The Casa Emma estate sits on the winding Strada Provinciale di Castellina in Chianti at 420 meters above sea level. The majority of the estate’s plantings are devoted to classic Tuscan varietals including Sangiovese, Malvasia Nera and Canaiolo. These are used to craft a wonderful Chianti Classico and a delicious Gran Selezione but perhaps the hidden gem is their Soloio. Literally meaning “Only Me” the name is a reference to the fact that Soloio is 100% Merlot.
Last winter, I had the pleasure of chatting with General Manager Paolo Paffi of Casa Emma who is leading one of the many sub-zoning initiatives occurring throughout Chianti Classico. The Associazione Viticoltori di San Donato in Poggio is a nascent organization dedicated to elevating the awareness of wines coming from their corner of Chianti Classico. Only a dozen wineries are counted among the members which include Castello di Monsanto, Isole e Olena, Badia a Passignano (Antinori), Casa Sola, Castello della Paneretta and of course Casa Emma. Paolo and I chatted over Soloio 2015.
TuscanVines: Paolo, what is the mission of the San Donato in Poggio Consorzio? Why did these producers come together?
Paolo Paffi: Grazie Giovanni for your time and attention. The association was conceived to give voice to this territory, to draw attention to the geological, soil and climate features of the vineyards and of the different wineries. Also to more aggressively promote the agricultural, historical and cultural traditions with special attention to wine production and the individual identities of the member wineries.
TV: And how was this first accomplished? What was the first step?
PP: Well, initially obviously we created the Association’s Facebook page which you linked above. Then, we had a formal introduction publicly at the Chianti Classico Collection back in February 2018 at the Stazione Leopolda halls in Firenze. The reception was very positive and we elected Laura Bianchi, who is great, from Castello di Monsanto as our first President. She is always sharing her thoughts and is responsive to our needs. She’s a wonderful advocate for us.
TV: Laura is very capable indeed. So what then is the goal? All the wineries are members of the broader Chianti Classico Consorzio so what is the most important thing to highlight about Son Donato?
PP: I think it is a mix of the unique elements of our subzone in San Donato. The difference is given from the altitude and the micro-climate. Generally, the soils are very similar. Another difference is that in San Donato we don’t have any natural barrier to the sea. Even though the distance is almost 70 miles, we are very influenced from the sea breezes which circulate air but also bring positive variances between day and night temperatures and also contribute to milder winters.
PP: To bring it a step further…. In many areas of Chianti Classico you find forests with “heavier” woods like oak and chestnut. In our area there are more pines and cypress plus lots of wild rosemary. Our area shows wines that emphasize elegance over power with very clean fruit flavors.
TV: Does that also contribute to the wines being more aromatic?
PP: It does. But the altitude also permits the grapes to ripen at a slower pace which allows them more time to absorb elements and nuances from the soils.
TV: Understood. Ok, let’s talk vintages. A lot has been said about 2015 and I’m already hearing cautionary tales about not forgetting 2016. What do you think of each vintage overall?
PP: 2016 is excellent Giovanni; you are right not to forget about it and your readers will thank you for that. We are talking about two very fine vintages so it’s a little like debating who is better LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? 2016 was a very fresh vintage that produced wines with beautiful acidity, bright fresh flavors and colors and in general I find them to be more aromatic. They portray a lot of structural elegance. Now, in some respects this contrasts with 2015 and its where that vintage is lacking a bit. The vintage was much warmer and although the quality is very high, the wines can be a bit homogeneous. They are also slightly less complex I think, especially aromatically and also display a bit more power. But again, it’s splitting hairs.
TV: Grazie tanto amico. I know what you mean about LeBron but as I’ve said, I like MJ! Now let’s taste the 2015 Soloio.
The 2015 Casa Emma Soloio is 100% Merlot and displays the sort of character that Paolo mentions above. In the glass, the wine is a deep, black plum color. We decanted the wine for almost 2 hours but it could use more or simply, 2-4 years in the cellar.
The taster is greeted with aromas of crushed black plums, hints of cypress and cocoa that are rather pronounced. However, on the palate is where this wine struts its architecture. Viscous, ripe flavors of black plum are delicious. Accenting the core of fruit is a dusty minerality that is pervasive and although there’s a cypress/herb component to this wine, there is also the ripe tobacco and cocoa powder aspect that is very appealing. It’s juicy, fresh and long. Still, you can sense the power from the tannins that shorten the experience even with the food. It just hints at so much more to come. Patience will reward. 94-97 points. About $50. Available from the winery at: Casa Emma
Salute e Grazie Paolo!