Castello dei RampollaOctober 18, 2012
Today we’re delighted to debut the 2008 Castello dei
Rampolla Vigna d’Alceo, which we’re offering at the best pricing in the
country. While IWM usually doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in media frenzy and
wine scores--especially when it comes to Italian wine--we'd be remiss if we
didn’t mention that this wine from ’08, so easily overshadowed by the two
stellar vintages that preceded it and the outstanding ’09 to come, has earned
perfect scores. Super-Tuscan Castello dei Rampolla Alceo is always a big,
brooding wine that somehow effortlessly marries opulence with power, but ’08
sees a shift to greater restraint and leanness. It’s a gorgeous wine, and we’re
proud to have a fantastic allocation of it.
Castello dei Rampolla has long been a darling of
intellectual wine-lovers, but its history ties the estate to both Antinori and
Tenuta San Guido. Before there was Sassicaia, which debuted in 1968, Tenuta san
Guido made its Bordeaux-style wine for friends and family, and this as-yet
unnamed progenitor served as the inspiration for Castello dei Rampolla owner
Alceo di Napoli to plant his own Cabernet Sauvignon and craft his own
Bordeaux-style wine, Sammarco. Di Naopli called on the famous consultant
oenologist Giacomo Tachis, the expert behind Sassicaia, to help with his own
Cabernet Sauvignon project, falling in love with the Tuscan incarnation of the
grape, even though he found his love to raise controversy in the heart of
Tuscany. Alceo’s Super-Tuscan Sammarco placed the estate, which had long grown
grapes that it sold to Antinori, into prominence.
After the death of Alceo, the thirteenth-century estate fell
into the devoted hands of brother and sister team, Luca and Maurzia di Napoli.
They chose to continue their father’s pioneering ways and, in honor of him, Luca
created Vigna d’Alceo, a wine that soon eclipsed its big brother, Sammarco.
Alceo, a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon kissed with Petit Verdot, is a
single-vineyard cru, and what a vineyard it is. Bathed in light, its hilly
slopes of stony soil gain exposure from three directions: east, west and south.
It’s a perfect prospect, and it’s unsurprising the wine is so delicious.
Moreover, Luca and Maurizia have never stopped tinkering. The estate turned
biodynamic in the ‘90s, being one of the first Tuscan vineyards to do so, and
now even beyond growing their grapes with methods that make merely organic look
lazy, Castello dei Rampolla has begin vinifying its Alceo in amphora.
Clearly these changes--and this attention to minute
detail--works. Castello dei Rampolla has long been a favorite of IWM, and its
Sammarco and Alceo were among the first bottles on our shelves. However, the
estate has long held onto its under-the-radar Super-Tuscan status, but with
wines as explosive as this ’08 Alceo, it’s likely poised to go super-nova. About Castello dei Rampolla
Since 1739, the di Napoli family has owned and managed the 13th-century estate of Castello dei Rampolla, which is situated near Panzano in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone. The legend at this historic property, however, is predominantly a contemporary affair, and, you could say, inspired by the pioneer Super-Tuscan, Sassicaia. After cultivating a vineyard in 1965, Alceo di Napoli was pretty content to sell most of the grapes he grew to the Antinori family. He would likely have continued to perform in this support role, but he was soon to emerge as his own mind behind, having fallen in love with a wine that Antinori’s then-enologist, Giacomo Tachis, was closely involved with—Sassicaia. This radical, Bordeaux-style wine introduced Alceo to Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape that was just getting its roots wet in Bolgheri’s complementary ground. Of course, things above the soil weren’t quite as accommodating, as Alceo was soon to learn.
He endured fierce criticism for advocating the synergy between the Panzano area of Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it took only the 1980 vintage debut of Sammarco—a predominantly Cabernet-based blend (featuring a small percentage of Sangiovese, and, in more recent vintages, Merlot) that he conceived with Giacomo Tachis—for Alceo’s conviction to be validated. While this Cab powerhouse is frequently positioned after its inspiration, Sassicaia, as well as Antinori’s Cabernet-based Solaia and Ornellaia, it nevertheless is a significant entity in the pioneering Super-Tuscan movement. Moreover, it is the original biodynamic Super-Tuscan: the estate’s conversion to a wholly biodynamic regimen transpired over the course of several years and has been in effect for over a decade now. The estate is also noted for its rigorous, uncompromising viticultural practices, which emphasize high-density planting and low yields. An artisanal mindset informs all phases of production.
Truth be told, however, Sammarco somewhat lost its position as the alpha of the house with the 1996 debut of fellow portfolio member Vigna d’Alceo. Conceived by Alceo’s son, Luca, in homage to his father, Vigna d’Alceo blends Alceo’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot. The latter’s contribution—unusual in the Super-Tuscan genre—renders d’Alceo more potent than the most power hungry of cult Cabernets, imparting a sleek and spicy dimension. Its intense marriage of opulence and power has effectually given it cult status, placing it in the realm of Masseto and Messorio. Today, Luca and his sister, Maurizia, continue to produce their father’s handcrafted wines in cooperation with Tachis. In addition to Vigna d’Alceo and Sammarco, the estate produces both a normale and riserva Chianti Classico, as well as a white dessert wine, Trebianco Vendemmia Tardina.