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12th October 2022

I Sodi di S. Niccolò Castellare 2018

The Tuscan Supertuscan

This wine has a long and impeccable pedigree. From Castellare di Castellina, a winery which farms around 80 hectares in the heart of Chianti Classico.
The varietal mix is 85% Sangioveto and 15% Malvasia Nera, and the wine is aged in oak for 24 months and a similar further period in bottle before sale, making the 2018 the current release.
These vineyards, and this blend, could be marketed as Chianti Classico (and Riserva), although because it is not 100% Sangiovese not as the new category of Gran Selezione. But Castellare designate it simply as an IGT (Indication Geografica Tipica) Toscana. This is because of the particular vineyard's heritage ("Sodi" means hard, and is in reference to the rocky nature of the particular soil around the chapel of St Niccolò on the property). After the estate changed hands in the 1970s, this vineyard was planted with a particular clone of Sangiovese - Sangioveto, and Malvasia Nera as being truly representative of Tuscany, but because of the very low yields, use of French oak, and supreme quality the wine just did not taste like Chianti, and so it became its own wine. The Tuscan Supertuscan.
Every year the labels of Castellare feature an illustration of a particular bird, often an endangered one, as a symbol of the estate's respect for nature and its entirely organic approach. This year it is the Crociere Fasciato or Two-barred Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) is a particularly attractively coloured member of the finch family.
I have long been a fan of this wine, and the 2018 vintage continues a fine tradition.


The beguiling aroma takes several minutes to unfold in the glass. If begins with dried herbs and spices, a hint of tea and some rose-hip. Neither old not young smelling at first. After some time with the air the dark prune and soft cherry fruit aromas begin to emerge. It’s not savoury - although you suspect it will become so with the bottle age it deserves - but it has a sweet-earthiness and somehow definitely carries its stamp of Italianate Tuscan-ness.
There is plenty of supporting oak with cedar and just a hint of coffee and clove, but the wine’s aroma majors on elegance and depth rather than forwardness or opulence. In the mouth, however, is a somewhat different story as the wine does carry a profound opulence of flavour with sweetness to the tannins and juiciness to the fruit. It has the palate coating complexity of greatness and a healthy amount of tannin (although even at this age remains curiously approachable). The acidity is very fresh and Italian in nature and structure.
On the palate the flavours of subtle black fruit are interwoven with clove, prune, spices, and smoke. There’s a hot-stone mineral nature too, but despite this the wine has no heat of the vintage or unbalanced alcohol (it is 14%), everything is very well balanced and in check. Already the beginnings of a velvet-smooth mouth-filling texture are here, but the flavours and tannins suggest the wine will happily repay several decades of ageing. The finish is very long and smooth with palate-coating beeswax and dried fruit to accompany the herbs, minerals and smoke. Complete and delicious. 95


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