Italian winery scene

~ The Tenuta Cantagallo winery in the Chianti Montalbano appellation ~

Since the early 1970s, the Pierazzuoli family have been farming vineyards in north western Tuscany near Firenze.  Owners of two lovely properties, the Le Farnete and Tenuta Cantagallo estates sit in the overlapping zones of Carmignano and Chianti Montalbano respectively.  Today the brothers Dario and Enrico guide the business under one simple philosophy:  “One Vine, One Bottle of Wine”.

I recently caught up with Enrico Pierazzuoli to taste the newest releases from each estate and shed some light on two of Tuscany’s smallest DOCGs.

Map of all the Chianti districts

~ By land area, Chianti Montalbano is the second smallest zone after Rufina. The Carmignano DOCG zone partially overlaps with the Montalbano zone.  See the lighter gray shaded area ~

The Tenuta Cantagallo property has been in the Pierazzuoli family since 1970.  Sitting between three and four hundred feet above sea level, the estate sprawls for 200 hectares including vineyards, forest and olive groves.  Perched in the hills between Florence and Vinci, the vineyard surface covers a mere 30 hectares with vines aged between 10 and 35 years old.

The flagship wine of the Cantagallo (crowing rooster) property is the Il Fondatore Chianti Montalbano Riserva.  Crafted from vines that are 25 years old, the wine is 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard.  After vinification in stainless steel, the wine is then refined in barrel for 12 months and bottle aged an additional 12 months prior to release.

Graape vines and trees in Tuscany

~ Vigneto Castra on the Cantagallo Estate ~

The 2016 Tenuta Cantagallo Il Fondatore Chianti Montalbano Riserva is an absolutely delicious Sangiovese.   Deep garnet in the glass with violet reflections, this vibrant red offers expanding aromas of lavender, rosemary and sweet pipe tobacco that accent lasers of crushed cherry.

On the palate, the wine is juicy, fresh and lively.  The ripe core of red fruit is punctuated by softly woven tannins on a dusty, mineral driven frame.  While this is more about elegance than brawn, there is ample structure here and wonderful balance.  Finishes with brown tobacco leaf.  Very well done.  93 points.

~ One vine. One bottle of wine. The Fondatore is not only delicious, but an excellent value as well ~

I’ve written a lot about Carmignano on these pages, yet it remains one of the least known DOCG appellations in all of Italy.  Part of this obscurity is due to it’s size; Carmignano is the smallest DOCG in Italy.   With only 250 acres under vine, the majority of producers are very small and not broadly exported.  While it’s easier to find the excellent wines of Piaggia or Capezzana,  I strongly suggest searching out the subject of this article.

The Le Farnete estate has been in the Pierazzuoli family since 1990.  Although the estate covers a total of 100 acres, only a scant 11 are under vine.  Devoted mostly to Sangiovese and Cabernet for the production of Carmignano, the vines bearing fruit now range in age from 10-40 years old.

Seared Filet Mignon

~ The foil for Carmignano: Rosemary roasted potatoes and seared Filet Mignon ~

The 2015 Le Farnete Carmignano Riserva is superb!  A blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet, the fruit for this top wine is sourced from the estate’s oldest vineyard plots. The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks before being barrique aged for at least 12 months prior to release.   Average production when the wine is released is 7,000 bottles.

In the glass the wine is a deep purple with violet reflections.   Despite the youth of the wine, it is very aromatic.  Black plums, cherry, pipe tobacco and rosemary/eucalyptus are very prominent and complex. Wonderful structure and balance to this 2015.   Black fruits are silky and long with polished tannins, trace minerals, warmed clay and brown leaf tobacco that is balanced with fresh, juicy acidity.  This is outstanding and a bargain around or under $30.  95 points.  Find this wine.

Bottle of Carmignano Wine

~ An excellent example of Carmignano and an estate that should be firmly on your radar now ~

As part of this feature, we sat down with Enrico who graciously gave of his time to help introduce you to his family wines.

L’Intervista con Enrico Pierazzuoli

Grazie Enrico for your time today.  It’s always a pleasure to meet winemakers and introduce them to my readers, especially when they will be new to so many.

Grazie a te Giovanni.  Thank you for the wonderful website and for bringing my wines to your readers!

A man standing in vineyards

~ Winemaker Enrico Pierazzuoli ~

So let’s start with a bit of background.  Your two family estates are located in two distinct DOCG appellations.  However, those zones overlap each other.  Do the estates share winemaking facilities and how close are they to each other?

No, we have 2 different wine making facilities because Tenuta Cantagallo is located in the Chianti Montalbano area nearer to Florence, while Le Farnete is located in Carmignano and closer to Prato. Yes, the zones overlap but there is about 15 km between Cantagallo and Le Farnete.  Really they are located in 2 different Tuscan provinces: Florence and Prato.

Gotcha! So let’s talk about the roles of you and your brother.  Does he focus mostly on the winemaking and you on vineyard work and marketing?  How are your roles defined?

The secret is no roles are defined! 

All of our decisions are a mix between Dario’s style and mine.  Mainly we can say Dario follows more our export and marketing activities while I am in charge about agronomism.  But the point is,  we are totally interchangeable.  For this reason,  for example when I visit the United States, Dario takes care of all decisions also for the agronomist and the enologist.

man in a wine cellar

~ Dario Pierazzuoli in the family’s cantina ~

Having backup and support is likely very good!

Definitely Giovanni

OK, so Carmignano is fairly well known even though it is small. I believe Montalbano is the second smallest Chianti zone.  What challenges do you see in selecting Sangiovese for Carmignano vs. Montalbano Riserva? Are any of the fruit sources the same?

What you say is very true 🙂

Montalbano for us is considered a “black diamond”, because in the last 7 years it has become the most elegant part of the Chianti Subzone and is totally different in respect to the Carmignano DOCG.  Although there is only 15km between these 2 little DOCG areas, there are large changes in terroir, altitude and climate.  We consider Montalbano a more  “feminine wine zone” where we have more red fruits of Sangiovese and more floral notes like iris, lavander, violet and rose.

Carmignano is much more “masculine” where we have more black fruits of Sangiovese with mainly more violet floral notes.  In Cantagallo we plant different clones of Sangiovese called Sangiovese Piccolo from the Chianti Classico, while in Le Farnete for Carmignano terroir we use more Sangiovese Grosso clones.

Interesting.  What then are the biggest challenges you face right now as winemakers?  Is it climate change? Cinghiale?  Overall awareness of Montalbano?  Something else altogether?

The base of our philosophy for wine production is the knowledge of our territory, climate, terroir and the best Sangiovese clones to use. We start from this important point in order to permit our customers to find in each of our wines a different “emotion in the glass from Tuscany”.  The climate for sure is a big problem, because it forces us to change the style of our work in the vineyard each year in order to maintain balance. For the wild boar we are waiting for you in our Osteria to taste our “Cinghiale in umido” with our Carmignano docg Riserva!  This is where they belong best! 

~ Sangiovese grapes at Tenuta Cantagallo, Chianti Montalbano DOCG ~

Now you have the undivided attention of my audience. What do you want them to know about your family wineries? What’s new and exciting?

First, that it is a family business!  I work not only with Dario but also with our 2 sisters Serena and Enrica who are  responsible for our restaurant and our agritourismo. Visiting Cantagallo you can really understand our “Quality” and “Passion” for our wines, extravergine olive oil, great dishes and so on…  That’s what drives smaller family wineries.  It’s passion!  All of our wines are totally produced and bottled by ourselves and your readers can really discover 2 beautiful small DOCGs  from Tuscany!

What’s new and exciting?   Well, Il Fondatore our Chianti Montalbano DOCG Riserva for sure! It is our single Cru of 100% Sangiovese produced only from the first vineyard that I planted when I entered into our family business. One of the most elegant Sangiovese from the northern part of Tuscany.

I think that passion is clearly tangible in both your replies and in your wines.  Is that the driving force behind the phrase on the label of Il Fondatore?  Tell us about “One Vine, One Bottle of Wine….

Absolutely Giovanni!

Our philosophy of quality production can be summed up in the phrase: “one, and only one, bottle of wine per vine” (no more than a kilogram of grapes per plant).

Since 1990, I started to apply our “One, and only one, bottle of wine per vine” in order to increase the quality of all our wines and obtain more elegant tannins in our sangiovese.  For il Fondatore, we make a rigorous selection and we can say “One, and only one, bottle of 375ml of wine for vine”.

Our work and philosophy of production can be summed up in a few simple words: “We are a family who keeps its feet in the past, uses its hands to work in the present and its mind to produce quality for the future.”  Our feet are strongly anchored in the past because we believe in the true meaning of Men, Vine-grower and Olive-grower, setting a high value on autochthonous vines, respecting fully our traditions. Our hands work in the present: because we maintain that good work is the right base for quality production. Our mind produces the future because we put our mind toward the continuous evolutions of our society and consumers”.

That is impressive indeed!  And it shows in the bottle.  So finally, what wines do you like to drink?

Grazie Giovanni…..Usually I like to drink Chianti Montalbano Riserva or Carmignano Riserva, because they are totally different wines but permit me to have a perfect food pairing with 99% of the world’s dishes… Because we must always have a perfect balance between the wine and the food.

Grazie Enrico for joining us!   My pleasure Giovanni!  

Do be sure to check out Enrico’s wines.  I’m certain you won’t regret it.

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