2009 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana Rosso
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RP 95 points
(Read the full review below)
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Isole e Olena Parker's 95pt 2009 Isole e Olena Cepparello

Every year for the last twenty-three, we've visited Tuscany. We cellar hop the south of Florence, then veer out toward the sun-drenched coast before closing in on Montalcino. When Sangiovese is right -- just right -- it's one of the most ethereal wine-drinking experiences on the planet, marrying Bordelais opulence with Burgundian elegance. Sadly, it's rarely this right.

There's one stop we never miss. We've visited Paolo and Marta De Marchi at Isole e Olena every Spring since 1991. The Isole Chianti Classico is always one of the finest of the region. As to Paolo's "Cepparello," it's the most stunning Sangiovese on the planet. Anyone who suggests otherwise needs to be flagged. He's had one too many.

In April 2011, we were seated in the De Marchi kitchen. Marta had whipped up a to-die-for Vegetable Risotto. The creamy, aged Reggiano was sprinkled on top, the Isole e Olena olive oil (best to chug a glass each morning before coffee) drizzled all over. Paolo had gone to the cellar to pick out bottles, returning with a 1996 Elio Grasso Barolo Case Mate, Barmes Buecher Riesling Hengst (2005), and 2010 Almondo Arneis Bricco della Ciliegie. But before we dove in, Paolo offered, "Would you like to try this first?"

The bottle had no front or back label. Just a plain green Burgundy bottle, undistinguished and poorly clad. Paolo poured the mystery wine into Zalto Universals -- our Christmas present to the De Marchis the year before. The color was dark ruby. The nose was lush and primary, a stunning mix of black raspberries and cherries, plush and suave. The attack almost made us forget Marta's risotto, dark, juicy and floral like a great vintage of Clos Vougeot, the core dense and sumptuous, the finish round, but somehow faintly Tuscan.

"Ok, we give up. What is it?" We asked, now heaping spoonfuls of Risotto onto white plates.

Paolo shrugged, now showing off the charming smile that's melted dining rooms from Singapore to Restaurant Daniel, "this is the 2009 Cepparello. Out of the barrel." Now Paolo laughed. "What do you think?"

The 2009 is not only the finest Cepparello ever made by the inimitable Paolo De Marchi, it may well be the greatest pure Sangiovese we've ever tasted. A year later, after bottling, Parker's Wine Advocate called it "gorgeous ... one of the wines of the vintage" -- a vintage that almost every critic is already calling one of the greatest in decades in Tuscany. Paolo explained why.

"The key to 2009 wasn't the hot summer, but the winter," Paolo said as he poured Almondo's Ciliegie. "Everyone talked about the hot, dry summer. But, if the old vines can't find water, they suffer. The key to the harvest of 2009 was the winter of 2008! We had record rainfall. Our soils drain very well, and the winter water table was high. With the deep roots of the Cepparello Sangiovese, water was never a problem. This is a great vintage of Cepparello. Maybe my best."

95 points from Parker.

Tasting Notes

2009 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana Rosso
"The 2009 Cepparello, usually one of the more restrained wines in Tuscany, is huge in this vintage. It blasts onto the palate with tons of richness, power and depth. The 2009 clearly needs time to come together, but is immensely promising. Layers of dark red fruit, flowers and mint build to the rich, intense finish. An attractive high-toned floral register develops in the glass and balances the wine's more overt leanings. The 2009 desperately cries for at least a few years of cellaring, after which it should drink well to age 20, and likely beyond. The integration of fruit, acidity and oak is fabulous. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029."
95 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate (June 2012)

"The 2009 Cepparello is gorgeous. It brings together the radiance and ripeness of a warmer year with the medium-bodied structure of a cooler vintage. Today the 2009 is a bit reticent and appears headed for a period of dormancy. From time to time hints of its ultimate potential come through in attractive layers of dark red fruit. The rich, textured finish bodes well for the future. Paolo De Marchi describes 2009 as a year with a cold spring and a hot summer that also brought hail in early August. The 2009 Cepparello is clearly one of the wines of the vintage."
95 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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