Capezzana is an extraordinary estate; it was initially mentioned in documents dating to 804, and has belonged to the Contini Bonaccossi family since the 1920s. The elder generation that purchased it were experienced travelers, familiar with French chateaus, and began setting aside a portion of each vintage to serve as an archive or historic memory in the 1930s, long before the idea had occurred to most anyone else in Italy. And the old Count's quick thought, to wall in a section of the cellars, with an entire vintage in cask and as many bottles as they could put in the hall in the time they had, just before the Germans made the villa their command post during the Second World War, allowed the archive to survive.
They have of course continued to add to the archive since then, and I have been fortunate enough to be invited to three extraordinary verticals: One, in 2002, that began with the 1931 vintage, another dedicated to Vinsanto, which began with the 1959 vintage, and once again this year, of reds, beginning with the 1937 vintage.
The two tastings of reds partially overlap, and I have decided to combine them, since my impressions from then and now may prove interesting; they show something of how wines evolve, going into and emerging from quiet phases, and also of how the tastes of an individual taster can change.
We'll begin with the introduction I wrote in 2002, which, with the exception of the appellation's total vineyard area, which has increased, is still current now, and then look at the reds, and at the end you will find my notes from the Vinsanto vertical.
So here we go:
Italy has many so-called lesser DOCs, and though this comes as no surprise -- there are, after all, hundreds of Italian appellations -- one might be surprised to discover one of the finest is in the heart of Tuscany, just a half hour's drive from Florence, and even more surprised to discover that it is much older than nay of the French appellations. But Carmignano is all this and more; Grand Duke Cosimo III De'Medici was, among other things, a keen appreciator of fine wines, and in 1716 issued an edict establishing the boundaries and production methods for what he considered to be the four best wine producing areas in Tuscany: The heart of Chianti Classico, a section of the Upper Valdarno not far from Arezzo, Pomino, and Carmignano. Of the four appellations, Carmignano stands out as the most distinctive, because it had Cabernet, locally known as uva franciosa, which is said to have been introduced by Caterina De'Medici, who was also Queen of France.
In the centuries following Cosimo's edict commentators often remarked on the quality of Carmignano's wine, but the region was simply too small (about a hundred hectares of vineyards) to attract the attention of a broad audience, and it therefore sank into obscurity, to the point that when the boundaries of the Chianti Montalbano area were set in the 1930s they included all of the old Carmignano zone. This didn't sit well with those whose vineyards were in what Cosimo had defined as Carmignano, and in the late 1960s, under the leadership of Capezzana's Conte Ugo Contini Bonaccossi, they began to push for the recognition of Carmignano, establishing a Congregazione (a Consorzio, in 1971) and lobbying hard to overcome the resistance of the Chianti Montalbano producers.
The new Carmignano DOC arrived in 1975, with a provision that allowed producers to relabel their wines from the 1969 vintage on as Carmignano, while DOCG status, retroactive to 1988, came in 1990. With respect to Chianti, Carmignano differs in that it has always contained a percentage of Cabernet (Either Franc or Sauvignon or both) in addition to the standard Tuscan varietals. Getting down to specifics, the Disciplinare calls for Sangiovese 45-70%; Canaiolo Nero 10-20%; Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon 6-15%; Trebbiano Toscano, Canaiolo Bianco and Malvasia Bianca Lunga, max. 10%; other permitted grapes max. 15%.
I doubt anyone is still using white grapes, and many are shifting to just Cabernet and Sangiovese. The basic Carmignano must age two years prior to release, one of which in wood, and Carmignano Riserva must age three years, two of which in wood.
In recent years the DOCG has expanded some, from 100 hectares to about 135, and could reach 200, but it remains one of the smallest Italian appellations -- by comparison, the Brunello production zone is about 1400 hectares. The vineyards are draped over the steep, east-facing slopes of Monte Albano, and range from 250 and 400 meters in altitude. Though Carmignano is not far from the Chianti Classico region the growing cycle is more precocious, with the harvest generally occurring at least two weeks before the Chianti harvest (this can be very important if there are fall rains). The summer is also more temperate, with good day-night temperature shifts that help develop be wines' bouquets, and occasional thunderstorms during July and August that provide enough moisture to keep back the specter of drought, which instead often looms in Chianti. "In many ways," says Filippo Contini Bonaccossi, "our climate is reminiscent of Bolgheri's."
There are currently about a dozen producers; Tenuta di Capezzana is by far the largest, and also has an extraordinary (and beautiful) cellar, with bottles dating back to before the war. And therein lies a tale: the Villa di Capezzana is quite beautiful, and during the War the Germans commandeered it to use it as a command post. At the time the access to the bottaia, the part of the cellar where the casks were stored, was half-way down a dark narrow corridor, and the old Count and his estate manager were able to wall up the doorway before the Germans took possession. Though the Germans drank everything they could find, they never noticed the new patch of wall, and after the War the Count used the sale of the vintages that had been walled up to finance the reconstruction of the estate. He also set some aside for posterity, and the 1931 vintage that introduced this tasting came from that stock.
And now the wines, tasted in December 2002 and September 2010
Villa di Capezzana 1931 Tasted 2002 This is a table wine, and has been recorked (corks do have a lifespan). It's pale almandine garnet with Moroccan leather overtones. The bouquet is delicate and surprisingly alive, with dried roses and sour cherry aromas at the first sniff; there's nothing off or musty about it, and swishing brings up polished saddle leather as well, with some nose tingling acidity (a fellow taster says acetic acid), hints of sea salt, and dried orange peel that another fellow taster found moldy. Impressive, though it soon begins to shift, with the leather dampening, and gaining greenish notes and a certain sharpness. On the palate it is again surprisingly lively, with brisk acidity that supports sour cherry fruit and some bitter leathery notes; the tannins are smooth, and what one really notes as the primary structural element is the acidity, which leads into a fairly long finish with tart fruit overtones. This is my first experience with a wine that has passed the three-score-and-ten limit that is our allotted age, and I am impressed; it has held up extraordinarily well, and though it is clearly elderly it still has much to say. A score would be an academic exercise that means little in this case.
As one might expect, we discussed this wine at the lunch after the tasting, and everyone wondered how it had managed to carry though so well, especially considering the many years it spent in large wood, which can dry out fruit. Clearly perfect storage played a part, as did its acidity, but Filippo Contini Bonaccossi attributes much of the miracle to the vineyards, which were in part on native rootstocks, and all planted to very high densities, up to 8,000 vines per hectare -- since there was no mechanization there was no need to leave space for tractors, and the farmers aimed for quality rather than quantity. The low-density vineyards planted with mechanization in mind came in the 1960s and 70s. And by now we have come full circle, with high planting densities and low yields per plant.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 1937 Tasted 2010 This was recorked in the 1960s. Pale dusky almandine with brownish rim, and dusty tannins in the bottom of the glass. The bouquet is fairly intense, and clearly mature, with Moroccan leather mingled with underbrush and dried tobacco, also brambly dusky acidity and hints of dried flowers, also alcohol and some old dry leather, a fellow taster also mentions candle tallow of the sort one finds in a sacristy and hot coals. On the palate it's still with us, though faded, with tart sour acidity -- leather that brings to mind old, dried prunes supported by leathery acidity and by tannins that are still with us and have a dusty rather bitter burr, flowing into a fairly long sour finish with Moroccan leather bitterness. Quite interesting, and though it has faded, traces of the beauty it once displayed remain. Most impressive. As was the case with the 1931, a score would be meaningless. One thing: A fellow taster who was also present at the last tasting said, and I think he's right, that the 37 is slightly superior to the 31.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1969 Tasted 2010 Deep brownish almandine with orange and Moroccan leather in the rim. The bouquet is intriguing, with smoky accents and abundant cold coffee mingled with sour prune and carob, with some hot coals as well, and as it opens wet leather and other tertiary aromas, including dried flowers, wet earth (almost marsh), and hints of Sichuan preserved vegetable, and as it opens further distinctly smoky notes. On the palate it's soft, and rather leathery, with moderate acidty, and tannins that have faded into duskiness, and the finish is decidedly smoky. There is also quite a bit of alcohol, which confers a degree of sweetness. By comparison with the 37 it is much weaker and more tired; I can't see it displaying what the 37 does in another 30 years. 1 star
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1969 Tasted 2002 They got new botti in 1969, a mixture of 24 and 33 hectoliter casks. Though the label says Riserva, it also says that the wine is a table wine (in English) -- this was a transitional vintage, with those subsequent to it being labeled Carmignano DOC. The wine is dark almandine with Moroccan leather overtones that shift to pale orange at the rim. The bouquet is distinctly more tired than that of the 31, which serves to reinforce the greatness of the 31 vintage; here we have some dried flowers and rather tired berry fruit that mingle with sea salt and warm saddle leather and hints of cold iron -- there's something grating about it. On the palate it's clearly elderly but full bodied, with moderately intense berry fruit that's supported by very smooth tannins; there are also sour overtones, and it all has a slightly musty edge that emerges in the finish as a mixture of wet paper and India ink. It is well past its prime, though one can still see hints of what it was -- perhaps not a great beauty, but certainly interesting. 1 star
Similar judgments in 2002 and 2010.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1975 Tasted 2002 Almandine with Moroccan leather overtones and an orange rim. The bouquet is intriguing and unusual, with chestnut honey and walnut skins on the initial sniff, which opens to reveal warmth, some spice, and sea salt with swishing, though the chestnuts continue to predominate. On the palate it's more delicate than one might have expected from the nose, with moderately intense, fairly sour cherry fruit that's supported by velvety tannins that have a hint of steel to them, and lead into a clean fruit-laced finish with a dark, brambly India ink and cedar underpinning that's fairly persistent. Though it has clearly passed its peak it's very much alive, and will work nicely with a hearty roast or flavorful grilled meats, including lamb chops, or a rich stew. 2 stars
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1979 Tasted 2010 Almandine with black reflections and orange rim. Obviously a mature wine, but displays a certain vibrancy. The bouquet is dusky, with Moroccan leather and spice mingled with wet underbrush, carob and some prunes, also dried leather and some dried flowers with an appealing underlying tartness that keeps it on its toes. A fellow taster mentions marzipan, which I don't sense. Rather sour acidity that I find fairly graceful. On the palate it's full, and though mature well with us, with prune fruit supported by sweetish accents and clean sweet tannins, while the acidity is rather mineral, and flows into a clean leathery finish. It's graceful, and fully mature, a wine that has developed as far as it will and is in a holding pattern. At a high elevation; it has a lot to say and is quite pleasing to converse with, though you do have to like mature wines. If you prefer greater youth it won't work as well for you. 2 stars
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1979 Tasted 2002 Black almandine ruby with Moroccan leather rim. The bouquet is clearly elderly, but not unpleasant, with dried flowers and sea salt that mingle with saddle leather and brambly nose-tingling spice; there's also some sour cherry fruit underlying it all, and, with time, intriguing chestnut honey and walnut rinds emerge strongly. On the palate it's full, and rather dusty, with fairly rich plum cherry fruit supported by smooth tannins that have a bitter spike to them and quite a bit of dust, which flows over the tongue and carries into a clean plum-laced finish with some bitter underbrush that emerges with time. It's pleasing, and to be frank I wouldn't have guessed it was quite this old; it's also opulent in an odd way, bringing to mind a luxury car of the 50s: Big, flashy, and a touch soft. This said, it will drink nicely with succulent, not too fatty meats, for example rare roast beef. 2 stars
I was surprised here, as I remembered liking the 1979 in 2002 less than my notes would indicate. The vintage was not universally liked in 2010, and indeed one colleague said it was the wine he liked least.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1985 Tasted 2010 Deep almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly intense,with ith leathery accents and leaf tobacco mingled with sea salt and spice, also some prunes and carob. Quite fresh and very much alive; as it opens some smoky embers also emerge. On the palate it's rich, with powerful rather smoky prune fruit supported by savory leathery acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean rather smoky finish that's short through with leather. Quick to write, but graceful and a great pleasure to drink. 90-92
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1985 Tasted 2002 Black almandine ruby with black overtones and orange towards the rim. The bouquet is disappointing; considering the reputation of the vintage I had expected more: There are some floral notes overlain by India ink, bitterness, and something that brings chrome to mind, but it's muted. The palate reflects the nose; it's medium bodied with moderate cherry and plum fruit supported by tannins that have a flat cedary feel to them, and lack the richness of those of the older wines. The finish is bitter and plum laced, with dark shadowy overtones. As I said, I had expected more. 1 star
A big disparity here. What happened? Wine, like people, evolves and develops, and in 2002 it was likely in a quiescent phase, which it has since emerged from.
From my 2002 notes: The 1990s were a period of many changes for Capezzana. The most important was, probably, the arrival of Stefano Chioccioli as consulting enologist in the latter part of the decade; he brought many innovations, and also gave the wines a distinctly more modern richness of bouquet and fruit, while greatly increasing their approachability as well. If, before his arrival, the wines tended towards austerity, they have now become coquettish, bringing to mind a pretty young lady who attracts our attention by flipping open her fan, and fans herself as she catches our eyes with hers.
Among the changes: 1) They began green harvesting (removing some bunches of grapes before they begin to ripen so the vine can devote all of its energy to a smaller number of grapes, which will be of much better quality) in the mid-1990s. This is a major shift, and is especially important in weak vintages. Without green harvesting, for example, the 2002 vintage, born of a cold, wet summer, would have been a total loss for many Tuscan producers, including Capezzana.
2) Until 1998 they aged their Carmignano exclusively in large wood. In 1999 they began to use tonneaux (500 liter casks) as well.
3) Since 1988 they have based the harvest on polyphenolic ripeness rather than grape sugar content. As a result the skins have more to contribute, resulting in richer wines with more substance; the downside is that the grapes also have higher sugar contents, and the wines consequently tend to be more alcoholic.
4) They eliminated Canaiolo from their Carmignano. The major complementary grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, while there's no Cabernet Franc.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1990 Tasted 2010 Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and almandine rim -- it's beginning to look a little younger. The bouquet is intense and elegant, with sour berry fruit laced with carob and mentholated spice, also hot embers and abundant leaf tobacco with slight cedar. Nice balance and very much, vibrantly alive. On the palate it's full and rich, with powerful cherry fruit laced with some plums, and supported by deft acidity that balances without overshadowing, and by tannins that have dusky slightly greenish embery tones, and flow into a clean dusky carob and berry fruit finish. A beautiful wine that has a lot to say now, but that will continue to develop for a time yet -- In other words, it you're healthy and have two bottles, keep one a little longer. One of those wines that makes suffering though quarts of plonk worthwhile. Very, very nice. 94-5
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1990 Tasted 2002 Black almandine ruby with black reflections tending towards Moroccan leather at the rim. The bouquet is delicate, with dried roses and berry fruit, in particular sour cherry, with some warm leather and spice, which mingle with slight sea salt and hints of bell pepper. It's rather graceful, though I would have expected more richness given the reputation of the vintage. On the palate it's medium bodied, and again not quite what I might have expected; the fruit's moderately intense but generic berry, and the tannins that support it separate from it, giving an impression of an open space that resolves into bitter oak-laced pencil shaving overtones that persist into the finish. To be frank, it gives the impression of having been overoaked, and now that the fruit has begun to fade the oak comes to the fore, especially in the finish. It is still quite drinkable, but gives the impression of having slipped. 1 star
Another big disparity, and to be frank I think I was overlay harsh on the vintage in 2002. This time, it was the wine I and the colleague who was discomfited by the 1979 liked best.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1995 Tasted 2010 Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with sour cherry fruit supported by some leather and leaf tobacco, and by some almost brambly acidity. It's quite fresh, and -- as I recall -- from a vintage that was good but not exceptional; this said, it has held up very well on the nose. On the palate it's dusky, with moderately intense sour cherry fruit supported by brambly acidity and tannins that have a dusky burr and flow into a tart tannic finish with dusky bitter underpinning. It's quite pleasant, though not a wine to drink far from the table because the tannins have a dry sour burr to them that will be a great help to a steak but distracts on its own. With time, alas, it settles, and of the wines in the vertical is the one that suffered exposure to the air the most, developing a decidedly waxy nose and settling some on the palate too. This can happen with older wines, which may hold steady in the glass, but may also evolve very quickly. Given its development, scores upon pouring and after time would be so different as to make little sense. However, a fellow taster liked this wine best of all.
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva 1995 Tasted 2002 Deep pigeon blood ruby with some hints of brick in the rim. The bouquet is very different from those of the previous vintages, with some stewed cherries that mingle with slight vanilla, hints of bell pepper, iron, and pronounced pencil shavings. Nicely balanced, and considerably more opulent. On the palate it's full bodied and fairly rich, with fairly intense cherry and plum fruit supported by chalky tannins that though smooth do have a slight splintery feel to them that carries through into the finish, where pencil shavings and lead also emerge. It's interesting, and clearly entering its prime, though it's also a wine that doesn't attempt to make a Statement; as a result it won't stand out as much as some at a tasting, but it will work well with foods, in particular succulent, not too fatty roasts or stews. 2 stars
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 1999 Tasted 2010 Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and almandine in the rim; it's distinctly darker that the earlier vintages, and the subsequent vintages are all this dark -- with this vintage they began using smaller wood. The bouquet is fairly intense, with prune and carob fruit supported by dusky embers and some smoky acidity, with pleasing savory notes as well. Quite interesting to sniff. On the palate it's ample and smooth, and more polished than the older vintages, with fairly rich cherry fruit supported by moderate acidity, and savory accents, and by smooth sweet tannins that have a slight dusky burr and flow into a clean tannins laced berry fruit finish. Quite pleasant, displaying considerable finesse, and is still climbing; it will drink very well with grilled meats or stews now, and continue to evolve for another decade at least before it reaches its plateau. 90
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 1999 Tasted 2002 Stefano Chioccioli played an important role in this vintage, and it shows in the wine's considerably more intense impenetrable violet ruby color, which carries through to black cherry ruby in the rim. The bouquet is frankly underage, with a huge spike of vanilla that has slight bitter cedar cocoa overtones and almost completely overshadows the fruit, which is cherry for the most part. Layered concentration with the rash exuberance of a child, and we'll have to wait to see if finesse enters the picture too. On the palate it's medium bodied tending towards full and quite rich, with powerful cherry plum fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have slight pencil shaving overtones, a gift from the Cabernet, and lead into a clean berry fruit finish that gains definition from a bitter tannic underpinning that reveal its youth in the form of pronounced cedary notes. It's very young, and though drinkable now will show better in 1-2 years; expect it to drink well through 2008. This said, it also reveals a remarkable stylistic departure with respect to the older wines; it's much more approachable, to the point that the word seductive comes to mind, but is also much more direct -- it's up front, like a sex kitten starlet on a sitcom, and what you see is what you get. Pleasing, no doubt about it, but there isn't as much depth as there was in some of the earlier vintages. So it's a wine to enjoy with friends around a table (as opposed to a meditative experience), with drier roasts or light stews. 2 stars
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 2000 Tasted 2002 This was a hot summer, and the grapes that were exposed directly to the sun while still on the vine were dried to raisins by the harvest. The wine is impenetrable pyrope ruby with cherry ruby rim. The bouquet is intense, and powerfully wood-laced, with a rush of vanilla mingled with berry fruit that brings a cupcake to mind. An exuberant starlet. On the palate it's full bodied and quite rich, with powerful plum and black currant fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have some splintery overtones and hints of pencil shavings; it flows into a clean berry fruit finish with a marked cedary tannic underpinning. It's rich, and seductive, though a bit more unstrapped than the 1999; it will work very well with drier roasts or delicate stews, and will hold nicely for at least 5 years. Like the 1999, it's more direct than the earlier vintages, and more accessible. In other words, a wine to enjoy with friends, rather than something to meditate over. 2 stars
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2001 Tasted 2010 Deep black almandine ruby, close to being poured ink. The bouquet is elegant, with savory cherry plum fruit supported by deft acidity and by hints of wood smoke and slight vegetal notes. Beautifully balanced and still fairly young. On the palate it's rich, full, and languid; with respect to the earlier vintages there is a greater smoothness to the tannins, and a more rich pulpiness to the fruit; this said, the fruit is rich cherry plum, with some greenish vegetal accents that provide further depth and complexity, while the tannins are smooth and dusky with slight bitter notes, and the acidity is clean and slightly brambly. Very pleasant, and ahs a great deal to say; it is wonderful to drink now, though I almost wish I could give it more time, 10 years at least. 93-5
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2006 Tasted 2010 Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim. The bouquet is young, and this is to be expected, with considerable spice -- almost sandalwood -- mingled with cherry fruit and slight vegetal accents; it's graceful and much more fruit forward than the older vintages, and this is also an effect of Stefano Chioccioli's being the consulting enologist. On the palate it's ample and very smooth, with rich cherry fruit with slight greenish accents supported by dusky tannins that have slight quinine bitterness and flow into a clean fairly rich berry fruit finish. It's extremely elegant now, an approachable wine that crooks a finger and says, "come hither," and those who do will be happy they did. I wonder, however, at its longevity. The 1985 is most impressive at age 25; I wonder if this will match it. 88
Villa di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2007 Tasted 2010 Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim. The bouquet is even younger, with violets and floral accents mingled with red berry fruit, sweetness, and mentholated spice. A babe, nice, and smiling, but still a babe. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich berry fruit supported by moderate acidity, and by tannins that have a cedar-laced burr that has yet to fold in. It's still very young, and needs time, though it is cut from the same cloth as the 2006 -- and will I think follow the same path, though at a superior level -- it has more depth and verve than its older sibling. 90-92?
My overall impressions? What I wrote in 2002: Capezzana has tremendous potential, as is clearly shown by a number of the wines we tasted. The estate has also been inconsistent, not so much on a vintage-to-vintage basis as on a long term (decade) scale, with ups and downs that may be related to the economic fortunes of Carmignano's wines in general (they are the major Carmignano producer), and also likely reflect variations in vineyard and cellar technique, for example the low density high yield per vine "tractor vineyards" planted in the 60s and 70s, which certainly affected the quality of the wines. Now they are on an upswing, with new vineyards planted to high densities that allow low per-vine yields, and therefore result in greater richness and concentration, and also significant improvements in cellar technique that will allow the material from the vineyards to show its best. In short, the future looks bright, and Capezzana is definitely a winery to look out for.
Capezzana's Vinsanto: Another Extraordinary Vertical
This originally appeared in the print edition of the Italian Wine review, in about 2001:
One rarely gets to taste through 40 years of production, and this tasting was all the more valuable because Capezzana was quite willing to put the wines that haven't fared as well over the years on display too. The wines that had fared well were of course a delight, but the others were also interesting, in some cases giving an impression of graceful senility, and in others simply of having failed. There was also an impression, from tasting through the collected vintages, of a dip in the quality of the wines over the interval from the late 60s though the beginning of the 1980s, at which point things began to look up again.
As one might expect, there were changes in technique and goal over the interval covered by the wines. In the early years they harvested their grapes and then dried them for a couple of months, leaving the wine to then do as it would in the caratelli; the aim was not to produce a sensual after dinner delight, but rather a wine that one might also offer as an aperitif, in other words something that was a little drier and more acidic. These wines were, by comparison with those made from grapes that were dried more and pressed later, less long-lived, and only really kept well in exceptional vintages, for example the 1962. In the mid 1990s, on the other hand, they decided to aim for more concentrated, elegant wines, and decided to dry their grapes for longer and press them in January; the changes are apparent in the 1995 vintage..
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1959 Tawny amber with white rim. Rich bouquet with caramel, dried fruit, all shot through with the bitterness of bitter almonds and walnut skins. Also rancio; brings to mind a dry sherry in a way. On the palate it's full and rich, with an initial attack that's fairly sweet, with apricot and honey, which fades quickly through dried fruit into bitter almond skins with an overlying slightly salty tartness, while the nut skins lurk in the background to provide a counterpoint; the finish goes on and on. Interesting, and remarkably lively considering its age, though it's more of a wine for an intellectual than something that will enthuse lovers of young voluptuous Vinsanti. 2 stars
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1962 Tawny amber that's more brilliant than the 59; in swirling it in the glass it also appears thicker. The bouquet is frankly impressive, with honey and bitter almonds that mingle with dried fruit, in particular figs. One would never guess it's entering human middle age. On the palate it's rich, full, and sweet, with a concentrate of dried apricot that slowly dissolves over the tongue, accompanied by the tongue-tingling tartness that dried apricots can have, and leads into a long finish that's more of the same, slowly fading. Harmonious and very impressive, it's the sort of wine that one would want to break out with close friends far from the table. People say that Vinsanto can be immortal in good vintages, and this is the proof. 90
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1969 Tawny amber that's less charged than the 62 despite being almost a decade younger; the rim is pale, with very slight green overtones. The bouquet is, by comparison with the 62, a little more along, and there's a certain underlying dark bitterness that may be cork-related (this is a danger with older wines). In any case, sniffing though it there's bitter almond flower that mingles with sea salt, dried leather, and rancio, producing an effect slightly reminiscent of dry sherry. On the palate it's flagging, with some sweetness and slightly salty bitter walnuts that lead into a finish that's more of the same, with bitter vapors rising up into the back of the nose; the overall impression is that it's beyond the pale. No star
We all wondered about this, and opened the second bottle: It's slightly different; and not quite as brilliant, which makes it a little lighter in color, and doesn't have the bitterness in the bouquet; as a result the rancio is more pronounced, with oatmeal and hints of raisins, as are the salty notes that shine through the slight sugars present. On the palate it's a little sweeter, with tenuous dried apricot fruit coming up, and then fading to reveal bitter black walnut skins that mingle with sweetness and some sea salt. Again, a wine that has given what it will give and is coasting down hill at this point, but quite different from the other bottle. No star
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1971 The wine is tawny amber and there is some sediment in the bottom of the glass. The bouquet is frankly evolved, with hints of oatmeal and yeasty bread dough, pronounced rancio, dryness, and walnut skins, with very slight hints of Sichuan preserved vegetable. Of the wines tasted so far it most closely resembles dry sherry (the vegetable aside), with no hints of sweetness at all. On the palate it's simply there, a fairly thick liquid that does coat the lips with something resembling a buttery texture, but with little flavor, leading into walnut skins and sea salt in the finish, which is fairly long. Considering the renown of the 1971 vintage, I would have expected considerably more from the wine. A disappointment. No star
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1977 The wine is slightly cloudy brownish amber with green highlights; of the group it's the darkest and the cloudiest. The bouquet is evolved, with sea salt and rancio, and quite penetrating; it also brings to mind a wet chestnut barrel stave. On the palate it's frankly unpleasant, with bitter salty overtones and no sweetness at all; wines, like people, can sour as they age and this one has. No star
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1979 Tawny gold with white rim. The bouquet is dry, with considerable rancio, bringing to mind a dry sherry though there are some sugars in the background, and hints of dried apricot and walnut skins, together with old cypress wood and some medicinal overtones. On the palate it's more disappointing, with all the sugars fermented out, leaving salty walnut meats and an underlying bitterness; the finish is fairly short, though some almond aromas do rise up into the nose. A frankly unexciting wine, and one wonders that happened during the interval between 1969 and 1979; by comparison with the 1959 and to a much greater degree the 1962 these wines are dead and gone. No star
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1981 Slightly cloudy amber, with some sediment. The bouquet is more interesting than the 79, though no where near the level of the 62, with some dried fruit, in particular apricot, laced with sea salt and bitter almond, and underlying oatmeal, with a little honey peeking in from around the edges; the effect is interesting, and also suggest airiness. On the palate it's moderately full with some sweetness, though not too much, which is supports rather tired apricots and considerable tongue-tingling tartness that flows into a finish that brings a sweet dry sherry to mind, if such a thing were possible, and continues on at fair length, with sea salt and bitterness emerging as the other sensations fade. A wine that has paid its dues and is bowing out, but that has held better than those of the 70s; if one looks hard one can imagine what it must have been like a decade ago. No star
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1983 Tawny amber with highlights that are approaching golden. The bouquet is somewhat more evolved than the color would lead one to think, with sea salt, oatmeal, and a little rubber cement mingling with apricots, some honey, and bitter almond; though it's interesting the overall impression is one of dryness. On the palate it is instead fairly sweet (we're not in the presence of crystalline honey here), with some but not too much dried fruit, primarily apricots, which become stronger as the sweetness fades into the finish, which is rather delicate, with the tartness of the apricots providing definition. Pleasing, though not exceptional, it's a wine that is obviously in the downward part of the curve, but is nice to drink, and one can imagine what it once was. An intellectual exercise of the sort a wine lover will enjoy, but it's not something to seek out and give as a gift. 1 star
With the 1985 vintage they switched to half-liter bottles.
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1985 Tawny amber with white rim, and a little sediment in the bottom of the glass. The bouquet is elegant, with a mixture of dried apricots and figs and underlying honey, with slight sage that one doesn't normally associate with a young vinsanto, but that can come out in an older wine and works nicely. Pleasing to sniff and invites more sniffing. On the palate it's more what one expects of a vinsanto, with full sweet sugars supported by pleasing dried apricots and bitter almonds that provide definition; the finish is clean, with some sweetness balanced by walnut skins, and rather long. There's a lot going on here, though again it's not the sensual wine that lovers of the voluptuous style will enjoy. But if you like somewhat more intellectual Vinsanti with some depth, you will like it. 2 stars
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1986 Light tawny amber. The bouquet is pleasing, and rather airy, with honey that mingles with dried figs and slight oatmeal with brown sugar overtones. Delicate; invites a second and then a third sniff. On the palate it's rich and reflects the nose, with dried apricot fruit supported by chestnut honey and bitter almonds with a few sweet almonds thrown in; there's also a little almond butter to coat the lips, and a clean dried apricot finish with some walnut overtones that goes on and on. A delightful wine of the kind that you will want to open with friends, far from the table. 90
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano 1990 Tawny amber with golden highlights, and a little sediment in the bottom of the glass. The bouquet is rich, with rancio mingling with oatmeal and brown sugar, and supported by honey and dried apricots. On the palate it's quite fresh, full and sweet; though there is dried apricot fruit supported by lively acidity that provides tartness and warmth, which leads into a long dried apricot finish with some butter to coat the lips, it comes across as rather lumbering: There isn't as much definition as I might have expected, and this may be because the vintage produced extraordinarily rich grapes whose richness overshadowed their nuances. In short, not what one would call sensual, but rather slightly muscle bound. Worth seeking out to enjoy with friends in any case. 2 stars
Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano DOC Riserva 1995 Tawny gold amber with golden highlights. The bouquet is rich, and quite different from the earlier vintages, with a mixture of honeysuckle and dried apricots that brings Aphrodite to mind, supported by pleasing sugars and citrus skins, primarily tangerine, that add a sensual touch, as if one were needed; with more swishing some sea salt and nut skins also emerge to add complexity. On the palate it's rich and sensual, with a very sweet initial attack in which honey is supported by peach and apricot fruit, and flows into a clean finish where almonds also emerge, while almond butter coats the tongue, and the sweetness slowly fades. It's very good and quite immediate, like a luscious starlet in a revealing dress, and therefore the initial impression is one of "Wow!" However, there isn't as much underlying complexity as one would expect from a vinsanto (and in this it brings a passito to mind in a way), and I wonder how it will evolve with time. If it goes well it will go very well, but we will have to wait and see. As it is, it's, not a wine to meditate over, but rather to enjoy with friends or give as a gift and be assured of success. 90
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.