Somewhat under the radar given its quality, Castello di Vicarello is the premium red wine from the Maremma Toscana estate of the same name, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. First made in 2004, Peter Dean got a rare chance to taste a vertical of the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 vintages with the percentages of the varieties never changing and the vineyard planted to the exact same proportions as the blend in the ancient Tuscan albarello training system.
“Wow! Really attractive nose, vivacious and elegant, impressive structure with the concentration of the fruit beautifully framed by the acidity and fine, velvet tannins. Massive length. A stunner,” writes Dean of the Castello di Vicarello 2013.
The Maremma Toscana wine region has become increasingly fashionable, especially in the ten years since it was elevated from IGT status to DOC. Like many Italian appellations that have gained elevated status the emphasis has been on varietal wines, with a few key estates creating a halo effect on the region, in the Maremma’s case Fattoria Le Pupille with its Bordeaux blend Saffredi.
I had the recent pleasure of trying another Bordeaux blend from the region, a vertical of Castello di Vicarello’s flagship wine of the same name across six of their best vintages. This is a small estate that makes four wines from its 7ha of vines, all IGT, with the business also focused on its beautiful boutique hotel. The estate is based around a small borgo dating back to the 12th century which has been restored by the owners Carlo and Aurora Baccheschi Berti, its three vineyards similarly keep a foot in the past, planting density high vines in the traditional Tuscan albarello system, as well as classic cordon-trained.
The wines are Santaurora, a rosé made from 100% Malbec (1,500 bottles), Merah, a 100% Sangiovese (7,500 bottles) , Terre di Vico a SuperTuscan blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Merlot (6,500 bottles) and Castello di Vicarello which is the estate’s premium wine – a blend of 45% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot (3,500 bottles)
The vines were planted in 2000 and 2002 in the same proportion as the blend in the final wine and these never change, hence considerable vintage variation. The estate is run by Carlo and Aurora’s three sons and the winemaker is Maurizio Saettini. Apart from the domestic market the wine is available in the UK through Fortyfive10, while the New York importer is currently being changed.
Generally speaking Castello di Vicarello is an impressive, premium Bordeaux blend that delivers an abundance of lush black fruit with layers of complexity, underpinned by considerable acidity that owes its presence to organic viticultural practices and the power of the soil.
So how were the wines tasting?
Castello di Vicarello 2006, IGT Toscana
A good growing season in the Maremma, marked by slightly higher-than-average but not excessive day and night-time temperatures. Rainfall was abundant in the spring but lacking in the summer and fall. Overall, an impressive, balanced year, which produced supple wines with generous tannins and normal acidities.
Deep cherry red; bouquet is fresh and bright, mint and lifted eucalyptus, blackberries; medium bodied, fine-grained, ripe tannins, a nice energy to the wine, a vibrant acidity keeping the mouth fresh and the wine balanced. Secondary notes coming through on the palate, touch of lambs blood, nicely evolved, drink now. 13% abv.
Castello di Vicarello 2007, IGT Toscana
Winter and spring saw above-average temperatures but little rainfall, followed by a cool, rainy June that brought vine-growth back into balance. July and August gifted fine weather, with cool nights that kept acids high and resulted in ripe phenolics and regular alcohol. A memorable vintage, with broad, deep wines with dense, ripe tannins, and impressive acidic grip bolstering firm structures.
Deep cherry-ruby red; nose feels more evolved, intense, concentrated and ripe, fig confiture, damp underbrush, bit of brett? Rich, intense, structured, fresh fruit and freshness trying to break out but it’s disjointed and not showing well there’s a minor fault here I believe. 13% abv.
Castello di Vicarello 2009, IGT Toscana
A mild, rainy winter re-filled groundwater reserves. May was quite hot, boosting phenolic levels, but cool, rainy weather in June re-balanced vine development. Dry, hot weather returned in July and August and lasted until the first third of September, when a few rain spells assisted completion of the ripening cycle. The wines exhibit high alcohols and impressive volume.
Gorgeous shade of cherry red; again that lovely minty eucalyptus lift, more in the background but still adding a degree of freshness, aromas dominated by the cassis, dark chocolate, nice degree of complexity with sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, fig, cheese note; Medium weight, silky smooth, nice fine-grained texture, ripe sandy tannins, lovely balance with that keen acidity, blood orange zest and saltiness counterpointing with the dark chocolate notes on the finish. Delicious. 14.5% abv.
Castello di Vicarello 2011, IGT Toscana
A mild, rainy winter was followed by an early spring and distinctly above-average temperatures, which returned in August, with two heat waves in mid-month; ample ground-water reserves, however, allowed the vines to cope. Harvest arrived early, and yields were low. The wines are forceful and tannin-rich.
Medium ruby red; powerful yet finessed bouquet, black cherries, dark earth, pepper; feeling the Cabernet Franc more on the nose in this vintage, broody, slight restraint, not showing its full colours yet; full-bodied, intense, concentrated, hugely powerful wine and really juicy, big in the mouth and full of muscular power – not angular but a real force. Still got the acidity to allow it to age for longer, but tempting to drink now with a sliced, bloody steak. Feels like a Californian Bordeaux blend on the nose, but has this wonderful mineral-like acidity that is coming from the Maremma soil. 15% abv.
Castello di Vicarello 2013, IGT Toscana
The growing season was quite cooler than the two previous years. Rainfall marked both winter and early spring, but they were followed by a classic Mediterranean summer with days rarely above 30oC, cool, crisp nights, and summer rainstorms in August. September was cool, and easterly winds kept fungal attacks at bay. Ripeness levels were ideal in late October, and the harvest brought in fruit of phenomenal quality.
Light red cherry-ruby; Wow! Really attractive nose, feels most in synch with itself, vivacious and elegant, lovely mix of red and black fruit – blackberries, strawberries – hint of bay leaf, charcoal; medium weight, ripe and full of red fruit, red plum, redcurrant edge, impressive structure with the concentration of the fruit beautifully framed by the acidity and fine, velvet tannins. Massive length. A stunner. 14% abv
Castello di Vicarello 2015, IGT Toscana
Considered one of the vintages of the century. Winter and spring were mild, with plenty of well-spaced rainfall, which built up groundwater reserves. Summer was hot and dry, with hot day-time temperatures, but water reserves allowed the vines to cope well, with the result that they yielded remarkably high-quality wines of impressive depth, with ripe, velvety tannins. The vintage’s considerable warmth was balanced by hefty acidities.
Medium bright ruby red; less complex nose, feels more youthful but no less attractive, sandalwood and leather join the black and red cherry, dried flowers, hint of incense; medium-full weight mouthfeel, the fine-grained, ripe tannins are clearly more youthful; rich, intense, structured but kept bright and lively with a zesty, blue plum-skin lightness to it. Be good to see how this ages. 14% abv
I don’t believe in scoring wines but in order of preference I would list these 6:
2013, 2009, 2015, 2006, 2011, 2007