The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Castello dei Rampolla’s Harmony with Nature

Why biodynamic agriculture doesn’t need to make sense to make great wines











Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Farmers who use biodynamic growing methods choose to plant, weed, treat, harvest and, if they’re winemakers, vinify in concert with the movement of the planets. The point of biodynamic growing, an agricultural movement that looks at organic farmers as folks who do something right if somewhat incompletely, is to look at the growth cycle of the entire field as one holistic unit. To those of us who bear an empirical mind and like to see cold, calculating and clear evidence to support assertions (and I do count myself among that number), biodynamic practices with their airy-fairy reliance on manure-filled and cow-horns that are buried and exhumed, water’s circular memory, and a vague tie between planetary movements and “energy” can make us roll our eyes.

Some people decry the ability of biodynamic agriculture to actually make a difference in winemaking. It’s too magical, too lacking in substance, too weird, and too unscientific, they argue. It is hard to understand exactly how or why water that has moved in one direction rather than another would affect a plant’s hydration, and it’s hard to see how burying a cow horn would do anything to affect a vineyard’s production. Being fairly empirically minded, I might accept these arguments had I not spent an afternoon with Luca di Napoli Rampolla at his biodynamically maintained Tuscan estate, Castello dei Rampolla. This afternoon changed my thinking about biodynamic methods, and even if I don’t understand them, I became a believer.

It might have been spending a couple of hours walking around the estate as Luca pulled up tufts of grass and named each plant in his hand. It might have been his patient explanation of the ways that his vines interact with the trees that surround them, with the soils that support them, and with the weather that touches them. It might have been the clear, unremitting commitment that Luca makes in every choice for his estate—from the solar panels on top of the vinification area to the placement of his chicken coop.

It might be all of that talking, walking and looking helped me grasp that choosing to prune according to how the alignment of the planets will affect the plants. Or it might be sitting on Luca’s terrace, drinking the wine that he made helped me believe. But on that Thursday afternoon, I became a biodynamic convert. I don’t really care how the science works. It’s clear to me that there’s something very special, very alive and very unique about this wine.

Italy, unlike the United States, is a place where people continue to believe in magic. I’ve never lived long enough in other areas of the world to make further comparisons, but while Americans might wistfully wish for magic, Italians feel it. It’s in the mountains and in the sea. It’s in the cities, like Venice and Rome, that shouldn’t exist, not as they do, not after all these centuries. It’s in the food and in the wine. And sometimes, I think, you just have to put science on hold, sit back, exhale, and enjoy the magic. It’s ephemeral, beautiful and vital. If it’s biodynamic, then it’s simply all the better.

IWM has the new 2011 Sammarco release coming from Castello dei Rampolla. Don’t miss this extraordinary biodynamic Super Tuscan!

Expert Picks: Castello dei Rampolla and…Castello dei Rampolla!

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito











Francesco 2014Castello dei Rampolla’s Vigna d’Alceo is definitely a wine that flies under the radar of most Italian wine buyers, when it should sit at the forefront with Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia, and the rest of the Super-Tuscan greats. Hailing from Chianti Classico, instead of the coastal region of Bolgheri, Castello dei Rampolla is a gem of an estate that utilizes a full biodynamic regimen, giving their wines a unique sense of terroir. The Vigna d’Alceo is the flagship wine, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and touch of Petit Verdot.

Castello dei Rampolla 1997 Vigna d’Alceo $380.80

This is a massive wine that displays a wealth of power, fruit, concentration, body and tannins. It’s gorgeous in stature, but this monster is going to require some time to open up in the glass. When it does, we are going to have something truly special on our hands. Get the ’97 Vigna d’Alceo while they are available. Finding vintage Vigna d’Alceo is super difficult, so if you are reading this, do not hesitate to pick them up!

Castello dei Rampolla 2001 Vigna d’Alceo $249.00

Another well endowed, structured and incredible vintage for the Alceo, the ’01 has tons of class but it’s not as exuberant as the flashy ‘97. More classic in style and long lived, the 2001 has a bright, promising future ahead of it, even though its starting to drink great today. It is perhaps the finest Vigna d’Alceo made!