I have tasted this particular wine, namely the I Sodi San Niccolo, Castellare di Castellina, over a few vintages now, and something is changing. While it has always shown well, I think the 2016, offered here at £235 per 6 bottle case in bond, is an absolute stand-out.
The origins of Castellare di Castellina are unusual...four separate estates (Castellare, Caselle, San Niccolo and Le Case) joined together in the 1970s with the aim of pushing quality ever higher. In fact, Castellare itself was an experimental vineyard planted in collaboration with the University of Milan and the Instituto di San Michele All’Adige. The aim was to research clones of Sangiovese and understand those that were best suited to the terroir – it became the PhD research project of Professore Scienza.
The estate is situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico district, almost equidistant between Florence to the north and Siena to the south. It is an extensive estate of 80 hectares incorporating olive groves and vineyard as is often the case in Tuscany. The vineyard, which comprises limestone marl, galestro (a type of rocky schist common to many of Tuscany’s finest vineyards) and clay soils, stretches over some 33 hectares of hillside, which form a natural south-east facing amphitheatre. I was curious to find out what the name ‘sodi’ referred too; it is a Tuscan word that locals used to describe soils that were very hard to work. Perseverance has paid off here however, as the vineyard is naturally low yielding, and now, partnered with the best clones of Sangiovese, it is delivering a remarkably stylish wine.
The 2016 is a blend of 85% Sangioveto (a synonym for Sangiovese) and 15% Malvasia Nera and it makes for a head-turning wine, showing all the ripeness you might expect of a fantastic Tuscan vintage, but none of the austerity that can typify young Sangiovese. Deep in hue, the aromatics reveal ample dark fruit, floral, scented with a complex leafy back note. The glossy deep fruit on the palate is sleek, mouth-filling and wonderfully pure with juicy blackberry, a touch of liquorice and mint and even a fruitcake-like dried fruit note. This is a remarkably refined example, yet it has a very open, seductively styled fruit. It shows the balance that can be achieved with perfectly ripe fruit and sensitive winemaking. I can’t wait to see how this evolves, but the style of the wine would not prevent the enjoyment of a bottle or two over the next couple of years. This vintage must surely place I Sodi San Niccolo on the map as currently it is under the radar as Antonio Galloni comments in his note below. Top Tuscan wines from vintages like 2015 and 2016 are being avidly followed in the market; wines like Fontodi’s Flaccianello, Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte and San Giusto a Rentennano’s Percarlo are seeing the prices move up in line with the popularity. It is heartening to still be able to pick up a lesser known wine of similar calibre at a fraction of the price...but for how long will this be the case?
2016 I Sodi San Niccolo, Castellare di Castellina
£235 per 6 bottle case in bond
98 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
Castellare's I Sodi di San Niccolò is the single most overlooked high-end wine in Tuscany today. The 2016 picks up where the 2015 left off. A rush of inky dark fruit, lavender, spice, licorice, gravel, blueberry and menthol builds as the 2016 shows off its exceptional balance and pedigree. Readers will have to be patient, as the 2016 needs a few years in bottle to fully come together. Even so, the 2016 has been nothing less than spectacular on the two occasions I have tasted it so far. In a word: monumental. Drink: 2026-2041.
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