Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Radda Rocks

Modern discourse concerning the sangiovese of Chianti Classico submits to a motif of matters integral and essential in observing a common style found in the territory’s wines. While the variegate of soils in clay, limestone, schist and sandstone decomposed into the Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Calcari, Colombino and Arenaria are the lifeblood, it is acidity that acts as the crux and the catalyst for elevating these particular sangiovese. Matters swell, flow and develop even deeper when communes, sub-zones and frazioni are taken into account. In the case of Radda there is an exacting set of acidities that come to the forefront of these wines. They are the big Raddese.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Radda in Chianti

L’Associazione “Vignaioli di Radda”

L’associazione “Vignaioli di Radda” ha come scopo principale la diffusione della cultura vitivinicola di Radda in Chianti presentando strumenti, provvedimenti e politiche che sostengano la viticoltura, ed in particolare la produzione di vino di qualità. The association of vignoli, a group of producers with the mission to spread Radda wine culture by presenting tools, measures and policies that support viticulture, and in particular the production of quality wine.

Val delle Corti, Radda

Radda’s 24 produttori are a strong and unified unit. They are Allesandro Gallo (Castello di Albola), Alyson Morgan (Podere Capaccia), Andrea Samichelli (Cantina di Castelvecchi), Angela Fronti (Istine), Barbara Widmer (Brancaia), Bernardo Bianchi (Colle Bereto), Claudia Guercini (Terrabianca), Cristina Grilli (Podere Terreno), Daniele Ciampi (Castello di Monterinaldi), Diego Finnochi (L’Erta di Radda), Federica Mascheroni (Castello di Volpaia), Gabriele Rosi (Borgo Salcetino), Ilaria Anachini (Fattoria di Montemaggio), Martino Manetti (Montevertine), Michele Braganti (Monteraponi), Orsola Beccari (Vignavecchia), Oscar Geyer (Borgo la Stella), Paolo Cianferoni (Caparsa), Piero Lanza (Poggerino), Riccardo Lanza (Pruneto), Roberta Contrino (Podere L’ Aja), Roberto Bianchi (Val delle Corti), Stefano Peruzzi (Castello di Radda) and Valentina Stiaccini (Tenuta di Carleone).

Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you, Roberto Bianchi @valdellecorti

In the words of Roberto Bianchi. “Large and small we are all aware of being guardians of a very special spot of Tuscany. The differences of wine production within a territory is its greatest asset. As for the vintage, ’18 is complicated with a bit of greenish tannins. The heat and then rain, followed by two weeks of tropical humidity in late August. Higher elevations were a real plus, despite the factor of less concentration but those who hung longer and avoided mold and mildew made elegant wines.” Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take centre stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage and Krysta Oben at Casa Chianti Classico

In the words of Godello when last he waxed on about Radda. “Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.”

Canadians at Val delle Corti, Radda in Chianti

In September 2019 a fourth visit to Casa Chianti Classico in the past three years could only yield a deeper understanding. The educational and promotional home of the Consorzio is housed in what was once the Franciscan Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. This time around 13 professional, intrepid and curious Canadian sommeliers and journalists attacked a comprehensive tasting of Radda’s sangiovese. John Szabo M.S., Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Jean-Sébastien Massé, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage, Christina Hartigan, Robert Stelmachuk, J.P. Potters, Toni Weber, Krysta Oben, Faye MacLachlan, Adam Hijazi and Godello. A visit earlier in the day with association president Roberto Bianchi at his Val delle Corti property opened 26 eyes to Radda’s high, cool and fringe possibilities. Here are tasting notes on 30 such examples replete with the commune’s big Raddese acidity.

Chianti Classico Annata

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

You must walk these Radda vineyards to understand what’s in this glass. Regard the way the rows of vines change colour in September and give up a variability of timing. It is these stops along the way where winemaker Piero Lanza makes his picks then crushes, macerates and collectively ferments. It results in the most seamless, albeit high alcohol, glycerin and textured sangiovese. It is Chianti Classico made precisely the way it needs to be made from this very specific place. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

What has one year brought to Annata ’16? Not much to be honest. A roundness of Raddese acidity has come about. A result of slow and steady work in the vineyard that strays away from acidity that disturbs but instead allows for a doming effect, a cappello sommerso, a rounded cap with help from what was done inside the walls.  Last tasted September 2019

Just bottled and I mean just bottled, a sangiovese of bright red to purple fruit with a 30-40 per cent assistance by what Roberto Bianchi employs through fermentation called piemontazino, or macherazione carbonica a capello sommerso. Leaving 30-40 per cent of the fruit in stainless steel tank on skins for three to four months. Tames the Raddesse acidity for the Annata and makes it more than drinkable. In 2016 it’s crushable, back up the truck gulpable. Beauty in sangiovese “questa, è radda.” This, is Radda. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Brancaia’a Barbara Widmer with Vancouver’s Christina Hartigan

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (519173, $24.95)

Brancaia ’17 shows some breath of fresh restraint air out of a vintage not exactly simple to effect. There is some glycerin and also some warmth but there too is balance and joy. Solid ’17, the kind I’d like to meet. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.95)

Bernardo Bianchi’s 2017 benefitted from the most stringent if mechanical sorting process to bring about a clean, transparent, effusive and spiced Annata. It’s modern and also refreshing, fully expressed and crunchy, as Radda should be. Not one for the ages but clearly high level in its class. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (953828, $28.95)

Pretty taut for Volpaia though truth be told this Radda sangiovese always requires some time. Fullness of fruit and equally supportive acidity meets the texture of altitude and the advantage of acumen. There are layers here that many ‘17s will just not have, exhibit or develop. A tour de vintage force really. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A young, tense and reductive Annata, not yet responsive, quiet and bashful. Plenty of fruit lurking and needing some air to open up. A touch of green tannin on the back end. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Walking on Alberese with Angela Fronti in her @istine_raddainchianti and #cavarchione Gaiole in Chianti vineyards ~ #chianticlassico #vignaistine #vignacavarchione

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Angela Fronti’s come together of twofold Radda plus Gaiole vineyard fruit is the future of crafting balanced and understandable Annata. In the world of changing climates you will need to balance elevations, acidities and ripenesses in order to keep Chianti Classico on point. Welcome to the microcosmic confluences of Istine, with fineness, fruit and spice. Some solid tension too. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Lovely glycerin and elastic sangiovese not without a generous component from barrel. A touch of greenish tannin from that wood but plenty of fruit to swallow it up, or at least will do so in time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Tasted with Orsula Beccari in Radda in Chianti, from a just about ready barrel sample. The dusty rose and violet perfume, pretty and savoury of a particular Vignavecchi localitá nose. This is the Macigno and the Alberese speaking, of elegance woven through structure. Lovely purity. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018 and September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016 (383604, $19.95)

A huge leap in quality for the Radda producer, clearly a sign of work put in the vineyard and steps towards making the right, correct and delicious local sangiovese. A really textural wine and of really fine acidity. Molta buona. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s are some of the highest of any vineyard not only in Radda but in Chianti Classico, ranging from 350-680m of elevation. The average age of the vines is around 20 years, and since 1999, 10 hectares have been replanted per year. The Acciaiuoli family of Florence built the Castle in the 15th century and commissioned the estate to plant in the 15th century as a symbol of their high status. The estate was acquired in 1979 by the Zonin family. The Annata is aged in 3,400-liter Slavonian grandi botti for a year, followed by three months in bottle. In a changing climate the ripeness of this sangiovese and with help from an ideal vintage means the highest level of glycerin red fruit, sweet savour and silky tannins. Top shelf stuff in 2016. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Sweet fruit, simple, red and ripe, all red berries, nothing flashy or fashionable. Straightforward and a touch into the syrup. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Terreno’s lights are flashing with sangiovese of bright fruit and ultra high tones. That said there is a macerated and extracted depth to this, with layered acidity and grippy tannins. It’s very youthful and not showing its best, at least not yet. Might allow the shell to be cracked in a year or more likely two. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February and September 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva follows the ’16 Val delle Corti line, a selection from the original 45 year-old vines and young beyond estate compare. A visceral, glycerin-collective, more perfume inclusive of what grows and yet the attack of acidity is ulterior, of another motive all together, relatively speaking as compared to the Annata. This is Riserva of truth and potential, to live longer than those wishing and crying out for immediate rich attention. This does not beg for anything. You should let it lie, allow it to breath and drink it in. Later. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Much, much hotter than ’16 and now with two more years of bottle age, which is so necessary. There is an emergence of floral spice, a tickling, salty that gets in the sense of smell and wakes you up. Enlivening vintage of sangiovese Riserva from Bianchi. Also comforting so it does both for you, with great generosity.  Last tasted September 2019

The 45 year old vines are responsible for this single cru, 100 per cent sangiovese that while older is yet bolder than the barrel sample tasted of 2016. Here you feel the hottest weeks of the summer, less elasticity, fluidity and fluency than that 2016. And yet it is so intuitively elastic, fluid and fluent in mineral rich, marly limestone soil. Here from the Corti Valley on the east facing slope above the river below. Richness, weight and red fruit so specific to this place meets the Radda acidity head on but can’t help but be submissive and respectful. Pure expression of estate, valley and commune. Truly. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

From Paolo Cianferoni on a 12ha Radda estate at 450m. A citrus note lines the aromatic front, almost white grapefruit but also bleeding red, of pomegranate and red currant. Lovely mid palate, pure and purely ’16, with purest Radda acidity and chaste laser focus. Great attention to detail in the vineyard is more than apparent, translating with utmost unalloyed and unsullied clarity straight down through the glass. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (260802, $36.95)

Perhaps the richest Brancaia Riserva to date while keeping the supporting parts bin balance, movement and support right alongside. Namely acidity, Radda acidity to be sure and the most proper and correct actions to boot. Does everything it should, it needs and what you wish for from the house and the place. Will be long-lived and accept plenty of secondary notation; balsamic, iodine, tartufo and porcini. Can’t wait. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (705335, $40.00)

A perfectly brilliant Riserva from Radda’s Volpaia in ’16, not exactly shocking but nothing taken for granted. Texture is the greatest portent and harbinger for time, age worthiness and slow melt. The linger of collective parts all in synch also bodes to the future, well, good and timeless. Timely wine right here, tidy and generous. Would only be normal to imagine what the Gran Selezione Il Puro will do but then again curiosity plus knowledge leads to great anticipation. For now the present moment concentration allows the foreshadowing to speak of a 15 year run in excellence for this top echelon Riserva. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Podere l’Aja Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A linear sangiovese in the finest sense of fruit crashing through acidity, each taking on a component of the other. Bright, lifted and effusive there is red and more red, low in savour and high in energy. Should find some good distance from this Raddese. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (315150, $23.95)

Great strides, long strides, strides in the shadows of Radda at the end of harvest. The eloquence is understated and the fullness of fruit quite impressive, though not without the work of the Radda acidity. Just a touch of tonic late indicates that mid-term aging is the product of a correct imagination. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Dall’anno Mille 2016

Lovely vintage in Riserva form for Daniele Ciampi, of fruit sweetly developed, ripe and effusive. Full extract, tang and force all combine to grip the palate and keep it all swimming upstream. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2015

The amazing confluence of Gaiole and Radda come about as a variegation of all possible soils and climates. It’s a lovely generational wine that bridges worlds, places and people. Fine structure makes the fruit seem plentiful, as it obviously is and allows the wine to stretch, whisper and then speak within control, but especially with emotion. Buona. Better than before. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

No disrespect intended and in fact a great compliment is paid to winemaker Bernardo Bianchi for his ability to craft exceptional Chianti Classico in the most difficult of vintages. That his 2013 and 2014 Riservas were two of the better efforts for Radda’s terroir and the great curving amphitheatre of Colle Bereto vineyards is a testament to the ethic and the ethos. This 2015 is clearly a polished and generous sangiovese from a vintage that was almost too easy for a man of Bianchi’s modesty and talents. The wood only adds to the smooth textures and plentiful flavours and it is these barrel notes that here are more obvious if respectful in their obvious interference. Once again highest quality tannin works with the sangiovese and the specific Radda acidity. Drink this earlier than the others. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Unique aromatics, part violet floral and part carbonic. Very fresh especially for Riserva, full of candied notes over stones, rocks and savour. Not overly extracted or pushed in any way, just comfortable and of a simple, lively and fun acidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2016 ($45.00)

Some Chianti Classico just are; exact representations and looks of knowing, mirrored or not, of who they are. But even more so, where they are from. On the bigger and brighter side in balance of Radda, of a specific vineyard site and within clear, knowable and transparent sight. So proper and distinguished, if schooled by essential knowledge and possibility.  Last tasted September 2019

Piero Lanza’s selection is so smart, protracted and tidy within the framework of what a Poggerino Riserva just happens to be. It’s almost as you find yourself scanning the vineyards and your mind’s eye settles on a few perfect plants. You taste the berries from those vines and imagine them bound together in wine. This is the sangiovese mimic of those isolated points of a very special vineyard and also a perfectly constructed stone house in Gaiole, variegated, tightly intertwined and just beautiful to behold. Perfectly streamlined, built to last a few hundred years, but I would suggest to drink it 280 years before that. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Pruneto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Savoury, liquid dusk and dusty, from a grippy vintage and showing some age. Bretty and gritty, noticeable volatility and some angst. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Deep toned and lifted together, fruit of many layered splendour and full throttle acidity. Big and bigger components working separately at present. Give this five years for the weight of the early ferment to aerate, re-coagulate and tie il all together. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG I Salci 2015

Glycerin fruit, full ripeness on the palate and a touch of verdancy in the phenols. Rich and unctuous, perfectly heady and bountiful sangiovese for the shorter splurge and be content term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2015

There really is nothing else in Radda that emits the aromas of a Vignavecchia sangiovese. Like sweet fennocchio but a slow-cooked, rendered and caramelized one. Also contrario of an unwashed rind sheep’s milk cheese. There’s an acidity of effusion and then a verdant note, a legume, like lentils cooked down. Plenty of gastronomy here while missing a step of structure so abundant in the ’14. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG “Madonnino Della Pieve” 2012

Big-boned, roasted osetta of a sangiovese with compounded and hyperbolized mountain savour. There is so much brushy green botanical presence here, prescient and possessive of great staying power. Needs time. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Radda Rocks

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WineAlign

Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

These days of writing feature articles about a place within a commune inside a territory tells and potentially schools us about something highly profound. Riddles, mysteries and enigmas are now yielding to solutions, comprehension and understanding. The special nooks in Chianti Classico are tenderly referred to as frazioni, geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing. San Donato in Poggio is one such frazione, a hilltop village, hamlet and fraction united by the make-up of both constituents and terroir.

Barberino Tavarnelle from Isole e Olena

San Donato is found inside Barberino Tavarnelle, a new commune established on January 1, 2019 (reducing the total in Chianti Classico from nine to eight) by merging the municipalities of Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. The joining of Barberino Tavarnelle is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. On May 26, 2019 the citizens of Barberino Tavarnelle were called for the first time to the polls for the 2019 municipal elections. Mayor David Baroncelli was elected.

Paolo de Marchi in the Galestro of Isole e Olena

Going back in time the near-northerly and fully-westerly section of Chianti Classico saw Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa as border cousins sharing one particular mitigating and characterizing commonality; a ridge running from the southeast to the northwest affectionately housing the vineyards and paeselli of the people of San Donato in Poggio. SDP may not be household named to all but it’s surely the most prominent and prestigious of the angling, corrugated crests running through the entirety of the greater territory. 

Castello di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The Evolution of Chianti Classico

What was controversial only three or fours years ago is now part of everyday, commonplace discussion. While the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has yet to take an official stance on frazioni, especially with regards to labelling or menzione geografica, the fact is they are open-minded and even encouraging towards promoting the associations in search of marketing for their collective soul. Several years ago it was Roberto Stucchi of (Gaiole’s) Badia a Coltibuono who spoke about the “The Evolution of Chianti Classico.” Stucchi wrote “this zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory. The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the commune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory. The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history. This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.”

Without being able to categorize by geological commonality the defining of sub-zones is always somewhat arbitrary, conceived of subjective opinion and potentially discriminatory to fringe participants, either for reasons of location or ideology. Borders can’t be drawn underground and to try do so above is nearly impossible. The only way is seemingly by commune but in the case of San Donato in Poggio, the namesake village situated upon its prominent ridge allows for its constituents to double down on the prospect.

A great big hug

The San Donato in Poggio room is tied together by climate in a well-bounded area affected by the mistral wind coming off of the Tyrrhenian Sea wafting in from the northwest natural corridor of Monte Serra between Pisa and Lucca. Winters are warmer than the Chianti Classico interior average while summers are cooler and windier. Bud break comes early, seasons are stretched longer and later hang-time allows for top quality phenolics. While finesse and elegance are the two go-to descriptors, those of glycerin and high-toned grip should also be considered. San Donato’s are some of Chianti Classico’s sneakiest tannins, shrouded in the beauty of these wines in their youth. Potential and possibility for great longevity is a hallmark trait of SDP’s sangiovese. If you are looking for comfort or a hug in Chianti Classico, you’ve come to the right place.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Tavarnelle

Rocks in common

San Donato in Poggio’s lifted ridge is typical of the Ligurian sea’s platform push but here the cause and effect is two-fold. Flysch (an alternating sequence of sedimentary limestones, sandstones, and shales, the beds of which are thin, regular, and alternating) is this frazione‘s ace up the sleeve. That and the Galestro (schisty clay with friable white, grey, blue and charcoal rocks) typical of the greater territory are the soils with which all of these producers have in their vineyards to some varying degree. It may be argued that no other commune, village or valley shares such distinctly common terroir. Some compact limestone (like Alberese) exists as well but in some cases it is the Galestro clay and rock known as the Iolithium Unit that is found in large, hard and ghostly white Colombini that separates San Donato from the rest of the territory. Of great interest is to see how the sliding of the two platforms caused on the contact surface and the composition of blue clays prevents water loss in the deep layers. This creates natural availability of water, essential during drought vintages. Now you know where to look for 2017 Chianti Classico.

Natascia Rossini, Podere La Cappella

Associazione Viticoltori di San Donato in Poggio

The association of thirteen producers began their collective journey on January 24, 2018. Their total land holdings add up to just under 2000 hectares, 20 per cent of which are planted to vineyards.  “A time of change and exchanging ideas,” explains association secretary and Podere La Cappella’s Natascia Rossini. “Here there is a longer growing season and we tend to harvest late” and yet two years ago just a couple degrees cooler in temperatures meant that the frazione avoided damaging frost, with help from the winds blowing in 60-70 kms away from the coast. While it is difficult to find a commonality within a sub-zone, you can agree that the climate here is consistent throughout.

Passione per le nostre terre ed i suoi frutti, un territorio ed una cultura unici al mondo, un tesoro comune: il vino.
Siamo un gruppo di viticoltori, di un piccolo ma prodigioso territorio del Chianti Classico raccolto tra i comuni di Tavarnelle Val di Pesa e Barberino Val d’Elsa, che vogliono tutelare (o custodire) e far conoscerne la loro secolare tradizione agricola, storica e culturale evidenziandone le eccellenze vitivinicole, nonché le caratteristiche che le contraddistinguono sottolineando l’importanza degli aspetti climatici e geologici.

The manifesto translates as such. “Passion for our lands and its fruits, a unique territory and culture in the world, a common treasure: wine. We are a group of winemakers, from a small but prodigious Chianti Classico area gathered between the municipalities of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and Barberino Val d’Elsa, who want to protect (or preserve) and make their secular agricultural, historical and cultural tradition known highlighting their wine excellence, as well as the characteristics that distinguish them, emphasizing the importance of climatic and geological aspects.”

Paolo de Marchi

The thirteen members currently ensconced in the all for one directive are Badia a Passignano, Casa Emma, Casa Sola, Castello delle Paneretta, Castello di Monsanto, Fattoria La Ripa, Fattoria Montecchio, Fattoria Quercia al Poggio, Fattoria Spadaio e Piecorto, Isole e Olena, Le Filigare, Podere La Cappella and Poggio al Sole. The following are 21 examples from the association’s 13 members (plus three likely soon to join) tasted in September 2019 with Alberto Albisetti at Castello delle Paneretta and with Paolo de Marchi at Isole e Olena.

Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (384552, $49.95)

Presented by Stefano Carpaneto. From Barberino Tavarnelle and well entrenched in the association of vintners in San Donato in Poggio. Surprisingly high toned but also immensely structured in a 100 per cent sangiovese Gran Selezione. You can really feel both the calcari inlaid and braided through the Galestro clay by a richness albeit under the influence of the highest tone. Gains flesh, bone and energy as it goes. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (56952)

From Paolo Paffi off of 25 hectares at 450m in production of 95,000 bottles. San Donato sangiovese with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera, 70 per cent raised in tonneaux and 30 in Inox tank. What’s good for goose is great for sangiovese and so 60 are employed in the vineyard, helping to release the compaction in the clayey Galestro soil. Classic in every expected respect, in the specific savour, motivating intensity, high tonality, deeply good and plenty cherry fruit. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A 120 hectare property owned and operated by a Genovese family, third generation now. The Gambaro Family has been in Barberino Tavarnelle since 1960; Giuseppe, Claudia and their children, Matteo and Anna. Some canaiolo, cabernet sauvignon and colorino augment the sangiovese, for one year in barrel. A sapid and savoury sangiovese snack of red fruit deepening to dark and sullen. Deep toned wine. Really deep. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.00)

Presented by Alberto Albisetti, owner of the Castello della Paneretta. A mix of fruits fresh and dried mark the basket of this San Donato sangiovese, with 10 per cent canaiolo and (five) colorino off of 23 hectares of vines. Dry and duty, red ropey, some liquorice and a real estate cuvée blended from vines across the estate. True blue stylistic from large 5000L French barrels. Old school in some ways, classic, like old Rioja. Perfect for the style. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 

Showing in the only way Castello di Monsanto can, with forest scents, of cypress and all the brush you can shake into the fine liquid of a sangiovese off of these San Donato hills. Mainly Galestro schisty soils bringing the essential balance, along with some volcanic tufo. It all adds up to a posit tug between freshness and structure. Experience tells us that the possibility exists for 2016 to go long like 1968. Perhaps.  Last tasted September 2019

Annata of 90 per cent sangiovese with both canaiolo and colorino, traditional, loyal and streaked by the Galestro qualified off this ridge extended out of San Donato in Poggio. Juicy, fresh and forward, expressive of the vintage, not so muscular. Sangiovese like going home and crawling into the bed you slept in as a child. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2013 ($85.00)

Il Poggio from the San Donato in Poggio Galestro and Flysch has barely even climbed the hill of its first stage. Not even sure it has left the stable and surely has no current aspirations of making it to the fortress. The seventh year should show the first signs of initial ascent and transitions into secondary life. Formidable structure and presence are in surround of fruit from one of Chianti Classico’s most distinguished cru.  Last tasted September 2019

The cooler, cloudy vintage has been taking its time to emerge and 2018 is now live, in the present and in the flesh, ready for its time. This is confirmed by the grand artist known as Riserva from perhaps the most iconic hill in all of Chianti Classico. Still bright, effusive and not fully ready to let its tannin melt away. The sangiovese component is in the 90-95 per cent range, again with canaiolo and colorino coming around to complete the whole. The tension persists and the tannic structure in this “Selezione” is much tighter than the Annata or the first, non terroir specified Riserva. Still hard to believe how grippy this is. A soon to come epiphany with the 1968 helps to explain Il Poggio’s phenomenon. As a racer Monsanto’s Riserva 2013 is Marco Pantani, greatest climber of a generation, with so much grandiosity, potential and possibility, straight to the top of Il Poggio. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Though not in the association Le Masse is unequivocally a San Donato in Poggio institution, under the auspices of brother and sister Robin and Lea Mugnaini, owners and winemakers. Theirs out of Barberino in Val d’Elsa vineyards is a child of natural fermentation, has been organic 10 years and two as biodynamic. No sulphur, no pumps, all manual, a mano. This 2016 is the last year of barrel use, of those in their fourth year. The solo/varietal Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese of high energy, intensity and impressively developed structure, linear and so driven. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria La Ripa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by winemaker Nicholas Caramelli, La Ripa farms 12 hectares in Chianti Classico divided into two valleys, one marked by Alberese, the other alluvial deposits. Ten clones of sangiovese adding up to 90 per cent of the Annata, with other native varieties. Quite high-toned and graced by liquorice inflected red fruit, a touch leathery and dry. Only stays in tonneaux for six months. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2016

Presented by Riccardo Nuti, of 95 per cent sangiovese with alicante in big (33hL) barrels for aging. The vineyard source happens to be the most recently planted, with a combination of Galestro and Flysch (rhythmic alternations of sandstone and fine-grained layers that contain siltstones, silty shales, and clayey shales) to the south of San Donato.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite reductive and wound with a tightness that moves the adage one step up the rung, the one that says sangiovese needs time. For ’16 it’s a matter more pressing and a story yet to be told. It’s tart but so very layered and there’s a feeling of Galestro here, with a darker chalky texture and mouthfeel. Perhaps not the same weight as 2015 but more power and structure by a mile. It’s about preference of style and vintage variation. You may have to drink 15s while this waits two or three years before seeing the glory unfold. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2016

Alberto Fabbri is also not yet a member of the San Donato in Poggio association and his work from vineyards in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa is exquisite. A combination of reduction and cured meat, pancetta, from Galestro soils at 300m with five per cent canaiolo. Even finer touch from the most excellent 2016. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($34.95, 704346)

Was finally bottled in July, to be released in February. “I like 2016, it’s a very different vintage.” As usual there is 15 per cent canaiolo mixed in. Why Canaiolo? “Because it’s from here. And it’s a late ripening variety like sangiovese, and also not heavy and jammy like merlot.” Canaiolo is like sangiovese in that it must be selected and used in very particular ways. Paolo’s is actually a darker depth of fruit from 2016 while the spice is so much more sophisticated. There is so much wisdom now, more than even before and a calm, settling depth about this wine.  Last tasted November 2018, February and September 2019

Chianti Classico 2016 is composed of 80 per cent sangiovese, (15) canaiolo and (5) syrah, which since the 1980s has always held a spot, in fact it may have been as much as 10 two plus decades ago. Paolo de Marchi explains.”Syrah in my opinion, was really about thinking, about blending in an earlier ripening variety.” It also added colour, not for quality necessarily, but for pleasure. “If I were a consultant I don’t think I would recommend to plant it anymore.” But Paolo loves it, its bright acidity and lower pH, and loves the warmth. You can feel the liquid peppery hug from the combination of canaiolo and syrah in the constitution of this CC and now a new texture evolved from a traditional one, clearly passed on through generations. It is spoken in the clarity of this 2016, but it has taken decades to arrive here. Finessed, soft tannins and an effulgent acidity wrap fruit chewy and yet very crisp. Singular again and alone but quicker to please, at least for now. Perhaps it too will shut down in 2019. Perhaps not.  Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 (704346)

Poured from magnum. Should we expect an Isole e Olena ’13 to be the least unusual in the appellation? Yes. While higher in acid and lift it’s more a representation of the land and the soils, but also the style. In a way a classic vintage because grapes hung into October. Quite youthful, an uprising of energy, a pump up, not over. Quite seamless and full of Paolo de Marchi pride. Spice and strength, fortitude and extension.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite the syrupy aromatic liqueur fills the glass for the ripe and nearly floral brooding Chianti Classico from I e O out of the gregarious 2013 vintage. The stylistic makes me think Riserva but that just says so much about the quality and layering of the fruit. More than ample tart and variegated acidity up the equanimity and longevity factor so the house’s ability with Chianti Classico of less time in barrel is once again confirmed. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2010 (704346)

Poured from magnum. A beautiful vintage, certainly apposite to the challenge of wet, stretched then long 2013. A vintage with fine tannins that developed early enough and without much compromise to elongated structure. A top notch sangiovese vintage from which a great Cepparello was extracted. Wow factor winding and circling, dramatic and savoury with all the bushes and herbs magnified as they will be. Magnum perhaps but if nine years has only beget this, well then surely nine plus nine more will soothsay forward towards the secondary and tertiary numbers. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Le Filigare Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Alessandro Cassetti Burchi, proprietor of the smallest producer in the San Donato in Poggio association. Vineyards at 450m and from a winemaker who strikes an uncanny resemblance to American rock legend Tom Petty. With five per cent each colorino and canaiolo raised only in old barriques. Quite rich and savoury, of maritime pine, comfortable, old school, long developed with help from extended, even late harvests. So charming. This sangiovese belongs amongst the wildflowers, by a house in the woods, where “I ain’t got a neighbour for nine or ten miles, back in the tall pines.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Ivan Batignani, from the family with a presence in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Immensely and incredibly rich in acidity and tannins over some pretty solid and heady fruit. Big Slavonian oak. Big aging, big vessels, big wine, all in balance. A 100 per cent sangiovese that still needs time.  Last tasted September 2019

The combination of Poggibonsi and Barberino val d’Elsa is Ormanni’s trump card, a straddling of commune borders that creates the ideal estate Annata in perfect alignment. It’s really layered and sumptuous, old school at heart but clear, pure and honest, always looking straight ahead. There’s no rusticity but there is this red fruit beauty that reminds of days of yore. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Etichetta Storica Dugentanni 2013

Dugentanni, as in two hundred years, a reference to contiguous ownership by the Brini Batacchi family. The oldest vineyards in western Barberino Val d’Elsa supply the fruit for Ormanni’s top level sangiovese and one held back with traditional territory patience before its release to market. More loyal to the past then many, with a crisp clarity and the kind of Gran Selezione that wafts with nonno’s pipe tobacco flavour. Tells a story of tradition with unclouded vision and empathy for both family and place. Really smart Classico and ready to be enjoyed. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Michaela Rossi. Located on the hill in front of Paneretta, of 100 hectares with only 15 planted. Maximum altitude is 300m with 360 degrees of exposition. Organic practices since ’97 and officially certified since 2009. Clay and Galestro terroir with sangiovese, ciliegiolo, canaiolo, malvasia nera and colorino. This Annata is 80 sangiovese with the rest in 20 parts. One year in concrete after spending a year in wood. Terrific energy and balance, a wildly vibrant and driven Annata with great presence and intuition. Structure too. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

From Vittorio and Michaela Rossi and their best fruit from an amphitheatre of a hillside vineyard as rich in clay of any found in San Donato is Poggio. Pockets of Galestro and limestone take on some responsibility for the grip ins and structural outs of this glycerin beauty of a sangiovese but rich fruit is the catalyst and the star. That said there is a sculpted or architectural notation mixed with the excellence that this frazione in this commune (Barberino Tavarnelle) is able to provide and prove from a vintage of mixed feelings. The feelings are obvious from 2013 and for Quercia al Poggio, of sumptuousness and delight. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($28.95)

Always something completely other. From vines six to seven years old. A blend of sangiovese (90) and 10 merlot. The elixir that the others in San Donato are not, a gentle syrup, a sweetly endowed savour and a texture silky fine.  Last tasted September 2019

Only San Donato in Poggio delves into this kind of specific calcaire, the Colombino in lieu of most other’s Galestro. The coolest of notes are broken down and fragmented in mimic of the soil and run like a river of savoury stone through stratified fruit. There is a perception of sweetness, imagined as perfectly ripe, low-lying fruit in early summer. But the sweetness is just a dream because with such a level of mineral, not salty but sapid, it is impression that supersedes expression. The young vines are growing up before our noses and eyes, lending impeccable balance in the here and now, with appreciable development laid out ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Project Manager Valentino Davaz. “Hill at the sun,” and the most northerly winery in the association of San Donato in Poggio, near to the abbey of Badia a Passignano. Organic and at good elevation, at 420m with five per cent each canaiolo and also merlot, in one quarter barriques for one year. One of the more wooded wines in the lot, lush, rich and silky smooth. Needs time to submit and gently glide into that sunset over the hill. Drink 2020–2024.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Bonomonte Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Sonia Gianni. Bonomonte is situated in front of the Paneretta hill in Barberino and their Annata’s sangiovese is blended with five per pent each canaiolo and colorino. A production that has been in play since 1982, the 2016 goes for the entirety of the vintage, a bit pressed with some overripe fruit and drying tannins. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

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Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues 2015, Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France ($36.00)

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($177.00)

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2019

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

1964

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

Poggio Torselli

As per the recent wave of Chianti Classico producers creating regional associations because of their shared geographies and ideologies, so too has L’Associazione San Casciano Classico followed suit. Just about one year ago in the Fall of 2018 the producers of San Casciano Val di Pesa organized to promote and protect the wineries of the municipality. This past September there were 19 (of the 23) members of the association on hand to host 13 Canadian journalists and sommeliers for a San Casciano summit at the historical Villa Poggio Torselli.

Villa Poggio Torselli

The villa’s origins are recorded in the land registers as early as the beginning of the 15th century. It is approached by an awe-inspiring boulevard of cypresses and is one of the largest and most elegant residences in the area of the San Casciano Hills, near Florence. “Queen of all villas” as it is known dates back to 1427 bearing the name of Poggio Torselli. These noble family names are associated with the villa; Macchiavelli, Corsini, Strozzi, Antonori, Capponi and Orlandini, who owned the villa until 1722. Status is a draw for important figures, so visits were made by Pope Pius VII who stopped over on his way to Paris to crown Emperor Napoleon in 1804 and also Paul I, Emperor of Russia.

Poggio Torselli Seasons Garden

The gardens are astonishing and surely one of the Chianti Classico territory’s finest. Known as the “Seasons Garden” it was created in the 18th century, teeming with narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, dahlia, sage, clematis and giant Indian hibiscus. Most notable are the fritillaries, also known as “imperial crown” and the entire garden is surrounded by the golden crown of 120 secular lemon trees.

Related – If you’re going to San Casciano

San Casciano the village is also one of eight sub-zones in Chianti Classico’s most northwesterly sector. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that its location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river and it shares a border with two other communes, Barberino Tavarnelle to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast.

 

The sangiovese of San Casciano are made in the image of their makers; stoic, serious, at times austere, surely classic and noble. They speak with a succinct and old-school vernacular that lends great credence to the adage that sangiovese needs the bottle. The wines are unabashedly uncompromising in that they talk the talk of a sense of place that shares affinities only with each other and themselves. Their time in the sun has come, with help no doubt from a changing climate. That glaring condition was on full display the day we met and tasted because a deluge the likes there was never seen rained down and for many hours. When the tasting was complete the skies cleared and the sun shone on what was a symbolic calling to San Casciano’s nascent rebirth. The time for their distinctive sangiovese has surely come.

These are 21 of the wines tasted in September at Fattoria Poggiopiano and with the L’Associazione San Casciano Classico at Poggio Torselli.

Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (606541, $19.95)

Chianti Classico from Peppolì, 90 per cent sangiovese with merlot and syrah. An enriching wine and enriched by the international grapes, juicier and more refined, if not also a very concentrated version of these wines. It’s mature and stylish to be sure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Famous volumes

Carus Vini Chianti Classico DOCG Baldéro 2016

Presented by the estate’s Sales Manager Pamela Bernini. Estate grapes of 12-13 hectares grown on clay-calcareous soils. Eight are sangiovese, the other three being syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Baldéro is 100 per cent sangiovese with only a small portion raised in tonneaux. Rich, spirited and juicy stuff. Really fresh, effusive and expressive. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Only the second vintage of organic, 100 per cent sangiovese and an indigenous ferment. There were a mere 1400 bottles produced from a seven hectare plot, planted in 1982 and 2004. New plantings are going in. From Maddalena (age 26) in cohorts with Matteo (age 24). Quite sharp, fresh and also tannic. A start-up with experience on the fly. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A threefold experience of fennel, blood orange and pancetta. There are equal parts five per cent merlot and “other complimentary varieties.” The classic in every respect, dark cherry fruit, dusty, savoury and taut. Fresh, elegant as need be and utterly solid.  Last tasted September 2019

Castello di Gabbiano’s Chianti Classico may repeat itself and act the obvious one, but once again in 2016 it is full and ripe, filled in at every turn, deep, dark and handsome. The ability to deal in pleasure is immense from gathered quality fruit and as always this Annata finds the quickest line for us to appreciate the unwavering sense of equilibrium. Simply put it is Gabbiano and winemaker Federico Cerelli who offer a quality guarantee at the most attractive price. Leaves no reason to doubt. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino DOCG 2018

Mainly sangiovese with canaiolo, colorino and pugnitello. An excessively savoury and forest brushy Classico with the fruit edging away from cherry and into plum. Peppery spice adds to the complexity of this grippy sangiovese. Juicy and sharp, totally in charge of all the fun and more. Reminds me of a slow ripened ’14 with more flesh and sapidity. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Niccolò Bernabei and this project that began in 1995. Organic since 2001 in the most northern spot of San Casciano. Fifty per cent comes from a newer property in the south, for lightness of being and balance. Clay with stones for one of the darker and developed sangiovese in the commune. Toffee and coffee juxtaposed against freshness and really elevated acidity. Also a product of long fermentation with plenty of extraction, tannin and structure. And it needs it desperately. Not green in any means but certainly pressed and expressed. Grows in stature and also widens into greater breadth with air and time.  Last tasted September 2019

Nicely funky volatile, a rich cherry liqueur, full of spice both out of the vineyard and from the barrel. There is this chewiness that is also marked by a mouthful of spice, candied flowers and calcareous chalkiness from big variegated stones in the soil. Crunchy Annata out of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

A combination of two estate vineyards and it shows in the depth of layering, rich, chocolaty and silky smooth. Dark berry fruit, a bit pressed and good high level acidity.  Last tasted September 2019

La Sala’s Annata 2015 is a bambino, a San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot to speak for sites at 300m, seemingly more instructed by Galestro from out of the Argilla Rossa in 2015. It was raised in grande (45 hL) botti and has now only been in bottle for five months. It’s tart and firm, strong with doppio shots of espresso and very structured for the vintage. Tells a tale about the sort of sangiovese that comes from San Casciano. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.50)

This is San Casciano and the wines are linked by being characterized with soils prevalent in the Greve River Valley, in connection with Antinori’s Peppoli, of river stones and Alberese, into which roots can dive deep in search of water, trace elements and minerals. “A representation of a season for our place in Chianti Classico,” explains Alessandro Palombo. Classic Luiano florality and botanical lift in spite of ‘17s challenge. A tisane for sure, of violet and lavender but also spices. Rounded out by cabernet sauvignon and merlot planted at 330m on less rocky soils. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Antica Fattoria Machiavelli Solatio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Located in Sant’Andrea in Percussina, neighbours of Poggio Torselli and the house in exile where Niccola Macchiavelli lived. From 27 hectares of vineyards, stony and porous soils. Really the first reductive Annata in this San Casciano lot, protected, protractive and taut. Called Solatio because it’s a sunny place in an otherwise cooler area of the greater territory. Ripe sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot, tannic and just a touch green. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

San Casciano Hills

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Winemaker Gianpaolo Chiettini and what he considers some of the bigger sangiovese of Chianti Classico. Estate carries 40 hectares in the southern San Casciano area of Mercatale where calcari-Alberese soils are there to bring grip and structure. Also some vineyard with clay to mitigate and keep things swimming richly along. Much of the harvest was tossed away and sold for bulk. True selection was performed and with the stringent work through several picks. Thirty per cent saw older barrels in what is clearly a wine of soil and place. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Orsumella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Presented by Sales Manager Andrea Fabbri from a San Casciano farm located on the road from Bargino (near Antinori) proximate to Monte Ridolfi at 300m. Takes the name from the small river. The Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese eased through a short maceration and conversely similarly in extraction as a result. Native yeasts are used and it spends one years in Grandi Botti, 2500L and very old. A simple execution equals a simple equation. Young, fresh and delicious. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From proprietor Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of sangiovese and colorino and a San Casciano winery with no international varieties. Also no Riserva. High-toned, dark fruit and dusty sangiovese, rich in syrup swirl, certainly a vintage matter, concentrated, with a notable spike of heat. No new barriques used, only second and third passage. Long and consistent. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG La Tradizione 2016

“I am quite Taliban in this idea,” says Giovanni Battista Bartoli, of being 100 per cent anti-international varieties. These San Casciano soils are of clay, sand, river stones and “limo” a silty-clay. Vinification in concrete tanks, for no better reason than micro-oxidation. La Tradizione is pure varietal sangiovese and curious to even remarkable in that the palate accentuates or rather elevates the floral notes, in violets and blues. Tone spikes in whole bunches, really tart acidity and implosive intensity. A touch pressed. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted September 2019

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.85)

In the northern part of San Casciano at 250m of altitude. Pressed for success, caramel, vanilla and simple savoury syrup. Strawberry with some of it deeper into wild types. Rich and fleshy, smooth, silken and proper acidity. Mainly clay soils with some Alberese. Creamy with help from lees and battonage. A bit of a chocolate finish again with solid acidity. High quality for the style. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Corsini and Capponi crests

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($26.95)

Duccio Corsini’s vineyards mostly face south, though some point to the east and the west. Vineyards teeming with fluvial sediment and river stones, large, medium and small. Ostensibly an ancient river situation on a hill. Showing beautifully today and at this time; juicy, fleshy and bloody expressive. The sweet tannins need two more years to resolve. Made with five per cent colorino. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria San Michele A Torri Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta La Gabbiola 2017

From Franca in the far north of San Casciano on 470 hectares and 65 planted to vineyard, 15 of which are in Chianti Classico, 12 in production. Mostly sangiovese with five per cent syrah planted closest to the river just because it’s not a site for sangiovese. A true peppery syrup to nose, haughty and heady with no shortage of concentration and grip. Quite stylish and modern. Very enticing and a bit heated at the same time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Perseto Chianti Classico DOCG Albòre 2016

Presented by Beatrice Landini. Two young brothers take over from grandfather. A notable mephitic sangiovese crusted in its major reduction. Really wound tight, quite juicy and if traditional it’s done with plum pudding and spice. No oak and yet done up in a very closed environment to give a crisp, tight and crispy expression.  Last tasted September 2019

Sweet and candied, high acidity but not in a VA way, though alt-morbido malic and hard candy shelled. Needs some time for the crackling and the cracking to flake away. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Belvedere Campoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, dark and handsome from an old estate in the south of San Casciano on the north end of the ridge up from Radda, through Panzano and into Mercatale. Purchased five years ago and re-planted. Carries the richness meeting mineral notes of Galestro raised sangiovese albeit in the depth of a San Casciano vein. A note of smoky fennel and pollen with ripe acidity. Very much a product of young vines that will lead to more elastic and structured wines in years to come. A wine with shared affinities, to Mercatale in San Casciano and also Panzano. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Sant’Andrea Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A large 600 hectare estate with 50 hectares under vine, including merlot and two cabs to go along with sangiovese. The nose indicates jam and verdancy, likely picked ahead of the rains at high sugars early in September. Merlot especially in the first week and the sangiovese 15 days later. Phenolics are close but one more week (to ten days) would have likely taken this fruit to its final destination. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Mangiacane Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by estate director estate manager Graziano Santoro. Very near the village of San Casciano, from Galestro filled vineyards, well pressed and of a specific density. There’s a curious oyster shell note and dark black cherry fruit, pit and all. Plenty of oak, plenty of ambition, spice and pique. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Villa Vallacchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In the areas of Campoli and Tignanello, juice only sold to bulk through the 2015 vintage. Beginning in 2016 an Annata and a Riserva began to be produced. Ripe and floral with phenols very close to being fully realized. Still just a touch of verdancy with what can best be described as extreme fruit. A crunchy and tight Annata. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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Poggio Torselli

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WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)

It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)

The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)

There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Cape Winemakers Guild ‘The Gris’ Sémillon 2013, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

This was the year Andrea Mullineux began working with this rare and certified by the Old Vines Project sémillon gris from a 1960 planted (just 2 kms away from the chenin blanc), heritage dry-farmed plot grown on the granite soils of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. Only a few blocks exist anywhere and in 2014 some of this fruit began to augment the Mullineux Old Vines White. It is what Andrea calls “a project of the jumping gene.” It’s like a varietal ride on a pogo stick, in colour from pale like colombard to dark as cinsault. A citrus attack like no other and subjugated to the lush manifestations of skin contact. Still so flinty-smoky, lean and yet of a texture like an emollient of florals keeping the wine moist, fleshy and flexible. Though not the saltiest of vintages this gris is in complete control of its phenolic emotions. It’s also blessed of this unreal incandescence. Wholly unique in every respect. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin (WineAlign)

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

Palladius is the quintessential spear brandishing South African appellative blend with more varietal diversity than an oenology department’s nursery. It holds chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. No one does varietal interaction and trickery like Eben Sadie. No one. The ’16 is a wine of mixed tenses, the whole echelon and the black hole in the sun. Fruit comes from eleven different blocks all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. Ages in clay amphorae and concrete eggs, then racked into foudres, “to bring it all together.” Palladius holds a casual disregard for synchronizing fruit, acid and extract verb tenses in the way it uses a conditional interrogative without the proper structural order. It’s a wine of fine and unfair intensity, iconic, wise, learned and all for good reason. Imagine this to age well beyond its 15th birthday. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Savage Wines Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region (WineAlign)

Though the négoce roaming transverses the entirety of the Western Cape, sometimes you just go home again. This as small as it gets Girl Next Door resides and is raised out of a 0.38 hectare Noordhoek vineyard, “the weekend hobby vineyard,” as Duncan Savage would put it. A block of great clichés, “the home garden,” or at least close to home and certainly “a work in progress.” The developing plot is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma within a narrative that currently fashions a wine to speak of a long term vision. In these first chapters it is already doling dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful fruit. How this can’t turn into one of the great epic novels of Western Cape lore is beyond you and me. Home is where the heart soothes then savage beast. Winemaker and syrah. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

A single-vineyard is the source and a unique one at that for the Swartland because here is the spot where the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg begins to meet the northern slate. Paardeberg cinsault. If you are not yet familiar with this lovely beast it’s high time you got stoned on it. A varietal echelon rebirth eschews decades of French mistakes and enters into a revolution. As I noted from the ’14, it’s also a revival, a saving and a reformation. Having made itself a home in the Swartland now cinsault can create its own narrative, re-write the book and speak of the terroir. Transparency is truth and in a tightly wound, uniquely tannic way this curls tart and cured meaty filaments around a paradigmatic red fruit core. It’s bloody caesar delicious. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

Just the second vintage of Lukas van Loggerenberg’s Kamaraderie is a chenin blanc from a 1960s planted, two hectare single-vineyard in Paarl. Lukas picks the bottom of the slope first and the top many days later so there is this natural layering of fruit. Reeks with reminiscence, of fennel and pistachio, of fronds and gelid cream. Only 800 bottles make this one of South Africa’s rarest chenins raised for 10 months in old barrels, unstirred, shaken or allowed to visit with the malolactic king. There’s a dissolve of delicious citrus seamlessly streaked through fleshy fruit in what is just such an organized and structured chenin. Finishes with the brine, oh the brine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

While the August 6th VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

651711, Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Cederberg ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.

652867, House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017, WO Western Cape ($21.95)

Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.

355438, De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018, WO Robertson ($24.95)

Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.

651810, Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, WO Stellenbosch ($39.95)

Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

698274, Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch ($14.95)

Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.

698290, Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017, WO Paarl ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.

Best of the Rest for August 6th

498535, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)

Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.

668335, Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)

Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.

667527, Château De Montguéret 2017, AP Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($17.95)

Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.

964221, Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy ($29.95)

Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.

260802, Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)

Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.

922054, Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($50.95)

Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.

What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

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Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Multiple visits to Tuscany over the past 36 months and more specifically to Chianti Classico have meant that nearly a thousand sangiovese have been opened for tasting opportunities. The tours have also acted to allow for benefactor moments, to present table wines made in part or in whole that either do not or have been chosen to not qualify for DOCG appellative status. These cases are purely opportunistic, in the name of IGT Toscana (and other typical geographical notations) for the purpose of impressing the merits from well-maturing vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, blends with sangiovese and other solo sangiovese wines of Chianti Classico producers.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The idea of the IGT practice goes back four-plus decades, to a time when Bordeaux grape varieties began to infiltrate and populate Chianti Classico soils. So much of what was planted through the 90s remains and because only 20 per cent of a Chianti Classico can be filled by grapes other than sangiovese, in many cases it is the “international” varieties that fill in and those grapes still need to go somewhere. It is also a consideration that Chianti Classico aged in new oak barrels is a scarcity these days and so those vessels need to be used for something so ecco, it is IGT, big, small, super or baby that gets the nod.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

In the mid to late 1970s Tuscany there developed a quick ascent of the Super-Tuscan, wines that eventually came to be called “IGT” as a by-product of a perfect bureaucratic storm. The micro-nationalistic wave of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) served Italy’s elite producers both a blessing and a curse because on one hand it afforded wines the highest level of (Italian) classification while on the other it added unbending restrictions on how those wines could be made. The rule breaking table reds thus became symbols of resistance, wines that told governments and consortiums where to go and in effect led to an eventuality of response, of a sweeping, money-grabbing movement across that region’s wine-producing territories.

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

It was nigh twenty years later that authorities got wise to the situation and so Goria’s 1992 Law 164 was created, thus giving birth to the IGT designation. New monies began to line the government’s pockets. So much for rebellion though twenty years was plenty of time to establish and set up a group of famous wines for life.

The main reason for moving away from the appellation was the restrictive law that said you couldn’t make wine labeled as Chianti Classico if it contained 100 per cent sangiovese grapes. Later examples included Monteraponi when Michele Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 because at 12.5 per cent alcohol it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. The great first wave began as Chianti Classico producers began to dismiss appellative laws by de-classifying their 100 per cent sangiovese. Fontodi’s Flaccianello delle Pieve and Isole e Olena’s Cepparello are two of the more famous examples. Outside the Classico territory and in other Tuscan lands there were others many consider to be the most rogue and famous of them all. Tenuta San Guido’s 1968 Sassicaia, Antinori’s 1971 Tignanello, 1986 Masseto and Ornellaia, first produced in 1985. But in 2019 the push for Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category to become a 100 per cent sangiovese appellative wine has sparked not only new debate but also great speculation. Will those once rebellious producers return their top wines and in many cases, single-vineyard sangiovese back to the appellation? Along with Flaccianello delle Pieve and Cepparello, the list of possible returnees might also include the following:

  • Badia a Coltibuono – Sangioveto
  • Carobbio – Leone
  • Castello di Querceto – Le Corte
  • Castello di Rampola – Sangiovese di S. Lucia
  • Fattoria Montecchio – Priscus
  • Il Molino Di Grace Gratius
  • Monteraponi – Baron’Ugo
  • Montevertine – Le Pergola Torte
  • Podere Campriano – 80 (Ottonta)
  • Podere La Cappella – Corbezzolo
  • Principe Corsini Le Corti – ZAC
  • Valdellecorti – Extra
  • Vignavecchia – Raddese

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

In February of 2019 I tasted 21 assorted IGT wines, from Rosato to Bianco to Rosso. I’ve also added three others tasted a year ago that had not yet made it to print. These are my notes on that 24 strong, eclectic and impressive lot.

Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato 2018, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Rosato from sangiovese raised from Chianti Classico galestro soils found in Monti in Chianti and only 30 minutes time through press. A 100 per cent sangiovese stunner with absolutely no excess, no onion skin, no oxidation, from all estate vineyards, including San Marcellino’s grapes that once would have been green harvested. Texture, sapidity and character are written down and expressed as a scientific problem out of which complexity sets all to high. One of Tuscany’s great Rosatos, made with great purpose, structure and food friendly to say the least. So good. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, February and April 2019

Lunch at Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2017, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Antipasti wine, house wine, smells like good salumi. The Lepre tank is all the juice from the vineyard blocks where the ripening isn’t perfect and also some pressed juice not used in Chianti Classico. Theoretically from “de-classifed” grapes but in good vintages it could very well be Chianti Classico from a quality standpoint, though wouldn’t qualify because it’s made with 30 per cent merlot. A top notch vintage for Le Lepre, juicy, somewhat tannic and finishing with seed-noted beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2014, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Three years forward and the (70 per cent) sangiovese aromatics are eerily similar to the fresher and very forward 2017. Perhaps more salumi and certainly finnochio pronounced. Holding well with tannins resolved and this from the challenging 2014 vintage though truth be told it was the right one, of structure to carry a “second wine” like this forward. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Vicky Scmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Merlot 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vineyards planted in 1998 and 2000, this is the second vintage of the varietal hugger, with Le Fonti aromatics stronger than grape. It’s one year in barrel so in the baby Super Tuscan mold, fruity, juicy, lower in acidity and pretty much crushable. Easy and very proper. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Certainly crafted from an easier, less stressful vintage and the blend is about 55-60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 35 merlot and 10-15 sangiovese. Still those Le Fonti aromatics, of salumi and fennel, but here also pepper, graphite, Cassis and chocolate. Very Tuscan so makes sense in such a vintage for the reference to be Toscana as opposed to the frazione within frazioni called Alta Valle della Greve. Very grippy meeting the expected liqueur elixir and black cherry meeting black currant. Acidity is quite fine, purposed and integrated. Impressed by the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2014, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fontissimo is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. A wine made in Chianti Classico to break in new barrels and to express territory through the ulterior processes of grape blending and winemaking. Here is where Guido Vitali and Vicky-Schmitt Vitali can work on their chops and hone their craft. Hello 2014, vintage of stars and bars, vintage of ages and for those who are paying close attention. Also, welcome to the highly specific Alta Valle della Greve. There’s a commonality for sure that is found in this valley but there is also a simplicity and a sense of place within a place within a place. Easy drinking actually. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Gratius is the Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese table wine that resides with a dozen other territorial greats in that existentialist realm outside of the appellation. If and when it will become Chianti Classico DOCG remains to be seen but this 2015 sits on the side of tangy, tart and so bloody structured side and yes, the dominant notes are distinctly blood orange. Elongated and elastic it’s offers up a free and equitable look in the varietal mirror, productive in perfectly perpetual inertia, firm, grippy and motivated. Will come together in a few years time and drift ever so slowly for seven more. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“In my opinion it is young to drink,” shrugs Natascia Rosini. In fact it’s oft considered unusual to hold back white wines to drink, not just here but in Italy as a whole. Then again, who else makes vermentino from estate grapes in Chianti Classico. Salinity and sapidity reign in a shockingly good vermentino. Pear and herbal notes with richness that just put this over the top. Picked late at full maturity and kept in the cellar for two weeks (at four degrees) before pressing. Never failing San Donato vermentino. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 1997, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The last time I was able to taste such a comparison was 2014 versus 1998, two under-appreciated cool and wet vintages. Now we look at warm years, 2015 and 1997, the latter at the time considered the greatest. Many sangiovese have failed and fallen but this vermentino, well, even if the colour and the nose are far evolved, the palate has plenty of life. Salinity and sapidity still rock and stone their way, with that marine wind from the sea rushing through, into the air and the soil of San Donato in Poggio. Hard to decide between this and ’98 because there is more flesh here (bringing a honeyed apricot), but sometimes lean is so nice. Such a special moment. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From sangiovese planted in 1981 and 1982, a vineyard not certified as Chianti Classico so this wine can’t be called Gran Selezione. To say this is young and perhaps even being unaware of what it can be would be an understatement. It’s calm and powerful, elegant and ready to strike with force. Such identifiable, formidable, indestructible and yet malleable tannins. A mimic of the singular Colombino rock found only here in the territory, calcareous white stone both strong to build houses (and cellars) and schisty to break apart between your hands. Imagine how this will drink when it allows itself to break down in just the right way and at just the right time.  Last tasted February 2019

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2012, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

As always 100 per cent merlot with a grafting connection to chardonnay and American rootstock. The vintage is a savoury one for the thirty-plus year-old IGT. It’s a very Mediterranean sensation, of black olive and balsamico, hematic ooze and woodsy floor. It’s actually still quite closed or perhaps it’s entered a dumb or quiet phase but don’t be fooled; there is powerful restraint and it may pounce anytime. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1999, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A beautifully advanced merlot from vines that would have been 17 and 18 years-old at picking time. If you’ve got a truffle dog, take this wine and go truffling because this merlot is at the head of that aromatic game for the territory. Such a creamy merlot, with plenty of necessary acidity and the freshness of truffle. Merlot as tartufo incarnate. Truly. Delicious. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle Mandorle 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) with cabernet sauvignon, all fruit and nothing but the fruit, plummy and with a nutty smokiness, but also manageable with simplicity from and for fruit. What works and gives from the basic and forthright IGT ideal. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle More 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (50 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and merlot (20), from “the hill of the blackberry.” A rich, purple flower aromatic, liquid chalky, deeply rendered red. Done up in a combination of new and pre-used barriques. There’s a salumi feel, a musky pancetta and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Nearing glycerin but staying its clay-mineral coarse. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re 2016, Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From cabernet sauvignon grown on sandy soils in the warmer maritime area near Grossetto. The grapes comes from “the hill of the king,” and the attributes are so bloody varietal obvious. Cassis, ribena, blackberry, savour and spice. Chocolate and rosemary, tarragon and cinnamon. Very expressive and with good elevated acidity. Quite the tannic beast. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio FSM 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From a project that began in 1995, this is 100 per cent merlot of a small, 3,000 bottle lot. It’s hard to decide if it’s more varietal or more Toscana so let’s just say it straddles the two with perfect ease. Youthful, big and warm, very Mediterranean with gariga, black olive, rosemary and dusty notes. Silky smooth however and finishes in balsamic, viscous and reduced. High quality merlot to be sure, with fine tannic structure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Priscus 2015, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The IGT is 100 per cent sangiovese of 1,200 bottles aged in 100 per cent terracotta amphora formed, forged and cured on the Montecchio property. Same must/juice as the Gran Selezione so the side by side comparison is the show. Winemaker Riccardo Nuti is interested in this investigation for family tradition, commercial continuity and passion project affirmation. Quick time on skins, fermented in terracotta tanks and racked into “amphora,” in this case elongated egg-shaped clay vessels for the next two plus years. The texture and the spice are higher, as is the volatility but the threshold is not in any danger of being breached. The tannins are more present, demanding and vivid. And I prefer them because they are just that more interesting. This is in fact a remarkable look at the relationship between grape, vessel, material, approach and place. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Pietracupa 2016, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An IGT blend of sangiovese (60 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon with a percentage coming from San Donato in Poggio vineyards close by. Much deeper, bigger, broader and brooding as a blend with smooth silky consistency and fine silky tannins. Very oaky, completely mature and filled with the flavours that lie on the balsamic-chocolate-blackberry spectrum. Though the sangiovese character is lost it’s a real high-end charmer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio La Papesa 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A varietal merlot of high level ripeness and while it’s a bit overripe and certainly extracted the acidity is supportive, balancing and results in something charming. The tannins are soft and comforting with zero astringency so yes, think of this as a great big San Donato hug. Figs in reduced balsamico are the prevailing flavours, with lots of dark but not bitter chocolate coming through with the finishing next level morbido feelings. As big as it may seem to some palates it’s actually quite easy to drink. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingarella 2017, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend from young vines in frost spots and high humidity places not really suitable for sangiovese. The blend is merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo. So what is it? Well for one thing it’s the “daughter of the gypsy,” and then it’s a high acid, taste of place before anything else red blend. High tonality, ripe purple fruit and and a boatload of currants. No pyrazine, well perhaps just a bit. Low alcohol for such an animal, remarkably so and once again it’s a great matter of sapidity. Just a hit of chocolate late, as per the grapes which needed to have a say. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingana 2015, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “Gypsy,” from the old Greek, or in Italian, gitano or tzigane. This gypsy is the old vine version, of 50 years, top grafted on a sangiovese/malvasia/canaiolo/trebbiano vineyard planted by the previous owner in the late 80s. It’s made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (but no canaiolo) and also no sangiovese because tells Michael Schmelzer, there is no cannibalizing the Chianti Classico. This is deeper, richer, lower in acidity, still sapid but not as pronounced and higher in finishing chocolate. The wood needs a year more of integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Percarlo IGT Toscana 2013 is the current vintage of the 100 per cent sangiovese that began in the 1980s when it was forbidden to label such a beast as Chianti Classico. “Percarlo is his identity so he will not come back,” insists Luca Martini di Cigala. Made from the smallest bunches and a selection of the best fruit, yet still from the same vineyards albeit blessed of more from tufo soil. Percarlo carries the same San Giusto richness and acidity working in silky tandem and the tannins are the most plush, which they’d have to be to match the high level of glycerin. Formidable and exceptionally refined sangiovese. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2005, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Once again you would have no idea that any time may have passed, not just because the hue has yet to morph but because the aromatics and fresh gelée are one in the same, together as they have always been. The purity and exquisite texture also conspire for a sublime intertwine and then out of this comes the acidity, trailing like a comet. The tannins are still so strong and so the smoky spirit and intensity of variegated flavour persists, gets reprimanded and is held out for all to taste. Here the maximum coaxed from the grape is acceded above and exceeded beyond. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 2015, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Carbonaione is from the finest sangiovese on the Ruffoli property, a Chianti Classico vineyard declassified, with vines as old as 90 years but in reality, not exactly 100 per cent sangiovese. Some post-phylloxera ungrafted vines and many co-planted with no record of origin perhaps or likely place mammolo, colorino, canaiolo, malvasia, trebbiano and even occhiorosso in five to ten per cent amongst clones of sangiovese. The nose is like the Chianti Classico magnified, reduced, compressed and elevated. The florals rival the Lamole but they are more into potpourri and the acidity is super, super fine. The only comparison might be in acidity like Luca’s San Giusto a Rentennano, with the sandy soil base and the saltiness but the tannins here are set upon broader shoulders. With much less stone worked in the soil you lose the chalky grain streak but gain this broader complexity. With such beckoning and burgeoning acidity the vinatge is put on a great pedestal and the possibility seriously exists for two decades of aging. Ruffoli’s 400-600m elevation, with a long growing season (sometimes seeing pick times up the second week of October) means the full and complete phenolic ripeness is wholly realized. Not to put too much stock in here but 13.5 per cent alcohol. Just sayin’. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

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San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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Il costante sangiovese di Castell’In Villa

Castelnuovo Berardenga, February 2019

Simplicity. Just like today’s weather, blue and crisp. “Simplicity is the best thing in life,” tells Castell’In Villa’s kinben proprietor Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. “Simplicity is freedom.” The sangiovese grown, fermented and bottled on her Castelnuovo Berardenga farm are surely one of the purest, most transparent and site-specific in the entirety of Chianti Classico. Il costante sangiovese di Castell’In Villa. Constant, inalterable, steadfast and true.

The Castelnuovo Berardenga farm is littered with shells from an ancient ocean and it is the Principessa’s honesty that helps to explain the estate style and the results in not just her wines, but as a way to also look at those of other producers in the territory. “Here at Castell’In Villa there is every (Chianti Classico) soil type and rock imaginable and also what’s left behind from that ocean of many millennium. This is the part I enjoy the most. To make wines from the fields. Which really comes through in the mineral of the Annata. The wood of the Riserva covers it up just a touch, though when the wood goes down I feel the sense of the earth.”

Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa

Just a shade more than 20 kilometres east from Siena and due south of San Felice is where you can find Castell’in Villa, a medieval hamlet dating back to the 1200’s at which time it was a borgo within the borders of Sienese control. The medieval stone tower is the home of the Principessa, who bought the estate with her Greek husband in 1968. The estate covers a particularly wooded area for Castelnuovo Berardenga of 298 hectares of which 54 are planted to vineyards and 32 for olive groves. Within the woodland the hunting ground teems with hare, pheasants and wild boar. The vineyards comprise eight highly distinct sites to which the diversity of the greater territorial countryside is reflected, both in soil types and microclimates.

The two essential wines produced are Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. Two other reds are made, the IGTs Santacroce and Poggio delle Rose. A very small amount of traditional Vin Santo is also produced as well as a Grappa from the residue of the estates vendemmia. There are no trends or fashions followed here. As for the category of Gran Selezione, this is what the Principessa has to say, “It’s a good intentional and commercial decision. The Consorzio should have the courage to distinguish the producer on the bottle.”

Spaghettini al ragú di cervo

No visit to the estate is truly complete without experiencing Chef Massimo Di Fulvio’s attention to local detail, especially for the cervo and the cinghiale in exceptional and essential dishes that celebrate the hunt and the harvest. Castell’in Villa’s restaurant is not to be missed.

Tagliata alla Bistecca Fiorentina

I had the honour and il più grande piacere to visit with Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa twice in three months, first in November 2018 and then again this past February. On both occasions the days were perfect, the wines showing with full fruit capability and the meals were inextricably woven into the fabric of these wines. These are what I tasted and how I have assessed them in the context of grape, maker and place.

Castell’in Villa Rosato Gazzara IGT Toscana 2018, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

One hundred per cent sangiovese, sapid and salty, wound internally tart and so in command of its reasoning and seasoning. Good morning sangiovese sunshine, wake up and smell the cherries, le fragole and also the mineral salts in their assimilated liquid form. Mezzo perfecto. It’s Rosato after all. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Immediate amore for the aromatics and the lack of supposition, for how this 100 per cent sangiovese is naturally careful, subtly handsome and respectfully direct. Lean but without angles or sharp, pointed edges, nor overtly weighted down in tang. Floral notes are stated in grace and like all of the Principessa’s wines from these Castelnuovo Berardenga vineyards, the singularity of restraint for power and and purity is duly recognized. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018 and February 2019  castellinvilla  #castellinvilla  

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The warmth is quite special in spite of a troubling vintage and is felt through the conduit of fruit eight years on having gained a dried leather cherry hyperbole. I am reminded immediately of the particular acidity in these wines. Set on a tonal scale upon the highest but always out of finesse and in control. Life has really just begun for this youthful sangiovese gathered around and about the 50 hectares of Castell’in Villa vineyards. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2006, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Aromatic self-awareness always lends to self-control for the estate Annata, with fruit maintenance at the top of the vintage game. A very fine season was 2006, across Tuscany and certainly in Chianti Classico, ideal in Castelnuovo Berardenga. There is some black fruit here tipping towards and dipping into a pot of tartufo oil, some marinating black olives, porcini, carob, bokser and toasted almond. Or perhaps chestnut. Fruit so developed needs corresponding acidity and so it is always thankful to be a child the estate. The weight is fun and whimsical, with an earthiness that teases post-secondary to nearly ecumenical tertiary. Always a saltiness in amazing recall of an ancient ocean.  Love the temperature it’s served, to mimic who this sangiovese must have always been, cool as a mid-February day, expressive of both sunshine and savour, remembering a beautiful summer in a good vintage. This actually gains youth as it opens, starting out with that truffling gait and finishing cool, minty and fresh. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted November 2018 and February 2019

Ravioli al tartufo

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A blend of parcels ”though we know more or less the fields from where they come,” says Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. Here we are introduced to the clarity and functionality of what Castell’in Villa has always purported to be, traditional while always moving in a forward direction of evolutionary necessity. There is no guessing game being played and the aromas are expressive of the property, in everything that grows, plus all that sits beneath and slowly rises to the surface of the fields. Flowers and rocks, together with grapes. It’s that simple really. Finesse and reality. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

“Is this normal for you,” is the question with regards to older vintages sharing the stage with current releases. “I always come out late,” answers Principessa Coralia. “If sangiovese is good it needs time.” The 2011 perfume comes from a place of almost no frame of reference, save for these formidably ecological Castelnuovo Berardenga fields. It’s a wild cherry wrapped inside an enigma with a sense of humour. Sangiovese 100 per cent of its own edenic Findhorn. So in control and colourful, with exceptional length. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted November 2018

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The bright perfume is elevated out of 2010 and brought to present day prominent, scintillant life. A sangiovese out of which the Principessa “feels the sense of the earth.” You somehow still feel the sweet naïveté of maceration, from a very promising now realized vintage of both fruit wealth and structure. Just a moment’s porcini breath characterizes the present, coming through to speak of a turning point and the next aromatic phase. Just a baby really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The acidity is first in line, in charge and in control. This particular 2005 is THE food wine of the lot so far, begging for some fat and protein. There is some funghi umami on the nose and then some dried fruit, from a vintage providing all the necessary tools and also some formidable tannins. I expected a further evolved Riserva from 2005 and this turns presuppositions on their head. The nose is there but the palate and the structure have plans to wait it out. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1995, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Every memory of the summer that was 1995 in Chianti Classico is important, not the least of which are 17 days spent there and the terrible weather that followed the communes all summer long. Perhaps that is why this 23-plus year-old sangiovese has lingered into the most finessed and pleasure gathered state of grace. It’s an older bird to be sure and even not the cleanest example there is or was but its tertiary place is still marked by fine acidity and grippy tannin. Classic Castelnuovo sangiovese with dried porcini scattered amongst the leaves of autumn. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019. (The slight TCA in this example really means the wine is not rated)

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio delle Rose 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the hill parcel planted in 1990 to the old selezoine massale clones, from the original property, not the current “Chianti Classico” clones. “And there is a difference,” insists Principessa Coralia. Three or four years in grandi botti and older tonneaux so no, it’s not even close to ready. Yet the fcat that you don’t explicitly notice the tonneaux is its magic. A big and complex vintage with variability in temperature and precipitation but at the crucial moments it gave what was needed. There is a special presence about this sangiovese, because of the source but also how alive, bright-eyed and expressive it is. This pulses, vibrates and reverberates with ancient seabed salinity. No loss to finesse but more time will be required, to turn back time and back pages, for the true clarity and calm disposition to settle in. Extraordinary wine of restrained power and exceptional sangiovese. Has always been Riserva and “will never be Gran Selezione.” Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted November 2018 and February 2019

Castell’in Villa Santa Croce Di Castell’in Villa IGT Toscana 2008, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

An 80-20 gathering between cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese, in ode to the early May local celebrations of the cross. Certainly a matter of Cassis and sweet savour but the place speaks louder than the grapes. More of a barrel-scented and texture-affected red for Castell’in Villa, naturally because of the cabernet but also because the barrels have to start somewhere. It’s quite floral, certainly dusty and pretty much in its right place, in time. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

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