Chiappini – Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
In the vineyard
The warm and sunny Bolgheri region on Tuscany’s beautiful Mediterranean coastline is home to the famous “Supertuscans” such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Vineyard land here is now amongst the most expensive in Italy, and so too are the region’s wines! The Chiappini family are truly one of this region’s best kept secrets! They are a small, family wine business, 100% organic, producing top quality red and white wines at a fraction of the price of some of their more illustrious neighbours. They were one of the original wineries in the Bolgheri area; in fact back in 1978 when Giovanni Chiappini bought his first piece of land from Ludovico Antinori, there were no more than 7 or 8 wine producers in the area. Today there are over 60!
The Chiappini now own 27 hectares of land, of which 15 are planted with vines and the remainder with olive trees; average production is no more than 80,000 bottles of wine per year. The top quality of their terroir becomes immediately apparent whenyou learn who their direct neighbours are:- Ornellaia to the north, Le Macchiole to the west, and one of Sassicaia’s original hillside vineyards to the east. Pedigree does not come better than this in Bolgheri!
Their vineyards are planted with a mix of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Old olive trees line the boundaries of the property and are interspersed amongst the rows of vines. Based 5kms inland from the Mediterranean Sea, there is always a gentle sea breeze blowing which keeps the vines cool, dry and disease-free all year round – truly an ideal climate for organic grape growing. Not for nothing is Bolgheri referred to as the “California of Italy”! The soil here, in the heart of Bolgheri, tends to be sandier as you move closer to the sea, but stonier and with more clay as you move towards the hills. Average vine age is around 20 years old, so they are just entering the perfect level of maturity for producing top class wines.
In the winery
The grapes are always harvested by hand early in the morning to retain as much crunchy fresh acidity as possible. They are sorted once at picking and again on arrival at the winery – which is conveniently located in the middle of the vineyards – so that only the juiciest, healthiest grapes go into the press. Both the white Vermentino and red grapes are then left for 36 – 48 hours in very cool temperatures to retain maximum freshness and flavour before being pressed and fermented. Only wild (local) yeasts are used for the fermentation. The white wine then spends 5 months on its lees in steel tanks to gain in flavour before being bottled. Each batch of red grapes is vinified separately and aged in new or old French barrels for between 1 – 2 years depending on which level of wine they are destined for. The blending process takes place 2 – 3 weeks before the wines are bottled and, just as in Bordeaux, is hugely important in determining each wine’s ultimate quality.
About the people
Martina Chiappini makes the wines and oversees the entire operation. She is a charming, humble and talented lady with a deep respect for her family and the family’s vineyards. Her father, Giovanni, now in his late 60s, continues to manage the vineyards, and knows every vine and undulation of the land like the back of his hand. He is a true farmer and man of the soil as well as the family’s oracle and guide. Her mother Naide looks after the administration, and her sister Lisa, who is a trained architect, designed their beautiful, state of the art winery and gives the business its creativity.