Palafreno 2020 Vintage Release

Palafreno 2020 strikes a delightful balance of ripeness and vibrancy, captivating the senses with its luxurious sophistication.

As the name suggests, Palafreno is Querciabella’s parade horse, a purebred Merlot from our vineyards on the hillside of Ruffoli whose soil, sun exposure, and cool microclimate combine perfectly to nourish the gentle nature of this grape. But, of course, a wine like this doesn’t just “happen”: it’s a labour of love that requires patience and endless skills, only worth optimal vintages. The 2020 growing season has yielded a superb expression of Merlot, capturing the essence of our dedication and the generosity of the terroir. This vintage promises to impress even the most discerning palates with its richness and finesse.

A bit of background

The idea behind Palafreno formed at the turn of the millennium: crafting a wine so exclusive that it could showcase the world-class value of our vineyards. The inaugural vintages of 2000 and 2001, which included Sangiovese in the blend, met immediate success when they hit the market. In the two years that followed, though, we realised the blissful combination of loose galestro schistous clay soils, a fresher microclimate and the southern aspect of our Cipresso and Marrone vineyards allowed for that slow ripening that Merlot demands to flourish. Thanks to punctual picking, selective micro-vinification and patient maturation, we worked toward enhancing the varietal’s territorial delivery until we could no longer keep it out of the spotlight. Since the vintage 2004, we have exclusively dedicated our small batch production of Merlot to making Palafreno a 100% varietal wine.

The making of

As growers, it is imperative to grasp the nuances of the terroir when crafting a wine as exquisite as Palafreno. Grapes sourced from Marrone and Cipresso vineyards exhibit notable concentration and intensity, while those from the lower sides, enriched with clay, offer a more delicate delivery. Since 2020, the inclusion of grapes from Vigna Sei, perched at an elevation of 550 meters above sea level, has brought a revitalising vibrancy, enriching Palafreno’s profile and infusing newfound depth, even in warmer vintages. In the cellar, moderation rules to bring out these subtleties and combine them in the final wine. Gentle extraction during fermentation preserves fresh fruit and avoids the bitterness that Merlot can sometimes give. Maceration lasts about two weeks, and after the malolactic fermentation completes, we rack the wine into French oak barrels, twenty per cent new, for maturation. After about 18 months, the final blend of Palafreno is bottled and given another year of bottle-ageing until release.

Vintage 2020

Amidst the global uncertainty, 2020 was undoubtedly a vintage worth remembering, not only because of the challenges it presented but also for the exceptional wines it produced. Despite a few bumps along the way, the growing season progressed favourably. The wet spring provided sufficient water for growth and maturation. Our skilled viticultural team adeptly managed the vineyards, effectively preventing diseases and maintaining vine health during the hot, dry summer. We harvested the Merlot between September 15 and 18, selecting only the best grapes to ensure the highest quality.

Superb. The 2020 is packed with dark fruit, mocha, new leather, spice and espresso. It emerges from vineyards at elevation in the Ruffoli district. (…) The deep, saline finish is seriously impressive.
—Antonio Galloni 96+/100

Tasting notes

Palafreno 2020 mesmerises with its intense ruby-red hue with a dash of purple. Inviting notes of violets, fresh plums, and black cherry embrace the senses, unfolding into luxurious layers of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. Its velvety texture and full-bodied presence, gracefully balanced by a refreshing lift on the palate, offer a truly delightful experience throughout. Culminating in a vibrant, savoury finish, this wine leaves an indelible impression that lingers long after each sip.

Pairing Palafreno 2020

As always with Palafreno, complementing its intensity is a masterful display of culinary artistry. The inherent lushness of the varietal, notably pronounced in 2020, inspires a range of classic food pairing, including dishes with rich, savoury profiles such as lentils and walnut paté, vegan mushroom Bourguignon, a traditional French onion soup, or a Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie. Delve further into the depths flavour with a variety of spices like fennel seeds, caraway, star anise, or five-spice to enhance the textures of caramelised root vegetables, onions, roasted pumpkin, or butternut squash. From Spicy Sesame Tofu Stir-Fry to Beets infused with Mediterranean herbs, from Three Bean Chili to Vegan Tagine with butternut squash, explore a world of culinary delights enhancing Palafreno vibrant essence and textural power.

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