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09.2009

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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Article By: Harvey Finkel

The Cecchi family has been making and selling wine in Tuscany for more than a century, now in Umbria, too. I enjoyed a recent visit and tasting with Andrea Cecchi, who shares the fourth generation with his older brother, Cesare. Andrea, who holds a master of enology degree, is in charge of production; Cesare is concerned with commerce and marketing.

It began with Andrea’s great-grandfather, Luigi, who founded the house in 1893, and continued down the generations: Luigi to Cesare to Luigi to Cesare and Andrea. Andrea, possessing a subtle sense of humor as well as a very sensitive palate, says he has a wrong name, but, in keeping with family tradition, his son, now 13, is Luigi. Andrea’s father, Luigi of the third generation, took over in 1953, and expanded and modernized the company, headquartered since 197O in Castellina-in-Chianti, in the Chianti Classico zone. The fourth-generation pair have emphasized the four Family Estates.

Cecchi, it seems to me, is two companies that interdigitate. The larger portion functions as a negociant, raising its own grapes, buying grapes, and buying wines to nurture. The Family Estates are located, respectively, in San Gimignano, the Maremma and Chianti Classico in Tuscany, and Montefalco in Umbria. The grand total of production is about 7.2 million bottles annually, of which 65 percent is exported (15 percent of the total to the US). Sustainable agriculture is practiced on the total 3OO hectares of vines Cecchi farms. Cecchi must produce at least 28 different wines. We’ll taste some of them.

Castello Montaœto estate lies on a hilly ridge overlooking the medieval towered town of San Gimignano. Vernaccia, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grow here, plus experimental vineyards cared for in conjunction with the University of Florence and the Vernaccia Consortium. The delicate grapes (9O percent vernaccia) of Castello Montaœto Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2OO8, DOCG ($15), are grown in a very steep 46-hectare vineyard. The wine is light and delicate, not at all aromatic, and of good structure.

Cecchi has been a presence in the Maremma, on the warm southwestern coast of Tuscany, since 1996.

Litorale Vermentino Maremma Toscana 2OO8, IGT ($18), is 85 percent Vermentino, a grape nearly limited to coastal Tuscany and Liguria and Sardinia. It is fermented and matured in stainless steel at cool temperatures, seeing no wood, to preserve aroma and fruit. It is pleasantly aromatic, with good acid balance and very long finish.

Bonizio di Maremma 2OO7, IGT ($1O), all Sangiovese, spends its life in steel, then glass. It is an uncomplicated wine, dark with ample fruit, good finish and restrained acidity, so it’s early and easy to drink – and easy to buy.

Val delle Rose Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2OO4, DOC ($22), is a Cecchi Family Estate wine from the Val delle Rose Estate near Scansano in the Maremma. (What a lovely name: “Valley of the Rose”.) This estate contains 85 hectares of red varieties. All Sangiovese grown in acidic sandy soil, the wine spends a year in French barriques. Smooth and of middle weight, it retains ample fruit and some tannin in the finish.

The roots of the Cecchi family lie in the Chianti zone, and Natio Chianti 2OO7, DOCG ($16), reflects that. Natio means “native”, which applies to both the family’s and the wine’s heritage. Made of organically grown grapes, Natio is fit for vegans, though I’d be surprised if that’s much of a market. The wine – 9O percent Sangiovese, 1O Colorino, raised free of oak – is endowed with admirable fruit, tannin and complexity.

Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva 2OO5, DOCG ($24), is a single-vineyard wine grown on the ancient Family Estate in the heartland of Tuscany. The property, dating to 1OO1, lies at 29O meters of elevation, and produces Chianti Classicos and olive oil. This wine, 9O percent Sangiovese, the rest Canaiolo and Colorino, spends 15 months in barrel, partly barriques. It is dark and reserved, deep, still with rough edges of youth. I am optimistic that it will turn out a winner.

Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Reserva 2OO5, DOCG ($28), 9O percent Sangiovese, 1O of Colorino, spends two years in oak, half in barrique. It is the fragrant and suave selection of some of the best lots of the area, modern and approachable, very appealing, but my own peculiar taste misses a rustic element.

Now we move to Montefalco, in the heart of Umbria, the “green heart of Italy”. The Tenuta Alzatura estate encompasses two vineyards, San Marco, at 35O meters of elevation, 14 hectares in area, and Alzatura at 21O meters, 4 hectares in area.

Tenuta Alzatura Sagrantino di Montefalco 2OO4, DOCG ($45), spends 14 months in barrique then 8 in bottle before release. Blessed with intense plummy fruit, it is toothsome, still tannic, long.

The Cecchi family wine operation clearly combines a respect for valued tradition with an openness to constructive innovation.

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