See our expert Aldo Fiordelli's favourite L'Apparita wines from an anniversary vertical tasting, read a profile of the Tuscan estate and hear about its 'Judgement of Paris' moment.

Castello di Ama, the leading Chianti estate, is so full of works of art that when you arrive there’s a high risk of tripping over. ‘Le Chemin du Bonheur,’ the work of Pascale Marthine Tayou, lines the ancient stone street of Ama, enlivening the 18th century hamlet with colour.

The contemporary art on the hill overlooking the estate is a tribute to what owners Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti call in latin “genius loci”: a spirit-like sense of place.

On 10 December at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, genius loci was celebrated in a vertical tasting of L’Apparita, the 100% Merlot wine made in heart of Chianti Classico for which the estate became known.

Ama had a ‘Judgement of Paris’ moment on 8 February 1992 when the L’Apparita 1987 vintage beat Pétrus 1988, Le Pin and 16 other world-class Merlot wines at a tasting hosted by the Académie du Vin in Switzerland, with a jury comprised of renowned winemaking consultant Michel Rolland.

Read more about the estate below the wine reviews


Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2011

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2011

Dark crimson in the glass, with plenty of plum fruits and clove on the nose; very youthful as if it has been drawn from barrique. This vintage shows a palate with supple yet firm, crunchy tannins and long, fruity acidity, which is well balanced considering the quite warm...

Points 89
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2008

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2008

A new world, ripe fruit style, bold and merging on overripe. Spicy clove and cacao aromas support the supple palate. Ripe and enjoyable, with fresh acidity, although there is not enormous persistence. It has a drying, tannic finish with a...

Points 85
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2007

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2007

Deliciously made vintage in Tuscany. Dense ruby colour and floral, macerated violet perfume. The luscious fruit of plum and cherry jam suggests an enveloping palate with pronounced velvety tannins and a long, delicate...

Points 90
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2006

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2006

Dense ruby with a thick rim, this vintage shows an admirably complex nose of incense, christmas cake and dark tobacco, with graphite-like minerality providing depth. Full bodied and dense on the palate, it has fine-grained grapey tannins with a delicate a...

Points 95
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2005

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2005

This was an odd vintage, with spring temperatures soaring above the average, a surging humidity at the beginning of the summer, and a hot, dry July and August with three storms. The resulting wine appears paler in colour and more focussed, with tight, fresh...

Points 86
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2004

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2004

A paler ruby example of this Merlot with a sleek, earthy nose heightened by aromas of cedar wood in a Bordeaux style, accompanied by intense ashy notes, likely from second use oak barrels. Taut and nervous, this reflects the vintage...

Points 92
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2001

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2001

A vintage defined by one of the most notorious spring frosts in history, in which Italians were taught the value of low yields. However, this 2001 supertuscan is showing some age, the glass holding a bit of sediment. The nose is undefined with rustic meat, marmite, dried plum and undergrowth,…

Points 89
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2000

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 2000

Notably earthy, with a nose of incense and restrained black cherry fruit finishing with a chocolatey note. Concentrated on the palate without being overblown, it has silky tannins and delicate acidity. This vintage leans towards round and generous more than it does extracted, which is to be expected given the…

Points 88
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1999

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1999

Pale ruby leading to garnet in the glass. The nose shows a fully complex and evolved bouquet with an earthy note reminiscent of Bordeaux. There is also leather (not brett), fresh cedar wood and orange peel, undergrowth and black truffle. The palate is medium bodied, showingthe remarkable elegance and understated…

Points 93
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1997

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1997

A warm vintage, as much celebrated as it was ripe. With much of Chianti Classico already quite drinkable, Ama’s L’Apparita definitely confirms the importance of high altitude to longevity. Pale garnet in the glass, the nose is jammy and ...

Points 89
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1995

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1995

This marks the last vintage aged in high toast French oak barrels, which is most evident in caramel and tar notes along with a distinct nutty flavour. Contrastingly, the palate remains a bit on edge due to crisp acidity and a medium to lean body...

Points 87
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1993

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1993

Considered a lower profile vintage in Tuscany, and indeed it was, but the culprit – rain – proved worse for Sangiovese, while Merlot came in at a very good ripeness. The altitude of L’Apparita is well expressed, with a pale garnet colour and fragrant...

Points 91
Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1986

Castello di Ama, Merlot L'Apparita, Tuscany, Italy, 1986

Garnet, pale rim, with overly extracted tertiary aromas of black truffle and dark chocolate. It has a thinned and naked body due to its age, marked by durable tannins still very much alive and waiting to be discovered, along with a vibrant, chewy acidity. Some fruitiness and nuttiness on the…

Points 87

Castello di Ama lies in Gaiole, one of the sub regions of Chianti. Established in 1972, Ama comprises more than 230 hectares, 80 of which are dedicated to vineyards with a total production – reigning exclusively from estate vineyards – of 300,000 bottles per year.

L’Apparita, of which there is usually 7-8,000 bottles per year, comes from 2.8 hectares of precious parcels with a southern exposition at the very top of the Bellavista vineyard – an altitude of 490 metres above sea level – from which you can see (as they say in Tuscany ‘appare’) Siena.

The soil is mainly from sedimentary rock from the Eocene Era; fine grainy calcareous marl containing 30% clay. The impressive altitude of the vineyard exceeds the conventional limit for the perfect ripening of Sangiovese, considered at 400 metres, thus becoming one of the most intriguing and influential factors in the style of this so-called Super Tuscan.

The vineyard was planted in 1975 with Malvasia and Trebbiano on a 5 BB rootstock over which Pallanti grafted clone 342 of Merlot between 1983-1984.

He chose to train the vines with the Lyra system, a rare technique in Italy largely due to its expensive cost: ‘Because everything is doubled, but it is useful to counteract the high vigor of the rootstock I found there,’ Pallanti says.

When the first L’Apparita bottling saw the light in 1985 the vines were already 10 years old. The Merlot is vinified in stainless steel tanks for 25 days at a relatively high 32-33°C degrees, and extracted mainly with remontage.

Malolactic fermentation takes place in oak, aided by an intentional warming of the winery. The wine is then aged in 40 to 60% new french oak – fine grain with medium toast – for 14 to 16 months, never more.

Overall, L’Apparita maintains a Bordeaux style but, as with Ama’s artwork, this wine is never trampled over and maintains striking individuality: a wise drinker should taste it with a different perspective than a right-bank Merlot.

Crediting the altitude, along with the soil and the climate, the style differs from Bordeaux or Bolgheri with fresh fruit, pleasant acidity and a leaner body, more elegance than power and without the slight herbaceousness typical of Merlot except for in warmer vintages.

It is a wine remarkably sensitive to different vintages, the best of which are 1990 and 2006. The understated winemaking stands behind the viticulture, aiming solely to express the genius loci. As of recently, Ama welcomes Antinori as a new neighbour, having bought San Sano Castle in 2014. The new heat is on.

Editing by Harry Fawkes and Chris Mercer

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