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Taste makers | Giovanni Mazzei, Il Caggio

Giovanni Mazzei is the man behind one of the most exciting Chianti Classicos created in the last decade. We meet the winemaker who is taking the sangiovese grape to new levels

Giovanni Mazzei descends from serious winemaking stock – the Marchesi Mazzei family are owners of the famous Castello di Fonterutoli in Tuscany.

Castello di Fonterutoli already boasts three sangiovese cru – all of which are Gran Selezione – across three different regions of Tuscany.

Yet for Giovanni, he wasn’t happy to leave the grape there. He purchased a small, unappreciated neighbouring estate called Il Caggio back in 2006. It was his mission to turn the place around and push the boundaries of Tuscan winemaking.

The result, Ipsus, is perhaps the most nuanced and seductive expression of sangiovese yet. After a decade of work and investment, he has released its debut vintage, the 2015, to rave reviews.

An Italian through and through, Giovanni nonetheless has strong ties with the UK. He divides his time between Richmond and Chianti with his wife Lara Boglioni, managing director of Petersham Nurseries.

Together they set up wine merchant Petersham Cellar, importing some of Italy's finest wines.

We caught up with him to find out more about his relationship with wine…

What was your first ever personal experience of wine?

My first ever experience in wine was at home in Tuscany. My cousins and I harvested every year since we turned 13. It was such fun being all together – and at such an important time of the year.

What was the first wine you tasted which really caught your attention?

I was 20 years old, in New York working as a trainee at our importer and the first wine caught my attention was Chateau Margaux 1982.

This was the first time I experienced a First Growth wine… I was blown away by its character and its longevity; and it gave me such emotion. There and then I understood that wine for me would be much more than a profession.

This was the first time I experienced a First Growth wine… I was blown away by its character and its longevity

It took you ten years to develop Ipsus. How did it evolve over that time – and how did you know when it was finally ready?

Wine is constantly evolving and so are we. 2015 was an amazing vintage and the wine was screaming to be revealed.

We don’t have a recipe, we only do as little as possible to intervene, and I think the 2015 expressed ​better than ever its purity.

The only recipe we have comes from our experiences and we aim for every vintage to come as being better than the previous.

Talk us through the new winery – Agnese Mazzei has a pretty impressive CV…

The winery’s beauty is in its simplicity and it's built to avoid any interfering with the fruit, to pursue the purity of this rare clone of sangiovese.

Sustainability is the buzzword in any industry – how are you making it meaningful at Il Caggio?

Il Caggio is all about balance: nature gives everything to us as well as the rhythm, we would be foolish not to listen to its sound. We’ve been here for over 25 generations with total devotion to our land; we are only the keepers and it's our duty to hand it with care to the generations to come.

How was last year’s harvest for you?

The harvest was good. We had some outstanding sangiovese. The freezing cold days at the beginning of spring limited the fertility and therefore the production.

We could classify this vintage as a good compromise between cooler and hotter vintages, with characteristics from both.

The summer had really hot and dry days, but with some good breakage of rain in July and August. We decide to wait for some extra rain in September, with cooler nights, before starting the harvest to guarantee more balance, extra aromatic intensity and to contain the alcohol content.

Ipsus 2015
Giovanni Mazzei

Your wife is managing director of Petersham Nurseries. What’s your favourite dish there – any that go particularly well with Ipsus?

Unquestionably the Haye Farm pork chop with brown butter and capers.

What is your favourite white wine – both grape and label – and why?

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Valentini. It’s the most rustic white variety, with the most incredible transformation once it’s become wine. It is constantly evolving and has incredible longevity.

Apart from Ipsus, what would be your deathrow bottle?

I am still searching!

For more information about Ipsus and joining the allocation, go to ipsus.it

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