On a glorious February afternoon in between Anteprime days I exited the car at Bibbiano and noticed this most beautiful stone wall bathed in Chianti Classico light. Castellina in Chianti light to be precise, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni and I laid my body down for a quick rest. Here in Bibbiano with Montornello on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. A stillness filled the air. Minutes later, refreshed and ready, I sat down to taste Bibbiano’s wines.
Bibbianaccio. It means bad boy, not literally but this is what it means all the same. Cattivo Ragazzo would be the literal translation of bad boy but an avant-garde IGT from Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi called Bibbianaccio is the elucidation we are going with. A wine that breaks from current ranks by metaphrasing ancient tradition in order to dwell on the past and pour with current modernity.
Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi and his brother Federico are responsible for crafting such a devilish IGT Toscana and it’s a most unusual departure from the rest of their classic renderings of Chianti Classico. Their Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione sangiovese are steeped in praxis and birthright, adhere to a deeply soulful, local Castellina in Chianti style and the thread run through all three DOCG levels is both obvious and uncanny. What stands further apart with glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.
“The name Bibbiano is of late Latin origin (circa 200 A.C.) and the first historical reference to the name is dated 1089, preserved in a parchment currently preserved in the Abbey of Passignano. It is a record of the deed of donation of the “curte” (court) and of the “castello de Bibiune cum ecclesia, cum casis, (…) viteis (…)” (castle of Bibbiano with church, farms, and grapevines) from Mingarda di Morando to Giovanni di Benzo.” In 1498, Bibbiano is registered in the Cadastre of the Decima Repubblicana as being owned by Matteo di Piero di Francesco Squarcialupi.”
In 1880 Antonio Marzi, son of Pietro, expanded the property of Bibbiano by adding other plots such as Gagliano, Gaglianuzzo and Padule. In November 1942, together with Giulio Gambelli, Pier Tommaso Marzi started producing Chianti Classico wines at Bibbiano. After World War Two Pier Tommaso Marzi and his son-in-law Alfredo Marrocchesi began major renovations, with the help of Gambelli. The work started in 1950 and ended in 1970 with the completion of a large wine cellar, the planting of 20 hectares of specialized vineyards. The family has been a member of the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico since 1948.
A study of the district of Castellina in Chianti and geomorphological Bibbiano is paradigmatic to the variety of the appellation. The estate is placed at the southwestern side of the area with altitudes varying from 250m to 600m. It’s plateau is perched on two slopes, on a late Miocene and early Pliocene seabed platform aged 5-10 million years. On one side the highest and eastern is based on primary boulder platforms; the lowest and western on silt sediments. More specifically it is broken down as calcareous silt and sediments of diverse kinds of clay mixed with round pebbles, rare sands, rare chalk veins on the NE estate side; pure gray clay with fragmented limestones, shattered schists on the SW estate side.
A river of adroit style runs through the wines of Bibbiano. They are uncluttered, ingenious, precise and successive sangiovese (and sangiovese grosso) wines of tradition and modernity. I tasted Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and IGT. Here are the notes.
Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)
Taken out of both the north and south vineyards (the estate sits on the ridge of Bibbiano at 310m) from the difficult, rainy vintage. Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi notes that “being organic you have to be very careful with your farming” but despite the adversity the fruit came clean. You get freshness, acidity, florals of a wide range, fennel-liquorice, mint and savour, taut sapidity, but not wound so tight you can’t gain access. The vintage solicited a careful selection, more so than usual but not so out of the ordinary. Yields were low as result. This is very sturdy, essential sangiovese of tradition, proper description of its dual terroir and what it means to be in this wine. From calcareous pebbles in variegated clay and sharp schist in red clay. Smells like the slopes and its natural growth, with just a touch of colorino, raised all in concrete and no wood. Is what it is, perfect and imperfect. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017 @bibbianowines @chianticlassico @ChiantiClassUSA
Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)
A rich liquere, weight and warmth define this sangiovese from Castellina in Chianti by Tommaso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi. While the old school leather, cherries and steeping liquor are in line with many Brunello this is pure Chianti Classico and not Riserva. The clarity and purity of fruit make that determination even if the wine is warm to mulled in feeling. Will settle a bit and develop its mushroom, truffle and forest floor nuances sooner rather than later. For fans of bold CC and the way it can be thought as has to be. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted January 2017
Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
Montornello is 100 per cent sangiovese grown on the eponymous northern slope, the one with the variegated soil. Montornello is the (five million years) younger of Bibbiano’s two geologies, a platform of several types of partly calcareous, loose clay; red, yellow, amber and white. As floral as the ’14 annata but more mellow, serious and of a noted confidence. Some barriques are employed but the fruit is not shrouded in any way. Scents of liquorice again, plus graphite, a toasty char, warm tar and some beneficial bitters. Finishes strong, seamless and cool. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted February 2017
Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2017
Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2017
Good to go!