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Castello dei Rampolla, “Sammarco”Tuscany, Italy 2017 (750mL)

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Castello dei Rampolla, “Sammarco” Tuscany, Italy 2017 (750mL)

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Castello dei Rampolla’s “Sammarco” is an important, time-tested Italian collectible that goes through the same critical gauntlet each year as the greatest wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, and the like. It’s not a question of whether the wine will be great, just how great, and then you get to the price and it’s…less than $100? Way less, in fact? Let me be blunt: This is one of the savviest Italian wine purchases anyone could hope to make.


Sammarco is one of the original “super-Tuscans,” every bit as legendary as Sassicaia and Tignanello, and, like those wines, it takes an “international” variety—Cabernet Sauvignon—and puts an indelible Tuscan stamp on it. It may come as a surprise to some that, like Tignanello, Sammarco is an elegant, powerful, classically structured Cabernet grown in the limestone- and sandstone-rich soils of Chianti Classico: We’re a long way from Bordeaux here, but we don’t miss it. I like the way the Wine Advocate’s Monica Larner put it in one of her reviews of Sammarco: “[The] wine is all-Tuscan in its appeal,” she wrote, “with sun-drenched cherry, Mediterranean herb and a pretty balsam note that recalls the thick underbrush and woods of the Chianti Classico countryside.” That’s a perfect summation, and for those of you who collect top-tier Italian reds, it’s not news. Among the many qualities that set Sammarco apart is its proven longevity: It feels like a cross between a Pauillac and a Brunello di Montalcino, and if you can keep your hands off it for a little while, it is going to outclass scores of more-expensive bottles from both places. We have enough to offer up to six bottles per person today, and if you judge wines based on their merits, not their price tags, you’ll take it to the limit.



Of course, to obsessives like me Sammarco is hardly unsung—but in comparison to Tuscan contemporaries like “Solaia,” Tignanello,” and “Sassicaia,” its name recognition lags behind. Castello dei Rampolla is perched on one of the iconic hillsides of the Chianti Classico zone—the amphitheater-shaped conca d’oro, or “golden basin,” a natural amphitheater of vineyards covering the south slopes of the village of Panzano. If Chianti Classico had such a thing, this area would be a celebrated “Grand Cru,” and the roster of great producers situated on these slopes includes the likes of Fontodi and Le Cinciole, among many others. The late Alceo di Napoli (namesake of the other Rampolla Super-Tuscan, “Vigna d’Alceo”) inherited the property in the 1960s, though it had been in his family since the 18th century; he began producing estate-bottled wines in the mid-’70s and released his first edition of Sammarco in 1980 (not far behind Antinori’s inaugural releases of “Solaia” and “Tignanello,” both of which also hail from the Chianti Classico region).


Following Alceo’s untimely death in 1991, his son, Luca, and daughter, Maurizia, took over management of the estate and continue to helm operations today. Luca immediately initiated more sustainable practices in the family’s vineyards, eliminating all chemical inputs and effectively working organically (and, more recently, biodynamically). Over the years, the blend of Sammarco has evolved—originally, the wine contained as much as 40% Sangiovese, but these days it’s just an accent note (usually about 5% of the blend). Cabernet Sauvignon (~ 65%) and Merlot (~30%) are the driving forces these days, but the wine retains that upright, focused structure typical of Chianti Classico. The result is a wine of profound depth but also considerable nerve and aromatic lift. It is, as noted above, a resolutely Tuscan expression of the Cabernet grape.


The 2017 Sammarco was fermented in concrete vats (called tini) and aged in a mix of 500-liter French oak tonneaux and larger Slavonian oak botti. It then spent nearly two years aging in bottle before release, and yet it’s still a baby: In the glass it’s a deep, nearly opaque ruby moving to magenta at the rim, with aromas of black cherry, black currant, and cassis giving way to lots of graphite and cigar box notes. It is medium-plus in body, with lots of freshness and still-firm tannins that require a good one-plus-hour decant to soften if you decide to open a bottle now. Right now, the wine is in an earthy, ferrous, pencil-lead phase but there’s so much yet to be revealed here: In three to five years this should really start to sing, although I can see it going 20 with ease. Sock some bottles away and forget about them for a while—when you circle back you are in for a treat. Serve it at 60-65 degrees in large Bordeaux stems and pair it with the traditional Tuscan beef stew known as peposo. A nicely charred grilled ribeye would be perfectly fine as well. Frankly, it’s going to be hard to go wrong when this wine hits its stride. Enjoy!




Castello dei Rampolla, “Sammarco” Tuscany, Italy 2017 - SommSelect

  • CountryItaly
  • RegionTuscany
  • SoilLimestone & Sandstone
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendCabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Sangiovese
  • Alcohol14%
  • OakLarge Used Barrels
  • Service Temp.60-65° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkNow-2037
  • Decanting60 Minutes
  • PairingPeposo

  • CountryItaly
  • RegionTuscany
  • SoilLimestone & Sandstone
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendCabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Sangiovese
  • Alcohol14%
  • OakLarge Used Barrels
  • Temp.Serve at 60-65° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2037
  • Decanting60 Minutes
  • PairingPeposo