Deep Dive into Chianti Classico (7): Exploring the Exciting Newcomer, Cigliano di Sopra

By | 29 March 2024

Cigliano di Sopra is an intriguing venture. The partnership between Maddelena Fucile and Matteo Vaccari began in 2016 (they were then ages 21 and 23, respectively). The first wines were bottled in late 2018. This partnership is based on a family property of Maddelena’s, which was previously used for selling bulk wine. They started by producing 1,000 bottles in 2016, and presently, they produce 20,000 bottles from a 7-hectare plot. This is the best they can manage at the moment. The vineyard is split into 11 sections and is mostly planted with Sangiovese.

Their major transition began in 2018 when they decided to treat winemaking more seriously. They treated the years 2016 and 2017 as experimental phases, and in 2018, they decided to make winemaking their primary occupation. Their goal is to expand to 12 hectares of vineyards and a production rate of 35,000 bottles. They have no interest in buying additional grapes. As Matteo states, “For us it is important that our grapes come from this land.”

Their education in winemaking came from the University of Florence. They received practical training at Domaine de la Côte, working in the Lompoc wine ghetto with Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman. They also gained experience at Evening Land in Oregon in 2017. As Matteo says, “They make great wine.” Throughout their work tenure in the USA, they honed their palates with wines from around the globe, tasting many wines that they had previously never had.

In the words of Matteo, “The important thing in wine is to know what you want to do. I know some people who make wine because they want to make wine but don’t know where they are going.” They decided to produce their own wines in the style they are comfortable with: something not so heavy and that’s easily drinkable. But it shouldn’t have excessive acidity or be watery.

The estate features an abundant presence of alluvial and sandy soils enriched by river stones. The western expanse of the property is significantly sandier while the eastern portion is less alluvial and more inclined towards a rocky composition. According to Matteo, the combination of clay and sand with river stones imparts a distinctive mouthfeel.

The vines are nurtured on a tall gobelet, not a guyot, and adorned with 2-3 spurs per shoot. Current endeavors include the planting of isolated gobelet. As per their observations, bush vines can maintain the temperature of the fruit 2 to 3 degrees Celsius lower around mid-day. However, this necessitates vigilant care in spray penetration and upward spraying for cluster protection.

Their philosophy towards wine ‘faults’ is infused with an enlightened perspective. Maddelena shares her experience, “In our academic years, Brettanomyces was taught to be the devil. On the contrary, Raj Parr introduced us to a bottle of JM Stephan, a true portrayal of balance despite encompassing all possible defects.”

Maddalena expresses a transformational learning experience during the harvest at Domaine de la Côte. “Interactions with Sashi and Raj truly broadened our horizons. The enlightenment that came with perceiving differences as strengths was paramount for our growth,” says Maddalena.

The concept in their minds is to create a Chianti Classico annually, also yielding some unique plot wines. In 2021, every element was mingled into a single blend. They are observing notable differences in the vines, says Maddalena. This also enhances the wine’s value.

Here, the decision of stem inclusion is straightforward. They either opt for entirely destemmed or fully whole bunch, with a few exceptions, says Maddalena. They avoid the carbonic maceration characteristic in their wines as it tends to overshadow the terroir after a point.

Maddalena states their preference for aging in wood. While everyone seems to be drifting away from oak, they believe that Sangiovese requires wood. All their reds are aged in wood for at least a year. They initiated with small barrels for their manageability but have switched to using large oak. They have purchased a pair of 15 hl Stockingers at a cost of €15 000, which was second-hand but relatively new. “Its maintenance involves never washing them,” says Matteo. They always keep wine in these casks since their first use. Their 2022 Chianti Classico is aged in these casks for the first time.

The team comprises just four people managing 7 hectares, turning out to be a considerable amount of work.

Cigliano di Sopra Nuvola del Cigliana 2022 Vino di Tavola
This wine consists of 11% alcohol, with 75% Trebbiano and 25% Malvasia. The fruit used is from their own estate and they do not purchase grapes. The grapes are left whole for 5 days and then pressed, after which they are left to settle and are later fermented. The wine is then aged for 8 months on full lees in a demijohn. The makers believe they have finally perfected the process of creating this wine. The taste is a lovely combination of citrus and melon fruits with a hint of grapes for eating and a refined spicy flavor. The overall finish of the wine is mineral and slightly salty. 95/100

Cigliano di Sopra Chianti Classico 2021
This wine consists of 13.5% alcohol and 100% Sangiovese grapes. Currently, this wine is in a closed phase. The impressionable features of this wine are its freshness and the sweet cherries taste with undertones of plums and spicy details. The silkiness of the wine creates a unique blend of ripe sweet fruits and fresh spicy flavors with a concentrated focus. The balance between the ripe fruit and the freshness is distinctive and is striving towards richness but with a precise and structured distribution. 94/100

Cigliano di Sopra Chianti Classico 2022
25% of this wine was matured in a 1500 litre cask. This year, they used more stems in the mix (around 50-60%). The aromatic features of the wine are complemented with a bright cherry and raspberry fruit taste along with some fine herbs. The wine is very fresh and tense on the palate demonstrating elegance but also vibrance. The stems add structure and energy to the wine making it very expressive with lots of potential. This is indeed an elegant representation of Chianti Classico. 95/100

Cigliano di Sopra Vigneto Branca Chianti Classico Riserva 2022
This wine was made with 100% whole bunch with the grapes from 1972 plantings. The wine is fresh, aromatic and tense with a focused taste of black cherry and blackberry fruit. There is a fresh and nice structure to the wine making it tense and mineral. The whole bunch contributes to the freshness and structure of the wine along with some floral detail. This wine holds a serious demeanor and has a great future ahead. 96/100

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