I first visited Il Molino di Grace in May 2016 and was graciously welcomed into the family’s estate by Director Iacopo Morganti. In the months leading up to that first visit I had opportunities to assess Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione at LCBO media lab tastings in Toronto. I became an instant convert and a buyer even before I stepped foot onto Il Molino di Grace’s sloping Galèstro soil-driven vineyards in Panzano. After that May visit I was transformed into a life-long friend.
Later that May I was handed the keys to Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Masterclass presentation at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. My role was to open the door to sangiovese perception before a crowd of Toronto sommeliers, agents, buyers and media. It was the Gallo Nero’s 300 year anniversary and its Ontario reputation was entrusted to me by the consorzio braintrust of President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini and Christine Lechner. At that Toronto event I had the pleasure to meet and sit on the panel with Tim Grace. Last week I followed that up and made my way back to Tuscany to have a go at 400-plus Chianti Classico at Anteprima 2017. When the two-day sangiovese adventure was done I returned with Iacopo back to Il Molino di Grace.
Frank and Judy Grace purchased the vineyards in the mid 1990’s and restored an abandoned 19th century ruin into what is now the cantina of Il Molino di Grace, named for the centuries-old historic water-mill. The first vintage out of the new winery was in 1999. MdG became a certified organic winery in 2013, something they and indeed the entire 20 viticultural Panzano-in-Chianti producers are extremely proud of, all together as one. It took 20 years to get this way, with no spraying and even the workers who work the roads will cut, but never spray.
Tim Grace runs Il Molino di Grace along with Iacopo Morganti. Their consulting oenologist is none other than Franco Bernabei. To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.
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Iacopo poured a very strategic retrospective of the estate’s wines in an artfully designed schematic so that I was able to literally pick up where I left off last May. We travelled retrospectively astern through CC’14, CCR ’13, GS ’12 and IGT ’11 with prudent stops at intervals to re-visit previously tasted wines. The exercise never wavered from the safekeeping of sangiovese as the heart of the matter and the vintage interval play showed both the progression and the consistency of the estate. Here are the notes.
Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)
Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted February 2017 @
Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)
Nine months later so provocative and round, still imbued of the deep pulpier purple Il Molino di Grace hue with ruby tinges. Floral but not bursting, warm, in control and easy. Manages fruit purity and then by extension, the grip from 100 per cent sangiovese. Now gelling into a liqueur typical of ’13, smooth and rapidly developing into a multi-faceted sip. A drink earlier in full enjoyment vintage. Last tasted February 2017
The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted May 2016
Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)
Riserva 2014 is certainly positioned further down that democratic line from the Chianti Classico, its hue more variegated with three to four variations of shade and fruit still popping fresh. These two pronto pieces of personality are the hallmarks of the Il Molino di Grace style and singularity. To employ such darker fruit without any compromise to freshness, this is the magic of this place. Iacopo Morganti says there is no magic. “I like to see the colour of the vintage.” It is true, 2014 is one of purple violet fruit so it speaks of a time. As a Riserva it demonstrates guts and creates a shell of protection for itself, sufferable to whoever thinks it may fail to validate the idea of a classic vintage, which it most certainly will turn out to be. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017
Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)
A better vintage for Riserva (as it is in Chianti Classico for merlot) because of the warmth and highest available poly-phenolic qualities. A return here to deep purple, Il Molino di Grace’s ’13 Riserva is akin to 2009 (though seemingly more in control of its fruit) and also with thanks somewhat like ’14 Chianti Classico, popping, fresh and with its stark moments. It is necessary to stick around, keep checking the glass and it too will lead you down a sexy, sultry, sumptuous road. Shows signs of 2010 in these flaunting ways, with a forward and upwards trajectory through the notions drawn from its very specific Panzano territory. There is chocolatey richness mixed with driving acidity, because “this is the vintage.” Will live long enough, perhaps developing some exoticism and balsamic and/or mushroom notes after seven or eight years time. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017
Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030. Tasted February 2017
“The ’11 Gratius is like a bomb,” says Iacopo Morganti with a shrug and a gesture of hands. The vintage parlays sangiovese that clocks in cresting and swimmingly close to breaching 15 degrees in alcohol, because it just had to be, like 2000, heavy and brooding. The aromatics are distended, bloated, full of over-exceptional life. Sangiovese in warm, mediterranean tones, black olive, sun-dried tomato and surfeited with bloody good chocolate. Sangiovese so big and youthfully musty-dusty must be accompanyed by and is in fact supported by the Il Molino di Grace acidity to carry this Gratius forward five years but not necessarily much more. In 2011 the composition is 95 per cent sangiovese with stabilizing colorino and canaiolo. Tasting this in 2017 is a gift that never stops giving. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017
Again, as before and going forward, Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with the supporting bits of canaiolo and colorino, In contrast to ’11 all the weight falls away with wistful pleasure. “Here you have fantasy,” smiles Iacopo Morganti. Your mind is taken places by the exotica and the clouds of perfume. Elegance derived from sangiovese so deep is possible when balance is struck and at 13.5 per cent alcohol, just what you want from such a wine. Contemplate the blades of acidity sharpening their teeth on the back sides of your tongue and know that the subsidies won’t begin their wane until 2022 or beyond. Yes Gratius, you are indeed elegant and long. Last tasted February 2017.
Gratius, meaning more pleasing, the author of a poem on hunting, opponent of the poet Archias and a contemporary of Ovid. The other sangiovese from Il Molino di Grace whose first vintage was 1999, of “a nose incredible,” says a wistful Iacopo Morganti and he is not wrong. From the Panzano-Greve in Chianti slopes of Montefili, at 500 meters, a 2.2 hectare single vineyard of old vines (70 years) co-planted with some colorino and canaiolo. So in that sense it’s a field blend but essentially sangiovese. Tuscan climat of rock and poor soil, where the wind blows and grapes whose fate is two weeks later maturation. Aromatics and elegance are in a calm struggle and like two brothers, rolling but not fighting. Such a wine of clean, pristine purity does not exist just anywhere. The inviting perfume solicits readiness and a willingness to be generous. No need to wait. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted May 2016
A next look nine months later confirms what Iacopo insists. “The acidity’s finished for me. It’s ready to drink now.” At this juncture Gratius 2005 has abandoned its fantasy in concession to a drink now reality. Last tasted February 2017
The Gratius 2005 shares DNA with 2009 aromatically speaking but in texture and expression the litheness is pinot noir like, with a bit of bretty volatility as an impression that is vineyard funk derived. Just now beginning a drinking window in performance for the art of perfect timing but why not imagine the installation persisting for 10-12 more years? Here the Montefili Galestro vineyard is clearly iterated in a funk-soil-chalk-liquid rubies way. A brilliant peek back because the tart is just so right. Ask the question, “what was the old wine like?” The answer is “it was like old wine, that is to say, like all old wines.” Drink 2016-2022. Tasted May 2016
Good to go!