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Debut – The Rare Tuscan Bird Has Landed – Discover the “Stratospheric” Sangioveto from 2015 and 2016
September 9, 2020

Debut: The Rare Tuscan Bird Has Landed – Experience the Old IWM Staple and “Under-the-Radar” Estate from the Heart of the Chianti Hills That Is Truly “Stratospheric” - in 2015 and 2016!

“What a thrill it is to taste through these new releases from proprietor Paolo Panerai and longtime winemaker Alessandro Cellai at Castellare. The wines are compelling from top to bottom. In particular, the flagship I Sodi di San Niccolò is truly stratospheric in 2015, but it is hard to go wrong with any of these wines.” –Antonio Galloni

You heard us scream about it several times before, how does a wine like the 2015 Sassicaia surpass its performance as our fastest selling wine or the Wine of the Year? How about perfection from 2016, the first time since the immortal and iconic 1985. But the release or vintage was not so much about Sassicaia, Solaia or Ornellaia as it was about Mother Nature in general. She simply blessed the rolling hills all the way from Siena to the Tuscan coastline. And as you know from our recent offerings of Fèlsina Fontalloro and Percarlo, let alone Tignanello, the 2016 vintage does not end with the Tuscan patriarch or Cabernet blends. In fact, this past weekend we had a wine that rightfully belongs in this elite class of these noble interpretations of Sangiovese (or in this case, Sangioveto) and that is the 2016 I Sodi di San Niccolò from Castello di Castellare.

While we emphatically agree with Mr. Galloni’s statement above on the 2015 I Sodi di San Niccolò being “truly stratospheric,” we do have some insight to add. IWM tasted the 2015 and 2016 vintages side-by-side and in our opinion, it is the 2016 that challenges and surpasses. Why? It’s simple, 2016, like 2010 and 2013, is a classic year built on harmony and a more balanced growing season, where the wines express rich fruit and depth, but with more finesse and elegance than years like 2011, 2012, and 2015. There is acidity and freshness here from cooler conditions and a longer growing season that is simply awesome – the aromatics alone will transport you to Tuscany and get you excited about the promise these wines have to offer. Antonio Galloni agrees, “A balanced growing season with no shock events produced a set of truly exceptional, highly promising wines. The 2016s are distinguished by their superb aromatic presence, silky tannins, layered fruit and fabulous sense of harmony. The 2016s I have tasted so far point to a high-quality vintage that may very well turn out to be profound.” Well, that is certainly the case for the 2016 I Sodi di San Niccolò!

In the early years of Italian Wine Merchants, the iconic I Sodi di San Niccolò with its signature “Bird label” could be seen flying off the IWM shelves. However, with distribution issues over the years the wine quietly disappeared as availability became more limited. We are now proud to say the eagle (or bird) has landed and both the 2015 and 2016 are here in New York. As to which is better, it is splitting hairs. Galloni reviewed the 2015 and gave it near perfection with 98 points, as it is the more explosive, silky, crowd-pleasing expression. What excites IWM is the 2016 with its finesse and purity of fruit. Both have the signature Castellare touch of elegance married with the classic acidic spine of Sangioveto.

New Arrivals: 2015 and 2016 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò

Antonio Galloni said it best a few years back, “For some reason Castellare seems to fly beneath most people's radar screens, but the wines are often outstanding, particularly in the case of the estate's top wine, I Sodi di San Niccolò, a 100% Sangioveto (Sangiovese) which in top vintages is capable of two decades of aging.” Aside from the difficulty in sourcing the wines, we could not agree more, and are still amazed that more enthusiasts have not discovered these terroir-driven gems. If you are new to Castellare, the estate is located in the Chianti hills in the prized region of Castellina. What separates this location from others in the region is altitude, this is one of the highest elevations in the Classico zone. It is here in Castellina that the site has become a refuge for wildlife – which includes many of the birds that grace the I Sodi labels.

As for the flagship I Sodi di San Niccolò, proprietor Paolo Panerai was adamant about creating a wine to demonstrate that native grapes could produce a wine with all the power and elegance of a Super Tuscan. In fact, he strongly uses the name Sangioveto, as this is the historic and correct spelling of Tuscany’s main indigenous varietal – Sangiovese. The name “I Sodi” describes the land that is difficult to cultivate and the grapes must be hand-harvested, and “San Niccolò” is a reference to an abandoned church on the Castellare property. This wine captures both the rich history of the vineyard as well as the enormous potential of Sangioveto.
Additional Selections and Notes:

“Castellare is the crown jewel in Paolo Panerai's portfolio. Panerai and his long-time winemaker Alessandro Cellai, a disciple of Giacomo Tachis, make gorgeous wines at all of their estates, but Castellare has something more. And that something is a pedigree of terroirs that have proven over time to be among the most exceptional in Tuscany and Chianti Classico. I Sodi di San Niccolò remains the flagship, but even the straight Chianti Classico is absolutely delicious.” –Antonio Galloni

2016 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò
Christopher Deas, Italian Wine Merchants: “We had the unique opportunity to taste the 2015 and 2016 side-by-side and were excited about each. The 2015 fits the stereotype with darker fruit nuances, more decadence and elegance, a crowd pleaser, where the 2016 is more classic, high-toned, precise, with a touch more of red fruit. These are both earthy wines with generous fruit, distinguished by their high acidity. They are wines that showed best with two hours of aeration as they come into their own. For the 2016, expect nuances of red, blue and black fruit. You will find sour cherries, wild berries, even a touch of citrus, crushed violets, baked earth, smoke, graphite, tobacco, coffee beans, and vegetal notes. The beauty of the wine shows with air-time and it is subtle and compelling and keeps you coming back for more. This is Sangioveto that can take on Brunello.”

2015 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò
98 Points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous: “What a thrill it is to taste trough these new releases from Proprietor Paolo Panerai and longtime winemaker Alessandro Cellai at Castellare. The wines are compelling from top to bottom. In particular, the flagship I Sodi di San Niccolò is truly stratospheric in 2015, but it is hard to go wrong with any of these wines. The 2015 I Sodi di San Niccolò is just stratospheric. That's pretty much all there is to it. Plush, deep and explosive, the 2015 possesses magnificent depth. The 15% Malvasia Nera gives tannic backbone and energy to balance the wine's natural richness. Sweet red cherry, cedar, smoke, tobacco and licorice build in a racy, flamboyant Sodi that hits all the right notes. In a word: stunning!” 8/19

Christopher Deas, Italian Wine Merchants: “Tasted four times. This is the crowd-pleasing expression that showcases the richness of the vintage. The wine is explosive right from the pull of the cork and screams Tuscany with strong aromatics of forest floor, smoke, red and black fruit. It is much darker in the glass than the 2016 and there is an almost creamy texture to the wine that builds, but it is held in check by the signature acidity of this high elevation estate. It is decadence with elegance. You can expect to find more black and blue fruit with macerated cherries, blackberries, plum, along with black licorice, grinded coffee, baked earth, wild herbs. A true crowd-pleaser and tremendous introduction to this wine and estate.”

2016 Castellare di Castellina Poggio ai Merli
97+ Points, Monica Larner, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2016 Poggio ai Merli is gorgeous. That's the short and the long of it. Merlot shows some of its best performances ever in Tuscany in the 2016 vintage. This wine is exceedingly smooth and silky, yet its tightly knit fiber supports a generous profile that ranges from dark cherry to spice, to tobacco and fresh potting soil. On the palate, the wine is rich and large in scope, yet it never leaves behind any residual heaviness. Castellare di Castellina has created a true beauty (with only 4,000 precious bottles made).”

Should you have any questions on these exciting wines, or would like to take advantage of this offer while supplies last, we are asking that you email orders back to me at, connect with your portfolio manager or mention receipt of this offer if calling the store. All orders are subject to confirmation.

All my best,