Vallepicciola is an estate located in the Castelnuovo Berdardenga area not far from Siena, on the rolling hills of Tuscany. When we talk about Castelnuovo Berdardenga, it generally, brings our minds to Chianti Classico as it is the southernmost subzone – UGA – of the Chianti Classico appellation. In mid-January, Vallepicciola invited us to an event to present an entirely different type of wine, namely the new “Grand Cru” line that they have launched. It was an event in grand style where we after the wine tasting and lunch got a tour of the amazing estate under the guidance of Alessandro Cellai, oenologist and general manager of the winery. In the evening, they pampered us with a fabulous dinner by 2-star Michelin Chef Gaetano Trovato from the Arnolfo Restaurant in Colle Val d’Elsa in Tuscany.
From the Steel to the Wine Sector
Vallepicciola is an estate and winery owned and “created” by the Bolfo family, to be more precise by Bruno Bolfo and his sister Giuseppina Bolfo. The Bolfo family comes from a completely different industry, Bruno Bolfo is the president of the Duferco Group in the steel sector. In 1999, they acquired an old convent in the Pievasciata locality that they decided to renovate and turn into the 5-star resort Le Fontanelle. In 2007, they decided to expand by buying up 80 hectares of almost abandoned vineyards from a neighboring estate, of which 22 hectares of Sangiovese.
During the last 10 years, they have invested about 50 million euros in building a new sustainable winery, developing the hospitality side, and expanding the land under vine to about 110 hectares. The winery is beautifully tucked into the Tuscan landscape in the Castelnuovo Berardenga area just north of Siena. There they offer different kinds of wine experiences such as wine safaris, wine lunches, wine experiences for collectors, beekeeping tours followed by a tasting of honey, cheese, and wine, wine tastings, and much more.
Experienced Winemaker at Vallepicciola
In the past, their oenologist was Riccardo Cotarella but in 2020 Alessandro Cellai entered the scene. His vision can be said to lie very close to that of the legendary Giacomo Tachis who was indeed also a sort of mentor or guiding light for Cellai. His career developed professionally at Domini Castellare di Castellina group where he worked for over 20 years up until his arrival at Vallepicciola in 2020. Since the early 2000s, he has also been involved with winemaking at Feudi del Pisciotto winery in Niscemi in southern Sicily.
Alessandro Cellai’s winemaking style is inevitably very marked by the French-inspired style so typical for Giacomo Tachis, who was very into Bordeaux and France thanks to having studied for the French enologist Emile Peynaud. It is a fantastic winemaking heritage that Cellai can carry forward and manifest in his wines at Vallepicciola.
Alessandro Cellai believes that the “territory, the grape, and the winemaker style” should be recognizable in every wine. However, he also underlines that the expression of the local territory in a wine is the most essential factor.
I do agree with him that the territory should be easily recognizable in wine just as the typical traits of the grape. In general, I would talk about the typical traits of a grape in its native territory. In this context, with a lot of French grapes at Vallepicciola, the local territory becomes the cornerstone. However, when it comes to the Sangiovese from Vallepicciola it does communicate the Castelnuovo Berardenga terroir very well.
Read more about Super Tuscan wines in my article Supertuscan Is All About The Name, Not In The Wine.
A New Grand Cru Line at Vallepicciola
As mentioned above, the Grand Cru line was officially launched at the event at Vallepicciola earlier in January. The line includes three wines, one white and two red, that will mark their premium offer of wines.
The idea of the Grand Cru wines is to still stay true to the local territory and its tradition, even if the wines themselves are more alluding to a French style.
“Here, my way of imagining wine is brought to life, and the Grandi Cru line combines all the individual elements that tell the story of the territory, the grape variety and the soul of those who produce it.”says Alessandro Cellai
The three wines of the Grand Cru line are:
- Vallepicciola 2021 IGT Toscana Bianco Chardonnay 100%,
- Vallepicciola 2020 IGT Toscana Rosso Sangiovese 100%,
- Migliore’ 2019 IGT Toscana Rosso
They are three wines where Vallepicciola wants to show the connection to the local territory, the micro-terroir, but also their aging potential. Other factors that are always important and that Alessandro Cellai underlines are the harvest time and the selection process to get the best grapes.
The vineyards for all three wines are located in the Pievasciata locality close to the estate in the Castelnuovo Berardenga area. The soil in the vineyard plots is mainly a mix of clay, limestone, and with a more gravelly presence of alberese and galestro so typical of the Chianti Classico area. The altitude is about 380-420 meters which gives the wines a certain freshness and elegance. Still, we are in the southernmost area of the Chianti Classico region where the wines, in general, have a slightly fuller character and body. I admit that this is to generalize a bit because it also depends on the micro-area and the winemaking style and much more.
The three premium wines in Vallepicciola’s Grand Cru line do indeed express the full fruit and the forest floor and herbal notes – the maquis – of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area combined with freshness and elegance. I liked the Vallepicciola 2020 IGT Toscana Rosso Sangiovese because it gives an honest expression of what Castelnuovo Berardenga is and its fermentation in cement tanks and 4 months also in big casks other than barrique gives it a local voice, less Bordeaux and more Tuscany.
All three wines are of very high quality and clearly articulate the local terroir in combination with the Bordeaux-like winemaking style.
Go find them, taste them, and tell me your thoughts!