“This does NOT look like the postcards,” I said to myself looking out across the vineyards during my very first trip to Tuscany. Greve in Chianti, in the Chianti Classico zone, has patchy shrubs and the woodland areas create a quilt-like pattern with the vineyards. In my mind, everywhere in Tuscany looked like that well-manicured rolling hill with three cypress trees perched on top. It was oddly disappointing, and it stuck with me during a long love/hate relationship I created with the region.
Additional fuel to the ‘hate’ side of the relationship was a confusion and misunderstanding of Chianti. For quite some time, I blew off Chianti and Tuscany as a whole because I found the north and south of Italy much more interesting and more to my personal tastes. But as the Vineyard Adventures mantra states, nothing beats a personal experience, and I had a trigger moment in the spring of 2015 that forced me into an 180-degree turn on Chianti, and I chose to dig a little deeper.
The mission of the day was to visit a Chianina beef breeder; I was unaware they also made wine. Our driver missed the turn, it was easy to do. Off the beaten path is quite the understatement and we were following the signs for Lamole. As it is with all things driving in Italy, the signs weren’t exactly correct, and we weren’t exactly going to Lamole. We rolled down the window and asked a random person walking along the road where we could find Castellinuzza e Piuca. The road was so narrow; we had to drive onward before we could find a suitable place to turn the car around.
To give you an idea of the rustic simplicity of Castellinuzza e Piuca, below the professionally made sign provided by the Chianti Classico Consorzio for a different, yet related winery, is a hand-written board stating “wine and oil for sale” in English, German and Italian, pointing us in the right direction.
Castellinuzza is tiny, and it seems to be fully inhabited by the Coccia family. Simone Coccia received a portion of the land his father and uncle purchased in 1962 when sharecropping finally ended. (Podere Castellinuzza, the winery with a professionally made sign, is owned by Paolo Coccia, Simone’s brother.)
After visiting the breeding cows, Simone showed us the cellar. Behind one slim door lives a few concrete vats that have been there for quite some time. “No barrels?” I asked. He said no. All stainless steel fermenting with concrete and bottle aging. I began to get curious.
We sat down to lunch of some of the most tender, flavorful steak I had ever eaten and was pleasantly surprised by the wines. I had only ever known Chianti to be bitter and wood aged where this was light and refreshing.
I took a hard, wine geek look at why I liked this wine so much when I’d been so dissatisfied with other Chianti Classico. For Chianti Classico DOCG, only 80% of the wine has to be Sangiovese. 20% can be any other variety as long as it is grown in the Chianti Classico zone. Sure enough, following something I learned about my personal tastes, I discovered that the Chianti I’ve had in the past, there was up to 20% Cabernet overwhelming the Sangiovese. I’d also assumed that an overabundance of oak might have been to blame, but I found the 2014 Dievole Chianti Classico just as interesting. Here, the wine is fermented in large oak casks and aged in large oak barrels but the 90% Sangiovese still shines through helped by 6% Canaiolo and 4% Colorino, traditional grapes for the blend.
So remember! Don’t give up on a place or a grape just because you’ve had a few glasses that weren’t to your liking. Keep exploring and discover something new.
Do you have a similar story? Share it with us below!
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover this winery.