Cantina Cavalieri, or ‘Knights Winery’, is an organic estate winery in the township of Matelica in Macerata province in Le Marche, a region bordering Italy’s Adriatic coast. It makes white wines under the Verdicchio di Matelica DOC and Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva DOCG.
Owner | Gabriele Benedetti and his wife Sara.
Background | Gabriele Benedetti family’s historic family winery is located in the centre of Matelica, near the towns’ railway station. The family started making wine in the early 1900s, mainly Verdicchio white wine for family consumption. The current winery (with vines) is in the family’s other house in a wooded area in countryside outside of Matelica town. The house and land came via current incumbent Gabriele Benedetti’s great grand-mother Basilia. She was given it as a dowry by her father, a landowner (all 5 of his his children were girls). Basilia’s grandmother (née Trampini) had been the only bottler of wine in Matelica before World War Two.
Winemaking activity at what is now Cantina Cavalieri was started by Basilia’s son, Nazzareno Cavalieri, after the Second World War. This was a time in Matelica of bulk sales, however. (At that time I think the estate was called Fattoria dei Cavalieri di Benedetti). Nazzareno made wine in the cellar in the above-mentioned family building in the centre of the town.
In the 1970s Nazzareno’s son Eugenio became a travelling salesman, selling wines, but wines from the Romagna region rather than Matelica where wineries were closing down. Even the winery of Italo Mazzei (whose brother Enrico had run ENI, the Italian National Fuel Trust) closed down. In the early 1980s, with his father ill, Eugenio had returned home to the estate. Nazzareno’s sons (aka the “Cavalieri”), the aforementioned Eugenio (‘Gegé’, born 1940) and Fortunato took over in 1986. They enlarged the estate. Eugenio and started making traditional Verdicchio, in the style he learnt from his grandmother Basilia (see winemaking, below). Since 2006, Gabriele Benedetti (Eugenio’s son), representing the fourth generation of Cavalieri has run the estate.
Vineyards | 8 hectares of vines. Mainly Verdicchio (more was being added in 2019). Also Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot (0.2ha), Trebbiano Abruzzese. 90% of the production is Verdicchio di Matelica DOC. Exposures range from south-west, north-east to south-east. Medium-textured soils (clay with veins in depth of limestone). Altitudes between 350–400m. There are two main vineyards. Oldest vines date to the 1970s.
1) Podere Cavalieri | The main body of vines comprises 5ha and lies at 380-400 metres in the Cavalieri area, where Gabriele lives with his family. The official name of the locale is Loc. Pagliano. This area, which is north-east facing, once had its own railway station (sited very near the vineyard). Of the 5ha of vines there are 2ha of red varieties–0.6ha Merlot (these grapes are sold), 0.4ha Pinot Noir, 1ha Sangiovese–and 3ha of Verdicchio. All mass selection budwood it seems. In the old days ‘Gegé’ says the vine rows were very wide, with space for figs, walnuts and other crops. Trebbiano Abruzzese would be mixed with Verdicchio.
2) Podere Fornacione | Named by the estate after a kiln or furnace (officially the place name is Loc. Salumone). Comprises 3ha. Mainly Verdicchio with 0.5ha of Trebbiano Abruzzese. These are the oldest vineyards. They were planted in the mid-1970s, and have been left grassed for the last 20 years. They are on the ridge near the hamlet of Colli di Matelica. 420m. South-west facing.
Viticulture | Replanting | New vines are planted using the estate’s own budwood. Permanent or semi-permanent sward.
Olive trees | 4ha. Field-sown crops | There is no land for field-grown crops (‘seminativo’) and this land now belongs to Gabriele’s aunts.
Organic certification | 2014 First vintage with full organic certification.
Winemaking | In the old days ‘Gegé’ says the wine was made in wooden barrels using the ‘Governo Toscano’ system to soften the Verdicchio’s very high acidity. The wine was bottled slightly sparkling and was sold in carbuoys to local taverns. Under Gabriele: Hand picked. Vaslin press, bought by Gabriele’s grandfather. Skin contact for Verdicchio. Gives richness and body, but also risky (see Verdicchio). An example of ‘natural’ winemaking in an era before the arrival of the likes of Bisci and La Monacesca. Underground winery. Steel, cement and stainless steel vats.
DONE Wine production | 30,000 bottles max.
Trebbiano | Not sure clones. | 2018 Fermented in stainless steel. On skins for 22 days. Aged in wood (15hl and 10hl). 10% Verdicchio added via topping. MLF (whether or not whites do MLF depends in the wine and the vintage). 50ppm sulphites. Clear, savoury, nicely rustic at the estate in 2019.
DONE Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, Cavalieri | Released in spring following the vintage. 7,000-12,000 bottles. | 2016 100% Verdicchio harvested by hand. Fermented in concrete tanks. Decanted by gravity into steel tanks, located in a natural cave. After at least 6-7 months of aging the wine is bottled with slight stabilization and filtration.
Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, Gegè | Verdicchio. Planted 1962 by Gabriele’s grandfather. Clay-limestone. South-west. Hand picked, in early to mid-October. Pressed. Fermented in concrete tanks. Racked off gross lees by gravity into stainless steel tanks in an underground cellar. Aged on fine lees for 15-18 months. Light filtration pre-bottling. No clarification or stabilization. Not made every year.| 2010 14%. A good vintage. | 2012 Hot vintage. Some grapes sold. Still new-oaky at the estate in 2019 with some yellow fruit, and herbs. | 2014 13.5% alc. 10,000 bottles. | 2017 100% steel. From tank: 13% alc. Due to undergo light filtration. Lemony-salty flavours with a creamy texture. Only 3,500 bottles. So few grapes the wine could not ferment the in cement tanks. The crop was hit by a late spring frost.
Verdicchio di Matelica DOC Fornacione | Not made every year. Follows the traditional vinification methods used by Gabriel’s father Eugenio until 1984 when he stopped using the amphora bottle. From the best Verdicchio grapes in the Fornacione vineyard. This Destemmed. 3-4 days maceration on skins. Racked when the cap starts to rise. Fermented. Lees stirring once fermentation is complete. In tank for at least 10-12 months. Bottled without clarification, stabilization or filtration. | 2014 Not made. | 2016 Debut. Fermented in stainless steel. 100% MLF. Lees stirred. Turbid. Unfiltered. Again, Gabriele’s father would bottle wines like this until he stopped in the mid-1980s so this wine is a tribute to that style. Bit of oak. Hand bottled. 3,000 bottles. Soft, creamy, nice weight, round at the winery in 2019. |
Marche Pinot Nero IGT | Ripens before Verdicchio. Needs careful deleafing to avoid sunburn. | 2016 100% Pinot Noir. Hand picked. Destemmed. Whole berries. Fermented in steel. Racked by gravity to non-new oak barrels in a natural grotto. 12-15m in oak. Racked and bottled (no filtration or stabilization). 900 bottles. I felt this was a work in progress when I tasted it at the winery in 2019.
Marche Sangiovese | 100% Sangiovese. Planted 1999. Buy the house. 400m. Hand picked. Fermented in stainless steel. Racked by gravity to oak barrels in a natural grotto. 12-15m in oak. Racked and bottled (no filtration or stabilization). | 2018 Very cool harvest nights. 12.5%. Stainless steel. 50ppm sulfites. Wine made for summer: Bright, crunchy red fruit at the winery in 2019.
Gabriele’s wife Sara opened a wine shop in Matelica itself. The shop also carries gastronomic products.
Azienda Agricola Cavalieri di Benedetti Gabriele
Via Raffaello, 1 – 62024 Matelica (MC), Italy
Tel+39 0737 685213 | +39 340 339 3722 (Sara) | +39 348 916 2354 | cantinacavalieri.it