole e Olena is the combining of two adjacent farms by Paolo De Marchi.
The flagship wine consists of 100% Sangiovese aged in French oak barrels. Over the years, Paolo has refined his Cepparello by giving it more air during vinification and increasing time spent in oak from 12-14 months to 18-20 months. Although De Marchi started focusing on the use of better quality oak around 1993, it is the increased age of the vineyards themselves that have given Cepparello its overall finesse. The wine is made from a top selection of the estate’s best fruits from the vineyards in Barberino Val d’Elsa in the northern part of Chianti Classico.
Paolo made his first 100% Sangiovese, Cepparello, in 1980 and had to label it as an IGT. He spent the next two decades replanting, improving the vineyards, increasing the density and restoring the terraces.
The estate is located in the centre of the Chianti hill, on the western slope. Vineyards go from 350 to 500 metres in altitude, benefitting from a cooling breeze and resulting in colder winter temperatures than the rest of Chianti. Bud break is usually earlier tha the rest of the region, and they tend to harvest late here.
Paolo doesn’t look for power but for elegance and finesse, which are the central threads running through all his wines. When praised for his achievements, he modestly replies with a twinkle in his eyes ‘I’m just trying to do what I believe in.’
In the Vineyard
The grapes for Cepparello come from the best sites on the estates. Situated 400 metres above sea level, facing south-west, soils are primarily galestro, a schistous clay. The name Cepparello is taken from an old stream, Borro Cepparello, originating in the highest point of the vineyards on the Isole e Olena estate.
In the Winery
After crushing, the must fermented on the skins in oak vats for about three weeks at 30-32°C, with délestage and pumping over carried out twice a day to give good colour and soft tannins. The maceration tank was emptied of the fermenting must, the cap was dried out for 4-5 hours and then the must was poured back over the cap. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was racked into barrels. It was 100% barrel-aged, a third in new French and American oak (with American barrels making up 5% of the total), a third in one year old oak and the remaining third was put into two year old oak. The wine remained in barrel for 20 months and then matured in bottle for one year before release.
Sangiovese a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter”. It can be extremely vigourous producing leaves the size of your head and bunches of similar size with large berries.
Where is it grown?
It’s grown throughout Tuscany in the sub-regions that make up the Chianti DOCG, where the Sangiovese Piccolo is the dominant version. Plantings in Montalcino making Brunello are typically of the Sangiovese Grosso version. We use the term version as there is some funky DNA floating around that doesn’t neatly fit into Variety or Clone. It’s a case of same same but different. You’ll find it in Sicily, Calbria and splashes around the world.
What does it taste like?
Generally lighter in colour, although as always there are exceptions.
There is an incredibly diverse array of flavours and aromas across the wines made from Sangiovese. This is true across both Chianti and Brunello wines. In Chianti this is influenced by blending with the native Canaiolo, and French varietes like Syrah and Merlot You’ll find fresh flavours like sour cherry, shifting to dark fruits, earthy characters, florals, rich chocolate, spices and beyond. The perceived density certainly differs across the wine. Like most varieties the styles that can be made are incredibly diverse.
You’ll typically find higher perceived acidity in good Sangiovese.
The 2016 Vintage at Isole e Olena
Paolo De Marchi describes 2016 as a cool year with a lot of sunshine and well-timed rains, conditions that resulted in slow ripening of the grapes and a late, relaxed harvest that started at the end of September and wrapped up during the second half of October. As for the wines, they are simply off the charts.
“The 2016s are distinguished by their superb aromatic presence, silky tannins, layered fruit and fabulous sense of harmony. The 2016s I have tasted so far point to a high-quality vintage that may very well turn out to be profound.” Those sentiments, originally expressed after having tasted the straight Chianti Classicos very much ring true for the Riservas and other top-tier 2016s, the best of which are simply extraordinary. Near-perfect conditions with long hours of sun, well-timed rains and no excesses resulted in relaxed, drawn out harvest under warm days and cool nights, exactly the conditions in which Sangiovese thrives. Although the 2016s in this report are mostly at the mid and upper tiers of producers’ ranges, I would be remiss in not pointing out the sweet spot in 2016, and that is at the Riserva level, not Gran Selezione (which I will discuss later), but the straight Riservas, in other words the wines just above straight Chianti Classico. The best of these wines offer the consumer extraordinary quality and value.”
Where in the World do these Wines Come From?
Chianti is a sub-region of Tuscany. Other sub-regions include Montalcino and Montepuliciano. Like Montalcino, Chianti covers a large area and is relatively poorly defined in comparison to the likes of Barolo.
As is often the case with Italian wines there is confusion created by an ever changing general classification system. In this case we have wines two basic designation. The first, the Chianti Classico DOCG for which you see a black rooster on the label or neck tie which come from a defined area between Florence and Sienna. The Second Chianti DOCG or greater Chianti region that surrounds the Chianti Classico DOCG which in turn is broken up into seven sub-regions as seen in the second map below.