GREAT WINE REQUIRES A MADMAN TO GROW THE VINE, A WISE MAN TO WATCH OVER IT, A LUCID POET TO MAKE IT AND A LOVER TO DRINK IT ~ Salvador Dali
From the Etruscans to the Romans, through the turbulent Middle Ages, abandonment, and then restoration by Sandro Chia in the 1980s, Castello Romitorio is a place where time has a physical, tangible dimension. It is a place where wine is an intrinsic part of the history, and which tells the story of hundreds of years of passion for this place. This place in hills outside Montalcino has always been highly suited to winegrowing and disputed for its strategic importance as a trade and travel route.
The foundations of Castello Romitorio probably date back to Roman times, perhaps as a prison for deserting Christian soldiers. This was a period of growing economy and trade, helped by the position of Val d’Orcia, and crossed by three navigable rivers; the Ombrone, the Arbia, and the Orcia. Archaeological remains reveal evidence of wine and honey production, on which the local economy was based.
The Castle became a monastery until at least the 12th century, when disputes between Florence and Siena began. Because of its strategic position at the center of the transport routes between the coast and central Italy, and between the north and south of the peninsula, it was then fortified. Construction of the present massive, solitary building flanked by a small chapel, dates back to the 14th century. Montalcino, and the system of fortifications of which Castello Romitorio was a part, was always proud of its autonomy. When it surrendered to the Medici in 1559, Montalcino was Italy’s last free township. The first written mentions of Brunello wine, with which Montalcino’s defenders ‘reddened their faces’, date from this time.
Restored as a manor house and patrician villa in the 19th century, Castello Romitorio was abandoned in the Second World War, and remained uninhabited for many years. After being a shelter for shepherds and their flocks, in the seventies it became the property of Baron Giorgio Franchetti, a luminary of the art world and restorer of historic buildings. Having been unable to complete his plans for restoration and further development, the Baron sold the castle as a ruin to Sandro Chia in 1984.
Castello Romitorio’s second life began in 1984, the year it was bought by artist Sandro Chia, who made the old manor his home and art studio. As well as the Castle, Chia took over the vineyards an nearby woods. The objective was immediately apparent – Romitorio could only shine once more if, after renovation of the Castle, its ancient affinity with winegrowing was also revived.
In the second half of the Eighties, Montalcino was an experimental region. Vineyards and wineries innovated with respect to their tradition, in pursuit of a new, but ancient identity. Land, grape growing, and oenology relied on the rebirth of Brunello, a centuries-old wine that was able to express the most authentic potential of Sangiovese grapes. Sandro Chia was at the forefront – he understood the importance of creating classic, representative wines, looking fearlessly to the future and the great international varieties that, particularly in Tuscany, would become an integral part of local winemaking.
Castello Romitorio inaugurated its new cellar in 2005. The 14th-century manor was adorned with the works of Sandro Chia, designed to blend the avant-garde with a thousand years of history and antiquity. In the same year Sandro’s son, Filippo Chia, joined the company and started a process of profound renewal of the wines and winemaking style, betting on extremely elegant single varietal Sangiovese to embody the characteristics of the terroir.
After thirty years of hard work in the area, Castello Romitorio is now an internationally recognized winery specializing in Sangiovese and Brunello di Montalcino. The Chia family is committed to tradition and the pursuit of excellence, through classic style and innovation. The most demanding challenge is measuring up to an extraordinary area and continuing to offer consistently high-quality wines that express their origin.
Tasting Notes: Fruit is foremost: Marasca cherry meets ripe plum in a gutsy, full-bodied package. On the palate there is ample fruit, freshness, and quite a bit of body: the tannins are bold but countered by so much fruit that they attain an almost mocha vanilla sweetness and come across smooth on the dense, full body. The finish is warming and rounded, a mouthful of big, fruity exuberance that keeps its mojo for quite a number of years. ~Anne Krebiehl MW
The previous vintage of this wine carried the name Il Toro, but the wine has been renamed with this vintage. In archaic Italian, the name RomiTorò translates as Romitorio. The Castello Romitorio 2018 RomiTòro is made with equal parts Syrah and Petit Verdot, all aged in oak for 10 months. This edition opens to an inky dark appearance followed by a thick and succulent texture. It offers a certain firmness to the tannins and a thinner spot on the mid-palate that thickens quickly as the wine hits the palate. Dark plum, prune, and blackberry emerge at the top. Lighter notes of spice, smoke, and tar also appear. Pair this wine with your favorite steak dinner. Some 44,437 bottles were made. The wine was bottled in December 2019 and hits the market in February 2020. RomiTòro is one of the great value wines to emerge from Tuscany. ~93+ Wine Advocate
Cherries and blackberries with some floral and walnut character. Medium-bodied with firm, silky tannins, and a delicious finish. Easy to appreciate the polish and finesse to this. Give it a year or two to come together. Try after 2021. ~92 James Suckling
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