After a wonderful dinner with Andrea Cecchi, the following day we left Colle Val d’Elsa and headed back to the Cecchi Winery in Castellina in Chianti where we met Chiara Bellacci, the then hospitality manager who quickly whisked us off to a tour of the winery and the vineyards with Alessandro, the vineyard manager.
Despite my efforts during my European Tour Guide days to become at least minimally conversant in Italian, about all I can accomplish in Italian is getting a vague sense of the location of the local train station and order a spaghetti carbonara and a bottle of wine (white or red—yeah, pretty versatile). I am pretty sure that Alessandro’s English was even worse than my Italian, though, which is why it was extremely beneficial that Chiara stayed with us for the tour.
While Cecchi has not been producing wine for all that long (at least by European standards), the company has grown to a formidable size (9 million bottles—750k cases), and exerts considerable influence in the region.
In the late 80’s Cecchi was one of five producers who participated in the Chianti Classico 2000 Project, which, among other goals (including examining the vinification process to improve aging potential), sought to identify the best clones of Sangiovese for the various terroirs within the appellation. (Up until the conclusion of the 16-year study, many growers had no idea what clones were planted on their property, often resulting in misplanted vines that produced harsh versions of Sangiovese, necessitating blending with international varieties to render the wine drinkable). The study identified twenty different clones in Tuscany and Cecchi planted all twenty at Villa Cerna to determine which clones performed best.
As we drove through first Villa Cerna and the Villa Rosa, Alessandro pointed out the various soil types on the two properties, most either predominantly clay or rock. The difference according to Allessandro? Clay is more challenging as you have to anticipate nature and be proactive, while on rocky soils you have to be more patient and allow nature to do her job.
Although I could have ridden around the Tuscan countryside all day with Alessandro, he apparently did not have the same idea—he had work to do. Chiara also mentioned that the senior winemaker at Cecchi, Miria Bracali, was waiting for us back at the winery for a tasting.
Chiara led me into the reception area where Miria was waiting.
Is it stereotyping to say “’Only in Italy’ would the winemaker arrive in a stunning white dress and high heels and then go into the cellar for a barrel tasting”?
2015 Villa Rosa Sangiovese: from the il Paggione Vineyard from barriques. Great fruit and acidity with soft but ample tannins. This is going to be incredible. Outstanding. 91-95 Points.
2015 Villa Rosa Sangiovese: (Barrel) from Campagne vineyard. In Barrique. Fruitier and perhaps less acidic. Rounder and seemingly more ready. Outstanding. 89-93 Points.
2015 Villa Cerna Sangiovese: (Barrel) for the Coevo from the Solare vineyard and this is farmed organically. Big fruit. Muscular and powerful. Might be a favorite. Outstanding. 92-96 Points.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon: (Barrel) from the La Gavina vineyard. The same wine that we had last night (although it was 1989) a bit green on the nose but nice on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-92 Points.
We then returned to the tasting room to go through most of Cecchi’s line-up:
2015 La Mora Vermentino: 10% Sauvignon Blanc. According to Miria, “Vermentino wants to stay by the sea” which is why this comes from the Maremma region. Aromatic and fresh. A bit light in acidity for me but excellent flavors. Very Good 87-89 Points.
2015 La Mora Morellino di Scansano: Retail $18. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot. Red fruit with tobacco. Fruity and delightful with a hint of backbone. This is a wine for now. And it’s very nice. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2011 La Mora Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG: Retail $35. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Bigger wine than the standard, and a more serious wine for sure. Might need even more time. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Cecchi Astoria de Famiglia Chianti Classico: Retail $14. 100% Sangiovese. Cherry and tobacco. Biggest production (1 million bottles). Solid representation of the region. This is one of my favorite wines right now in this price range. Very Good 87-89 Points.
2013 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia: Retail $35. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino. A bit of Brett here. Earthy forrest floor. I don’t mind a bit of Brett and this is a perfect example. Juicy and compelling. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Cecchi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Retail $30. 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino. While Cecchi does not have an estate in Montepulciano, they have been producing this wine since 1972 with same producers. Classic expression. 200k bottles. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 Val Delle Rose Aurelio Maremma Toscana DOC: Retail $35. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Named after the road that runs from Rome up to the vineyards. Great Merlot nose with just a touch of greenness. On the palate very nice. One of the better Merlots I’ve had from Italy. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva: Retail $30. Joyful fruity nose accompanied by serious earth. Rich and unctuous now but this will only improve. And that’s a scary thought. Might deserve a whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
While Cesare and Andrea’s father, Luigi, ran the winery, they produced a wine called Spargola, but once Luigi died, part of the vineyard that went to the wine stopped producing. The brothers decided that they would not continue the wine; instead, they developed Coevo, which they started in 2006 when they took over the winery.
The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from Chianti Classico and Merlot and Petit Verdot from Maremma.
2011 Cecchi Coevo: Retail $80. 50% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Petit Verdot. The word “coevo” means “contemporary” but it also means “time and place.” Whoa. The nose is certainly tight. But the palate is not. Ok. Another whoa. Rich without being unctuous. Fruity without being a bomb. And depth. Lots of depth. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
After an incredible 24 hours in the wonderful care of the Cecchi family, it was finally time to bid “arrivederci” and hop in the car, headed back up to the Veneto. As we strolled to the car, bottle of Coevo in hand, we marveled at how incredibly hospitable the entire Cecchi team had been.
We also were astonished that Miria did not get a single drop of red wine on that dress.