If you’re reputed to be an avid fine wine collector with a
concentration in Cristal Champagne, it’s a pretty safe assumption
that your own label is, at a minimum, going to hold its own with those
in your cellar. Indeed, the late Giuseppe Castiglioni, who initially
planted vines as a hobby, soon set about authoring a Super-Tuscan
success story in 1972—restoring an ancient estate, outfitting
it with state-of-the-art equipment and, over time, establishing an
elite winemaking cadre, including winemaker Guido de Santi and famed
consultant and Super-Tuscan specialist Giacomo Tachis. The 26-hectare
estate is presently owned and directed by Castiglioni’s son,
Sebastiano Castiglioni. Querciabella also possesses holdings in the
Maremma zone, where it commenced an experimental project in 2000;
the first official release was Mongrana 2005, a blend of Sangiovese,
Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
While Querciabella’s story began with its Chianti Classico—one
of the region’s finest expressions and most consistent performers
with respect to both quality and typicity—Castiglioni desired
to figure in a movement that segued directly from an inchoate state
into an international furor. Camartina—the flagship of Querciabella—was
Castiglioni’s first contribution to this dynamic and historic
phenonmenon. Camartina continues to be a defining example of the Super-Tuscan
genre, a position that it’s earned, in no small part, due to
Giacomo Tachis’ involvement. While Sangiovese was the predominant
varietal for the greater part of Camartina’s early career, the
percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon has increased gradually over the
years, with recent vintages favoring Cabernet. The highly sensitive
relationship to vintage conducted by Querciabella has resulted in
a wine with an impeccable record of consistency and an uncanny ability
for projecting hedonism and refinement—a state wherein both
virtues seem to be fully realized yet simultaneously responding to
one another’s modifying influences.
Castiglioni’s follow-up landmark-to-be derived its inspiration
from his passion for white Burgundy.
Despite the lack of precedent for a high-level
Tuscan white, Castiglioni set out to evoke his beloved Burgundy aesthetic.
He started off with circumspection, testing out the terroir with Pinot
Blanc and Pinot Grigio in an 80/20 blend, respectively, named Bâtard-Pinot.
Castiglioni then moved on, reducing Blanc’s contribution and
dropping Grigio altogether to make way for the debut of Chardonnay,
complemented by an abbreviated and highly suggestive new name—Bâtard.
Wary of the opposition that this provocative statement might incur,
Castiglioni and Sebastiano soon compromised, engaging in a clever
homophonic exercise that involved exchanging Bâtard for Batàr,
while retaining the former’s pronunciation. Although the blend
has continued to reflect the 1992 split (50/50), its stylistic orientation
altered with the 1998 vintage, when the use of new oak was reduced.
This modified approach (50% new oak and 50% one-year-old oak) brought
Batàr within much closer range of its Burgundian archetype.
In order to both honor and tangibly express the exceptional quality
of the1990 vintage, the estate crafted a special Vin Santo, Orlando,
for the first and perhaps last time, as the winery uprooted its Trebbiano
and Malvasia vines in 1991. This historic production—Orlando
(named after Sebastiano’s son)—was crafted through revered
traditional methods: only the best grapes were utilized and the wine
was aged for a ten-year period prior to being bottled.
The portfolio’s penultimate bottling, Palafreno, debuted with
the 2000 vintage, commencing the estate’s participation in Bolgheri’s
highly successful relationship with monovarietal Merlots. Its vinification
regimen entails a fairly lengthy maceration period of 18 days and
aging in 100 percent French oak (60% new and 40% first passage) for
approximately 18 months.
While biodynamics has become something of a buzz
word in today’s wine culture, biodynamic principles have always
been part of Querciabella’s core philosophy. Thus, when the
estate entered into a pure dynamic regimen with the 2000 vintage,
it was merely concluding a process that had been in progress for several