Paolo De Marchi's vineyards, like those of Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi, are superbly tended. This, more than anything, yields wines of the quality that have kept them both ahead of the chasing pack for the past three decades.
The name 'Isole e Olena' came about in the 1950s when two adjoining estates, 'Isole' and 'Olena', were purchased by the De Marchi family and combined to form one. The history of both estates dates back many hundreds of years, with the earliest documentation of the village of Olena in the 12th century.
Isole e Olena is situated in the western part of Chianti Classico, just north of the village of Castellina. Its 45 hectares of vineyard are situated between 350 - 450 metres above sea level, and are planted primarily on galestro soil. Because the western flank of Chianti is open to breezes from the sea, this is a much cooler part of the zone, and results in wines that are lighter but more scented and elegant than many others.
"Cepparello", Paolo's flagship wine, made solely from Sangiovese, is fragrant with great elegance and balance. His Chianti, a blend of 80% Sangiovese supplemented by Canaiolo and a dash of Syrah, is scented and alluring.
His barrel-fermented Chardonnay is outstanding, one of Italy's best examples of this variety boasting rich aromas of toasted almonds and butter. Paolo's Vin Santo, aged for eight years in small barrels called "caratelli", is one of the best produced.
The grapes for Cepparello come from the best sites on the estates. Situated 400 metres above sea level, facing south-west, soils are primarily galestro, a schistous clay. The name Cepparello is taken from an old stream, Borro Cepparello, originating in the highest point of the vineyards on the Isole e Olena estate.
2016 saw a very mild winter, but rainfall until the beginning of June allowed for important underground water reserves. Perfect temperatures during the spring and summer prompted the growth of plentiful and healthy fruit which flourished in the following dry, sunny and hot days alternating with cool nights. Heavy rainfall on 15th September brought 80 millilitres of rain over three days. The large diurnal temperature variation has given the 2016 vintage more defined aromatics than previous vintages.
After crushing, the must fermented on the skins in oak vats for about three weeks at 30-32°C, with delestage and pumping over carried out twice a day to give good colour and soft tannins. The maceration tank was emptied of the fermenting must, the cap was dried out for 4-5 hours and then the must was poured back over the cap. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was racked into barrels. It was 100% barrel-aged, a third in new French and American oak (with American barrels making up 5% of the total), a third in one year old oak and the remaining third was put into two year old oak. The wine remained in barrel for 20 months and then matured in bottle for one year before release.
Bright ruby red in colour, Cepparello has aromas of red fruits and cherries on the nose along with a touch of spice from the well-judged use of oak. The palate opens to ripe fruit and the well-balanced structure of a great Cepparello, as well as elegant, soft tannins and a persistent finish.