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Tasting Wine With Sergio Zingarelli

Nestled in the gently rolling hills of Tuscany in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone lies the family-run estate of Rocca delle Macìe.

The late Italo Zingarelli, a well-known actor who was also at age 28 the youngest movie producer in Italy, decided to pursue his true passion and lifelong dream of producing wine. His youngest son, Sergio said, “It was my father’s dream to have a winery.” 

Italo Zingarelli (1930-2000) Photo courtesy of Rocca delle Macìe.

In 1973 that dream was realized with the purchase of the “Le Macìe” estate. At the time Italo acquired it, only two acres out of 230 acres were under vine. The 14th-century farmstead was in disrepair along with acres of neglected vines. Working together, Italo and Sergio replanted the vineyards and restored the farmstead. More property was purchased and a state-of-the-art cellar was built and modern winemaking equipment was installed.

Today, the family has six estates throughout Tuscany comprised of 1500 acres with a total of more than 500 acres under vine and 54 acres of olive groves. Le Macìe, Sant’Alfonso, Fizzano and Le Tavolelle estates are located in the Chianti Classico area. And Campomaccione and Casa Maria estates are located in the Morellino di Scansano area (Maremma).

Italo instilled his love and passion for wine and the Tuscan land in his three children, Sergio, Fabio and Sandra. Sergio is quoted as saying, “My father Italo managed to infuse us with his great passion for the Tuscan soil and for the art of making wine. In short, he gave us the desire and the enthusiasm to continue to write that never-ending story that links wine to the lives of human beings. With his cast-iron will, he taught me that to get an idea off the ground takes determination...”

In 1984 Sergio assumed responsibility for estate’s worldwide distribution and in 1989 he was appointed Company President. Sergio’s wife, Daniela works with him in running the business. Sergio has been a member of the Executive Board of the Chianti Classico Consortium since 1995 and in 2012 he was appointed President. In 2015 he was confirmed for another three years. 

Sergio Zingarelli  Photo credit: Penny Weiss

I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Sergio a few months ago at a winemaker luncheon for a vertical tasting of six Rocca delle Macie’s historic cru wines made exclusively with grapes grown in their Fizzano estate vineyard.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Fizzano Farm was purchased in 1984 and spans across 150 acres with 88 acres under vine. The grape varieties grown here are the iconic Sangiovese as well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Miocene deposits with a sandy-loamy texture and pebbly soils make up the soil composition. The vineyards have an excellent southern exposure at 985-623 feet above sea level and the mild Mediterranean climate contributes to maintaining the balance of the grapes acidity, sugar and aromas.

Fizzano Farm  Photo courtesy of Rocca delle Macìe.

Our vertical tasting began with three library wines. Library wines are portions of a vintage that have been set aside in the vintner’s cellar as part of their private stock to be enjoyed at a later date. It is not uncommon to store a few cases from each vintage. This area of the cellar is referred to as “the library”.

Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva di Fizzano 1995, 1999 and 2005 are made with 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. They are library wines that still make a statement. The 1995 vintage still exhibits tannins along with soft, red dried fruit and earth. The 1999 vintage is rich with plum, blackberries and hints of cherry. The 2005 vintage is remarkably ripe with red berries, spice and hints of espresso.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Riserva di Fizzano 2011 is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. Gran Selezione is a new classification above Riserva for Chianti Classico DOCG as of 2014. Grapes must be harvested only from the winery’s vineyards along with upgraded requirements for alcohol, extract and a minimum aging of 30 months. The 2011 vintage is quite aromatic with a palate of ripe dark berries, dark cherry, spice and refined tannins.
SRP:  $39.99

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Riserva di Fizzano 2013 is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. Dark berries, plum, spice, dark cherry, clove and a touch of chocolate grace the palate.
SRP:  $39.99

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Riserva di Fizzano 2015 The blend for this wine is 93% Sangiovese and 7% Colorino. Although Colorino is used primarily to add color to the wine, the grape has elevated tannin levels that can contribute to the complexity of the wine. This wine is very aromatic with lush berries and spice. The palate offers rich, ripe red berries, plum, cherry, spice, anise and vanilla. I look forward to tasting this wine again in a few years
SRP:  $39.99

In addition to the vertical tasting, we sampled four more wines that made my palate quite happy.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. Aged eight months in the barrel. The palate offers fresh ripe fruit, berries, dark cherry, soft tannins and a hint of herbs. SRP:  $16.99

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged two years in French oak. Ripe dark berries, spice, anise, soft tannins and a touch of herbs. SRP: $26.99

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2013 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino. The best grapes are sourced from Le Terrazze Vineyard. The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak. Vibrant aromas of floral, dark fruit, toast and earth lead to a palate of berries, plum, cherry, spice, pomegranate, anise and dark coffee beans. Smooth tannins and beautifully structured. SRP:  $99.99

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2014 is 100% Sangiovese. The best grapes are sourced from Le Terrazze Vineyard. It is aged for 20-24 months in French oak. This wine has a rich palate of plum, blackberry, raspberries, cherry, juicy tannins and spice. It is beautifully balanced and elegant.

I asked Sergio if climate change has affected the vineyards and if so is there a difference in the wines produced.  Sergio replied,

“Climate changes didn't affect our vineyards but mostly the way to manage them. Our vineyard manager, of course, needs to spend more attention on the long-term forecast in order to avoid any negative influences on the canopy and of course on the grapes. Fortunately, we have now to our disposal new and more accurate technical equipment that can be used to predict and to control the balance between the growth of the vines and the quality of the grapes. Of course, the wines change if we have a hot and dry harvest or a colder one, but we are trying to keep the same style and philosophy every year.”

Sergio talked about his biggest challenge in the vineyards. “We work very hard since the year 2000 to reduce or not use any chemical treatments. We can make this possible using different weather stations, with very hard work in the vineyard and using different viticulture strategies. As per example, the use of "mating disruption" to confuse some different insects with pheromones in the vineyards; the use of antagonists of some insects to control others one. Another challenge is to not use any chemical herbicides since 2000, using only mechanical removal of the herbs under the vines; maintain as best we can a stable balance in the vigor and quality of grapes ratio using only organic fertilizers and a very specific program of cover crops serving as the specific goals and nature of the soils of the different vineyards.”

It was a great afternoon of exploring and tasting this impressive lineup of Rocca delle Macìe wines.  All of the wines that we tasted are beautifully crafted. And as Sergio said, “The wines must be elegant and give expressions of the vineyard”. Sergio has done just that!

Until next time...

Cheers!

Penny
 

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