The super-Tuscan was once a much ballyhooed beast. The most famous wines still command very high prices of $150-$300 a bottle (see Solaia, Ornelleia, Sassicaia). The success of these wines led to massive proliferation to the point of market saturation and consumer confusion. Now there are so many choices it is hard for most to distinguish between the decent, though not exciting wines, and the outstanding ones. There has also been considerable backlash to bordeaux varieties, with several writers and wine-makers professing disinterest in the wines compared to the Sangiovese wonders of Chianti Classico and Montalcino. Fortunately for the savvy drinker, this means that there are a number of very reasonably priced bordeaux variety super-Tuscan wines of distinction that largely go underappreciated by all except the most in-the-know. One of these wineries is Il Carnasciale.
Painstaking Dedication to a Singular Grape
Il Carnasciale is famous for being the only site in Italy that has plantings of a cross-breed of Cabernet Franc and Merlot called “Caberlot”, which was discovered in the Veneto in the 1960’s by agronomist Remigio Bordini. The winery’s top wine – Il Caberlot – is sold in very limited quantities and only in magnums. It is a cult-wine for wine lovers rather than status seekers. And given its quality, even the $250 USD price tag for the magnum is quite reasonable.
Il Carnasciale also makes a second, less prestigious wine from Caberlot: the “Carnasciale”. But the reduced prestige leads to extremely high quality for a very reasonable price. It is made with young vines from the estate vineyards.
Plantings are dense at Il Carnasciale – 10,000 vines per hectare – and elevations relatively high at around 400 metres above sea level (there are three vineyards, each at different altitudes). Total plantings are a mere 5 acres.
There was a recent discussion on twitter as part of a #bcwinechat about whether there is any qualitative difference between machine and hand harvesting. Well, Il Carnasciale certainly believes hand picking is superior as they perform several passes in the vineyard, hand selecting only the individual berries that they feel are ready. Clearly machines could not take this approach!
Primary fermentation takes place in stainless steel and malo-lactic in barrel (70% new). The wines then age for 22 months in barrel. Vinification is painstaking as the grapes from each pass in the vineyard are fermented and aged separately. The second wine “Carnasciale” is bottled and released 6 months later.
Those who seek a classic take on Bordeaux varieties will feel very at home. This is aromatic, elegant, focused classicism. Scented, singed herbs, crushed blackberry, white pepper, spices, cherry, and raspberry: this is complex wine, especially so for young vines. Elegant, complete, and long, the wine opens beautifully with air, suggesting a decade of age-worthiness. Who says Bordeaux varieties don’t belong in Tuscany? This is beautiful wine with a distinct personality and obvious nobility. A rare bargain for the quality and a one-of-a-kind experience with the distinct “Caberlot” grape. Drink now after decanting for an hour.
Excellent to Excellent+
$70 at Marquis Wine Cellars