The idyllic hilltop estate of Podere Il Carnasciale is situated in the southern Chianti hills of the Valdarno, just outside of the Chianti Classico appellation and about 30 kilometers north of Siena and Arezzo. Wolf and Bettina Rogosky purchased the estate in 1972 with the intent of creating something extraordinary, an aspiration that years of commitment, precision and determination has undoubtedly proven successful. Today, the winery is run by Bettina and her son Moritz, in exclusive collaboration with enologist Peter Schilling.
Il Carnasciale is unique for many reasons, but the characteristic that truly sets it apart from any other winery in Italy, or the world, is the cultivation and vinification of the grape variety Caberlot. This variety was first discovered in the late 1960′s in an abandoned vineyard near Padua by the agronomist Remigio Bordini. Caberlot embodies the organoleptic characteristics of Cabernet Franc, while the ampelographic profile is closer to that of Merlot, leading to the assumption that this loose-cluster grape is the result of a natural crossing of the two varieties, in other words, a hybrid.
Following the bitter frost of 1985, which destroyed the main olive tree grove at Il Carnasciale, and after having met enologist and friend Vittorio Fiore and Dr. Bordini several years earlier, Wolf Rogosky embraced an opportunity and set out to produce a great wine of truly unique character. The first vineyard ‘Carnasciale’, a mere 0.3 hectares (0.74 acres), was planted in 1986 on the site of the old olive grove, a south-east facing slope with stony soil rich in iron. Vines were planted at an, at the time, astonishing 10,000 plants per hectare and gobelet trained, a system particularly adapted for low vigor varieties like Caberlot. Two additional parcels have been planted since, in 1999 and in 2004, for a total vineyard surface today of 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres). Outside Dr. Bordini’s nursery, the Caberlot varietal is cultivatedexclusively at Il Carnasciale.
Since the first vintage of Il Caberlot was released in 1988, the wine has achieved a sort of cult status, particularly in Europe. It is not just the rarity and minuscule production quantities that drive this appreciation, however, but the extreme care, attention to detail, and pursuit of quality that imbues each aspect of production. Work in the vineyards is particularly gentle, with minimal intervention, and employing entirely manual labour. Pruning, budding and leaf-management are carried out by hand as well. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used, and all eventual sanitary treatments are natural. The harvest commences with phenolic ripeness of the grapes, in several passes depending on the vineyard and vintage, and is completed entirely by hand. To ensure that the grapes arrive at the cellar in perfect condition, a rigorous selection is carried out in the vineyard, berry by berry, following Bettina’s motto “what you would not put into your mouth will not go into the wine.”
Upon arrival at the cellar, the grapes are left to cool and, after destemming, begin fermentation in small stainless steel vats (10hl) with temperatures maintained below 30°C. The cap is punched down twice daily, also by hand, in order to allow the most contact possible between the skins and the juice. A philosophy of minimally invasive enology is applied at Il Carnasciale, allowing the fruit, the vintage and the distinctive characteristics of each vineyard to play the leading role. The malolactic fermentation in barrel is followed by 22 months ageing in French barriques, of which 70% are new, one third each Allier, Vosges and Tronçais oak, medium toast. The selection and implementation of barriques is approached with the same consideration applied to all other aspects of production, and frequent on-site tastings are conducted together with the coopers to work toward finding the ideal synergy between the barrel and the wine.
Podere Il Carnasciale produces two wines, both from the Caberlot variety and both in extremely small quantities. Il Caberlot is unfiltered and bottled (manually) exclusively in magnums, which spend an additional 18 months in the cellar prior to release. The second wine, Carnasciale, is released in 750 ml bottles after 6 months additional ageing, though the wine undergoes the same vinification and care as Il Caberlot. The selection is made after tasting each barrel, blind to ensure the highest quality, prior to bottling. The more ‘approachable’ wines are bottled as Carnasciale while the most complex wines, those that fully express themselves only after years of age, are bottled as Il Caberlot.