Who: Paolo Cianferoni

Where: Radda in Chianti, heart of Tuscany

What grapes: Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia

How many bottles: 20,000

Key facts: This certified-organic (by CCPB) one-man estate makes compelling wine from old vines in the heart of Chianti Classico, with very little manipulation or modern technology.

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Caparsa Bianco di Caparsino

Organic: Certified
Soil type: Alberese, Galestro, clay, sand
Elevation: 350-450m
Grapes: Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianca
Method of fermentation: Spontaneous with indigenous yeasts for 30 days. Aged 10-12 months in stainless steel.
Bottles made: 1,200

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Caparsa Rosso Toscano IGT

Organic: Certified
Soil type: Alberese, Galestro, clay, sand
Elevation: 450m
Grapes: Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Malvasia
method of fermentation: Spontaneous with indigenous yeasts for about 12 days. Aged in cement tanks.
Bottles made:5,333

Rosso di Caparsa is certified organic by CCPB. It is made in Radda in Chianti, the heart of Tuscany, on hilly, high-elevation vineyards. Wild yeasts are used for fermentation, and the wine ages in stainless steel. I’ll let Paolo explain the blend:  “The Wine “Rosso di Caparsa is made with Sangiovese and two white grapes: Trebbiano and Malvasia. This wine remembers the ancient Chianti wine made for the peasant to drink a lot. It is a brilliant red, with very intense aromas of flowers. The taste is very agreeable. It is not full-bodied, so you can drink a lot of it. It is not a white wine, not a rosé wine; it is a natural expression of a traditional wine.”

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Caparsa “Caparsino” Chianti Classico Riserva

Organic: Certified
Soil type: Alberese, Galestro, clay, sand
Elevation: 450m
Grapes: Sangiovese
Method of fermentation: Spontaneous with indigenous yeast in large lined cement tank and big old barrels. 

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Caparsa Vin Santo

Organic: Certified
Soil type: Alberese, Galestro, clay, sand
Elevation: 450m
Grapes: 50% Malvasia, 50% Trebbiano
Method of fermentation: Aged and Fermented in large old oak barrels for over a decade.

Paolo Cianferoni speaks at great pace, an uninterrupted stream of essential information regarding Caparsa. His narrative begins immediately, abruptly, and conveys the tremendous amount of work and focus necessary to elevate a winery to this level. Along with being the engine behind this small estate, he is the father of five children, three of whom were born on the estate. Speed and efficiency are critical with that much on your plate!

His work began in 1982. It was initially a matter of rebuilding, to shape the estate into a leading organic farm. The land had been purchased by his family in 1965: the oldest side of the house dates to the 16th century. The vineyards are truly in the heart of Chianti, a perfect location. They radiate out with the cellar as their center.The best vines are situated a few hundred meters farther up the hill from the cellar (450 meters above sea level) and are heavily planted with Sangiovese. Small amounts of Canaiolo, Malvasia Nera, Colorino, and Trebbiano are also grown.

Respect for nature and balance with the larger environment are core principles at Caparsa. Sixty percent of the estate’s land remains forested for biodiversity. There is clear-headed, correct farming happening at Caparsa, and the yield is impressive. “Herbicides simplify a vineyard,” Cianferoni stated. Chemicals have an undeniable dulling impact on a farm’s products. Making wines this thrilling has to be done naturally.

Cianferoni is in the process of selecting and replanting portions of his old vineyards with plant stock culled from his oldest vineyards: massale replanting. He believes these 46-year-old vineyards produce wines that are rustic at first, yet are innately very age-worthy. The vines grow in gallestro and alberese soils. The roots must work hard to derive life from this rocky ground, fight to reach the abundant water deep under the surface. Cianferoni appreciates the struggle of his vines. “When life is too easy it becomes boring, and you kill yourself” he said.  We need toil to sustain us, and so do vines.

Capara’s Caparsino Chianti Classico Riserva is in a league of its own. “Others use notes or paint, I use nature.” The wine is 95% Sangiovese. Cianferoni points out the richness and acidity of Caparsino as fundamental elements necessary for the wine to age.  Caparsino shares its name with the house Cianferoni lives in on the property. “It is a wine for wine lovers, with great complexity and strong emotions. It is too much for some people. It represents, more than the other wines, the terroir (of Caparsa.)”

Cianferoni says his riservas benefit from 15-20 years of ageing.  But they are fundamentally meant to drink. “It is great with beef, simple bread and olive oil. The wine is to provide just a little happiness, not to get out of your mind.”

Caparsa’s cellar is stone, old and cold, with minimal technology. Everything here is deliberate. Fermentations begin with wild yeasts, and for the reds, last about 12 days. Cianferoni uses 10 hectoliter large barrels to age his reds. “Wood has many risks. Small barrels dry too much the wine. And the extra tannin (from small barrels) can be toxic.” He likes a complex mix of Slovenian, American, Hungarian and French oak for his big barrels.

Cianferoni bottles once per year, an average of 20,000 bottles. “If I stay small I control everything.” He ferments in concrete. The very appealing and real Bianco di Caparsa (equal parts Trebbiano and Malvasia) is made by destemming the clusters, then allowing the white juice to stay on its skins for 14 days. The wine varies significantly in character vintage to vintage according to the thickness of these skins, impacted of course by weather. Cianferoni does nothing to control malolactic fermentations. The wines are bottled unfiltered.  He culls extensively in the cellar to maintain top quality. In a typical year he may sacrifice/sell off in bulk 3 to 4 of his 10 large barrels. Only the absolute best are bottled as Caparsa.

Caparsa’s wines are certified organic by the CCPB. “I drink a liter of wine a day. It has to be made in a healthy way.” There is a touch of genius to what is going on at Caparsa. Paolo Cianferoni is a man on his own course, guided by a vision.