Amphora, Cabernet and Grace: Bordeaux Under the Tuscan Sun: 2008 Castello dei Rampolla

Posted by Ian McFadden

Cabernet, Amphora and Grace -
"Bordeaux" Under the Tuscan Sun
2008 Castello dei Rampolla
Sammarco and Vigna d’Alceo

"The relentless pursuit of excellence is evident in these spectacular wines... Simply put, these are reference point wines." -Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate

This is perhaps the greatest collection this insider Tuscan estate has ever produced.

In concluding his review of Castello dei Rampolla's 2008 d'Alceo, Galloni writes, "This is a towering effort."

He finishes his review of the 2008 Sammarco by writing: "I wish every Wine Advocate reader could taste this wine."

While that isn't going to be possible, today we do have a small parcel of both the Sammarco and Vigna d'Alceo at the sharpest prices you're likely to see. (The Vigna d'Alceo is about $100 below the next price out there!)

Castello dei Rampolla's duo of "Super Tuscans" is perhaps the last great secret of this region. While the rock star wines like Sassicaia and Massetto get all the attention, Rampolla quietly does their own thing. They were one of the first estates in Tuscany to go biodynamic; in 2009 they finished their transition to cement and amphora for aging the wines.

Castello dei Rampolla

Whatever they are doing, Rampolla is unlike most Tuscan estates and the serious geeks, the insiders, have taken notice. For the Bordeaux collector, these wines should be of interest - many a taster has referenced Graves as the only other place that produces such nuanced and mineral-driven Cabernet-based blends.

Both the Sammarco and the big brother "Vigna d'Alceo" are wines founded on detail, balance and grace. And these are qualities that provide the foundation for exceptional aging. There are countless tales of thirty-year-old bottles of Rampolla aging into truly heartbreaking wines - stumping First Growth Bordeaux in blind-tastings.

For all the respect they get from insiders, Castello dei Rampolla has never rested on their laurels, as is evidenced by the astounding quality of the 2008s. As mentioned, back in the mid-nineties, they were the first "Super Tuscan" estate to pursue biodynamics. In the vineyard, they're ruthless in the density of their plantings, in restricting their yields and generally, pampering their vineyards. In 2009 they completed a transition to cement and amphora.

The goal is simple, at least in theory: rendering wines with ever greater purity. Yet at Rampolla, the results have lived up to the loftiness of the goal; 2008 marks a whole new level of delineation, focus and clarity.

While both wines are simply superb expressions of Tuscan Cabernet-based wines, there are of course important differences. Of the two, Sammarco is the brighter, more linear wine; if it shows more of its core younger, it is no less a wine for it. In 2008, the wine is full of energy, vivid red fruits, and herbs. There's a poise and a layered complexity that places it square on the stage with the world's best.

The Vigna d'Alceo is the big brother with more muscle, more density, more depth. This is the powerhouse of the two, with a profile that is much darker, more complicated than the Sammarco. This just has more "guts;" it will require more time to reveal itself. Yet if you have the patience, this will be an epic wine.

Both wines are worthy--more than worthy--and preference will be given to balanced orders.

Thus far, Rampolla has maintained a rather cool, intellectual position under the radar - the 2008s may very well launch the estate into the spotlight, for better or worse.

If you're interested, sooner rather than later is probably the wise move. As Galloni writes, "Rampolla is one of the most fascinating wineries in Tuscany, and Italy, for that matter."

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Ian McFadden
Director, Fine & Rare Wine
Crush Wine & Spirits