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Cervaro della Sala is an Italian white wine from Umbria made by Marchesi Antinori. Antinori is one of the most famous and oldest Italian wine companies and can trace their history back to 1385. Antinori are probably most well-known as one the innovators of the “Super Tuscan” in the 1970s when they released Tignanello (inspired by Sassicaia) which was a blend of Bordeaux grape varieties rather than the traditional Tuscan Chianti varieties. Antinori are based in Florence in Tuscany but do have vineyards in other wine growing appellations. Antinori are also members of the Primum Familiae Vini, a group of 12 of the top family-owned wineries in the world.
Umbria is Italy’s fourth smallest region and only produces a third of the amount of wine that Tuscany does but is rapidly gaining in terms of reputation and quality. Cervaro della Sala and the Castello della Sala estate, along with other wine producers such as Caprai, Lungarotti and Paolo Bea, has been responsible for putting Umbria on the oenological map.
The 500 hectare Umbrian estate was acquired by the Antinoris in 1940. It is located not far from the Tuscan border and only 11 miles from the city of Orvieto. There are 160 hectares of vineyards that are planted between 200-400 metres above sea level. There are plantings of Chardonnay, Grechetto, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Traminer, Riesling, Procanico, Pinot Bianco, Viognier and Pinot Nero.
After a difficult start, the first great vintage of Cervaro della Sala was released in 1985 and it now considered to be one of Italy’s best Chardonnays and is regularly awarded Tre Bicchieri in the Gambero Rosso. The 2009, the most recent vintage, has scooped yet another Tre Bicchieri award, only one of nine awards in Umbria in this year.
Cervaro della Sala always has a bit of Grechetto in the blend and the 2009 is a Chardonnay 85% / Grechetto 15% blend. The grapes are harvested at night to avoid the high daytime temperatures and are transported to the winery in refrigerated vehicles. The grapes are destemmed and pressed, the different varieties are vinified separately. After fermentation is initially started the must is transferred in to French Alliers and Troncais oak barrels where it ferments for two weeks. The wine is then left on its lees in the barrels for a further 6 months where it undergoes malolactic fermentation. The various barrels are then blended, bottle and aged for a further 10 months prior to release to market.
Cervaro della Sala is a rich and creamy Chardonnay and a worthy alternative to a 1er cu Burgundy. The nose is buttery and nutty, reminiscent of hazelnuts, with tropical fruit and floral aromas too. The nuttiness follows through onto the palate which full with a pleasant finish and good acidity. Very well-balanced and should age gracefully over 3 to 5 years.