Castello di Ama, Gaiole in Chianti (SI), December 2016 – February 8, 1992: At the seat of the prestigious Académie du Vin and a jury comprised of none other than famed French enologist, Michel Rolland, a Merlot from the heart of Chianti Classico in the high hills of Ama wins, topping the greatest international names of the category. The feat remains just a sliver in the extraordinary story written by Castello di Ama’s L’Apparita over the last 30 years. On Saturday, December 10th, another page will be turned in an exclusive evening honoring the wine at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence. A gala dinner will be preceded by a degustation of 10 historical vintages (spanning 1986-2007), followed by a menu signed for the occasion by Michelin starred chef Vito Mollica, accompanied by 5 different double-magnum bottlings of L’Apparita.
The history of Castello di Ama wines is inextricably linked to the figure of Marco Pallanti, winemaker and soul, since 1982, alongside his wife, Lorenza Sebasti and son, Arturo. When asked to recount how he came to be at Castello di Ama, Marco Pallanti’s answer is a simple one: “I was very lucky.” A humble statement from a man whose bragging rights as winemaker and co-owner of the estate in Chianti Classico include outnumbering Château Petrus in a tasting of 18 world class Merlots, of which the 1987 Vigna l’Apparita took the highest score, serving as President for the Consortium of Chianti Classico for two consecutive terms, curating a contemporary art collection and guarding nearly 230 hectares of land in the 18th century hamlet near Gaiole.
At 25 years of age, Marco was working in a laboratory in Siena for the Consortium of Chianti Classico, when he first heard that “Fattoria di Ama” was searching for an oenologist. In 1982, the young winemaker embarked in reimagining the forgotten vineyards of Ama with the guidance of outside consultant, Patrick Léon of Bordeaux (whom served at the time as the director of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild). Léon, a stranger to the Sangiovese varietal, upheld it for its elegance and perfumes, but simultaneously saw Ama as a place capable of greatness with varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot which prosper in the calcareous soils inherent to the hillsides. Léon studied the terroir and exposition of the property, historically claimed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1773 as among “the most beautiful valleys and hillsides in all of Chianti.” Meanwhile, he granted Pallanti – not yet 30 years of age – the opportunity to further his studies in oenology in France.
CASTELLO DI AMA “L’APPARITA”
L’Apparita, Castello di Ama’s 100% Merlot bottling, in many ways, tells the story of Pallanti’s career. Apparita, keeping in French tradition, is a name likened to the land: at an altitude of 490 meters, the precious parcels that comprise this wine lie at the very top of the Bellavista vineyard, from which you can see (or, in as they say in Tuscany “appare”) Siena. Totalling under 3 hectares, the vineyards composing L’Apparita were grafted to clone 342 of Merlot between the years 1982 and 1985. Says Pallanti:
L’Apparita was born in 1985 by the will to explain to the world the enormous capabilities of the wine region around Ama in Chianti. On the one hand, the desire to experiment with the new, on the other to deal with the unexplored varietals in our area.
L’Apparita was Tuscany’s first pure Merlot, a study in cru, grown on soils of clay and fermented in stainless steel and barrique – half new and half once-used – for 18 months. One could surmise that Marco’s affection for Bordeaux holds its homage within the L’Apparita bottling: the effortlessly French philosophy in which one does and makes that which the land allows, creating a wine that lets the vineyards dialogue through the bottle. The boom of the so-called Supertuscans in the ‘80s, for someone as deep-rooted in respect for the D.O.C.G. as Pallanti, could seem almost contradictory, but Pallanti defends his wine and his philosophy simply:
“Supertuscans,” as they were once known, are, in fact, perfectly integrated in the valorisation of the territory. A vast typology of wines, differing in origin and varietals, which should share a common denominator: the ability to recall Tuscany’s terroir.
L’Apparita has sought this expression since the first vintage, 1985. The wine has enjoyed cult status ever since. Known to reach maturity after 4-5 years, it is prized among collectors and critics alike. Celebrated vintages include 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2011. The wine has been released annually with the exception of two vintages: 2002 and 2012. With the year 2016 Castello di Ama celebrates the 30th edition of L’Apparita, a momentous occasion for one of the greatest wines in the portfolio and the “lucky” man behind it. Pallanti admits another integral factor to credit in this milestone; his wife and partner at the estate, Lorenza Sebasti:
When I think of my fateful introduction to the estate, when I see Lorenza and our three kids, I’m reminded that I have little to lament in life. I have a beautiful family, I tend land in Chianti Classico, and I have the great fortune to love a woman with whom I can share the most beautiful dream of her life: Castello di Ama.
Lorenza and Marco consider the future of Ama through a concept of “growing and guarding”: upholding respect for the environment and the landscape, and the fundamental tradition of passing these values to their children and visitors of the estate. They enjoy contemporary art, curating an exceptional site-specific collection at Castello di Ama that has become an identifiable part of defining the unique sense of place. Like wine in a cellar, art is similarly tied to the passing of time, a philosophy that Pallanti perceives in synch with an internal awareness. With its distinct blend of art, wine, architecture and landscape, Ama itself has attained the status of a work of art, stirring perceptions of authenticity and inner truth.
ABOUT CASTELLO DI AMA
Ama is a small hamlet nestled in the hills of Chianti: it is located in the skirts of Gaiole in Chianti, in the province of Siena, where vineyards alternate with olive trees and forests. The Castello di Ama winery is recognized for excellence on an international level, beloved also for its important collection of site-specific contemporary art. The estate, established in 1972 out of the love of four Roman families, comprises over 230 hectares, 80 of which are dedicated to vineyard cultivation and 40 to olive trees, at an average altitude of 480 meters. Total production – reigning exclusviely from estate vineyards – is around 300,000 bottles per year.
CASTELLO DI AMA FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
Wine and Art. Perceptions of the senses and of beauty. Contemporary culture rooted in tradition and sense of place. The project Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art was founded in 1999 out of profound passion by Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, who invite the most inspired artists of today to realize site-specific works for the small hamlet in the heart of Chianti. Until now, the artists whom have left their signatures at Ama are: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Kendell Geers, Anish Kapoor, Chen Zhen, Carlos Garaicoa, Nedko Solakov, Cristina Iglesias, Louise Bourgeois, Ilya e Emilia Kabakov, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan.
Since 2015, Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti have entrusted curator Philip Larratt-Smith to the Collection, ensuring consistent development and reinforcing Ama’s dedication to maintaining a major collection of in situ art at the international level.