It’s 1970, and Alessandro’s father, who hails from Certaldo, about 35km to the west, purchases some land in Chianti Classico region. There’s nothing on the land at this point, just native plants, and lots and lots of stones. His father has some history as a farmer, but not as a winegrower, which is to say winegrowing was not really a part of the family’s (commercial) past. During this period, the Chianti zone is known for olive (and goats, and cows, and wheat, etc.) farming, as well, and so some vines as well olive trees are planted with the intention of selling most of the crop(s) to others as to sustain the farm.
In addition to the purchase of land, the existing house is restored and the cellars are built; the first crop of grapes is 1973 and 1974. Those grapes become finished wines, but again, they’re sold to others with existing brands.
Recall that around this time, 1970-ish also marks the end of the period known as the mezzadria, a time when properties, owned by noble persons, were worked by the people (the mezzadri) that lived on the land, but sharecropped with the landowners, thus keeping only half of the crops for themselves. That said, the property known today as Casa Emma, was purchased by the Bucalossi family from the Florentine noblewoman, Emma Bizzarri.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the wines of Chianti Classico and Tuscany as a whole, are becoming more well known – thanks to improved farming techniques. And yes, the marketing machines had something to do with this, but really it came down to the fact that the region was producing better wines; it happened that the wines were affordable, too, which is always a plus. It’s something of a new dawn for this region, and its winegrowers, and lots of investment of time and money are (pun intended) plowed back into the farms.
As the rising tide lifts the ships in the Chianti Classico harbor, Alessandro’s father (who made his way in the furniture business), decides, in 1990, to use some of the proceeds of his successful furniture business, and invests more heavily into the family’s farm. Soon afterward, Casa Emma begins to bottle their own wines, instead of selling to others, and Casa Emma, as a brand, is born.
The farm (420m altitude) is broken up into two parts, one is twenty hectares, and the other, about 1/2km away, is five hectares. Sangiovese is the dominant grape at both locations, as it should be, but there’s also been some study of the land and soils at the smaller vineyard to determine what grows best there (as of the date I met with Alessandro, in April, 2014, they were still studying which grapes would be best suited to some undeveloped parcels).
(below: the hills of Chianti Classico zone)
At this point in the visit, I ask about their viticultural approach. Marco explains that the (older) vines are not too dense (2m distance), and each plant (roughly) produces about 1kg of winegrapes. He further explains their approach to green harvest (as it relates, specifically, to Vignalparco plot), etc. To reiterate from the previous post, there are only five persons that maintain these 25 hectares (in addition to Marco, who has given complete instruction to his team as to the manner of vine care, pruning, etc. Marco spends a lot of time in the vineyards, as it should be), though there are ten people at harvest time (i.e. when time is of the essence).
Following our discussion about their viticultural practices, we make our way into the cellars, to taste the 2012 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva (which includes a little bit of Malvasia Nera), and the 2013 Solo Ìo (100% Merlot), both nearly having completed their rest in barrel(s). The Riserva bottling is generally bottled in February/March; there’s almost always a good chance I’ll be able to taste this particular wine at Vin Italy, in April (I flile that nugget of information away for a later date).
I didn’t take any notes on the barrel samples; I used to, but over time I began to see a lot of foolishness in the whole process. I really don’t see the point(!), outside of marketing purposes (scores), as the wine is a living thing and in just 6, or 12, or 18 months, or less (or much more!), it can, and will change considerably from its current presentation. I trust the winemaker more than I trust my own palate when it comes to these things, even though I’ve done it for over 20 years, and hundreds of times, it’s not me that’s the professional, it’s them.
(photo below: further south of Chianti Classico, the rough-and-tumble environs of CC are replaced by the splendid rolling hills and wide-open spaces of Montalcino area. Read: visit Tuscany!)
(These days) The primary reason I will taste from barrel, is typically to inspect the condition of the cellars (and the same for my vineyard inspections) for cleanliness/order, etc. It’s kind of like looking at a wine and then smelling a wine, for many, the natural order of (at least academic) tasting. I look in the cellars (and vineyards) first, and then I taste the wines to confirm what it was a saw in the aforementioned parts of the process. In the instant case, the wines were buonissmo!; traditional, very pure, with lots of freshness and a lot of elegance. And, of course, they begged for food, so we continued our discussion over an amazing lunch, prepared in Casa Emma’s own (really good) Osteria, just a few meters above the cellar we were all standing in.
Casa Emma’s produced a nice really nice video, it’s worth a watch.
Below is my partial (tasting note) history with the wines of Casa Emma.
24 January, 2016: 2010 Casa Emma Chianti Classico – Not very pleasant as a PnP, this needed all of 90 minutes aeration in decanter to blow off some unpleasant reduction. Afterwards, quite pretty; a real Jekyll & Hyde, as before. Medium-bodied, feminine in style, with plenty of fresh acids to balance out the leathery, cherry-driven fruit. Really good food wine. Drink now, with air, or thru 2021. recommended
8 April, 2014: 2010 Casa Emma Soloío Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT – 100% Merlot, 18 months in barrique. Dark ruby, bright and clear. Tobacco, plum, cherry, brown spice, smoke, vanilla, thyme. Fresh, dry and still rather tannic at this stage, though it shows the structure and stuffing to age gracefully. Give this 4-5 years, and drink over the following 10+ years. The sample I tasted had been bottled only a week prior, but if I wasn’t told that, I’d have never of guessed it. A serious wine, with an deeply satisfying finish that lasts up to a minute. 13,5% abv. highly recommended
8 April, 2014: 2011 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – Thrilling wine. Perfect typicity of color. Very fresh nose of earth, orchard fruit; woodsy, herbal, sandstone. Really lovely nose, pure and clean; adds intensity of perfumes with just a few minutes in the glass. A full, complete entry, this red-fruited wine is perfectly judged for balance and structure. Good to drink now, most likely a little better with 2-3 years of cellar rest. 14,0% abv. highly recommended
22 November, 2014: 2010 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Vignalparco – Tight, unyielding and rather uninteresting on day 1. Aerated to decanter 3 hours, returned to bottle and served the next night, at which time the wine was completely open, enjoyable and expressive. The Casa Emma wines needs a few years in the cellar, and even then, benefit from at least 2-3 hours of aeration prior to service. The grapes for the Vignalparco wine comes from the top 3 rows of the ‘bowl’ (until a few years ago, these grapes always went into the Riserva). Terrific value, traditional. 13,5% abv., drink 2018-2024. recommended
* (fast forward) having visited the estate earlier this year (which followed a tasting at Vin Italy), I’m very enthusiastic about the 2011s (normale, Riserva, etc.), and beyond. Consulting enologist Dott. Marco Salvadori is a bright and energetic advocate for the CC grape(s) and region; he has my full respect, and Casa Emma is fortunate to have him as a part of their team.
24 September, 2011: 1997 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – My last bottle, and thankfully, it was in very good form. Medium+ ruby core, some sign of age. Plenty of leather, cherry, sandalwood and earth on the nose. Actually took a good five minutes for some primary funk to clear. Fruits, acids and tannins all doing very well; at peak right now, I suppose. However, the descent will be gradual and no doubt graceful, too. Drink thru 2015, 13,5% abv. recommended
4 September, 2011: 2003 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – Decanted 1 hour. Average complexity and depth. Bright aromas, well made with fresh acids and smooth tannins. Simple, but there’s a purity of the fruit that brings an elegant, welcome twist. Slightly more old world than new. I picked this up for $15.99 on closeout and couldn’t be happier. 13,5% abv. recommended
24 July, 2011: 2003 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – Consistent notes. I have no idea what GV was drinking in 2007…his notes are entertaining though, in a way. This is a mild-mannered, medium-toward full-bodied drink, and certainly not a fruit bomb. Drink thru 2014. recommended
17 November, 2010: 1997 Casa Emma Chianti Classico – Pop n Pour that’s in a very nice place right now. Cool red and black fruits on the nose and palate, with a dried herbal touch rounding out the experience. Minerals and earth brush up against lively fruits and acid by the third glass making this a very pleasant drink. Not a lot of complexity, but so well integrated at this point it’s hard to ignore the balance and softness. One more left that I’ll drink within the next couple of years. recommended
7 July, 2010: 2003 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – (decanted 1 hr) Fresh and supple with plenty of tartness to the bright fruit. Smooth tannins and fresh acidity, along with a deft use of oak. Paid $16 on closeout and very much worth that tariff. Drink thru 2014, 13,5% abv. recommended
19 June, 2010: 1997 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva – decanted 2 hrs. Brick red core with slight sign of age. Aromas of dark spice, cherry and worn leather dominate. Medium body with very lively acidity and grippy tannins. This wine lacks complexity but makes up for it with balance and zeal. Worked very well with dinner. I have one more bottle that I’ll be sure to enjoy before 2014, 13,5% abv. recommended
(header photo: Conversation, for some, a lost art; not for these guys in Lucca)