The famous Isole e Olena winery is located in San Donato in Poggio on the western slope of the Chianti Classico hills, approximately half way between Florence and Siena at altitudes between 350 metres and 490 metres above sea level. The estate includes 56 hectares under vine and the total annual production is approximately 250,000 bottles.
After 66 years of ownership by the De Marchi family, in 2022 the estate was sold. The sale did not include the other family estate in Lessona in Alto Piemonte run by Paolo De Marchi's son Luca.
The wines from this estate are:
Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG
Isole e Olena Cepparello IGT
Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Syrah IGT
Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Chardonnay IGT
Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Cabernet Sauvignon IGT
Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
Cepparello is undoubtedly the most famous of all their wines: a direct result of Paolo De Marchi’s extensive study of the Sangiovese grape and his belief in the potential of its qualities and expressions.
Having enjoyed the wines of this estate for over 25 years, it has been my absolute pleasure to call Paolo de Marchi a friend.
To be in the company of this ultra-modest, wine making colossus is humbling, as you cannot but admire the massive achievement of his life’s work. He is without doubt one of the most respected winemakers, not only in Italy, but in the world.
After some 47 years of producing consecutive vintages, Paolo decided, along with his immediate family, that it was time to let new owners take the reins of the revered Isole e Olena vineyards.
As a fitting tribute to Isole e Olena's importance, the new owners are the French private equity group EPI, under the chairmanship of Christopher Descours, having concluded their second wine estate purchase in Italy: the first being the equally famous Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi estate.
Paolo has played an enormous part in the resurgence of Chianti Classico, that said, I believe the call of the mountains and wines of Alto Piemonte played a huge part in this arduous decision to step down. All his wines are so terroir led, showing individual character and status, as a badge of pride of the winemaker who made it his duty to produce wines to stand apart from others.
I once asked Paolo why did he not embrace modern technology to promote his particular brand of genius, and he replied softly: “ I have no need of such things, my customers have remained loyal and they know where to find me.”
And they would surely find him in his vineyards, or in his cellar, experimenting, learning, and tirelessly working to improve all things related to his estate.
One day in the not too distant future, the footprint of Paolo de Marchi will not be seen on the lands of Isole e Olena, but make no mistake, the bond between these vineyards and their guardian for so long will never be diminished.
As of September 2023, a new estate director of Isole e Olena has been appointed: Emanuele Reolon.
Major building work on a new cellar is in full swing. Undoubtedly, the infinite attention to enhancing and improving the minutest detail that is in place at Biondi Santi will be applied also here at the Isole e Olena estate: Paolo De Marchi legacy is in very safe hands indeed!
As a reminder, the Isole e Olena estate timeline follows below:
1956 De Marchi family acquired estate.
1969 First Chianti Classico was bottled and labelled at Isole e Olena
1976 Paolo de Marchi took over the estate, following extensive study at Geisenheim, Montpellier, Beaune and UC Davis.
1977 Paolo started his first vineyard selection.
1980 Cepparello was born.
1984 Vineyard grafting of Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Start of major replanting.
1985 The disastrous olive tree frost.
1986 1st vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon
1987 1st vintage of Chardonnay
1988 1st vintage of Syrah
1990’s The vineyard experiments never stopped, and the star of Isole e Olena shone brightly.
1999 Cepparello 1997 was voted “No.3 on Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of the World.”
2000’s Massal selection of Canaiolo and the restoration of traditional terraces in the varied vineyards of the estate.
2014 Launch of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2006.
During my recent visit, Paolo De Marchi, the man who placed two small villages in Chianti Classico firmly on the World Wine Map, kindly agreed to taking part to my High Five With Tony Wood interview:
Isole e Olena
Chianti Classico DOCG 2020
Pale ruby red in colour. Potent aromas of black rose petal with added dark blue florals. Red cherry, baked red plum, redcurrant and dewberry, blonde tobacco, sage, distant sightings of orange peel, balsam and liquorice. Warm entry, quickly followed by a lightweight senses explosion across the palate, incorporating textural depth, engaging minerality, tannins that are dusty but compact, and fresh acidity. Balanced to perfection. Exotic beauty. Total terroir DNA. Bright and translucent. Wow.
Points 96 TW
Isole e Olena
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016
Intense ruby red in colour. Aromatics of violet florals, black fruits and. Scented spice. Blackberry, blackcurrant, loganberry, sweet tobacco, asphalt, bitter orange peel, cedar and Eastern spice tray. Jet propelled rush to the senses on entry, absorbing display of fruit, spice, minerality complexity, texture and depth. Full bodied, but totally relaxed, elegant and refined. Tannins have all but dissolved, the fresh acidity still in play assist to give a lifted freshness to the rich body. A liquid pleasure bomb!
Points 98+ TW
Isole e Olena
Cepparello IGT 2019 *
Ruby red in colour with pale purple reflections. Pale rose petal, violet, lavender and hyacinth complete the floral introduction. Blackberry, blackcurrant, loganberry, Kirsch infused sour cherry. Notes of dark scented spice and incense. Espresso aromas. Floral underbrush. Silky and elegant upon entry. Balanced like a coin on a Rolls Royce engine. Signs of crunchy tannins and rapier acidity are a shadow of their former self. Secondary nuances of cedar shavings and marjoram. Full of energy. Some may say flirtatious. Hauntingly long and appealing. A liquid triumph!
Points 98 TW
© Tony Wood Italian Wine 2023