by Fred McMillin
for April 10, 1998

Winery of the Week

A Chianti Castle


"Unlike many of the so-called castles of Chianti, the Castello di Gabbiano is a real one."

...Rosemary George, "Chianti"

The Rest of the Story

How old is the castle? Well, as construction started knights returning from the Second Crusade brought a sensational new foodstuff to Europe "that was virtually unknown even in the greatest castles." It was called sugar. The year was 1124 A.D. The year before a famous wine-writer had died...Omar Khayyam.

Other Gabbiano highlights:
The castle later belonged to a patron of none other than the immortal Leonardo Da Vinci by the name of Francesco Solderini, Cardinal under Pope Julius II. (c.1500)

The Solderinis retained the castle until they were exiled by another big name, the Medicis. Now, let's fast-forward to the 20th century.

1981—Milan chemical engineer Raino Alcaini with $12 million loose change, buys the property & more than doubles the vineyard acreage to 120. Half are devoted to Chianti Classico varieties, with most of the remainder for use in the new Supertuscans (that contain Bordeaux varietals). Happily, the winery has maintained a tie to its origins; the ancient wine cellar is still alive and well, sporting some modern features like new French oak barrels, etc.

Just The Facts

Name—Castello di Gabbiano
Location—In the northern part of Chianti Classico country, 30 miles south of Florence in Tuscany.
Founded—Castle construction started in 1124.
Owners—Raino and Raynella Alcaini.
Winemaker—Franco Bernabie, whose Chiantis have gotten very high marks, as have his new Supertuscans.
First Wine to Try—In a large, blind tasting of mine six years ago, a red steamrollered all the competition. Pulled out of its sack, the brilliant bottle was a 1985 Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Oro. Today the 1990 vintage is available at $23...loaded with cherry flavors, but not harsh or explosive... quite possibly one of the best Chiantis you've ever sipped.
Importer—Beringer's Wine World Imports
Contact—Allison Lane Simpson, (707) 963-7115


Would you believe, in Piedmont, north of Tuscany, there is a winery named Castello di Gabiano near the town of Gabiano. I've not seen its red wines in the USA.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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