Famed Italian Winemaker, Sean O'Callaghan

  1. Colle Santa Mustiola 2013 ‘Vignaflavia’ Sangiovese Toscana IGT, $50
  2. Tenuta di Carleone, UNO Sangiovese Toscana IGT, $100
  3. Sincette, Chiaretto (Rosato) Riviera del Garda, $23

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1. Colle Santa Mustiola 2013 ‘Vignaflavia’ Sangiovese Toscana IGT, $50

The WineWine bottle - Colle de Mustiola 2013 Vignaflavia

This wine is crafted from 5 of the 28 clones of Sangiovese Fabio Cenni grows in his organic vineyards. Fermented with the native yeasts at controlled temperature.

The long maceration with the skins (40 days and 40 nights), allows for a perfect extraction of color and tannin from the thin-skinned Sangiovese grape. And while this results in a tannic wine once fermentation is complete, Fabio doesn’t release his wines until they’ve aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 4 years and then in bottle for 3 years before release.

The result is this elegant, utterly delicious example of Sangiovese. The wine brings to your glass both ripe small-berry aromas and tertiary notes of leather, sage and tobacco. A mature Sangiovese that is still vibrant and well-balanced, with a mineral streak and silky tannins on the finish.

500 cases produced.

The Winery

When we visited Mustiola during our 2024 Italy tour, we met Fabio and his wife, Monica in their driveway, next to their organic vineyards that had recently produced their first leaves of the season. Fabio has the air of a humble but driven and intelligent gentleman, and is the quieter of the two, Monica the one quick to smile and share. Fabio was a practicing physician until the early 1990’s, when he decided to turn his full attention to his family’s vineyard, planted by his grandfather.

Mustiola's caves begin with this Etruscan tomb

Mustiola’s cellar begins in an Etruscan tomb

After our introduction to the property, Fabio had to run an errand while Monica led our tour. “We’ll begin the tour of our cellar in the Etruscan Tomb”, she said.

You know, as one does.

Fabio Cenni has been dubbed the “Sangiovese Whisperer”, as he has studied and cultivated this complicated grape variety for over 40 years. And just like with a wild horse, he’s been able to tame its finicky, capricious character to craft incredibly expressive, elegant and long-lived wines that are among the best in Tuscany – and among the best-kept secrets in Tuscan wine.

In the 1970’s, Doctor Fabio doubled as the primary salesman for his family’s wines, focusing on restaurants and merchants within a days’ drive. In the 1980s he took over the family vineyards/cellar and began intense studies of the Sangiovese vines his grandfather had planted, then concluding that Sangiovese was the grape best suited to their area. In 1990, he began replanting the family vineyards using massal selections from the best 28 Sangiovese clones he’d identified on the property.

Located outside the quaint town of Chiusi in the province of Siena, the winery is near the border with Umbria and Lazio – the Easternmost side of Tuscany. This location is without its own DOC, so Fabio’s wines are all Super Tuscan IGTs.

The area was the center of the Etruscan League several hundred years BCE, with evidence of vines grown here for 2,500+ years, as documented by Pliny the Elder.

2. Tenuta di Carleone, ‘UNO’ Sangiovese Toscana IGT, $100

The Wine

Wine bottle - Tenuta di Carleone 'Uno' Sangiovese IGT

Can a Super Tuscan (IGT) be 100% Sangiovese? Yep!

Dave, you’ve selected another Sangiovese for this month’s club wines?

Absolutely. One of the things you’ll discover here, if you haven’t already, as you taste these two wines (the Mustiola and the Carleone) is that Sangiovese is called ‘the Chameleon Wine’ for a very good reason.

As with some of the world’s most iconic red grapes – Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir – Sangiovese reflects its roots more than the vast majority of red grapes (of which there are hundreds, including the noble Bordeaux varietals!)

The location of the vineyard. The soil type. The altitude, slope, exposure to the sun, and the 100+ clonal varieties… all lead to different expressions of Sangiovese. If you think about it, it’s almost misleading to simply put the word “Sangiovese” on the label without detailing all these other elements – but then one would need a fold-out wine label and who wants that, really?

It seemed odd that a man named Sean O’Callaghan, complete with a charming British accent and a prestigious degree from Germany’s best winemaking school, would end up as a rock star winemaker in Italy! But taste his wine and you’ll see why we decided it was among the best expressions of Tuscan wines we’ve come across. And while pricey, it represents very good value when put up next to its peers on the world stage of collectible wines.

The Winery

When we pulled into the driveway at Tenuta di Carleone on our 2024 tour of Italian wineries, our importer turned around to face our group and struck a serious tone as he said:

Famed Italian Winemaker, Sean O'Callaghan

Sean proves that not every royal has a stylist.

Hey everyone, before we go in I just want you to know you’re about to meet with winemaking royalty here. Sean is approachable and unassuming, but don’t let his casual appearance fool you. His wines are at the top of the heap in Chianti Classico, in Tuscany, and throughout all of Italy!

And he was right. Our tasting was absolutely memorable! Not just because of his exceptional wines, but for the chance to spend time with the aptly named “one-eyed rascal” himself. Sean’s story is both uplifting and motivating.

Thirty years ago, the world-traveler and one-eyed dreamer submitted his thesis at a Geisenheim, a prestigious German winemaking school, and took off on his motorcycle for an Italian vineyard adventure. He dived into Chianti and never looked back. Flash forward a couple of decades and we find him now partnered with Karl Egger at Tenuta di Carleone. The name “Carleone” is a portmanteau of Karl’s first name (spelled in the Italian version) and the Lion (Leone) found on the coat of arms for the original estate’s owners from centuries ago – an emblem that adorns their simple label on every bottle.

Following organic and biodynamic practices, they farm a collection of small non-contiguous plots, 48 acres in total, nestled among wooded hills, small streams and aged olive trees. Ranging from 1500 – 2300 feet in elevation, these mini-plots feature soils that alternate between “Alberese” limestone and “Galestro” sandstone and compacted shale – resulting in distinctly different flavor profiles in the resulting wine. Each site is vinified and aged separately before the final blend is made.

Sean’s winemaking style – at once thoughtful and playful – creates wines the Italians describe as “bevibilità”, which roughly translates as “a deliciousness that makes bottles tend to disappear!”

Carleone's logo - the one-eyed rascal

The Carleone logo – the one-eyed rascal

Sean’s vision for Sangiovese wine is a balance between structure and fruit. That freshness is achieved by fermenting in concrete and/or stainless steel containers, with a portion of the grapes in whole cluster. For the project’s most experimental wine, “Il Guercio,” which (politely) translates as the “one-eyed rascal”, the open-top bin where the whole clusters are crushed by foot remain in maceration in the same bin for over three months. Sean skips filtration and fining and lets his wines ferment spontaneously.

Tenuta di Carleone is located in the charming town of Radda in Chianti which, thanks to its altitude and mineral rich “galestro” soils, yields some of the most ethereal, aromatically precise and focused Sangiovesi in all of Chianti Classico. It also features several good restaurants, a medievel castle, and a half dozen cafes – a worthy destination for a night or two when visiting Tuscany!

3. Sincette Chiaretto (Rosato) del Garda Classico DOC, $23

The Wine

Bottle shot: Sincette Chiaretto (Rosato)

This beguilingly complex rose is a blend of  three red grapes from around Lake Garda in the Lombardy region – 60% Groppello, 30% Marzemino, 10% Barbera. The grapes are all estate-grown and are raised according to biodynamic and organic principles, then fermented with native yeasts in terracotta amphora and French oak tonneaux barrels.

This is a delicious little gem of a wine, bursting with supple wild strawberry, pomegranate and currant aromas followed by subtle notes of fine herbs. A lively and vibrant Rosato!

The Winery

Sincette is a certified biodynamic and organic farm located in Valtènesi, an high-plain on the south-western shore of Lake Garda, in Lombardy. Winemaker Andrea Salvetti and the Brunori family have embraced the biodynamic principles in 1997, one of the very first wineries in Italy to do so. Through organic and biodynamic farming Sincette preserves the biodiversity and health of its land and environment, producing wines that brim with vital energy and deliciously pure fruit aromas..


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