MAKING TRADITION AND INNOVATION SHINE
- Soak It Up: The majestic view the estate vineyard and Tuscan hills from the front door of the centuries-old Castello di Gabbiano
- Winemaker Frederico Cerelli, on the steps in front of the castello
A winemaker needs to know the potential for the vineyard and how to manage each parcel to achieve the right balance.
FRANCES MAYES' POPULAR MEMOIR Under the Tuscan Sun has forever infused this idyllic corner of the world with a romantic wash of sunlight. But winemaker Frederico Cerelli wasn't thinking of the English-language bestseller when he came to create a new wine from the historic Castello di Gabbiano estate in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a 20-minute drive from Florence.
Solatio, which means sunny, is a new label for the venerable winery that was one of the fi rst 30 estates to make wine in what is now the Chianti Classico region. (Today, more than 350 producers work in the region.) A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, Solatio is crafted from grapes grown on the Gabbiano estate and grapes sourced from Maremma, on the coast of Tuscany.
"The sun is one of the important means to produce great wine," Cerelli explains. "In this area you are able to produce a wine with a lot of structure and a lot of tannins that is able to age for a long time.
"If you want to make a wine to drink young that is very modern and very powerful, you need grapes from a hotter area. This is why I decided to use grapes from the coast."
Solatio is one of the ways that the dynamic young vintner is putting his mark on Gabbiano. Cerelli succeeds Giancarlo Roman, a former president of the winemakers' association of Tuscany, who had been in charge of Gabbiano's cellars since 1990.
If you want to make a wine to drink young that is very modern and very powerful, you need grapes from a hotter area.
Cerelli is clearly enjoying the opportunity to produce the traditional portfolio of wines, especially the Sangiovese-based Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva that allow him to maximize the potential of the vineyards surrounding the castle, which dates back to the 12th century, and gives the winery its name.
But, he says, he also wants to show the world it is possible to make modern wines like Solatio without losing the elegance that is a hallmark of the sun-kissed region.
The talented winemaker, who formerly worked down the road at the Antinori estate where the legendary wine Tignanello is made, takes a team approach with viticulturalist Francesco Caselli to get a handle on the 130 hectares of vines available to him.
"More than 60 percent of the work is made in the vineyard," says Cerelli. "A winemaker needs to work in the cellar, but first he must work in the vineyard. He needs to know very well the potential for the vineyard and how to manage each parcel to achieve the right balance."