Castello di Querceto is a Tuscan estate based close to the town of Greve in Chianti. It’s vineyards are some of the highest in the area at 470 metres above sea level, with 60 hectares of vines and a small olive grove. The Castello also includes attractive holiday apartments, which have been sympathetically restored.The François family own Castello di Querceto, having settled in Tuscany in the 18th century from their French homeland. The castle, erected as a lookout point, helped defend the area. Today it is encircled by forests and still preserves its medieval appearance. At the beginning of the 20th century, Carlo François transformed the property from a country residence into an agricultural estate, and by 1924 it was one of the 33 estates that founded the Chianti Classico Consortium.
Most of the vineyards were planted between 1975 and 1985, with classical Chiant grape varieties Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, Mammolo, Ciliegiolo and Malvasia Nera. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot are also planted, making a range of ‘IGT’ (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines. For the estate’s small production of white wines the traditional Malvasia and Trebbiano are complemented by Chardonnay. The cellar below the castle contains French barriques of Alliers, Tronçais and Limousin oak, which are used for the maturation of IGT wines and the Chianti Classico Riserva. There are also facilities for the production of Vinsanto and of olive oil. The estate is unusual for the area in that having studied the microclimatic and physical aspects of the individual vineyards on the estate, Alessandro François has adopted a poilicy of vinifying each one separately, and concentrating production on single-vineyard ‘crus’ that he feels express the different character of the sites.
As a result and for many years now, Castello di Querceto has been producing four wines, in addition to Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, that they refer to as ‘selections’ or ‘crus’. The grapes are grown in specifically selected vineyards and harvested and vinified separately, each tuned to maximising the qualities of the vineyard. Castello di Querceto sent me over the complete set of four ‘crus’ plus the Chianti Classico Riserva ‘Picchio’, also a single-vineyard wine, all from the 2004 vintage.
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Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Picchio 2004
From a single vineyard planted in 1983, Il Picchio, this Chianti Classico Reserva is around 92% Sangiovese and spends 12 months in barriques. It has a deep ruby/crimson colour, and a nose that’s immediately perfumed and seductive, with graphite and smoky tobacco, but very tight and glossy red fruits too. On the palate this is lean and savoury, with lithe, sinewy tannins and acidity perhaps just overpowering the fruit a little. It is focused and composed, with a dried cherry fruit quality, but just a touch more flesh on its bones would have been preferred. 88/100. Around £20, see stockists on wine-searcher.com
Castello di Querceto La Corte 2004
From the Colli della Toscana Centrale, this 100% Sangiovese wine is aged 12 months in barrique and comes from a vineyard planted in 1973. Ithas a very dark, almost opaque ruby colour, and a tight, floral-tinged nose of dark cherry fruit with real intensity. There are touches of cedar and lead pencil. This strikes the palate with authority, the sweet-edged red and black fruit flavours edged with spice and leather, and a grippy spine of sinewy tannin adding lots of tension and dry, uncompromising muscle. The balance is good, with fine acidity coming in to play, but this is another savoury style of concentrated wine that needs food. 90/100. Around £20, see stockists on wine-searcher.com
Castello di Querceto Il Sole di Alessandro 2004
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Greve in Chianti, this is harvested with a yield of only 50 hectolitres per hectare, and spends around 20 – 24 months in French oak barriques. It has a deep but bright crimson colour, and an immediately concentrated and dense nose with notes of cedar wood and svelte black fruit, but all very tightly-wound and muscular. On the palate there’s a cool, crisp edge to slightly gamy and minty black fruit, before a rush of acidity and tight, focused tannins add spine and a taut precision. The acidity leaves the finish tingling and fresh, in a powerful wine that marries good fruit to a fresh, fairly lean character. 91/100. Around £30, see stockists on wine-searcher.com
Castello di Querceto Il Querciolaia 2004
A single vineyard wine planted in 1981 produces the Sangiovese (65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) in this blend, which spends 18 – 20 months in barrique. The wine has a dark, ruby colour and a beautifully fragrant nose, where hints of game and damp woodland meld into ripe black fruit, with little exotic hints of violet and Sandalwood. On the palate that slightly gamy, animal edge persists, but the quality of the fruit is excellent. There’s a ripeness on the mid-palate here, and just a fleshy richness that holds up well as lean, sinewy tannins and freshening acidity begin to push through. This finishes with tang and bite, but the lingering fruit and a mellowing oak quality buffer it nicely. Lovely stuff this. 92/100. Around £30, see stockists on wine-searcher.com
Castello di Querceto Cignale 2004
This blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Merlot comes from vineyards in the Greve in Chianti zone which were planted in 1981 and which are harvested at low yields. The wine is aged in barrique for 20 – 24 months. It has a very deep, solid ruby colour, and a very refined nose of sweet, earthy tones and rich black fruit. There’s a hint of exotic Sandalwood and classy pencil-shaving notes, even just a hint of gaminess in a beguiling, complex profile. On the palate this is pure and linear, with a taut, sinewy muscularity to the tight black fruit, but softening edges of plum and cedar. The acidity is precise and along with crisp, fine tannins adds a certain grippy austerity to the finish that suggests maybe a year or two more in the cellar would benefit this wine. 91/100. Around £30, see stockists on wine-searcher.com