Isole e Olena
A CREAM IMPORT SELECTION
Country of Origin: Italy
Location: Barberino Val d'Elsa, Chianti Classico
People: Paolo De Marchi, Owner & Winemaker
Wine Spectator: A Moving Target with Tuscan Legend Paolo De Marchi
About.com: Italian Food
Jancis Robinson: Paolo de Marchi on Esca
Polish Wine Guide: Isole e Olena - lightness, juiciness, naturalness
The incredibly talented, humble, and kind Paolo De Marchi is at the helm of Isole e Olena, and has been since 1976 after taking over from his parents who purchased the property in the 1950s. From the beginning, Paolo has done groundbreaking work to understand and propel the image of Sangiovese. Until very recently, Sangiovese was thought to fare poorly by itself, and the Chianti Classico appellation demanded that it be blended with other grapes (including white) to earn the DOCG. Paolo differed from this opinion. He studied his Sangiovese vines, convinced he could produce a wine that would rival international single-varietal wines. Radically, Paolo produced his first 100% Sangiovese Cepparello in 1980 (according to history he was the second person to do this after Montevertine); this wine was an immediate success and set the standard for the pure Sangiovese movement in Tuscany. Cepparello put Paolo and his estate on the map. 40 years later, the revered Paolo is producing some of his best wines yet!
Isole e Olena is comprised of two adjoining estates in the Barberino Val d’Elsa subregion of Chianti Classico. The land totals 290 hectares of which 53 hectares are planted to vines, which include traditional Tuscan varieties as well as international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. 70% of the estate’s production is traditional Chianti Classico and Vin Santo. The location is on the cooler, western side of Chianti Classico at about 1,310 feet. The wines maintain freshness even in the hottest years because of the sea breezes and steep diurnal shift.
" If there is one winery that merits special recognition this year it is without question Isole e Olena. Paolo De Marchi presented a dazzling set of wines, starting with the 2017 Chianti Classico, a terrific example of the how the warm growing season added an extra element of dimension to some wines. Cepparello is so distinguished. What else is new? Today, readers don’t care much about international varieties in Italy. I will freely admit it – I am not a huge fan. But De Marchi has a rare talent in coaxing so much personality from his Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are fabulous. I don’t think there is another winemaker in Italy who can match his skill across that many different varieties. And then there is the Vin Santo, which is everything Vin Santo can and should be. Don’t miss these wines."
"Paolo De Marchi describes 2016 as a cool year with a lot of sunshine and well-timed rains, conditions that resulted in slow ripening of the grapes and a late, relaxed harvest that started at the end of September and wrapped up during the second half of October. As for the wines, they are simply off the charts. I don't know if there is much more I can say than that."
"Always outspoken, Paolo De Marchi is not shy when it comes to expressing his views. For that reason, he is not really part of the 'in crowd' of owners in Chianti Classico's highly political ecosystem. But he doesn't need to be, the wines speak for themselves. These wines are simply extraordinary. The only wines that fall a bit short are the 2015s, but rain during harvest is not exactly easy to work around. De Marchi's Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is one of just a few wines that truly express what the top of the qualitative hierarchy is, while his wines from international varieties, now out of favor, remain compelling. The flagship remains the 100% Sangiovese Cepparello, which in its best vintages, is capable of developing beautifully in bottle for 25+ years."
"Paolo De Marchi made one of the very finest wines of the 2014 vintage with a stunning Cepparello. De Marchi was able to push the harvest into late October and early November, which means the Sangiovese got the benefit of the warm, dry days and cool nights that arrived towards the end of the growing season, a time when the last phase of ripening took place under the gentle, shorter days of fall. There are plenty of other noteworthy wines in this collection, including the terrific 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione Privata. These wines show why De Marchi and Isole e Olena occupy a spot among the world's elite wine estates."
"Paolo De Marchi remains one of the most forward-thinking producers in Italy. His 100% Sangiovese Cepparello was a ground -breaking wine in the 1980s, when Sangiovese was four-letter word and international varieties were all the rage. Now the Gran Selezione is hot and there has never been more focus on pure Sangiovese in Chianti Classico. So what does De Marchi do? Simply make one of the greatest Tuscan wines ever with his 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, which is, ironically, a blend of Sangiovese and Bordeaux varieties. So, now the top wine at Isole e Olena - an estate that has championed Sangiovese for three-plus decades (far before it was fashionable to do so) - is now a blend. In 2011, De Marchi added a dollop of Trebbiano to freshen up his Cepparello. What's old is new again? At the end of the day, none of that really matters. 'I want to make the best wine I can. Period,' says De Marchi in his typical self-deprecating style. Make no mistake about it, these are some of the greatest wines being made anywhere in the world. Chapeau."