Castello di Querceto
Like all stories in the world of fine wine, the tale of Cignale actually began long before its beginning. Nearly a decade earlier – in 1980, when Neil and Maria Empson decided they would craft their own Super Tuscan. The vineyard’s location was their first concern: the Empsons have always believed great soil and microclimate are fundamental in the making of great wines. They also had to find a partner they could trust. Their choice fell on a wonderful wine producer and friend, Alessandro “Sandro” François and his wife, Antonietta, who own a historic estate in northeastern Chianti Classico, near Greve in Chianti – one of the region’s finest sites. The property was perfect: elevated hillsides at altitudes of 1,320 to 1,740 feet (400-530 meters) above sea level, with a unique soil: Cretaceous-Eocenic polychrome schists, rich in manganese. The four friends began a partnership and in February 1981, they planted 5 acres with new, low-yielding Cabernet Sauvignon clones, and 1.25 acres of Merlot. Another 1.25 acres were planted with Cabernet Sauvignon grafted onto 20-year-old Sangiovese vines to give some extra depth to the new wine. One of the very first harvests was struck with some bad luck: the entire crop was wiped out by wild boars who found the grapes irresistible. The silver lining was, the Empsons now had a name for their wine: Cignale, which in the Tuscan dialect means cinghiale or “wild boar.” Cignale was finally released in 1990, with the 1986 vintage. Maria Gemma Empson, designed the labels, which feature a series of six pen-and- ink drawings depicting Cignale’s first, bristly fans.