Just the other week I sat down for lunch and chatted with Beatrice Contini Bonacossi of the Carmignano-based estate Capezzanna. We talked about history, art, olives, and, of course, wine.
Carmignano is a small region northwest of Chianti Classico that made Super Tuscans before the term was ever coined. The region has its own distinctive tradition of viticulture dating back to 804 A.D.
Then in the late 1600s, Catherine de Medici imported Cabernet Sauvignon vines, which has shaped the style of the wines to this day. Carmignano DOCG is unique because it explicitly requires Cabernet Sauvignon to be included in the blend.
In addition to its red wines, Carmignano is known for white wines labelled Trebbiano Toscana and the classic Tuscan dessert wine Vin Santo.
The Capezzana estate was founded in the 1400s and it has passed through several owners in its several hundred years of history. It is currently owned by the Bonacossi Family.
Alessandro and Vittoria Contini Bonacossi were something of a 1920’s power couple. They were ascendant in the art world and well-known as art dealers. His wife, Vittoria, had a discerning and cultivated an exceptional personal collection. Their legacy as art lovers is well represented at Capezzanna, with paintings and sculptures sprinkled throughout the villa. A portion of their art collection is housed in the Uffizi.
Vittoria was also passionate about wine and fell in love with Villa Capezzanna during a visit. They purchased the property in 1920. The property was a collection of hundreds of acres of land under vine and small poderis worked by sharecroppers. After WWII, Ugo Bonacossi shifted the property from its old style of sharecropping into a single winemaking estate as it is today.
Beatrice along with her siblings, Filippo, and Benedetta, and niece and nephew Gaddo and Serena, run the estate. The sprawling estate includes includes a nine room bed and breakfast, the winery, and an olive grove and oil pressing operation. We were fortunate to taste a delicious olive oil that Beatrice brought fresh from the press last week. The oil is made from the Moraiolo and Frantoio varieties which are known for their fruity and spicy flavour profile.
The vineyards and olive groves have been farmed organically since the early 2000s and have been certified organic since 2015. They emphasize rebuilding the soil’s nutrients and practice low tillage viticulture. The health of the soil is understood as inextricably tied to the wine’s ability to communicate a sense of place.
Benedetta is the winemaker who pulls together the story of their vineyards in bottle. Each of the wines we taste is distinctive. The care she takes in creating them comes across clearly. As we tasted through the lineup, Beatrice shared tidbits that animate the backstory of the wines and the vineyards they come from.
I have included the tidbits of lore that stuck with me for each of the wines described below.
2021 Trebbiano di Capezzanna IGT
They have a unique pink clone of Trebbiano Toscana that is used for this wine. The oldest plantings in the vineyard date to 1955. Essentially a late harvest with the grapes picked late as possible to allow for full flavour development. The wine is finished dry. Benedetta has aged this in acacia wood barrels, adding texture without interfering with the grape’s natural flavours.
Tart lime, green apple, and lime blossom aromas. The palate is lip-smacking lemon and crunchy fleur de sel. The finish has a touch of grip and a pithy lemon note. This wine breaks away from Trebbiano’s reputation for being a simple wine.
2019 Barco Reale di Carmagnano DOC
Barco Reale references the walled hunting reserve of the medieval Medici family.
Weeknight Sangiovese-based wine with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and a pinch of Cabernet Franc and Canaiolo. No wood aging here. Purity of fruit and savoury herbs. Juicy cran-cherry and black currant flavours mingled with tomato leaf and bay leaf. Sticky cheek-pinching tannins.
2017 Villa de Capezzana DOCG
This is assembled from the 15-20-year-old vines from their best vineyards. A mix of aging in smaller barrique and larger oak tonneaux.
The wine is delicious. A little bit of age is everything this wine needed to shine. Inviting nose of sweet red cherry, red currant, blackberry, sundried tomato, orange oil and spice box. The palate is similarly a push-pull of fruit, spice and earthy flavours. The tannins are mouthcoating and grippy. Needs food.
2019 Villa de Capezzana DOCG
Same blend as above. This vintage has a darker fruit profile. I’m glad to have tasted the 2017 first. The wine is sure to gain in deliciousness, but it’s a bit muted for now. More blackberry, Fig Newton, and brown sugar. The tannins are big and brash. I’d let it be for a bit, or drink after decanting.
2018 Trefiano Carmignano DOCG Riserva
The first single vineyard bottling they started making in 1979. Trefiano is only made in the best vintages. The vineyard is cooler as it is more exposed to the cold winds coming off the Apennine mountains to the north. A mix of four vineyard soils provides complexity in flavour and texture.
The wine is clearly complex but stoic. Dark black fruit, intense minerality, and a heavy dose of leather, spice and savoury herbs on the palate. Structurally the wine is big. Tannins with a capital T. The wine needs time, but there’s no mistaking its subtlety for simplicity.
2018 Ugo Contini Bonacossi IGT
100% Sangiovese from the single vineyard, ‘Viticciana .’ This wine is named after their father, who was particularly attached to this vineyard. Ugo had to baby this vineyard through a drought soon after planting, hand watering the vines to keep them going. They debuted this single vineyard bottling in 2013 to honour Ugo, who passed in 2012. The logo is drawn from a sigil adorning their parents’ silver wedding cups.
I find this stunning. There is something about varietal Sangiovese from exceptional sites that can’t be surpassed for me. This wine is on par with the best of Brunello and at a better price. Aromatic, roses, ripe morello cherry, orange zest, henna paste. Fine-grained persistent tannins.
2015 Vin Santo di Carmignano
Made almost entirely from their distinct pink clone of Trebbiano Toscana. Harvested early to preserve a bright acidity through the six-month drying process. Aged in traditional small caratelli barrels made from chestnut and cherry wood. The chestnut adds a bitter component to balance out the intense sweetness of the wine. The caratelli are only filled two-thirds full, leaving the wines to gain a nutty note from the oxygen-rich aging environment. The vin santo is the apple of Benedetta’s eye.
The wine is nectar in the glass. It’s lighter on the palate than its level of sugar implies. Bitter orange marmalade, poached pears and burnt sugar caramels. This wine feels like sinking into a worn leather chair. So tasty and so sweet, but it doesn’t suffocate my palate. Even better with the candied citrus and pistachio cannoli served alongside.