Castello dei Rampolla is an estate winery in Panzano in Greve in Chianti in the Chianti Classico DOCG region of Tuscany. Under its late owner Alceo Dei Napoli, Rampolla was one of the first Chianti Classico estates to plant Cabernet Sauvignon (the consultant at the time was the late Giacomo Tachis). The estate is now run by his children, son Luca Dei Napoli (fluent English) who practises Biodynamics (without certification) and his sister Laurizia.

Staff | Winemaker: Marcus Edler von der Planitz (German).

The estate | 120 hectares (296 acres) of land, of which 33 hectares (82 acres) of vines plus cereal crops and pasture.

Biodynamics  | Biodynamic practices began here in 1994. Leonello Anello consulted from 1998-2004. Adriano Zago was also involved in implementing Biodynamic management here. From 2004 the entire (then) 35 hectare (86.5 acres) estate vineyard was being farmed biodynamically with no consultant.

Vineyard management

Luca dei Napoli told me in 2010 that sward management was a mix of cover crops (sown with purchased seed) and or native sward. His aim was for the sward to self-reseed. In 2016 Luca told me (05th Oct 2016) that he was leaving ‘indigenous wild plants to grow in the vines across every row. I prefer to see weeds growing because it is better than having no ground cover and just seeing the stones growing. I do not want to be the owner of stones. So I don’t move the soil. My father kept ploughing the soil. I worked for my father. And I saw stones growing in the vines every year. When you see stones you see the soil has become a skeleton. Less is more. Weeds are cut rather than ploughed, either once or twice a season, or between three and four times in more vigorous vineyards closer to the river. Grassing helps balance the extremes of heat and strong showers. The weeds or native plants which comprise the sward have shallow,  superficial roots, so they help rather than compete with the vines. We only spray in the morning when there is no wind. We can therefore spray at low pressure. It takes two mornings with three machines to do the whole vineyard. This allows us to be very flexible. We use flowforms to dynamise [stir] the water for biodynamic preparation sprays. We spray into the atmosphere to balance the weather. It helps create a micro-climate, a sphere around the place where we grow the vines. We have six dynamisers for stirring, of which three are made of granite and three are made of plastic. We also invested in very light vineyard machinery, weighing between 500 and 700kg (1,100-1543 lbs). This means we can be flexible, and get into the vineyard more quickly to spray it after a rain event and without causing soil compaction. We also use effective micro-organisms and radionics. We want to stop using both copper-based and sulfur-based sprays.’

Climate change | ‘Climate change has brought more extreme rain events which we do not mind,’ Luca dei Napoli told me (05th Oct 2016). ‘Climate change has brought more extreme temperatures, too. This has increased alcohol levels. The grapes ripen 2-3 weeks earlier than usual, too. But this is also partly due to Biodynamics and the fact we go for extremely low yields. We make 80,000 bottles (60,000 litres or 600hl) from 33 hectares (81 acres) of vines [18.2hl/ha] which is very, very low but as we get good prices for our wines we can afford to go for quality. We did not change the way we pruned or managed the vines because of climate change but because of quality. Our vines are in balance, and the alcohol levels are 13.5% which is fine for Classico Classico. The Bordeaux grapes in our Sammarco and d’Alceo wines can reach alcohol levels of 14.5 to 15%. This can be explained by the fact that when these vines were planted in the 1990s they were trained low to the ground at 50-60cm (19.6-23.6 inches) whereas now our Sangiovese is trained at 1 metre (3.28 feet). The Bordeaux varieties receive more reflected heat from the soil but still perform well at higher alcohol levels, being naturally more forcefully structured compared to Sangiovese.’

Organic certification | 2010 No. | 2017 No.

White wines

Trebianico | A blend of Chardonnay, Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia. Fermented in terracotta amphora on the skins.

Red wines

Chianti Classico DOCG, Castello dei Rampolla

Sammarco, Toscana IGT | Cabernet Sauvignon seasoned with Sangiovese and Merlot. Between 8,000 to 18000 bottles.

Sangiovese di Santa Lucia | No added sulfites. 100% Sangiovese.  Fermented in terracotta amphora.

Vigna d’Alceo | A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Between 6,000 to 12,000 bottles.

Sweet wines

Vendemmia TardivE | Sweet white. Blend of roughly 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Gewürztraminer grown in a single site. SW-facing. Picked late, from late autumn to late December so the grapes can concentrate by either shrivelling, noble rot or both. The grapes are pressed, fermented in stainless steel and aged around 8 months before being bottled and released.

Contact

Castello dei Rampolla, Via Case Sparse, 22 – Panzano in Chianti, Loc. Santa Lucia in Faulle – I-50022 Greve in Chianti (FI = Firenze), Italy | Tel+39 055 852001 or 055.852560

Bibliography

Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p216.