Panzano in Chianti, Tuscany
Castello dei Rampolla
The wine is produced at the estate "S. Lucia in Faulle" in the southern valley of the Conca d'Oro. The di Napoli Rampolla have owned it since 1739, but it was only since 1964 that Alceo di Napoli began cultivating grape varietals for making wine, the inaugural vintage being 1975. Today it is run by Maurizia di Napoli and her brother Luca.
There are a total of 42-hectares under vine, grown on mostly calcareous soil with a small proportion of clay and stones with a south/south-westerly exposure between 290m and 380m. A sizeable proportion is devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon, over half the acreage in fact. The harvest is done by hand, sorted, then fermented in enamel-lined vats at a temperature between 26° and 30°, regulated by running cold water outside the vats. The wine is then aged in oak barrels and French barriques. One important feature is that Rampolla are one of the few biodynamic producers in Tuscany.
The regular Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and is matured in steel vats for 3 months and 3,000 litre barrels for one years (just over 4,000 cases produced per annum.)
"Sammarco" debuted with the 1980 vintage, one of the forerunners for the IGT phenomenon. Introduced by proprietor Alceo di Napoli, the vineyards are located 360m above sea level with a southern exposure, the soil rocky and marl, with some clay and limestone. Vines are trained Guyot with a planting density of 3,300 per hectare. The blend consists of 90% Cabernet, 5% Merlot and 5% Sangiovese and each varietal is vinified separately. The Sangiovese is aged for 12 to 18-months in 30-hectolitre barrels whilst the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is aged in Seguin and Tarransaud French barriques. Production is approximately 2,000 cases per year.
Sammarco has been joined by "La Vigna d'Alceo" since 1996, a blend of 85% Cabernet and 15% of the capricious Petit Verdot, sourced from a 6-hectare vineyard with a south, south-easterly exposure and high planting density between 8,000 and 10,000 per hectare. They adopt a "alberello" system of farming with each plant yielding between 300 and 350 grams. It is matured in French barrique for 12 to 15 months and only 1,000 to 1,500 cases are produced per annum.
Castello dei Rampolla are making some very classy wines and prices have remained reasonable, with the exception of the "La Vigna d'Alceo", which has become a collectors' item.
Wine Advocate, 2006 Nov
Castello dei Rampolla is considered a pioneer of biodynamic farming practices in Chianti, beginning the first experiments in 1994 when most wineries in the area were still unfamiliar with organic, let alone biodynamic, agriculture. Every operation in the vineyard and the cellar is carried out according to lunar phases and the biodynamic calendar, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides are banned in favor of organic, biodynamic preparations. Instead of using herbicides, weeds are left to grow between the vines, forcing the roots to dig deeper into the soil to find nutrition, adding complexity and character to the grapes and resulting wines.