Sangiovese harvest at Riecine. Photo Stefan Keuhne

Harvest at Riecine, La Gaiole in Chianti

who? what? when? where? why? how?

who grows the grapes at Riecine? who makes the wines?

Born in Sri Lanka and educated at Geisenheim in Germany, Sean O’Callaghan might be expected to make an international style of wine on this Tuscan estate, but the reverse is true. Sean is dedicated to producing the purest Sangiovese that he can grow on this organic estate. In an area known for “Super-Tuscans” and international blends, Sean is more traditional in approach than many natives.

In fact, Sean has recently quit making a Chianti Classico Riserva because so many different grapes are allowed to be used in Riservas.  Instead, his “Riecine di Riecine” is 100% Sangiovese from the estate’s oldest vines.  This view of Chianti as Burgundy, with a focus on soil and the expression of Sangiovese in it’s purest form is neither traditional nor what we might call modern, but it produces wines of tremendous elegance.

 Riecine, planted by John Dunkley in the 1970's

what wines do they make at Riecine?

Sangiovese is the focus at Riecine.  Much of the production goes into their Chianti Classico and the Rosato called “For Jasper” which we adore.  More and more, Sean’s focus has moved to the effects of single vineyards on Sangiovese and how different this grape can be when vinified as if it were something from Barolo or Burgundy.  The resulting Riecine di Riecine is a wonderful example of elegant, graceful Sangiovese.  
Riecine Sangiovese Chianti

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when was Riecine founded?

The modern estate was started in 1971 by the Englishman John Dunkley and his Italian wife Palmina. They built on a tradition that dates back at least to 1112 AD when the first records with the name Riecine can be found in local Church archives. The Dunkley’s hired Sean as their winemaker in 1991 and he has been there ever since, taking over after the owners passed away.

Riecine in Spring 

The winery has undergone a massive renovation since our first visit in the late 200o’s with two major changes.  First, Sean has been able to design a facility that meets his every wish as a winemaker.  This means lots of neutral, concrete tanks for fermentations and a clean, organized work space with room to expand.  The second change is that as of the spring of 2014, a neighboring property that belonged to John Dunkley’s brother has been added to the estate and will increase the amount of wine that can be produced significantly.  As the vines are being replanted, this won’t affect the estate for a while, but it reflects their dedication to quality and estate grown fruit.

where is Riecine?

Riecine is in a southern, rural corner of Tuscany. Winter storms wash out the only access road to the estate and it can be impossible to get in or out for days.  The elevation is significant and the country is perhaps more mountainous and rugged than the travel guides might have us believe. The estate sits in the middle of a densely forested area and benefits from its isolation from larger more conventional farms in the region.

 Riecine near La Gaiole in Chianti 

why is Riecine a Candid Wine?

Sean refuses to use any pesticides in a vineyard that is situated in the center of an old Tuscan forest. If the vineyard were in the heart of a city, he’d do the same. When you combine focused, intentional, farming with a winemaker who strives to create restrained, graceful bottles, you have exactly the sort of estate that we love to represent.

Rain barrel at Riecine.  Photo Stefan Keuhne. 

how is Riecine made?

Sangiovese at Riecine is grown organically and vinified to be more like Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir than Cabernet or Syrah.  It is cropped and harvested for optimal balance of ripeness and acidity with an eye towards lower alcohol levels. Grapes are crushed gently and extraction is never exaggerated for the sake of making bold wines. Native yeasts drive fermentations.  Elegance, ageability, and complexity are the goals of all choices in the field and in the cellar.

Sorting Sangiovese grapes at Riecine

Organic farming with selected practices from Biodynamics are at the core of Riecine’s winegrowing philosophy. Here, Sean O’Callaghan discusses the 500 and 501 preparations used at the estate.