Tenuta Cantagallo, bishop of Chianti Montalbano Docg

Author: Marco Negro

­­Sentieri di Vino, the training project on Italian autochthonous wines, now examines one of the smallest sub-areas of the  Chianti Docg. But what is a subzone? In the case of some Docg wines, the law allows to indicate a smaller and delimited area from which the grapes come. In the case of Chianti Docg there are 7 sub-areas, including Chianti Montalbano Docg (the others are: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Rufina, Montespertoli, Colline Senesi). Talking about Italian autochthonous wines also includes analyzing the subzones of famous Docg production areas. Deepening the knowledge of the landscape of the Chianti Montalbano Docg will show the profound effect of the terroir element on wines.

The term terroir has a French origin; towards the end of the seventh century it used to indicate “the land considered from the point of view of one’s agricultural aptitudes”. In contemporary times, this French word continues to be used in all the languages when talking about wine. In no other language in the world does exist a single term that manages to synthesize such a complex concept.

Using terroir we mean a combination consolidated over time of different factors, such as the composition of the soil, altitude, exposure to the sun, the microclimate, genetic diversity, cultivation practices, traditional winemaking techniques and refinement, which interact with each other to create immediately recognizable distinctive features.

Talking about terroir therefore means recognizing an area in which the collective knowledge of the interactions between physical and biological characteristics of the environment allows its evolution through the application of cultivation practices. This interaction creates distinctive characteristics for the products yielded in this area.

The territory of the Chianti Montalbano Docg

We have an appointment for our examination in depth with Dario and Enrico Pierazzuoli, owners of Tenuta Cantagallo winery. They cultivate about 30 hectares of vineyards, their production of Chianti Montalbano Docg represents about 40% of the entire production of this sub-area. As we reach the headquarters of their cellar, the great difference in landscape with respect to the more classic areas of Chianti appears immediately clear: instead of monoculture (vineyards as far as the eye can see) woods, vineyards and olive groves alternate here. Biodiversity enriches a territory, starting from aesthetic beauty.

We finally meet Dario Pierazzuoli, co-owner with his brother Enrico of Tenuta Cantagallo winery. The company consists of approximately 200 hectares, of which 140 planted with natural forest, 30 of olive groves and 30 of vineyards. Dario leads us to visit the vineyards, in order to show us first of all the large green lung of the forest; the vineyard ends where the forest begins. It is an immense woods of thousands of hectares, mainly formed by oak and chestnut trees, alternating with Mediterranean bushes. That forest is mainly responsible for the microclimate of these hills and, consequently, for the uniqueness of the wines that come from this sub-area: the Chianti Montalbano Docg. This is the reason why we include this visit in the course of in-depth study on Italian autochthonous wines: we will demonstrate how the Sangiovese grape can develop different wines, depending on the different soils and microclimate in which the vineyards grow.

The forest, with its immense green area, acts as a thermoregulator. Even in the hottest summers, the vineyards on the slopes of Montalbano – all facing south – do not go into water stress. Dario defines the forest as “our personal conditioner” and it is true: on some summer mornings the leaves are even wet, with a light dew. While in many areas of the Chianti Classico Docg vineyards have recently been experiencing water stress problems (in that situation, the tannin maturation stops and leaves wines with herbaceous, aggressive tannins) in Montalbano subzone of Chianti this does not happen, so the tannins complete a perfect ripening, resulting instantly soft.

galestro the typical soil in Montalbano

Again thanks to the woods, the temperature range between day and night is very high; in summer night temperature drops by 12-14 ° C compared to the day. On summer evenings, Marino, a wind that comes from the sea  (about 40 km away here), is almost always blowing. During the ripening period, if days are sunny, the temperature difference between day and night can reach 18 ° C. These are the ideal conditions for the development of the most delicate primary aromas, which will then be transmitted to the wine Chianti Montalbano Docg. The soil of these vineyards is represented by galestro, a very friable rock rich in limestone and minerals, which gives these Chianti Montalbano Docg wines a great structure.

Chianti Montalbano Docg: the elegance

Our in-depth analysis of Italian autochthonous wines not only presents small Doc denominations, rare indigenous vines, but also the sub-areas of the best known Italian wines in the world.

Summarizing the features of the terroir of Montalbano: land composed of galestro, southern exposure, a height varying between 250 and 420 meters above sea level and a unique microclimate due to the action of the forest. Chianti Montalbano Docg wines are characterized by great aromas, freshness, softness and elegance. This is why many connoisseurs consider Montalbano a sort of “Burgundy of Tuscany”.

Actually, on my notebook of the tasting notes I find this comment on the Chianti Montalbano Docg of Tenuta Cantagallo, 2018 vintage, tasted in the cellar: “marked floral note, rose flavour at the beginning,, which then evolves into violet…delicate, soft and enveloping tannins..long and persistent fruity aftertaste“.

From the notes taken during the tasting of the Chianti Montalbano Docg Il Fondatore“, 2015 vintage, “very complex floral note, you can recognize the lavender, the rhizome of iris … later you can perceive the tertiary aromas of tobacco … balance between great structure and elegance … soft velvety tannins, truly persistent “.

With Enrico the discovery becomes even more interesting: not many wineries also have an oil mill to produce extra virgin olive oil. In 30 hectares of olive grove they cultivate mainly the Mediterranean varieties of Frantoio and Moraiolo. The effect of the Montalbano terroir is also outstanding in the oil, characterized by hints of fresh grass and artichoke, decidedly different from traditional Tuscan oils, with a flavor closer to that of ripe olives.

In short, the peculiar climate of the Montalbano natural area gives elegance not only to the Chianti Montalbano Docg, but to all the fruits grown here by man.

olive groves in Tenuta Cantagallo

Dario, tell us the meaning of Cantagallo

Cantagallo is a toponym (the real name of the part of the hill where Tenuta Cantagallo stands). This name came already forth in an ancient map of the 16th century and it is formed by two parts referring to the verb “to sing” (in Italian cantare) and the word “rooster” (in Italian gallo). Dario tells us: “this was the last house before the Montalbano natural park (the wood) … it was also placed higher, thus this was the first place where the rooster saw the sun come out and, therefore, it sang … “.

On the path of autochthonous wines we meet Leonardo (da Vinci)

As always, our studies on Italian autochthonous wines allow us to visit the hills and villages of Bella Italia, that of life in the province. The in-depth study of the Chianti Montalbano Docg led us to the hills between Florence and Prato. The municipality of Vinci is just 12 kilometers from the winery. Yes, the birthplace of the universal talent Leonardo! In his writings Leonardo mentioned wines from the Montalbano hills; he knew both viticulture and olive growing. Among the drafts of Leonardo’s projects there is also the use of the “worm” to obtain a separation of the berries from the stems: from this intuition the press-destemmer was developed in contemporary times. At this point, a visit to the Leonardian Museum is a must.

Leonardo sketches

Today research on the autochthonous wines has been rich of emotions. As guests of Dario and Enrico, we learned a lot of information about why Chianti Montalbano Docg has this own distinct identity.

Tenuta Cantagallo has one last surprise for us: Pierazzuoli family, in addition to the cellar and the oil mill, also manages a farmhouse and restaurant business. We will be guests for dinner at Osteria Cantagallo. Today there is a lot of talk about “zero kilometers” to indicate the concept of a very short chain of ingredients in a restaurant, guaranteeing the best possible quality. Dario comments “more set to zero than this! Oil, sauces, raw vegetables, pickled vegetables and wine come from the borders of this estate…the rest of the ingredients from other producers a few kilometers from here!

We are at the end of the day, we relax chatting with other family members and savouring delicious bruschetta. Nothing to do with those offered to tourists: real Tuscan bread, grilled and garnished in different ways (chicken livers, black cabbage and beans, onion). The brazier is already on, so we understand what will be the main dish of this pleasant outdoor evening: the famous “Florentine steak”, the steak on the bone from local breed veal. The ideal wine will be the Chianti Montalbano Docg Riserva “Il Fondatore” … but this time with no more thoughts and insights on Italian autochthonous wines. It will only be the pleasure of an evening with friends.

10th September 2020,

Marco Negro

Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.
Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.

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