Capezzana & DOCG Carmignano
by Miquel Hudin | 29-10-2020 | 2 Comments
“Never too young. Never too old.”
This is such a wonderful manner to describe DOCG Carmignano and was said by Eric de Rothschild, the director of an “obscure” winery called, Château Lafite Rothschild, when he was tasting these Italian wines once.
Despite Mr. de Rothschild’s endorsement, most people won’t have heard of Carmignano as it’s a rather small DOCG in the greater sea that is Chianti. Comprised of just two villages, Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano and totaling only 117ha in size, it sits on the northern shore of Tuscany and is in fact its smallest DOCG of the region, a short 20km northwest of Florence.
There are but 13 producers in total in this slice of Tuscany, including Tenuta di Capezzana belonging to the Contini Bonacossi family. It’s surprising that the amount of producers is so scant in Carmigiano given that they lay claim to quite a wealth of history. The Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici saw the area as holding high quality and selected it as one of the first designated wine regions in Italy way back in 1716–although DOCG status only arrived in 1990.
Filippo Contini, the current CEO of the Capezzana winery was happy to tell me all about their lengthy regional history via a Zoom chat recently. Admittedly, despite the supposed ease of virtual chats, it can still be tricky to chat as well, people are busy these days. We also initially “met” via Instagram (where he’s quite active in case you need more Tuscany in your life right now) and then we had to figure out a good time as he was neck deep in olive pressing.
While the winery itself is “just” 90 years old in its current form, the region has been producing wine and olive oil since forever and this Capezzana estate has documents proving its existence since 804 CE. Ironically, the estate, at 650ha, is many times larger than the limits of the DOCG which is why they produce these other products and also have a quite swanky looking agriturismo to stay at.
Filippo’s family entered into the overall history of this estate when they bought it back in 1922 and he represents the fourth generation to be running it. Thankfully there’s a fifth ready to take up the charge in due time which is good news considering they produce the vast majority of wine that exists from this DOCG, including several reds, a rosé, a couple of whites, and a Vinsanto.
Definitely Tuscan, but under a different sun
Upon tasting the wines it’s ready to see they’re delicately robust in that way only Tuscan wines can be–with power, but at the same time a lightness in the mouth that begs for them to be had with food. But these are no Brunellos nor Chianti Classico Gran Seleziones. Their weight is more balanced and again, as the de Rothchild gentleman said, approachable at just about any point in their life.
What’s the secret? They do have their own microclimate bordered by the Tuscan Apennines to the north and there’s a bit of altitude at 400m. But that’s not the only interesting aspect as while the blends have to be a minimum of 50% Sangiovese, there’s something else that gives an extra quality to the wines and I’d bet money it’s the requirement of 10-20% Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc in the blend.
Filippo chuckled about this by saying that they were the original “Super Tuscan” wines because this isn’t something new. “Uva Francesca” or what we know as Cabernet Franc was introduced into the region way back in the 17th century as they found that it helped the blends to ship better at a time when shipping was an onerous process.
While it’s often the case in some regions of Spain that French grapes were brought in during the last few decades as an afterthought for marketability, it wasn’t done for the same reasons in specific regions of Italy. There was an interchange of goods between them and France which resulted in such curious novelties in Italy’s viticultural history. I know this as I’ve actually seen it before in Friuli-Venezia Giulia where Sauvignon Blanc was introduced in the mid-19th century.
Of course, the important thing here is that the Italians have done this just for an affectation, not with any misguided belief that they’re mimicking Left Bank Bordeaux. And I have to say, whether it’s the climate or the soil or just a couple of centuries working with these grapes under their belts, they’ve really got it nailed at this point and it works mighty damned well.
The good news is that if you’d like to try these wines for yourself, Capezzano has a solid production base at about 450,000 bottles, which is all certified organic, but most importantly, they have good exportation as well. I know the wines are readily available in the UK and they have a good presence in the US. So, if looking to broaden your Tuscan horizon a touch, I’d very much recommend searching them out.