- Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Cerreto Libri is a stunning hilltop property of 30 hectares built over Etruscan ruins and covered in vines, olive trees and forest in the small, cooler, high-altitude Rufina zone of the Chianti Classico region, about 10 miles east of Florence. It has been in the Libri family since the late 18th century. Valentina Libri and her schoolteacher husband Andrea Zanfei took it over from her grower/winemaker father in the 1990's and immediately converted it first to organic and then to biodynamic farming. They were the first in Tuscany to go biodynamic (along with the Castello di Rampolla winery) and have been certified by AgriBio for years. They grow mainly Sangiovese, old strains of it in particular, along with the classic blending grapes Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia. Their 5.5 hectares of vines are mainly many decades old, so re-planting is an ongoing project, carried out with massal selections from their vineyard.
The Cerreto Libri cellar work has always been low-intervention. Red wine production is the mainstay. Old concrete tanks are filled 3/4-full with hand-harvested, hand-sorted and destemmed fruit that is intentionally not crushed; the spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts is thus partly carbonic. Maceration extends up to 3-4 weeks. Aging takes place in a combination of tanks and old casks. Sulfur is not used at all, and there is no fining or filtering. The reds are aged in bottle for years before release: to wit, the current release in 2019 is 2014 for the shorter-aged, largest-production Liber IGT. "Largest" is relative--there is one other IGT red, Padronale, as well as one dry white and a little vin santo--since total production is a mere 600 cases at best.
Given the utterly natural approach to their farming and winemaking, Cerreto Libri’s wines never consistently made the cut for the DOCG Chianti Classico or Rufina classifications, which tend to favor extraction, tannin and body over aromatics and acidity. Obtaining the DOCG was never a priority for Andrea and Valentina; the main red "LIber" is instead bottled as an IGT Rosso Toscano. LIber is a rare bird, an old-school Sangiovese blend that is not a polished powerhouse but instead a high-toned and lithe expression of this impeccable terroir. Andrea passed away in 2018, and Valentina is carrying forth their commitment to the low-tech, low-impact approach: it sets Cerreto Libri at odds with the modern regulations of the Rufina region but allows us to experience an intriguingly delicate yet rustic style that harks back to a past time and tradition.