Friday, January 25, 2013

Visiting Casanova di Neri Winery – Home of Award Winning Brunellos

Jan. 7, 2013 - Our appointment at Casanova di Neri Winery wasn’t until 3:30, so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Montalcino without being rushed. However, we ended up being late for our appointment because as the bus was heading down the hill towards the winery, we encountered a funeral procession with a priest and a cop leading it. The cop refused to let us pass, so we had to follow the procession for 20 minutes until they finally turned in the opposite direction.

Viticulture Practices at Casanova di Neri

Pier Luigi met us at the winery door and immediately led us across the street into one of their vineyards. He explained that this sangiovese vineyard was primarily clay based with 8 x 3 feet spacing, VPS cordon and around 7000 vines per hectare. However, their famous Cerretalto vineyard, planted in 1961 was on wider spacing with around 5000 vines per hectare and more gravely soil.

They are using sustainable winegrowing practices with no irrigation. He explained that recently they were “doing less” in the vineyard in terms of suckering, deleafing and green harvest as part of a new philosophy and in response to global warming. He mentioned that there is a big difference in day/night temperatures in Montalcino, with much cooler nights, which helps maintain grape quality.

While we were there, a large tractor was plowing a hillside close to the winery in order to plant more wheat. Pier Luigi explained that in Tuscany they believe in agriculture diversity, and that most wineries have 4 types of crops: vineyards, olive oil, wheat, and forest. He gestured to the surrounding countryside, and it was then that I realized that this practice was what created the beautiful checkerboard landscape of Tuscany with the tall cypress trees to delineate the fields and surround houses.

Winemaking Practices at Casanova di Neri

The Casanova di Neri Winery is a state-of-the-art gravity flow building buried in a hillside so you don’t even see it when you arrive at the small farmhouse that serves as winery visitor center. They produce around 18,000 cases per year. The process starts with sorting tables and destemmer on top, then grapes are gently transported to stainless steel tanks on the next level where they undergo fermentation for 24 days with average temperature of 25 to 29 C and punch down 2 to 6 times, depending on the vintage. Brix is usually 24 to 26 at harvest resulting in a 14.5% alcohol.

After fermentation only the free run juice is using for Brunello with the pressed juice going into other wines. They age in 10 to 30% new French and Slavonian oak, racking 2 to 3 times in first year but not in the second year. They try not to filter, but may fine. Total SO2 is 70. The blend is assembled and married in tank for 10-14 days before bottling. Pier Luigi said they export 50% of their wine, with the as USA their number one export market at 15% of production.

Tasting the 2007 Brunello

Back in the tasting room, Pier Luigi opened two bottles of the 2007 Brunello Casanova di Neri for us to taste. He said all of the grapes came from the vineyard across the street that we had visited. Both 2006 and 2007 were excellent vintages in Montalcino with the 2007 being bigger and fruiter, whereas the 2006 is known for more elegance.

The wine we tasted had a magnificent nose with dried cherry, spice, and dark berry notes. The tannins were huge, but it was still well-balanced with strong fruit, good acidity and well integrated oak. Excellent intensity and concentration of flavors with longing aging potential.

Pier Luigi suggested that this wine would be best in 2017, because ideally Brunello should be aged 10 years before drinking. Before we left, most of us purchased a bottle of two of Brunello, before heading to our second winery of the day.

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