If you’ve read our Chinese New Year features, then you’d have come across the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Zodiac Boar. That range represents not only the best of Castiglion del Bosco, but it is also the winery’s tribute to the Chinese Zodiac.
It also represents owner Massimo’s fascination with the Zodiac and not only that, but the concept could be continued year after year. As such, the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is regarded as the fullest expression of Castiglion del Bosco terroir and the singular characteristics of each vintage. It’s also where only the very best grapes from estate’s finest vineyards at Capanna are chosen.
“The careful selection of the finest grapes ensures that this riserva remains uniquely distinguishable over time,” says chief winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi.
More on the Zodiac Boar here, but today we’re more interested in the Tuscan winemaker itself.
In many ways, the winery is interesting to the average onlooker. For one, it is (still) owned by a scion of the Ferragamo family, Massimo Ferragamo. Then there’s its flagship series that’s clearly designed for the Chinese market. Finally its chief winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi has the sort of feminist newsworthiness that pervades headlines these days.
Where wine is always in fashion.
Firstly, a quick primer on its winemaker. Cecilia hails from Maremma in the south of Tuscany and was exposed to wine from an early age. Her father was working in the wine industry and she used to go to the vineyards with him. She had crossed paths with Sangiovese – her speciality today – and had the opportunities to discover its secrets and how it expresses itself in the different Tuscan wine denominations.
However, winemaking wasn’t originally on the cards. “My first studies were more generic – on agriculture – since my passion has always been nature and therefore agriculture. As I started to spend more and more time with my father in the vineyard I decided that I wanted to focus my interest on viticulture, in particular on natural viticulture, which is the philosophy that we follow here at Castiglion del Bosco,” she said.
The winery is also known for its luxury resort and golf course, both of which are actually very well-reviewed. The estate is located in the picturesque region of Val d’Orcia, which is synonymous with breathtaking views. It is quintessential Tuscany, which is why it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage site list.
But we couldn’t help but ask the obvious: would having ties with a major fashion house and a resort in the estate have any effect on the nature of their audience, the perception of the label and its wines, or the entire drinking experience?
“I think that one reality complements and exalts the other,” was Cecilia’s measured reply.
Castiglion del Bosco – the Capanna and Gauggiole vineyards.
Fair enough. So, while it’s good to know that there’s an opportunity for a luxurious getaway basking in the beauty of the Tuscan sun, let’s not forget that Castiglion del Bosco is also home to two vineyards with two completely distinct growing sections, each different as to aspect, soils, and weather conditions: the 20-hectare Gauggiole vineyard, just beneath the borgo, and the 42-hectare Capanna.
The southwest-facing Capanna vineyard is situated between 250 and 450 meters above sea level. It features a unique soil composition from top to bottom where the uppermost areas are marked by an abundance of Galestro rock, while rock-studded clay schist dominates the lower areas.
Combined with scarce groundwater reserves, this unique area forces the vine to push its roots down deep, where it is most exposed to the wind and is most subject to considerable temperature variations, day and night. This is perhaps the predominant characteristic of this vineyard.
The Brunello di Montalcino Cru “Campo del Drago” is produced from a 1.5 hectares area located at the highest part of the vineyard. “The Sangiovese that we receive from this parcel displays such an extraordinary expression of the terroir that it could be none other than our Brunello Cru,” she said.
The middle of the hill is where the oldest vines reside. It is the source of grapes for the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012, their most traditional expression of Sangiovese.
Millecento comes from an 8.5-hectare plot about 460m above sea level, planted in 1998. The grapes were selected by hand and made for the first time from the exceptional 2010 harvest. According to Cecilia, the southeasterly section of the vineyard provides elegance, finesse and high-acidity tenacity. The southwesterly parcel, on the other hand, brings complexity and longevity.
Under the Tuscan sun.
Castiglion del Bosco’s second vineyard is the 20-hectare Gauggiole, located in the northern part of the estate at 250 meters above sea level. It is here where the Gauggiole Cru Rosso di Montalcino – a young, refreshing Sangiovese – is made. The soil is distinguished by a mixture of clay and rock, while the microclimate alternates between winter and summer temperatures. It provides the ideal conditions for the development of the fruitiness that is classic of the Sangiovese varietal.
In addition, Cecilia looks after Tenuta Prima Pietra as well, which is situated on the Tuscan coast in Riparbella. A small, single vineyard that measures 11 hectares, Prima Pietra grows Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These four varietals are all used to produce Prima Pietra. Despite these difference in style, the approach on the vineyard is the same one as Castiglion del Bosco: natural viticulture with attention each parcel within the vineyard to achieve maximum expression.
Despite the lofty association and other high-value commercial aspects, there is something innately down-to-earth nature to its toil in the soil. That’s not just an excuse to squeeze in a couple of puns – there’s nothing exceedingly shouty about what they do. It’s just matter-of-fact, honest work where it’s needed.
“Since I started working at Castiglion del Bosco with Mr Ferragamo our aim has always been to produce exceptional wines that our soil enables us to make, distinctive wines of great integrity that are more rooted in the land, more complex and more enduring thanks to a natural approach to viticulture,” said Cecilia.
“This approach started with baby steps a few years ago and the new philosophy was fully embraced in 2014. Our aim for the future is to continue on this path,” she added.