~ Part of the Conca d’Oro near Panzano in Chianti ~

The story of Castello dei Rampolla has its roots in 1739 when the di Napoli family purchased the estate, but the more recent history began when Alceo di Napoli inherited the estate in 1965.  At the time, Rampolla was essentially a summer cottage. Wheat, olive trees and other mixed crops were cultivated, but there were no vineyards.  Alceo di Napoli was a man of extraordinary humility and he loved his land.  Realizing the exceptional exposure in Panzano’s Conca d’Oro, eventually he began planting grapevines.   After seeing the potential of the vineyards, his close friend, none other than Piero Antinori,  helped him by purchasing the first grapes from the property.  In 1975, Rampolla began making and bottling their own wines under the guidance of legendary oenologist Giacomo Tachis.  Tragically, Alceo di Napoli passed away unexpectedly in 1991.  Today, di Napoli’s son, Luca and his sister Maurizia manage the property.

~ Panzano and the Conca d’Oro ~

Today the estate is more focused than ever on sustainable agriculture.  Biodynamic and organic practices are strictly followed.  Green manure, sowing of cover crops and grasses, no chemical fertilizers and harvesting and bottling by the phases of the moon are just some of the practices being implemented.  Rampolla’s philosophy is simple:  “Paying attention to the soil means understanding its needs.  One has to help it to be self-sufficient, creating the conditions for it to obtain the nourishment it needs directly from the numerous plant and animal organisms that it hosts.  Everywhere there is talk of “terroir”.  Our “Terroir” is the unity and harmony of four elements: Earth, Air, Life and Humanity, so we focus on these.”

~ The courtyard on the Rampolla Estate ~

Today we’re looking at one of the estate’s flagship wines, first produced in 1980.   The 2011 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco is the creation of Giacomo Tachis.   Typically a blend of 80-85% Cabernet with added percentages of Sangiovese and sometimes Merlot, the wine is similar in composition to one of Tachis’ other creation; Solaia.    Sammarco is vinified in neutral concrete tanks where it sits for 3 months before being racked into a combination of tonneaux and 12 hectoliter botte.  After 15 months in oak, the wine rests in bottle for up to 2 years before being released.  Sammarco has never disappointed me and the 2011 was no exception.

The wine is a deep, opaque purple color in the glass with barely any lightening toward the rim of the bowl.   Aromas of black cherry, blue flowers, cedar, cypress, dried tobacco and herbs are complex and compelling.  The impressions continue on the palate where the wine is refined and even aristocratic.

Ripe, full bodied flavors of black fruits, licorice, earth and Tuscan underbrush are easily discernible in this polished red.  Still rather tannic, but not horribly so, this could benefit from a year or two in the cellar to flesh out and become even more complex.  Still, it’s one of the best young Sammarco I’ve had in a long time.  93 points.  About $55.  Find this wine.

~ Sammarco is a superlative Super Tuscan that is often times below the radar. While the price for Alceo has soared, the pricing for Sammarco has remained quite stable over the years to the point where it now represents itself as a compelling value relative to some of its contemporaries. Seek it out ~


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