Casanova di Neri | Estate winery in Fiesole in the Montalcino region of Tuscany, Italy making three very distinctive Brunello di Montalcino red wines. 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. Giacomo’s own children are Giovanni (27 in 2018) who manages the vines and is winemaker, and Gianlorenzo (24 in 2018) who handles the commercial side, and Marianna. Giacomo Neri’s sister Gianna Neri owns an esate in Montalcino called  Col di Lamo in nearby Torrenieri.

Owner | Giacomo Neri.

Staff | Consultant oenologist: Carlo Ferrini.

Other crops | 2,000 olive trees. 200 hectares (495 acres) of cereal crops (like spelt from which pasta is made).

Estate vineyards | 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 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 in Torrenieri. Other estate vineyards in Torrenieri include Podernuovo, and Spereta. On Montalcino’s south side (see the Tenuta Nuova wine, 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 told me his criteria when buying vineyards was that the grapes were not rot-prone and would ripen.

Cerretalto vineyard | The Cerretalto vineyard in Torrenieri is located on land acquired in 1971 by Giacomo Neri’s father, who planted the first 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) there as soon as he held title to the land. In 1992, another 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) were planted on R110 rootstock, using Sangiovese budwood from cuttings taken from 36 vines in Cerretalto, selected for their small, thick-skinned berries. This budwood is also used for replanting across the estate’s vineyards (eg. when re-planting Cetine and Tenuta Nuova, see below). Cerretalto comprises five vineyard blocks, in a natural amphitheatre, on and around the top of a hill, and thus on sloping ground, The vines are isolated from other vineyards. It is on the edge of the delimited Montalcino region (the Orcia DOC begins on the other side) around 500-1,000 metres (1,640-3,280 feet) from a bend in the Asso river. It is east-facing, so the wines have a cool climate elegance. ‘This is a windy spot,’ Giacomo Neri told me at the winery on Friday 03rd November 2017, ‘so the vines need extra time because they ripen slowly. We do not make Cerretalto every year.’ The soils are rocky, comprising 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 reason the previous owner sold the land was because he found its rocky nature too much of a challenge.

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.

Fiesole vineyard | This is in Fiesole, across the road from the farmhouse of the same name where the Casanova di Neri offices and winery are located, east-north-east of Montalcino. Fiesole comprises 8 hectares (19.8 acres) of vines. The site is east-facing on galestro soil. The altitude is around 350 metres (1,166 feet). The vineyard gives very consistent quality, in part due to its good drainage. The vineyard was replanted with budwood from 24 Sangiovese vines from the Cerretalto vineyard. The main rootstock in 420A. The prunings are chipped and allowed to decompose 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 (both for organic matter). The Fiesole grapes usually go into the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘White Label’ (see below). Fiesole produces fluid wines with good acidity.

Le Vigne del Tocci | This lies in the Sesta area in southern part of Montalcino and was purchased by Giacomo Neri in October 2017 as Silvestro Tocci was retiring (His daughter handled the sale it seems). Neri knew the site and its owners, having previously bought the grapes. The owners were happy to sell to a local, rather than an international buyer. 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.

Tenuta Nuova–Le Cetine vineyard | 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 a short distance apart and on either side of a ridge directly south of Sant’Angelo in Colle, south-west of Montalcino. Castello di Velona is visible from the vineyards. 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 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 vegetation here is Mediterranean, with myrtle, juniper and lentisk [mastic] growing wild. Evergreen oak forests and Mediterranean scrub surround the vineyards. 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.

Tenuta Nuova–Pietradonice | Giacomo Neri purchased this vineyard in the late 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 the onyx. The rocky soils and dry conditions mean compost additions are made to prevent vine stress. The only potential disease issue here is oidium (powdery mildew).

Podernuovo | Giacomo Neri acquired this vineyard in 2007. It is located 1.5 miles south-east of the town of Montalcino, immediately south of Il Greppo, site of the Biondi-Santi estate winery, near a forest of chestnut trees. Podernuovo comprises two vineyard blocks. The altitude ranges from at 430-500 metres (1,410-1,640 feet), the upper part of which 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, and 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 (or acid strength) of the blend.’

Poderuccio | The Poderuccio vineyard is next to the Casanova di Neri winery in Fiesole, east-northeast of Montalcino, alongside the estate’s 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 DOCG.

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 grape berry moth (‘la tignoletta’) which prefer to lay their eggs in shaded bunches. Pheromones are also used to control them. Drones are used to identify weak spots.

Organic certification | 2018 First vintage in conversion to full organic certification.

Winery | In Fiesole (see above). First used in 2004. At 350-400 metres (1,150-1,312 feet). Three levels.

Winemaking | All grapes are hand picked. The normal order is to pick the vineyards producing Tenuta Nuova, then the grapes for the White Label, then Cerretalto. 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°C for the first day and then upto 27 °C 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.

Sulfites | 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

Irrosso, Toscana Rosso | 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 (visit, November 2017).

Pietradonice, Toscana Rosso | 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 (visit Nov 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.

Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Giovanni Neri | 2018 100% Sangiovese from the Tocci vineyard.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Casanova di Neri (White label) | The ‘white label’ name originated with Giacomo Neri’s father. From cooler sites in the north-east of the Montalcino production zone. 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 (Montalcino Consorzio 2014 tasting). | 2013 Lovely Burgundian style fruit, juicy, very good. Could last 15 years. Smooth and savoury (Visit Feb 2018). | 2014 Not made.

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Cerretalto | From one block of 4 hectares (9.9 acres) within the Cerretalto vineyard, near the winery, see above. Casanova di Neri is unusual in having produced a single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino as far back as 1981. The average production of Cerretalto is 8,000 bottles. Cerretalto typically smells of blood, cherry, graphite, and iron, Giacomo told me. 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 bottles of 3 litres. | 2008 L712. 15% alc. Youthful colour and nose, noticeably fresh and primary with the oak overlay arriving on second swirl. Entry very moreish, ripe, raspberry ripple and vanilla backed by firm oak tannins, tidily modernist (Montalcino Consorzio 2014 tasting). | 2009 Not made (the fruit was used for the ‘White Label’, see above). | 2010 100 points from James Suckling, Wine Spectator. 99 points from Robert Parker. | 2011 Not made. | 2012 ‘Cerretalto ages 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.’ V young still, bright red fruit, very well textured and clear (Visit 03rd Nov 2017). Smooth, well textured tannins, pure fruit tasted (Visit 16 Feb 2018). | 2013 Exists. | 2014 Not made. | 2015 Exists. | 2016 Around 8,000 bottles.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tenuta Nuova | Tenuta Nuova comes from Sangiovese growing in the warmer, more Mediterranean-influenced south side of Montalcino, from two blocks of vineyards 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. Its ‘in your face’ style of fruit makes it a very approachable Brunello, well suited to consumers wary of tannic monsters. Annual production: 45,000 to 70,000 bottles. | 1993 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. Bright ruby fading to garnet in 2014, with bright fruit on the nose with oak too. Ripe-tasting red cherry fruit with crowd-pleasing minty oak (Montalcino Consorzio 2014 tasting). | 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 (Visit Nov 2017). | 2013 Burgundian, wild fruit, very clear, fresh, good (visit Feb 2018).

Sales | 2018 80% exported to 55 countries.

Contact

Casanova di Neri

Località Casanova di Neri

I-53028 Montalcino (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), p.122.

Winery visit 03rd November 2017.

Winery visit 16th February 2018 with Michaela Morris.

Vineyard visit 24th April 2018 with Giacomo Neri.