~ Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Carapace ~

Our love for Umbrian wine is no secret here at Tuscan Vines.  We’ve interviewed several winemakers and penned many feature articles about the region, its food and wine.  But when I heard the tale of the Carapace,  I knew it was a story that I needed to relate.  I’ve often remarked that great wines are always backed by great stories and Carapace is no exception. 

In 2001, the Lunelli family, longtime producers of Ferrari sparkling wine, set about their vision of expanding the family’s holdings throughout Italy which included the purchase of Tenuta Castelbuono that year.  The estate holds 30 hectares of vineyards in the communes of Bevagna and Montefalco and converting them to organic agriculture was the family’s initial goal.  Certain vineyard parcels were replanted and in 2003, the estate released its first Sagrantino.  Montefalco Rosso followed the next year
~  The wine cellars inside the Carapace sculpture ~ 

Carapace,  or “shell” in Italian, specifically a tortoise shell,  is the brain child of renowned sculptor and architect Arnaldo Pomodoro. Soon after purchasing the Castelbuono estate, the Lunelli’s realized an immediate need for a new cellar.  Given their long history of collaboration with Pomodoro, he was the obvious choice for the family.  Carapace was born.
The “Carapace”, as Pomodoro decided to call his winery,  required no less than six years to build and it was inaugurated and opened to the public in June 2012. It is a unique work of art that calls into question the boundaries between sculpture and architecture. It is the first sculpture in the world in which people can enter, live and work; a unique work in which art and nature, sculpture and wine intermingle, underlining the exceptional nature of both the containing structure and its contents. It offers itself to one’s gaze as a large copper-covered dome, engraved with fissures that remind one of the furrows in the earth that surround it.  

~ Close up detail of the Carapace dome ~

Recently we concluded tastings of the estates red wines that were conducted over a period of a few months.  The wines were tasted twice, with a variety of foods including truffled pasta, short ribs, and pork chops on the bone, Milanese style.   Disclosure: All wines were producer provided samples.

~ The Sagrantino and the Montefalco Rosso both paired very well with this Milanese ~

I Vini del Castelbuono

2009 Montefalco Rosso Riserva “Lampante”
First released with the 2008 vintage, the first wine we tasted was “Lampante”,  Castelbuono’s Montefalco Rosso Riserva.   

A blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot and Cabernet,  the Lampante is a light to medium ruby colored wine.  Aged in a combination of tonneaux and botte for 18 months, the wine spends a full year in bottle prior to release and rests deep in the core of the Carapace.   

In the glass the aromas of the wine are nicely melded as floral and cherry notes contributed by the Sangiovese seem to take center stage.  With additional air, notes of graphite and cigar tobacco begin to emerge.   On the palate, the wine is fresh and medium bodied with a crushed red fruits, spice notes, and tobacco dominating the palate.  Well balanced, this shows less “heft” than I expected, especially given the riper vintage.  Drinks well now but will cellar for 3-5 more years with ease.  Very nice, but my least favorite of Castelbuono’s three reds.   88 points, about $24.

~ Sangiovese dominates at the moment in this elegant blend ~

2010 Montefalco Rosso “Ziggurat”

What a difference a year can make.  Such a statement isn’t meant to be breaking news in any way, but I am always continually reminded and humbled when vintages contrast as they do, that wine is but a mere agricultural product.  

The Montefalco Rosso shares the same blend as the Riserva with the differences in the two wines relegated to aging time and methods.  Here the wine is aged for 12 months in a combination of barrique and tonneaux and then spends only 6 months in bottle prior to release.  

The 2010 is effusive on the nose with scents of flowers, crushed wild berry, pipe tobacco and spices that are very attractive.  On the palate, the flavors echo the nose with precision and length.  The core of cherry fruit is medium to full bodied with clove, tobacco, and red clay mineral notes that are dusty and delicious.  Juicy refreshing acidity keeps the wine fresh and the tannins are elegant and intricately woven.  This wine is delicious and an absolute steal around $15.  91 points.

~ Delicious and fresh Rosso that delivers excellent quality for the price point ~

With the excitement from tasting the Montefalco Rosso whetting my appetite for the grand finale,  we moved onto the final wine which bears the name of the wine cellar it calls home for the first three years of its life. 
~ Autumn vineyards at Castelbuono sloping away gently from the Carapace ~

2009 Sagrantino di Montefalco “Carapace”

The Sagrantino “Carapace” is obtained by hand harvesting and selecting only the best Sagrantino grapes that the estate offers.  The wine is aged for three full years prior to release, two of which occur in large cask. 

I decanted the wine for about 45 minutes prior to dinner and was struck and surprised by the color which is a deep ruby with violet hues.  Many Sagrantino, in fact most I have tried, are typically almost black in color given Sagrantino’s deep pigmentation.  Don’t let the color fool you. 

Absolutely drop dead gorgeous aromas explode from the glass.  They are so harmonic and intricately woven that they are difficult to describe.  The overall sense is of crushed wild blackberries wrapped in a brandy laced aroma punctuated with leather, licorice and flowers.  It is amazing.  

On the palate, there is no let down.  An immense core of black cherry fruit is joined by licorice, dark chocolate, cake spice and coffee.  Full body, but elegantly presented, this is tannic but in a silky integrated manner.  The texture displays an almost creamy aspect that mellows the tannins and rounds the fruit to a juicy, wild berry finish.  Astounding.   96 points and a bargain around $35. 

~ Bearing the namesake of its home, Carapace Sagrantino is gorgeous ~

The story is told.  Now what will you do?   


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