An Interview with Cignale Winery
The Cignale Vineyard
What is the history of the land you are on? What was it used for before your winery owned it or did someone else own it previously?
Castello di Querceto and its vineyards are located in the Dudda Valley, about 7 km from Greve in Chianti in the northeast area of the Monti del Chianti. Ever since the Lombards, it has been a strategic and important location in the valley in that it was the old Via Cassa Imperiale. After the medieval period, the property belonged to the Canigiani family of Florence and then to the noble Pitti family also of Florence. In the 19th century, the castle once again changed hands, going to the Barzellotti family. The François family finally bought it in 1897 and has held on to it ever since. It was with the François that the property became a winery. Before it was used only as a country residence.
What clones and selections are used?
Sangiovese Grosso is the main grape, but there are numerous other varieties including Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Colorino, Merlot, Mammolo, Ciliegiolo and Malvasia Nera.
As for whites, we grow traditional grapes, such as Malvasia del Chianti, Trebbiano Toscano and San Colombano.
Where does the water sources for the vineyard(s) come from?
The soils of the vineyards allow for the formation of important water reserves. We get regular rains throughout the year.
What trellising systems does the winery use? Why do you prefer that system?
The types of vine training we use are traditional to Chianti Classico. We do Spurred Cordon, about 60 cm above the ground, and Guyot.
What are the different soil types from each of the vineyard sites? What do these soils do for your wines?
The valley where the vineyards are has a lot of different color schist from the Cretaceous period. This schist is formed by minerals and the composition changes notably and frequently from vineyard to vineyard. So, we choose the clones based on the diversity of the minerals present.
Do any of your vineyards have names? If so, is there a story behind those names?
All of our vineyards have a name from the past. Two of the most unique names refer to our two vineyards, which take their name from two of our top wines, “Il Picchio” and “La Corte.” The first is inspired by the forest surrounding it; this forest is known for having woodpeckers (picchio in Italian). “La Corte” vineyard is located on one of our highest hills, facing west; in the past, that was where couples went to admire the beautiful sunset and because of this, it is known as “Corte,” or courtship in English.
If you have large vineyards, do you only use a portion of the vineyard to produce specific wines? How did you choose what portions to use?
Our cru vineyards are small (no more than 3-4 hectares) so they’re always totally dedicated to their respective cru wines.
What makes your winery different from others in the region? In Italy?
Our winery is known for the style of its products, which focuses on elegance and longevity. These characteristics are linked to the location of the vineyards, production and style, which haven’t changed for over 100 years.
What is the winery’s long term plans regarding production levels, vineyard replanting, style of winemaking, consumer targets, etc..
Our long-term goals are based on research aimed at increasing the number of vineyards while maintaining the density of production in order to guarantee the level of quality. We will also implement a medium to long-term replanting program to try to maintain our production philosophy and style.
What vintage had the most challenges and what were those challenges? How did you overcome them?
The vintage that gave us the most problems was definitely 2002. It was a truly complex year; it was rainy and dark and stayed that way until just a few days before harvest. Obviously, we decided to produce only entry-level wines and not produce our top wines.
What cooperage does the winery use?
In general, we’ve always used products from the François Frere company for both large casks and barriques.
Is there a philosophy around cooperage?
This is because the type of oak used and the level of toast allows for delicate aging.
The Owner & Winemakers
Born in Fiesole (FI) in 1935, François studied engineering at Politecnico di Milano. He married Maria Antonietta Corsi on 1 July 1961. He and his wife both played crucial roles in the rebirth and development of the company. With a spirit of enterprise and a desire to succeed, which are typical to the family, François delved deeply into the techniques and processes needed for winemaking. After getting a Master’s degree in enology, he began renovating the property to respond to the production challenges, Alessandro also tried to maintain his family legacy and experiences from the past. Because he exports his wines to over 50 countries, he became passionate about international geography, which is his biggest hobby.
She came on board when she started coming to the Querceto estate in the summer while living and working with Alessandro in Milan. After 20 years working, she decided to completely change her life. They left their business and first temporarily moved to Florence and then to Querceto definitively around 1986. In 1978, they transformed their business into a joint-stock company with the aim of bringing friends from Milan onto the team. Antonietta was the sole director for several years until Alessandro began operations. She then became CEO with Alessandro as chairman.
One of the many stories she recalls is from when they were renovating the castle. When she first started cleaning, she found strange balls in a small closet, and not knowing what they were, she placed them on a table in an adjacent room. Much later, her father-in-law told her those “balls” were actually French grenades that must have been left there after the war. All you had to do was pull the top to set it off. Evidently it wasn’t her time! After sleeping with one eye open, the next day she called a bomb disposal engineer who handled everything.
Her main hobby is cooking but she focuses on baking.
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