Tuscany’s rich history is deeply rooted in the renaissance, the arts, culture and royalty. Many Tuscan wine estates trace their roots back many centuries, but when summarizing the history of these estates I’ve not come across many that can include the phrase: fast forward to the 1500’s – yet such is the history of Capezzana.
The first documented wine production on the estate began in the year 804 but it wasn’t until 1500 that perhaps the most significant family milestone occurred. Cabernet Sauvignon plantings were introduced to the property by its then owners, the Medici family of nearby Florence, following the betrothal of Catherine di Medici to the King of France. Genesis.
Today, since 1920, the estate is in the hands of the Conte Contini Bonacossi family. Proudly leading the charge as family ambassador is Countess Beatrice Contini Bonacossi, but she humbly prefers to simply be called Bea. Bea (pronounced Bay-ah) is truly an ambassador. Fluently speaking no less than five languages, she represents the winery to the world and runs the family business along with her three siblings. Her sister Benedetta is the winemaker, her brother Vittorio casts watchful eyes over the vineyards, and Filippo handles the winery finances and the rather large olive oil business.
“Naturally as siblings we often see things differently. We agree to disagree, but we all see the future as evolutionary versus revolutionary.” And the future is bright…..
|~ The Conte Contini Bonacossi Family. Bea is in the Grey dress just to the left of the open door ~|
The Estate & Vineyards
Carmigano, Italy’s smallest and oldest DOCG zone, is located north west of Florence, generally about 12 miles from the city center. The Capezzana estate spans over 1,650 acres, and rests about 700 feet above sea level on the slopes of the Monte Albano hills. The terrain varies throughout the estate, 256 acres are planted to vines and 356 acres to olives.
The evolution that Bea mentions is sweeping. Beginning with the 2015 vintage, Capezzana will become one of Tuscany’s first certified organic vineyard estates. To that end, Bea says they’ve been working toward this goal for several years.
We’ve done lots of work in the vineyards and winery. We’ve planted fava beans between the rows of the vines to facilitate water retention which in turn enhances the ability of the site’s terroir to shine through. We’ve also reduced the density of our plantings by 10% in order to help keep alcohol levels in check. My sister Benedetta remembers how we used to struggle to get wines up to 12.5% alcohol, but now with climate change, we want to keep our wines below 15%”
In addition to pesticide free farming, Capezzana is also changing the way they manage their cover canopy during the growing season. “We used to apply a more general approach to leaf removal, says Bea, but now we carefully analyze areas of the vineyards that receive the early morning sun and tailor our approach to better protect the vines.” Some of the vineyards are also undergoing re-planting, with additional acreage of Sangiovese being added along with Canaiolo which Benedetta feels really brightens the blend for many of their wines.
|~ River rock lines some of the vineyards at Capezzana ~|
In the Cellars
In line with their effort to become certified organic, Capezzana has also been reviewing and adjusting their practices in the cellar to further reflect their natural, more holistic approach to winemaking. Foremost is the move to the exclusive use of natural, indigenous yeasts as of the 2012 vintage. Perhaps more significant, is the move to large oak vessels and reducing the amount of new oak used from 33% to 25% for most of their red wine production. “This is done to allow the vineyard site to speak”, says Benedetta who is also re-shaping the estate’s overall production so that DOCG Carmignano production increases at the expense of IGT wines.
|~ The Capezzana Estate at dusk ~|
Capezzana’s history is long and proud so it’s not surprising that each wine in the portfolio has a story behind its creation.
|~ The walled entrance to the Barco Reale Hunting Reserve ~|
|~ The inside of the VinSantaia drying loft. Note the fan at upper right to keep the air circulating ~|
|~ 2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano ~|
|~ Note the slightly lighter color toward the rim of the bowl ~|
|~ Single Vineyard Carmignano Riserva ~|
2006 Vin Santo Riserva: I’ve been drinking Italian wine for almost 25 years and have tried many Vin Santo. In my mind, there have been two classes of Vin Santo; “Avignonesi” and “Everyone Else”. The former is legendary – the Michael Jordan of Vin Santo. In the latter category there have been good wines; Isole e Olena’s stands out and Felsina’s was nice. But none have come close to Avignonesi. Until now.
The Capezzana Vin Santo is a rare, ethereal, enchanting, spellbinding nectar. There, I said it. The color of Vermont Maple Syrup, this wine gives off a complex array of aromas: Caramelized brown sugar, honey, wild flowers, toasted nuts, orange peel, creme brulee, and spices are all identifiable and harmonic. On the palate the flavors from the nose all share center stage. There’s wonderful viscosity – almost to the extent of “thin” maple syrup, but with the bright citrus infused acidity running through it, the wine is lifted and remains nimble and fresh on your palate. The finish goes on and on and on. It is simply a wine that practically defies description. If you like the style, you must find this wine. I put it in the class with Avignonesi. It’s that good. But to make it even more appealing, it’s only about one fourth the price of it’s counterpart. The bottle is in the refrigerator. There it will stay, as I parse it out drop by drop over the next few weeks. I will weep when it’s gone. Absolutely amazing wine. 98 points. SRP ~ $50 for a 375ml bottle. Disclosure: This bottle was an importer provided sample.
|~ Close to Perfect ~|
Special thanks to the folks at Creative Palate Communications for their assistance in compiling the estate history and many of the images provided for this article.