Carmignano DOCG | Red wine named after Carmignano, a commune in Prato province 12 miles (19km) west of the city of Florence (Firenze) in Tuscany in Italy. The area is described as ‘an almost suburban wine zone’ by Tom Maresca (2001, p.41-2), on a hillside overlooking the Arno valley and the plain of Pistoia. Carmignano is itself overlooked by Monte Albano, which gives it name to the adjoining Chianti sub-zone, Chianti Colli Montalbano (see separate entry), of which Carmignano was once officially part. As described by Burton Anderson (1980, p270) Carmignano was ‘an enclave in the Chianti Montalbano DOC zone west of Florence, in the balcony of hills around Carmignano and Artimino.’ Then in 1975 Carmignano was given its own DOC which as well as Carmignano commune also incorporated that of Poggio a Caiano.
History | Wine production in Carmignano dates back to the Etruscans and later the Roman period (see Capezzana for more details on this). Like Chianti though, Carmignano is another example of a Sangiovese-based Tuscan red wine which fell on hard times prior to the 1970s, despite a past of some glory (Belfrage: 2001, p.146-7).
The first mention of the wine of “Charmignano” dates to 1396 when the merchant Francesco Datini from Prato was prepared to pay a price apparently some four times the going rate for the most prestigious wines of the period (Belfrage: 2001, p.146-7).
Francesco Redi, in his famous Bacco in Toscana poem of 1673, says that with a glass of ‘brilliant Carmignano’ in his hand he need not envy Jove himself his nectar and ambrosia. And if anyone should dare put water in his Carmignano, why, he will have nothing further to do with the perpetrator of such a heinous act: Che saria, Gran follia, E brutissimo peccato. Bevere il Carmignano quando è inacquato, Chi l’acqua beve, Mai non receve, Grazia da me
Carmignano ‘is the one Tuscan denomination where international varieties (especially cabernet sauvignon, here historically called uva francesca, the French grape) have always thrived and have long been blended with sangiovese,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014). Carmignano is one of the few Tuscan red wines with a historical association with Cabernet Sauvignon (Rosemary George: 2004, p203). The rules for the blend allowed 6-10% Cabernet Sauvignon (Anderson, 1980, p270). Maresca (2001, p.41) calls Carmignano ‘probably the least publicised’ Tuscan DOCG, despite ‘making SuperTuscan [meaning containing French grapes] wines before anybody ever heard of the term.’ A prime mover behind the [then] DOC was Ugo Contini Bonacossi of Tenuta di Capezzana who cited how in 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany had recognised the area’s wine as entitled to be protected from fraudulent imitation (Anderson, 1980, p270). Carmignano DOC was upgraded to DOCG status in 1990, retroactively back to the 1988 vintage. The DOCG has been modified several times since, the last of which was in 2011.
Viticulture | The DOCG rules for Carmignano give no specifics regarding the exact form of pruning, vine training and vine density except that they must be ‘in general use’ and not such that they would alter the character of the wine. Irrigation is permitted but only if the vines’ survival is at risk.
Terroir | The DOCG rules for Carmignano state the vines must grow on hill slopes below a maximum of 400 metres, on soils of calcareous clayey marl (alberese) and clay-schists (galestro), both from the Eocene, and acidic sandstone from the Oligocene (arenaria). Carmignano’s position on a ‘series of low hills between 50 and 200 m (160-650 ft) above sea level [is] unusually low for the Sangiovese [grape]…allow[ing it] to ripen fully here in this relatively northern zone for the variety,’ say David Gleave & Daniel Thomases (2006, p.140). Rosemary George MW (2004, p.204) says there is a difference in the soil between Carmignano and neighbouring Chianti Montalbano, ‘with Montalbano having more sandstone, while Carmignano is heavier, with limestone, schist and galestro, in other words, not so different from the soil of Chianti Classico.’
David Gleave (1991, p,23-32) points out that as Carmignano is much closer to the Apennines than Chianti Classico it experiences hot days and cool nights, producing Sangiovese wines of lighter colour, adding that ‘the hot days give good ripeness and high levels of glycerine in the wines, which in turn lend an appealing softness to the taste, while the cool nights preserve acidity and perfume.’
Production | In 1999 Richard Baudains (Baudains: Feb 1999) reported Carmignano counting just over 100ha/247 acres of vineyard of which nearly 80% belonged to the two largest estates, an annual output under 300,000 bottles, and 22 registered growers, only a very limited number of whom had made and bottled their own wines until very recently.
Wine style | Carmignano’s wines are hampered by a wide range of stylistic differences, but the best estates are among Italy’s quality leaders,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014). David Gleave & Daniel Thomases (2006, p.140) define Carmignano as having ‘lower acidity and firmer tannins than Chianti Classico.’ Belfrage (2001, p.150) says Carmignano is more noted for its elegance than strength, and adds (op.cit., p.147) that ‘the Sangioveses of Carmignano, far from having the hardness of Sangiovese-based reds of other parts of Tuscany, tend to be rather on the soft and elegant side (‘underwhelming’, as one taster put it), and a bit of beefing up with the more aggressive varieties of Bordeaux is positive if not necessary.’
Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous
Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p73.