The Soul and Body of the Chianti Classico
Massimo Pala - June 23, 2006
The car hugs the curves and bumps of the narrow hilly road that winds between cultivated fields, olive groves and cypresses, leaving behind the last houses of Panzano in Chianti. The bosco dei cipressi (cypress wood) appears almost as an enchanted fairy spot, from which arises the miniature bell tower of a small, super-cute little church. It's the Basilica Cafaggio. From here on, the road is unpaved, then, further down, there suddenly appears a breathtaking view of the whole "conca d'oro" ("golden hollow"). The road plunges on through the vineyards, which extend almost as far as the eye can see. The estate building is well laid out, and communicates a pleasant, welcoming feeling of intimacy, with its characteristic rustic style made of Tuscan, hazelnut colored stones.
There is not a geometrical layout to these vineyards, but rather the crossing of curving lines of vines, which faithfully follow the profile of the hills and lead the eye beyond the horizon, reaching further than the emotion which takes the breath.
Here I am finally, at Villa Cafaggio, the estate which first inspired my fantasy and passion for wine. It was 1992, and I was looking at a simple brochure hundreds of miles away from here.
Everything is small and self-contained, though intimate and welcoming, including the folksy buildings, the perfumed barrique cellar, the winery with the iron vats, the cellar with the big Slovakian oak barrels, as well as the bottling facility. The space is well laid out and organized meticulously, because it's here that the "black gold" of Villa Cafaggio spends its youth and ages healthfully, becoming strong, following the course started each year by nature and the loving hands of the vintners. The last stage for Chianti is a "well deserved rest" in the bottles, until it's finally the time to take advantage of the pleasure that such a "creation" has to offer to our senses.
The Chianti Classico 2004 is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, cultivated with a density of over 7,000 plants-per-hectare (around 2,834 plants-per-acre) and produce around 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) per vine. After fermentation with maceration, the wine is refined traditionally for 12 months in large, 3,000 and 6,500 liter, (792 to 1,717 gallon) Slovakian oak barrels before being bottled. It's intense, concentrated, with lovely cherry perfume. In the mouth it is pleasant, with slight acidity which highlights the fact that is not completely mature yet. The finish is delicately aromatic and persistent.
The Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, cultivated with a density of over 5,000 plants-per-hectare (around 2,025 plants-per-acre) and produce around 1.2 kg (2.64 pounds) per vine. After fermentation with maceration, the wine is refined for 18 months in large French oak barriques followed by five to six more months in bottles. This product includes the complete organoleptic picture of the Chianti wine, with its crimson red color and ripe red highlights. To the nose it is dense and consistent. here the black cherry takes the place of the ripe cherry, to which are added the aroma of blackberry and raspberry, sided by a balanced impression of spices which is reminiscent of cinnamon. A truly fascinating nose. In the mouth velvety with flavor of sweet, ripe fruits, which slide over the tongue leaving an aromatic, long lasting wake.
The San Martino 2001 (St. Martin) is 100% Sangiovese, cultivated with a density of over 7,000 plants-per-hectare (around 2,834 plants-per-acre) and produce around 1 kg (2.2 pounds) per vine. After fermentation with maceration, the wine is refined for 18 months in large French oak barriques followed by five to six more months in bottles. Here we have top concentration, with a red color so intense that is almost black. Compact ripe fruit to the nose, including black cherry and small red berries, such as blackcurrant, blueberry and blackberry, tied to delicate vanilla and cinnamon notes which, all together, are intoxicating as nectar of the gods.
It is an explosion of liquid fruit, with a pulpy, juicy wake which seems to linger forever on the delighted palate. It is so good that each sip is like an invitation to the next.
The Cortaccio 2001 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are cultivated with a density of over 4,000 plants-per-hectare (around 1,620 plants-per-acre) and produce around 1 kg (2.2 pounds) per vine. After fermentation with maceration, the wine is refined for 18 months in large French oak barriques followed by over six more months in bottles.
This wine too is concentrated and saturated, with deep crimson red color overlapping into black. It conquers the nose with its elegant bouquet, saturated with fruity, herbaceous and spicy notes in perfect balance with each other. loads of small, sweet, ripe red berries, mixed with green pepper, and fine tobacco, toasted coffee and cocoa in the long, aromatic aftertaste. Fine and elegant to the palate as well, with a velvety touch which caresses the senses and leaves an extra long aromatic wake.
Fourteen years have passed, many things have changed, Villa Cafaggio has grown, but the passion is still the same. My knowledge of the world of wine has grown, but my passion is the same as it was before. Back then it was just a brochure in my hands, today it's Cafaggio with its "red gold" in my mouth … It was truly worth the effort!
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