International Red Wines
Gagliole Pecchia, Toscana 1999 – A rarity among reds.
Persistence pays off. Twenty years ago, Thomas Bär, a Zurich banker and attorney, and his wife Monika, succumbed to the multiple charms of this hidden 110-acre estate just outside Castellina in Chianti. Their attachment to the place began with its history, with records dating to the 10th century, when the Longobard king Berengarius owned it and bequeathed it to his son. The there were the rows of tall Italian cypresses, swaying gently in the breeze as the led into the vineyard. The view across the primordially beautiful Tuscan landscape, which looked just as it had for many centuries, with the towers of San Gimignano visible in the distance, also drew them in. “Monika and I fell in love with this property,” Bär says.
Unfortunately, the owner at the time did not wish to sell, and 10 years passed before the Bärs could convince him to do so. But, once the deed was signed, the Bärs’ headache had only begun. They had to contend with the Italian government, since Gagliole is a protected landmark, and the Italian bureaucracy is, well, Italian. Under this burden of red tape, the Bärs worked for 10 years to renovate Gagliole from foundation to ceilings, while at the same time preserving the historic look and ambience of the place.
Rustic and entirely Tuscan from the outside, the buildings artfully conceal a small state-of-the-art winery with temperature-controlled upright fermenting tanks of Austrian oak and a barrel room stacked with crisp, new French barriques. The terraced vineyards, totalling 22 acres, are planted with 80 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and small amounts of malvasia, Chardonnay, and Trebbiano. Olive trees are scattered among the vines.
The Bärs make a modicum of white wine as Gagliole Bianco, but the estate’s flagship wine, simply called Gagliole, is a deep, powerful, and extraordinary red made mostly from Sangiovese blended with a small percentage of Cabernet. The first release was from the 1993 vintage, but Gagliole really hit its stride in the 1999 and 2000 vintages. A step up even from Gagliole, this extraordinary Pecchia is a one-off from the 1999 vintage – a 100 percent Sangiovese, and one of the greatest Tuscan wines we have ever tasted. Unfortunately, Bär has no immediate plans to produce it again, making it a rarity among rarities. Racy and intense, it is a pure explosion of blackberry and plum with a core of searing, juicy acidity and notes of smoke, spice, and wildflowers. A masterpiece worth the search.
Anthony Dias Blue