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Variety lets Nicolo D’Afflitto make complex wine

Variety has given Nicolo D’Afflitto an opportunity to make a stunning and approachable – yet complex – wine.

Castel Giocondo is a Brunello loaded with bright cherry fruits, easy going tannins and an acidic balance that neatly wraps up the entire flavor profile. Made from estate-grown grapes in Montalcino, Italy, Castel Giocondo is a brilliant Sangiovese that is ready to be enjoyed now and will continue to improve with time.      

Winemaker spotlight

As director of winemaking for Marchesi de Frescobaldi, D’Afflitto has three distinct lots from which to chose the fruit that will become Castel Giocondo. Each adds its own special layer to the wine.     

At low levels there is a shorter growing season because the grapes are exposed to higher temperatures. Grown in a mixture of clay and stony soils, D’Afflitto seeks to extract tannins from the skin. Add in a change in elevation, at over 900 feet, the grapes are thinner skinned and undergo a long vinification process.

Grown in sandy soils, D’Afflitto doesn’t do a pump over in the vinification process; the fruit flavors are present and provide an elegant layer to the wine. 

The grapes grown at the highest altitude, over 1,600 feet, are in a clay soil that drains very well. The vines have to go deep for water and work harder to reach maturation. They also offer the most complex contribution to the wine.   

“We are very lucky with the different soil types at Castel Giocondo,” D’Afflitto said. “Each vineyard offers something unique to the wine.”

A 1982 graduate of Bordeaux University with a degree in oenology, D’Afflitto  has supervised the replanting of Castel Giocondo that will finally conclude in 2015. He has a firm grasp on the nuances of the growing season and is as ready as a winemaker can be for the curve balls Mother Nature can randomly throw.

“We are always seeking for a natural balance,” D’Afflitto said. “If we can push the roots deep down in the soil, the [stresses], late rains in September or a dry season, don’t change the berries as much. They can be more constant. It starts with the soil, goes to the grapes and ends with the wine.”

The wine crafted at Castel Giocondo is an ideal ending.  

What to buy

Castel Giocondo, Brunello Di Montalcino, 2008 ($69.99): A vibrant wine. Castel Giocondo has the ideal mix of fruit, tannins and acidity. Black cherry, strawberry, thyme and herb notes seamlessly intermingle. Harvest started at the end of September and finished at the beginning of October. 

The wine matures for three years in oak casks and six moths in bottle prior to release. The acidity is a key layer for D’Afflitto. 

“Less acidity in wine makes it seem flat,” D’Afflitto said. “I am attracted to balance and vibrancy in wine. That’s why in all the wines I make there will always be a little bit of acidity. It’s very important for the life of the wine.”

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for Shaw Media. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at

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