I’ve been hearing from winemakers about how great the 2015 vintage was going to be even as the grapes were coming off the vines. Then the Rosso di Montalcino began confirming that at Benvenuto Brunello. Today, some of the earliest released Tuscan wines bear this out. Yet there is another vintage that bears watching and I’m not afraid to trumpet it here; 2016. In January, at the most recent Benvenuto Brunello, while the 2013 Brunello showed well, it was the 2016 Rossos that stole the show and garnered the most buzz around the room. Then I received the subject of today’s article and again, my eyebrows and palate awakened.
Founded in 1977, the Castellare estate is relatively young. However, the estate is fortunate enough to hold some of the highest vineyard parcels in all of Chianti Classico, with vineyards situated at 1,200 feet above sea level. Located in Castellina in Chianti, the 46 acre estate has become a sort of natural refuge for forestry and wildlife. In fact, many of the birds that grace Castellare’s labels are native to their estate – which is legally protected by the Italian Government. The estate is owned by Paolo Panerai and the lead winemaker is Alessandro Cellai. The team is dedicated to crafting honest, premium wines driven by terroir. They are farmers and as Paolo muses, each vintage is unique and demands the attention of the winemaker to listen to what nature has provided.
The 2016 Castellare Chianti Classico is pure magic. In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby color with a darker core, but some copper like lightening at the rim of the bowl. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo and is wildly aromatic. Pure, precise aromas of rosemary, fresh flowers, crushed cherry, soft spice and tobacco notes leap from the glass. One barely needs to swirl the wine to evoke the complexity of the aromas. On the palate, this wine is equally impressive. Medium bodied, with flavors of wild cherry, fennel, Tuscan scrub and herb and soft wood notes, this is well balanced, fresh and lively. Although the wine spends 14 months in French tonneaux and barrique, the focus on the palate is pureness and liveliness. A remarkable effort and perhaps the best Chianti Classico from Castellare that I’ve ever tasted. A steal of a buy around $16. 90 points. Go long. Find this wine.