An Afternoon at CastelGiocondo (#ItalianFWT)

 

Last year I shared a post entitled Brunello, a Book, and a Boston Butt: Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino with Italian Braised Pork, which tied in a fun read, memories of a stay in beautiful Montalcino, and a yummy pork dish.

I created this braised pork dish last summer, but it definitely feels more like a cold weather dish, so it's a good time to revisit it now.

At the time, I’d intended to write a second post to share more about the wonderful visit Greg and I had at CastelGiocondo in 2018, but as tends to happen to me a lot, time and life got away from me and I’ve never managed to get that second post up until now. Lately, I’ve been trying to share some of these I’ve-been-meaning-to-write-that posts. Revisiting travel memories has also been particularly nice recently while we continue to be grounded, so I’ll take advantage today to share memories of this sunny afternoon in Tuscany spent in the vineyards tasting delicious wines. After all, who wouldn’t want to find themselves sipping wines in a sun-drenched vineyard right now? I’m a little jealous of past me.

Note: Our visit at CastelGiocondo was comped as member of the wine industry. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.


Brunello di Montalcino


I invite you to look back at this post for a little more background on the region and city in general, but here are some quick basics on the wine and this DOCG that surrounds the hilltop town of Montalcino.


  • Brunello is one of Tuscany’s most celebrated wines and can command high prices. As is the case throughout much of the region, Sangiovese is the star grape. Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso is the clone(s) the area is known for.
  • Wines are aged for at least four years, with a minimum of two years in wood, and four months in bottle prior to release. Riserva wines get an extra year in bottle for a total of five, and six months in bottle prior to release. Even with all that aging before release, Brunellos can age for a very long time and might take quite a few years before they hit their peak.
  • These wines tend to be full-bodied with lots of acidity and pronounced tannins. They’re bold and flavorful wines with a mix of red and black fruits (I tend to get lots of sour black cherry notes), espresso, leather, licorice, and there are also often earthy and herbal notes mixed in. I find these wines usually benefit from decanting, so give them time to breathe after opening. I will note though that not everyone agrees on this point. For example, the winemaker at CasteGiocondo, who we'll meet in a moment, prefers to see how the wine evolves in the glass, so he opens the bottles a bit early, but does not decant. These wines are fabulous with rich, meaty dishes and dishes driven by umami flavors like braised meats and savory stews.


CastelGiocondo

CastelGiocondo is a part of the Frescobaldi family of wineries. The estate is located southwest of Montalcino at an altitude of 300 meters. The village of CastelGiocondo overlooks the historic estate of the Frescobaldis in Montalcino, which was built in 1100 as a stronghold to defend the road leading from the sea to Siena. The property was one of the first four to begin producing Brunello di Montalcino in 1800.

We had the chance to tour the winery and vineyards with winemaker Filippo Manni, who was just a delight to get to know and learn from. He was incredibly knowledgeable, but also seemed like the type of person we might be friends with. The grapes are grown using organic methods and they use special crushers that handle the Sangiovese more delicately since this is a wine that can have aggressive tannins. The wines are fermented using native yeasts in stainless steel tanks. They use a variety of different types of oak vessels in different sizes to cater to what they feel the wines need at various stages of their aging.
The winery at CastelGiocondo was quite beautiful.

In the vineyards, Filippo spent quite a bit of time explaining the different types of soils on the property for us, which include clay and sand, which are newer soils and have some marine influences. There is also schist, in particular galestro soils which Tuscany is known for, which are much older, dating back to the Crustaceous Period. They vinify the different plots separately, as wines grown from grapes on the various plots tend to age differently. He explained how some of the different soil types affect the character of Sangiovese.

Clay: Sangio grown on clay tend to be more delicate and aromatic. Most of the wines from the clay plots tend to go into their Rosso di Montalcino which is intended to be brighter and fresher for earlier consumption. Some might also be in the Brunellos for the aromatics.


Marl: Produces wines with fine tannins and beautiful finesse on the nose

Sand: Wines tend to show softer tannins, more cherry notes, and pretty aromatics.

You can see marine fossils in the soil - they're the rounded stones here.

Schist (Galestro): Wines tend to be more structured with more pronounced tannins. They might choose to allow more oxygen to reach these wines (by using a smaller barrel, for example) to help soften the tannins. The galestro soils tend to produce wines with more savory and minerally qualities.


We also spent some time talking about clones. I mentioned that Brunello is known for the Sangiovese Grosso clone, or clones as it’s more likely a group of clones. Sangiovese is an ancient grape, and things get complicated with clones and biotypes when talking about grapes this old. I don’t pretend to fully understand it by any means. They have about 80 clones of Sangiovese in their vineyards, but they predominantly use about 20 of them. The clones are mixed in the vineyard to produce a sturdier crop that is more adaptable overall in their view.

There are some other very cool aspects to visiting the property, even if you don’t intend to geek out about clones and soil types. The winery has an artist residency program sponsoring three artists per year.

There some art exhibits and others pieces displayed around the winery.

The winery also has rooms you can stay in on the gorgeous property and a small spa with views of the hills and their Brunello vineyards.


Wines Sampled


After our vineyard tour, we sat down with Filippo to taste through some of the wines, exploring several different vintages of the Brunellos. That tasting was set up on a terrace with a spectacular view overlooking some of the vineyards.


Campo ai Sassi Rosso di Montalcino 2016 (average price $18):  They think of this wine as a “Brunellino” as it’s also made from Sangiovese, but in a fresher style than the Brunellos, although it also showed elegance and plenty of structure. The grapes for this wine were grown in clay soils.  2016 was a particularly good vintage and should age well, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for this one for a particularly good value.

Tasting Notes: Very bright strawberry and raspberry notes, with aromatic floral notes, as well as hints of herbs like rosemary.


Brunello di Montalcino 2013 (average price $60): Grapes for the Brunello are grown on schist and sandy soils.

Tasting Notes: Strawberry leather, red licorice, and medicinal herbs on the nose. A hint of meatiness and some floral violet notes joined in on the palate. The tannins were less aggressive on this one in comparison to others, and it was approachable and enjoyable. It had a savory, minerally quality which apparently is typical of the area.


Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (average price $65): This was a cool vintage, with a mild summer, and dry September, which translated into a powerful vintage with lots of minerality.

Tasting Notes: Savory herb salt, lavender, fennel, meatiness, black tea, orange rind, and forest floor came out on the nose. On the palate, it was dense with notes of raspberry, sour cherry, and a little tomato sauce. This was still young and felt like it could use more time to unwind.

It gained a fruitier quality when sampled alongside some aged cheese.


Brunello di Montalcino 2007
(average price $55): This was a warm vintage and had a broader, more mouth-filling quality than the intensely structured 2010.

Tasting Notes: The wine’s nose showed deeper, riper fruit notes of plum sauce, as well as some dried fruit notes of dates and prunes, which were balanced by a rhubarb note, as well as notes of spice and black licorice. All these notes continued on the palate but gained a more savory edge. Tannins were firm but smooth.


Ripe al Convento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012
(average price $116): Grapes for this wine are grown on schist and galestro soils. This was a warm vintage, but the vineyard for this wine has a different aspect than the other Brunellos and gets cooler later in the day

Tasting Notes: On the nose, the wine showed notes of stewed berries, red licorice, and kirsch. On the palate, it also showed notes of sour cherries, hints of spice, pink flowers, lavender, and a pretty herb bouquet. The wine’s tannins had smoothed out, more so than the 2010 Brunello which was older, and it also still showed a lot of verve, along with savory notes that are apparently typical of the schist soils.

We brought home a bottle of the 2013, which we enjoyed with an Italian-style braised pork dish on polenta, which was so cozy and delicious and perfect for this time of year. I’m sure it would make a great match with any of these wines. 


Check out these other posts related to our Italian road trip:


 
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This month the Italian Food Wine Travel blogging group (#ItalianFWT) are looking at  Italian wines paired with braised meats or stews, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. You can read her invitation post here. If you read this early enough, feel free to join on our conversation on 2/6/21 on Twitter at 8 am PT/11 am ET by following #ItalianFWT.
 
Check out the rest of the group's posts here.




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    14 comments

    1. I've seen Castel Giocondo around and probably had one or two of their wines but never knew their story. Thank you for sharing it!

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    2. Oh my goodness...I LOVE traveling virtually with you. Your in depth articles make me feel as if I am right there with you.

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    3. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were able to travel. I'm glad you're digging out experiences that you never blogged about. And we can all live vicariously through those until we are able to travel again. Thanks for joining me this month. CastelGiocondo sounds like a fabulous experience.

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      1. Thanks Camilla! It's funny, I feel like I'm living vicariously through myself, which is nice but also odd. It really was a wonderful experience.

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    4. Enjoyed the vicarious visit to CastelGiocondo through words and photos. When you think about it, 2018 wasn't that long ago, but the world has changed dramatically since then.

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    5. I know what you mean about living vicariously through your past self! Loved learning more about this gorgeous winery and your pork braise looks fabulous, especially on top of the polenta.

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    6. Such a breath of fresh air to read this post and travel to Tuscany - if only virtually! I'm a big fan of Rosso di Montalcino and think it's a great value; something to tide us over until the Brunello is ready. Cheers to being able to travel again soon.

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    7. I can't tell you how many times I intended to blog about something, but didn't get around to it for one reason or another. I'm glad you got around to this post because it's great to travel to Tuscany vicariously through you and Greg. Thanks for sharing!

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    Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!