In 1950, two adjacent estates existed in Barberino Val d’Elsa in Northern Chianti Classico;  Isole and Olena.   Lying midway between Firenze and Siena, the properties were purchased and merged by the De Marchi family and today, the “Isole e Olena” estate comprises approximately 290 hectares.  Of that, 49 hectares are under vine and interestingly, only 42 are in production at the moment.  In speaking with proprietor Paolo De Marchi, the increased plantings could be used to increase or maintain the production of the estate Chianti Classico as fruit from older vineyards becomes destined for the estate’s new Gran Selezione. 
I met Paolo de Marchi years ago.  He’s as humble as humble can be.  He is “a simple farmer” as he says with an almost dismissive wave of the hand.  Yet even if that were true,  the lovely fruits of his labor result in something that is far more than simple. Orchestral leaps to mind.  Contrarian.  Complex and harmonic.  These platitudes are not misplaced when it comes to his flagship wines.

~ Vineyards and Cellars of Isole e Olena ~

The apex of De Marchi’s artistry is Cepparello.  Named after a stream the bisects De Marchi’s estate, Cepparello is officially a 100% Sangiovese wine.  Little birdies have consistently told me over the years that somehow, someway,  5-10% Syrah finds it’s way into the blend. This has never been officially confirmed to me by Paolo, but his wry smile may be all the confirmation I need. That, and the smokey notes that consistently appear in this wine.

~ The Isole e Olena Cellars are carved into the mountain ~

Today we’re focused on an older gentleman,  as we left the cellar door open over the Christmas weekend.   

The 1999 Cepparello is still a youthful blackish red.  We decanted the wine for 60 minutes to remove a substantial sediment which was stubbornly clinging to the shoulders of the bottle.  In the glass, the wine’s age is more apparent as the color at the edge of the bowl is noticeably brick a full 1/4″ from the outside of the bowl.  

Aromas are mature.  Decaying leaves and mulch are joined by beaten leather, warm cherry reduction, bacon and pepper.  It’s intriguing to smell, but very secondary.   On the palate, the wine is elegant.  Dried leaves and mushroom flavors give way to faint cherry notes which are backed by moderate acidity and faded tannins. Smooth, but fading slightly, the finish is dotted with smoked bacon and black pepper.  This is an interesting wine and pairing it with grilled filet mignon and sauteed mushrooms was a proper match.  Yet I can’t help thinking that for my taste, this wine may have been better two or three years ago.  

Therefore, if you’ve got these in your cellar, it’s worth checking in on one right now.   92 points, about $45 upon release. Current vintages approximate $60. 

Buon Natale a tutti!
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