Susan Hulme MW takes a look at this Tuscan estate, a pioneer of sustainable viticulture in Italy...
Querciabella’s wines have been on my radar for a while, since I tasted them at an event hosted by their sole UK importer, Armit, and so I took the opportunity to visit their winery near Greve in Chianti Classico while in the region recently.
Querciabella has 74ha of vineyards in prime locations within the Chianti Classico zone – Greve, Panzano, Radda and Gaiole – together with another 32ha in Maremma on Tuscany’s Etruscan coast.
Scroll down to see Susan’s Camartina tasting notes and scores
Founded in 1974, Querciabella, or ‘beautiful oak’, is notable for the choices made by owner Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni. The estate was a pioneer in sustainable viticulture, converting to organics in 1988 and biodynamics in 2000.
Since 2010, in keeping with the owner’s vegan principles, they have practised what they term ‘cruelty-free biodynamics’ – only using non animal-derived products at every stage of the process. Today, they are one of the largest biodynamic and organic estates in Italy.
The wines of Querciabella
Batàr A high quality white made from an unusual blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. Average production of 15,000 bottles
Camartina A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Average production of 12,000 bottles
Chianti Since 2010, Querciabella’s Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva have been made with 100% Sangiovese. Previously there had been a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. To my mind this has proved to be a positive move. Average production of 90,000 bottles (Chianti Classico) and 10,000 bottles (Chianti Classico Riserva)
Mongrana A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from coastal vineyards in Maremma. Average production of 130,000 bottles
Palafreno A 100% Merlot wine from the best plots in Greve. Average production of 3,000 bottles
Turpino A blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot from holdings in Maremma and Greve. Average production of 20,000 bottles
I found the warmer vintages of 2003, 2009 and 2011 to be the stand-outs in this tasting, and the 2012 Palafreno also showed very well.
I was particularly impressed with how well the entry-level Chianti Classico from 1998 has aged, although I would suggest drinking this up soon. Having tasted several vintages of Chianti Classico during this tasting, there seems to be a big leap forward in quality with the 2015 vintage. Manfred Ing, their South African winemaker, puts this down to several key factors: the coming to fruition of all the hard work in the vineyards, a ‘near-perfect’ vintage, and a different oak regime.
For the first time, the blend includes equal parts of fruit from Greve, Radda and Gaiole. It’s also the first year where more 500l tonneaux were used, rather than 225l barrels. As Ing comments: ‘The reduced oak influence allows the fruit to express itself, giving the perfect platform for the Sangiovese to evolve without hiding anything behind make-up – Sangiovese in its purest form.’ I couldn’t agree more.
Susan’s Querciabella Camartina tasting notes: