We finished the seminar – and our tour of the Frescobaldi estates – in Southern Tuscany. Castelgiocondo, one of the largest estates in the Montalcino appellation, was originally owned by a French Investment Bank, who grew mostly Bordeaux variety grapes. The owners soon discovered that the Bordeaux varieties did not grow well here, and the vineyard was replanted largely with Brunello (a clone of Sangiovese). It was around this time that the Frescobaldi family assumed the management of the estate, which they purchased outright in 1989. Today the Frescobaldis are the largest landowner in the Montalcino region, while the rival Banfi estate is the largest producer.
The region has been known for Brunello grapes and the quality of the wines they produce since the 14th century. The region was awarded the first DOCG designation (Brunello di Montalcino DOCG) in 1980, and today the wines are some of the most awarded and prized wines produced in Italy. (Source: Wikipedia).
The seminar featured two of the four wines currently produced at Castelgiocondo:
Despite being 100% Sangiovese, the Brunello is not a Chianti. The wine is aged at the estate for 4 years, three of those in oak barrels. A deep, deep red, the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of plum. The wine is intense, rich and complex – there’s a slight acidity, but overall it is smooth with well-balanced tannins. There are rich notes of plum and other stone fruits. The wine would be beautiful on it’s own, but will also pair exceptionally well with food, particularly beef or lamb. Retailing for around $60 US, this wine has limited production and fewer cases are imported into the US than other Frescobaldi wines. It can be found primarily in the New York area.
The Lamaione is 100% Merlot. Not a grape that traditionally does well in Tuscany, one portion of the Castelgiocondo estate has strong volcanic clay soil, and the Merlot grapes do grow well here. A deep red color, the nose is gorgeous – rich, earthy, with overtones of both fruit and spice. I detected notes of cinnamon and cloves. The wine itself is full-bodied, with strong notes of spice – again clove and cinnamon. It is not what I expect from a Merlot – it’s more “aggressive” if you will, but in a good way. This is a wine that demands notice – smoother than the Brunelo, it is complex, rich, nuanced – overall a very interesting wine. The tasting notes described it as a “racy Merlot.” Retailing for about $70 US, it also has limited distribution, and can be tough to find outside of the New York area.
And with these, the seminar was concluded, and Christy and I headed over to the Grand Tasting. By the end of the day, we both agreed the seminar was the highlight of the event, and next year, we’ll likely sign up for a few seminars and spend less time in the Grand Tasting hall.