What gives one the impetus to isolate yeasts, experiment with, say, cumbersome large barriques, and pursue crafting world-class Sangiovese in a region best known for forgettable bulk wines? Probably having a sense of regional winemaking infused in your blood.
That’s the sense that one might take away from a visit to Tenuta Casali, in Romagna’s Mercato Saraceno, where Silvia, Francesco and Daniele Casali now work with the previous Casali generation, Valerio and Paolo. Valerio and Paolo themselves took over the family business in the late 1970s from grandfather Mario, who had farmed their alluvial, stony, and white clay soils since the 1940s as a grape grower. So if you’re keeping track, that is five family members now involved in the business directly, doing all of the normal family-winery stuff while also attempting the aforementioned experimentation/fine-tuning as they go. And yet, I got the distinct impression that things were running very well enough, and personally did not notice anyone trying to kill one another while I was there. Which for any multi-generational family business, is usually a praise-worthy accomplishment in and of itself!
Tenuta Casali sits astride the Savio Valley, which itself sits astride Italy’s Appenine hills in Romagna. There, the family farms approximately twenty hectares of vines (all but twenty percent of which are devoted to Sangiovese), in effect bordered by Tuscany and the Adriatic.
Their vineyard placement – which also enjoys an elevation of between 500 and 800 feet, giving their vines some mitigation against the area’s ample bright sunshine – seems to work some mighty Romagna magic on their Sangiovese fruit; their reds were some of the best that I tasted during my media trip to the region. Not that their whites are slouching in any way, mind you, as you’ll see in just a minute or two.
2017 Tenuta Casali Albana Romagna ‘Valleripa’ (Emila-Romagna)
Casali’s Albana is a bit of an extreme, planted at 400 meters on tuffa soils, and it hits the sweet spot between round fullness and fresh minerality. Floral, honeyed, and chock full of ripe stone fruit and brioche action, with impressive balance between a sense of energy and astringency. In other words, there’s much to like here.
2016 Tenuta Casali ‘Baruccia’ Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore (Emilia-Romagna)
Juicy, supple, and spicy, this is a red that’s easy to drink down. Black cherries and plum dominate, but it’s never overly or obnoxiously fruity; in fact, at turns this is fresh and structured in ways that should make many, many Italian wine lovers very, very happy.
2015 Tenuta Casali ‘Quartosole’ Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva (Emilia-Romagna)
The grosso clone is used here, from lower-yielding guyot vines in the white-clay Baruccia vineyard, planted in 1990, with the wine being aged in 20 hectoliter wooden vats. You might expect a thoroughly old school, sit-on-it-for-20-years Sangiovese red, and you’d be wrong. While undoubtedly young, this is gorgeous and perfumed now, with dried herb spiciness, black cherry, mint, and cooked orange peel notes, and a palate that mixes structural grit with a supple juiciness and ample freshness. So, yeah… wow.