Bettina responded to my email request to visit them. She advised me that it would be possible to taste:
Chianti Classico 2013
Chianti Classico “ Le Baroncole” 2012
She asked me if that was OK with me. Yes, I responded (all the while, fireworks were going off in my heart and mind, I love these wines!), that would be fine. The short version of this story is that my time at the winery/estate and the time with Bettina exceeded even my loftiest expectations.
Getting to SGaR is not so easy. It’s not hard, per se, but it is off the beaten path (i.e. the primary, but very rural roads) as it were. Once you leave the primary road, there’s another 8-10 minutes of more rural road, as I recall it’s not paved, so 25km/h is pretty much it. Take your time, soak it up. This is a part of paradise.
After you wind your way past some olive groves, you come to a sharp turn to the left, and at the beginning of that turn are large cypress trees, lining the road as if they’re announcing what’s in store for you, just up ahead.
The green door on the left leads into some offices (downstairs) and the Vin Santo drying room (upstairs). SGaR’s Vin Santo is exhilarating. That said, I simply had to see where they make it, with, of course, Bettina helpfully explaining everything as we toured.
I’m not going to go through the steps involved in making Vin Santo wine, it’s all over the internet. What I will say about it, a few things that many people may not be aware of is that once the wine is placed into the (small, specialized) barrels called caratelli (50L, traditionally, thought it doesn’t have to be), the barrel is then sealed with red wax, and this is how it will remain for many years, sometimes a decade. The barrels, obviously, are not ‘topped up’, or ‘racked’ liked traditional wines. In addition these wines go through several periods each year during which they ‘wake up’, and also ‘fall asleep’ (has to do with the ambient temperature of the rooms; this generally takes place on the 2nd, or top floor of the building. As you may already know, wood barrels, even when sealed with wax, are not perfect closures – wine evaporates. And in the case of Vin Santo wines, many times resting for up to a decade, there is a lot of evaporation. So it’s an expensive, totally hand-made (this sets the modern, tiresome and generally hollow market-speak term of Handcrafted! on its arse) product to begin; about half of the original supply evaporates…you get the picture, that’s why this stuff can be pretty pricey ( ~ $50USD/375ml,some are much more).
After we leave the appassitoio, we descend the stairs and come back upon the parking lot. From there we walk to our left, to see the cellars (very old here, the building is more than 1,000 years old. It’s very cool on the bottom floor, and very, very damp), and the adjacent (i.e. detached) tasting room.
The tasting room, above, is a lovely space. Comfortable, tasteful, inviting. It gives off the same vibe as Bettina, and the same as the property and even the workers here, this is a comfortable, tasteful, and very special place. We’ll go into that tasting room in a few minutes, first we’ll continue to our left and enter the doors that lead to the office and cellars.
SGaR has a first-world problem, they have more demand than actual supply. Which is to say that there is basically nothing for sale – it’s all been pre-sold, to importers around the world. They do keep a few things on hand for the few visitors they accept, and off to the right of this frame, is the family’s personal wines from past vintages (they really wish they had kept more for the family, but hindsight is always 20/20), see photo below:
Part II of this post will have to wait until later. Coming up, more cellar pictures and tasting notes, including 1989 and 1990 Percarlo.