[From February 2014 newsletter] Carmignano (car-meen-YA-noh) is a commune about 13 miles (20 km) west of Florence. The wine region of the same name includes both Carmignano proper and the neighboring commune of Poggio a Caiano. The wines of Carmignano have a history dating back to Roman times and were well known in the Medici court during the Renaissance. In fact, it was reportedly Catherine de’ Medici, who reigned as Queen of France in the mid-1500s, that introduced Cabernet Sauvignon in Carmignano. For centuries, the wines of Carmignano continued to blend a portion of Cabernet with Sangiovese, in stark contrast to the rest of the Chianti zone.
Carmignano was among the earliest protected denominations in the world, being named by Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici—along with Chianti, Pomino, and Valdarno di Sopra—as a quality wine region. In modern times, Carmignano was at first incorporated under the Chianti banner in the Montalbano subzone, but in large measure due to the efforts of Count Ugo Contini Bonacossi of Tenuta di Cappezzana, it received separate DOC status in 1975 and was elevated to DOCG in 1991 (from the 1988 vintage).
The rosato and sweet wines of the area were included in the Carmignano DOC in a modification of 1983. After the creation of the DOCG for Carmignano, the DOC name was changed to Barco Reale di Carmignano in 1994. With the new decree of 2013, the red (Barco Reale di Carmignano) and rosato (Rosato di Carmignano) wines fall under the Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC, while the sweet wines come under the Vin Santo di Carmignano DOC.
Comparing Carmignano DOCG with Barco Reale and Rosato, the blend for all is the same: at least 50 percent Sangiovese, a mandatory dose of Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon (between 10 and 20 percent), and potentially small amounts of other grapes. The DOCG, naturally, gets the best grapes and most attention, with a minimum alcohol level of 12.5 percent and at least a year and half of aging (including 8 months in barrel)—or, for Riserva, three years (including 12 months in barrel). Barco Reale and Rosato require only 11.0 percent alcohol and have no minimum aging requirements. The Rosato, traditionally known as Vin Ruspo, is typically made by drawing off 5 to 10 percent of the fermenting must from the red wine, thereby enhancing the red’s color and flavor.