CASANOVA DI NERI is an estate winery in Torrenieri in the Montalcino region of Tuscany, Italy. The late Giovanni Neri founded the estate in 1971 when he planted his first vineyards, releasing his first wine in 1978. After Giovanni died in 1991 his son, Giacomo Neri (53 in 2018), took over here. Giacomo’s own children are Giovanni (27 in 2018) who manages the vines and is winemaker, Gianlorenzo (24 in 2018) who handles the commercial side, and Marianna. Giacomo Neri’s sister Gianna Neri owns the Col di Lamo winery, also in Torrenieri.

OWNER / Giacomo Neri.

STAFF / Consultant oenologist: Carlo Ferrini.

POLYCULTURE / 2,000 olive trees. 200 hectares (acres) of cereal crops (like spelt from which pasts is made).

ESTATE VINEYARDS–OVERVIEW 2017

63 hectares (155 acres) in four (or seven, depending how you count) blocks in two main areas either side of the town of Montalcino. To the north-east of Montalcino in the village of Torrenieri and near the winery Casanova di Neri’s vineyards include Fiesole and the nearby, but slightly higher Poderuccio plus the single vineyard cru, Cerretalto which is some distance away but still in Torrenieri. Other vineyards in Torrenieri include Podernuovo, and Spereta. On Montalcino’s south side (see Tenuta Nuova, below) Casanova di Neri’s vineyards include Pietradonice and Le Cetine which are located around the hamlets of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Sant’Angelo in Colle. Giacomo Neri says he selected those vineyards which he has bought according to two main criteria: they were not rot-prone, and the grapes would ripen.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–CERRETALTO / The Cerretalto vineyard is located on land in Torrenieri acquired by Giacomo Neri’s father in 1971, who planted the first 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) as soon as he held title to the land. In 1992, another 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) were planted on R110 rootstock and using budwood from cuttings taken from 36 Sangiovese vines in Cerretalto which were selected for producing small berries with thick skins (this budwood is also used to produce new vines for replanting across all Casanova di Neri vineyards (eg. when re-planting the Cetine Tenuta Nuova, see below). Cerretalto comprises a natural amphitheatre, on and around the top of a hill, and thus on sloping ground, and isolated from other vineyards. It is east-facing, and is around 500-1,000 metres (1,640-3,280 feet) from a bend in the Asso river. ‘This is a windy spot,’ Giacomo Neri told me at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017, ‘so the vines here need extra time to ripen because they ripen slowly. We do not make Cerretalto every year.’ The soil type is galestro with alluvial stones and degraded rock of volcanic origin mixed in, whose red hue derives from a strong presence of iron, and also magnesium. The average production of Cerretalto is 8,000 bottles. Cerretalto typically smells of blood, cherry, graphite, and iron. 

An additional 4 hectare (9.9 acre) vineyard located here which is on flatter ground is called Spereta (of which more below) and whose grapes go into the White Label Brunello.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–FIESOLE / This is in Torrenieri, to the east-north-east of Montalcino. The Fiesole vineyard is located across the road from the farmhouse of the same name where the Casanova di Neri offices and winery are located. The vineyard comprises 8 hectares (19.8 acres) of vines. The site is east-facing on the galestro soil type and lies at 350 metres (1,166 feet). The vineyard gives very consistent quality, in part due to its good drainage, and produces fluid wines with good acidity. The vineyard was replanted with budwood from 24 Sangiovese vines in Cerretalto. The main rootstock in 420A. The pruning are chipped and allowed to degrade in the vineyard. Indigenous vegetation is left in the lower part of the vineyard, whereas in the upper part a cover crop is sown consisting of rye grass (lolium) and oats. The Fiesole grapes usually go into the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘White Label’ (see below).

ESTATE VINEYARDS–LE CETINE / Le Cetine comprises 100 hectares (247 acres) of land of which 25 hectares (61.75 acres) are Sangiovese vineyards. The vines lie in two blocks on either side of a ridge directly south of Sant’Angelo in Colle, south of Montalcino. The land was owned by a sheep-farming family from Sardinia (there is a still a farm building there) who sold to Giacomo Neri in 1987 and 1991. The vines are surrounded by evergreen oak forests and Mediterranean scrub. The vines face south south-east, south, and south-west at an altitude of 275-320 metres (916-1,066 feet). The site does not get the full force of the Tramontana (north) wind and in spring warms quickly, meaning bud burst is always early. The local vegetation is Mediterranean with myrtle, juniper and lentisk (whose sap is used to make mastic) growing wild. The soil comprises clay-loam with galestro (stones, rocks) and veins of tufa. Compost additions are made to prevent vine stress. Day-night temperature variations are wide. Le Cetine gives consistent quality.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–LE VIGNE DEL TOCCI / This lies in the Sesta area in southern part of Montalcino and was purchased by Giacomo Neri in October 2017 from Silvestro Tocci who was retiring. Neri knew the site and owner having previously bought the grapes. There are 7 hectares (17.3 acres) in three plots, not far from Le Cetine, on open land which is east-facing. The vines had been planted between 1999-2001.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–PIETRADONICE / Giacomo Neri purchased this vineyard at the end of the 1980s. It is located near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, south-east of Montalcino. The vineyard comprises 7 hectares (17.3 acres) of vines of which 5 hectares (12.35 acres) are Sangiovese and 2.5 hectares (4.9 acres) are Cabernet Sauvignon. Pietradonice faces south-east at an altitude of 250-300 metres (833-1,000 feet). It was planted in an old onyx quarry. The soil is galestro, rich in stones due to the presence of onyx. The rocky soils and dry conditions mean compost additions are made to prevent vine stress. The only disease issue is oidium.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–PODERNUOVO / Giacomo Neri acquired this vineyard in 2007. It is located immediately south of Il Greppo, site of the Biondi-Santi estate winery, near a forest of chestnut trees. Podernuovo comprises two blocks. The altitude ranges from at 430-500 metres (1,410-1,640 feet), making the upper part the highest vineyard in the Casanova di Neri portfolio. The soil is galestro rich in iron and magnesium, and comprises a brownish mix of loam, sand, clay. The oldest vines from 1993 are on 420A rootstock, with another 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres) on Richter 110 plus 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of newly planted (2017) vines. ‘The grapes do not suffer rot due to an east-facing exposition,’ Giacomo Neri told me during a vineyard visit on Tuesday 24th April 2018, adding ‘the wines are perfumed and with good acidity, finesse rather than power.’ The grapes are used for the White Label Brunello (see below), adding finesse, length, and acidity to balance the overall pH [acid strength] of the blend.’

ESTATE VINEYARDS–PODERUCCIO / Poderuccio is located next to the Casanova di Neri winery in Torrenieri, east-northeast of Montalcino, and next to the estate’s agritourism holiday accommodation. Poderuccio is situated at 380 metres (1,266 feet) above sea-level. The vineyard is east-facing, lies on galestro and is surrounded by woods of evergreen oak. The Poderuccio grapes are used to produce Brunello di Montalcino.

ESTATE VINEYARDS–SPERETA In Torrenieri, north-east of Montalcino, near the Cerretalto vineyard (see above) but on flatter ground, an east-facing plateau, at 390 metres (1,300 feet). The soil is rich in clay and tuff.

VITICULTURE / All vineyards–whether for Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, or the Pietradonice Cabernet Sauvignon, get the same amount of care. The main rootstock overall is Richter 110. In addition, they select Kober 5BB on cooler sites (eg. Torrenieri), and 420A on hotter sites. Giacomo Neri says his approach is to be fastidious in avoiding problems by pruning perfectly, removing water shoots early in the season to open up the canopy to make life harder for the tignoletta or grape berry moth (which prefer to lay their eggs in shaded bunches). Pheromones are also used to control them. He also uses drones to identify weak spots.

CERTIFICATION / 2017 2018 First vintage in conversion to full organic certification. 3 metres of rain.

HARVEST / 100% by hand. The normal order is to pick the vineyards producing Tenuta Nuova, then the grapes for the White Label, then Cerretalto. 

WINERY / In Torrenieri. First used in 2004. At 350-400 metres (1,150-1,312 feet). Three levels. For red wines grapes are sorted in the vineyard and then on a selection belt after which they are de-stemmed and passed on to a second selection belt. Optical sorting has been used since 2016. The grapes then fall by gravity into open conical stainless steel vats for fermentation. Each plot has its own vat. No yeast is added because the vines have an average 20 years of age. The fermentation takes place with controlled temperature of 16 ºC for the first day and then upto 27 ºC to allow the wine to retain its aromas. Instead of pumping the approach is to use punch downs. This enables the extraction of only the best tannins, preserving colour and fragrance. This is followed by the aging of the wines in two ample barrel rooms on two different levels, again using gravity. The wines age in various types of oak, such as 600-litre tonneaux, with very small percentages (5%) of new oak. The cellar is naturally cool so chilling is not needed. Then the wines move by gravity for bottling and storage. After bottling, the wines are kept in the ageing area until shipment.

SULFITE LEVELS / Around 55ppm for Brunello, 30-35ppm for Rosso di Montalcino (Visit to the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017).

VINTAGES  / 2017 Yields 40% down on the average. Sangiovese for Tenuta Nuova was picked from 27 August. / 2018 Sangiovese for Tenuta Nuova was picked from 16 September.

RED WINES

IGT TOSCANA ROSSO, IRROSSO

2015 13.5%. Back label says this is imported into the USA by Dalla Terra in Napa. Sangiovese-based red mainly from vineyards on the south side of Montalcino. 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino. 12-15 months in barrel. Bottled April 2017. 70,000 bottles. Nice sweet crunch, high acid, get the wood at the end when tasted at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017. 

IGT TOSCANA ROSSO, PIETRADONICE

Cabernet Sauvignon from the Pietradonice vineyard (see above).

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 14% alcohol. 5,000 bottles. Small clusters. Young. Tight, clean, savoury, no green-tasting tannins in this, well put together in 2017 when tasted at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017.

ROSSO DI MONTALCINO DOC, CASANOVA DI NERI

The Rosso di Montalcino is not a second selection, Gianlorenzo Neri told me. It comes from 15 hectares (37 acres) located in both the Northern, Torrenieri side of Montalcino (younger vines) and Southern side where the oldest Rosso vines are, in Cetine.

2015 Good vintage. 

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, CASANOVA DI NERI (“WHITE LABEL”)

The ‘white label’ name originated with Giacomo Neri’s father, The wine is said to come from the estate’s ‘cooler sites’, presumably referring to those in Torrenieri. Roughly 40,000 bottles.

1978 First release of this wine. / 2002 None released. / 2009 L1013. 14%. Included grapes from the Cerretalto vineyard (see below), which was not made in 2009. Interesting floral, raspberry and new oak flavours all harmoniously mixed tasted blind at the Montalcino Consorzio on Tuesday 27th May 2014 with Dr Ian d’Agata and others. / 2013 Lovely Burgundian style fruit, juicy, very good. Could last 15 years. Smooth and savoury Tasted at the winery in Montalcino on Friday 16th February 2018 with Michaela Morris. / 2014 Not made.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, CASANOVA DI NERI, CERRETALTO

From 4 hectares (9.9 acres) within the Cerretalto vineyard, see above. Casanova di Neri is unusual in Montalcino in having produced a single vineyard wine as far back as 1981. This wine now ferments in wooden vats rather than stainless steel.

1981 Debut vintage. / 2001 100 points from Wine Spectator. / 2003 Exists. / 2005 Not made. / 2006 Exists. / 2007 100 points from Wine Enthusiast. The technical sheet provided by the winery says this wine came from Cerretalto, Le Cetine and Pietradonice. 31 months in botti di rovere. 15% alcohol. 12,677 bottles, 256 magnums and 36 botttles of 3 litres. / 2008 L712. 15% alcohol. Youthful colour and nose, noticeably fresh and primary with the oak overlay arriving on second swirl. Entry very sweet, ripe, raspberry ripple sweetness and vanilla, fluffy and puffed. Seems so youthful for a 2008 until you get to the finish which has firm oak tannins intermingling with the raspberry fruit. Tidily modernist at the Montalcino Consorzio Tues 27th May 2014 with Dr Ian d’Agata and others. / 2009 Not made (the fruit was used for the ‘White Label’). / 2010 100 points from James Suckling, Wine Spectator. 99 points from Robert Parker. / 2011 Not made. / 2012 ‘We age Cerretalto 30 months in large barrels of which 33% were new,’ Giacomo Neri told me. ‘We do this to obtain a wine which is approachable young but which also has the capacity to age.’ Very nice texture, young still, bright red fruit, very well textured and with great purity when tasted at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017. Smooth, well textured tannins, pure fruit tasted at the winery in Montalcino on Friday 16th February 2018 with Michaela Morris. / 2013 Exists. / 2014 Not made. / 2015 Exists. / 2016 Around 8,000 bottles.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, CASANOVA DI NERI, TENUTA NUOVA

Tenuta Nuova comes from Sangiovese growing in the warmer, more Mediterranean-influenced south side of Montalcino, from two vineyard sites totalling around 15 hectares (37 acres) called Cetine and Pietradonice (see above). The wine is usually aged in tonneaux, little of which is new. The wine is powerful (generous sugar and thus alcohol levels) but with good acidity and shows flavours of rosemary, violet and eucalyptus. Production is from 45,000 to 70,000 bottles annually.

1993 The debut vintage. / 2001 The Wine Spectator 2006 Wine of the Year (100 points). Announced on 18 November 2006 as the Casanova di Neri 2001 Brunello di Montalcino ‘Tenuta Nuova’ bottling. They gave it a price of $70.00, a score of 97 points, and said 4,830 cases had been made. / 2006 100 points from James Suckling. / 2009 15%. L1113. This showed a bright ruby colour fading to garnet in 2014, with bright fruit on the nose with oak too. Ripe-tasting red cherry fruit with crowd-pleasing minty oak when tasted at the Montalcino Consorzio Tues 27th May 2014 with Dr Ian d’Agata and others. / 2010 100 points from Robert Parker. / 2012 50,000 bottles. Aged 30 months in tonneaux, and 18 months in bottle before release. Should peak in 2024. Rich, powerful at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017. / 2013 Lovely Burgundian again, wild fruit, very clear, fresh, good in 2018 when tasted at the winery in Montalcino on Friday 16th February 2018 with Michaela Morris.

SALES 2018 / 80% exported to 55 countries.

CONTACT

Casanova di Neri, Località Casanova di Neri, I-53028 Torrenieri (SI = Siena), Italy / Tel+39 0577.834455 / www.casanovadineri.com

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo—The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003), p122.