Grower Website Castello di Ama Region: ITALY - TUSCANY

Castello di Ama was founded in 1976, and is located in Gaiole in Chianti, within the additional geographical unit of the same name (UGA), located in the heart of Tuscany. It is located about 12 miles northeast of Siena in the hills of Gaiole. This is the heart of Chianti Classico, a bucolic rolling landscape of woods, vineyards and olive groves.

The estate is currently helmed by CEO Lorenza Sebasti, a member of the second generation of one of the four founding families. Marco Pallanti, who was once the President of the Chicanti Classico Consorzio, has been the winemaker and technical director at Castello di Ama since 1982.

Castello di Ama is known for their commitment to excellence, which they believe begins in the vineyards. This is shown through respect and care for the land, manual processing of the grapes, and very low yields per acre.

The modern era of Castello di Ama began about 35 years ago with the replanting of the estate vineyard. Of the 180 acres (260 hectares) comprising the estate 185 acres (90 hectares) are planted to vines and 100 acres (40 hectares) to olives. This site itself is spectacular – a rounded hilltop and vineyards between 1600 to 1750 feet above sea level. It has perfect southern exposure and the clay-limestone soils that are considered ideal for Sangiovese, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Four valleys embrace the estate, within a radius of 1.2 miles: Vigneto San Lorenzo; Vigneto Montebuoni; Vigneto La Casuccia; and Vigneto Bellavista. The latter comprehend  Vigna L’Apparita.

In 1982, Marco launched a ten-year research project to determine the site’s viticultural characteristics. Under his direction the vineyard was divided into individual homogeneous blocks based upon soils and exposure. The goal was to express the uniqueness of Ama’s terroir by identifying the various micro-terroirs in each block, which would ensure even ripening and optimum quality for each variety.

Quality constancy through the years: each bottle of Castello di Ama represents an authentic expression of this terroir and the specific vintage.

The first ever Vigneto Bellavista, dating back to 1978, as an anticipation of the concept of Cru in the Chianti Classico region, followed by Vigneto La Casuccia.

With an intention to create a heritage of Castello di Ama, construction of L’Arca (The Ark in Italian) was recently completed. The Ark houses approximately 80,000 Bordelais bottles and large formats, representing the oenological heritage of the estate.

It is the obsessive dedication to quality in both the vineyard and winery that has made Castello di Ama not just one of Tuscany’s greatest wine producers, but among the finest wineries in the world.

Country Italy
Region Tuscany
Appellation(s) Chianti Classico
Proprietor/CEO Lorenza Sebasti
Founded 1974
Winemaker Marco Pallanti
Annual Production 25,000 9L cases
Farming (Sustainable, organic, biodynamic) Sustainable certified by Equalitas Italy

VINEYARDS & WINEMAKING

Castello di Ama is known for their commitment to excellence, which they believe begins in the vineyards. This is shown through respect and care for the land, manyal processing of the fruit, and very low yields per acre. Castello di Ama produces around 300,000 bottles of wine annually, all from estate-grown grapes. The wines are made and bottled on the property, in the avant-garde fermentation cellar completed in 1979.

Ama has practiced sustainable viticulture since the end of the 1990s, and recently received Equalitas (Italy) certification.

In 1982, Marco Pallanti assumed operational responsibility of the winery. Pallanti was a young viticulturalist who in a very few years had become one of the most highly respected winemakers in Tuscany. In 2003, he was crowned “Oenologist of the Year” by Vini d’Italia, published by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food. He began, in those early years, a long project to evaluate, with precision, the potential of the local area, with an eye to vastly improving the quality of its wines. Subsequent division of the various vineyards into separate, homogeneous parcels and his study of the various ripening phases revealed the path to follow: the singling out of the best spots to grow Sangiovese, with absolute quality as the only guiding principle.

At the same time, he began experimenting with non-traditional varieties; Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, in order to see if, in those areas that proved unsuitable for Sangiovese, other varieties might thrive in Ama’s distinctive terroir. In other words, the continuous search for growing areas specific to each separate variety would ensure that every wine would be an eloquent expression of the extraordinary terroir of Ama.

During the five years of 1982-1987, some 50,000 vines were grafted over, a truly enormous number, considering that the vineyard density was 2,800 vines per hectare. Another cornerstone for the future success of Castello di Ama wines was experimentation with new methods of training the vines, all with the goal of improving fruit ripeness. In 1982, and for the first time in Italy, vines were grown with the foliage trained into V-shaped vertical canopies, known as the open lyre system, the result of trials in France for low-density vineyards. The purpose is to raise fruit quality by increasing overall canopy surface, thus enabling more leaves, functioning as so many panels, to capture more sunlight to transmit to the clusters.

In a very few years, 23 hectares of vineyard, largely Sangiovese, were re-structured. As one can easily see from all of this, it is the vineyard that has received the most intensive investments, a strategy that has continued over the years, thanks to an annual program of replanting and vineyard management.

The Olive Groves
The hill areas of Ama have always yielded very little oil, less than a litre per tree, but this ensures a delicate, elegant extra virgin olive oil with marked fruitiness. The winery currently boasts a total of about 9,000 trees, divided into variety-specific groves trained in various ways, as well as grown on traditional terraces. Four traditional varieties are grown: Correggiolo, Moraiolo, Frantoio, and Leccino, plus some other varieties, including pollinating cultivars.

Some of the groves are cover-cropped with spontaneous growth, while others are regularly ploughed, the traditional practice; the soil type will determine which method is used, so that each parcel will enjoy the most suitable growing conditions. Most of the ploughing is shallow, so that the tree roots are not damaged.

The trees are pruned annually, with the goal of achieving a consistent crop from year to year, since olive trees are notorious for alternating “heavy” years with “light” years. Secondly, slight adjustments are made, in order to shape tree growth. The most commonly-used form is the vaso cespugliato, or vase-shaped. Each of three separate trees is placed at the angles of an equilateral triangle so that the combined foliage of the three forms a large vase shape. The harvest, done totally by hand, requires that the trees remain fairly low and that the foliage is easily accessible.

In transporting the fruit to the press house, care must be taken not to damage the olives. They are placed in shallow stacked boxes furnished with air holes for ventilation. The olives are then piled only 10-15 cm high while they wait to be pressed.

Wine Blend Vine Age Soil Type Vineyard Area
Total = 189.3 acres / 76,61 ha
Al Poggio (Bianco) Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio Planted  2008 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 0.99 acres/0,4 ha Pinot Grigio, 4.2 acres/1,7 ha Chardonnay
Purple  Rose  (Rosato) Sangiovese Planted  from 1978 to 2018 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel
Il Chiuso Pinot Noir Planted 1984, 2015 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 12.4 acres/5 ha Pinot Noir
AMA Chianti Classico Sangiovese (96%) merlot (4%) Planted from dal 2005 to 2018  Clay with abundant pebble-gravel
Montebuoni Chianti Classico Riserva Sangiovese (96%) merlot (4%) Planted from dal 1996 to 2001  Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 36.1 acres/14,60 ha
San Lorenzo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sangiovese (80%), Malvasia Nera (7%), Merlot (13%) Planted  1978, 1996 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel
Vigneto Bellavista Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sangiovese (80%), Malvasia Nera Planted  1978, 2006, 2009 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 57.4 acres/23,24 ha
Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sangiovese (80%),  Merlot Planted 1978, 2007 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 47.9 acres/19,41 ha
Haiku Sangiovese (50%), Cabernet Franc (25%)  Merlot (25%) Planted 1997-2001 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 2.47 acres/1 ha Cab Franc, 2.47 acres/1 ha Merlot, 4.9 acres/2 ha Sangiovese
L’Apparita Merlot Planted 1982 Clay with abundant pebble-gravel 7.4 acres/3 ha Merlot
VinSanto del Chianti Classico Trebbiano Toscano & Malvasia Bianca Planted 2007 Calcareous clay