A Moving Target

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Chianti legend Paolo De Marchi's pursuit of knowledge

Paolo De Marchi is, at 64, considered by many Tuscan peers to be a dean of Chianti. So, what has he learned during four decades at his highly accomplished Isole e Olena estate in the heart of the Chianti Classico hills?

"After 40 years here, you don't know anything," he says, grinning broadly as he stands atop a hillside in this remote vineyard hamlet one hot morning in August. "That's the beauty of it."

Of course, that's an exaggeration. De Marchi has studied area grapes, soils and vineyards more than most anyone and is a font of information on subjects ranging from Tuscany's agricultural history to climate change to the digestive systems of vineyard hornets.

When he talks, producers listen. In the past 30 years, De Marchi has produced more than 50 wines scoring 90 points or more on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale—from his Cepparello (an all-Sangiovese super Tuscan) to his Chianti Classico (Sangiovese blended with Canaiolo and his signature dose of Syrah) to his Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays, Syrahs and sweet Vin Santo.

De Marchi has grown and matured at the same time as the Tuscan wine scene. He started out in 1976 as a know-nothing fresh out of agricultural school, 20 years after his father, a Piedmont lawyer, bought the 800-acre estate surrounding the hamlets Isole and Olena.

"It was a mess," De Marchi says.

With the rise of mechanized farming, his father bulldozed antique hillside terraces and, using European Community subsidies, replanted some 90 acres with high-yielding, tractor-friendly vineyards. "The quality was what it was," he laughs, throwing up his hands...read the full blog at winespectator.com