Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S. Niccolò 2018

Every now and again I like to go off piste with my Weekend Wine, leaving behind my twin comfort zones of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley to explore less familiar pastures. Sometimes it is Sherry, sometimes Germany, and now and again the occasional bottle of Port or Madeira might even creep in. This week, however, we are looking to Italy, to check out a well-known and widely appreciated Super Tuscan from one of the region’s most highly regarded estates, Castellare di Castellina.

Castellare di Castellina, arguably one of the jewels of the Chianti landscape, was acquired in 1977 by Paolo Panerai. A successful publisher, Paolo’s biography indicates he was a contributing editor at La Nazione at the tender age of 16, before going on to edit several notable Time Life titles. He subsequently worked his way to the top, leaving his role as editor of Il Mondo in 1986 to found Class Editori. Along the way, he also studied law, all of which leaves this particular time-poor individual wondering how it is possible to squeeze all this into one lifetime?

The same year Panerai acquired the Castellina estate, his new flagship wine, I Sodi di S. Niccolò, was born. Undoubtedly cut from the Super Tuscan (remember those?) cloth, the wine is nevertheless distinctive for its blend, which has from the outset being reliant on indigenous Italian varieties, eschewing the cliché of blending in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or even Cabernet Franc. The assemblage is typically 85% Sangiovese, or Sangioveto as Paolo Panerai prefers to name it, and 15% Malvasia Nera.

Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S. Niccolò 2018

The fruit for I Sodi di S. Niccolò comes from the heart of the Castellare di Castellina estate, from a particular parcel of low-yielding vines. The bunches are is picked by hand, and current vintages are fermented in stainless steel before being racked into cement for the malolactic fermentation. Once this is complete it is racked into French oak barrels, typically 50% new and 50% second-fill, for an élevage lasting between 12 and 18 months depending on the vintage. The wine is then matured in bottle before being released. The 2018 featured here is the current vintage, having been recently released onto the Place de Bordeaux.

The wine is named for the parcel of vines from which it originates, the Vigna di Sodi (sodi translates as hand, if you’re interested), while overlooking the parcel is the 14th-century church of San Niccolò, hence I Sodi di S. Niccolò. It has established a track record of aging well, and has picked up numerous accolades over the years, particularly in the USA. In the glass the 2018 I Sodi di S. Niccolò shows a bright and modestly concentrated cherry red hue. The nose begins with a sweet and honeyed character, combining toasted redcurrant, cranberry and red cherry fruits with rather youthful sweet and caramelised oak. The palate continues in this rather embryonic style, here the concentrated berry fruit and sweet oak wrapped around a core of powdered tannins. A very primary composition which shows good raw material, good concentration, restrained fruit and nice grip, all packaged up with a sense of elegant harmony, leading into a long finish. This is undeniably of good quality, but painfully youthful, and should be left well alone in the cellar. for a decade. Or maybe two. The alcohol on the label is 14%. 93/100 (21/11/22)

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