The 2011 growing season featured an atypical climate, particularly in the final phases of ripening: in July the days were sunny, but not particularly warm, and nighttime temperatures were, on the whole, below 18° centigrade (64° Fahrenheit). August, instead was characterized by hot and humid days and nights with minimal temperature swings compared to the daytime. This could have led to such phenomenon as grape burn or shriveling of the berries, particularly for such early-ripening varieties as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; fortunately the well developed leaf canopy along with a reasonable supply of ground water, helped to preserve the grapes.
Given the persistently hot climate, great timeliness in the harvest was necessary and picking was completed in little more than two weeks time.
Above and beyond the unusual climatic conditions, the 2011 vintage gave grapes rich in substance which produced elegant, perfumed and well structured wines. In addition, the fine acidity and the balanced alcohol levels give the sensation of wines well adapted for aging.
The grapes come from Castello della Sala vineyards located at altitudes between 200 and 400 meters (660-1325 feet) above sea level on soils which derive from sedimentary marine fossils mingled with strata of clays. The grapes, as soon as they were picked, were chilled and placed in special tanks capable of maintaining temperatures of 10° centigrade (50° Fahrenheit) without altering their varietal character. After several hours of skin contact, the must was transferred to 60 gallon Allier and Tronçais barrels where it fermented and then went through the malolactic fermentation. Part of the wine given a five month period of oak aging, while the other part, immediately after fermentation, went into stainless steel tanks where it aged on its fine lees until the blending and successive bottling at 13° alcohol.
The estate was acquired by the Antinori family in 1940; it is situated at approximately 18 kilometers (ten miles) from the city of Orvieto and it is an excellent example of medieval military architecture. Its micro-climate is rather fresh, ideal for the production of cool climate grapes for white wines and Pinot Noir. The first Chardonnay Castello della Sala was produced in the 1994 vintage.
A brilliant yellow with green highlights, the wine shows a fresh and complex bouquet with buttery notes laced with vanilla. It is a wine of good structure, elegant and mineral, which expresses a tonic and balanced acidity well fused with the delicate sensations of oak.