Tuesday, July 15, 2014
|View up towards Montalcino from Casanova di Neri|
In hindsight it was clearly a nod to a producer leading a renaissance in winemaking in Montalcino. Wine Spectator wanted to feature them because they took a traditionally well-regarded region to the next level by applying contemporary winemaking techniques to make wines that compete at the very highest level on the world stage.
|Casanova di Neri in Montalcino, Italy|
From Antonio Galloni's Vinous Media:
Montalcino, like most of Tuscany, is fairly insular and cut off from easy access to major cities and other regions. I see an alarming lack of intellectual curiosity about the world’s great wines among many of Montalcino’s producers. To be fair, this critique is not limited to growers in Montalcino, but also applies to producers in many other regions throughout Italy. How many winemakers truly love wine?
|Their tasting room was one of the more public we visited in Tuscany|
I bought the 2006 immediately after tasting the 2005 at Wine Spectator's Grand Tour Boston. What impressed me about this bottling was that in good vintages it was great. In great vintages it was amazing.
So when I was trying to decide which wineries to reach out to for a visit on a recent trip to Tuscany Casanova di Neri was at the top of the list.
Casanova di Neri was founded in 1971 by Giovanni Neri then passed on to his son Giacomo in 1991. Their flagship wines are their Brunello di Montalcino (~$51) and Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova (~$80). Like all Brunello, these wines are 100% Sangiovese grown near the town of Montalcino.
For some reason I've always thought Italian wineries had a much longer history than Napa wineries. Vineyards in Italy are indeed very old but in reality the history of high quality Brunello production, with the exception of a few producers, isn't tremendously long. In the 1970s there were about 30 Brunello producers. Now there are more than 200. Just like in Napa/Sonoma many of the best producers weren't in existence 50 years ago.
I emailed the winery inquiring about a visit and Giacamo quickly responded. After a beautiful drive down from our villa about an hour north we arrived for a morning visit and tasting. Giacomo greeted us an introduced us to his son GianLorenzo who would be our guide.
|Gravity feed winery established in 1999|
The Casanova di Neri story is an evolution of winemaking styles.
To this day, the classic Casanova di Neri Brunello (~$50) embraces a traditional style. We taseted the 2009 at the winery then again later that night at our villa after buying a bottle at the supermarket. It's aged in very large (10,000 liter) neutral oak barrels for 45 months. The 2009 shows pretty red fruit. Cloves. It's light in color and elegant.
|Classic Brunello aging in large ~10,000L barrels|
|Tenuta Nuova aging in small ~200L barriques like you'd find in Napa|
|Tenuta Nuova: A spectacular Brunello made in a modern style|
Conclusion and Recommendations
If, like me, you're more of a new world wine enthusiast but you're interested in expanding your palate to embrace traditional old world regions, one way to ease the transition is to explore modern producers. To visit Casanova di Neri is take in the story of a family whose roots are firmly planted in Montalcino producing wines known on the world stage by applying the best modern winemaking techniques.
Their Tenuta Nuova is a wine you have to taste. And it's especially interesting to compare it to their more traditionally made classic Brunello.
Look for it on Wine-Searcher
Their tasting room open to the public and right along one of the main roads that leads up to Montalcino, but call or email ahead for an appointment.
Check 'em out:
A visit to a modern producer like Casanova di Neri provided a perfect comparison point to the more traditional La Gerla later that afternoon.
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