Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino

Red Montalcino in the Fortezza di Montalcino

On June’s busy calendar a fast and intense 36-hour window opened for a flash visit in Montalcino, too short yet one so worth the sidle. A great privilege it was to attend the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s new Rosso event called “Red Montalcino.” In November of 2021 the decision was made to migrate away from the larger event of Anteprime di Toscane and with the launch of Red Montalcino the full division has now been made. Simply Red for Rosso, solo artist now, with Brunello di Montalcino’s Benvenuto event returning again this coming November.

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci of Il Poggione

Hours well spent with home away from home Il Giglio family, two masterclasses in the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino and a walk-around in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. A fascinating retrospective look back at 10 years of Rosso di Montalcino in masterclass number one titled Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino. Longevity and the subtleties in secondary characteristics came of age through the lens of eight stellar examples. Masterclass number two called Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino brought the idea of “cru” or “selection” to light for a DOC appellation of ever increasing importance. Vino Sapori e Inspirazioni Nel Cuore Di Montalcino is a sentiment that refers to so much more than just flavours. Rosso di Montalcino defines the new profound in Italian wine.

Montalcino

On arrival there was a hop into Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini’s car for a three-hour tour of Casato Prime Donne, a first and finally crossed off bucket list visit. The two night, one day sojourn culminated with an energizing Red Montalcino gala under the stars in the Fortezza di Montalcino where Lara Gilmore and Food for Soul Italia brought innovation and zero waste food execution to Toscana.

Related – A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Red Montalcino 2022

The 2020 Rosso di Montalcino vintage is best described as one of blanketing and nurturing, a child of a warm and dry season, devilishly if dangerously low in quantity and one in Rosso terms to envision as lasting for a very long time. There was less disease pressure and the plants just knew what to do. Also great temperature fluctuations, seemingly all through harvest to allow the complex development of aromatics with increasing intensity. This application is becoming an annual occurrence, a positive attribute of climate change, if you will. A season gifting viscosity and that deepest of red cherry fruit.

Montalcino by night

The vintage gains importance because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. Many estates only produced 20-30 per cent as compared to 2019 but surely a number as a factor of the average, norm or potential. Adversity and low yields aside the purity is unrivalled for Rosso, the liveliness too, before transitioning to true sanguine sangiovese coursing through. The dichotomy by way of a 2020 Rosso comes from swelling fruit and aching acids through tannins sweet and unsurprisingly supportive. At its best it is like discovering the first ever vintage of something profound. 

Awards presentation in the Montalcino Theatre

As for 2019, notes from the November 2021 Benvenuto and those tasted this past June transcribed below will tell a story of a vintage out of which quality is right up there with quantity. A season of purity and clarity, what Rosso should be. An exacting transcript of terroir, a mirror held up to località; profumato, sfumato, evocativo…the essence of the land. For a Godello primer on the most fascinating aspects about Rosso di Montalcino, please read on ahead.

Food for Soul Italia

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

In the Godello article about Benvenuto Brunello 2021 the phrase “Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino” began a quest towards seeing the changes and more importantly the future of the appellation. As a reminder, “culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine. It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily. More than one Montalcino winemaker has used the phrase “it’s what we like to drink” and just as many will tell you that Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine. What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market.” The attitude prevails. “Rosso di Montalcino could and should be elevated to DOCG status. To do so requires investment and also a mandatory minimum aging period in wood. More vineyards need to be designated as Rosso and were a DOCG awarded the rules would need to be altered to make sure the wines are pre-declared as such. There is enough Brunello to go around and the world needs more Rosso di Montalcino.”

Related – Montalcino Previews: 2020 and 2019 Rosso, 2017 Brunello Annata, Vigna and 2016 Riserva DOCG

Fortezza di Montalcino

Tasting Rosso di Montalcino over the course of two days in June proved with unequivocal doubt that quality across the board has never been greater or higher. This assessment is based on three crucial criteria; first are the guarantees of character and calibre in the two most recent vintages, they being 2020 and 2019; then there is the accordant longevity of both Selezione Rosso but also 2010s decade wines as noted through examples poured at the morning session in the church of Sant’Agostino. Here are the notes on the 44 Rosso di Montalcino tasted on June 10th and 11th, 2022.

Red Montalcino Masterclass

Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino (Ten Years of Rosso di Montalcino)

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010

Truth straight and inherent from a Rosso nearly 12 years of age, fresh and immovable. Speaks the structure of a vintage, even for Rosso, were it crafted in this way and equipped to speak on behalf of sangiovese’s age-ability, no matter the what, where and why of the fruit. Camphor oil, anchovy and a melange of “salato” umami to speak of Sant’Angelo in Colle and then, all of Montalcino. Beautiful wine with a long, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2011

Less grip and hold then 2010 and were it tasted here, also 2012 as well. This Rosso has moved into next level and territorial existence, now porcini and tobacco, frutta di bosco and all the earth, mulch and woods once waiting in the wings. Showing as a wise and well-aged Rosso that has seen its best days though drinks with sweet savoury clarity in the here and now. Drink 2022.  Tasted June 2022

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2013

From the producer, that being Lorenzo Magnelli, man who looks to the largest berries for his Rosso di Montalcino. The great surprise that is 2013 sangiovese from Montalcino resides in a glass like this, evolving yet holding its line with great acumen. The northern side of the village surely aids and abets in extending the life of Rosso. Hard to believe the beauty inherent and the elasticity of this fruit. Suave, assured and holding all the cards to keep on keeping on.  Drink 2022-2026. Tasted June 2022

Masterclass wines

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

The Rosso ’15 from Francesco Rippacioli is not what should be called immovable or formidable yet there is some depth and even brood to its dark back cherry constitution. Rich and certainly the sort of sangiovese that leaves an impression, a mark and a depression on one’s palate, but also heart. Keep and enjoy this Rosso for several years still ahead. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

San Lorenzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The Annata 2016 is the most democratic and elongated of them all, that is with respect to recent times. In Rosso this means elasticity, stretched tannins and fruit made leathery, adhering to the structural organization like no other vintages come earlier or soon to follow. San Lorenzo’s shows chewy fruit, part plum, part persimmon, part liquorice and also a pod aspect, like bokser as an example. Acids are along for the ride and chalkiness in not exactly sweet tannin persists. A Rosso in several parts, linear above all else, all of them interesting. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

With Asa Johansson in the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

Ridolfi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Of lithe structure and fading light, a Rosso in descending denouement, trailing fruit and acids as it falls behind the horizon. Lovely in its maturity though the stuffing was not there to support more than a few years of flesh and depth. Drink up. Drink 2022.  Tasted June 2022

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

From 2019 Rosso rests in a red fruit Poggio di Sotto vacuum, surrounded by walls of structure to maintain a vintage exaggeration, which is in fact what their Rosso style is consistently all about. Upon further examination the fruit is found to exists in a state of both precocious maturity and one that will hold for years. Understanding arrived early and yet there will be no great hurry to move forward with any great haste. A wise Rosso with some swagger and confidence. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Lara Gilmore in the Montalcino Theatre

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Incomparable to the rest of this 10 years of Rosso di Montalcino flight. Raw, emotion-filled and aromatic of florals, wood spice and new fabric scents. Complexity abounds with an almost graphite-creosote-fresh tobacco trilogy, unresolved, staid and secure. Truth of the sensation is pure Argiano, chewy, leathery, rich and yet clear, transparent and open-knit. Should get really interesting in three to four years. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Masterclass two with Francesco Saverio Russo

Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection)

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Selezione Colombini 2020

One whiff and Barbi it is, unequivocal, knowable of an ilk and administered idiom not to be denied. The scent of history and experience while perhaps not quite the democracy of say 2016, yet this Rosso 2020 comes eerily close. Purity of southerly red fruit picked and layered in equanimous fashion, confident and telling the breadth of a Barbi story. Lifted, rising weightless into high tonality. All this in the micro-vernacular of a selection made purposeful for the specificity of this cuvée. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Giovanni Neri 2020

Named in light of proprietor Giacomo Neri’s son and produttore Giovanni. There are few Rosso as open, gregarious and generous as this 2020. Quando buono e buono, when it’s good, it’s good and that is what really matters in Neri’s Rosso Selezione. Round, circuitous, acids draughting fruit and tannin trailing acidity. Comes back to the beginning and starts the process all over again, on repeat. Humility and classicism are in this Rosso, which seems to make perfect sense. Wood needs to integrate before the best days arrive. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

The Neri brothers, Gianlorenzo and Giovanni

Col d’Orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Banditella 2019

There seems to be a trend forming with respect to Rosso Selezione because this by Col d’Orcia is so very eponymous and must be regarded as aching in notation of the estate and place from where it comes. The scents, of fruit blossoms, bosco and sweet tobacco link Banditella with Rosso and Brunello. In this sense Selezione is neither but instead the bridge connecting sangiovese to both. If that is the point then Col d’Orcia is a builder of relationships and new traditions. More barrel felt upon the finish, also the sharpness of yet to fully integrate acids and so with patience allow for a coming together. Can guarantee this will drink well in 2030. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted June 2022

Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2019

From 33 year-old vines, more barrel than some other Rosso Selezione and thus the link is closer to Brunello than Rosso. Noting tobacco smoulder, brown butter, toasted nuts and vanilla, strong wafts that confirm the suspicion. A full and creamy Rosso is the result, classic for the lineage and highly representative of the house style. Needs another year for secondary notes to come out and replace some of the cloud cover created by the wood. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Gabriele Gorelli MW

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019

And now for something completely different. Aromas unlike any other Rosso Selezione in the flight, more fight than flee, that much is known and free. An intensity of spice, east and west, the full indy or monty, tied together by a vivid set of fruit on top. Might feel like a big Rosso, a.k.a Brunello but the truth is Jacopo is just a bit more grown up, ambitious and steadfast in conviction than many others. Expresses 2019 with utmost flesh, fruit (including blood orange) showing a slight mature to transformative edge. Great grip will send this further so that density and compactness can melt away. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Alessandro Mori, Il Marroneto

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2017

Once again the gears are changed, the climate and soils alter, the aromas deliver what the first five Selezione had not in this Rosso flight of eight. Quite fine, very mineral and surely the Rosso child of true Galestro terroir. Also warm and developed yet kept in check by northerly attitude, making things straight and right out of 2017. The affinity with La Casa (Brunello) seems obvious, with the stones and the slope bearing similar fruit. Showing some age and peppery heat but perfectly in the window right now. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Fattoria Del Pino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Il Jeccardo 2016

The conspiring factors are all quality ones to bring Fattoria del Pino’s Rosso into fine current form. The gift of vintage, the concept of Selezione and the block party that is Il Jeccardo. The soils are schist-marl (Galtesro), calcareous and sandy (Arenaria) for one of Montalcino’s most diverse. Brings the amenities for Rosso that are crushable, elegant and structured. These are all present in FdP’s 2016, accounting for and representative of the soil conglomerate that makes this a wine both special and humble. A joy to drink. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Alle Loggia della Piazza

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Gemma 2015

Travelling back six-plus years for Rosso may have been an exercise once only reserved for a select few but the pastime is now a normal and oft repeated vocation. Franco Pacenti has captured 2015’s generosity and fruit first commentary with great distinction and the Selezione Gemma is filled with copious aromatics. Moves into stone rolled linearity running right through the middle of a fleshy wine that speaks in a structural vernacular. What’s amazing is how this truly stands out as a complete wine in a flight for 2015-2020 as the only truly resolved and ready to justify the means. Individually or collectively, either or for both. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Il Giglio

Simply Red: A Rosso di Montalcino walk-around tasting

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fine and classic if on the full and textured side, though nothing out of the ordinary as it pertains to the vintage. Does well to merge the rise of fruit into the structured spectrum. All fruit and spirit, a side show of acids and those tannins which support in full cohort. Does 2020’s warm and generous vintage proud. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Call this Rosso balanced, even if what emits is not quite the same the equanimity of 2019. Still there is nurturing from out of the blanketing warmth of 2020, a linear progression from grippy fruit through acid succulence. The construct of structural motion is more than just a notion and the wine is in constant flux, unsettled, not having arrived anywhere near its final, or intended destination. Will move with the times, be transferable, able to reinvent itself time and time again. As a Canalicchio di Sopra it most certainly will. Bottled only three months ago so understand why there is so much speculation. Francesco Ripaccioli believes the evolution will be like 2016. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fragrant and floral Rosso from violets to roses, liquid chalky out of the gate and poised to burst with fruit in the glass. A fine and approachable Rosso with just a minor verdant grip in urgency at the finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Giacomo Bartolommei, Caprili

Caprili Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Must find common ground here with Giacomo Bartolommei in thinking this will be a very long lasting vintage in Rosso terms. Not a wine so knowable from the start per se but one of evolution, of gaining stature because of inherent structure. More than seven months since this would have first been shown and there is a renewed potential, fruit quality and substance in action on a current high, estimably positive and representative of this ever-impressing estate. Grapes are chosen based on the differentiations of the vineyard, not de-classified from Brunello as in the past. Yet the elévage is similar, just shorter and crucial decisions are made after the first year. So good. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Elena Pellegrini and Marco La Brusco, Cerbaia

Cerbaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

“To us Rosso di Montalcino is important because we take from the Brunello vineyards and in 2020 only 4,000 bottles were made, though Rosso is not produced in every year,” tells Elena Pellegrini. From the youngest vines out of a single plot planted in 2002. Decision making occurs during harvest and at least two or three passes are made. The potential is 30,000 at Cerbaia and so Rosso is a special wine, never an afterthought, always carefully considered. It shows in the restrained power, the elegant confidence, the nurturing and matriarchal presence. Again there is dichotomy by way of a 2020 Rosso, from swelling fruit and aching acids through tannins sweet and unsurprisingly supportive. Spent four months in Grandi Botti 25-50 hL and readiness is just ahead. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Spent 18 months in 30 hl Slavonian Botti, longer than many and only bottled four months ago. From two vineyards, one near the cellar in Sant Angelo in Colle and the other on the road to Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The latter brings the chalky mineral to compliment Colle’s fruit and fleshy power. A push-pull Rosso, from sweet youth to rocks and sand of grit and fine-grained tannin. Persistence is a key factor and that classic Collemattoni red Rosso signalling all the way through. Will come together after another winter. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Corte Dei Venti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Perfectly dusty like dried roses, pressed and petals crumbling. Potpourri fragrant and a clarity expressive of 2020, like discovering the first ever vintage of something profound. When Rosso has lift it acts just like this and yet there is some weight though also a weightlessness about the way it’s always rising. In that regard it should be chocked up to the concept of restrained power. Great showing. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Rosso di Montalcino is the child of a warm and dry season of which incidentally Tommaso Cortonesi is a big fan. Less disease pressure and a vintage where the plants just “knew what to do.” Also great temperature fluctuations, seemingly all through harvest to allow the complex development of aromatics with increasing intensity. This application is becoming an annual occurrence, a positive attribute of climate change, if you will. Cortonesi has been increasing aging times over the past 15 years from six to 12 and now nearly 15 months, spending botti time (20 per cent new) for 14 out of 2020. Top edging fruit and edgy accents elevate the aromatics so that the terroir is allowed to shine on through. Behold this prime work ethic, use of wood and also time in all the right ways. Place is at the fore. Grande. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Godello and Violante

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2020

“We need to explain that this is a wine that is very different than the Brunello and during the harvest we decide which grapes will be for Rosso and for Brunello.” The words of Violante Gardini introduce a wine that respects nature in a very specific vintage, made for freshness, fun and not as a baby Brunello. “Otherwise it will be a disaster. It must have identity, to show this wine in a different way.” The vintage gains importance 2020 because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. It does not try too hard, nor is it asked to do too much. Extraction is low, oak usage big, in botti. Donatella would like the consumer to drink this young but this vintage will do well for a minimum three plus years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Elisa Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fanti grows 15 hectares for Rosso for a potential of 120,000 bottles though only 50,000 were made from 2020. Ages for a year in big barrels plus some fourth passage barriques. As a rule this is a classic vintage, very different than 2019 and bottling happened in January. Another ilk, other worldly, no way to mix this season into the memories of any other. Fanti’s Rosso takes ownership, even at this stage just five months in, a standout to be counted 2020. Balance and execution are what brings it to this. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Now sweetly and juicily fruit forward, if a bit out of character as such. This is the “normale” Rosso (as opposed to the Selezione Colombini) and so elévage is just six months in wood. All in the name of approachability and amenability, perhaps the most ever, or a new chapter in Barbi Rosso. For the people, fresh as a rule, democratic.  Last tasted June 2022

A vintage of viscosity and deepest of red cherry fruit, off of vines five to fifteen years old. While really young there is access here for drinking a 2020 ahead of many others. Classically dark Barbi fruit and a Galestro feeling. Bottled just less than one month ago and settled into a calm state by now. Will remain stable for a few years, not necessarily gaining in complexity but surely keeping on. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Stefano Bambagioni, Fossacolle

Fossacolle Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Rosso sees 10 months in Botti (25 hL or less) plus some time in concrete. Selection is from young vines though as they age that availability lessens and so some barrel selection is necessary to be part of the mix. Makes decisions more difficult, having to include some barriques in Rosso. An underdog vintage things Stefano Bambagioni, one out of which after 12-18 months something magical will begin to happen. All this to say that Rosso is “something that is alive,” and balance is the ultimate goal, as witnessed here, in the result. Smooth as silk, of sweet tannins and clear as present danger of a potential for aging. Five to seven years easy. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

The finest sangiovese grain and naturally occurring sweetness come from Lorenzo Magnelli’s 2020 Rosso, a varietal humectant of such pleasing mouthfeel to reside at the top of the region’s ever-improving appellative echelon. Few Rosso are able to achieve this ilk of floating nirvana, where once its largest of berries macerated towards fermentation in great solicitation of emotive capability. It all makes cause to pause and reflect. Really succulent and also architectural, a construct of stone, bone, acid and karst, vertical, linear, moving forward and winning. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted June 2022

Alessandra Pacini, La Lecciaia

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Seemingly night versus day in contrast with the soft and resolved 2018 but time is likely the reason. The force is felt immediately on the nose, not exactly hot but surely grippy, agitative and a bit bothered. A matter of early circumstance, the reason to exercise patience and wood in charge an unavoidable result of all these matters. Re-visit in 2024. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Quite a dense mat and full mess of fruit for 2020, magnanimous, fulsome, fully set glycerin and pectin. There is balance despite the nearly jammy constitution as a by-product of the vintage. Raised at elevation (500m) in the southeast of Montalcino. From 15 hectares, all Brunello capable and in fact the affinity here is with the bigger wines with only elévage separating the Rosso. Prepares us for what the Grand Vin will be like as it pertains to this specific vintage. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Yet another archetypal 2020 Rosso, fragrantly perfumed to the calcareous hilt and also notably structured from all points leading out from go. Feeling a true mineral streak running through, elevating cherries in season, juicy and fleshy, ripe and fully formed. Well made, balanced and truly essential Rosso work. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Red Montalcino gala dinner

Piancornello Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Somewhat reductive though the fruit set is magnified and of a clarity in black cherry, followed by a waft of tobacco. Works the glass with credibly strong and accountably forceful tannin. In a Brunello vein, there is lots of wine here. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Andrea and Gloria Pignattai, Pietroso

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

A selection is made from all grapes coming in for 17,000 bottles of Rosso out of 2020. Ages one year in a combination of botti and tonneaux, from the start showing great promise. A warm vintage and it shows. Mainly Galestro, a stony soil that comes through in the combination of glycerol and chalkiness. Not gravelly but a sandy-stony feeling gained, of smooth grain, easily transferred over the palate and sweetly endowed with acid and tannin. Another star rising to the top of the Montalcino pantheon. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Riccardo Talenti

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Heady, big-boned, exemplary of combing and combining two terroirs’ contribution to layer Rosso di Montalcino. The ripeness of 2020 fruit is at appellative peak, tightening further, compact, compressed and staid. For now and with two years further the fleshy juiciness will surely emerge. 25,000 bottles produced.   Last tasted June 2022 

Tight, young and early bracing Rosso from Talenti, showing off the darker fruit of the vintage and surely offering a glimpse into what the Brunello will bring three further years down the road. A vintage of well developed fruit and sharp acidity, vividly captured in a sangiovese just like this. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

With Filippo Bellini, Tenuta Buon Tempo

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Just bottled two months ago, fermented spontaneously in steel, aged primarily in cement with a short stay in Slavonian oak. A late frost resulted in only 8,000 bottles being produced (as opposed to 55,000 in 2019) so hang on to these precious gems from rare Montalcinese alluvial soil just above the canyon of the Orcia River. Adversity and low yields aside the purity is unrivalled for Rosso, the liveliness too, before transitioning to true sanguine sangiovese coursing through. So right and proper, vanguard and directly linear for Rosso. Needs two years settling time. Treat this like a category within a category, or just as one on its own. It could be said that 2020 is like proprietor Filippo Bellini, a case of half and half. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Lunch at Alle Loggia della Piazza

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Along with Voliero the Rosso at the hands of Andrea Cortonesi is one of agriculture, above all else. If the term may be used this way then Ucceliera is Riserva to Voliero’s Annata. Here the compactness of earth on fruit is layered, beginning with the strata below and culminating in the fruit above. Does indeed need to unwind, shed tannin and terroir while staying focused and in its contiguous state of meditation over agitation. This it will.  Last tasted June 2022

A Rosso further along than many, at least in terms of fermentative culmination and post-shock living. Shows off the hue and depth of vintage fruit with more redness, cherry ingress and tannic redress. You can feel the grip and the controlled power in this sangiovese. Will be a very good one because it already is. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Voliero Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Farming, farming, farming. When Rosso come across this way, profumato, sfumato, evocativo…it is the essence of the land. Southerly Montalcino at elevation, taut, persuasive and meaningful, a seamless sangiovese missive. For Rosso, what is just, necessary and right.  Last tasted June 2022

Tight, taut, wound around itself like a wire around a spool and yet having found its way out of fermentation and through bottling. Less fruit than brother Ucceliera and also lower toned, earthbound, grounded and yet the acids are right on point. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Col Di Lamo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

“A little Brunello, so we prefer more time,” tells Giovanna Neri. Spends eight to 10 months in large Botti, plus 10 per cent in tonneaux and barriques. Then two further years in bottle. Vineyards are on the road that connects Buonconvento with san Quirico. Still a touch reductive, of liquorice and spice, fennel and salumi. From sandy clay soil in a Rosso of intense hue but also texture. All red fruit with balsamic seasoning in a very specific Rosso style. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Lorenzo Pacenti

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Rosso sees a year in 25 hL botti, the fruit coming from 10 hectares of vineyards with the youngest vines now 20 years of age. On average Rosso makes up 8,000-10,000 bottles of the total production. Here from 2019 purity and clarity, what Rosso should be. An exacting transcript of terroir, Località Canalicchio di Sopra snapshot of place and most importantly a right here, right now transcribing of vintage. Crisp and crunchy, of fine acids, easy and yet sneaky of structure, so very well composed. Always a pleasure to taste with Lorenzo Pacenti. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Still tight and terroir driven, that much is clear. Fragrant inclusive of earth and smoulder, woodsy in that aromatic way. Settling in just now yet quite structured and savoury for ’19 Rosso. Persistent, not of buzzing energy but surely from a place. Rosso as Rosso.  Last tasted June 2020

Firm yet a Rosso with more than ample charm and grace, full red fruit and tannin interposed, layered and sharing the sangiovese stage. Takes some time but the fulsome and dusty work here really gains and makes haste of your senses. Takes hold and really does not let go. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

What a good looking crew

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

As mentioned in the 2020 note there are 55,000 bottles of this 2019 (as opposed to 8,000 for 2020) and yet quality is right up there with quantity. Balance arrives without adversity after an elévage “sensa” concrete, only Slavonian cask, or as it is said, “tronco conico,” 64 hL. An aromatic Rosso, so bloody ripe, arrived at nirvana with a sense of place intact, that being Podere Oliveto. From 2019 Rosso is defined by democracy and generosity.  Last tasted June 2022

For Alberto Machetti a similar and equally “cool” vintage with grapes in Castelnuovo facing Monte Amiata. Picking started on the 16th of September in a vintage with great freshness and in this case an intense level of savour. From the seven lowest hectares on alluvial clay soil only 50 metres from the Orcia River. Of double density and yields which work best for Rosso. Fine but relative ease and linear concentration for an easy but more than notable substantial essay of Rosso. Purple fruit and proper acids. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

This ’18 is the current vintage because La Lecciaia chooses to hold their Rosso back in even years. The 2020 will release in November. All done up in 25-35 hL botti for a minimum six to eight months, often up to a year. “For us we need more time,” tells Alessandra Pacini. Rosso 2020 is warm and nurturing, a cross of sangiovese and cask, silky of texture, soft, juicy and also peppery. Fine and never cumbersome, unencumbered because of time gone by. Sweet tannins, fine acids, nicely done. Showing at peak. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!

godello

Red Montalcino in the Montalcino Fortress

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WineAlign

Get back to Cool Chardonnay

Chardonnay is one of the romantics. At the centre of cool belief are the fruits of isolated self-expression, of greatest importance and capable of discovering the highest truths. When chardonnay is treated with utmost respect it can commit to wines of sublime impulse that rearrange and execute the natural world in order to reflect its own preoccupations. Imagine chardonnay as a street scene, as a wine that might stumble into itself, of footsteps and flaring lights, of mystery beneath dreamy lamplight. It will always find the light. That’s what chardonnay does. Ontario is a place where people come to be intimate with the grape and while lovers of the cool stuff were unable to gather in July of 2020 or 2021 the movement has built momentum once again. In 2022 it was high time to get back to cool chardonnay.

School of Cool

Related – Niagara’s cool for chards

Yes, in 2021 visits are paid and wines are tasted, but there is no congress. In 2020, the writer leads a virtual thing. In July the School of Cool comes back to session at White Oaks Conference Resort where it belongs. The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser reunites the community and introduces the long-awaited keynote speaker, columnist at Decanter and World of Fine Wine Magazine. “Andrew Jefford writes about wine like no other. He is a poet and a legend.” She is spot on. The author of the recently published anthology called “Drinking with the Valkries” asks the audience to “imagine wine as music. It brings solace to our lives, sends us beyond ourselves, just like music. The potential grandeur of a wine is a factor of its milieu, but it’s silent without the human.” Jefford notes that because of a changing climate the instructions are changing. “The music of many places is beginning to slide out of tune…varieties are the litmus of the vineyard. The most useful and adaptable of instruments is the piano…and that variety is chardonnay. Ask for chardonnay and you’ll be played any old tune on the piano, all well and good, anodyne. Wines produced at higher elevations on stony soils tend to be more percussive. Quality of clay and aptitude of soil structure is just as important as limestone would be for chardonnay. It’s Proteus, if you will.”

Andrew Jefford advises, tacitly implores his audience to listen. Pay attention. Take nothing for granted and understand that the parameters, goal posts and reference points are always changing. Chardonnay is indeed on the move and we must move with it or risk losing our rhythm, our mojo, our music. Practice makes perfect but innovation, cooperation and collaboration are imperative. Varietally speaking chardonnay may be the piano but other instrumentation is the requiem for completeness, satisfaction and glory. Chardonnay can achieve grandeur and continue to be the spirit of the sea, exist as past, present, and future, assume all sorts of shapes. To be regarded as a symbol of the original matter from which the world of white wine created. Chardonnay must always be protean, must always be on the move.

Related – A Chardonnay toast to Cool and the gang

The Great Chardo Swap

Moderator Chris Waters takes control. He explains how the powers of Ontario minds devise a most devilish and transformative scheme. The “Chardo Swap” concerns chardonnay grape must from the 2017 and 2018 vintages. In reverse 300L from the west’s Montague Vineyard are sent to eastern Niagara winemakers and 300L of Thirty Bench chardonnay is conversely transferred to six winemakers in western Niagara. Until now the custodians of Montague fruit have only been the originals, like Karl Kaiser, Phillip Dowell and Bruce Nicholson. For continuity the juice provided is pre-settled. One of the wildcards is a matter of cross pollination, of sites and yeasts present on these grapes. So be it. Play and work with what you’ve got. The results are astonishing and compose a picture of subject matter as nature versus nurture. Which matters more? Read up on 12 wines made in reserve and decide for yourself.

Chardo Swap

Craig McDonald, Trius Winery – Thirty Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

An ideal season to gift the rich and the restrained, right in the sweet spot between reduction and openly recognizable to getable purity. And yet it was “the summer we didn’t get,” tells Craig McDonald, a late season, cleaner, with more choices available, extended elévage in neutral wood. “I took the opportunity to push and stretch this into this kind of milieu.” Comes out more salty, stays clear of wild and woolly. Great approach and treatment of east side Bench fruit. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022.

Gabriel DeMarco, Cave Spring Vineyard – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Bottled with and making full use of its laissez faire if highly useful lees, acting on behalf of and representing every variety’s profound catalyst. Wound tighter than many vintages of Niagara chardonnay, even at this four to five year mark. Chalk it up to the “other” fruit but also the oxidative winemaking and creation of a “flor” to bring cloudiness and texture. A definite fino brininess and yet less barrel effect (only 10 months) and ultimately transforming Montague fruit into something it’s never been known to do before. Also apposite to a Cave Spring chardonnay so in the end all cards that were on a table were flipped over for all to begin again. Drink 2022-2024.Tasted July 2022

J-L Groux, Stratus Vineyards – Thirty Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

A case of the most experienced winemaker experiencing a fermentation that caused nightmares, perhaps because of a first try with new fruit, a season turned on its head, or both. But it came around and eventually complexity, “because of the thick coat of fur,” says J-L Groux. Bottled with its lees like a Stratus chardonnay would be but as a chardonnay it could not have resulted further from the maker’s truth. Drink 2022-2024.Tasted July 2022

Casey Kulczyk, Westcott Vineyards – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Four chardonnay into the great chardo swap and this one begins to emit or rather implode within itself due to untracked, no cracks reduction. No shock that a Burgundian sensation grabs our attention because barrels are key and with a few years got behind also melted into the background behind the fruit. This is perhaps the wine that acts as it would were it made by a western Niagara producer in that the richness of clay and loam raised chardonnay meets its wood host for a double whammy effect. You really notice and feel it all. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted July 2022

Amélie Boury,  Château des Charmes – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Formerly Oliveira Vineyard, in Amelie Boury’s hands a sense of crispness and restraint. Quite fresh and laden with apple-terpene juice. A chardonnay straight to the point, lemon and lime, a style of evolution and not necessarily what winemaking would have done with this juice ten or more years ago. Drink 2022.Tasted July 2022

Thomas Bachelder, Bachelder Wines – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

If Montague Vineyard fruit could actually speak it might ask “why has it taken so long for me to fall into the winemaking hands of Thomas Bachelder?” Good coopers, the right toast and the pragmatic meets ambitious elévage transforms Montague chardonnay into something other. Something vivid and lyrical but mostly something linguistic and long in the tooth. “Montague Vineyard looms large in my life,” looking back at OG Le Clos Jordanne times, “not just because of lions inthe industry, Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo, but because Montague is a really good vineyard.” Golden in every way, platinum, gem-like, gilded and if intense, also round. Thomas has coaxed oyster shell and a kind of Muscadet sea spray from this tract, something that has been noted at least one time in past iterations but now coming to the surface. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Chardo Swap Labels

Ann Sperling, Southbrook Organic Vineyards – Thirty Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Feels so much more ’18 than ’17, fresher and gilded, fruit and wood high, mighty and in synch. And yet the ’17 fruit has remained fresh with thanks to some early, slightly unsettled and oxidative juice used, opened then protected so that time would do little in these formative years. Fabulous western take on east chardonnay, balanced and expressed in a higher key of varietal life. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Shiraz Mottiar, Malivore Wine – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

From a Niagara-on-the-Lake neophyte, Shiraz Mottiar, who had never worked with fruit from that source. “All I know is that I had to be really gentle with the fruit. And I am adverse to risk. I had no understanding of Montague, how it was growing, or how it should be pressed. So for me, most of the winemaking had already been done.” Demure, taut, reserved and restrained. Lean aromatically speaking, green apple snap, backed up on the palate in a streak of linear and purposed focus. Things get a bit warming going down, a glow of charcoal though the effect is hypnotic, energy raising and ultimately nurturing. This is winemaking that makes pale chardonnay, phenolics dropped out, clean all the way. Just feels like an expression of place. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Nicholas Gizuk, Inniskillin Wines – Thirty Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Sap and resin, vanilla, wood all in, vinyl and tropical intentions. Tart pineapple, textural yet not creamy so finding its way with some poise after all. A chardonnay predicated of professionalism and flavour. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted July 2022

Emma Garner, Thirty Bench Wine Makers – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Feeling the angles, juts, zigs and zags of this chardonnay, not to mention the tightly wound intensity. Crisp though also mighty substantial, Bench fruit for certain and of a clarity, placed under and scrutinized by the magnifier. Reveals site above all else so yes, an example of a winemaker that heeded place and let it be, or used what was available to make that happen. Making magic and magnifique with Montague fruit. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Fabian Reis, Ferox Estate Winery – Thirty Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

So very caramel and vanilla, sweetly fruited and creamy, textural in the smoothest and fullest way. Spice cupboard for tartes, tatine and madeleine. Really quite reductive and almost a reserve, thickened, glycerol and what just feels like appassimento in addendum. Incredible richness gained from Montague fruit. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted July 2022

Lawrence Buhler, Henry of Pelham Family Estate – Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2017

Of the 12 chardonnays in the great chardo swap this is the most reductive in that there is a shell that contains the fruit, part candied and part metallic. It’s a curious combination and solicits a response plus a focus of attention. The aspects of malolactic, textural in mouth feel and length are all fully formed and made longer by extension. So much wine and so little time but give it away and you will regret having acted with such haste. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

14C Friday night

Redefining Cool

Redefining Cool is much ado and to do about climate change. Winemaking is the proverbial canary in the cage, from cool latitude, altitude and attitude, devising an intellectual journey through a discussion on how to redefine Cool Chardonnay in 2022. “We are creatures of the interglacial…but we are flipping into a greenhouse world.” What does this means for winegrowers? Simply stated once again, “cool is on the move.” Six winemakers share their wines to help address and extoll the problems, virtues and answers toward this concern. Danielle Coetsee, Boschendal (White Wine Maker), South Africa; Clémentine Baud, Owner, Domaine Baud, Jura; Joseph Ryan, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, Ernest Vineyards, Sonoma Coast; Nikki Callaway, Winemaker, O’Rourke Family Estate, Okanagan Valley, Lake Country, B.C.; Patricia Tóth, Winemaker, Planeta Winery, Sicily; Alex Baines, Winemaker, Hidden Bench Estate Winery, Beamsville Bench, Ontario.

Trisha Molokach, Godello and Magdalena Kaiser

Please scroll through below for notes on the wines they poured. In total there were 67 chardonnay tasted that I have now reviewed from i4c2022, Niagara’s Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. It was great to be back, with thanks to the cool concierge team led by the intrepid and tireless Trisha Molokach, the i4c22 Board of Directors and Educational Committee; Mark Torrance, Anne Weis-Pennachetti, Suzanne Janke, Magdalena Kaiser, Rob Power, Elsa MacDonald, Mary Delaney-Bachelder, J.J. Syers, Scott Wilkins and Belinda Kemp. Gratitude to all the Ontario member wineries, VQA Wines of Ontario, Grape Growers of Ontario and visiting Ambassadors of Cool.

Tasting Chardonnay

Ontario Chardonnay

13th Street Chardonnay L. Viscek Vineyard 2020, VQA Creek Shores

L. Viscek Vineyard does not give a reductive chardonnay so much as the über fresh kind in which transparency and site honesty are gifted at a serious premium. This is the green apple snap, bite and crunch one comes to expect, followed by a lees filled donut of a middle, no holes and a real Chablisienne mentality. Perhaps with a side of Loire like chenin roundness. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

2027 Cellars Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Still trying to figure out how a chardonnay from the Wismer Vineyard, Foxcroft Block can come to a consumer’s glass at $24.95 yet here we are and thankful for the gift. A rich and relatively buttery one, snap, crackle and green apple bite included, aromatic, flavourful and textured all the while. Caramel crunch as the skin of that apple and plenty of length to stay and drink a while. What’s not to be smitten by? Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April and July 2022

Adamo Sogno Unoaked Chardonnay Lore Vineyard 2020, VQA Four Mile Creek

Crisp, clean, unadulterated fruit with a je ne sais quoi floral lift with thanks to some musqué clone vines interspersed in the chardonnay of the 1980s planted Lore Vineyard in the sub-appellation of Four Mile Creek. A vintage to recite from, act on behalf of and celebrate the execution of a no wood varietal purity extraction. Not so much a lees affectation but high in citrus and knowable as a chardonnay with a single vineyard attachment. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Vanessa McKean and Renan Theilloux, Adamo Estate

Adamo Estate Chardonnay 2019, VQA Ontario

Adamo based in the Hockley Valley (Mono, Ontario) makes fine use of Niagara fruit for their ubiquitous chardonnay. Here a wine started by former OG winemaker Shauna White and finished by the dynamic incumbent duo of (winemaker) Renan Theilloux and (vineyard manager and winemaker) Vanessa McKean. Quite focused and tightly wound with notable lees sensations, though no overt wood make-up. Does slide into an invigorating sour edge and then warming, almost nurturing upon the finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Youthful, fulsome, a slight tinge or rise to high tone. White caramel and a terrific zing to the palate. Lemon and lime in many ways; curd, zest and with the tell-tale green apple bite. Shows the focus of examples alight as if by a single block. Impressive and woven, warmth and yet wild of sprit. Great potential here. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC2021, October 2021

With Andrea Peters, Brock University

Bachelder Les Villages Bench Chardonnay 2020, VQA Niagara Escarpment

While Les Villages pinot noir draws from and abides by Niagara-on-the-Lake it is the dolomitic outcrops of the Niagara Escarpment for chardonnay where hope springs eternal out of this geological source. Micro-climate too, where a vacuum between the long, semi-steep slope at the edge of the plateau and the lake make for a wondrous place to grow chardonnay. The space between the two separated areas at different heights and the limey clay creates this two-part harmony of metal-elemental fruit and reductive, barrel spiced accents. Bachelder’s Burgundian conceptualization comes to fruition with abundance and the fabric of oblate making. Correct and unsparing, a good combination.  Last tasted June and July 2022

“Les Villages” seems to be all in, fruit picked on the late side, wood complimenting with a wink and 2020 showing no signs of being left behind. Welcome to village chic, Escarpment style, full, luxe and round by design. Methinks Mr. Bachelder wants you to drink and enjoy this now, imagine a circle drawn through and around bench lands, all part of a community and a plan. This is life on “Le Bench.” Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Bachelder Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft “Nord” 2019, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Nord is a cool firecracker of a chardonnay, crisp and sweetly volatile, white peppery sharp and given some air time, also luxe and suave across the palate. One of the fullest, most accomplished and complete wines in so many respects, fruit sources imagined as being picked from orchards of all shapes, ilk and sizes. Apples to peaches, nectarines to pears. Oh hail great fruit and how cool it breathes. Nord for Wismer-Foxcroft is clearly the shizzle, not merely the best or most popular but the source for Bench chardonnay that can handle the truths of reduction and flint struck realities. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2021 and July 2022

Thomas Pennacchetti and Gabriel Demarco, Cave Spring Vineyard

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

Sharp and taut, an intense and fortified chardonnay. Precise and pure, exacting the Escarpment with focus like few others at this level and so indicative of a classic 2011-esque varietal Niagara vintage. Such performance in crunch and mystery with creative juices flowing, dreams realizing and a future filled with even greater potential. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué Estate 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench

A conversation with Thomas Pennacchetti and Gabriel Demarco wonders who has the most musqué planted in Ontario. No answer other than Cave Spring comes forth. Don’t sleep on both the intrigue and the significance of this chardonnay. Half the fruit is picked at 20/21 brix (early) and the other half in November. Acids and florals are each given their due. Skin contact time is 12-16 hours on both picks and so a “brownness” is pulled, “hard to get with musqué” tells Tom. A contract part terroir and part level of contact to achieve genuine character, but more so this candied orange peel aroma. In this warm vintage one could close their eyes and imagine friulano from Friuli, with thanks to the sticky wild yeasts leading to such an imagined result. Well also the bump in skin contact which also shows in the alcohol. As per the original statement: Intrigue and significance. This will age like old tokay. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Chardonnay in the Vineyard, Riverbend Inn

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Paul Bosc Estate 2020, VQA St. David’s Bench

Laden with dichotomously soft terpenes and the squeeze of orchard fruit juices. Just the chardonnay facts and nothing but, ultimately a spirited and focused chardonnay as lean as it is fleshy and saline with no barrel unction to distract from the main concern.  Last tasted July 2022

Takes no time at all to see this Paul Bosc Estate vintage of chardonnay by Château Des Charmes as a true crowd pleaser. It’s soft, delicate and supple on the palate. The oak is well integrated if sparsely adding any toast or nutty accents, with less than obvious salt and pepper seasoning. Even the vanilla is subtle, caramel too, the roundness just adding to the peaceful easy feeling. Hard to find more mildness and amenability in cool climate chardonnay. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted May 2022

Closson Chase Chardonnay The Brock 2019, VQA Niagara River

As a general rule the Brock is built upon K.J. Watson Vineyard fruit (in the Niagara River sub-appellation) with half seeing barrel time. For some reason it seems to show its oak more than the CCV and South Clos chardonnays albeit as a comfortably worn sweater in 2019. The scents are late summer, bergamot and then gardenia to tuberose. The bite is beneficial from out of this linear vintage and though there is a reductive quality the general outlook is aromatics above texture. Brock is a fine entry level chardonnay representative of Closson Chase working with Niagara fruit. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted October 2021 and July 2022

Closson Chase Chardonnay South Clos 2020, VQA Prince Edward County

More than 20 years of vine age, acumen and wisdom are the gain of a South Clos chardonnay and winemaker Keith Tyers is surely more than comfortable making it happen. Dry and warm vintage shows in the dried herbs, almost fennel to pollen dusting on the nose and a stoic presence in almost every respect. Would not go so far as to call this a taut and unforgiving chardonnay, nor is it particularly flinty or reductive. What it shows is utter purity and linearity, a platinum gemstone sheen and shine, controlled power and so much more packed away in reserve. The flavour bursts and energy spurts indicate just how long this will travel. Top, top. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted July 2022

Cloudsley Chardonnay Twenty Mile Bench 2019, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

A mix of Wismer fruit, part Wingfield and part Foxcroft, indigenous ferment and 18 months though only 28 per cent in new wood. Solid pH and also acidity numbers, more fruit and flesh, less flint, tension and spin. The accessible chardonnay for all to gain insight into the Twenty Mile Bench and how it raises these beautiful blancs. Length is outstanding in 2019. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Cloudsley Cellars Chardonnay Foxcroft Vineyard 2019, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Winemaker Adam Lowy likes to get at it, especially with Foxcroft fruit out of the Wismer Vineyard. And so aging is for 18 months in 50 per cent new barrels for a truly flinty, flexed and tense chardonnay. Vines are 23 years of age at this harvest and their potency meeting potential for balance seems poised at the apex of excellence and understanding. So close to pay dirt now and yet for a Cloudsley chardonnay, perhaps so far away. Wait just a wee bit. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted July 2022

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Tradition 2020, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

A wild ferment and approximately 20 per cent new wood. Textural vintage for the Tradition, viscous and really very fluid, brioche imagined as a sweet liquid and also a liquor of buttery spice and botanicals. Quite a rich and developed chardonnay, product of a warm vintage resulting in ripe returns. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Réserve Du Domaine 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Much more intensity and higher ceiling of promise comes from the next level Réserve du Domaine, rising away from softness and up to a more rigid, biting and cracked spice precipice. Sharp at its most vital moments and vintage rich at times when generosity is warranted. Does it all really, with style and warmth. Still there is more nature than nurture in a chardonnay allowed to simply make it happen. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Ferox Estate Chardonnay “Vintages,” VQA Niagara Peninsula

Wholly unique aromatics, almost Icewine in favour, dense and intense with as much metallics as there are exotic fruits. A non vintage blend, also unusual but for reasons vintage related. And so this runs from 2016 to 2019, a blend of sites as well, warm moments and then turning cool, of yellow fruit from banana to pineapple and mango, then greens, in apple and herbals too. It’s pretty complex stuff if admittedly hard to wrap a brain about. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2016, Traditional Method, VQA Short Hills Bench

Never gets old does it? It’s like Christmas every time a new vintage of the Cuvée Catherine is opened, always with great anticipation and wonderment for what the most recent disgorgement will bring. In this case intensity juxtaposed by harmony in ways only the Carte Blanche can and with Niagara’s greatest fizz consistency. That’s the thing really. The bar and the pressure was set high long ago and this sparkling wine meets it, failing nothing, equally so, year in and year out. The 2016 is no exception with perfectly equanimous apple fruit and fine structural fortification. Just a delight, sturdy, openly fragrant, delectable and succulent. Resounding yes, as per expectation and adjudication. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted November 2021 and July 2022

Henry Of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2020, VQA Short Hills Bench

Whole bunch pressed, barrel fermented with a cocktail of yeasts, one third new French oak and some further older usage ones as well. So perfectly middle of the road, proper and accessible, well managed by acids and really just the right and quick answer to what is Niagara and even more specifically Short Hills Bench chardonnay. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Next generation Speck, Henry of Pelham Estate Winery

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2020, VQA Niagara Escarpment

Crisp and über clarity from the first nose and nary a moment of reduction, if any. Richness accumulates with aeration as the wood gains olfactory traction. Need to test the palate forces to know what goods and treasures lurk in this oh so young and impressionable chardonnay. Track record is more than a mere incendiary aspect of the Speck Family Reserve capability and knowing airtime and chronology are essential towards determining the future, well, you get the apple orchard and white caramelizing drift. So youthful and yet there is plenty of time. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021 and July 2022

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard Unfiltered 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

Felseck sits at 37.59 North, a latitude working in cohorts with an escarpment’s nook and the lake laying low below.  Last tasted July 2022.

Don’t be fooled in thinking this is merely a reductive and green glade example of cool climate chardonnay. Solid and expected? Perhaps and yet also crunchy with shots of lemon and lime. Nothing out of sorts, tight enough to at times act hard to get and even anti-complex. There are secrets inherent in a cool climate world where so many chardonnays are made this is as interesting and innovative as the first.  Last tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. No stirring, “I don’t like bâtonnage,” tells winemaker Jay Johnston, “unless I’m trying to get a wine to dry.” Never mind the lees aeration or the emulsification because texture in this ’19 is extraordinary to behold, gliding across the palate with Bench orchard fruit cleverness, penetrating perspicacity and juices running through unblemished flesh. Tighter and taut than ’18, while seemingly improbable but here yet unwound, far from the pinnacle at which point full expression will surely ache to be. The ’18 may be a beautiful thing but the ’19 is structured, manifold in destiny and ideal for those who know, or at least think they do. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted July 2021

With Magdalena Kaiser, Chardonnay in the Vineyard

Icellars Chardonnay Icel Vineyard 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake

Similar to 2017 at 13.5 per cent alcohol yet more phenolic and also in that sizeable frame of inclination that is captured in the full, ripe and potently efficacious 2018. This just feels like the best of both worlds in chardonnay, at once cream centred and then juxtaposed by just a bit of back bite. A lovely and somehow powerful wine of wine contrary forces in push and also pull, ying and yang, punches and then receives. Hard not to see everyone loving this chardonnay. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Icellars Chardonnay Icel Vineyard 2018, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake

And then ’18, which was a warmer year in this sub-appellation and a chardonnay more reductive but also bolder, fulsome and phenolic, feeling a bit boozy (only 0.3 higher than ’17 and ’19) and definitely riper, even feeling sweeter. Was inoculated as the yeast cultures have not quite established in the cellar. Plenty of phenolics here, raising the bar all around. More age-ability to be sure.  Last tasted July 2022

Devilishly rich with full compliments of berries and barrel working side by each to create this tropical fruit split that reaches the heights of chardonnay decadence. Runs the gamut from pineapple to green apple and though it does not snap back there is a fine elasticity to how the texture stretches and then releases. For those who like to strike it rich. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted October 2020

Icellars Chardonnay Icel Vineyard 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake

Favourite wine of Adnan Icel’s wife Elif, a fan of Bourgogne and made by (12 rows) planted on the property in the beginning in 2012, followed by eight rows in 2014. Always hand-picked, whole cluster pressed. As for 2017, fermented 12 months in 500L French barrels. Malo in barrel, stirred and two years in French oak kept on lees with no racking. A multitude of flavours, now fully emerged, developed and gifting to the very maximum. Showing so well.  Last tasted July 2022

From Niagara-on-the-Lake and 2010 founder Adnan Icel, a rich throttled chardonnay barrel fermented in 500L French oak puncheons, lees stirred for six months, then aged 12 months more. Tells us to expect rich, opulent, creamy and highly flavourful chardonnay. That it is. Flint-struck if only momentarily, correctly reductive in the sense of fresh encouragement combined with the Niagrified creamed corn, again, if only during this persistently youthful state. Maybe causes a note of bewilderment for some but stay with this wine, give it a year’s time and all will be worth it. Will drink in optimum and designed fashion eight months from now and for two-plus years thereafter. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Inniskillin Reserve Chardonnay 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Hard to ignore the Niagara peach character of this fruit in chardonnay that’s all about this and not really how residual oak might want to linger within. There are old blocks of chardonnay available and this is from Block 210, planted in 1993 through 1996. The peach leads to harder fruit drugs, golden pineapple and guava, some lees feel, plenty of nutrients and that oak then becomes one of low and slow accumulation, neither a piqued nor toasted. Well made indeed. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Jackson Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Blanc De Blanc Limited Release 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula

More than a moment of reduction requires agitation and then the apple/pear orchard fruit is released. More than lees affected blanc de blanc, ostensibly chardonnay and seemingly the first of its kind for J-T. More scintillant style than either the Brut or the sauvignon blanc, direct, linear and shedding a lovely lemon pith bitter set of flavours. Almost woolly for sparkling, like Loire or some Alsace and very long. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Kin Vineyards Chardonnay Carp Ridge 2019, VQA Ontario

Kin close to Ottawa is a fascinating species of Ontario wine where pinot noir and this chardonnay grows atop glacial till, clay loam over grey limestone of the Hazeldean Fault. Low to moderate alcohol (12.5 per cent), dry as the desert and expressive of the coolest of cool climate acidities all add up to something arriving this way with intensity through integrity. Green apple bites are what they should imagined to be in chardonnay and rusticity is only a state of mind. Must be tasted more than once, to appreciate the credence and join the new frontier seance. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula

I believe it was April of 2017 when I first tasted the inaugural (2015) vintage of Ilya Senchuk’s The Fifty, a chardonnay that ferments in barrel but then transfers to finish up on lees in stainless steel. Not much has changed in five years but the wine has tightened and like a rare shelf fungi it is at its freshest finest when the teeth-like hymenium pores are barely visible. Senchuk bottles at precisely this point and that is something he has gotten really good at over the years. This chardonnay is remarkably precise, takes nothing for granted and delivers a layered experience in which more than one vineyard and sub-appellation contribute to the greater good. Might very well be the best one made of the six to date. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June and July 2022

Leaning Post Chardonnay Senchuk Vineyard 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

Ilya and Nadia Senchuk’s home playground is a matter of grey clay in alluvial soil with river stone, that is in terms of the vineyard and the winery’s back (or maybe front, as if it were a lake) location. The Winona-Grimsby couple are just starting to really understand, forge sensorial connections but even more so make their terroir relatable to the world. Even more piques and white peppery jolts than Wismer and Grimsby Hillside Vineyard combined, intense emotion and a crisp freshness that’s both hard to explain and also impossible to look away. Textural chardonnay that on the surface is nothing at all like Foxcroft or GHV. Come back again and again for five to seven years. My what a beautiful chardonnay world this is. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June and July 2022

Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Jordan Village 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula

The second iteration of the Village chardonnay is again a parcel amalgamation of Twenty Mile bench Le Clos and Claystone vineyards along with that of Talon Ridge in the Vinemount Ridge. If this is to be considered another standout vintage then the fact that early malolactic, sluggish ferments and moderate alcohol must all come together with a seamless whoosh. Another year in the triumvirate averaging of vine age puts less pressure on balance and more on concentration, here resulting in true LCJ favour. So much furthered collective warmth is 20’s call to body and then mind takes over with succulent bites and crafty control. Should settle by the spring of 2023. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted July 2022

Glenn Symons and Chris Thompson, Lighthall Vineyards

Glenn Symons and Chris Thompson, Lighthall Vineyards

Lighthall Chardonnay 2019, VQA Prince Edward County

Unique even for Prince Edward County chardonnay in a stainless meets barrel ferment with the latter a combination of new and third use 500L vessels. Warmer and fleshier than 2018, higher in alcohol by what feels like at least a per cent. Defines crisp pear, washed Phillipston Road cheese rind and crunchy bits of oyster shell but also salted white-spun aureate for local chardonnay. Pairing paraphrases aside this is made for the cheese board, a dozen oysters and a really good pretzel. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Lighthall Chardonnay 2018, VQA Prince Edward County

Mon dieu what a completely different animal than 2019, leaner, saltier and all about the oyster. No real orchard fruit flesh nor pith neither. Zest perhaps though the tight nature, lean disposition and more neutral flavours put this in wholly different regard, Alcohol is a mere 12.8 per cent (as compared to a minimum 13.5 in 2019). And so find some fattier fish (like halibut) and drink up. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted July 2022

Malivoire Chardonnay Estate Grown 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench

“Estate” raises purposed and propping acids in 2020 with somewhat maintained if lessened pH (all as compared to Moira) if for no other reason than because (85 per cent) Moira fruit is accented by Mottiar and Estate. Comes away crisp, brisk and frisky, contagiously spiced by galangal and ginger, tastes like sweet lime without the sugar. Has been in bottle just under a year and while the quaff factor begin to run high it may be suggested that the best moments are still to come. Picking took place over three weeks in September and so the “stacked” cuvée makes for an omnipresent happening, variegated though contiguously seamless too. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench

“Broad and tentative swipes” be done and so consistency thy name is Moira, or at least a vineyard’s persistence is manifest in a chardonnay that keeps the faith and the fluid movement of flavour alive. Lovely showing nine months on, window opening or at least now ajar to crawl through and feel the Beamsville love.  Last tasted July 2022.

Fun phantom power spirit on the aromatic front, perfumed to the hilt, creamy fruit and vanilla, well positioned and working as one. Quality if too youthful at present to fully appreciate. Causes a tragically hip perception of middle of the road but with an intention so great the future will change everything. “Don’t tell me what the poets are doing, on the street and the epitome of vague…Got to make it, that’ll make it by swimming” Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted blind at NWAC2021, October 2021

Shiraz Mottiar, Malivoire and Dan Sullivan, Rosehall Run

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

“I always hold my pH down below 3.2,” which is accomplished by understanding your vineyard, tells Shiraz Mottiar. “And you have to know (not only when but also) how to pick.” Which was October 5th in 2019 and so acidity remains high and persistent, fruit in a holding pattern and structure a real thing. More place resolved and revealed, vines clearly having well arrived into their state of balance and grace. As fine a chardonnay from the Beamsville Bench in this vintage as you are likely to find. So much more worthy than first considered.  Last tasted July 2022

Nicely, allegedly and properly reductive, especially as it pertains to chardonnay, a bit closed but nearly ready to spread its wings. Quite the fruit juicy tang, green apple bite and cool climate, sparked and piqued style. The sharpness of flavours works well with the wood and integration is just around the corner. Look for that moment in the Spring of 2022. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted blind at NWAC2021, October 2021

On Seven The Pursuit Chardonnay 2018, VQA Niagara On The Lake

Seven acres, thus the name, in the hands of Vittorio de Stefano, “and a project paramount to wanting something sustainable that can compete at the international level and standard.” The vineyard is five acres and the property now 15.5. Planted half each to chardonnay and pinot noir, all organic. Bourgogne is the impetus, Niagara the goal. The genesis of planting decisions dates back to 2009, high vigour rootball SO4 rootstocks and clones finally acquired in 2014. Now at seven years of age the vines are ready to rock. A place of science, with oenological consultant/winemaker Peter Gamble at the fore and wines of minimalist approach starting out in reductive tendency, then finishing with longevity defining acidity. Richness and intensity meet at a general Côte d’Or vortex but in the end Niagara lake-proximate flesh and tension are the true meeting point. There is a distinct flintiness (and unlike other flinty chardonnays) but also a caramelization of high delectability and flavour. Vim and vigour, vivid and 20 per cent new oak over three years to gain such favour. Exotic too, with wood contributing to the extract, but surely essential trace elements; manganese, iron and calcium of causation allowing the minerals to make themselves heard. Intriguing wine if only at the beginning of a long story yet to be told. Only 82 cases made. The goal as the vines mature will be 800. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021 and July 2022

Lydia Tomek, Ravine Vineyard

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2019, VQA St. David’s Bench

Fully glazed, honeyed and barrel affected to an nth degree. Unctuous, caramel and pineapple, a huge chardonnay expression that means business and is surely priced accordingly. Matters not where it’s from because the wood is everything here. That said there is plenty of substance, namely fruit to carry the weight. For a specific crowd that will enjoy the experience, west coast style of certain recurring eras. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022 and at i4C22, July 2022

Rosehall Run Ceremony Estate Grown And Bottled Blanc De Blancs 2017, VQA Prince Edward County

More than ample and credible chardonnay vintage, especially for sparkling with thanks to a longer season. There is some lees lounging in 500L puncheon which, coupled with the further 42 months post tirage adds up to complexities on charts and those not able to be found on charts. Really toasty bubble, invigorating and yet also of a calming or at least nurturing stance. Like biting into a fizzy apple and having it tingle in your mouth, followed by a jettison of herbal, citric and wild forest edible flavours. Even a fruity chanterelle. Devilish stuff once again from Dan Sullivan. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Rosehall Run Chardonnay JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2019, VQA Prince Edward County

Yet another stellar chardonnay from Rosehall’s JCR Vineyard and coupled with a most excellent varietal vintage the stars, Strats and stats are clearly aligned. Behold an increasingly accomplished wine that reveals the breadth and depth of this vineyard. It has been and continues to be made in a genre to gender bending approach, fusing the alternative with the electronic and achieving a rare balance of critical and commercial success. Dan Sullivan’s JCR, like St. Vincent is one to sing “I do a dance to make the rain come. Smile to keep the sky from falling down down down down. Collect the love that I’ve been given.” Marry Me JCR? Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April and July 2022

Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2020, VQA Four Mile Creek

As intense a grab of fruit, barrel and spice as ever in an Ann Sperling chardonnay. What with her classic handling whereby slightly unsettled juice receives some early oxidation, followed by an über protected elévage to bring it forward and into a now fruition. As a result drinks well right away but we known it will stall and little will change for the next few years. More chew than crunch, sweet and sour, encouraging and demanding at the same time. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Estate chardonnay, six years on the lees, traditional method. Generally speaking an inconsequential one gram of dosage, disgorged in February 2021. The other OG for Stratus based on the team’s research and development trials first executed back in 2006 and 2007. Another elevated autolytic example, not as toasty as ’13 but more textural and lees-directed. Further down the road to complexity of flavour washes, swarths and swaths as well. A woollen one, leaves a salve as it graces the palate and lingers long after the fluid thrill is gone. Everything is here, everyone should want some. It’s the Devil and Mr. Jones. Lucifer on the sofa. “There’s juju raining down all around you, yeah. Makes you heavy mental. It makes you tense.” Spoon-feed it to me when I can no longer do it myself. Drink 2022-2026. Tasted July 2022

Dean Stoyka, Stratus Vineyards

Stratus Chardonnay Unfiltered Bottled With Lees 2020, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake

As with so many 2020s the virtuous exercise patience during a vintage of sluggish ferments. Ask winemaker Dean Stoyka and he’ll tell you “it’s all about canopy.” In a hot and arid season chardonnay is kept “beneath a sombrero effect,” to avoid sun scorching, to access dappling but avoid 10am to 3pm sun. This practice is not new to the team at Stratus but they are truly now in the “balanced zone.” Chardonnay is a matter of (60 per cent) wood, 30 white clay and 10 stainless steel. This and the lees make for a cloudy if ducky wine of downy texture and very refreshing feel. A whole lot of R & D for which the maker and the consumer are loving the results.  Last tasted July 2022

Next vintage up for this singular Niagara Lakeshore chardonnay meets expectation where fruit substance and quality lees get to making some magic from out of the auspices of an hermetically sealed environment. Love it when chardonnay acts reductive without being either obvious or blatant, instead going about its high quality business like the natural professional it knows it can be. Whispering caramel and subtle smoulder set the bar high and as chardonnay there is this perching upon a gilded golden wire, in regal, confident and self-secured style. Most excellent rhythms, beats and tones set this up for a promising run. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Estate chardonnay, six years on the lees, traditional method. Generally speaking an inconsequential one gram of dosage, disgorged in February 2021. The other OG for Stratus based on the team’s research and development trials first executed back in 2006 and 2007. Another elevated autolytic example, not as toasty as ’13 but more textural and lees-directed. Further down the road to complexity of flavour washes, swarths and swaths as well. A woollen one, leaves a salve as it graces the palate and lingers long after the fluid thrill is gone. Everything is here, everyone should want some. It’s the Devil and Mr. Jones. Lucifer on the sofa. “There’s juju raining down all around you, yeah. Makes you heavy mental. It makes you tense.” Spoon-feed it to me when I can no longer do it myself. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Stratus Chardonnay Unfiltered Bottled With Lees 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake

Same winemaking as the team put on the (Chardo swap) Thirty Bench Vineyards fruit and yet with these 30 year-old vines the result is night to the Bench’s day. Cloudier to a view, more advanced and developed, fully resolved citrus notes in juice, zest and pith entwine. Deeper and fuller intensity of flavours, fuller and dramatic. Conceptual.  Last tasted July 2022

Warm and ripe vintage if only because of a gorgeous September into October, more lees than ever before, no new wood and an extended elévage nearing a year in length. Alcohol has risen, as has the pH though neither are what you might call vivid. The palate is actually tightly strung, the texture fulfilling and a cloudiness so perfect for what the winemaking team had long wanted to achieve. Hard not to see 2017 as the teaching wine where lees usage is concerned, the (after the fact) ah-hah moment whereby knowing what to do and how deep to go was learned by how 2017 turned out. In this case fulsome of stone fruit, opaque clarity, an oxymoronic ying-yang of positives in apposite attractions. A Monet vintage, modernized and so very J-L Groux. A Stratus, unlike any other. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Estate David’s Block Spark Blanc De Blancs 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Quite exciting to get a look at a new disgorgement nearly 10 years later for a chardonnay that sat on its lees like a Berlucchi Riserva Familia Ziliana Franciacorta DOCG. While the ceiling of complexity may have reached maximum plateau a year, two or even three years ago, it matters little because this level of acidity and sparkling wine vintage favour met the terms of easy regard thrown to the wind. Gone is the woolliness, now replaced by flint and a vapour trail of David’s design. This was meant to wait and thanks to Tawse today is the day. Bears little resemblance to the wine tasted back in 2012. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Has thankfully shed its baby fat, the cheesy whey that sat atop all else last time I tasted. Today the epoisses is now mild Niagara Gold, or a creamy, Triple-Cream Brie. Still a wine of lees and leisure, with tangy green apple and sharp, piquant flavour.  Tasted December 2012

Jessica Otting, Tawse Estate Winery

Tawse Chardonnay Robyn’s Block 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

While Robyn’s Block is always a unique chardonnay for the Twenty Mile Bench in 2020 it’s part of a community because of a slow, actually a very slow (as in sluggish) ferment. Didn’t actually finish until April, a remarkable happenstance because malolactic was completed back in November. As late as winemaker Jessica Otting has ever seen and it happened with all the chardonnays, save for Quarry Road. The whole cellar was like this and so what does it all mean? Perdition might be the answer but miracles happen and composure begets fortune, leading to a reward in most excellent textural deference. Alcohol and acidity are both exemplary and know this. Chardonnay left alone will find its way, unforced and uncompelled. We may be stupefied by the journey but we are most impressed by the result. Be patient with while offering up a little extra time and mind for these ’20 chards. As here with Robyn they are demure and they are at peace. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Thirty Bench Chardonnay Small Lot 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench

Really quite primary, an undisclosed while pleasingly reticent chardonnay from Emma Garner of gratitude and grace. The first because it thanks the Beamsville terroir and the second because it does so with soft spoken respect. A mélange of different fermentation batches, each small and precise come together for the final sumptuous and restrained blend. The tenets of fruit, acid and what ties them together is just about as seamless and easily layered as any of a Bench ilk and idiom. Not a chardonnay of style but instead stylish, not chic but surely sung with notes held, seemingly forever. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted July 2022

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate

Trail Estate Chardonnay Cold Creek Vineyard 2020, VQA Prince Edward County

From a vineyard on the Danforth Road in Hillier and young vines of chardonnay. A 50/50 neutral and second fill barrel aging for 10 months in yet another 2020 fermentation that took seemingly forever to complete. This is attributed to a hot and dry summer and also harvest, with excess humidity causing sluggish and possibly even dormant yeasts. That said this Cold Creek shows plenty of zip and zest, clocking in at 14 per cent off of 23 brix. “Early” numbers though the pH was normal (3.2). Crazy for chardonnay, at heart and for trying, with plenty of dichotomously extrapolated energy and PEC drive. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Two Sisters Chardonnay 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

Fruit is entirely taken from the 1959 planted Lenko Old Block, likely the first in Niagara. Twenty per cent new wood and no real sense of malo (up to a maximum 30 per cent) but says winemaker Adam Pearce, “we’re not looking for that route.” A brilliant chardonnay, cohesive and smart, taut and slowly revealing itself. The right and righteous stuff.  Last tasted July 2022

If unoaked takes full advantage of a terrific 2019 growing season then surely the oaked chardonnay will go after it with uninhibited abandon. Perhaps but just one sip and you see the cool demeanour, the artist restraint and the blessed balance afforded throughout the wine. Only hints of toast, smoulder and buttery biscuit wisp on through while the purity of warm terroir raised Niagara chardonnay shines, as it should. Most excellent work here from Adam Pearce and team. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted September 2021

Guest Chardonnay

Boschendal Chardonnay 2019, WO Elgin

The Elgin blocks are 15 kms from the Indian Ocean with sites ranging from 200-500m above the sea level and surrounded by mountains. Grown at an average of 300-plus metres at a latitude of 31.15 South. A prime example of the Elgin style, citrus led, stony and flinty from weathered shale soils but there can be no dispute about the fruit richness and sumptuous tactility for how this settles upon the palate. Thankfully a feeling of sea breeze passes through and maintains the freshness. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Ana Norris (Santillán) and Danielle Coetsee, Boschendal

Boschendal Cap Classique Jean Le Long Prestige Cuvée Blanc De Blancs 2009, WO Stellenbosch

Long on the lees (gotta be 120 months-plus) and as a 2009 well within a Cap Classique vernacular still with the “Méthode” verbiage at the lead. Long since developed its ceiling of complexity and although those last 12-18 months may have done little to advance, accelerate or diminish the returns, how can it even matter. Just consider the greatness here. Eloquently complex by nature and also design, all about fruit and earth, liquidity and dusty decomposition, delicasse and deconstruction. The level of acuity is commanding and beyond commendable for a comestible this long in reserve. A confession of wishing for just the slightest lessening of dosage, to avoid a softening and raise the energy bar. Otherwise this would be tops. As it stands it’s pretty special. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Catena Chardonnay Appellation Tupungato 2020, Mendoza, Argentina

Only Tupungato will do for chardonnay as this “High Mountain Vines” will do, equipping what could be the roundest, softest, creamiest and most delicious fruit set with a blast of freshness and atmospheric drive. This is exactly what you can expect from Catena’s work in specific appellative chardonnay, drilling down into the dirt of a place within a place with the same conviction found in their more expensive wines. No compromise. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Catena Alta Historic Rows Chardonnay 2019, Mendoza, Argentina

Kind of surprised how many years have passed since last seeing this über specialized Tupungato chardonnay in a VINTAGES release and thankful to see its auspicious return. The highest elevation and prized fruit from quantified rows put the specificity and trenchant expectation into a chardonnay of indelibly stamped, site explorative and barrel programmed richness. Truly fleshy but also elastic and stretched varietal wine of not only acumen and desire but also depth and understanding. The White Stones may be Catena’s chardonnay prize but do not sleep on this wine. It delivers all you could want from producer, place and grape. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted twice, July 2022

Côteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2020, Québec

The Robert Family takes chardonnay to the next level with their south facing vines on slopes of soils dotted by pebble and schist. A blessed sun dripping vintage for Québec chardonnay that takes full advantage of more climate change heat units and good fortune for no 2020 frosts. Crisp and crunchy to the nth degree, just reductive enough to stand taut and ever so slowly releasing its charm. Next chapter and a win win all around. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Domaine Baud Blanc De Blanc Brut, Crémant Du Jura

Varietal chardonnay that sees a year of lees aging with a dosage to reach the desired Brut. A richness and also dried herbal notes plus fennel that is offset by a creamy sweetness melting and melded through the pictorial texture of a wine so sharp and yet so soft. One imagines the Baud family being led by such humans and when a wine acts as an expression of they, well isn’t that the point in a wine like this? Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022.

Baud’s Crémant is made in true Blanc de Blancs style, from 100 per cent chardonnay and though faintly if beautifully oxidative, the cuvée pulses with great energy. The scents of fraying ginger batons, scraped orange skin and baking almond cookies are all a treat for the olfactory. Just enough but not too much sweetness fleshes the the body to get down to density in mouthfeel but never abandons its airy character. A terrific Champagne alternative that was disgorged in October of 2017. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018

Clémentine Baud, Domaine Baud

Domaine Baud Cuvée Flor Côtes Du Jura 2020, Côtes Du Jura AOC

Clémentine Baud took over the family estate with her brother six years ago. The first father to daughter transition and with many to follow. The estate dates back to 1742, started by Jean-François. They farm 25 hectares, Clémentine’s father started with five and grew to 19 hectares when he retired. Picking for Sparkling now seems to happen in August, save for the difficult 2021 vintage. In 2017 70 per cent of the harvest was lost to the frosts, 50 in 2019 and 80 in 2021. “We have over 40 old varieties in the Jura, important for diversity, including those not allowed under the rules of the AOC,” tells Clém. The fruit for Cuvée Flor is grown at a latitude of 46.73 North and though very much a cool climate place for chardonnay the threats of warmer winters and seasonal frosts has wreaked havoc over the past 10 years. A chardonnay of remarkable lustre, concentration and purity, worked by way of oxidative aging, low alcohol expectation starting at 12 and finishing no higher than 14 to 14.5. A floral chardonnay, not one related to yeast and surely a pretty in Jura wine. From the younger vines, phenolic and hinting towards though remaining clear of emerging boozy. Filled with flavour, hazelnut and praline, peach and yellow plum. A world of its own. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Domaine Des Deux Roches Altugnac “Terres Amoureuses” 2020, AOP Limoux

From land at the edge of the Languedoc, on the Pyrenean foothills, “where the vines flirt with the scrubland.” A chardonnay of amorous lands, a golden hue of fortune and really fine balance. Light on its feet, forming a small wake, chardonnay of prosperity, dreams, space and a garden of thought. Alluring and inviting, ease of wood, spice and bites throughout. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Domaine Des Deux Roches Pouilly Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2020, Bourgogne aoc, France

There can be no doubt that an old vines cuvée in the hands of Deux Roches gifts impeccable and earnest profundity coupled with culpable concentration. A touch reserved in restraint though again expectation dictates that energy will release as the wine opens and ages. All the orchards are on the nose, transitioning into flavours full, layered and built by a liquid textural weave. Expansive chardonnay. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2022

Joseph Ryan, Ernest Vineyards with Brooke Husband and Kelly Mason

Ernest Chardonnay Joyce Vineyard 2019, Sonoma Coast

Erin Brooks started the vineyard 10 years ago, as proximate to the ocean as much as any. West Sonoma Coast, now a new AVA with Brooks at the forefront of making that happen. Down at the bottom of the AVA, at 400ft of elevation, of marine bed, volcanic activity and metamorphic matter all present in one vineyard. Joseph Ryan is Winemaker and Vineyard Manager. Southeast facing at 38.44 North latitude on Goldridge soil, a sandy loam and a really mitigated diurnal shift of temperatures between 45 and 85 degrees (F). As such there is little cold or heat shock, plus what is gained by being so close to the ocean. Truth be told this is Sonoma Coast times 10 with a driven intensity of parts bloody captivating. Fruit and acids dancing intertwined and inseparable, unrelenting in a dizzying twirl of chardonnay wind and dust. “Oh, loving her was easy. The easiest thing in the world.” Hiss Golden Messenger. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted July 2022

Andrea Barker and Grant Chisholm, Foxtrot Vineyards

Foxtrot Chardonnay 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

Quite wooden and also lean, tart and speaking in the kind of chardonnay tones that say professional and successful. Apples of greens and yellows, tart and creamy at the same time, blessedly flavourful if simply one dimensional. Solid and classic for a warm weather season out of a cool climate location losing that plus with every passing year. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022 and at 14C22, July 2022

Foxly Chardonnay 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

Foxly is Foxtrot’s second label from Osoyoos and Similkameen fruit (as they only grown pinot noir on the Naramata Bench). This mix of northern and southern combines tension with roundness, two best worlds into one, hvac and evac. Fresh and taut with a downy cream centre.  Last tasted July 2022

Reductive to the point if just a bit stinky, not egregious mind you but the funk is in. These lees are in charge and upon the palate with a hit of true juicy fruit attacks, with beneficial fervour. In fact the lees do and are everything, living and dying with adamant behaviour to direct what will happen at every step along the way. Keep working with this chardonnay. It truly wants to offer up a just and pleasurable reward. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022

With Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell

Hamilton Russell Vineyard Chardonnay 2021, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa

A new return to a manageable vintage of warmth and generosity in which the beauty of Hemel-en-Aarde chardonnay comes across with sweeping charm, just as a vista will take in the scroll of hills, mountains and eventual fall, 100 kilometres away into the sea. The taut nature, tight control and expertly wound fruit behaviour follows a line of HR acidity like never before. The magnificence of the balance occupied by parts so known like home is what emanates from this chardonnay and the gracious people who make it. Can’t think of much better in South Africa. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted July 2022

O’Rourke Family Estate Chardonnay Twisted Pine 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

O’Rourke’s Family Tree brand from Lake Country in the northerly Okanagan just feels warm and nurturing, a 2020 Twisted Pine chardonnay in this glass with drawn butter, soft brioche and mulled spice. Lightly caramelized, with soft serve vanilla and ease of amenability. Oak is a true factor though it melts nicely into the background of the wine. This is chardonnay of a deeply calming presence. It is warm bread. It is dry shelter. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

O’Rourke Family Estate Chardonnay 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

Lake Country is one of the newest geographical locations of eight or nine wineries in the Okanagan and really only minted a month ago. The furthest north in the Valley and ostensibly the coolest as a result. First chardonnay by O’Rourke Family Estate with winemaker Nikki Callaway (famed for her work at Quails’ Gate). A young at heart wine and project with vines just three to six years of age grown at a latitude of 50.05 North. A fruit salad because it comes from all the blocks and clones on the property, built above ancient glaciers and caves. All indigenous ferments, with great freshness in abundance. A sharper expression than the Twisted Pine, with more snap, crackle and bite, not to mention pop. Hints at a reductive flintiness though it’s really quite open and even generous. Really quite effusive and brings chardonnay fruit to the fore, celebrates its Okanagan fullness and is developed enough to be ready and willing for to please. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Paddy Borthwick Chardonnay 2020, Wairarapa, New Zealand

An extension of 2019 to be clear, of flint and reduction as well, though less so in this vintage. Same sectarian or free thinking where herbs and lime get as much playing time as the stony qualities showing tight and tart in this 2020 wine. Caramel apple in the most seductive way, a bite through savoury spun sugar into the flesh of apples and or pears plucked straight from the tree. Flavours are ripe and seductive, at times verdant, other times spiced. No missing the barrel here. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Planeta Chardonnay 2020, Sicilia DOC

From 43.25 North latitude. Chardonnay comes from two vineyards, Storico which is the large white rock at 270m above the Menfi lake and Marrocoli, where red grapes (cabernet franc, merlot and syrah) really thrive. Here chardonnay is given roundness to mix with the stoic-stony and intense directness of what it could have been. A place of vibrations and nerves and so Marrocoli is needed to tame and soften Storico’s blunt edginess. That it does, injecting peach fleshy sunshine into the linearity of the wine. Keep in mind that 200,000 bottles a year are made and that doesn’t even keep up with the demand. Arch classic Planeta bread and butter wine, also in style. One of the planet’s great chardonnays of double Q effect. Quantity and quality. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March and July 2022

Ronan Stewart, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

Tasted with Rowan Stewart and in agreement that this is meant to be the freshest possible, a chardonnay of lemon zest and glaze, spicy piques and back bite. Acidity is the factor in a chardonnay lacking no moments of ripeness and can be round when needed. In other words it reacts and shapes to the palate’s needs, doing so simply and with no wasted movements. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay Stewart Family Reserve 2019, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

From vines growing on Mt. Boucherie, a volcanic steppe right above the winery. Whole cluster and barrel fermented, combination of new and used wood, malo, lees and regular stirring. All because the top chardonnay fruit in the Stewart household wants and can handle this level of elévage truth, seeks the richesse and desires uncompromising complexity. A chardonnay rising and swelling with fruit flavours, spices and then lingering long after the liquid is gone. My goodness length is truly a six letter word. Like bezazz, jazzbo, pazazz and pizazz. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted July 2022

Vignoble Domaine Du Fleuve Chardonnay 2020, Québec

The drive for chardonnay to thrive in Québec vineyards is kept alive with this linear and driven example from de Fleuve. It is not good enough to just make chardonnay in the province and call out success. The variety must ripen well, find that sweet spot between phenolic and layered, in the zone where acids lift yet never lie. This does most things admirably well though there are some moments where sulphides and esters creep in. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted July 2022

Good to go!

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WineAlign

L’Etna and Parco Statella saved my Sicilian quarantine

Quarantine Passegiata

A few weeks back I experienced humanity in the vacuum of a chat with a man as proficient a listener as he is eloquent as a speaker. As for his writing prowess well, any words I can conjure only drift in mimic of what rhythms his melodies play. I am of course talking about Andrew C. Jefford. I recited my Covid story to the British born, France habituating composer about my quarantine up aboard the northern slopes of L’Etna and in kind he tuned in with great intent. The next day, after clearly having further considered my experience, the writer encouraged my going public with a recounting of the tale.

Parco Statella by night

Working through a bout of Covid-19 has been for each of us a personally possessive experience. We had all spent months and for some the better part of two years assimilating information, growing concern and formulating speculation as to what would happen when we contracted the virus. We also wondered how we might affect others. My turn involved only a few close connections, first my fostering and nurturing Sicilian hosts and chaperones at Planeta Winery. Then, aboard the mountain, the gracious and obliging staff at Shalai in Lingualossa. And finally the man so effing effable that is winemaker Giuseppe Russo. Sorry for the viral transfer Giuseppe. Cute sorry smiley Vector Art Stock Images | Depositphotos

Il Guercio

Let us back track for just a couple of paragraph’s moment. Travelling companion, beautiful friend, articulate writer and persuasive speaker Michaela Morris and I are having lunch with Il Guercio, the one and the only Sean O’Callaghan at Osteria Le Panzanelle in Lucarelli, Radda in Chianti. It’s the first truly warm day of March and so Nada Michelassi creates a table for us on the terrace. Sean hails from the U.K. and is asked to peek indoors on a distinguished and clearly famous solo British diner but he returns after not immediately recognizing the man. A moment later, as if having silently swept in like an apparition, he’s standing over our table. “May I join you?” he inquires, a chair is pulled up, a glass of Tenuta di Carleone is poured and introductions are made.

Sean O’Callaghan, Jeremy King, Michaela Morris and Godello

He is Jeremy King, London’s most famous restauranteur and we are treated to a story of his 44 million euro court predicament with investors. Sean takes a bite of Tagliata and he is suddenly choking, up desperately and stumbling over the stones, grabbing at his throat, liquids evacuating wherever they can find an outlet, terrified face turning blue. Still seated, legs crossed and calm as a hindu cow, Mr. King asks, “would you like me to do the Heimlich maneuver on you?” Sean shakes his head up and down hard, the towery King gets behind him and with one hoomph! the steak is dislodged and expectorating details aside, Sean falls back into his chair in heaving breaths. He’s fine. Saved. Left to live another day and enjoy another plate of Tagliata. King is back in his chair, story immediately in resume. Four days later I’m in Catania testing positive, alerting Michaela and Sean who in turn, both test positive with 24 hours. Coincidence? Perhaps. Fair trade? Absolutely. Like it or not Michaela Morris, Sean O’Callaghan, Nada Michelassi and Jeremy King, we are all inextricably linked for the duration of our times.

It was the Tagliata

Related – The five estates of Planeta earth

Which brings us to Sicilia and more specifically, L’Etna. My adventures with the candid and talented Patricia Tóth are visually chronicled and well documented in my previous article. After testing positive in Catania the winemaker picked up the necessary provisions of sustenance and medication then drove back up the mountain to the volcano’s northern slope. There at Parco Statella I passed my isolation for 11 days, albeit in one of the universe’s most spectacular, spiritual and enlightening locations. A few days of feeling quite unwell beget short walks and then full on treks through the forests and vineyards of this edenic playground. Friends were made and relationships forged with three sheep. two horses, a donkey and several sweet dogs. I ambled through the landscape in a Covid fog as easily as children might slip into their weariness like the soothing water of a warm bath. The effort of subterfuge was no match for Parco Statella’s beauty.

Verdant Parco Statella

Only came outside to watch the nightfall with the rain. I heard you making patterns rhyme

As the symptoms waned and the sun continued to warm Versante Nord there arrived, a case at a time, the wines of Etna producers, first Planeta and Donnafugata, followed by a stream of others. I began to taste and write in earnest, soaking up the innate imperfections and precise perfections of Etna Bianco, Rosso and variations on the parochial theme. Then there was the care provided by Manuela Scala, a plate of provisions here, a sublime slice of cake there. These gestures nourished some withered essential part of myself as I sat on the weathered wrought iron chairs at the table in Parco Statella’s piazzetta. I would fall gratefully on a perfect slice of cake, on this human gesture of connection and to know fortune smiles upon us. On the morning of my departure a caffé in Manuela’s presence made cause for true emotion and then, with the wind circling L’Etna and over the stones of the courtyard I was gone.

Una fetta d’amore

In the Planeta article I detailed the wines of Menfi-Ulmo, L’Etna, Noto, Vittoria and Capo Milazzo. Please click on the link to that post (above) to review those 45 wines. Here are 55 more tasting notes from Girolamo Russo, Emiliano Falsini, Donnafugata, Graci, Calcagno, Scirto, Eduardo Torres, Tascante, Vigneti Vecchio and Azienda Agricola Sofia. The wines on L’Etna that helped saved my quarantine.

With Giuseppe Russo

Girolamo Russo

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC Nerina 2021

Giuseppe Russo’s Etna Bianco honours his mother Nerina. Made from younger plants, including some planted three or four years old, but only carricante. That said Giuseppe will likely also plant some more grecanico in the San Lorenzo Vineyard because he likes the linearity and verticality it gives to the carricante. The Nerina is a startling and invigorating Bianco, as fresh, available and precocious as any on Versante Nord, or likely anywhere on L’Etna for that matter. A seven days a week wine for which there can be no reason not to engage. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC San Lorenzo 2020

From the single vineyard at 730-740m of elevation and vinified in tonneaux. The 2009 was the first vintage of San Lorenzo Bianco for a wine that leads amongst the 80-90 thousand total bottles made by Giuseppe Russo from 18 hectares. A strong selection from the plants of carricante with cattaratto and grecanico. The carricante are the oldest and they provide the breadth in the mouth, the texture in unction and the presence that really makes you feel the vineyard. The difference between it and Nerina is really in the selection of the grapes. Giuseppe wants his whites to speak for his territory, here to be a bit more generous and 2020 obliges first because it was easier and second because it is such a vintage specific to the white wines. Such beauty and emotion is purity and life. No stress and a wine you want to drink. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosato DOC 2021

Only nerello mascalese partly because cappuccia has more colour but also less body, acid and tannin than mascalese. And so the mascalese is the red Rosato variety, especially in Etna’s northern sector. Yes of course this is salty Rosé but that’s a given and hardly the point. Why does Giuseppe make it? Because it’s molto versate, literally “very poured” but meaning always worthy of consumption. For food, especially in summer and at low alcohol. He also believes it can age in fact he’s tasting some older Rosato here and there as witnessed by bottles laying around. Trust when it is said that Etna Rosato is a special breed. Indeed. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC ‘A Rina 2019

First made in 2005 as the initial vintage for Giuseppe Russo and from more than one vineyard, inclusive of fruit from some of the younger vines as an assemblage of micro-vinifications. In terms of maceration Giuseppe only does 15 days, nothing close to the Piedmontese ways with nebbiolo, even if he adores those wines. So much freshness, red fruit forward vintage but also a linearity because these wines always carry some of this emotion. ‘a Rina can be consumed just about when you want to but carries a sort of structure that is subdola, sneaky enough to see it go long. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC Feudo 2019

Many generations have been here but the story really begins with Giuseppe’s grandfather Giovanni Massimino, who planted the vineyard Feudo. Diversity of the vines is a profound part of the growing on these terraces, especially with the old vineyards, in Feudo 70-80 years old and also some as old as 100. Nerello mascalese with five per cent nerello cappuccio from a single vineyard cru and here 20 days maceration, five days longer than the on skins time for ‘a Rina. Again a vintage that Giuseppe Russo is a big fan of, rich and luxe to a great degree yet broad and deeply spiced. The depth and complexity are quite profound. First vintage was 2006 for a Rosso that needs the bottle in the ways of great grapes all over Italy. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Home cooking by Tóth and Russo

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC San Lorenzo 2019

Giuseppe Russo’s father purchased San Lorenzo but Girolamo never bottled and sold off all the grapes. In 2003 Girolamo passed away. Giuseppe has worked with Emiliano Falsini from Toscana since 2005 and continues through to today. The selection is mainly from the vineyard’s highest point and it is in fact the largest at Girolamo Russo, making up seven of the 18 total hectares. Such a crunchy nerello mascalese though with plants up to 100 years old there are likely some other varieties mixed in for what is ostensibly a field blend. Also volcanic chalky (if there really is such a thing) and the one that reeks but also tastes of orange, mainly blood orange. While San Lorenzo may lack the richness of Feudo it does so much in terms of finezza and this after so much perfume. Fantastic vintage. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella fixer-upper

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC San Lorenzo 2017

From a vintage that was very warm, like the rest of Italy and you’d not be fully paying attention were you not to notice this in the wine. You have to wonder when the fruit was picked and indeed though the alcohol was high in September it was Giuseppe Russo who waited well into October to pick his grapes. They are ripe through and through, even if the weight lays low and intensity runs high. This is by far the biggest wine of five Rosso tasted but at its height there is balance and togetherness. Brilliance in the face of adversity, covered in spice is a beautiful thing. Drink earlier than some vintages but also be surprised as to where this may go. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC Calderara Sottana 2018

A label that was started in 2007 and from a contrada on the perimeter of the Russo property. From a very difficult vintage and a wine completely different from both Feudo and San Lorenzo, also because the contrada is so very different. A much more lifted Etna Rosso, edgy with some volatility but the kind that you can imagine settling in with this carefully picked, selected, sorted and vinified fruit. There is a wildness about this fruit that is specific to place but also the tannins that are spicier, grippier and forceful. This one really wakes you up and keeps you on your toes. Mi sveglia! I am awake! Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022

With a roof right over our heads

Emiliano Falsini

Feudo Pignatone Etna Rosso DOC 2020

Feudo Pignatore, from Emiano Falsini, the name of the contrada on L’Etna’s north side. A vintage a bit like 2018, difficult though not quite in the league of that challenge. Beautifully perfumed, youthful for sure and quite compact. Crunchy Rosso, red fruit in the currant and pomegranate vein, high acidity and showing its barriques though as a lithe, transparent and lifted wine it does so with great ease. Creates a cinnamon heart type spiciness and then you feel the wood on the back end. Very curious contrada Rosso. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Covid penicillin

Feudo Pignatone Etna Rosso DOC Davanti Casa 2020

Feudo Pignatore, the name of the contrada on L’Etna’s north side and the small cru/single vinyeyard Rosso. This is the selection, smaller quantity from Emiliano Falsini and a whole ‘nother expression altogether, here the wood and fruit conspiring for a frutta di bosco experience but also one with toasted coconut. Barriques and tonneaux are used and because the fruit is deeper and richer there is more depth, doubled down concentration and a feeling of that wood, earlier and throughout. This will need much time and there is definitely an affinity with nebbiolo this time around. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Donnafugata

Donnafugata

Pantelleria

Donnafugata Lighea 2021, DOC Sicilia

Lighea, Sicilian for “light” is varietal zibibbo (a.k.a. muscat of Alexandria) grown on the Island of Pantelleria off the southwestern Sicilian coast. Not unexpectedly high in citrus both juiced (lemon and orange) but also floral with orange blossoms the obvious, ostensible and uncanny notation. So bright and popping, brimming with pressed acidity and waxy, spritzed, airy and vaporous of sea spray. Sun, afternoon and vacation are three words that easily come to mind. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2019, Passito Di Pantelleria DOC

Ben, as in “son of” and Ryé, a Sicilian riff on the concept of making strong mocker from the wheat grass. Think of grapes instead, in this case zibibbo (muscat of Alexandria) grown off the southwestern coast of Sicily on the Island of Pantelleria. Passito di Pantelleria DOC is one of the world’s great sweet wines, found only on this windswept promontory where the grapes concentrate, drink in the sea and express a view to which only this place commits. The warmest of vintages develops and comprises these particular sugars into something surreal. Extraordinary orange-ginger crème brûlée, perfectly embittered and made viscous in the most natural of ways. Layers of dedication and spice, health affirming herbs, respiratory fixing drops and sweetness captured, effortlessly and to gift plaisir. Apricots ripe and glazed, zen zero limone, giusto intenso. Nearly perfect. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Vineyards

Contessa Entellina Estate

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Rosé 2021, DOC Sicilia

Donnafugata makes two Rosato, one from Etna and this on the northern side of the Contessa Entellina Estate. A blend of nerello mascalese and nocera, two apposite varieties, one being the Dolce and the other Gabbana. Together they combine for exotic fragrance but also sweet candied florals, cottony feels and salty streaks right on through. Healthy acids easily deal with, mitigate and assimilate whatever sugars might want to express themselves but truthfully they only come out in the aromatics, rising at dusk and bleeding into night. Can’t think of a time when this Rosato would fail to please. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Contrada Statella

Donnafugata Anthìlia Bianco 2021, DOC Sicilia

What’s in a name? Anthilìa is the name given to the city of Entella on the top of the Rocca in Roman times. As a Bianco it is composed of the local (Contessa Entellina Estate) lucido, known in other parts of Sicily as catarratto, blended with other unnamed autochthonous and international varieties. Regardless of the bit parts there is no questioning Anthilìa’s tart, tight and citrus to mineral posit tug of Sicilian style. There is an herbal quality in sweet basil or chervil typology but lemon-lime meeting salty stones halfway is really where it’s at. Beck and call, “a place we saw, the lights turn lo. The jigsaw jazz and the get-fresh flow.”  Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sur Sur 2021, DOC Sicilia

Sur Sur is varietal grill0 from Donnafugata’s Contessa Entellina Estate in southwestern Sicily. More lemon and less mineral as compared to Anthilìa though sunshine is at an all time high. Sur Sur as in “On On” or in Italian Su Su. Like the lights and more to the point the sun, filling and lighting up this grillo. Light up the grill and throw on some fishes, large shrimps, even a squid or three. Sur Sur will compliment, alight and walk astride. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d’Avola 2020, DOC Sicilia

Sherazade, or Scheherazade is the fictional wife of a sultan and the narrator of the tales in the Arabian Nights. The Nero d’avola is taken from western Sicily’s Contessa Entellina Estate and nearby vineyards. Mixed cultures’ spice and exotica are the aromatic potpourri this calls home and nothing else scents as this. Nothing else is also so inviting, casting its varietal line and reeling you in to inhale, sip, smile and exhale. Red wine as aperitivo, unencumbered, calming and even a little bit divine. Track three, The French Dispatch, Alexandre Desplat. Drink 2022-2025.   Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Tancredi 2017, Terre Siciliane IGT

Tancredi, that exceptional Italian name is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, local nero d’Avola, tannat and ”other grapes,” field-ish so to speak, born in Donnafugata’s place of origin, Contessa Entellina Estate. Deeper in barrel, fruit substance, time and thought. All varieties well put, organized and once in conflagration now smouldering seamlessly together. What may have been an ignited engine of brush, tar and pressed juices is still tight and intense, raging in acidity and just now emerging with local style. Plenty of savour too, a western Sicilian kind, challenging the olfactory, making a concerted request for more time. Bordeaux, Madiran and Santa Margherita di Belice mixed, matched and melded together. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Parco Statella by day

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 2018, Rosso Sicilia DOC

Mille E Una Notte (1001 nights), a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, a.k.a. the Arabian Nights. A Contessa Entellina Estate near Santa Margherita di Belice blend of nero d’Avola, petit verdot, syrah and in the typical Donnafugata field blend idiom, also inclusive of “other grapes.” The deepest and most profound if brooding and structured of the estate’s reds while also hauntingly familiar, succulent and beautiful. Clearly one of Sicily’s most age-worthy red wines, reeking of roses and steaming in highlands acidities. To say tasting 2018 this early in its tenure does little to open the gates of knowledge or pleasure would be a vast understatement but these many nights hint at hidden treasure, meaning and the aforementioned beauty. A serious wine with endless time laid out ahead. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted April 2022

L’Etna

Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2019, Etna Rosso DOC

The Rosso from L’Etna’s northern slope near Montelaguardia is essentially nerello mascalese though there is a small percentage of cappuccio involved. From vineyards adjacent the stunning Parco Statella to the east of the village of Passopisciaro. Alberello-trained vines mix with volcanic rock terraces, grazing sheep and the wild ferla. Really quite precise varietal, location and lava coming together in a Rosso that exhibits the limit of Etna’s volcanic savour. Really brushy and herbal, fruit singing a ripe acid song, slinging arrows of basaltic intensity, creating a true to form and peace experience. A broad brushstroke of Etna Nord and yet one with vim, victory and relish. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2019, Etna Bianco DOC

Sul Vulcano, below L’Etna on the north slope, 100 per cent estate grown carricante adjacent the Parco Statella in Montelaguardia. Classic varietal profile, at once rich and then salty, volcanic soils and elevation so very present, buoyant and presenting this dramatic white wine. Richer and riper than some, vintage related and directed to be sure. Not so much croccante as much as being scorrevole for carricante, mid-palate and aromatic twin split between pomelo-mandarin and ferla-broom. Some structure here so wait a year and drink through the decade. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Vineyards adjacent Parco Statella

Donnafugata Fragore Contrada Montelaguardia 2019, Etna Rosso DOC

The single vineyard Fragore is an Etna Rosso out of the Montelaguardia contrada that announces itself with an ascoltami ruggire, in other words a roar. But a quietly controlled one, like a lion resting, expressing its content with the moment, using voice to engage, not warn. Take the Etna Rosso normale, improve and compress upon it multi-fold, concentrate all that savour, hillside naturalism and herbology, take things to an entirely unimaginable next level. This is the roar of Fragore, in control of emotions and sensibilities. Like a passegiata through Parco Statella on a windy Etna Spring day. An impressive vintage if just a bit barrel controlled, intimating fine chocolate and dusty espresso, needing time to integrate. Drink 2024-2031. Tasted April 2022

Vittoria

Donnafugata Floramundi 2019, Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG

As per the Sicilian DOCG a blend of nero d’avola and frappato grown in the southeastern sector, the latter made deeper and more profound by the former. What may be lost in sheer consumer attack-ability is gained through strength and vigour. Cerasuolo is meant to concentrate but also percolate, simmering two complimentary varieties in liquid layers, increasingly volumetric and akin to new thought music in a red blend of moods. No Donnafugata’s does not exist by dint of such pressed heights because it persists in airy, openly fragrant and flute singing tones. A best of both worlds appellative juncture is met, acquiesced and compressed. Give it time or simply air to enjoy. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Bell’Assai 2020, Vittoria DOC Frappato

Pure frappato from southeastern Sicily, fragrant and perfumed to the proverbial hilt and so bloody inviting. The freshest of summer strawberries, violets at peak and if aromatics could talk they would say hello. Juicy and justifiably tart, those peppery florals candied, inclusive of pansy and nasturtium. A veritable bouncing, fanciful and buzzing throttle frappato yet so easy to sip back. Inspiring. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Graci

Graci Etna Bianco DOC 2021

Graci’s viticultural epicentre is Contrada Arcurìa but they also grow in four other Etna north communes. The all-purpose Bianco is 85 per cent carricante with (15) catarratto harvested mid-October (on average) and raised in only stainless steel for nine months, on the lees. My how those lovely lees drive this wine, texturizing the local grapes and directing all the traffic. Rarely does an Etna Bianco recall Chablis but here is one in all glory and reminiscence. Fresh, luxe fruit round and abounding, mild yogurt to crème frâiche character derived by the infiltrations of those positive yeasts. Just salty enough to remind of the place in a generalized and beneficial way. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Parco Statella friends

Graci Etna Rosato DOC 2021

Etna Rosato comes from 100 per cent mascalese and the only grapes harvested in September. Just a soft press, no skin contact maceration and ultimately a salty, easy, light and rustic rose coloured meeting flavoured mingling with texture Rosato. Just what you want to drink in the sun, anytime after 11:00 am, preferably with the volcano looming above. Or anywhere the sun might hit in your place of living. Meets the non-plussed demands of delicious and satisfying, two most important blush ideals. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC 2020

From Alberto Graci in Passopisciaro, with vineyards in five contrade, Feudo di Mezzo, Santo Spirito, Mugnazzi, Arcurìa and Barbabecchi. A spontaneous varietal nerello mascalese in every way, from fermentation through emotive spirit. Smells like L’Etna by way of 18 months spent in grandi botti (tini), fruit skin musky, salumi curative and mint-scented without being minty. Fine acid crunch and fruit persistence, intensity yet in control, driven and determined. Clearly top echelon Rosso untethered to any one specific tract of contrada soil. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Bianco DOC Arcurìa 2020

Arcurìa is central to Graci’s farm and work, a contrada location on L’Etna’s northern slope at 600 to 700m of elevation. For Bianco only carricante is used, harvested mid-October, half in small wood and half in stainless, 12 months on lees followed by 12 in bottle. As a cool and windy place it refreshes, revitalizes and breathes great air into the carricante, joining forces with the multifarious volcanic soils to instil great salinity and ariosità in the Bianco. Even though it sees longer lees aging as compared to the normale there is less frâiche and more freshness but also depth, determination and desire. Great bite, snap and acutezza. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Bianco DOC Muganazzi 2020

Mugnazzi is Graci’s secret weapon property, five and a half hectares in Passopiscaro, once owned by Ettore Majorana, the “brilliant and mysterious gentleman.” Three of those are planted to carricante at 700m, harvested around the same time as Arcurìa, destined to shake, rattle and roll this Etna Bianco. Takes the grape and volcano to the next level, both in mineral salinity but also luxuriousness of substantial, fleshy and concentrated fruit. The most aromatic of the bianci, orchard and even exotics mingling with sea, lava and air. There is no end or conclusion to this Mugnazzi for it is both inspiring and one to take a breath away. Very special Etna Bianco indeed. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa 2019

Arcurìa is the homefront contrada location, flagship vineyard, late harvested nearing October’s finish and 100 per cent nerello mascalese. In the middle of 600 and 700m, on five types of layered volcanic mille-feuille, connected to the village of Passopisciaro. The best mascalese plants and rows are chosen for this single contrada Rosso, an Etna that takes the cumulative Rosso to a higher level of focus, preciseness and northerly understanding. This IS Graci, fruit and cure like a recipe passed down through generations, even if Alberto Graci is the family pioneer, at least in this place. Lightly chalky tannins present a structured notion for a Rosso that must be, has to be, can only be Arcurìa. Textured to settle on the palate and fortified just enough to explain something extra about the land. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022\

Walking on basalt

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Feudo Di Mezzo 2019

In Feudo di Mezzo a wholly antithetical experience is had, ninety degrees to the west from full on northerly Arcurìa, ancient and early vines of 80 years or more growing at 600m, sharing the already tiny 1.5 hectare space with free and sky reaching nerello cappuccio growing as alberello. The oppositional character does not end there, what with the finer soils, less volcanic variegation and earlier to ripen location. And so the (95 per cent) nerello mascalese plus cappuccio Rosso is blessed of fruit breadth, round, circulating and enriching acidity, not to mention luxurious tannins. Feudo di Mezzo makes for some of the volcanic idiom’s most generous and lavish Rosso with this by Graci up there with the best. Longer maceration and full acceptance of the large barrels make this a most impressive Rosso to gain and gather friends. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Jimmy

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa Sopra Il Pozzo 2017

Sopra il Pozzo describes a special portion of the signature Arcurìa vineyard (and contrada of the same name), a block “above the well,” 100 per cent nerello mascalese picked in the last week of October. Treated to the same maceration and elévage as the Rosso for the same spontaneous style and time as Feudo di Mezzo. However Sopra il Pozzo’s refuse soil composition is different and requires patience in the name of time, due to its alternating layers of decomposed volcanics in stone and coarse sand. This is a section of recast material and the corresponding mascalese is both emasculated and chivalrous. The degree to which layers of fruit, mineral and umami incorporare and completare is finite and contiguous yet also lengthy, scorrevole and endless. There is rare Etna glycerin texture and perfectly timed acid tang. tempismo perfetto. Grande. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno

Calcagno Etna Bianco DOC Ginestra 2020

Ginestra, a.k.a Genista aetnensis, the Mount Etna broom. A no wood, only stainless Etna Bianco spent time on lees and yet freshness of airy and open character abounds. And so a saltiness and a mineral wealth mix with typically lime blossom floral and spicy scents. Classic unadulterated and naked carricante, citrus streaking, tight, tart and satisfying. Could drink and relish this Bianco seven days a week. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno Etna Bianco Superiore DOC Primazappa 2019

Primazappa comes from the commune of Milo, incidentally the only Etna area where it is allowed to bottle as Etna Bianco Superiore. A varietal carricante off of 30-40 year-old vines grown on both alberello and spalliera at 850m, picked in late September. The volcanic soils are quite weathered, decomposed and sandy, with a decided micro-mineral effect on this wood-aged and seriously flinty Bianco. Takes on a whole new appellative and stylistic meaning, clearly designed to age and enter another new Bianco world apart. Simultaneously smouldering and buzzing with mineral salts, fleshing if not yet quite fleshy. The curiosity and potentiality factors in this Bianco are developing and climbing off the charts. A bit wild now, it should settle into something really special. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Sicilian blood orange for what ails

Calcagno Etna Rosato DOC Romice Delle Sciare 2020

Romice refers to a Sicilian grass species and delle Sciare literally “of skiing” so clearly a Rosato referencing the flora and also the high Etna slopes. A north side, salty, sapid and pink pink citrus slinging nerello mascalese, infinitely fulfilling and drinkable. Acids sling right along and balance is had by all, including sugars and fragrant fruits. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno is the life work of Franco, Gianni and Giusy Calcagno, two brothers and a daughter, first vintage being 2006, now a full grown concern. From the Contrada Calderara the mixed soil consists of black pumice and basalt. Perhaps made most famous by Cottanera but never sleep on the passion and torch passing into this generation of Calcagno hands. Cherries and red fruit in concentration could never be dismissed and in fact must be celebrated in a nerello mascalese of sweet intoxication. I really wanna know this Rosso, I really wanna go with this mascalese, my sweet Calderara. Fresh and grounded, effusive and espansivo, meeting at both poles, one mission gained. Implosive Rosso from the famiglia and one to savour after many other wannabes have walked heavy in their soles and commercialized their souls. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Terroir

Calcagno Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa 2019

Arcurìa contrada is a late October harvested cru for nerello mascalese grown at elevations between 600 and 700m, on five types of multi-layered volcanic soils associated with the village of Passopisciaro. The Calcagno profile is consistent with Calderara in red fruit as if cherries especially are prominent and yet sour-savoury and botanical tonic elements change the complexion of this particular Rosso. Less generous and effusive if more serious and even structured results. No, not the same wine at all, even if it is distinguished as being from Calcagno. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno Etna Rosso DOC Feudo Di Mezzo 2019

Feudo di Mezzo is neither Calderara nor Arcurìa, here much smaller plots of alberello vineyards with their twisted and ancient vines 60, 70 even 80 years or more growing at 600m.The nerello msacalese often shares space with less dominant and texture thickening cappuccio but most notable is the salumi and red fruit skin musk aromatics of these Rosso. There is nothing like Feudo di Mezzo, characterful, distinct, knowable and just plain funky. In a 70s bass beat way, not quite G.Q. but perhaps Love Train style. Calcagno’s is really special FdM, reaching for greatness and making itself noticed. Don’t sleep on this cru “‘cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you, well.” Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Scirto

Scirto Don Pippinu Bianco Carricante 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

From the Contrada Feudo di Mezzo and also Contrada Porcaria, at 650m on L’Etna’s north slope, planted in the 1930s. Soils are black volcanic sand, sub-acidic, skeletal, rich in potassium and poor in organic matter. Don Pippinu is a name attributed to Giuseppe Scirto’s grandfather and the wine is made from carricante, catarratto and white minnella. Ages for 10-12 months in steel and in the bottle. Just a raw white assemblage with no strings attached save for 100 years of history and a little bit of skin contact. No volatile distraction to speak of but yes this wine settles on the palate like a dissolving citrus, chamomile and orange blossom salve. Not loathe but perhaps reticent to use the word natural though how else to explain this thing of delicasse, elixir of kind heart and vial of virility. Acids are purely substrata drive, flavours layered by lava and mixed white grapes so in touch with one another’s realities. Peak performance happens late, often and with persistence. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Scirtu All’Anticas Vino Della Tradizione Nerello Mascalese 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

The term is “Rosso della Tradizione” or “Vino della Tradizione,” in other words Rosato. You have to look at and consider tradition where a certain style of Rosato is concerned and in Etnean terms this is a wine that must also be looked at under a Rosato lens. Still a matter of ungrafted 80-100 year old nerello mascalese (here with some cappuccio) subjected to 36 hours of skin contact. Where this diverges from a wine like the Don Pippinu Rosso is in the foggy, murky, uncharted, uncooked and untested waters of varietal sensitivity. And aromatics, here rising, inciting and inviting investigation. There is also a matter on minor Brettanomyces not present in the other Scirto wines. So yes tradition is on display, as is an unbending relationship for which control and sulphuring are not going to happen. Terrific aromatic display, mostly floral but also old vines and volcanic induced fruit substance but the palate is a world apart and to its own. That said it oscillates, wavers and delivers new complexities each and every time sipped. Curiosity takes on a whole new meaning. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Un’altra fetta d’amore

Scirtu Don Pippinu Rosso Nerello Mascalese 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

Scirto is the work of Giuseppe Scirto and Valeria Franco near Passopisciaro, with grapes since 2010 and from vineyards inherited from their grandparents. They have vines in Feudo di Mezzo and Porcaria, mainly nerello mascalese. Don Pippinu comes from a tiny plot of ungrafted 80-100 year old nerello mascalese and nothing off of the north slope of Mount Etna resembles what’s in this glass. Throws a light sediment, its hue is orange sky pastel at dawn and a flirtatious volatility marks the nose. Opens to an earthy if wild berry fragrance and then the salty-geological basaltic rock energy alights, if of a purpose to wake up the palate. Do not be fooled into any commercial space or domain for this is a natural expression of the Feud di Mezzo zone. Not on purpose mind you but a Rosso that is precise and as was unintentionally intended. So much beauty in the complexion of its flaws, a taste into the mirror of what is necessary and also possible. Wouldn’t age this too long but can think of many, many wine geeks who could crush the bottles of such a quietly provocative Rosso. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Scirtu A’Culonna Rosso Nerello Mascalese 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

monument in the centre of the nearby village of Passopisciaro. The volcanic stone was a three-sided carved obelisk indicating directions, to and from Milazzo, Taormina, Randazzo and Palermo. La Colonna was also the meeting place where peasants stopped for a chat and at the same time sold their wine. For Giuseppe Scirto and Valeria Franco it is predominantly nerello mascalese with some cappuccio picked in early October. Fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks using only natural yeasts, then aged 12 months in large and small used oak casks. Not filtered or fined with minimal use of sulphur at bottling. Clearly the most textural, glycerin and fruit pretty Rosso in Giuseppe Scirto’s Siciliane shed, flowers distilled into perfume, curious berry caramels swirling through the flavour profile. The swarthiness while there is perfectly seasoned and in check, the lasting impression is good, intuitive and reasoned one. A’Culonna is the bomb. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoltore Versante Nord Uve Bianche 2020, Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT

The white counterpart to the “north slope” cousins is this from old vineyards in six different districts: Pietramarina, Allegracore, Piano Daini, Friera, Zucconero and Marchesa. The red nerello mascalese dominates but the vines are always inclusive of 10-15 per cent white grapes. In this case half minnella (Bianca) equalized and complimented by (50) other endemic varieties, as in carricante, catarratto, inzolia and grecanico. Fine sands of volcanic ash are the product of various and recent lava eruptions. The “Uve Bianche” expresses purposeful clarity and seriously rich Etna intendment, giving away a fleshy and controlled lees-effected texture. The weave has melted and so the seamlessness with which this drinks is second to none. A white of glaze and shine, implosive acid zing and explosive flavour bursts. It’s bloody delicious, so expertly assembled and crafted, professionally and yet subtly designed. Saying yes to this glass is akin to being paid for telling people what you already know. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoltore Versante Nord Nerello Mascalese 2020, Terre Siciliane IGT

Versante Nord, literally “north slope” is nerello mascalese (plus 15 per cent “varietà locali,” in other words nerello cappuccio and friends) from old (50-plus years) vines of the Pietramarina districts in Verzella, Capreri in Castiglione di Sicilia, Zucconero, Piano Daini in Solicchiata, Allegracore in Randazzo and Friera in Linguaglossa. The land is obviously volcanic, of mixed stones, sand and ashes from eruptions, several quite recent. Natural farming and fermentation, picked in the first two weeks of October and a 15 day, free to its own devices skin maceration. This gives the VS a raw feeling but truth be told the Rosso perfectly straddles the lines between the exposed and the sheltered, the volatile and the calm. Tart yet sweetly scented red fruits, edging to pomegranate but also a woven fabric in the mouth that suggests chalkiness, bend-ability and structure. Persistence is the surname, braiding the middle and “ascesa” the given. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoultore Quotan Vino Di Contrada Piede Franco 2020, Rosso Terre Siciliane IGT

Quotan as in “quota” is an apt moniker, a part or personal share, easily discerned for producers on L’Etna and what land they have to use. The wine comes from an old vineyard in Piede Franco, in the Contrada Nave, on the northwest slope of the volcano. Quota N is also the name of the vineyard, Q being the stamp of locally known “roads quota nave.” A most unique assemblage, of half nerello mascalese, 20 per cent grenache and (30) uve bianche, of grecanico, carricante and coda di volpe. Allegedly if obviously lighter, brighter and airy finer than Versante Nord, multi citrus strewn and waxy with both yellow and red citrus giving it all away. Neither Rosato nor full on Rosso, nor somewhere in between but residing all on its own. Not a structured wine but wouldn’t put 10 years past it without something interesting happening, eventually leading to curiosity and pleasure. Crushable in any case, like semi-soft lemonade in the best way. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Tascante

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Pianodario 2019

The vineyard was planted at 775m in 2010 in the contrada of Pianodario, one of four on the northern slope of Mount Etna, between the villages of Montelaguardia and Randazzo. Characterized by a degrading morphology from south to north on volcanics 15,000 and 4,000 years old. It is believed that the substrata is between 40,000 and 30,000 years of age. Pure nerello mascalese here is one of the latest picked in the last days of October, treated to a year in large Slavonian cask. Imagine sangiovese from somewhere like Montalcino but in this varietal world the lightness of being is palpable but also so accepting of the wood. If ever a mascalese from Etna were spoken in pure Sicilian blood orange terms this would be it. Tart yet never sour nor do you feel the acids in any sharp or inflammatory way. Really just purity and clarity, a well seasoned glass that comes from ripe fruit meeting nurturing barrel with the result being one of energy and spirit. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Sciaranuova 2019

Sciaranuova is located between the villages of Montelaguardia and Passopisciaro at 730m and is one of the four contrade (districts) farmed by Tasca on northern Mt. Etna. The terraces of nerello mascalese were planted in 2008 and are generally harvested a week earlier than Piandorio. Less intense, more calming, acids not as sharp and fruit more developed in a Rosso of great stage presence and nurturing feel. Acts with less emotion and more control, delivers the kind of perfume that makes you close your eyes to consider and inhale. Pure wild strawberry and while surely airy and stone-cut there is always something of ease about this wine. Spice in the form of nutmeg and then cinnamon heart give a light white peppery edge but all turns to liquid, seamlessly integrated and finishing long. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted April 2022

Tasca’s Tascante vineyard

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Rampante 2019

This third of three Contrade Rosso farmed and bottled by Tasca on Etna is from a vineyard at 740m between Solicchiata and Passopisciaro. Same volcanic geological time period (between 15,000 and 4,000 years old) but a bit of a swing here towards the east, direction Feudo di Mezzo. Some really old vines exist here and Tasca’s are planted in 2000, making them eight to ten years older than Piandario and Sciaranuova. Also picked a bit earlier, stylistic tighter, wound and wrapped, like a rounded Napoleon or mille-feuille with so much to unravel, uncover and discover. Neither blood orange nor strawberry here but rather currants and pomegranate, with underlying botanical tonics and a layer of organza material. Increased curiosity, elevated enigma and mysteries to unfold. Wait longer on Rampante. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Contrada Rampante

 

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Sciaranuova 2017

Northwesterly Sciaranuova at 730m is found between the villages of Montelaguardia and Passopisciao. These gently sloping terraces of nerello mascalese went in the volcanic soil in 2008 and harvest usually occurs in the second to last week of October. One nose of 2017 and one understands about vintages and also time. If 2019 Sciaranova feels like a nurturing and health affirming nerello mascalese than 2017 writes the proverbial book on the subject. The warmth of the season is to thank but so is two extra years of settling in bottle time. A fleshing and a reckoning have taken place but so have a refreshing and an awakening. It could be thought that ’17 would not have shown this fragrant, open and vital just a year ago but now, well something of a next level rejoicing has occurred. The ’17 is in a right honest, pure and giving place. It should remain here for three, possibly even five years deeper. All this bodes so well for the most excellent ’19. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Vigneti Vecchio

Vigneti Vecchio Etna Doc Rosso Sciare Vive 2020

From Solicchiata on the northeastern slope and the work of Carmelo Vecchio, mainly nerello mascalese with 10 per cent indigenous varieties (including minnella, inzolia, carricante, grecanico, catarratto and malvasia.) As per the disciplinare there can be up to 10 white grapes and in this living, scorrevole sledding Sciare Vive they bring lift, refreshment and a glide across the palate. Takes a page out of the Crasà book with some meaty juices but here they run rare, show little cured meat character and just bloody enliven the energy and spirit of this wine. There is some sneaky structure lurking but my you could really sip the you know what out of this blessed Rosso. Youthfulness does show through in a minor amount of austerity at the finish so let this ’20 rest a while. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Vigneti Vecchio Etna DOC Rosso Crasà Contrada 2019

Carmelo Vecchio and Rosa La Guzzaone farm one hectare of nerello mascalese in Crasà Contrada near Solicchiata on L’Etna’s north slope. Picked later in October, a wild ferment and a quick two week maceration on skins. Adds up to a stylish and perfumed Rosso, vibrant, pulsating and alive. The aromatics are curiously akin to the tightest lambrusco but with running meat juices, tonic, savour and pinpointed local accuracy. Cured meats too, impulsive and implosive fruit internment, definite block of a Contrada’s location intendment, trenchant in many purposed splendour. This Rosso means business and directs its own traffic. No affection or heirs, only truth out of Crasà effectuation. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2020

The eponymous north Etna winery is run by Carmelo Sofia, son to Gioacchino who was born in 1953 in Castiglione di Sicilia. Dad had inherited vineyards in Solicchiata where the Piano dei Daini Contrada is located. Carmelo now has three hectares, two on that volcanic soil and one on clay in the Pietramarina Contrada, just outside of the village. This is vintage number four, all nerello mascalese grown at 600-700m. La Vigna di Gioacchino comes from Piano dei Daini and also Pietramarina, averaging out at 25 years, picked middle of October. Short skin contact, aging in concrete and as a result a level of kept freshness, but also the living, breathing feeling of cured meats and musky red fruit skins. No overt or purposeful structure but a true, honest and highly enjoyable Rosso experience. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2019

The 2019 was Carmelo Sofia’s third vintage in bottle, here from the label dedicated to his father Gioacchino and drawn from the two parcels he farms on Etna’s north slope. Both the volcanics of Piano dei Daini and the clay of Pietramarina Contrada contribute but in 2019 they are so entangled, meshed and together. A terrific vintage to match flesh against bone, substance versus karst and meaty depth in tandem with mineral sway. A brighter and more lifted Gioacchino as compared to 2020, sure it’s got another year under belt but here the layers coordinate and open. Ready for business. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Lava Flow of L’Etna eruption, 1981

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Piano Dei Daini 2020

L’Etna’s north slope is the face of Contrada Piano dei Daini, here being the second vintage for which Carmelo Sofia decided to bottle as a single vineyard Rosso. The block is 65 year-old Alberello nerello mascalese that remains in contact with the skins a half week longer than Gioacchino and again there is no wood, only concrete for aging. Piano dei Daini straddles two worlds like few Etna Rosso can; swarthiness and clarity, lift and precision. Hard not to feel the volatility but it’s just so perfectly judged at the edge of the precipice in teasing, flirting and sly fashion. Whether intentional or nor it matters little because the ability to please both sides of that debate make this a deliciously risky and rewarding nerello mascalese. Confident and obvious, swagger and humility. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Piano Dei Daini 2019

The Contrada Piano dei Daini is on L’Etna’s north slope and Carmelo Sofia first made the decision to bottle a single vineyard/commune Rosso from the oldest (65 year-old) Alberello nerello mascalese in the previous ’18 vintage. Stays in contact with the skins a few days longer but again no wood is used, only concrete for aging. This went to bottle in September of 2021 but it still exhibits a reticence and hesitation to lift. The fruit is leathery and you feel a hidden musk pungency, a fruit meets salumi skin so typical of this vineyard and the volcanic strata it breathes upon. Great potential here, a year and a half away it would seem, before the florals, flavours and highlights begin to align and alight. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted April 2022

My friends are so lazy

Azienda Agricola Sofia La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2021, Terre Siciliane Bianco IGT

Carmelo Sofia’s Bianco scents of a singular set of circumstances and aromas, in part taken from 60-70 year-old Alberello carricante with a few percentage points of catarratto, minella and inzolia. Drawn from Piano dei Daini (volcanic) and also Pietramarina (clay) on the northern Etna range, picked late in September and staying in touch with the lees for the full five months in tonneaux. The crème frâiche quality and lemon curd viscosity are not as in charge as first thought with some (four months) of steely stainless extra time making sure to keep freshness and juicy behaviour a clear and present part of the style. Battles the urge to swirl in yogurt and comes away clean, chewy but clean. Seems like a work in progress to a certain extent, four years into its tenure, with great focus and precision to come. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Arrividerci bella Sicilia

Good to go!

godello

Quarantine Passegiata

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WineAlign

A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

Interactions and conversations with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini over the years have been some of the most pleasurable and heartwarming, but most importantly they have been so very real. Violante’s approach is somewhere between extremely charming and matter of fact, specifically as it pertains to family history, Montalcinese culture and wines being made from two Tuscan estates. Her manner is inclusive and honest, her inherited view of societal matriarchy readily apparent. After all she is the daughter of Donatella Cinelli Colombini, founding mother, goddess and pioneering vigneron of Montalcino.

Godello and Violante

Donatella is the sister of Stefano Cinelli Colombini, proprietor of Fattoria dei Barbi, one of Montalcino’s most important and longest tenured, ancient estates. In 1998 she cast out on her own in the northern sector of Montalcino at the estate of Casato Prime Donne, the first Italian winery staffed entirely by women. In the Orcia Valley sits the second estate called Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. Back in 1998 a cellar master was needed but none were available. That is to say no unemployed men were in search of such a job. This sparked Donatella’s quest. To hire only women, promote equal representation and give life to the Progetto Prime Donne that is made up of four components: Casato Prime Donne winery, Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne, Casato Prime Donne Award and Prime Donne Trail – Ilda Bartoloni Hall.

In 1998 Donatella Cinelli Colombini created a new estate giving it her name while incorporating two properties into one brand; Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. In 2001 and 2002 the two wineries were inaugurated and 34 hectares of vineyard were almost entirely replanted. Donatella’s husband Carlo Gardini was born in Siena and in 2010 concluded his banking career in Florence at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro where he had been in charge of training personnel for the Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo branches. Which brings us to Violante, born in Montalcino in 1984 and graduated in Business and Economics at the University of Florence. After her Masters at OIV (International Organization of Vines and Wine) that took her all around the most famous viticulture areas of the world she now works in the marketing sector of her mother Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s wines. In 2008-2009 she was Tuscan president of the Leo (young Lions). From 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs). In December 2019 she was elected President of AGIVI.

Heart marks the barrel

Sustainability and the Casato Prime Donne Awards

“Many wineries are committed to sustainability but few are capable of communicating it because they make ethical choices out of conviction and not out of marketing.” Donatella is a keen observer of women studying the work of other women, in this case a case project carried out by (Valpolicella’s) Marta Galli of Le Ragose at Milan’s University of the Sacred Heart, together with professors Roberta Sebastiani and Alessia Anzivino. The study in 2021 concluded that for many producers (in this case female producers) showed great respect for the environment and support for local communities, but as a way of living and working, not a marketing tool. Eco-sustainable choices are more widespread than they appear because they are not put in the spotlight. Donatella’s ultimate conclusion? “Choices regarding environmental, social and economic sustainability are part of us, of our way of being and are not dictated by marketing. I like to think that it is a widespread attitude, especially among women.”

Nature and nurture of Casato Prime Donne

After a two year Covid hiatus the 22nd annual Casato Prime Donne Awards were presented to three Italian journalists, given to those who have contributed to the affirmation of the new role and new contribution of women to society and the world of work. “The award has now the new “mission” of incubator of local talents. The goal is to stimulate young Tuscan people, strengthening their motivations, giving training and visibility opportunities so that their success becomes a positive example for their peers.” Chiara Beghelli was chosen for the podcast on “Il Sole 24 Ore” on 23.01.2022 in which she talks about Brunello di Montalcino following the Wine Intelligence investigation. The second recipient was Aldo Fiordelli for numerous articles including “Il Divin Brunello now also has its temple,” published in the newspaper “Corriere Fiorentino” on 10-07-2021. The third winner was Elena Testi, who covered the Covid front, then migrants and then Ukraine for Tagadà La7.

Theatre in the cellar

After a trip to Abruzzo this past June I made my way up to Montalcino for the Rosso Anteprima. Over the last several years I had tasted with Donatella and Violante, hosted Zoom seminars with them on as guests and corresponded with mom and daughter. But I had not visited Casato Prime Donne. Ahead of the opening Red Montalcino evening journalists’ dinner at Il Giglio I had time for one visit. There was zero doubt as to which Montalcino producer that needed to be. Violante obliged and on a breezy June 10th afternoon she fetched me on Via Soccorso Saloni for a few hours afternoon passeggiare at Casato Prime Donne, followed by a tasting of 10 wines.

Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Sanchimento 2020, Toscana IGT

One hundred per cent traminer planted in the early 1980s down by the chapel in Trequanda by Violante Gardini’s grandfather Fausto Cinelli who received the property of Fattoria del Colle from his mother Lelia Socini. Violante’s mother Donatella has talked about living at Colle, tough at first “but right from the beginning strange things began happening, practically saying welcome, we have been waiting for you for a long time.” After white grapes could no longer be used with sangiovese for Chianti Fausto didn’t like the way his trebbiano made a white table wine. He planted traminer instead, if only as a trial at the beginning. Sanchimento in dialect is a simpler medieval way of saying San Clemente. So very aromatic, even for traminer, a bowl of yellow fruit, notable grape hyperbole and so refreshing. Less metallic and juicier than northern counterparts. Grandfather made a good choice. Made by the same women who make the wines at Donatella Cinelli Colombini under the consultancy of Valeri la Vigna. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Leone Rosso 2019, DOC Orcia

A wine dedicated to the Socini family in a blend of 60 per cent sangiovese and 40 merlot, fermented in stainless steel, aged just a few months in Slavonian oak. From the Fattoria Del Colle Estate at Trequanda in the Orcia Valley right in the middle between Montalcino and Montepulciano. Dark fruit, feels like raspberry, smooth and lightly peppery, juicy and easy. The kind of wine you choose “when you want to have fun,” simple stated and rendered with uncomplicated food, a slice of pizza or a piece of fish in tomato. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Looking east from Casato Prime Donne

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Il Drago E Le 8 Colombe 2019, Toscana IGT

Dedicated to Violante Gardini’s father Carlo. A blend of 60 per cent sangiovese with (20 each) merlot and sagrantino, all grown at Fattoria del Colle in Treqaunda. The sagrantino are vines taken from Marco Caprai in Umbria. Brings the spiciness, adding to the verdancy and roundness of merlot, both to compliment the acidity and elegance of the sangiovese. A complete package, affectionately referred to as le ali della colomba, the wings of the dove and then, the teeth of the dragon. Perhaps papa was sometimes tough and sometimes gentle but truth is in a sea of women he’s the only man in the office and on the team. Always a solid and delicious red blend, satiating and satisfying. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

The reds of Fattoria del Colle Trequanda

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Cenerentola 2018, DOC Orcia

Fattoria del Colle was where Sant’Egidio from Querciola made his hermitage, a saint from the XII century about whom very little is known. Livio Socini bought the estate in 1919 because “it was a real bargain.” As a wine from this Trequanda location Cenerentola (meaning Cinderella) was born in 2001, around the same time as the Orcia Consorzio. Her fairytale story is one of winning the prince, who chooses her over her two nasty sisters. The label shows a woman with no face, a pictorial allegory depicting an idea that if you put in all your efforts you can succeed and perhaps also win the prince. The blend is 65 per cent sangiovese and 35 fogliatonda, similar (in DNA only) but surely not the same. A richer, deeper and grippier red as compared with the Leone Rosso, acidity totally different and due to the fogliatonda acting out its passion play as a more beefy, pumped up and macho grape. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

“We need to explain that this is a wine that is very different than the Brunello and during the harvest we decide which grapes will be for Rosso and for Brunello.” The words of Violante Gardini introduce a wine that respects nature in a very specific vintage, made for freshness, fun and not as a baby Brunello. “Otherwise it will be a disaster. It must have identity, to show this wine in a different way.” The vintage gains importance 2020 because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. It does not try too hard, nor is it asked to do too much. Extraction is low, oak usage big, in botti. Donatella would like the consumer to drink this young but this vintage will do well for a minimum three plus years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

This Brunello is 38,000 bottles while the Prime Donne is only 3,000 and the third Annata (Progetto) is 3,300 (in 2017) to a maximum of 10,000 bottles made from a blind tasting by four women (including two masters of wine, Madelaine Stenwreth and Rosemary George) sampling top quality sangiovese aged in different barrels. This largest quantity Brunello was picked at exact maturation time, requiring 18 pickers and no stopping until the harvest was done. Freshness, aromatic clarity from northern Montalcino and equilibrium are the result. Bigger than many vintages with acidity captured through that haste plus fine, if still somewhat austere tannins. As good as it gets for the vintage in this style. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva means “the best of the best, thinking about the future and expressing sangiovese in a wine that will become one for celebration. It must tell the story of a long life, eventually with more things to say.” As if one needed a clarification about a Donatella Riserva and yet these words from daughter Violante place you in a frozen trance, if only until the next wine is poured. Tannins are still in charge but the wine is beginning a new chapter. Look ahead one year for new words in and out of the glass.  Last tasted June 2022

The purest sangiovese of greatest clarity for the Donatella classics is this Riserva, not just because it comes from 2016 but for the very fact that time has had a great effect in resolving the special needs of such a wine. What’s so very special about a Casato Prime Donne Brunello di Montalcino is the complex weave of northerly fruit, swarthy sumptuousness and textural crema. Never more on display then in this Riserva and from this vintage, bright and you can almost sense the smile on the face of this expressive and inviting wine. Also structured with great sneak and sly movement, sure, unlike the others, so beautifully crafted, painted as opposed to sculpted. Timeless. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

Riserva is a wine “to celebrate the best moments of your life” explains Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini and in this case of more structured vintages you would have to exercise more patience. Those rigid sangiovese will be even better in the future but if you want to taste a superstar Riserva right now you can choose 2015 for such an experience. Just now entering this stage though not without continuing grip and plenty of pop. Boundless energy, warming and with chewy fruit all the way through. Definitely evolving faster than 2016 yet still quite a ways away from 2013. Even so both are in “the zone.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Riserva is about times that will come. “Maybe you tell a story today that you will describe differently at another time in your life, or something new or different will become evident in those times.” Now fully entrenched in the secondary tales of its life, still with great pulse and presence. Some dried fruit and baking spice, good tart edges and boundless character.  Last tasted June 2022

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino “Io Sono Donatella” DOCG 2015

The first vintage of Io Sono Donatella was 2010, as a response to journalist comments on wines that were “different.” And so Donatella decided to say this is what I am and who I am. It remembers studying gold and enamels from the Middle Ages. Also made in 2012, 2013 and 2016. This ’15 is the current vintage made from only barrel. This is Brunello and not a Riserva, aged no more than 26 months and finished in cement eggs. The best expression of what Donatella likes and wants, from the vineyard, but then the women place hearts on the barrels to signify which she is to choose from. The most concentration but even more important is this tightly wound spool of acid and tannin making for the most profound barrel expression of Donatella’s Brunelli. Certainly more power and longevity here as compared to the other ‘15s. Wait two years. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!

godello

From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

What comes next for the wines of South Africa?

A deep dive into the wine regions of the Western Cape, chenin blanc, and a Buyers’ Guide to South African wines

This feature was commissioned by Wines of South Africa, as seen on WineAlign

 

Several years back I commented that “the act of intense immersion into any important wine-producing nation and its diverse regional expressions can only leave a lasting impression if the follow-up takes a long, cool sip of its meaning.”

That was just the beginning of what I hoped to be a life-lasting fascination with South African wine and, seven years later, I can safely say the journey is going very well, if still only in the early stages of deep understanding. Just about exactly two months from today I will return to the Western Cape to rekindle, reconnect and extend my relationship with South African winemakers and their fascinating wines. Curiosity, anticipation and excitement have never been greater and so the questions is worth asking: What comes next for the wines of South Africa? At current the only answer forthcoming is how Cape Wine 2022 will be the most lekker experience of the year.

In all their combined iterations, the wines of South Africa are exciting communicators of heritage, history, emotions and declarative attacks. Collectively they spread with ripples like a large rock dropped into a pool of water. They are the beneficiary of effects created by two oceans and the great ancient, preeminent, decomposed and weathered soils found anywhere on this planet. Maturity is breathed into every phrase these wines are wont to play.

Growing regions of the Western Cape

South Africa is a medium-sized country that would fit into Canada eight times. It has a diverse population of 58 million people and is affectionately known as the ‘Rainbow Nation,’ a phrase aptly coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Wine growing is limited to the southwestern region of South Africa, in the Western Cape Province, which is an area roughly the size of Greece. South Africa has been making wine for more than 360 years. The first grapes were pressed in 1659. The wines reflect the best of the old and the new; they present fruit-forward styles with elegance and finesse. The South African wine industry is one of the most technically advanced in the world of wine. There is an extremely rigorous Wine of Origin Certification Scheme, introduced in 1973, which guarantees that the wine is what it is designated or described. Each bottle carries a certification seal to guarantee that the claims regarding vintage, variety and origin on the packaging are true. South Africa has more certified Fairtrade wines than any other country. That is to say their products “guarantee a minimum price to cover the costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium to invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities.”

There are five officially demarcated regions of production — they are delineated based on the massive variations in soil, climate and location. The regions are: Breede River Valley, Coastal, Klein Karoo, Olifants River and Boberg. There is a commitment to environmentally sustainable wine production and wines can be certified by Sustainable Wine South Africa, which is part of the Wine and Spirit Board. The designation refers to grapes which are produced in harmony with nature, which allows vineyards to flourish alongside their natural habitat. The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative is a unique partnership between conservation bodies and the wine industry.

Cape Floral Kingdom – A World Heritage Site

More than 95 percent of the wine is produced in the Cape Floral Kingdom, where there are more than 10,000 indigenous plant species, more than reside in the entire Northern Hemisphere. This Kingdom has been created by a diversity of soils, produced from granite, sandstone and shale; as well as a diversity of climates and geography. This, in turn, has created a treasure trove of winemaking possibilities. As a result, South African wines have a huge array of flavour and aroma profiles, which lead to wines with intriguing character and drinkability.

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc

While so many grape varieties take hold with utmost promise in the Western Cape, there is but one that persists, unwavering and timeless. Yes, it is true that grape varieties such as grenache, cinsault, syrah, pinotage, sémillon and many others are apt at aligning with covenant to their old vine sources but there can be little argument against chenin blanc residing at the top of that list, Chenin is the greatest beneficiary of age, fortitude and focus as provided by the old vine experience. The list of Western Cape chenin sites from Stellenbosch, Swartland, Citrusdal Mountains, Darling, Hemel & Aarde Ridge, Breedekloof, Bot Rivier, Walker Bay, Cederberg, Paarl and Robertson, reads like a biblical scroll; Bottelary Hills, Granite Hill, Helderberg, Kapteinskloof, Kasteelberg, Paardeberg, Perdeberg, Riebeek-Kasteel and Skurfberg. The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, and can perform well in warm and dry conditions. The signature grape variety is South Africa’s golden ticket to global recognition and success. No other varietal message speaks with as much clarity and consistency than that of chenin blanc.

Stellenbosch vines and heritage vines planted in the 1970s and before are now performing at their best. Johan Reyneke speaks of the illness that had been running through South African soils and how he sought to build immunity and disease resistance through a holistic farming approach. Things did not transform overnight, so fathers and neighbours may have doubted the long, arduous and yet understood process. But it is that organic and sustainable approach for which today’s health and prosperity can be thanked. When it comes to searching for chenin blanc plant material, vineyard sourcing can be quite broad, of multifarious soil types and elevations, 40 to 50 year blocks on average, sometimes also including old vine sémillon. The distance from the first to the last vineyard in a chenin blanc cuvée might be 200 kilometres or more but, when brought together well, magic often happens.

Windy places help in so many respects, allowing a larger canopy to remain in place and exaggerate the dappling effect which chenin blanc so dearly loves. Reyneke’s is South Africa’s oldest Demeter-certified biodynamic winery, with vineyards on the top of an ancient granite mound and on less weathered soils lower in the valley floors. The vine struggle is real, a positive one for the wines and ultimately for wine lovers. Granite soils further up the Stellenbosch hills are less colluvial, really old and weathered, predating microbial life. The vines produce lower yields and the weathered earth gives life to chenin blanc. For Mullineux Wines and a Cape chenin blanc assemblage, it gives meaning to the gathered idea, like an AOC Chablis made by a houses in names of Fèvre, Drouhin, Moreau or La Chablisienne. Mullineux’s twist is the back blending with some old barrel ferments to balance new and “other” fruit components. A chenin blanc may be bottled the same year it was picked though that’s easier to do so in the southern hemisphere, where harvest happens in the first quarter months. The reasons are simple. Intense investigations through schist, granite and old vines floats the boat and raises the bar for more professional and accessible chenin blanc cuvées. With older heritage vines involved, as is the case for Chris and Suzaan Alheit, the concentration and density of the vines is inherent. The use of heritage material is the South African version of Atticism; that is a return to classical methods and rhythms in making really old chenin, but also the likes of sémillon.

Chardonnay vineyards in Robertson

Cap Classique

One of the sparkling wine world’s most important and impressive categories in origin is no longer called Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), but now Cap Classique. This South African term indicates a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. As it stands, Cap Classique must age on the lees for a minimum 12 months to be labelled as such, though this number will surely extend once the realization sets in that more is better. Cap Classique produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. In Champagne the annual production is somewhere in the vicinity of 350 million bottles so compare this to South Africa where a fraction of that amount is released to the tune of seven or eight million. Méthode Cap Classique bottles are made by 100-odd producers, 73 of which are listed on the website for the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA), an organization established in 1992. The name was derived from the fact that the classic art of winemaking was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots, and the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine produced at the Cape was called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle).

It’s also very much a wine about terroir. In Stellenbosch the sparkling is often made from early picked, old vines chenin blanc grown on Duplex soils, colluvial decomposed granite overlapping gravelly clay. Ask Ken Forrester and he will tell you the gravels allow for good draining and the clays deliver a time release of water. All this helps during drought and the restriction of water creates texture on the palate. There are pioneers like Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira who are attacking with Brut Zero style “based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne.” For others, like For Christa Von La Chevallerie, it’s a matter of “how far I can go with [the combination of] chenin and lees.”

“We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum time on lees should be raised to 15 months. As for sugar dosage, he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” Ferreira has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but, more importantly, the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. As for Gerber, he will say “sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” “For Brut we have to extend [the lees aging time] to 60 months,” explains Ferreira. “So there is no lipstick or eye shadow. ”For a deeper dive into Cap Classique please read my article post Cape Wine 2018.

Bot Rivier 

Bot Rivier lies southeast of Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10 kilometre radius of one another. Here chenin blanc might be crafted with just a hint of residual sugar (at just above 5 g/L), to balance the effects of a long, slow, ocean-proximate Bot Rivier growing season.

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc

Elgin

There is so much diversity in the Capelands. There are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow, Stan Getz, Ahmad Jamal, Dexter Gordon flow. Elgin also has layering, in riesling, pinot noir and chardonnay. The wines glide with cool climate ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless style.

Elgin’s Paul Cluver seems to be the first to label his chardonnay with the Bourgogne “Villages” idea. This tells us much about what we need to know — that Elgin vineyards are the fruit source if not site specific or singularly focused. But he also finds precision with his Seven Flags and Close Encounter wines. The wines of Thelema (and Sutherland) do the same, curating classic Elgin cool savour running linear like a beam through the joist of structure.

The Helderberg, Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch in undoubtedly South Africa’s most well-known region and home to the eponymous town that is the country’s second-oldest town. It sits a mere 50 kilometres southeast of Cape Town, capital of the Western Cape. Stellenbosch is the lushest of the Cape’s valleys, home to more than 200 wine producers and surrounded by the Drakenstein and Stellenbosch mountains. False Bay acts as the mitigator of this Mediterranean climate, creating ideal wine-growing conditions where just about any sort of grape variety can achieve ripeness. The reds of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz predominate on the granite-based soils farther west, while chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc thrive in the sandstone soils of the east.

Swartland Independents

Swartland

The Swartland is Afrikaans for “Black Land,” so named because of the dark grey endemic renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that covers the landscape and turns black after the rains. The region of the Western Cape begins some 50 kms north of Cape Town and consists of the area between the towns of Malmesbury to the south, Darling in the west and Piketberg in the north. Home to the Cape’s greatest of wine revolutions, followed by a swinging era — and what comes next is anybody’s guess. What we do know is that the Swartland’s decomposed shales and granites provide some of the most existential and powerful growing sites in all of South Africa.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains, Franschhoek, South Africa

Buyers’ Guide to Wines of South Africa

Over the past two months there have been several opportunities to taste a wide range of wines from South Africa. Andrea Mullineux came through Toronto to give a seminar on chenin blanc, VINTAGES has seen releases with a dozen various examples and the WineAlign team recently tasted a box of stunning values. Just last week I taught a seminar on South Africa and poured five seminal wines. Here is a Buyers’ Guide that includes chenin blanc, Cap Classique, Bot Rivier, Elgin, Stellenbosch, Swartland and the Western Cape.

Western Cape

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$13.35, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – Hard to knock the consistency but even more so the varietal representation and transparency of this perennial steal of a chenin blanc. Fruit that sings, bones that stand upright and just textural enough to make you feel like chenin can do no wrong.

Spier Signature Chardonnay 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$13.35, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – Labeled as Western Cape though kind of essentially Stellenbsoch from Spier in a chardonnay of green apple, dried herbs and lime. A hint of reduction and then bitters and while not fleshy this is surely satisfying.

Franschhoek Cellar Statue De Femme Sauvignon Blanc 2020, W.O. Western Cape
$16.99, Perigon Beverage Group
Michael Godel – Franschhoek does sauvignon very well, not as cool as say Elgin but surely (on average) more complex than Stellenbosch. Note the elongated phenols and terpenes in this most stimulating and succulent sauvignon blanc. Steal of a deal.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2019, W.O. Western Cape
$59.95, Groupe Soleil
Michael Godel –  Soil excellency layers in oscillations, waves and variegation in one of South Africa’s most curious to crafty blends in which chenin blanc is the focus to the core. You feel the sémillon, indeed you do because it streaks through the chenin, but not as a sprinter or a shooting star. Cartology is a correlated, traced and tabulated white blend that stands up to be counted.

Fairview Goats Do Roam Red 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$14.00, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Rhône blend based on syrah and the stylistic departure from the past to be über rich and dark is now more a matter of bright and effusive. Black fruit is now red, tar and tension given way to open and generous. Loving the modern acids, clarity, purity and simplicity.

Bot Rivier 

Beaumont Wines Chenin Blanc 2021, W.O. Bot Rivier
$29.95, The Small Winemakers Collection
Michael Godel – Hard to conceive and thus receive more aridity on the aromatics, surely flinty, part gun and part struck granite stone. Stretches this chenin blanc like the pull of elastics or fior di latte. Also herbal, sweetly so, with a chanterelle apricot note in the freshest of fungi specimens. Acids take over, spit and shine over this wise and elongated wine.

Elgin

Paul Cluver Village Elgin Chardonnay 2020, W.O. Elgin
$25.00, Buyers + Cellars Wine Purveyors
Michael Godel – Taut and tight, nicely reductive, orchard fruit focused with some bite and then a little bit of barrel smoulder. Not a smoky or toasty chardonnay but a balanced one with plenty of local, savour, savoir faire and flavour.

Stellenbosch

Ken Forrester Sparklehorse Cap Classique 2018, W.O. Stellenbosch
$29.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Michael Godel –  This may just be Ken’s most phenolic sparkling wine to date, emitting as a combination of blanched nuts and precious metals. Spent eight months in fermentation followed by 28 further on lees, in bottle. Creates orchard fruit flavours and textures while acidity retention keeps the groove and the balance.

Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – There is a feeling of warmth in Radford Dale’s 2020, not boozy per se yet the feeling is like cold sake going down. Then it’s all roundness and creamy fruit, ease and utter culpability.

Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$29.95, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Johan Reyneke’s chenin blanc is his and his alone, of South Africa’s first biodynamic winery and a level of say it as it is passion that can’t be touched. More like do as I do and Reyneke’s takes no liberties, asks no favours, gives and gives again. Spices and textural meanderings are concentrated and greater. An exotic notion as well, like ripe longan fruit and then a compound flavour profile going on forever.

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, W.O. Stellenbosch
$49.00, Family Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – A barrel fermented style that shows in a flinty, caramel and pineapple way, part Burgundy plus California yet all South Africa. Heeds the Reserve moniker well with buttery brioche richness and full sun gathered consciousness. This one is all in with an effect to invite a wide ranging if specific consumer response.

Boschendal 1685 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – Big, dark, brooding, as much about place as it is about grape variety.What’s special is the equally grippy and forceful fruit, exaggerated because the acidity is like a reduction of black currant syrup. Sharp and soil rich this is a serious mouthful of cabernet, firm, tannic and in charge. Roasted herbs and grilled vegetable notes, and a ferric-sanguine quality that brings the BBQ braai to mind.

Warwick Professor Black Pitch Black 2017, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, NAVBEV INC
Michael Godel – Six grapes get together in Pitch Black, mostly made with cabernets with (13 per cent) cinsault, (10) merlot and then bits of malbec and petit verdot. Inky in feel if not pitch, tarry by natural nature if not by hue and also more Rhône meatiness then Bordeaux savour. A big, ferric and hematic example with strong bones and flesh all over.

Jordan Jardin The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, W.O. Stellenbosch
$30.00, Kolonaki Group
Michael Godel – Straight faced and matter of fact, all things being true in a cabernet sauvignon that reeks of variety and subtlety in spite of the violence required to excavate and plant a vineyard. Don’t sleep on the tension and the structure in a wine of meaning, profound as it gets for Stellenbosch.

Aslina By Ntskiki Biyela Umsasane 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$35.00, Gradwell Wine Agency
Michael Godel – Ntsiki Biyela is officially recognized as South Africa’s first black female winemaker and the meaning in her Bordeaux styled Umsasane blend is local vernacular for the umbrella acacia tree. The brand is called Aslina, tribute to Ntsiki’s grandmother and one can feel the love in this richly styled, boozy in relative balance blend.

Swartland

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Swartland
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – Essentially chenin blanc and an example that pulls the full blessings and richness of the sun into a generous and gracious wine. Kloof Street is chenin blanc of feel, touch and “tekstuur.” The old vines concentration and density is inherent, the “frâiche, agréable and couvert de rosée” all over the palate with license and privilege.

A.A. Badenhorst Family White Blend 2018, W.O. Swartland
$57.99, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – The adage bears repeating as recited by Adi Badenhorst. “Fantastic grapes from old vineyards,” in a jazz mixtronic blend of chenin blanc, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier, verdehlo, grenache gris, clairette blanche, sémillon and palomino. Yet another paradigm shift in Cape white appellative white blends that seduces with its steely veneer, vine experience and turbulent soul to deliver in every way imaginable.

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Granite 2019, W.O. Swartland
$79.00, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – All barrel fermented in only neutral oak, full malo and with the intention to truly experience and taste chenin blanc grown on granite soils. A wine kickstarted by natural stabilization, equally expressive of tart acidity and freshness, fully reasoned by sunshine yet also seasoned with effortless and variegate ease.  Such an experienced and robust wine without solicitation, nor swagger neither. The ability, presence and precision are tops. There’s no question.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2021, W.O. Swartland
$16.95, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Unmistakable syrah from the Boekenhoutskloof clan, always the meatiest and meat fats dripping example for the price. That and a profile more Swartland than what comes from say Stellenbosch syrah.

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Always tasting Italian wines, doin’ allright

Toscana

Back in the summer of 1987 I attended the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. This was considered “the benchmark year for Umbria Jazz in terms of the Festival’s appeal, its quality, its ability to combine popularity with exclusivity, with mass concerts in the football stadium and the fantastic evenings inside St. Francis’ church.” The memories of that July 16th to 18th weekend are strong, persistently vivid and what happened there was clearly transformational in my life. Sting had played the weekend previous and though my crew could not stay long enough to see Miles Davis on Sunday the 18th still there were grand moments indelibly stamped upon our lives. Walking the Piazza IV Novembre up to Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s Fontana Maggiore, drinking in the cafés, Sly and Robbie sitting at the next table. But the highlight happened at the Stadio Renato Curi where Dexter Gordon blew his horn and our minds. The saxophonist was fresh off of a revivalist’s record and hit movie. He was Doin’ Allright, as were we.

 

Jazz and wine. Two inextricably linked subjects and emotions in the summer of 1987. Now 35 years later I’m listening to Gordon’s seminal record and tasting wine. Time spent Far Niente. Tasting Italian wines from a wide ranging group of producers while paraphrasing from thoughts about the music of the OG big man, with no disrespect intended to Clarence Clemons. Dexter’s life and this group of wines are representative of that kind of size. Their rhythm section plays for the grape, seeming to sense what it wants, following the varietal lead and never falling out of balance. Full toned manner of wines, loping in medium tempo, solos unhurried, logical, warming and full of Italian melodies.

Umbria, July 1987

There are white wines that play beautifully and pensively while others pick up the mood by spinning out solos, staying texturally relaxed and thoughtful, ending with some perfumed chords. There are short bits and interludes but ultimately the way these wines handle their ballads is an indication of their length and depth. They know what it’s all about. The reds are at times wines of catchy and contrasting themes but they truly know how to build a solo. In today’s warming climate they climb up in temperature, chorus after chorus, until finally they satisfy at their apex. There are moments when the reds seem to be skipping and marching, alternating between funky riffs, leaping rhythmic figures and brightly lit burning flames of fruit and acidities. They build more slowly to climax while expanding in tones and for longer periods of time. There are chordal explorations in reds, blacks and of course blues. What connects them all is underlying substance in waves and weaves throughout each ensemble. Tasted consecutively or together theses wines all prove to be mutually significant. Thank you to Ira Gitler for the inspirational notes, to Stefania Tacconi and the prodcuers for sharing their wines.

Inama Vin Soave Classico DOC 2020, Veneto

Anything but entry-level from the grape garganega once known as Graecanicum grown in the basaltic lava, volcanic tuffs and orizzonti rossi. About as correct and defining as it gets for Soave, yellow and green floral, fruit recall more of the same and then the volcanic rock alterations that give the mineral-salty feel. While there might be a wish for a little bit more complexity and grape spirit there is some gelid to viscous texture in this 2020. In any case Inama’s is well made, educational and right on the varietal money. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Favorita DOC 2020, Piedmont

As for white wines from Italy’s northern climes there are those that speak to many and then there is the “favorita” of others, the varietal Piedmontese white for the dreamers and the romantics. This from Abrigo out of Diano d’Alba avoids the bitters, pith and boozy thiol moments to instead capture all the white flowers and more. The scents are fruity over metallic and clean instead of waxy. There is precision and most importantly a toothsome grace over the palate that brings you back for more and more. A picnic in the hills, a chilled glass after the day’s movement and the scent of dusk. That is favorita when it’s right. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Terra Costantino Etna Bianco DOC Deaetna 2019, Sicily

Terra Costantino’s is from Contrada Blandano in the Comune Viagrande, on soils sabbie di matrice vulcanica, a blend of carricante and catarratto, three to one, at 500m, part bush vine and part spurred cordon. Were the flinty smoulder the only beautiful thing going for this Etna Bianco it might almost be enough but the gelid and sweetly ripened fruit takes every moment to a higher caste and level. The thought of these wines being honeyed is not all that common and yet he we are, aromatically speaking, lemon meringue and curd, angel food cake, with the barrel impart knowable in vanilla and light caramel terms. A metallic feel as well, pure platinum gold, texture and some age already put behind. Not so typical but curious and highly enjoyable nonetheless. A drink now chardonnay or chenin blanc alternative that will begin to oxidize in a couple of years time. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted May 2022

Poggio Argentiera Morellino Di Scansano DOCG Bellamarsilia 2020, Tuscany

High-toned in 2020 with a marked level of volatile acidity and good if not maximum ripeness from sangiovese grown either in a (relatively) cooler year near the (Maremma) Tuscan coast. It would seem the winemaker is also looking for restraint and maintaining positive acidity because at this low level (13.5 per cent) of alcohol the resinous and stemmy nature of sangiovese is duly noted, if also accentuated. Texture is a bit chalky, almost grainy and the tannins throw a touch of green. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted May 2022

Usiglian Del Vescovo Il Barbiglione 2015, Terre Di Pisa DOC, Tuscany

From estate grapes in the Pisa DOC and from a winery also producing wines both coastal and in Chianti appellations. Centred around syrah with small percentages of cabernet grown in greyish, dry, shallow, sandy soil with some clay, lime and fossils. A bright, currants and other red fruit syrah with notable tang and wood resins. A touch pectin sappy while satisfying and complete. Held back to tame its wild side and drink upon purchase. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

La Regola 2018, Toscana Rosso IGT

A place of Etruscan origin just five kms from the Tyrrhenian Sea at Riparbella in the Cecina Valley. The vineyard lays within the Montescudaio DOC at 150-200m with soils described as Mediterranean with an abundance of stones. La Regola’s (the rule) is varietal cabernet franc, abundant, heady and as compared to the blended reds, so unfettered and uncluttered. The varietal purity is expressly coastal, of saltiness, algae, seaweed, tar and fruit so much more than a plenty. This is truly a stylistic and a place that makes wines just like this here screaming with clarity and truth. There seems to be little doubt that cabernet franc fits, unlike sangiovese, syrah or cabernet sauvignon. Franc is the signature red and 2018 announces its success. The structure, unimpeded drive and length confirm the pronouncement. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2019, Tuscany

Boscarelli is a name to conjure with, a producer from Montepulciano as direct and exciting as a communicator of sangiovese emotion as any, consistently declarative in attack. Case in point this 2019 though with the added advantage of a most generous and unselfish vintage. Fruit comes from estate vineyards in the parish or pieve of Cervognano, one of 12 newly minted UGAs, a.k.a. unità geografiche aggiuntive. These additional mentions for the overall appellation give us the consumer a more pinpointed sense of place and in Boscarelli’s world the vines were planted in the late 1990s. Depth burrows in an endless seeking of mineral wealth while highlights rise unencumbered, defying gravity and setting this local sangiovese free. When sangiovese does both it’s a bit of a revelation and in Montepulciano the truth is not always easy to come by. The wines can make you work for your pleasure and this 2019 gifts it freely. Drink now and for the next 10 years. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted May 2022

Il Bocale Montefalco Rosso DOC 2018, Umbria

The Umbrian work of i famiglia Valentini based around sangiovese accented by the local sagrantino, then merlot and colorino. Unequivocally balanced if not quite the increasingly generous vintage that will follow in 2019. The succulence and juiciness of the Montefalco Rosso appellation is captured with precise and succinct advantage and done so without any due stress or adversity. The fruit spreads with ripples into fine acidity and supple tannins like a large rock dropped into a pool of water. The rock disappears but the fluidity and gentle set of wakes linger on, ever so slowly decreasing their size and intensity. Bocale’s ’18 is an effortless Rosso, aromatic, flavourful and elastic. This is just what a top producer knows how to do. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Il Bocale Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2016, Umbria

From the Valentini family dating back to 2002 and a varietal sagrantino of the highest selection. “Bocale is the dialect word that indicates the two litre mug of wine or oil, but, above all, the name with which this family from Montefalco has always been identified.” From the most democratic of Montefalco vintages, long, studious and just, indeed a wine giusto e completo, time having settled the once formidable tannin and connecting the early unconnected parts. A wholly unique profile, indicative of tar, dark chocolate and espresso yet subtly so, with an allowance of many complexities to join the parade. Quite special in so many regards. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Il Palio, Siena, July 1987

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Tuscany

Grande Gaiole compass, cinch and girth in naturally swarthy sangiovese from Riecine in 2019, crunchy and tart. Inching up towards the volatile but such is the word in pace for the vintage. The fruit can handle the stark reality and veritable truth, equipped with grip and ready for the inevitable circumstance. Maybe wait a year for further resolution. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Villa Di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2017, Tuscany

Consistently presents with an evolved aromatic tendency as it breathes maturity into every phrase it plays. The jazzy mix of violet, spice cupboard and freshly baked earthenware speaks in open and knowable truth for a wine so upwardly representative of a DOCG with roots dating back to 1716. That is when Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany granted exclusive status to Carmignano at the same time he did so for the Classico territory of Chianti. Was not the easiest vintage to deal with and yet this is one of the Tuscan stars what with the piquant yet elastic spice condition rolling off of the palate with sage, fresh tobacco, finnocchi and tartufo. Deals with 14.5 per cent alcohol without adversity while modelling symbiosis between sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. Hard to do much better with the aridity and warmth, breathe life and plan for five-plus more years of pleasure. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Azienda Agricola Reassi Sparviere 2018, Colli Euganei Cabernet DOC, Veneto

Reassi’s two-thirds cabernet sauvignon and one-third cabernet franc comes from the Padova area in the Veneto, famously home to some of Giotto’s most profound and important 13th/14th century frescoes housed in the Cappella degli Scrovegni. The estate’s 1997 planted wines are located in the zone of Carbonara di Rovolon, harvested near the end of September and only 3,500 bottles are produced. This is a cheeky cabernet at the lead for the Colli Euganei DOC, full of sweet tar and tobacco, petrol in cars, wood resins, fruit from pods that grown on trees and really quite bright in disposition. How can you not adore the vitality and low alcohol proposition (12.5 per cent) plus this genteel pectin and glycerol feel. “Oh, it’s magic, Uh oh, it’s magic. Just a little magic, you know it’s true.” Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted May 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Barbera d’Alba DOC Marminela 2019, Piedmont

At the DOC Barbera level it would be hard to find another example so open, forthright, up front, bright, getable and delicious than this Marminela by Abrigo. Classic interpretation indeed yet without rustic strings tethering it to the past, instead expressive of a freedom to explore. Here barbera throws aside traditions in a spirit of experimentation. This is a blend of grapes from two vineyards in the municipalities of Grinzane Cavour and Diano d’Alba and aging takes place for nine months in concrete vats. Freshness is dutifully captured, preserved and the barbera perseveres. Will drink this way for two, maybe even three full years ahead. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Rocche dei Frisu is Abrigo’s top end, purest expression of barbera, from vineyards in Diano d’Alba and also nearby. The sites range in elevation between 230-360m, on clay-based soils mixed with sand and limestone, depending on the block. The name could mean “cones of frieze” in the literal sense but probably a name given to a hill of natural architecture that when looked at from afar there would be some sort of illusory effect. As in art, whereby a trompe l’oeuil or trick of the eye is created by a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration. In any case the barbera in this bottle does the exact opposite with its openly blatant and striking set of ripe fruit, varietal acidity and full throttle potency. Not shy to be sure, nor heavy neither but there is power contained within this bottle. Even after nearly four years the Frisu does not relent and as a member of the Alba Superiore fraternity the representation is bang on. Plenty of stuffing will see this through to the end of this decade. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted May 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2019, Piedmont

Marked valuation in animal musk through the masculine scent of Abrigo’s nebbiolo from Diano d’Alba, a parochial example equally rich in classic DOC notes. Only the nebbiolo from Alba’s territory smells and tastes like this, accentuated by wood with spice infiltration inside and out. The animal magnetism is captivating, as much as the barrel accents are condiments to the fruit and earth that fill up this nebbiolo. Quite tight for 2019, needing some time, acids equally taut and being open three days helped immensely. Be patient with this Alba, it will reward those who are. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Ravera 2017, Piedmont

Diano d’Alba producer of a Barolo in the municipality/cru/MGA of Novello. Meets the specs of Tortonian soil, laminated Sant’Agata fossil marl, in other words calcareous clay, deeply entrenched, at 400m, vine age ranging 20 to 35 years. Fifty per cent is treated to long skin maceration i.e. cappello sommerso and despite the aridity and heat of 2017 there is freshness captured in Abrigo’s Ravera. Luminous and immediately spicy, a piquancy of pure nebbiolo spiked by time, vintage and lastly barrel. Amazingly persistent Barolo, full, substantial and in charge. Must give this three more years to integrate and allow us to grow as tasters, eventually to be ready and willing to enjoy this wine. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted June 2022

Tenuta Di Pietrafusa Villa Matilde Avallone Fusonero 2015, Taurasi DOCG, Campania

Varietal aglianico from the Taurasi DOCG and a producer that also fashions top quality wines at IGT Campania prices coming in at under $20 CDN. This top drop comes from the production zone of Montemarano e Paternopoli off of vines planted in 1968 and 1985. The first commercial vintage was 2004 and so here in the 12th iteration is a most generous vintage from which the best of all worlds is accessed. The world of aglianico is reached earlier than that which hesitantly emerges out of some hard, at times sufferable and surely tannic vintages. Here the fruit is nearly up front, artistically open and and even playing with musical swagger. There is room for all the aglianico because they provide the opportunity to enjoy the standards, originals and forward thinking examples. Fusonero is a delightful combination of all three and for that we are grateful. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!

godello

Tuscany

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The five estates of Planeta earth

Welcome to Planeta Earth

The question often asked, if you could go back in time and meet just one person, who would it be? Shakespeare, Golda Meir, Beethoven, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Galileo, Marie Curie, Einstein, or maybe Gandhi? In the winemaking world there would be many great men and women to consider but this current fascination with Sicilia leads to the name Diego Planeta. Pioneer, visionary and a man who considered the entire island an agricultural playground where anything was possible. The Planeta family has Spanish origins and roots dating back five hundred years. Diego Planeta was the former president of the Settesoli Cooperative and founder of Planeta winery. His passing in 2020 left an irreplaceable hole but 15 cousins, including Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta are the beneficiaries of their uncle’s plans and legacy. Five family members run the day-to day operation and more than 200 vinicultural, viticultural, administrative and marketing artisans share in the collective vision. Today they work, farm sustainably and reap the benefits of five distinct estates but more than that they bring the fruits of these locations to the world. No other producer in Sicilia does this, not with the scope and breadth they do. This is the story of the five Sicilian estates of Planeta earth.

Godello, L’Etna

Related – Planeta’s Sicily

Un percorso non casuale, fortemente legato alla diversità dei paesaggi, dei venti, del carattere degli uomini e quindi dei loro vini. Not an accidental journey but one inextricably linked to the diversity of five landscapes, in soil, wind, climate and the relationship between the custodians and the wines they shepherd. Menfi, Vittoria, Noto, L’Etna and Capo Milazzo. No two are the same and all five contribute to the fabric of Planeta’s extant association and alliance with Sicilia. The Planeta family and head winemaker Patricia Tóth abide by their surroundings, as do the agriculturalists, guardians and caretakers, of olive groves, orchards, hinterlands and plantations. The pentamerous grouping of estates in all its micro and collective diversity is at once staggering to consider and then a thing of sensory overload. Taking in one at a time and appreciating the profundity of each place is the key to understanding. In March of 2022 I had the honour and pleasure to visit two properties and were it not for Covid-19 and later in June travel misteps I would have seen a third, quite possibly a fourth and perhaps even all five. As it is my personal and professional life have become enriched in ways that could never have been imagined.

Menfi Coast

Only came outside to watch the nightfall with the rain. I heard you making patterns rhyme

Not to be overlooked is above all else, Planeta’s production of IGP olive oil. Their’s is a painstaking process to achieve uncompromising quality borne of the trees in a landscape destined to deliver greatness. The fields of hospitality and cultural ventures integrate into their viticultural activities, all purposed to enliven the Sicilian experience. Sustainability without exception,  respect for the land and wineries completely integrated within the landscape are the values which guide the company’s activities. Winemaker Patricia Tóth was born in Hungary and received a degree in 2004 at the University of Corvinus in Budapest in Food Science specializing in wine, beer and spirits. Tóth worked at Le Vigne di Zamò Friuli, Bava in Piemonte and Vylyan in Hungary. She began her 17 year Planeta run in 2005 at Noto, then in Vittoria, later managing the setup of the estate in Capo Milazzo and on L’Etna. She now splits her time at 900m above sea level on the volcano’s north face and also nearest the beating heart control centre of operations in Menfi.

Related – All the wines of Sicily

Baglio di Ulmo

In Menfi the variety of terroir is infinite and to walk the phrygana is to stop time. The fauna ignites in the olive oil and the wines from Ulmo in a variety of styles and varietal personalities as sundry as the numbers of women and men who create them. They can be fast or slow, rich or discreet, loud or soft, hard or tender, loving or intense. They can be so packed full of notes it may feel like life speeded up. They can also be calming and interpretive. They can be anything at all.

L’Etna eruption, 1981

On L’Etna space and melody, in particular aboard the volcano’s north face (versante nord) there is a use of space so artful it enables the melodies of the original lines in the wines. Though Planeta (and so many others) use improvisations and embellishments, they do so in order to integrate the leading voice to grow together with the supporting cast. The main declarations of nerello mascalese and carricante are joined by nerello cappuccio, catarratto and grecanico, all evolving together organically, swelling and retreating as the complete pulse of the wines, the inner pulse guiding the creativity itself, as it is dictated.

The inimitable human and paradigmatic winemaker Patricia Tóth

In Vittoria, Noto and Capo Milazzo the path indicated is that of quiet intensity, of melodies so phrased that the rhythm and the space together build wines of strong driving forces. Their collective agency is power achieved without volume, tension without distortion. Some wines grab you and drive everything else from your mind. They seduce, softly engage your whole attention and lure you into the grooves they are travelling. All this without you being aware, of what is happening until it has already happened.

This is planet earth you’re looking at planet earth
Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop this is planet earth

Alessio Planeta

Related – Sicily in review

Paraphrasing from something Alessio Planeta said back in 2018, Planeta looks to connect the island by the phrase stato stazione delle una perfetta, meaning the union is currently situated in a perfect state, working together for the common good. Alessio and his family’s rich set of wine-producing circumstances, whether it be the individual refrains of each estate or the collaborative effect of the group, is a constantly growing and changing undertaking but never with the kind of urgency implied in some other producers’ body of work. Planeta’s is more than methodical, it is meditative, contemplative and organic. Calculated? Of course but with the future in mind and the greater good always considered. Leadership incarnate, always hospitable and most importantly positive. When I fell ill with Covid whilst visiting with Alessio and Patricia I felt safe and set up for recovery. I can never thank them enough, for their humanity and support.

Meet next gen Planeta custodian and burgeoning chef, Costante Planeta

Here are the 45 Planeta wines tasted in late March and early April in a cross-section of a portfolio interconnected and jointly illustrative of five estates. Their quality is what makes it so satisfying to taste, assess, compose, edit and finally publish the results. Working through these wines, like listening to the albums of a band’s tenure, or sitting in a club while they play their songs, well this makes for a great trip through an intensely diverse and ever-evolving viticultural terrain.

Menfi phrygana

Menfi-Ulmo

The Menfi situation is really one of Ulmo, or rather Ulmo is Menfi. Here on the island’s southwest coast beneath Palermo is where Planeta’s first winery opened in 1995 near the village of Sambuca di Sicilia, Built near an ancient 16th-century baglio, or stone farmhouse, situated above Lake Arancio and blessed with chalky limestone soils. In the middle of the 1980’s Planeta planted their first vines around the baglio which the family has always owned. The Iter Vitis museum, surrounded by a “collection meadow’” of different Sicilian and Georgian vines, “inspired by the idea of enhancing the rich Sicilian winemaking tradition.” The nature footpath called La Segreta runs from the winery, connects with those that intersect the Menfi hills and also 250 cultivated hectares of vineyard. The name adorns the quadripartite set of wine labels that are arguably Sicily’s most well-known. The crux, core and heart is Dispensa where production, administration and planning all happen.

Beach at Menfi

The Infernotto, inside the small winery, is the family caveau, one of the most calming placing to read, rest and taste through Planeta’s portfolio of wines. Ulmo, Maroccoli, Cirami, Baglio di Ulmo and the 6th century B.C. Palmento di Bosco della Resinata; places of affinity, integration and varietal kinship. Of grillo, fiano, chardonnay, grecanico, sauvignon blanc, viognier, nero d’Avola, syrah, merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. The chardonnay stands out as the iconic label, a super chardonnay to be sure because no other varietal example delivers the two pillars of quality and quality like this Planeta label.

Planeta Serra Ferdinandea Rosato 2021, Sicilia DOC

A joint venture between Planeta and the family Oddo from the south of France. Rosato, Bianco and Rosso made high in the hills above the sea near Menfi, closer to Sambuca. Here nero d’avola and syrah made in the airiest, salty and light tart way, quenching and satisfying. The name refers to the story of a volcanic island that suddenly rose from the sea in 1831, fought over for claim by the Italians, French and British, before disappearing back in to the water many months later. There it sits 30 to 40 metres below the surface. You can drink the town dry out of this Rosato, any day, any time. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Ulmo Chardonnay

Planeta Chardonnay 2020, Sicilia DOC

Chardonnay comes from two vineyards, Storico which is the large white rock at 270m above the Menfi lake and Marrocoli, where red grapes (cabernet franc, merlot and syrah) really thrive. Here chardonnay is given roundness to mix with the stoic-stony and intense directness of what it could have been. A place of vibrations and nerves and so Marrocoli is needed to tame and soften Storico’s blunt edginess. That it does, injecting peach fleshy sunshine into the linearity of the wine. Keep in mind that 200,000 bottles a year are made and that doesn’t even keep up with the demand. Arch classic Planeta bread and butter wine, also in style. One of the planet’s great chardonnays of double Q effect. Quantity and quality. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Chardonnay 2019, Sicilia DOC

The two vineyards are Storico at 270m above the Menfi lake and Marrocoli where really white calcari predominates. While there is the plump presence of chardonnay giving “morbido” roundness in apposite to the mineral Storico fruit, there is also this persistent buzz and and nervy character. For a wine for which upwards of 200,000 bottles a year are produced it really is quite incredible how vintage dictates the personality of the wine. Fresh quality bread and churned butter in the glass. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2020, Sicilia Menfi DOC

As a reminder Cometa comes from two vineyards, the important one being Dispensa right by the winery and Paso di Gura, 10 kms away. Fiano, not off of volcanics but clay soils close to the sea, well-ripened, in a place where it likes the sun, suffers and gets a bit bronzing and golden. A fiano of white and yellow flowers, chamomile and the like. While the universe busy was sending more than enough chaos to humanity, in this vintage there were only good conditions and therefore excellent to raise a proper Cometa. Feels plump and salty, full and herbal, bitters so minor and subtleties available to those who wait for it. The upward trend continues, towards greatness. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2019, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Cometa is fiano “di Ulmo” in Menfi out of two vineyards, Dispensa and Paso di Gura. Clay soils over calcium carbonate and a place for full ripeness within the context of fulfilling the promise for golden grapes. The florals sing from 2019, more white than yellow and the vintage delivers a credibly balanced affair. In this last vintage before the world went mad Cometa seems at ease, confident and secure. Not as round and plump as the following 2020 yet equally saline, herbal if sweetly so and the crunchiest Cometa ever encountered. Not a shock because “every vintage of fiano is unpredictable” explains Alessio Planeta. More vertical, linear and direct. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Experimental grape introduction of fiano to Menfi in 1994 with the first vintage being 2000. “They (Avellino) grow fiano on volcanic soil in the mountains and we grow it in clay soils by the sea,” tells Alessio Planeta. “With low yields and small bunches.” Here it can be tropical but it’s always herbal and breezy. Can’t help but be salty, after all the air is filled with marine life.  Last tasted March 2022

Cometa has changed or rather in its youthful state of ultimate reductive freshness is so straight-laced, linear, tightrope walking along a razor sharp edge. There’s a tonic injection that helps to propel it forward and the envisioning projects two years ahead to see it develop some sweeter fruit notes, straight from the orchard’s hip. Watch for this special vintage of fiano, the ancient noble variety from Campania that Planeta’s braintrust took a well-advised flyer on in the 1990s. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Didacus 2019, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The name Didacus is Diego, from the Latin, a chardonnay dedicated to Alessio Planeta’s visionary uncle, the late Diego Planeta. These Storico Vineyard Menfi vines were planted in 1985 on the hillside up to 270m of elevation and below the white rock on calcareous-clay soils above the lake. As a vintage 2019 was dryer and warmer than 2018, especially in summer. Results in a richly concentrated chardonnay but one picked earlier with acids in tact and phenols well developed. Plenty of water stocks in the soil after a wet 2018 allowed the plants to ease through ’19 and take full advantage of the dry season. Full malo feel, good mineral backbone and a long sensation swept across the palate puts this in a place of Menfi specificity while also leaving an impression that next level notes will emerge over a good period of time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Didacus 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The chardonnay dedicated to Diego Planeta, from the oldest Menfi vines, planted in 1985. The name Didacus is indeed Diego in Latin and the inherent plus inferred further meaning is as thought, a didactic one, which says something about many things. It speaks to the pioneer Mr. Planeta’s two-toned, ahead of its time work and to the way chardonnay takes Sicily into another realm and brings reductive freshness into buttery bites that ties two voices together. And they will speak as one. Soon. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019 and March 2022

Planeta Ulmo tasting

Planeta Didacus Cabernet Franc 2017, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The Didacus red is a varietal cabernet franc from a very specific Ulmo block, also named for Diego Planeta, visionary and pioneer for wines in Sicily. The Piano del Sommacco (sumac) is the source, treated to whole bunch fermentation and aged in tonneaux because of the fruit’s great potential. The heat did not come until just before harvest (after a cooler season early). This is good for franc when the heat comes late for more concentration though also one picked later as it should be. The uncanny smell of carob and even bokser pod fruit, properly herbal, just the right amount of pyrazine, balsamic and spice. Long, blue and true. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Didacus is Diego, from the Latin and like the chardonnay this cabernet franc is dedicated in kinship to Alessio Planeta’s uncle, pioneer and visionary, the late Diego Planeta. Storico Vineyard in Menfi was planted in 1985 on white rock-calcareous-clay soils above the lake. There is little surprise that 2016 was a serious franc vintage, long and drawn out, perfect to bring the ripeness of necessary phenols that the grape so clearly needs and dearly deserves. Shows off cabernet franc’s dreamy complexion with a side of pyrazine though depth of fruit and dearth of (including American) oak are really the pair in charge. There is something Rioja Gran Reserva about Didacus but even more so there is Sicilian depth, Moorish density and Planeta gravity. Or gravitas it should be conceded from and for a wine of many splendored seasoning and structure. Perfume flies in the air and dreams will someday come true. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Fishes by Costante Planeta

Planeta Alastro 2021, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Alsatro the yellow flower that appears all over Menfi in Spring. Mainly grecanico with some sauvignon blanc, the former essentially the same grape as garganega. Similar to a Soave ideal, to add some aromatic swagger in a friendship to work with a local grape. Lean and light, like garganega in wet concrete, straight ahead citrus, neutral and refreshing with just a hint of petrol. Cool white. Drink 2022-2025. Tasted March 2022

Planeta Grillo Terebinto 2021, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Terebinto the red flower all over the hills of Menfi in spring, especially as you approach the sea. A cross between the aromatics and intensity of cataratto and the gregarious flavours of zibbibo. Made as a pure variety but only since 2016 because Alessio Planeta realized it was a beautiful beast. While the sunshine and richness are very much accumulated there is also the sea in this gently rolling and saline white. A great vintage of this wine and just what grillo should be. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Plumbago Nero d’Avola 2019, Sicilia DOC

Plumbago or “Ploom-baggo” grows in Menfi and around Ulmo, coming out in Spring though not right away. In nero d’avola it is a red that manifests Menfi missives though Planeta chooses to label it not in menzione geographica terms but rather Sicilia DOC. This is because a new vineyard’s fruit is involved and so it was not requested to be Menfi, but again in 2021 will be. Always rolling deep and seasoned, a black cherry and seasoned meaty depth yet ’19 seems to have more stones, air and lightness, a relative thing but it makes a difference. This Plumbago really gets it, or maybe we get it and how it translates transparently. Less rustic than usual, a wood adjustment made and so here with a bit more sympathy and less dealing with the devil. Or more perhaps? It may say, “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. But what’s puzzling you, is the nature of my game.” Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Maroccoli Syrah 2017, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Syrah, from a conca facing the lake in Ulmo, more calcareous than where the chardonnay grows, a sea of sediment that is more alluvial going down to the shore. This syrah grows on the white calcium carbonate which surely gives vivid florals to mitigate a hematic meatiness created by the clay, sun and varietal tendency. Not a syrah of bacon or smoked meat and also not overtly concentrated but instead quite pretty and elegant. It should be expected this direction will continue with subsequent vintages. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Vineyards in Ulmo

Planeta Maroccoli Syrah 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Syrah is grown above the lake in Ulmo on a “conca“ of alluvial and calcareous clay soils notably white and the purple flower aromas are surely there in this vintage. So are the meaty ones but also those that imagine roasted melanzane and other toasty vegetative scents. While there used to be so much concentration in this wine it seems that 2016 marks a turn towards restraint and that thing we like to call elegance. Still the dripping meat juices fragrance and flavour rear up in this ’16, as they have always been known to do. Ready to go now with the first hints of balsamic and flint coming through. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Sito Dell’Ulmo Planeta Merlot 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Pure merlot made since 1995, one of the first for Planeta and one that used to be called simply “merlot.” A style of spice and even balsamic but once again the florals, lighter activity and respect for vineyard in their sense of place is what really matters today. These were the first vineyards planted in 1985, along with chardonnay, nero d’avola and grecanico. The experimental early days. At 31 years-old these merlot vines are highly experienced, the varietal give is exactly of itself and the wine is almost OCD stringent. That is to say it knows what it is and wants to be. Not overtly rich but surely capable of aging and again a vintage of freshness meets long, cool and slow ripening. “A bit too fresh for me,” says Alessio Planeta and then “nordic style,” adds Patrica Tóth.” Beautifully chalky and like a Sicilian I will fight to the death to argue that soil has much to do with the mouthfeel of this merlot. Still needs one more year. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Burdese 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Burdese (Boor-dee-say) from a Sicilian dialect, as in Bordelais, looking back in time at Bordeaux, using the two cabernets from Ulmo, sauvignon and franc, 70-30 in every vintage except ’97-99, when it was only sauvignon. There is an acidity that can only be described as “Burdese,” even when the sauvignon dries out a bit, by the calcareous raised franc and most importantly the freshest of Menfi vintages. Here a fragrant and bright Bordeaux (or perhaps Ulmese?) joint, a blend that sings and raises the bar for such wines in Sicily. Tart and chalky, structured and really long. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Burdese 2015, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Burdese, the Sicilian Bordeaux blend, a word brought back and employed here in Menfi as the French dispatch for cabernet sauvignon (70 per cent) and franc grown in Ulmo. Now settled into its Bordelais by way of Sicilian skin, tannins softened and acids too. Feels like a warm season created the resolve in this wine but then again it also seems like there are parts unknown and things yet revealed. After all “all great beauties withhold their deepest secrets.” Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Sicilia DOC

Planeta La Segreta Grillo 2021, Sicilia DOC

An extension from the original Bianco bottle, added a few years back (2016) when grillo and nero d’avola were recognized as protected varieties under the Sicilia DOC. While made in greater quantity and with less complexity than the Terebinto grillo the idea and the ideal are one in the same. Citrus and herbs, some fleshiness and sunshine though quiet and calm. Spot on balance and amenability. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Il Bianco 2021, Sicilia DOC

Il Bianco is the original La Segreta, a blend of (50 per cent) grecanico with viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Remarkably the aromatics do tell of viognier but that changes across a palate that  s expressly grecanico with shades of the other grapes. Broader and more rounded than grillo, perhaps antithetically so but less specificity Makes Il Bianco the one to work for all. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Nero d’Avola 2021, Sicilia DOC

An extension from the original Rosso bottle, added a few years back (2016) when nero d’avola and grillo were recognized and added as protected varieties under the Sicilia DOC. Essentially Planeta’s varietal “lite,” a lithe and honest, pure and transparent entry into the Ulmo world for nero d’avola, with just a small portion from Noto. The key is all estate grapes, an entry into and sort of second set of wines for Planeta. The selection comes within the availability of 370 hectares of production. Safe, straightforward, varietally correct, tart and also too easy to knock back. Drink 2022-2024. T asted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Il Rosso 2021, Sicilia DOC

As with Il Bianco, Il Rosso is the original red under the La Segreta label, a blend of (50 per cent) nero d’avola with merlot, syrah and splashes of cabernet franc. Deeper if not darker but certainly meatier and more ferric than the varietal nero. Herbal as well, a note of Amaro and dark chocolate shavings. As with the other three La Segreta wines the Rosso is a matter of different vineyard management as compared with the other Planeta wines, with the intendment to be less concentrated, less tannic and to drink right here and right now. That it does, especially with pasta in a sauce of eggplant and tomatoes from Vittoria. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Lava flow, Feudo di Mezzo

L’Etna

The year was 2008 when Planeta settled on the north side of Etna, among the lava flows and the woods which surround the village of Passopisciaro. Vines of planted nerello and carricante were planted and then in 2012 the winery was also established. The hospitality is housed to the north at Montelaguardia, in the middle of the Sciaranuova vineyard at more than 800m above sea level. Here the Etna cru are produced, in pinot nero, nerello mascalese, riesling and carricante. To the south the Feudo di Mezzo winery and vineyard (for Etna Rosso) are right in the centre of a 15th century lava flow. Nearby at Torreguarino and Rampante the vines are also best suited to red wines. At Sciaranuova the old terraces were transformed into a “Theatre in the Vineyard,” home to the Sciaranuova Festival.

Sciaranuova, Etna

To get a true sense of geography and location there are four passeggiate that will unlock the door to Etna enlightenment. The first is through the 15th century lava flow at Feudo di Mezzo and the vineyards with their gnarly bush vines. The second is the lava flow of “L’Etna 1981,” an eruption between the 17th and 23rd of March, at which time the village of Randazzo below came this close to being swallowed whole. The third is through Parco Statella to gain a sense of how Etna’s north face integrates Alberello vineyards, woods and homes. The fourth is ambling over volcanic boulder flows, admiring all the layers of lava rock, exploring the ancient, gnarly and propitious aboard L’Etna, as seen in Passopisciaro.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

Eruzione is always picked later than the carricante for the Etna Bianco (from Monetalguardia), at least a week later, finished on the 20th of October, really early. You smell and taste the Bianco from 2019 and think it’s tight but then you do the same with the Eruzione and then realize just what tight is. In this amazingly compact ’19 there is the feeling of salts dissolving into the fine grain of the wine, volcanics in carricante disappearing with immediacy though their presence never leaves your palate. A vintage that so precisely and clearly defines what it means to grow this grape on the northern slope of the mountain between 810-900m, even though at this elevation it can’t qualify for DOC Etna. The higher you go, the tighter are the wines and the longer they live. That is a fact. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014, Terre Siciliane IGT

This is just perfect. To re-taste Eruzione carricante five years later, almost to the day and just past the halfway point in this 1614’s expected tenure. In fact it barely feels like any time has passed save for a fumé moment of character that Tóth admits “I don’t know where it comes from,” meaning it’s not technologically possible. Which means it comes from the vineyard. Or, the original sapid part of the wine transforming into smoulder. The texture is not organza but sheer, you can feel through it. The salt has fully melted to now extend the flavour but the wine remains tight. And so the longevity abides. And the score also rises, as the sun. Drink through 2027.   Last tasted March 2022

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” save perhaps Planeta’s Patricia Tóth, a winemaker who celebrates the past, the endemic varietal and in the present, the glaring truth. The name Eruzione is evocative of the estate’s Cru dell’Etna and in a mind’s eye transports history through the narrative of carricante (with 10 per cent riesling). It brings the legendary 1614 Mount Etna eruption to life, a longest ever recorded catastrophe that lasted ten years, halting just on the border of the vineyards of Sciaranuova. This is veritable mountain altitude wine, from high (790-890m) terraced, volcanic black soils delivering fresh conifer savour, saltiness and palpable mineral style. It is sharp and composed on the nose, with citrus distillate and elevated acidity. It does not matter whether you are wide awake or deep in R.E.M sleep. At all times it is a revelation for carricante. This is what it can be! There was no need for crop thinning, it was picked four to five weeks after the sparkling and it spent five months on the lees. The texture and the potential longevity are thankful for this. “Combien, combien, combien du temps?” At least seven years. Talk about the passion. Drink 2018-2025.   Tasted March 2017

Quarantine passegiata, Versante Nord, Etna

Planeta Riesling 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

What do you compare Etna riesling to? Nothing save perhaps Eden Valley but what’s the point? Texturally this from Planeta is quite soft but no matter the texture every sip goes salty. Volcanics, or more to the lava flow point, living, breathing and current (within the last 400 years) volcanics will do that, for real. Not like other “volcanic” soils, those from mountains that erupted maybe one million years ago. But that’s only half of the matter. The other and equally important matter is elevation, at 900m, less fancy, attractive and sexy. But this is real and this is what riesling wants and needs. Not Mosel, not Trentino, not Argentina but L’Etna heights. She is present and she presents. “Elevation is not as sexy as volcanics, “ said no one ever but this is the thing. Riesling was never that or like this but it has arrived. Say hello to my little friend TS-IGT. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Sciaranuova Vineyard

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Pinot Nero 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

Super fine pinot noir from Patricia Tóth on Etna’s north slope at 820m, like well-prepared sea urchin, straccato di manzo mantecato and fegato d’oca. If not the best Etna Rosso vineyard it may as well be in the conversation because this kind of pinot noir depth is usually reserved for nerello mascalese. Something cool this way comes every morning and dry, no matter the settling of precipitation the night before. Here the fineness of varietal and block share a feeling, a commonality of place within to the third degree, mimicking gastronomy and asking for the right set of partners. There is fennel and there are dried spices, cumin perhaps in how the delicate yet forceful south asianer’s carpet really ties the wine together. Sweet meanderings in dried rags really bring the rustica and the autentica. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Making friends in Parco Statella, Etna

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2020

Widest and most inviting smile yet from Planeta and winemaker Patricia Tóth’s 2020 Etna Bianco, generous gift of the volcano and the sun, elemental salts and even ripeness, controlled eruption and fleshy intensity. A relaxed bianco as an extension of the vineyard, 100 per cent carricante from Contrada Taccione in the village of Monetalguardia. The soil is deeply organic, nourishing, dark for Etna at 690-720m. Hard to find more direct accommodation and physical beauty than what this Bianco wants to share, without demands, strings or expecting anything in return. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Etna hospitality, Planeta

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2019

Though the next vintage of Etna Bianco DOC will be the perfect one, for everyone and all, this from 2019 is no difficult one, it’s just more linear, laser focused and intense. There are times when 100 per cent carricante can act this way, not because of any varietally finicky reason but just because the vintage makes it so. More central, linear, severe and seeking ways to branch out but that still may not be possible at this time. Super compact and it looks as though 2021 could also be this way. The grapes came early, seemingly counterintuitive to how things turned out and the winemaker looked around, not believing the harvest was done. But forget about it Patricia. It’s Etna. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Shalalingualossa

Planeta Etna Rosso DOC 2020

A 100 per cent nerello mascalese from Pietramarina and Feudo di Mezzo (where the cellar is located), two vineyards 5km between them at 600m of elevation. The nose is almost clay even though there is none on Etna making for a very clean aromatic profile. Made in the Piedmontese cappelo sommerso method, 35-40 days on skins, because nerello mascalese doesn’t like and doesn’t need oxygen, regardless of its tannic structure. The vintage is a round and gifting one for all, bianco and rosso alike, less compact than some and fleshy as a ripe plum, especially with reds. A 2020 in which recent volcanics are a matter of wringing out a basalt sponge with the resulting juices running with charismatic invitation. That said a Planeta Etna Rosso clearly needs some time, not forever mind you and in this case a depth of developed fruit and mineral swath keeps things wrapped and taut. Notable for the red citrus bite, pique and pith across the back end. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Feudo di Mezzo, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

Varietal nerello mascalese grown above the DOC line is a matter of great, compact and vertical concern from out of the 2018 vintage. Was a rainy and “fragile” vintage, a matter of nature putting more stress on bunches that can result in variegate meaning. The concept of rigorous table sorting and the use of a basket press are essential tools to getting pristine fruit and then juice. Etna’s conditions are so unique to Sicily and so here in Sciaranuova it is the last of Planeta’s estates to figure out the what, why and how for making quality wine. On the whites it was in and around ’16 and for the reds probably right here with this sharp, spiced and meaningful red. While it is quite compressed there is also an expansiveness that presses to the full extent in how the palate is swarmed and covered. My goodness. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella, Versante Nord, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2017, Terre Siciliane IGT

Sciaranuova is the place closest to the village of Passopisciaro for nerello mascalese of a very specific style. From a warm vintage and one when there was nine per cent cappuccio mixed in with the mascalese. More of a salumi, curative and dried skins vintage, not just with an extra year affecting the wine but also because of the cappuccio influence with an increase in oxidative feel. Feels quite ready to rock and roll, more of the latter perhaps and with the right moment there will be a scorrevole of mascalese sensation running and then sliding across the palate. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

Capo Milazzo

Sicilia’s most extreme and dramatic northeast corner is home to some of Planeta’s most extreme and dramatic wines. Capo Milazzo’s soils are alluvial, deep soils, friables, born out of rivers that came from the northern mountains. The peninsula’s proximity to the sea leads to wines that are salty, with algae, black cherry and cypress. The four hectare vineyard is called La Baronia, used for the Sicilia DOCs in Nocera and Mamertino but also experimentally and for research in three ancient varieties known as varietà reliquie; vitraruolo, lucignola and catanese nera.

Planeta Nocera 2018, Nocero Sicilia DOC

Specific to Milazzo in the northeast of Sicily, in two appellations, Faro and Mamertino. Noce is “nuts,” growing in big bunches and blue-hued (much more so than cabernet sauvignon). Grows on volcanics, in a place with an active volcano (Stromboli) which is significant and in 2018 the vintage didn’t turn out the same beast of a bruiser in terms of the grape’s intensity of tannins. Forget the comparisons to sangiovese, barbera and tannat because this ’18 is a wonderfully harmonious and balanced varietal wine. Still the presence and obviousness of black cherry, peppery nocellara olive and just a kiss of orange. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Mamertino 2017, Mamertino Sicilia DOC

From the dramatic land and seascape that is Capo Milazzo and a wine surely as close to winemaker Patricia Tóth’s heart as any in her Planeta dreams. Blends 60 per cent nero d’Avola, with (40) nocera while paying homage to the Mamertini who produced a version of this wine at Milazzo, described by Pliny and beloved by Julius Caesar. First vintage was 2013 and so only the fifth by this warm vintage example. Can be a bruiser and a brooder but ’17 exhibits a surprising antithetical brightness and invitation for pleasure. Even when this young, now moving, not evolving but relenting, in structure and for spirit. The two grapes work in seamless if also delicious tandem, pushing and giving a little, extending an olive branch through clear Mediterranean scents, flavours and style. Like morning dew, soulfully guitar driven, modern jazzy in pure stone groove. Unexpected and warranted at the very same time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Noto

Noto is the birthplace of nero d’Avola, graced with calcareous soils like Jerez and Champagne, not really comparable to anywhere else. Noto is close to Vittoria in how the wines come to be but it’s a mobile texture, silken and with velvety tannins. The soft hills of Buonivini are blessed by soft breezes arising from the meeting of two seas, ideal for nero d’Avola and moscato, but also almonds, carobs and olives, symbolic plants of the Mediterranean location. The three vineyards are agliastro, buonvini and zuppardo on 45 hectares, acquired piece by piece, today producing the DOC wines Santa Cecilia, Moscato di Noto and Passito di Noto.

Planeta Allemanda 2021, Sicilia Noto DOC

Allemanda, opening baroque dance, 100 per cent moscato bianco, fully, completely Noto. The concept is before the meal, a winder upper, ahead of several courses and pairings, in lieu of that wine killing sundowner, Sicilian style. Quite a tart and powerfully stinging revivalist, to wake one up and keep the spirit alive well into the night. A palate refresher, making use of the indigenous and the parochial. Crisp, clean, tightly wound, acidity high, difficulty low. Revive your energy with a glass of Allemanda, dancer in the mouth. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Moscato Di Noto Dry 2021, Sicilia Noto DOC

Sister to Allemanda, 100 per cent moscato (di Noto) yet here dry as the southern Sicilian desert (proverbially speaking) and acids running jet propelled high. In the vein of riesling or say Hunter Valley sémillon, austere, intense, at present unknowable but tenable as time will surely race on by. Lime and the dream of petrol, sharp herbs and even sharper citrus, though not straightforward as such. Most curious and intense white wine, best with sea creatures now but with time, who knows, the sky just may be the limit. Age some and see what transpires. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Controdanza 2018, Sicilia Noto DOC

Not quite a year has passed and while a settling seems noticeable there still pulses and vibrates a dance of sorts. The white soils have yet to leave the floor and the wines continues to slide over the sleek surface. The nero needs more time, the austerity must chill out and the integration is still somewhat far away. Keep to the program.  Last tasted April 2022

Noto’s bianci soils on the Buonivini estate are the Controdanza source at of Sicily’s furthest southeastern point. Planeta’s relationship here dates back to 1998. The hoedown,”quadrille” or square dance is 85 per cent nero d’Avola plus (15) merlot, super Sicilian by way of Noto and no matter how many vintages pass on by there is still this irony between barn dancing and post-modern blending. It takes tasting this 2018 to realize how dominant the nero d’Avola really is and while merlot is supposed to soften and add a cream centre, in 2018 that’s a big request. Now 2017 makes even more sense and is a cream puff compared to this tannic and grippy 2018. A bigger wine of greater fortitude and one that needs some time to soften. Hold off on the Controdanza for now, the wine and the dance. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2021

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2016, DOC Noto

That idea behind tertiary fungi and umami is still a dream and should be shelved for at least four to five years. That said there is some movement now into the secondary, just hints mind you but there are the plums baked into the minced meat of a sciachiatta pie. Even a note of red pepper flake, parsley and dandelion to accent the sausage. Drinking with most excellent gastronomy right now.  Last tasted April 2022

The flagship 100 per cent nero d’avola must be poured last because of the power and the fact that it’s not something so easily understood. If you were to try and taste other wines after this it would be like Eric Clapton going on after Jimi Hendrix. There’s a deep olive, blood orange, tar and ribena profile that you just know will seek out truffle, porcini, tar and roses. Welcome to the world of aging Sicilian wines and in this very specific world, nero d’avola from Noto. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2011, DOC Noto

Santa Cecilia from 2011 is a special nero d’avola, balanced in silent but sweetly deadly acquiescence of Noto’s white chalky soils. Her tannins are abundant and smooth, running in one direction and so it’s a wonder how un-evolved and yet so involved this nero d’avola is equipped to believe about and with great kindred spirit with itself. That it presents this youthful and yet to advance is a thing magical and sincere. Inner strength is one thing but outward beauty is the real deal. Or is it the other way around? Either way they combine for one of Cecilia’s greatest acuity and remainder of structure. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018 and April 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2008, DOC Noto

Having now tasted several vintages, including a few older examples of Santa Cecilia the idea of taking nothing for granted is now engrained. Something happens to this nero d’avola after several years in bottle, part chemistry and part magic. When 10 years get behind this wine it begins to dig, deep and purposefully into the Noto soil, finding minerals and elements that never seemed to before be present in this wine. Well past the fruit stage here in this 2008, now underlying, primitive and fundamental. And yet it reeks of nero, wood a thing of the past, a perfume cast with spellbound, gripping and intriguing fascination. No shortage of earth and cocoa derivations but mostly the curiosity of place. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005, DOC Noto

Finding oneself in a state of utter disbelief upon nosing an older Santa Cecilia has just happened with thanks to this 2005 and the unthinkable aromatics it possesses. There have been some older examples like 2007, 2008 and 2011 which all showed morphological magic but this, this is something other. The state of perfumed preservation is impossible, the floral emanations and fruit continuance implausible and in suspension of belief. The 2005 is almost perfect, dark berries and red citrus alive, acids in perfect condition, wood dissolved, resolved and walked straight out the door. The life and vitality reside in the arena of the flawless, faultless and achievable. This is what nero d’avola, Santa Cecilia, Noto and Planeta can be, at its collective finest. Will drink this way (and also that) for five more years and with ease. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Passito Di Noto 2019, Sicilia Noto DOC

Planeta’s Passito di Noto is a rare and singular dessert wine, now in its 17th year of production, made with moscato (di Noto) and from vines so old it may not be known just how old they are. The grapes are dried using the appassimento method and then turned into this concentrated and naturally sweet dessert wine. This is a very particular viscosity and profile with resins and vapours as tenable as are the sugars, with herbs and plants nearby mixing with their vinous qualities for a sticky of superior savour and character. Imagine pineapple soaked in rosemary and vermouth, apricots bathing in fennel and golden Amaro, hazelnuts toasted with long pepper and green vines. Not unusual but particular, spoken personality and in the end, so very fine. Drink 2024-2035. Planeta’s Passito di Noto is a rare and singular dessert wine, now in its 17th year of production, made with moscato (di Noto) and from vines so old it may not be known just how old they are. The grapes are dried using the appassimento method and then turned into this concentrated and naturally sweet dessert wine. This is a very particular viscosity and profile with resins and vapours as tenable as are the sugars, with herbs and plants nearby mixing with their vinous qualities for a sticky of superior savour and character. Imagine pineapple soaked in rosemary and vermouth, apricots bathing in fennel and golden Amaro, hazelnuts toasted with long pepper and green vines. Not unusual but particular, spoken personality and in the end, so very fine. Drink 2024-2035. Tasted April 2022.Tasted April 2022

Vittoria

Southeastern Vittoria is home to the only Sicilian DOCG called Cerasuola di Vittoria, a blend of nero d’Avola and frappato grown on red sandy soils. As winemaker Patricia Tóth likes to say, “the main actor in all these wines is the beloved nero’d’Avola,” most important variety on the island, planted across 60 per cent of vinicultural surface area. Nero is the adaptable one, like pinot noir in France, nebbiolo in Piemonte and sangiovese in Tuscany. Vittoria’s are fresher and ignite more passion as compared to what comes from Noto and parts further east on Sicilia.

Diesel

Planeta Frappato Sicilia Vittoria DOC 2020

First vintage of Planeta’s frappato was 2013 so by count this eighth is a Vittoria DOC of experiential significance, rare, low output yielding and as always, never showy. The grape and the amazing singularity it possesses makes for comparisons that are desperate but ultimately useless. That frappato in Planeta’s way can deliver this fresh strawberry and reductively earthy combination is testament to soil and sea. Think of the ripest fruit cut clear and clean by wet stoniness and sharp imagery. Crystalline vintage here for Planeta, potent, vehement and heartfelt. There is no hiding from such clarity and tempered ethos. The 2020 shows a little of that Etna Rosso feeling and from a location so far away. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Frappato Sicilia Vittoria DOC 2019

An extra year effects a significant amount of change and difference, especially when that vintage was so warm and generous. In the realm of rare and dignified frappato there are moods, as if sounds, environment, beats and emotion have become involved, as if music saved my life. The strawberries are wilder and deeper, the herbals ground by pestle and the sea just a bit dark, turned up and stormy. The mid-palate on 2019 is completely filled in, the acids circulative, the finish weighty and defiant. Not the light and bright frappato of some years and yet always sharp, direct, pointed. It can’t help but be. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Winemaker or dog whisperer? Both

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2020

From the red soils of the Dorilli estate and Sicily’s only DOCG in capture of a seriously striking vintage. The southerly location lands between the sea and the Iblean mountains, the name coming from cerasa, cherry in Sicilian dialect. Typical for Planeta’s take, blend of 60 per cent nero d’Avola with (40) frappato, coming together like Hall and Oates, a little bit 80s, funky and pretty. Cerasuola as method of modern love, in which “dreams are made of a different stuff.” Cerasuola pitting strawberry and cherry against a red citrus backdrop, remarkably well constructed and produced. Two grapes in harmony, with strong hooks and overlaying melodies. Adheres to traditional soul traditions while turning out the pop. Thus the DOCG. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Dorilli Sicilia Cerasuola Di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2017

Dorilli represents the pinnacle of the eponymous estate sound and vision in a Cerasuolo more Bowie and Lennon than any duo aligned for hits. The 2017 is Planeta’s Fame, higher in nero d’Avola (70 per cent) and lesser (30) in frappato as compared to the normale. Named for the nearby river Dirillo, “landing place of brave Aeneas,” and a red blend that aches with both maturity and confidence. “Could it be the best, could it be? Really be really babe. Could it be my babe could it babe?” The answer is yes, in spite of a warm vintage with some dustiness and dried fruit. Fame can be and is had with bowie knife sharpness and young Sicilian intensity. Yes this 2017 is too youthful to call but time will be kind and this wine will be timeless. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Good to go!

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Forever in Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

An ambassador’s return, Chianti Classico Collection 2022, 4 LCBO videos, 11 UGAs, 37 estate visits and 450 tasting notes

The story of two hats

The last pre-pandemic supper in Panzano takes place in the Officina della Bistecca at Dario Cecchini’s Antica Macelleria Restaurant on the 19th of February, 2020. Little could any one of the revelers that night have any inclination what lay ahead. Who could foresee less than a week later there would be a Casablanca-esque slipping out of Faenza in the middle of the night, heading to Firenze for a flight out of Italy before first light. A funny thing happens in between. Tutti Matti Chef Alida Solomon from Toronto is already feasting at the long Bistecca harvest table when the party Canadese arrives. A wonderful surprise save for the fact that Tuscany is actually her home. That night the writer surreptitiously leave his Sienese cappella in the officina and the next day no one at Cecchini is able locate it. Hat vanishing act. On route to Montalcino a necessary stop is made in Siena, specifically the Piazza del Campo, for a Spritz and the purchase of a new hat. Borsalino is closed so Cappelleria Bertacchi is the next best option and a brand new, similarly styled hat is procured. The following day, while sitting upstairs tasting Brunello on the terrazza of Caffè La Fortezza in Montalcino who walks in but Solomon, tosses up the aforementioned and abandoned hat, nothing is spoken and away Chef goes. This is the story of being the owner of two hats.

Tasting with Michaela Morris at Il Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, March 2022

A prodigal ambasciatore‘s return

This may be considered an inflated way to refer to one’s self in the third person but truth is that third person recounts with the fondest of memories 10 pre-pandemic Tuscan excursions in four years before the world shuts down to travel. The restart launches in October 2021 with the first of four more over the course of six ’21-’22 abridging months. There are extroverts and introverts but there are also ambiverts, those who exhibit tendencies in roughly equal proportions. Some are in the middle or on the fence when it comes to Chianti Classico wines. If one is to refer to oneself as a proud ambassador for said wines then there must be synergistic feelings of belonging. There will be connectivity with the wines, territory and a most profound connection with the people. In October of 2021 a rebirth takes place in the guise of travel renascence, a re-entry for the first time in 20 months made available by the most erudite, generous and hospitable folks at Gambero Rosso. An ambassador who sits not on a fence has zero trepidation in making a decision to fly first to Firenze for three days of arranged visits in the Classico zone to precede the Tre Bicchieri’s festivities in Rome. When a month later a special edition of Benvenuto Brunello is organized it makes super sense to follow that up with three more days of visits in the territory shared by Firenze and Siena. To see great Consorzio friends and colleagues again restores faith in this world. Car rides, lunches, dinners, tank, barrel, latest release and archived tastings, caffès and chats in the sun. Grazie tantissimo to Giovanni Manetti, Carlotta Gori, Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Caterina Mori, as always, sempre e per sempre.

Related – Chianti Classico goes to eleven

Chianti Classico Education in Toronto

The UGA designation, LCBO videos and continuing Chianti Classico education

In June of 2021 the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico announces the shift to 11 additional units of geographical designation to carve out new parameters and progressiveness for the territory. These Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive allow producers to make mention on labels of Gran Selezione wines. A first step towards full disclosure across all Chianti Classico wine labels in the future. This information comes to the writer on the heels of keeping busy during lockdowns and pandemic restrictions that sees the proliferation of tastings and education via platforms like Zoom. Connecting producers with sommeliers and prospective agents is key to continuity and Godello obliges whenever the call to duty arrives. The return in person late in 2021 and through the first four months of 2022 sees restaurant education sessions reach dozens upon dozens of sommeliers, front of house and back of house staff, denizens of Toronto’s restaurant industry eager to resume their absorption of wine information, especially as it pertains to tasting sangiovese. The filming of four educational videos for the LCBO is particularly gratifying, capped by a win of an LCBO Elsie Award for said videos. In three weeks time the producers will arrive in Toronto to participate in the WineAlign critic and Ambasciatore‘s Masterclass. They will also pour their wines at both trade and consumer walk-around tastings. The Toronto Island Chianti Classico Cup happens on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 and “Experience the Wine, Olive Oil & Food of Chianti Classico,” Monday, May 30, 2022 at The Globe and Mail Centre.” Click on the link for more information. Forever in Chianti Classico, even while at home.

Filming Chianti Classico videos for the LCBO, at Praise Bottle Shop, Toronto

End of season reaction to the April frost of 2021

For Luca Martini di Cigala of San Giusto a Rentannano the first vintage when he realized something was not right was 1998, when the skin of the berries were burned by the sun. Climate change, events and extremes are not something that just popper up in the past few years. 

Paolo de Marchi does not so much look at yields before high density but rather yields that are a quotient of each square metre as a function of bunches per plant. In a frost year like 2021 Guyot produces more fruit from secondary buds. Paolo makes use of a selection of clones but more importantly a massal vineyard. “This is how you get rid of vines that are not good and replicate those that are. Bud break is often so early and we will never escape the frost anymore. The real problem starts with earlier winter and Spring.”

UGA in reverse, Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

At Casa Emma Paolo Paffi admits to a 35 per cent loss in 2021 due to the April frosts, a vintage when even problems occurred even in the higher reaches. “You would have to go back to 1995 to find another vintage where this happened,” tells Paffi. At Villa Le Corti Principe Duccio Corisini and Oenologist Claudio Giglioni noted that in 2021 the single vineyard Guliae, nicknamed the Figo, produced seven tonnes per hectare. It remained safe from the frost, perhaps because of biodynamics, perhaps because of Guyot training, perhaps because of position. Maybe all three but regardless it was not caught in the April frost zone.

At Il Molino di Grace in Panzano their particular frost zone resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in yields.  There was a good quantity of water in the winter, a cool spring, warm and ideal summer, rain in the second half of August. “A perfect situation for quality and quantity,”  had the frosts not come. Says Iacopo Morganti, “we need to build artificial lakes.”

Related – When frost strikes, Chianti Classico responds

Chianti Classico Experience in Toronto

Fontodi and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti owns over 20 hectares of over 40 years. He explains that even if there are 20-30 days separating the picking from start to finish in a vintage there is always a marker, especially with sangiovese. “And with old vines they are not nearly as susceptible to stressors,” says Manetti. “Vigna del Sorbo will succeed even with all of what is mentioned here.” At Bindi Sergardi I Colli is where Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi was born and grew up. Built in the 1400s for the family, lower in elevation (350m) as compared to Mocenni (500m), still rich in Alberese but also high in iron content across the road in the Chianti Colli Senesi. Some frost kill but not significant enough to mention. For Angela Fronti of Istine, “this year 20-25 per cent less, part frost and part cinghiale, qualcosa nell-aia.” Something in the yard.

Alone with Chianti Classico Sangiovese, rooftop terrace, Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, Firenze

Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti: “It’s been a difficult year and we’re very lucky to be in Radda. We did not fear the frost. Most Radda producers escaped loss due to frost but the animals are another matter all together. Drought pushes the animals (wild boar, deer the size of cows), out of the forest and grapes are there biggest resource recourse.” Bianchi is still looking higher and a few years ago planted Malpensa Vineyard upwards of 650m. As did Fedecrica Mascheroni of Volpaia. Their new vineyard is planted at 650m, using five clones of sangiovese from Il Puro with two chosen for planting as half of the small (one hectare vineyard) and also malvasia and trebbiano for Vinsanto. It was finished in the Spring of 2021.

Educating the LCBO Buyers, February 2022

What about Canaiolo?

“Canaiolo is an underestimated variety,” insists Isole e Olena’s Paolo de Marchi. “It ripened so early this (2021) season and was picked before the chardonnay. It just may be the future” While that may sound like sacrilege in a land where sangiovese is the (literal) life blood of the wines, de Marchi is not the only one focusing extra energy on the endemic variety. L’Erta di Radda’s Diego Finocchi sees canaiolo as essential to blending into sangiovese because of its higher level of pH, a catalyst for balancing not only the high acidity of sangiovese but also helping to temper and even hide alcohol in warm and dry vintages. Both Robin Mugnaini and Claudio Gozzi of Fattoria le Masse would surety agree. Their Timeo is a 100 per cent canaiolo from 60 year-old vines (planted in 1961), picked in late September but before the hottest final days. A wine that is truly a matter of pH waving over the palate.

Learning with Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena, San Donato in Poggio

Angela Fronti of Istine in Radda has planted some canaiolo and malvasia nera, the latter replacing cabernet to return to roots and grow what is meant for this part of the territory. Salt and pepper if you will also to have more diversity going forward into the ever-changing climate change unknown. Canaiolo is more vigorous and so can add some good balance, both more quantity and for freshness in warmer vintages. At San Giusto a Rentennano 15 of 30 hectares are on tufo soil, not exactly volcanic but the left over from a receding ocean that left a mix of sand and pebbles of six or so inches over a bank of clay. This plus many large fossil shells makes for sangiovese of medium hue, specific mineral saltiness and a very specific Chianti Classico profile. Canaiolo is not a factor here.

Estate Vineyard, Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Old is the new agriculture?

There was a profound and at time controversial but always enlightening discussion with Monte Bernardi’s Michael Schmelzer. Michael talked of green harvest, rootstocks, Pietraforte, whole bunch fermentation and instincts. Standing in his Retromarcia Vineyard on a cool but perfectly blue mid-November day I asked him about climate change and what needs to be done about it. Can’t say his answers were what I expected. He began with the concept of dropping fruit. “We haven’t dropped since 2007.  We have to think like the old farmers thought. The new way was to have you reduce fruit to make better wine. It’s like losing nutrients in the ground. I look at the wine bunches as on a scale, they’re not unripe, they’re just less ripe. They help me come up to 55 quintali per hectare. I still get acidity and sapidity. For me the concept should be re-examined and re-thought. I look at everything as an asset. You should be using your fruit. What other industry drops 30 per cent of their produce? We should be seeing 30-35 year-old vineyards going to 50-55 years. Overall we’ve lost more than we have gained.”

New Fontodi vineyard, Lamole

Schmelzer continues onto the idea of choosing 110 Richter, instead of the commonly used 420A rootstock, showing how internodes should be the size of a fist and canes as pencil thinness or bigger. “People are compromising because they’ve chosen the wrong rootstocks,” he explains. “Granted we’re picking earlier than before but mid to late September is not extreme. We haven’t seen anything yet.”

“The only thing I don’t like is people telling me how to make my Riserva,” are the words of a winemaker who has seen his fair share of rejection. Perhaps I encourage the minor rant because there are two sides to every story. Maybe it’s the fault (or the advantage, depending on your perspective) of the rocks. “Brenna Quigley (Napa Geologist) came and made a study of all the famous soils of Chianti Classico and Monte Bernardi was identified as the plot with the hardest Pietraforte of all.” Sa’Etta Vineyard was planted in 1968, now 53 years old (similar to both Monte Bernardi and Tzingana) and trained in double (doppio) Guyot. For Castello di Monsanto’s Laura Bianchi the constant posit tug is Guyot vs Sperrone and both exist in a vacuum where necessity is the mother of invention. 

Macigno di Marne, Lamole

In terms of stems Schmelzer’s decisions are essentially instinctual, like that of a cook. “I don’t look at numbers. I feel as a winemaker it’s important to free yourself from technicalities and use your instincts. If you follow numbers you will always make a mistake that has to be later corrected.” As for barrel use, “if there is wood in a wine I want it to be so subtle. (Again) thinking like a cook. I’ve more stems, for longer, in post and of course also during maceration. Natural tannins come from the stems in that post-maceration state.” The conclusion lies in how stems are catalysts for the polymerization of tannin, without a trace of humidity. Completely secco.

Wines of Lamole

Nowhere is the “old is the new agriculture” refrain spoken with greater clarity than in the Greve frazione and newly minted UGA of Lamole. The spectacular amphitheatre is home to high elevation vineyards of a particular geology where Macigno del Chianti, schist and marl gift a most specific perfume to the sangiovese. Lamole is home to I Fabbri, Lamole di Lamole, Podere Castellinuzza, Castellinuzza e Piuca, Le Masse Di Lamole and Castello di Lamole. The UGA also houses one of Chianti Classico’s most famous vineyards, Paolo Cocci’s Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole, from which several producers have rented fruit to make über-Lamole scented wines. Still others are looking to the frazione to expand on their portfolios, including Podere Poggio Scalette (of Jurij Fiore) and Querciabella from the Ruffoli hill in Greve. It is well known that Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti produces Filetta di Lamole from his cousin’s vineyard but the latest project will take Lamole to an entirely new and different level. Manetti’s new plantation on Macigno di Marne, a wholly singular marine sandstone geology, will be a game changer.

Conzorzio President Giovanni Manetti and Filippo Bartolotta presenting Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Estate visits, the Chianti Classico Collection and Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi

This is the author’s most comprehensive Chianti Classico report to date. Nearly half of the wines chosen to taste were Annata and this is because there were numerous opportunities during estate visits to recall “lost” vintages as a result of the pandemic, along with the newer 2020s and 2019s presented at the collection. In February 2020 the Ambassador Ad Honorem from Canada organizes and acts as chaperone to nine compatriots (plus one favolosa Americana) for five days of exploration throughout the 11 UGAs of the area. Casa Chianti Classico, President Manetti, the Consorzio and the producers host La Squadra Canadese of sommeliers; John Szabo MS, Nadia Fournier, Scott Zebarth, Kristi Linneboe, Joris Garcia, Caroline Beaulieu, Hannah Egan-Lee, Natalie Pope and Paige McIntyre. A memorable trip. A month later on day two of the Chianti Classico Collection a masterclass is presented by Italian wine expert Filippo Bartolotta and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti titled Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi. Chianti Classico wines dating back to 1949 are poured during a most fascinating presentation and study, replete with historical images on screen depicting political, religious, cinematic, pop cultural, artistic and iconic scenes of Italian heritage, civilization and society. There are moments of white grapes mixing with their counterpart reds, old wines gifting scents and textures as if by Vin Santo and others so clearly a product of when they were made. That the wines show incredibly well owes to the longevity of sangiovese and its perseverance in the poise of Chianti Classico. More on this tasting will be shared through a separate article in the coming days.

The producers with Filippo Bartolotta and Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Over the course of the four trips to the region in October, November, February and March, 34 estates are visited; Bindi Sergardi, Cantalici, Casa Emma, Carpineta Fontalpino, Castell’In Villa, Castello di Monsanto, Castello di Radda, Castello di Volpaia, Cigliano di Sopra, Fattoria dell’Aiola, Fattoria Le Masse, Fattoria di Pomona, Fattoria San Giusto A Rentennano, Fontodi, I Fabbri, Il Molino di Grace, Il Palagio di Panzano, Isole e Olena, Istine, La Sala, Le Fonti di Panzano, L’Erta di Radda, Monte Bernardi, Montecalvi, Podere Capaccia, Quercia al Poggio, Querciabella, Rocca delle Macìe, Rocca di Montegrossi, San Felice, Tenuta di Carleone, Val delle Corti, Villa Calcinaia – Conti Capponi and Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini. During the coming weeks further reports in greater detail will appear on Godello concerning several of these visits.

Walk-around tasting at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Over two days at the 2022 Chianti Classico Collection more than 650 different wines from 180 gallo nero estates are made available to journalists and trade; 364 Annata, 161 Riserva and 125 Gran Selezione, along with 39 barrel samples from the 2021 vintage. Sales of Chianti Classico wines continue on an upwards steady trend. In 2021 the growth is plus-21 per cent versus 2020 and plus-11 relative to 2019. Through February of 2022 the increase is plus-seven per cent over the same time period of 2021. Grape prices are up 20 per cent, the United States holds strong at 33 per cent sales while Canada sits in third place with their 10 per cent share. A prediction towards 11 per cent by the end of 2022 holds strong. The great emergence is South Korea where sales have doubled and quadrupled relative to 2020 and 2021. Not surprising Seoul-based journalist Jung Yong Cho becomes the latest appointee as Chianti Classico Ambassador for 2022.

Godello in Firenze

The structure of the tasting notes remains consistent in terms of running through the three appellative levels but here for the first time each listing includes a mention of the associated UGA. Without attempting to review wines that would result in equal footing there is a good level of equanimity in that all 11 UGAs are well documented. The following 450 tasting notes are broken down as follows: Castellina (48); Castelnuovo Berardenga (32); Gaiole (59); Greve (30); Lamole (18); Montefioralle (10); Panzano (39); Radda (55); San Casciano (28); San Donato in Poggio (34); Vagliagli (25) and IGTs (72). By appellation the number of reviews are: Chianti Classico (201); Chianti Classico Riserva (113) and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (59). By vintage the breakdown is Chianti Classico 2020 (46); CC2019 (110); CC2018 (24); Older vintages (20). Chianti Classico Riserva 2019 (15); CCR2018 (45); CCR2017 (10); CCR2016 (10), Older vintages (33). Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2019 (2); CCGS18 (24); CCGS17 (12); CCGS16 (13); Older vintages (9). Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (7). Finally there are sangiovese from 137 estates reviewed in this report, the largest number covered to date.

Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Arillo In Terrabianca Chianti Classico DOCG Sacello 2020

Radda

Open and fragrant, south Raddese acidity on display, light and breezy with no oak interference whatsoever. Sacello in località Terrabianca is a sangiovese joy to sip, so long as someone else is lifting the heavy bottle and pouring your glass. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castellina

Banfi is another semi-closed and reductive 2020, not uncommon for the vintage and also surely caused in part by just how little time the wine has been in bottle. Cherry fruit and the mild bitterness of the pit dominate the aromas (at this early stage) while texture is pectin and glycerin, strawberry smoothie and a few drops of blood orange bitters. Not getting a real sense of location, perhaps herbal like Gaiole and red fruit centric like Castellina though savoury as if by San Casciano. Take your pick. Regardless of vineyard place this is so very sangiovese, acids et al. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Bertinga Chianti Classico DOCG La Porta Di Vertine 2020

Gaiole

Gaiole savour in all its woods and brush comes clear into aromatics and view through this ’19 Annata, almost vividly so. Deep well of varietal fruit, über sangiovese but more so Gaiole. Good and sweet ’19 tannins are plentiful and there is some green astringency as they pass over the palate. Wait a year and then drink for two more after that. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cacio e Pepe on a perfect February day in Firenze

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castellina

Bibbiano’s is at the forefront of youthfulness in that there is a closed aromatic launch and some reduction needing to blow off before the hounds of charm can be released. Head straight to the palate to be graced with the interspersions of texture and structure, first liquid Castellina chalky, then wound around the body of this wine. Sangiovese needs the bottle and with eyes closed those words of Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi play in refrain over and over again. Be patient and kind to his wine and in turn you will be kindly rewarded. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda and Castellina

Brancaia 2020 takes the torch from 2019 in so many ways and then again, not in every way. Same fruit exposition and multi-site expression but deep and soulful for 2020, as opposed to bright and airy. More texture and crunch in 2020 while also finest of fine acids. A bigger wine and yet things travel consistently from one vintage through to the next. The new era continues for Barbara Widmer and team. Drink 2022-2026. Tasted March 2022

Cantine Guidi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

From Poggibonsi and a 2020 showing stewed fruit and oxidation. Tasted from two bottles, each showing the same problematic notes.  Tasted March 2022

Artichokes, San Casciano

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Greve

Carpineto’s Greve sangiovese is both unmistakable and akin to wines from another time, of thyme and incense, acids and innocence. You might swear this wine is wearing bell bottoms and preaching about peace and love. Love for the territory and especially the land underfoot. This smells like things that grow, of herbs and tea, resins and saps. Light and with a fluid glycerol feel. Lovely and herbal vintage for the Zaccheo team. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

Distinctly Casa Emma from their corner of San Donato in Poggio though a bit deeper and darker of a blood orange sanguinity in 2020. Not the lightest or brightest vintage interpretation and really quite smooth, round, even lower in acid. One bottle shows this calm quality and surprising ease but a second bottle exhibits more acid, sharpness and clarity. Still there is a density of fruit and settling that’s a bit inconsistent with previous vintages while the tannins do take charge at the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castagnoli, Castellina

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castellina

A reminder that Jacopo di Battista is sitting on one of the most striking properties and vineyard at elevation in Castellina so proximate to both Radda and Panzano. Here a striking Annata, sharp and also weighty, reductive behind which florals clearly lurk. Rich, luxurious even and with sour acids that infiltrate the drupe. Lots going on here and surely needs tome to settle in. Strange perhaps, misunderstood to a degree and yet all will fall into place. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Castellare 2020

Castellina

Dusty, high acid, crunchy and lightly acetic sangiovese, not unusual for Castellina and Castellare, especially when the wine is so young. Tart is the understatement and tight the over, while some sweetness in the structure indicates there will be some fine push pull moments not too far way. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castelli Del Grevepesa Castelgreve Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

From the cooperative in San Casciano and their Castelgreve label, new and improved and a darker if more extracted version for the vintage. Not so much the light and bright example but one extracted, juicy, variegated of several points of acidities and really quite dense in texture. Gravity has a gain on Castelgreve and this will drink earlier than many. A touch of green and grey is already showing. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Castelli Del Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

The San Casciano cooperative’s knowable and most recognizable bottle is this Clemente VII, who incidentally was Giulio Zanobi di Giuliano de’ Medici, head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from November 19, 1523 until his death on September 25, 1534. The wine has not been made quite that long but it is one of the territory’s elder sangiovese statesmen and the 2020 version is a heady and fulsome one indeed. Higher in alcohol than some, concentrated to the fullest extent of the year (and Papal law if you like) with silky texture and sour acids. Classic really. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

UGAs of the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Castello Di Ama Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

A sign of the vintage is at first the declared alcohol (13.5 per cent) but also more than that a dichotomous relationship between lightness of actionability and creeping structural accountability. Castello di Ama’s Gaiole sangiovese exhibits these push-pull traits with both dictionary and thesaurus reality. A chiaroscuro Chianti Classico if ever there was, dappling of light against a darker shaded background, fruit swelling in the foreground with chalky grains liquifying throughout and behind. Time is essential and this wine has plenty of time. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

Moving from strength to strength here we arrive at 2020 with a fruit-centric Castello di Meleto although like many recently bottled of the vintage there is some reduction to blow through. That said there is a depth to Meleto’s ’20 that holds attention for quite a stretch of time. Full and with palpable intensity in a desirably structured sangiovese. Also recognizable as Gaiole in origin, in a nutshell and so exemplary for the UGA. The clarity and understanding of changes are more than evident. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Greve

No shocker that Castello di Querceto’s Dudda Valley location has produced a light and open-knit sangiovese from the less than round 2020 vintage. Like many others however there is a sly and crafty set of structural circumstances happening and running through this low alcohol (13 per cent declared) wine. Dare it be said old-school Chianti Classico but with modern clarity and charm. Could drink this every day of the week. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2020

Greve

San Jacopo is a Vicchiomaggio understudy, staying at the ready to step in, an Annata that knows all the parts and lines of the estate with it’s range of lead wines. This is straightforward and sure as sangiovese Annata, sturdy, solid and playing a perfectly reasonable support role. Well seasoned but never a wood-driven wine, salt and pepper got just right. The appetizer. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Castello di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Clasico DOCG Guado Alto 2020

Greve

Guado and Alto, meaning “a shallow crossing-place in a river” and “high” which seems like an oxymoron but allow me to explain. This second and arguably more important of two Annata by Vicchiomaggio is an über fresh one, lightly carbonic and juicy as a medieval quench from the Greve River. Tart and pulsating, oddly reminding me of poulsard. All this to mean Guado Alto is high-toned while creating a horizontal stretch of Chianti Classico openness.  Drink 2022-2024. Tasted March 2022

With Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia, Radda

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda

Freshness incarnate exudes from Volpaia’s 2020 Annata and in fact the wine seems like it has barely achieved its alcohol and malolactic fermentation. In fact at a realistically labeled 13.5 per cent this from Radda is as beautiful and honest as it gets. Modern as well, stylish, of great attitude and delicious. The Raddese acidity is of course present and accounted for but that fruit. My. Oh My. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Castello La Leccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castellina

Castello La Leccia’s Castellina location close to Macìe is northerly yet halfway between Lilliano and Fonterutoli. Certainly a Galestro soil happenstance and with 2020 that geology stands out. Classic and that is meant with the most complimentary commune and UGA commentary, blessed by perfectly local, parochial and conventional wisdom. Red to hematic blueing and blackening fruit, quite firm and grippy, tart, nearly searing and really driven. Needs time and when it arrives should persist for three to five proper drinking years. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda

No other 2020 seems to scent like this from Monterinaldi and so it is more than worth commenting on the sense of place that is their southwestern Radda location. Herbal and dried flower potpourri but also something unknowable, intangible, even mysterious. Yes there is some early reduction but it can’t suppress the open-air meets underbrush perfume. Equanimity between maceration and fermentation makes this a candidate for top mid-term aging Annata, in other words begin drinking soon and make great use for three to four years thereafter. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Colombaio Di Cencio Chianti Classico DOCG Monticello 2020

Gaiole

Colombaio di Cencio presents a Gaiole herbology that’s always indicative and distinctive, sometimes by way of faintly sweet Amaro liqueur. That’s the first and then recurring feeling coming from this 2020, chalky and with acids that slide along with the red fruit speckled with fresh and also dried herbs. The tannins follow the latter with some pretty austere aridity. This will drink well in a few years, that much is certain, but unfortunately the bottle will not get any lighter. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

So young and impressionable, hematic, red blood of sangiovese while fresh, nervy and exciting. Also deep and concerned, dusty brood of San Casciano fruit, sottosuolo and fully nuanced earthy flavours. Big, big wine that needs to be looked at again a year forward because the youthfulness distracts from the potential. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

With Michaela Morris, Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile, Cigliano di Sopra, San Casciano

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

The emergence of 2020 is real, right now and while who knows for how long going forward, perhaps with luck and fortuitous execution, the suiting could be seemingly forever. What transpires here is nothing short of an epiphany and even perhaps a Chianti Classico miracle. How the most precociousness and hard work can conspire to make such a beautiful wine is beyond comprehension. But it does not matter because it has happened. Grande Maddalena. Bravo Matteo.  Last tasted March 2022

Will be bottled in December so essentially a finished wine. From 10 plots (of 11, one is merlot) facing southeast to southwest. Includes a small part of Vigneto Branca, the name of the fattoria and of who was working there. Here the fifth vintage for Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile is not only mature from a perspective of energy but also both succulence and sapidity that comes from changes, risks and learning what is possible. A bit oaky at this time but really showing what all these plots can effect, with solo sangiovese. No longer about precociousness but instead two winemakers who have arrived. “We don’t care about perfect phenolic maturity,” explains Vaccari, “when we feel the bitterness is gone, the tannins are good, then let’s extract.” Extract away young phenoms. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Viola Meacci and Alessandro Polombo, Luiano, San Casciano

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

Classico San Casciano as a notion of fresh and aromatic hillside reality, a purity of localized perpetuity through a glass of light and shadow, dappling, chiaroscuro. Wood creaming the red to black cherry, swirling, making it gelid. Stylish sangiovese in every respect, suave and instructive. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2020

Radda

Piero Lanza’s 2020 is a bright, effusive and luminescent version of itself in that there seems to be a lightness of being and avoidance of rich density. Quite the aromatic lift this early and time around, floral, like roses, hibiscus and fresh tar, not unlike some Tortonian raised nebbiolo. As sangiovese there is sneaky structure in quantifiably knowable admonition and that is said in the most complimentary of ways. Radda chalk, sand and whole bunch verdancy bring complexities and the struggle is real. Disregard the appellative concept of Annata in part, because this should go long. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Notably dusty and structured right of the top, feeling the wide open Castelnuovo airiness, sunshine and tart red fruit substantiality. Poised and restrained by extraction and pressing yet the Annata is a very taut and tight wine when assessed this young. Fèlsina always needs time and 2020 is far from the exception to that rule. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

Dark if high-toned sangiovese, not atypically San Casciano with first a musky note. Rich and filled with wood salve, creamy and textured, liquid chalky and sweetly tannic. Early signs of soy and tar so drink this early before the fruit turns to earth and mulch. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Angela Fronti, Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda and Gaiole

Just bottled last week, One hundred per cent sangiovese, “a wine to be drinkable,” insists Angela Fronti, “like my grandfather did in the past, at lunch.” A wine of freshness and acidity but also one that can age 10-12 years. Istine was planted in 2000, Cavarchione in 2010 and Casanova dell’Aia just a few years ago. All contribute to this Annata and all play a prominent role. If a bit (bottle) shocky no matter because Fronti, whether by purpose or promise manages to coax the best of all her fruit sources. What is showing early is this sort of herbaceous cabernet franc in sangiovese reality character, fleeting for sure and soon to come into a beautiful place. A reminder that 2020 was THE Covid vintage and so Angela was able to spend every waking moment with her vineyards and the season was neither hot nor cold but just perfectly somewhere in between. Drink 2023-2027.   Tasted February 2022

Campione da Botte, L’Erta di Radda

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda

From a sample labeled campione da botte, in other words a tank sample. Freshness abounds, Radda style, from the breath of the woods, the cool of the stones and the rise of the hills. Herbal like fresh Genovese basil, spicy that way with a hint of anise and cinnamon. A co-fermentation of sangiovese and canaiolo (five per cent), the latter adding le forma, volume and expansione, all of which are self-explanatory. An opposite of linearity, not roundness but a sapid expanse across the palate and in the mouth. This is the harmony pulled and coaxed from the ’20 Annata in a wine that makes you feel but more importantly exists by the dint of how it feels. Full. Not yet bottled but will be soon and truth is while the wine is tight the aromatics and mouthfeel are good to go. Worth a full review. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Maurizio Brogioni Chianti Classico DOCG H’Amorosa 2020

Greve

H’Amarosa as in “a love affair” or perhaps “I have a lover,” which could be sangiovese, perhaps Greve in Chianti or in a more broader sense, Chianti Classico. Can’t help but think about Jackson Browne, ballads, a splash of merlot and what’s happening these days. In 2020 that would be truth, openness and clarity with respect to the wines which are the storytelling by the producers. Brogioni’s is forthright, specific, real and for everyman. Juicy and in touch with both reality but also emotions. “I had a lover, I don’t think I’d risk another these days, these days.” Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2020

Panzano

Michael Schmelzer’s 2020 takes up right where everything he had been working on and through in 2019 left off. That is to say full on agricultural indemnity with all fruit all the time in use and winemaking that is afraid of nothing. The silky swarthiness of his ’20 Retromarcia endorsement and structural surety combine for freedom, exception and security. This Retromarcia ushers fruit in waves, oscillations, acetic sweeps and swells, coming at the palate with the full force of laws provided by nature. What happens at Monte Bernardi stays at Monte Bernardi, where calculated inventiveness experiences living life on the edge. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Alessandra Deiana and Michele Braganti, Monteraponi, Radda

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda

Monteraponi from Michele Braganti breathes in the high elevation Radda air and exhales with clarity, not to mention exclusivity. Yet another reductive 2020, albeit mildly so and not difficult to coax out of its savoury candied shell. While tart and even intense there is something mysterious and shadowy in the recesses of this sangiovese’s temperament and intelligence. Something guarded and misunderstood but time will make it all work out right. Keep this away and allow it to soften as it slowly gets to know you. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Montesecondo Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

A baritone beginning, low held Gaiole notes below with red to black fruit above. Not closed yet not expressive or generous either, reticent even and holding out because the tannins are in charge. Fruit quality and fleshiness are substantial, as is the wood and so the malic, creamy and sheathing sensation will need to settle before integration opens up the wine. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Lamole

Big but not dense and for Lamole a heady sangiovese from the not so magnanimous Chianti Classico vintage. More than anything it is essential and encouraged to concentrate on the floral aspects of this wine, perfumed to the hilt with that Lamole commodity. Like all the bushy herbs in bloom, of purples and pinks, scenting the air at dusk even if one fails to brush on by. Lovely texture in 2020, mildly glycerol and giving the impression of almost gelid but surely sweet sangiovese fruit. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Greve

There can be no surprise that Jurji Fiore’s 2020 is one of the more transparent and striking scintillants of sangiovese to emerge from out of the verifiable and veritably airy 2020 vintage. Sharp and pointed red limestone fruit off of the Ruffoli hill, rich undercurrent of currants red and also some black, intensity of right bank Greve acidity and tannins to carry this Annata longer than most. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted March 2022

Quercia al Poggio, San Donato in Poggio

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

The combination of definable and deliverable San Donato in Poggio terroir mixed with vintage compaction makes for this solid, chewy and fulsome Annata. Liquorice and blood orange, a deeper sentiment that for some reason seems to be a frazione thing for this vintage because this consistency of full emotive and textural sentiment runs through many of the wines. Look to San Donato in Poggio for more of everything in 2020. The wines are bigger than some of the other UGAs. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG L’Aura 2020

Castellina

This is not a Riserva, that is made quite clear from a 100 per cent sangiovese that used to include some merlot. Now a matter of picking and choosing plots from the steep and sloping vineyard starting from the bottom at 450m and rising up to 510. Sees 12 months in 3rd and 4th passage French wood. L’Aura is Iacopo Di Battista’s mother, as in the “aura of Laura” and a label produced since 1998. Not red but ochre-purple limestone literally begets and becomes this Annata, a.k.a fully completely Alberese soil. What comes from 2020 is a doubling down, regardless of appellative level, a wow factor of laser sharp stone cut by even sharper acidity. Edgy balsamic tannins increase the seriousness of this wine. Sell it now if you must but this Annata needs time. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

Riecine from Gaiole is the most radiant and glycerin version of itself, clean and concise, grippy yet available almost whenever you find yourself ready and in the sangiovese mood. Not a tart or intense Riecine by any stretch of the imagination, nor is there any real tannic demand. This is meant for now and should be embraced that way. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castellina

Incorporates five per cent merlot into the sangiovese, the grapes coming from all four Rocca delle Macìe estates. Essential, consistent and knowable for Castellina and especially a style that is unwavering as Rocca delle Macìe. A wine of layered commune earth, deep and even a bit brooding, so very sangiovese and with real Annata depth. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

Young, taut, impressionable, high-toned and bright red fruit Gaiole Annata, rich in 2020 polyphenols and thiols, quite vibrant and intense. Less herbal than many of its locale and even past iterations of itself while the fruit concentrates and works through the earliest stages of its youth. Fine and meshing the way Annata should and offering beauty above all else. Will drink at peak next year and for four after that. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Marco Ricarosli Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi, Gaiole

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Gaiole

Always 90 per cent sangiovese, here with (8) canaiolo and (2) colorino. “Quite a regular growing season, warm but never too much,” says Marco Ricasoli, “and very cool nights.” The main character is first colour in a Classico never stressed by heat and so fruit freshens, with acidity sure to follow. A crunchy Annata, not too hard and not too soft. Picked in the last week of September, late enough for full maturity. Monti (in Gaiole) is a warmer area and while the alcohol checks in at 14 per cent it’s a well-managed and balanced wine all the way through. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Ruffino Chianti Classico DOCG Santedame 2020

Castellina

Always a different and purposefully designed Annata from Ruffino, so very cherry liqueur, thickened by soil chalk in liquid varietal form. Here sangiovese with help from smoothing international varieties makes for a consistency of Chianti Classico to draw a crowd. Just a bit reductive and hypo-fresh, tart and sour-edged. Not edgy though and smooth as silk. Very professional wine and a good vintage from which to make that happen. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

A blend of sangiovese, pugnitello and colorino, the same dating back to 2009. Yet another warm vintage though with great changes in agricultural practices this Annata now shows great juicy freshness, especially from 2019 and now through this 2020. The acidity is more than maintained, the wood kept well in the back and this is just up front, accessible and on point. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Tenuta Di Campomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Campomaggio 2020

Radda

Raddese from the start, acids singing, zinging and slinging the lightning red fruit to the fore. In youth clearly dusty while a clarity and purity exists in a vacuum where lightness mixed with barrel make for a truly spirited Chianti Classico. Expressly and dutifully Radda sangiovese. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Beradenga

From Castelnuovo Beradenga and the Pellegrini farm where the wines are constructed with strict adherence to Glatt Kosher rules. Tart and chewy red fruit with a toasted and roasted quality, in other words cooked but with a light touch and sense of sangiovese gastronomy. As fas as Kosher for Passover wines are considered this Terra di Seta should reside at the top of anyone’s list. As for Chianti Classico it is real and exemplary of place albeit needing food alongside to tame the tannins and prepared food quality of the wine. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Vallenuovo from Castelnuovo Berardenga’s Tolaini is an extracted, generously macerated and humorously concentrated 2020. There is just something about Tolaini, an aromatic potpourri specific to this wine in great hyperbole. A bit reductive as many are so early in this vessel and yet agitation really does release the charm. A really well constructed Chianti Classico that will appeal to those who look for fullness, especially through the texture and the finish. Drink 2023-2027. Tasted March 2022

Pizzeria Lo Speso in Il Ferrone

Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Purely, expressly and properly San Casciano, structured woolly and snugly wrapped around fruit kept warm and nurtured in a blanket of care. Fragrant with fine tannins, “legno,” as it is said. A touch of green that is San Casciano because of the particular kind of savour and temper. Some minor austerity and demand in these tannins but mostly a sangiovese of land and air to express where it comes from. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Immediate attention is paid to the herbs and resins in the aromas of Badia a Colibuono’s 2019. From the outset this is clear and present Gaiole sangiovese, local, parochial and a sign of the time. No question the fruit is healthy and substantial but the vinoso quality of all that surrounds is just too blatant to ignore. As are the crisp acids and finely austere tannins. Transparent clarity is a given, as is a structural belief that this Chianti Classico Annata will live long with the best of them.  Last tasted March 2022

A distinctly herbal Annata from Badia a Coltibuono out of 2019, so very Monti with herbs and brush of all iterations. Notably rosemary with undertones of sage, cypress and gariga. The fruit keeps up with the greens but there is no mistaking the minty and pine forest behaviour of this wine. Super herbal, tart cherries and good fruit ripeness. Well managed tannins but those herbs! Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Belvedere Campòli Conte Guicciardini Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Again it is San Casciano that opens up the select savoury gates in an openly fragrant and knit sangiovese that is clearly and unequivocally 100 per cent just that. With thanks to a generous vintage and what is clearly a site that ripens ahead of many, the wine comes out smooth, itself also quite generous and even what could be called morbido. As easy as varietal Classico gets and ready to go. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina 

Bibbiano’s Annata moves to the rhythm of infinite wisdom, coagulation, conjoining and come together, of dual terroirs, bright red fruit alighting with stern, edging to austerity tannin. The vintage rebelled against is one from which Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi sticks to his guns and creates an Annata of undeniable estate conviction. Needing time and yet smiling that Castellina smile, finishing with that spicy Bibbiano spice. Can’t think of more than three other Classico at this price that are equal in representation to pour by the glass. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda Tenuta Mocenni 2019

Vagliagli

Exuberant Mocenni perfume and one could not help but to be fully cognizant of how expressively floral and stone cool it is. For Annata it gets neither more concentrated nor more in tune with a vineyard than this. So transparent and connected to Mocenni which is how and why Annata’s naked character is so important to explain an estate’s riches and what is possible with the other elevated, concentrated and investigative appellations. Wood is ambitious and justified in such a case, even at this Annata level, for later on. As for now or just around the corner, well that works as well. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2019

Vagliagli

Taken solely from the I Colli Estate’s vineyards in the UGA zone of Vaglialgi at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga commune, adjacent the Chianti Colli Senesi, 10 kilometres from Mocenni Estate, 15 minutes house to house. Makes for an antithetical Classico expression to what comes from the Mocenni amphitheatre. The difference is dramatic, higher in pH, lower in acidity, velvety, easier, readier. This 2019 vintage is a prime example, lush, 100 per cent sangiovese ripe, aged no more than six months in used barriques. Picked near to the last week of September, without exception, a week before Mocenni. Just a hint of phenolic chalkiness repeated on the back palate. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October and November 2021

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Radda in 100 per cent sangiovese kicks into high acid and elevated tones, lifted and placed in the air above. Quite tart and also tannic, drying over the palate, feeling arid, dusty and enervating. Not a tired wine per se but one that makes you feel this way. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Vagliagli

Vagliagli is the UGA and a 10 per cent combination of same-same colorino and merlot bring some colour and also softness to Borgo Scopeto’s sangiovese face. Crunchy sangiovese that is, well developed from the happy vintage though not without some austerity and grip in the tannin. More so than many vintages for this western Castelnuovo estate and the interest lies in how they will integrate and resolve. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cafaggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

Cafaggio so beautifully and comfortably represents Panzano from 2019, fruit at the front, mild structure settling in easily at the back. A pure frazione expression of sangiovese and from a vintage that laid such possibility out on a silver platter. Cafaggio clearly heeded the call and jumped on the opportunity. Finest Annata from the estate in quite some time. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2019

Gaiole

Full on Gaiole from Baruffo in 2019, unsurprising and in effect expected from an estate that looks for fullness, wellness and acceptance from their generous wines. All sangiovese and nothing but the great red hope in desire for Cantalici and Chianti Classico. Crisp in fact, well seasoned while noticeably tannic yet there is a feeling that you are requested to drink this as soon as possible. Find some Prosciutto di Parma, Fennocchiona and Pecorino for best results. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

 

With Filippo and Gioia Cresti, Carpineta Fontalpino, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

“A wonderful harvest for us and for the farm” tells Gioia Cresti. In terms of UGA this is Castelnuovo and as a broad expression this Annata is a micro-version captured in bottle, of wide open space and air. There are three vineyard locations, 10 hectares in Castelnuovo near to the winery, seven in Dofana (Vagliagli) and three in Montaperti. So fresh, 20 (normal) days on skins and the sweetest tannins available, even for a Carpineta Annata. Linear and long, elastically fleshy and just well, perfect. Yes, Gioia Cresti is a very good winemaker. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

A ninety per cent sangiovese with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera, fermented in stainless steel and concrete vats, aged one year in tonneaux (500ml), yet 40 per cent remains in barrel. An ideal and balanced vintage, slower to ripen than ’18 with no rush too fast to “fruitiness and complexity.” Also because the sub-zone of San Donato in Poggio performs better in warmer vintages. Great freshness, blood orange and intense red fruit but it’s just uncanny how this could be nothing but Casa Emma sangiovese. Tannins are denser, longer and impressive, the overall feel one that tells us this Annata can go deep. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

Notable ripe fruit and also a verdant austerity makes for a wine of two positions, angles and disparate emotions. A sangiovese of floral and also avian display while in delivery of liquorice and bitter herbs. Almost Riserva in style, glycerol and concentration at the fore, the rest waiting in the wings. Needs time. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Ristoro di Lamole

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Castagnoli procures a deeply satisfying and fulsome Annata, ripe and at the ready through a coupling to acidity and a tripling because the tannin is fully engaged. Tripped and let loose more like it in a sangiovese of swirls, thrills and intensity. Feels like Castellina at elevation with serious Galestro effects for an eventual date with elegance. Five years down the road from vintage it would seem. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Lamole

Clearly, unequivocally and unmistakably Lamole because that perfume jumps from the glass to gain your immediate attention. Part Macigno and part Calcari, so much vinous resin and a walk through a pine forest. Cool Lamole liqueur, fine capture of 2019 and really just an ideal vintage for e Piuca of Castellinuzza lineage in their native Lamole habitat. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

Highest level of Panzano richness, depth of fruit and Pietraforte infiltration, allowed to emanate in natural highlights throughout. All these elements are together exhibited in great co-conspiratorial desire. Full on push-pull of sliding scale piques and roundness in a sangiovese that wants to be both and have it all. Caky too with merlot plus cabernet sauvignon for surety and fruit explosiveness. Substantial and even if some vintages include petit verdot methinks not this one. A “clean” one for Rampolla, as it is said, international in the best possible way. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Castello della Paneretta, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From the San Donato in Poggio property with 404 years of experience behind this upstanding, generous, careful and thorough Annata from the 2019 vintage. The blood orange, red currant and chalky Galestro-Alberese chime can only be from this additional geographical unit, a frazione so distinctive, like the 11:30am Sunday bells that ring through Florence. A perfect time to taste by the way, refreshing, affirming and ready to set one on their way. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Clear, ernest and caressing fruit is captured from the open generosity of the 2019 vintage. This Castelnuovo Berardenga example shows what 100 per cent sangiovese of warmth and substance can effect for über drinkable Chianti Classico. Bossi’s is readier than many, seasoned by spice more than it exhibits qualities urged on by structure. A slight drying finish indicates a few years of life lay ahead. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Cacchiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Really parochial and specific, a Monti in Chianti Galestro gifted CC, aromatic yet wound quite tight. Sheds some perfumed Gaiole light on the state and possibility in this mainly sangiovese wine that receives minor support from endemic and pH supporting roles provided by canaiolo and malvasia nera. Good promise may just result in better fortune should you give this and the austere tannin some time. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2019

San Casciano

While Gabbiano produces large volumes of other denominational wines it needs reminding that their Chianti Classico numbers are significantly lower and the attention paid to these wines spares no emotion, attention or expense. Economies of scale allow for bargain pricing and the wines over deliver at all appellative levels. Case in point the Cavaliere d’Oro 2019, fragrant and graceful, salutary acids riding shotgun to promising fruit like a well orchestrated pack with Galestro-driven tannin. Everything together, delivering the goods and for the money. Almost unbeatable. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

With 763 years existence and experience behind this 2019 Annata you just know someone has a distinct territorial advantage. Castello di Meleto’s is quite rich, luxe and creamy for Annata and especially Gaiol, but is comes replete with great and preserving parochial acidity. That and sweet herbs, brushy savour and long strides. Solid, fresh for the vintage and the estate. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

With Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

A vintage with more Riserva in a five to one ratio (to Annata) when usually the numbers are four to one. Of course more savour and grip than 2018 and long-chained tannins. The length is not merely outstanding in fact it resonates through all the senses, including there at which the quotidian and fantastic converge. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021 and February 2022

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Mainly sangiovese with 10 per cent colorino and canaiolo, from a diplomatic vintage, promising of quality and generous of quantity. For estate director Stefano Peruzzi it is harmonious and very much like 2016. Such a professionally composed and pragmatically styled Chianti Classico, not what could be called luxe or lush though clearly balanced in its fruit to acid compendium. Delivers a purity of citrus crunch and is surely a design of tradition and place. While you feel a slight malo creaminess this is not a question of texture but one that speaks in fresh sangiovese tones specific to these lower hills of Radda.  Last tasted March 2022

A fine vintage here for Castello di Radda with their well-judged, sweetly sumptuous and succulent sangiovese. Shows a level of consistency in place that may have or would not have been possible just ten years ago. Warmer vintages and dedicated agricultural concern elevate the year after year game. In 2019 the acids and spices merge, unite and fixate on the fruit for a lovely circular swirl of freshness, vim and flavour. Really fine in nine. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Montefioralle

Really sweet perfumed Montefioralle entry from Verrazzano’s endemic and impartible Annata, mainly sangiovese with five per cent “other” autochthonous varieties. One of the most cherry red Chianti Classico in every respect; hue, aroma and flavour, then finishing with the slightest bitter pit. Just that touch of green in the tannin mixed with the purity of acidity makes this really sing. A song for Montefioralle. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

No doubt that Chianti Classico will always be fresh and spirited from Volpaia but it somehow finds a way in every vintage to become increasingly fluid, silky, clear and beautiful. The upper vineyards are helping more and more every year, plus a team working the vines and the wines together for more than 20 years. Yet this vintage still shows some backbone while overall much of the story remains to unfold and be told. Re-visit next year and the one after that for the emergence of the full story. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Filippo Bartolotta presents Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2019

Radda

Lovely textured vintage for the Capotondo in full capture of rich and ripe fruit. Some grip in tannin but mainly acidity that elevates and perches the substantial sangiovese up where it belongs in the Radda ether and with 2019 as the backdrop. Great work for the vintage. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

An ancient sea salty and airy western Chianti Classico sangiovese from Cinciano does Poggibonsi/San Donato in Poggio proud if in just a bit of its owns speacial and ulterior way. Always that silky, glycerol and substantial fruit ahead of all else. Beauty and purity, ease and such drink-ability. At the height of that ideal from 2019. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

So very Radda from Bernardo Bianchi’s ’19 Annata, fruit and acid structure in the arena of the cool while plenty of both preside. Only a small percentage of colorino shades the sangiovese from red to further red and the palate is simply sangiovese. There are parts iron and others blood orange out of 2019, fruit sorted to optimum purity and the least amount of bitters pressed into the hull of the wine. Quite structured and as always, impressive. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Concadoro Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Concadoro is Castellina on the western front, quietly aromatic and shilling the high toned, almost acetic style from the western edge of the central valley. Quite tart and astringent, more parts that make this tough and out of balance. Drink 2022.  Tasted March 2022

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Montefioralle

Fine and far from presumptuous Annata here from Il Conte, exemplary of a Greve, digging a bit deeper into Montefioralle sangiovese. Firm of dark and even dusty fruit, antsy and a bit racy while still this youthful, unsettled and needing time. Firm and grippy for the vintage, absolutely Calcinaia in style and a true representation of the multifarious estate soils. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Vagliagli

From the geographical zone of Vagliagli in the western section of Castelnuovo Berardenga commune and a sangiovese augmented by seven per cent canaiolo plus (3) colorino grown at 335m. Spends 13 months in 41 hl (untoasted) French oak barrels. Classicism incarnate for the territory with a Vagliagli twist, über savoury, youthful and fuelled by stone-strewn Alberese (limestone) vineyards. Creates a tannic austerity and a request for allowing this sangiovese Annata time to flesh out and settle in. Two years minimum, after which the very cherry fruit will act more aromatically expressive. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted December 2021

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG Petrignano 2019

Vagliagli

Petrignano is what Dievole assigns the lede of “a nuova voce del Chianti Classico,” a new voice, especially at the Annata level. The Gran Selezione is from Vigna Sessina and here 2019 is spoken through the younger vines and more precocious if not fully yet understood vineyard of Petrignano. Certainly a fresh and savoury Annata, sour citrus chalky and very primary. Almost nouveau but without the carbonic yet still this is as light and potentially sumptuous as it gets. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile, Cigliano di Sopra, San Casciano

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

This the fourth vintage of Maddalena Fucile and Matteo Vaccari’s Chianti Classico takes the next step, with a level of sweet acidity that really moves your palate and also because decreased wood does less to distract as much as in ’17 and ’18. Also de-stemmed by hand (as opposed to a new machine that will do a much better job in 2020), so here there is also some crushing. While there is some efficacy and esculente essence in the tannins there is also a delicate nature about this San Casciano sangiovese. Very good energy, very river stone, sand-felt and also by a little bit of Galestro rolled into one fine and lengthy Chianti Classico. Good tannin management is executed with precocious acumen with help from adding the previous year’s lees in the bottle. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria della’Aiola Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Vagliagli

Mainly sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and colorino aged in large botti plus stainless steel. Pitchy purple, Galestro meeting Macigno silk, mid-weight compaction and concern. Tannins are equalizing with the wood making a textural statement in a Vagliagli with good linger. Not a flashy Chianti Classico but one entrenched in the UGA soil. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Di Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

The Annata of Montecchio always express a deeper San Donato in Poggio, classically citrus and red fruit meeting salumi cure, but there is always more. To the story and the point, Annata from 2019 gives earth, juice bled through stone and clay. If other UGAs are akin to Santenay than this Barberino Tavarnelle could be compared to say, Volnay. In sangiovese of course and Montecchio accedes to a Villages level, here in their suitably hyperbolic Annata. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria La Leccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Beautifully blood orange sangiovese from Castellina’s La Leccia, fully equipped with red citrus, even some pink grapefruit. Then the structure and the verdancy take charge, especially on the palate, with some tannin unresolved and yet other structural parts that will work overtime to make the grade. Wait a year or two in any case. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Claudio, Cristina and Sole, Fattoria Le Masse, San Donato in Poggio

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

“To me, one of the best years for grapes,” tells winemaker Claudio Gozzi and the wood tank used for fermentation and now aging makes this noticeably a year wiser (than 2018) and so much more suitable to making this 100 per cent sangiovese. Even without tasting you can tell there’s a refinement, a calm and a settling that 2018 does not have. Cleaner, much more precision and seamless behaviour. Perfect volatility, sweet acidity and long, fine chains of tannin. Pure and honest, exacting, readier and will be just ideal with another year or so of time. Approximately 7,500 bottles produced. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2019

Radda

Fulsome and so purposefully developed sangiovese from Piero Lanza’s roll and sway of a Radda vineyard. Gelid yet tumbling and even a bit cumbersome while this youthful but what Poggerino is given is what Poggerino gives back. Strength over power, headiness over density, reality over headlines. A full and satisfying Chianti Classico with so much integrity in correct alignment with this place. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Yet another Pomona Annata pretty in pulchritude, handsome in heavenly sangiovese and grande by the goodness of grace. The blood orange by jove of sangiovese juiced for success. Trust when you hear that Monica Raspi’s cloudy ferments look like they will never clarify, purify and deliver the message of her Castellina vineyards but they have and they do. There is risk and leaps of faith in her work but she is a true scientist with artistic style and merit. She makes great Annata and more with 2019 being a new launching pad to prove the point.  Last tasted February 2022

The flesh and full palate address continues where 2018 left off though there is an openness to ’19 that speaks to more warmth and a weightiness of developed tannin. Of comports in structural components, polymerizing commotions and long chains of conveyance. Bread as sustenance and life from a 100 per cent sangiovese Annata out of Monica Raspi’s Sant’Ilario and Vigna del Termine vineyards teaming up for caress and no distress. Oh sweet Chianti Classico surrender, “I’d be a fool to try to escape you.” Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Santo Stefano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Greve

Greve and 100 per cent sangiovese, super Greve in fact, heady, sturdy, red lightning cherry and volumetric in terms of substance, alcohol and structure. Linear, translucent, dusty-savoury with more texture and silky consistency than what may have first been ascertained. Quietly aromatic yet attractively informative. Not what should be considered or called a crushable wine because all the constituent parts are solid, in tact, tactful and together. Almost seamless and perhaps an estate en route to being (almost) famous. Drink 2024–2028.  Tasted February and March 2022

Felciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

Panzano and 100 per cent sangiovese, without a shadow of a doubt on either front, chewy and fulsome fruit, lots of sun and ripeness, chalky Galestro and perhaps even Pietraforte-induced structure. Acids are quite high for 2019 but then again it’s all sangiovese so why be surprised. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

Giovanni Manetti explains “I have over 20 hectares of over 40 years. Even if there are 20-30 days separating the picking from start to finish in a vintage there is always a marker, especially with sangiovese. And with old vines they are not nearly as susceptible to stressors. This Vigna del Sorbo will succeed, even with all of the (climate events and vintage stressors) mentioned here.” Annata 2019 was bottled in July and is not yet released. “The vintage of balance, pleasant wines, very charming.” That said also toned musculature, grip, fineness of tannins. Plenty of acidity, here at 6.50 tA, chalky liquidity, round enough to offer an immensity of early pleasure. Don’t be fooled into thinking ’19 is simply for the here and now as longevity is a guarantee. This was known from the start when the wines were in tank, showing great perfume and tasting with Fontodi freshness and acidity. Not easy drinking but drinkable, with Panzano resin and parochial acidity. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Lamole di Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2019

Lamole

Filetta waits its turn, always the last picked vineyard in Lamole and as with 2018 October 10th was the date for Fontodi’s fruit. Giovanni’s cousin owns the vineyard and records date back to 1045, rare and historic for Chianti Classico. A restrained, elastic and finessed vintage is 2019, blessed with the Lamole perfume, blood orange addendum and Fontodi body. Not a vintage of power or strength and so much more so Lamole which makes one wonder just how cool climate accentuated the other producers’ 2019s will be. Other vintages of Filetta have been fine, even caressing and reaching levels of deep understanding but 2019 is more of a pop and pour vintage with true frazione acids and a harmonizing palate creaminess. Drink this while ’18 continues to settle in. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Frescobaldi’s Tenuta Perano takes full advantage of the white calcareous soils to set upon a path for and with great vintage promise. The sangiovese in this bottle is smooth, suave and mineral, tart and full on gregarious of a specific Gaiole tang. A drinkable Annata, tried and true, delicious, accessible and yet nary a moment of flaccidity or softness abounds. Ideal for three years on without any concern for devolution or change. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2019

Panzano

Panzano sangiovese does not get any more pure, transparent and fulsome than Rubiolo, all the while spoken in utmost clarity. Not full, nor heady, nigh density neither. Think sweetness, aromatically calling, fruit speaking. Seasoning, not salt and pepper necessarily but spices unnamed, unthought, undeclared. An old friend dressed so dapper, not perfectly pressed but characterful and timeless. Like music played as adagio with very slight dynamic change, aesthetics and script expressed in equally essential concentration. The Annata you want. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Woody, savoury and sour-edged sangiovese, tart and oddly confected. Quick and if stylish in its own way the San Casciano aspect is covered by the wood and the work. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri, Lamole

I Fabbri Olinto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Lamole

Olinto, always from the highest elevation, Lamole perfume up to 11 where there is also some merlot planted, at 12 per cent part of the blend and again no barrel. Freshness at the highest premium and with the merlot so ripe with thanks to vine age and warmer climate conditions, a wine so drinkable you could hardly believe the truth. Beauty in florals incarnate, especially violets and candied iris, juicy if peppery pansy and nasturtium. Last tasted February 2022

Aside from the upfront, obvious and always beautiful I Fabbri as a function of Lamole perfume there is this incredulous ripeness and sweetness of fruit. Disbelieving because of the elevation and how it was once virtually impossible to achieve such sugar and phenolic ripeness in this part of Greve for Chianti Classico wines. The 20 per cent merlot is just so apropos for blending into sangiovese, from this most generous vintage and to tame the high level of acidity. While this classic normale from Susanna Grassi is about as crushable as any 2019 one can’t help but wonder if sangiovese needed no help this time around. No matter really. Just enjoy. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October and November 2021

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2019

Lamole

Not that other vintages are lacking the clarity of Lamole perfume and terroir but 2019 brings the want and desire beyond the frazione’s intangibles. They being flesh and mid-palate, again not absent in other years though magnified, elastic and extra from 19’s warm generosity. Great thanks and aromatic response, more than this in the ways of accession, reach and scope. Purely Lamole plus, plus. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

La Squadra Canadese at I Fabbri, Lamole

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra Di Lamole 2019

Lamole

The top “tier” Annata in Susanna Fabbri’s range is this main terroir sangiovese, the Terre di Lamole. Lamole at heights, in hyperbole, expressive and of course, so very perfumed. A veritable potpourri of Macigno del Chianti and all the florals imagined, tied up in one red petalled, native herb and mineral bouquet. Grace and understated charm, seamlessness and the sort of structure that build and builds but does so without mortar between the stones. Natural and beautiful. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

The Solo Sangiovese Annata (and listed as such only on American labels), bottled just three weeks ago, über fresh, a picture perfect vintage for all appellative levels but beginning here with sangiovese. So easy to drink, very pure, balanced, all things “it has to be because this is Chianti Classico, not Gran Selezione,” explains and insists Iacopo Morganti. Less acidity than ’18 but more than ample amount to strike an accord with ideally reasoned and ripened fruit. Picked in October and you’d know but not know it. Really like the liquorice chew in this sangiovese, it sticks to and along with you. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

More than promising and beautiful vintage for Monia Piccini’s Annata but a true Panzano expression of the swift and the sweet, patterned and handsome. Draws from vineyard blocks ever evolving and not from those one step short of necessary ripeness. Even keel and a knowledge meeting emotion just right for a wine like this. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Istine Estate Vineyard, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda and Gaiole

Made from the first pass in all of Angela Fronti’s vineyards, two in Radda and three in Gaiole, although the philosophy is to concentrate on Radda because that is the home-front and there is a prejudice provided by what happens through the vintage. That said Angela waits a full year before deciding where the grapes end up, as “the most objective approach.” A decent yielding vintage comparatively speaking and a Chianti Classico in 2019 as generous and round as Fronti has ever made. But in truth the Radda plus Gaiole freshness times savour multiplied by sapidity results in a quotient of great cumulative respect. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2019

Radda

One must have to look at, walk this and stand in awe of of this vineyard, the steepness at 30-50 per cent grade with a terrace in the middle to break it up. Heavy in Alberese inclusive of massive yellow calcareous boulders and also Galestro. In fact the medium stones removed were transferred to create terraces for olive trees on the other side of the cantina (by Angela Fronti’s father no less). The vineyard faces north so the freshness is off the charts, while the ripeness is so matter of purposeful vintage fact. The label represents the position of the vines in coordinates, echoed in the machicolations of a Fronti sangiovese that drops all the Radda stones on unsuspecting palates through fruit openings between supporting acid corbels of a projecting tannic parapet. Vigna Istine is at the forefront of Chianti Classico’s battle to win over the world. Follow this example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Casanova Dell’Aia 2019

Radda

Smaller stones in Alberese and Galestro soils, in Radda, a four hectare plot where trebbiano and malvasia bianca are also planted. The older plantings, their clones and density were not up to snuff so Angela restored and re-planted several years ago. The vines are just now coming into Raddese fruition. That zonal acidity is wholly unique and really shows through in this single-vineyard sangiovese, even if the breadth, complexity and power are not yet there, though elegance, charm and great possibility surely are. Look to 2021 for high end results. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Cavarchione 2019

Gaiole

Less rocky than the Radda vineyards, here a single steep block surrounded by forest everywhere and picked ahead of Casanova, therefore for 2019 in mid-September. The richest of the single vineyard Classico crus, a wine of texture, integration and qualcosa di Cavarchione, a fullness and a feeling of Gaiole woods, herbals, distillate and brush. The under, over and what’s growing all round. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

The 2019 has some spice, that much is true and that is the result of selection, ideally suited sangioivese clones and the pH directive brought about by some of Chianti Classico’s finest canaiolo. Fermented in stainless, aged in medium sized oak barrels, but older ones. Has entered a more structured and tannic stage and it may be wondered if that is the norm. Yes tells Paolo, when first in bottle there is freshness and fruit, then after a few months it closes in before opening up again the following summer.  Last tasted February 2022

Bottled only one month ago and a vintage that brings a pragmatic smile to Paolo de Marchi’s face, with thanks to good volume meeting even better quality. As a vintage “easier than 2015,” tells de Marchi, “which for Cepparello was a cabernet vintage.” Wink-wink. Here 15 per cent canaiolo intersects with sangiovese for a perfectly timed and executed balance between pH and acidity. “There’s always canaiolo in my Chianti Classico,” says Paolo and the truth lies in the generosity of both aromatics and structure. The 2018 was a more uneven season and the wine it produced is actually quite ready to drink, so why wait on it? The 2019 on the other hand has it all, from a growing period so facile and while more difficult to manage during fermentation (not to mention de Marchi’s battle with pneumonia) the end result is a Chianti Classico emblematic of Olena and one to see evolve slowly over a ten to 12 year stretch. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2021

Casole, Lamole

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Duelame 2019

Lamole

The yellow to brown (or tan) label from Lamole di Lamole is the high-toned, highest of UGA acid sangiovese. Even a five per cent of pH balancing canaiolo does not seem to tame the acidity in this lightning red sangiovese. That said the wood brings a creaminess and an accentuation of malic meets morbido texture. Curious Lamole, characterful to be sure. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Maggiolo 2019

Lamole

From 2019 the UGA’s estate coupling of nomenclature and doubling of additional geographic denominational vernacular finds beauty and silk road length. This sangiovese digs deep into the Macigno, Galestro and Alberese for a wide-ranging, multi-layered and form fitting Chianti Classico. Drink early. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Mainly sangiovese (95 per cent) and merlot in large format wood, because tells oenologist Stefano di Blasi “in general in Chianti Classico we are moving away from small barrels and into large cask.” Gateway sangiovese drug in that there is a plushness, softness and accessibility but also a purity and a San Casciano honesty. If the intention is honourable then you can drink this right now but also five years forward for a most positive result. An exacting wine from La Sala nel Chianti Classico, a comment so suitable for an estate in territorial description. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico 2019

Panzano

The Panzano work of Valeria Viganò and Luca Orsini travels from strength to strength and while this ’19 Annata was only bottled one month ago it shows the best freshness and right kind of crunchiness here at the Chianti Classico Collection. Indelibly stamped with Le Cinciole and Panzano terroir, a combination of earth and fruit showing as well as any these days. Can’t help but relish the level of tart and eye-popping flavours with an immediacy of early drinking possibility. Terrific Annata in every respect. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Le Miccine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Le Miccine is truly, ostensibly and unequivocally Gaiole sangiovese what with the herbs and brush coming straight out of the forests of the UGA’s hills. It is also an Annata of great vintage ripeness, generosity and flesh. Deliciously delivered, well crafted and perfectly suitable for now plus five years forward. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Le Muricce Chianti Classico DOCG Leccione 2019

Greve

Le Murrice is a producer from Greve in Chianti with wines also made from lands north of the territory. The Greve (100 per cent) sangiovese is this Leccione, tart and lactic, old-school yet with a young and promising heart. Lacking some fruit and relies on winemaking to create a Chianti Classico experience, mostly succeeding though not really delivering Greve. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Same work as is done in 2020 with five per cent canaiolo in a vintage of more body and yet similar soul to the year that will follow. Definitely fuller and just as expansive but a touch rounder in 2019. Was a 25-27 day maceration, a week longer than L’Erta di Radda norm. Was released in September 2021 and will soon be sold through to allow the ’20 Annata to hit the market, likely in June.  Last tasted March 2022

Grown together so essentially a field blend and Diego Finocchi likes to use some canaiolo (five per cent) because it adds more pH to the wine, up to 3.5-3.65 compared to the 3.0-3.1 of sangiovese. But just the five per cent because it brings up that pH so that there is a salty sensation on the palate while the sapidity and freshness are guaranteed as well. Diego has also figured out over the last five years to allow his fruit to hang for seven to 10 more days, finding balance and with that extra pH, total harmony in his Chianti Classico. Alcohol is not considered and need not be because balance is everything, as witnessed by this pitch perfect Annata. Co-fermented and in terms of next up for Chianti Classico this is the one you have to try, taste and understand. Of structure that suspends for so long. A Classico epiphany. Only 14,000 bottles made. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Fleshy and refreshing will best describe the Mazzei Annata from 2019, a sangiovese-plus example from Castellina well heeded of fruit and looking to be given immediate attention. In return it will offer immediate gratification. Drink now and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Michael Schmelzer, Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Sangió 2019

Panzano

Panzano vineyard purchased in December of 2018, of Pietraforte and Galestro. Sala is the name of the property, in conversion to organics and biodynamics, this being the first vintage of this wine from that property. Ripens at or earlier than Monte Bernardi, a place of higher winds and also sun. No stem usage yet in the first year because Michael Schmelzer feels that he needs to get a grip on the place but starting from 2020 stems are in the mix. Comes across like blood orange, a factor of heat and wind, with ripe tannins as a brightness from a young vineyard’s fruit. A sangiovese moving towards complex dynamism yet for now the opposite of cyclical viscous movement, angles rounded and such a crunchy wine. Brightness incarnate. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2019

Panzano

A vintage of great fruit and acidity so heavy stem usage and also because Michael Schmelzer learned from a minor mistake in 2017. That vintage had better acidity then anticipated and so more stem use should have been employed. “I love the vintage, though I like the classic vintages more, like ’16 and ’18.” Here the high tannin quality and that acidity is really about as good as it gets. “I want people to think I make great wines but then find out they happen to be natural. It’s not a goal.” Everything is in check and all the edginess is just right there, lift, animal, swarthiness and grip. “Anaerobic winemaking is to me a broken idea. We see this in wines that preserve oxidative character.” And so this is a wine that will not fall apart as it ages. Here an Annata that will go well into ten-plus years.  Drink 2022-2028. Tasted November 2021

Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Greve

A portion is whole cluster somewhere in the 20-25 per cent range, at once a precise number and yet vague enough to not be held accountable. Also a portion left on skins for more than two months time. Clearly a wine in which the winemaker (Tim Manning) held no fear of volatile acidity and this sits well under the threshold. Not exactly a 100 per cent sangiovese because there are some rows of canaiolo and also canina nera but not enough to quantify a percentage. Surely a wine of texture and what feels like a “thickened” acidity meaning there is no sear, certainly not out of fear and as a sangiovese is really quite near and dear. Darker cherry incidentally in a Chianti Classico that feels like tradition albeit new and in a very tactile way. I feel the touch.  Last tasted March 2022

Just a lovely, calm and inviting entry into Classico Annata, equalized by a harmoniously seasoned palate w,ell-integrated and equanimous set of sweet acidity and fine tannin. Modern and beautiful, fresh and refreshing, wood a player while also serving to make things whole. Drink early and often. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Montefioralle

Getting to know the eponymous producer Montefioralle’s arch classic and definitive Montefioralle Classico is not easy because when you make so few bottles only a select number of people can actually access to taste. They are now in Ontario and if fortune smiles you will note the stealth savoury character and lithe swarthiness, the candid accessibility and clean groove running throughout. If 2019 is a perfect vintage for this Annata I cannot say but it naturally fits the Montefioralle UGA’s vernacular, softly spoken, in clarity and also humility. What may be referred to athletically as a natural. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2019

Gaiole

Dusty in youthful tonality for this 85 per cent Gaiole sangiovese in which canaiolo and malvasia nera bring the extra added seasoning into the multi-endemic varietal mix. Baking spice, of cinnamon and nutmeg, then savouries, by cumin and coriander, finishing with grasses, of stem and hay. Liquid wood salve texture changes the gears, adds to the credibility and creativity, even the complexity. Needs time to try and come together. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Chianti Classico Education in Toronto

Nittardi Chianti Classico DOCG Casanuova Di Nittardi La Doghessa 2019

Castellina

Full juiced, pressed and throttled Annata here from 2019, deep, toasty and firm. All the fruit and more, berries, cherries and plum, tart and dependent on acids for support. That they receive and then some, especially with the level of tannic thrush so purposefully aligned. This is sangiovese that needs the bottle as much as any so oblige and set what bottles you own aside. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Talk about the passion and sangiovese needing the bottle. Thankfully Ormanni and so many Chianti Classico have time. Thankfully the world is opening to a deeper understanding that sangiovese must be given respect and an open-ended line. The dust and the cries in this wine need to settle, the tannins calm down and the fruit be allowed to shine. It is there, all red leathery, juicy and tart, finishing on a quivering astringent string note. Bof Compte A Rebours. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Panzanello Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Panzano

High level of volatility surrounds and distracts from quality richness in fruit aching to be heard. Panzano does not often exhibit this high level of VA and so the maceration here went on just a bit long, followed by a pressing off that brought some angst along for the ride. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

Pasolini Dall’onda Chianti Classico DOCG Pio 7 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Here from San Donato in Poggio comes a lovely if modern sangiovese augmented by “other varieties” but the push-pull, acid-pH balance seems to be a blessing of canaiolo in disguise. Merlot likely, as well if in addition to another international party due to the verdant and creamy swirl running through the blood orange and sanguine expression of this wine. Either way this is strawberry-cherry San Donato in Poggio as filling in a savoury polenta cake. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Pensieri Di Cavatina Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

The sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga is always another animal, openly fragrant, expansive and then deep on the palate. Just look at the place and then it would be impossible to wonder why. Pensieri di Cavatina’s is just this, full of air, sandy-salty and then fruit that layers in leathery roll-up style. Thought the tannins were just a bit gritty but they roll along and cover the fruit with equally proper style. Good work here and one to really consider. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Poci Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Poci is located in the southwest corner of Radda in close proximity to parts of Castellina, Castelnuovo (Vagliagli) and also Gaiole. A unique location and one to inspire characterful if singular sangiovese. There is a warmth and a depth to this ’19 Annata, and an affinity with Brancaia in the way it combines freshness with that depth. There is a good amount of chew here in a wine to really sink your teeth into. Seems a bit toasty now but that should settle down before too long. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Winemaker Alyson Morgan, Podere Capaccia, Radda

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Not only is 2019 an über fresh Annata vintage but see where is lands when tasting it side by side and each with the previous ’18 and before that ’17, both of which remain just about as fresh as they were last year and the one before. The level of aromatic concentration here is simply off the charts, olfactory opening and mind expanding. That said you feel the botti still, something that has melted away from the others even while their fruit remains fully intact. Part early life and part bigger vintage but ultimately the bar is raised and the 2019 is just a gorgeous wine. Flavour and texture work in cahoots to carry the load and allow this Annata to exhale and then inhale for several years of confidence and pleasure. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Lamole

Lamole perfume straight away, up front and knowable, floral but more so a matter of herbs and fungi, legumes and grasses all mulched into an aromatic potpourri. Silky and savoury, a sangiovese of clarity with thanks to vintage mainly, serving to accentuate but also openly calculate a sense of place. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2019

Greve

From Greve and understandably so, fruit well developed, ripe and full, good depth overall. Not overtly aromatic yet a broad potpourri emits. Quite concentrated, pressed and tannic. Traditional and knowable. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Ah the beauty and grace of San Donato in Poggio and in these Rossini hands a stunning 2019 Annata. Aromatic elation, exultant floral lift and mineral euphoria. Fruit so stylish and defined, a dignity of stone and elements run through, nothing out of place, all following a line as if on a circle. A wine that always comes back to where it started while fleshing and gaining traction, picking up subtleties but most of all concentrating in succulence. While the expression is clearly San Donato in Poggio, Podere La Cappella’s particular limestone terroir just can’t be missed, especially in an open and generous vintage such as this from 2019. Juiced orange, bloody, tart and health affirming, bled white stone and a soil gifting purity speak pure Colombino. There is so much to love and appreciate about the grace in this sangiovese. This is Bruno and Natascia Rossini’s land and style. Drink now and whenever, even forever. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February and March 2022

Podere Lecci E Brocchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

From Castelnuovo Berardenga and dramatically so, big and open hearted, well filled with red fruit syrup of sangiovese liqueur. Lots of pressing here, concentration and some heavy, weighty and full tannins are the result. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

La Locanda Di Pietracupa, San Donato in Poggio

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From San Donato in Poggio and a sanguine mix of iron and orange, mixed soil sensations and really quite classic frazione feels. Builds tannins, climbs, develops and shows off its range. Plenty of wine her, quite exemplary and designed to hold steadfast for up to five years. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Poggio Bonelli’s Annata from 2019 is quite advanced and so ready to drink as if a three or four year-old sangioivese were in your glass. Earth and musky animale lead the aromatic front with a minor amount of Brett to naturalize and synthesize with the chewy red fruit. Acids are sour-edged and follow right in line. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

Pratale Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Gets neither brighter nor further blessed of red fruit than this star of San Casciano. No missing the mineral element neither, in fact there is a schist, marl and river stone stream running through the plush and succulent fruit in this stellar example of Classico sangiovese. Good tannic delivery at the end is tart and drying yet properly austere. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Principe Duccio Corsini, Villa Le Corti, San Casciano

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

A “complicated spring,” tells Duccio Corsini, not an overheated summer and good harvest, done before the end of the first week of October. Good yielding though for Le Corti it rests at just under six tonnes per hectare, well below the appellative “disciplinare,” i.e. production code. Sealed under Diam #5, classically Le Corti river stone savoury, with five per cent colorino. Full textured while maintaining the Corsini seasoning and San Casciano vim. Succulent acids, lengthy tannins and early integration. Especially for 2019, urged on by aging in concrete tanks. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Pruneto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda

Seems to be the Pruneto Annata vintage we’ve all been waiting for. Such sangiovese air and breaths of freshness are welcome with arms and palates open wide. Great fruit man, pure cherries and then this feeling of distillate. Crisp and fresh with Raddese acidity and also herbology safely tucked within. Approach with naïveté and also know that aging is within the communal cards. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG L’Aura 2019

Castellina

Similar to the upcoming 2020 in that the heavy prevalence of Alberese soil wants to take control, even at the Annata level. A 2019 of wild berry, balsam and full peppery piqued sangiovese seasoning and enough freshness if rounded in ways that make for a most accessible Annata. Already evolving ever so slightly this way and it is said that L’Aura rounds by wood, if on a scale so incrementally minor as compared to 2020. Truth be told this is as much like Radda than it is Castellina. Border proximity and elevation are responsible for this very fact. Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2022

Winemaker Manfred Ing, Querciabella, Greve

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Greve, Gaiole and Radda

Changes are in the air as always in perpetual and forward thinking motion and felt with most palpable readiness of promising concern in the Querciabella Annata. A wine of amalgamation, a triad of territorial delivery, each contribution as valid and poignant as the next. More to the point is how the grapes arrive and are poised to compliment, layer and celebrate each other. A wine of balance but understanding is a deep and wonderful thing. Note the brush with places, the layers of elevation and fluidity from red fruit flavours through textural tranquility. Seriously, serious and not so much. Just knowing, ready and willing to please.  Last tasted February 2022.

As always 100 per cent sangiovese from Radda, Greve and Gaiole, most of its life spent in larger format casks. At this point 25-30 hL with what would be even more purity extracted were there 50-70hL sizes involved. The level of transparent concentration is at what feels like the peak of Querciabella Annata. Every vintage is different and requires so much attention and that detail for fine tuning is so indelibly and intensely pitch elegant captured in the generosity of this wine. Clearly a balance in the vineyards but also in how here they layer and come together. Really young, tannins wound and yet not so compact, fruit singing with sliding scale through three communes in succession. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted November 2021.

As always 100 per cent sangiovese from Radda, Greve and Gaiole, most of its life spent in larger format casks. At this point 25-30 hL with what would be even more purity extracted were there 50-70hL sizes involved. The level of transparent concentration is at what feels like the peak of Querciabella Annata. Every vintage is different and requires so much attention and that detail for fine tuning is so indelibly and intensely pitch elegant captured in the generosity of this wine. Clearly a balance in the vineyards but also in how here they layer and come together. Really young, tannins wound and yet not so compact, fruit singing with sliding scale through three communes in succession. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From 2019 the Annata is über savoury, of pine forest and a sangiovese with 20 per cent other endemic grapes that take turns delivering herbs, underbrush, wild herbs and forest mulch. Finer tannins even if the wine is tight after all those aromatics emitting from the wine. This is the epitome of a sangiovese in Chianti Classico form needing time, not just in elévage but also in the bottle. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Ricasoli 1141 Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Like the ’19 Riserva tasted last month in Firenze there is a rounded and getable nature about the Brolio Annata that just speaks to a combination of vintage and place. That being 270 hectares of well thought out Gaiole intendment, including in Monti where the grapes should help create harmony in Ricasoli’s biggest volume Chianti Classico wine. Can’t miss the Gaiole savour, herbals dried and also sweet, fruit layered from five distinct soils, each contributing and forming the basis for a pentangle of sangiovese righteousness. All in all a great modern era formula that would make the Iron Baron Bettino Ricasoli proud.  Last tasted April 2022

Ricasoli’s ’19 is really quite open, gregarious, sumptuous and available. A magical blend of five terroirs and one to enjoy with just about anything in the here and now. Certainly shows a sour cherry and red citrus angle caused by elevated volatility but that’s where the food will come in. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

Grande Gaiole compass, cinch and girth in naturally swarthy sangiovese from Riecine in 2019, crunchy and tart. Inching up towards the volatile but such is the word in pace for the vintage. The fruit can handle the stark reality and veritable truth, equipped with grip and ready for the inevitable circumstance. Maybe wait a year for further resolution. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca delle Macìe, Castellina

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta Sant’Alfonso 2019

Castellina

From the second property purchased by Sergio Zingarelli’s father Italo in 1973, the largest of the four estates, a place of clay and at times wet soil. Much higher tones and acidities than the Famiglia Zingarelli, in the Castellina air as opposed to mulched in the sottosuolo below. More specific, 100 per cent sangiovese and rounded out by fruits of all ilk; fresh, dried and everywhere in between. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Gaiole

As calcareously tight and wound like a wire around a steel coil this Annata 2019 may be there is something other here, a feeling immediate, insightful and profound. Not just any sangiovese from Montegrossi and perhaps the vintage to explain a Gaiole notion for appellative Chianti Classico DOCG wines. A blend of 88 per cent sangiovese, (10) colorino and (2) canaiolo. A reminder that Marco Ricasoli makes this and he makes Gran Selezione with no Riserva bridge and so at the Annata level there is great fruit, observation and intent. Yes it’s true that three years minimum in bottle are required to release the hounds of charm, but the sangiovese here has done its work silently and the result is a ’19 we can depend upon. Domestic and secure, a wine of warm diplomacy that will certainly bring people together, even those of differing philosophies. Brilliant harbinger for the vintage and what’s to come from the community at large. Grande, once again. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted July and November 2021

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castellina

Rich and chalky, red fruit glare in the classic Castellina way and quite structured for a 2019 Annata. Drink now if you must and with some air this will open, release and please but two years will do well to soften the edges and also integrate the wood spice. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

San Giorgio A Lapi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Flawed. Acetic well above 1.0, in fact this is acetic 1.0, likely upwards of 1.5 in volatile acidity. Hard to find any fruit or nuance as a result. Certainly no sense of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2022.  Tasted March 2022

Tasting with Luca Martini di Cigala and Silvia Fiorentini at San Giusto a Rentennano, Gaiole

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 201