This is our second release of the wines from Le Ragnaie; the 2018 vintage.
This estate is a great new addition to our growing roster of Tuscan producers. It completes the line-up composed of Ridolfi, Il Marroneto and Soldera. Le Ragnaie adds expressions of terroir from high altitude and single vineyards.
Although the estate was bought recently (in 2003) by the current owners Jennifer and Riccardo Campinoti, the property is much older than that. The original 3.8 hectares of vines were planted in 1968 then further increased in the 1990s. The Campinotis added vineyards by extending the plantings and acquiring new plots. Today the property extends over 28ha, 6ha of which are classified to produce Brunello DOCG.
Riccardo describes the 2018 vintage as “very good, not showy, with finesse and elegance” - a style that he likes very much.
We, Will Hargrove and I, certainly liked it when we tasted at the winery last year. We shook hands with Campinoti to start our collaboration with that vintage. But he then came back with an extra gift, an allocation of the 2017 vintage and that was in fact our first release.
I am planning to see Riccardo later in September to assess the quality of the 2019 and secure an allocation. I’ll report on that in due course. For now, I strongly suggest you add Le Ragnaie’s 2018s to your collection.
Managing Director Corney & Barrow Asia
I called Riccardo last week, to get his description of the 2018 vintage. His answer was enthusiastic!
In his words, “2018 is very good and not showy.” It is pretty with an elegant structure and delicate aromas of red fruits. He added that this is exactly what he likes. The wines have finesse and balance. They are not as powerful as 2016 or 2015 but they have good structure and are delicious. This is a style befitting his estate.
There was some rain in the spring, slightly more than the annual average but not dramatic. Again, there were some showers before the harvest but this was not detrimental to the quality of the grapes. This last episode necessitated some more work in the vines to counter mildew attacks. They also carefully sorted the berries at harvest time in the winery. This resulted in a slight drop in volume, but I could not sense any frustration or unhappiness in Riccardo’s voice while he was recounting the season. 2023 is another story. Tough as Italy has experienced torrential rain and hail episodes earlier this year.
The viticulture and winemaking
Le Ragnaie has followed the rules of organic viticulture since 2005 and was even biodynamic for a few years. But Riccardo decided to revert to organic viticulture rapidly, not seeing additional benefits from the former’s practises.
Often the harvest lasts longer at Le Ragnaie than at other estates (from one to one and a half months) because of the different elevations of the vineyard sites. Altitudes range from 200m to 620m+ above sea level. This leads to different states of maturity, site by site.
The fermentation of the must takes place in a mix of concrete and open-top wooden fermenters. Natural yeast are ‘in charge’ of transforming the must into wine. The harvest is totally destemmed; the temperature of the fermentation is controlled to never go above 31°C. Riccardo practises light pumping over during the vinification to keep the cap wet and to carefully control extraction. He favours a long maceration on the skins of 45 to 50 days which is relatively uncommon for the DOCG. In 2015, the maceration lasted an amazing three months!
Because of the character of the wines in 2018, Riccardo’s Brunellos have aged only a little over 24 months in large botti, instead of the classic three years. He did not want to ‘mark’ the wines with too much oak.
After the long ageing, the wines are bottled without filtration. The single-vineyard cuvées are bottled botti by botti, while the Brunello annata (the white label) is blended in a concrete tank before being bottled.
Riccardo does not come from a winemaking family. The Campinotis are in the manufacturing business where he worked with his parents. However, in 2002, he decided to follow his passion and started his first wine project, purchasing Le Ragnaie in 2003. He surrounded himself with consultants for both the viticulture and the winemaking. Wisely, he kept a long-standing employee of the previous owner who is still in the team to this day, giving a very helpful historical perspective.
The introduction of C&B to Le Ragnaie came by the way of Alessandro Mori at Il Marroneto. In his capacity of Board member of our Asia business, Will Hargrove (Head of Fine Wine at Corney & Barrow) was visiting Alessandro to confirm representation by C&B HK of his wines in Hong Kong. Alessandro Mori then kindly arranged for an impromptu visit at his friend’s estate. Will met Riccardo Campinoti on the first day of the 2021 harvest and tasted the wines. Will and I met Riccardo a year later and agreed to work together.
Le Ragnaie covers 28ha of vineyard split across 8 distinctive sites around Montalcino.
From these plots, come five single-vineyard Brunellos - Vigna Vecchia, Passo del Lume Spento, Montosoli, Fornace and Petroso. These vineyards are at various altitudes ranging from 200m above sea level up to 621m. Most of the plots are at high elevation. They are located at the four corners of the appellation and benefit from different expositions (west, northeast, southeast and southwest). Orientation is a key component of terroir expression. A mere 6ha of the estate’s total 28ha are permitted to produce Le Raganie’s Brunello di Montalcino DOCG wines.
The range comprises an IGT wine, a Rosso di Montalcino, a Brunello annata and the single cru wines. The Vigna Vecchia and the Passo del Lume Spento vineyards are planted in the vicinity of the winery within the Le Ragnaie area. The Casanovina Montosoli is from the Montosoli vineyard, an area just north of the town of Montalcino, considered to be one of the best sites in the appellation. The two other crus: Fornace and Petroso, are not made every year. These five wines are the black labelled Brunellos.
Among these single vineyard wines, the Vigna Vecchia (VV) was the first produced in 2007. Montosoli’s first release was in 2015 whilst Passo del Lume Spento was first made in 2017. All these wines as well as the annata have a signature saltiness in their taste, due to the limestone present across all of the estate’s vineyards.
Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino 2018
This is the white label Brunello, made with fruit sourced from across estate’s vineyards. Riccardo produces about 4,000 cases of this wine. At first, the nose is floral and elegant with enticing red berry aromas. The palate is focused and vivacious, showing juicy red cherry flavours. The wine is pure and balanced, whilst comforting and relaxing. There is a good tension to the palate and lively pure Sangiovese varietal character.
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 - 18
Recommended drinking from 2023–2033
Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino Passo del Lume Spento 2018
Riccardo produces 1 botti of each single vineyard wine. But he does not bottle every vintage. This plot is at the highest altitude, 621m. Grapes are harvested from bush vines planted in 2012. The first nose is reminiscent of Burgundian herbal aromas. The wine is pretty, very aromatic with a sweetness of fruit coming through from the first sip. The second taste reveals subtle notes of underwood, slightly smoky and meaty. The frame is elegant, this is a wine of effortless charm.
Corney & Barrow Score 18
Recommended drinking from 2023–2033
Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Vecchia 2018
First released in 2007, this wine comes from a plot of less than a hectare. Riccardo does not have many old vines dating back to 1968 because a large portion were uprooted in the 1990s. The colour is instantly darker as there is more density and depth from these older vines. The nose and the palate are more savoury, with notes of leather, meat and dark cherry. The wine is mineral with crushed oyster adding a touch of saltiness to the end of the palate. The structure is definite and powerful, this is a complex wine.
Corney & Barrow Score 18+
Recommended drinking from 2028–2038
Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino Casanovina Montosoli 2018
The vines are planted on the north side of the hill of Montalcino, near to the Il Marroneto vineyard. There is a high content of clay in the soil and the tannins are powerful, slightly rustic but elegant all at the same time. This cuvée is the most structured. It was first released in 2015. The wine is opulent, with fruit-coated tannins. The palate is rich and complex showing ripe dark fruits. It is powerful but retains freshness and precision. It is a wine well born.
Corney & Barrow Score 18 +
Recommended drinking from 2028–2043