Nipozzano Vecchie Viti
Cost: $28-30
I like testing wines under unusual conditions, whether it’s on a picnic in the mountains, on a boat or paired with unusual foods. There are any number of Chiantis that taste great with a hearty pasta dish, but will any still sparkle with dense, heavy potato pancakes?
I tried the Nipozzano Vecchie Viti with potato pancakes, and it made them taste like elegant crepes. With the right wine, any meal can be a memorable experience, and this wine was a great example of that.
Bursting with flavor, the wine is a deep ruby in the glass, with fresh aromas of strawberry and cherry. Crisp flavors of raspberry, strawberry and cherry fill the palate. The fruit is rich, but not overpowering, leading to a silky finish highlighted by mineral notes.
The blend is 90 percent Sangiovese with 10 percent traditional local grapes black Malvasia, Canaiolo and Colorino. This is the first vintage of the Vecchie Viti, which means “old vines.”
It is no surprise that old vines make better wines, but in the past these grapes were used in the Nipozzano Riserva wine. In this vintage the grapes from the 40-year-old vines surrounding the Nipozzano Castle in the heart of the Chianti Rufina DOCG were picked last and fermented separately in cement.
Nipozzano Vecchie Viti
Nipozzano Vecchie Viti
Winemaker Eleonora Marconi kept these grapes separate because of the distinct flavor profile of the fruit. When wines were being tasted to blend into the 2011 Riserva, the old vines fruit from the cement vats was so distinctive the wine maker decided to bottle it separately.
Chalky clay soils and the dry, breezy climate create a perfect terroir for a great red wine such as this. The vineyards cover about 49 acres at nearly 1,000 feet above sea level with a southeastern exposure. The wine spent 24 months in oak casks and another two months in bottles.
Chianti Rufina is a small sliver of the larger Chianti region, which in turn is part of the larger Tuscany region in west central Italy. Tuscany and Chianti produce many wonderful wines. When I was there two months ago we found outstanding wines in small hilltop towns and villages all over the region. The rolling hills of each sub-region create different terroir that produces distinctive wines that are different from wines produced only a few miles away.
Chianti Rufina is not as well respected as Chianti Classico, but the best wines of Chianti Rufina come from Castello Nipozzano. The Vecchie Viti is among the very best of that region.
Winery: Castello Nipozano is one of the estates of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, the largest wine producer in Tuscany and one of the most respected wine companies in the world. Still family owned, the company has been making wine in Tuscany for more than 700 years. At one time they traded wine for paintings from Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The company only uses grapes from its nine estates that encompass more than 2,700 acres.
The castle of Nipozzano was one of the defensive strongholds of Florence dating back to about the year 1000.
According to popular belief, Nipozzano means “senza pozzo,” or ”without a well” and refers to the areas east of Florence that were, and still are, lacking in available water. Only one well was ever dug in the area, specifically to service the area’s only castle.
Lack of water may have kept landowners from planting many crops, but it helped create perfect conditions for growing great wine grapes.
The label of Nipozzano Riserva wines dates from the middle of the 1800s. The central coat of arms of the Florentine Albizi family recalls the wedding of its last heir, Leonia, to Angiolo Frescobaldi; an association that united two great families.
In the middle of the coat of arms two concentric circles symbolize the instrument used for carding wool, one of the major ancient Florentine guilds, through which the Albizi family made its fortune. Above the family crest is the noble crown. Beneath the coat-of-arms is the cross of the Order of St. Stephen, an ancient papal order of knights.
Besides the Vecchie Viti, Nipozzano produces a Riserva, a historic wine that dates back to 1864; a Montesodi Riserva, a 100 per cent Sangiovese first produced in 1974 from a single vineyard of that name, and Mormoreto, a single-vineyard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot first made in 1855.
The wine is imported to the United States by Folio Fine Wine Partners, founded in 2004 by Michael Mondavi and his wife, Isabel, with their children, Dina and Rob Jr.
Nipozzano Vecchie Viti with potato pancakes.
Nipozzano Vecchie Viti with potato pancakes.
Goes with: I had this wine last weekend, when Teri was out of town with a group of friends. I figured while she was at the beach, I could indulge myself and create a feast that only I would enjoy.
So I made potato pancakes, a childhood favorite that still evokes warm memories when I make them. Our family would have them on meatless Fridays with Franco-American spaghetti. Teri mocks me when I open the can, but there’s something about the sauce that is perfect when combined with potato pancakes.
As I was frying the pancakes I discovered my pantry had no canned spaghetti. Since I had a roaring fire in the fireplace and a few sips of wine in my belly I couldn’t run to the store, so I searched for an alternative. I settled on Hormel chili (another childhood delight), and it was a great substitute.
I’m sure the folks in Tuscany would shudder if they knew about this pairing, but I thought it was perfect. The sharp, complex wine brought out the spiciness in the chili and gave some extra flavor to the heavy potato pancakes.
I capped the bottle and the rest of the wine was just as good the next day with pizza.
If you want a more traditional pairing, the winery suggests ribollita, a dense Tuscan soup; pappardelle with wild boar ragu, and cannelloni stuffed with meat and bechamel sauce. It also would be great with just about any red meat, roasted or grilled.

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