Friday, December 09, 2011

The '94 Garantito IGP: Camartina - When Sangiovese Still Ruled the Roost

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

No, no objections, just some reflections upon one of the best-known Tuscan wines and a "trial" of what has always been Querciabella's star: Camartina. This red is one of the wines Americans called Supertuscans, a term Parker likely invented in the 70s, using it to describe Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta's Sassicaia and Antinori's Tignanello (Giacomo Tachis, the consulting winemaker, had a hand in all three wines). The names also were related, in the sense that in the space of a few years there was a tremendous number of wines whose names ended in "aia" and "ello," suffixes that in some way announced a relationship.

Camartina came later, in 1981, when Querciabella was run by Giuseppe Castiglioni, who paired it with Chianti Classico in a land where Sangiovese had always been the primary red varietal -- we're in Greve in Chianti. The blend of Camartina has changed over the years, to the point that the ratio of the two varietals it contains, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, has flipped. At the beginning the former was predominant, and now the latter.

The Querciabella estate has evolved steadily; at the end of the 80s they were already reducing chemicals in the vineyards, and in 2000 became fully biodynamic, while maintaining an active research program to increase quality.

The winery also launched, in 1988, a barrel-aged Chardonnay, called Batard, which with time became Batàr (and is now a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco), which was then atypical due to its powerful boisé and its being an intentionally long-lived white wine, a wine whose qualities emerge with the passage of years.

It is on the other hand clear that Querciabella, which now belongs to Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, dedicates most of its energies to the export markets, and this emerges from their communications, be they internet, Facebook, or Twitter, are exclusively in English. Also from the fact that wines like Camartina and Batàr are not easily affordable by all, at least not in Italy.To provide a comparison, when the 94 Camartina was released, it sold for slightly less than 40,000 Lire, which wasn quite a sum, and now the current release, the 2008, sells for between 70 and 80 Euros -- a sum that few in Italy will be able to spend on a wine with any frequency.

It is indisputable that Camartina is a great Tuscan red, and this 94, 12 years after its release, gives concrete proof: deep concentrated garnet with barest hints of brick in the rim. The nose displays a mixture of dark ripe fruit, primarily prunes, wild cherry and black currants, but there are also underlying humus, myrtle, and cloves, mintled with ash and goudron, tobacco, leather, and India ink. On the palate its perfect balance is most impressive: lively acidity, tightly woven perfectly integrated tannins, fruit, roundness, and not the slightest -- and I must emphasize this -- pernicious decrease in energy. And this is all the more surprising considering that 1994 wasn't a spectacular vintage, at the most interesting and varies, with a few sporadic bursts of excellence. Confirmation of this vintage evaluation comes from alcohol, which is evident despite its not being that high (13%, according to the label), and a midpalate that's not as "solid" as one might expect. Thus, a vintage that wasn't powerful but rather nervous, and not easy to interpret, but in this case was absolutely convincing, much more than anyone might have expected.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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