A review of the wonderful wines from Tuscany’s Castello Vicchiomaggio.
By Lou Marmon
Gazette Newspapers April 25, 2013
There are few places in the world more picturesque than the Tuscany hills, especially when viewed from Castello di Vicchiomaggio while sipping some of their excellent wines. Located on a commanding summit just north of Greve in Chianti, the site’s first castle was constructed in the 5th century by settlers who named the place Vicchio dei Longobardi. During the Renaissance the name was changed to its current “Village of May” and it was once visited by Leonardo Da Vinci while he was painting the Mona Lisa.
Over the subsequent centuries the property declined until purchased by Frederico Matta in 1964, an Italian wine importer living in London. Frederico initiated a program of renovations to the estate with replanting of the vineyards but interestingly never visited Vicchiomaggio. In 1982, his son John and daughter-in-law Paola took over responsibility for the estate with remarkable results.
Vicchiomaggio is simply gorgeous with its crenellated tower and manor houses surrounded by manicured gardens extending to the stone walls that offer captivating views of the surrounding hillsides. It boasts a first-class restaurant that offers cooking lessons and the property has accommodations that give visitors the opportunity to stay overnight at a working winery. Not surprisingly, Vicchiomaggio has become a destination for weddings and other special occasions as well as a popular place to taste some of the Chianti’s best wines.
John crafts his wines from the hillside vineyards surrounding the castle walls. As expected in Chianti, the principal grape is Sangiovese although he also grows some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon along with two indigenous varietals, Colorino and Canaiolo. John has been named “Italian Winemaker of the Year” three times and his wines have garnered numerous international accolades.
At a recent visit, one of John’s daughters, Delfina, explained that her father is, “very, very involved” in every aspect of the vineyards and winemaking. Yields are kept low to achieve the desired flavor profiles and the harvest is entirely done by hand with several passes often required to assure that each grape meets John’s standards. As we sat on a patio overlooking the recently harvested vineyards, Delfina opened their fragrant San Jacopo Rosato 2011, a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon rosé with bright red cherry and raspberry flavors. It was a perfect accompaniment to the warm autumn day and the delightful vistas.
The first wine poured during lunch was their Littifredo di Vicchiomaggio, a non-vintage, easy drinking table wine that showed pleasant red cherries and a mild earthiness. It was followed by the more enjoyably complex Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Reserva 2009 composed of 90 percent Sangiovese, 5 percent Canaiolo and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon that opened with dark cherry and cedar aromas that flowed smoothly into elegant dark currant, cherry, chocolate and tobacco flavors within a medium frame. Also served was the fuller bodied, 100 percent Sangiovese Vigna la Prima Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, a delightful expression of the essence of Chianti that began with red fruit and floral aromas enveloped with a savory smokiness that persisted into the blackberry, red cherry and dried plum notes accented with cloves within soft tannins and a balanced, persistent finish.
Next was their award-winning Ripa delle More 2007 created with 60 percent Sangiovese, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Merlot. A full-bodied beauty with red cherry, violet and eucalyptus scents, it has both power and finesse within its layered flavors of cassis, black currant, and dried cherry along with a pleasant earthiness and well-developed, balanced ending. Their delicious San Jacopo il Santo dessert wine and a taste of their Grappa La Prima was an ideal way to finish this marvelous food and wine experience.