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Isole e Olena

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. Isole e Olena lays claim to some of the most prized vineyards in the region. Its 50 ha of vines reach altitudes of about 400 m above sea level and receive an average of 35 inches of rainfall annually. The soils consist of a mix of limestone, clay slate and sandstone, which allow for sufficient drainage in times of heavy rain and retain moisture during droughts. For the past 25 years, the estate has experienced an extensive replanting project including research on clonal selection, density of planting, soil mapping and vineyard management techniques. 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.

His Chianti, a blend of 80% Sangiovese supplemented by Canaiolo and a dash of Syrah, is scented and alluring. For Paolo, showcasing the “typicity of Chianti” is more than simply a philosophical or stylistic debate. As a winemaker, his number one priority is to connect the wines to the land where the vines are grown. Through this hands-off approach to winemaking, these wines are uniquely known for linking a freshness to a contrasting intensity, depth and longevity. In 1980, Paolo pioneered his flagship wine, Cepparello, made from 100% Sangiovese. This wine has been classified as a “Super Tuscan”, as it violates the traditional Chianti Classico regulations that include a white grape variety into the final blend. As a result of Paolo’s successful technique, this wine set the standard for the pure Sangiovese movement.

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.