Castelgiocondo is the largest certified organic estate in the Montalcino region of Tuscany. The estate lies in the Camigliano zone in Montalcino’s south-west. The village of Castelgiocondo dominates the historic Frescobaldi estate in Montalcino from above, an ancient stronghold built in 1100 to defend the road that led to the sea from Siena. A historic place, it is in fact one of the first four properties in which the production of Brunello di Montalcino began in 1800. 

Owner: Frescobaldi acquired CastelGiocondo in 1989.

Staff: Technical director Ermanno Morlacchetti (met him at the winery on Thursday 03rd December, 2015). From Castelli Romani. Worked for Fontana-Candida. Arrived in Tuscany in 1996. Spent four years at Fatt Montespertoli. He started here 13th Nov 2000.

Vineyards: Ermanno Morlacchetti told me (Visit 2015) there were 263ha of vines of which 165ha of Brunello, 30ha of Rosso, and the rest was Sant’Antimo and IGT. Replanting since 1993 at 5,500 vines per hectare (in 2020 this means lots of mature vines), vines in full expression, want to avoid too much oak). Ermanno Morlacchetti told me at the winery on Thursday 03rd December, 2015 they planted at 2x x 90cm or 2m x 80cm (In Chianti they plant at 2.5m x 1.0m). Cordon and guyot. Ermanno Morlacchetti told me (Visit 202) there were 263ha of vines of which 164ha of Brunello, and 30ha of Rosso.He said the vines were more balanced with organics. 

Terroir: South, south west aspect. Gets the afternoon sun.

Elevation: Castelgiocondo estate ranges from at 820-1,315ft (250-400m) according to Kerin O’Keefe (11 2006, p.78-9). In fact Ermanno Morlacchett told me (Visit, 2020) that the estate runs from 150-450 metres.

Soil: Ermanno Morlacchetti cites three soils types which vary by altitude. 1) 250m. Clay soils (Merlot, north-facing). 2) 300m. The terrain is sandstone (arenaria), rich in sand, well drained, for Merlot and Cabernet. 3) 350-450 metres. Galestro. Sangiovese. Merlot for Luce. Brunello.

Organic certification: 2006 Bio sans papiers. | 2009 Going organic on 17-19ha in the best site, at 400 metres, the high part around the castle, SW-facing on galestro, planted with various clones of Sangiovese. | 2012+ Started trialling biodynamics. Montanari dynamiser. 500P. | 2013 C1 officially but the estate was fully organic by 2013 (Source: Lamberto Frescobaldi in 2015). | 2015 Officially certified organic for the first time for 263ha of vines of which 163ha are for Brunello and 100ha for other wines with the whole of the estate organic (Source: Lamberto Frescobaldi).

Cover crops: At the winery on Thursday 03rd December, 2015 I was told they now sow a mix of 12 plants with 30% oats (avena) barley (‘orzo’), rye (‘segale’), 60% legumes (clovers, peas, vetch, beans) for Nitrogen and the rest crucifers and phacelia. Sow only every other row (every other row is worked). Sow post harvest to have cover over winter, to avoid erosion and so that the cover crop roots can aid water infiltration. Likes cover crops with different root depths for air and nutrients. Prunings go in the empty row. If the early season is dry the cover crops will be ploughed in, if it is wet they stay in place to provide a carpet. Trialling under vine weeders, lighter tractors. Ermanno Morlacchetti t(visit 2020) told me that with organics the vines are less vigourous, and more resistant.

Canopy management: He said that shoot and bud thinning in the spring was a key job, requiring skilled field workers. ‘Removing excess buds (potential grapes) for the current season is the goal. What we want to avoid is removing budwood carrying the reserve buds destined for next year’s harvest.’ He added that ‘the notion low yields always provide the best grapes and wines and high yields the less good ones is neither logical nor based on empirical fact. We don’t have a one size fits all. We work in a way whereby each vine has a chance to show its potential. And for us, it is a really stimulating way to work. No two days are the same.’

Winemaking: Grapes from different zones are fermented apart. Hand picked. 40 days to pick everything, though not on a run of consecutive days (Visit 2020). Staves in the large oak had the interior of their staves shaved by a couple of millimetres.

Stainless steel < 30° (86° Fahrenheit) for 12 days then 32 days on skins. MLF immediately after the alcoholic fermentation. Aged in Slavonian oak casks and in French oak barrels with a minimum of 2 years in wood, and 4 months in the bottle.

Red wines

Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Castelgiocondo: 2011 At the consorzio with Ian d’Agata Tuesday 28th May 2013: Medium crimson core with a bright crimson rim. Intersting nose, with width rather than depth and cool and youthful rather than obviously ripe and evolving aromas, wonder when this was bottled? After a swirl evolves and opens but still flat and broad, aged leaves on a newly frozen lake. Tight palate, narrow, crisp, bit pinched, has fruit but needs a bit more.

Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Campo ai Sassi: From the young vines and declassified Brunello says Kerin O’Keefe (2012, p.200). However, Lamberto Frescobaldi emailed me in 2015 to say ‘the vineyards used for the Campo ai Sassi Rosso di Montalcino are not young vineyards. They are located at 950 feet in our CastelGiocondo estate on clay/limestone. The fermentation is shorter and at lower temperatures compared to the Brunello.’ | 2013 Lamberto Frescobaldi emailed me in 2015 to say ‘The wine ages 12 months in our cellar at CastelGiocondo and in Slavonian oak “botte”. These are 100hl and bigger. The “botti” are 30 years old or more, but extremely well preserved.’ | 2017 13% alc. Smooth, sappy dark red fruit, easy (April 2020).

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Castelgiocondo: Lamberto told me (Visit 2020) ‘the terroir here does not give body-builder Brunellos. What it does give, we feel is akin to a ballerina in the sense of having underlying sinew but in a toned, elegant form. This is what the Sangiovese vines give us at Castelgiocondo, and we have to farm the Sangiovese and turn it into wine accordingly. It’s a big estate best suited to incremental changes based on observation, not spur of the moment changes of course. Working longterm to having more friable soils which can hold moisture and nutrients more efficiently gives us more winemaking flexibility. Deeper vine roots and deeper fruit expression allows us to dial down the oak and gives wines with wider drinking windows, just as Castelgiocondo should be.’ | 2017 Said to be potentially very good.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, Castelgiocondo: 2001 Bottled. | 2006 Bottled.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva Ripe al Convento: Kerin O’Keefe (2012, p.199) says this come from ‘the best and highest vineyards in the section of the property known as Ripe al Convento, where vineyard altitude generates extreme day and night temperature changes.’

Bibliography

Kerin O’Keefe, ‘Brunello’s moment of truth’, World of Fine Wine 11 2006 p.77.

Visits: 3rd December 2015. | 21st July 2020.