Four questions to Chianti Classico

The Gallo Nero, Chianti Classico

Timely questions to 17 Chianti Classico producers about their appellative wines, how and why they do what they do, plus their reflections on the state of Italy’s battle with Covid-19 and projections for the 2020 harvest

by Michael Godel

Over the past four and a half years I have written about, extrapolated upon, waxed rhapsodic over and flat-out smothered Chianti Classico with hundred’s of thousands of words, reviews and tasting notes. It’s time for Godello to take a break and switch the focus on current events, what’s happening now and to hear about Chiantishire dirt from the mouths of the producers themselves. In 2020, the $64,000 dollar question is “why is this vintage different than any other?” As we fall back into impending autumn and perhaps another great global unknown, when pressed with four poignant questions, 17 Chianti Classico producers are all the youngest child at the table. They ruminate over their cultural past, viticultural present and perchance, express some postulations about the future. 

Chianti Classico Collection 2020, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Passport to Chianti Classico: The Sequel

But first some exciting news. Fresh on the heels of the WineAlign Exchange’s successful inaugural partnership with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and two sold-out international Passport case offers, this next collaboration stands to further cement our collective relationship with Tuscany’s famous wine region. Twelve more indispensable sangiovese in one mixed case. The territory’s sangiovese of exceptional quality is not limited to a mere 12 producers and so this next wave of Passport cases is poised to pack eight more prime examples in a mixed 12-pack. The WineAlign critic’s fortuitous summer of 2020 continued as they once again were given the opportunity to taste though many examples of wines stamped with the iconic symbol of the Gallo Nero. The June Chianti Classico boxes were the first of their kind for WineAlign and these new wines chosen are foremost a decision made collectively after the critics each sat down to taste many examples. They are indeed an extension of what new facets and nuances about Chianti Classico’s sangiovese the writers have learned over the past weeks.

This Passport to Chianti Classico mixed case celebrates the three levels of the region’s appellations. Passport to Chianti Classico: The Sequel explores the youthful freshness of sangiovese and the subtle differences found in the eight communes and their soils. It also brings together bolder, fuller-bodied, more structured and cellar worthy Chianti Classico.

Since 1716 Chianti Classico has preserved the unique qualities of its native land and soils and it is the Black Rooster that protects the wines from all imitations.

And so this latest article is an exposé of interpretation as I ask 17 iconic producers four timely questions regarding Chianti Classico’s appellative wines, how and why they do what they do and a request for their reflections on both the state of Italy’s battle with Covid-19 and projections for the 2020 harvest. Their answers further the confirmation of the territory’s ability to consistently achieve another level of quality. Sometimes sequels match or even exceed the original.

Panzano, Chianti Classico

 

I love the smaller vintages like 2014 and in my opinion both of them (with 2016) were able to reflect the Panzano characters

  Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

 

Estate identity (terroir or better said, “genius loci”) is a very delicate concept, easy to ruin if you go by the book

  Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti

 

There’s no strict or clear rules to follow, because the climate affects each decision, and month after month you may need to chance or revise the decisions that were taken earlier

  Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi

 

Sixteen producers, four questions

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Chianti Classico? What or why is the reason?

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano-Greve: “It is always a work in progress, every vintage is a challenge and my efforts, like everyone in the Chianti Classico region, are concentrated in trying to improve as much as possible the quality. Quality that means more and more terroir expression and identity. The recent vintage that excited me much was 2016 because almost perfect but I love also the smaller vintages like 2014 and in my opinion both of them were able to reflect the Panzano characters.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio-Barberino Tavarnelle: “I can say that at Monsanto since the beginning we have always tried to respect the terroir and the vintage characteristics in all our wines. In the almost 60 years of our history there have been several changes in the winemaking processes and also the viticultural ones but I can say that they have always been marginal towards the imperative dictated that all our wines needs and needed to show the peculiarities of our piece of land together with the respect of the indigenous varietals. We have never changed the blend of our Chianti Classico wines – even in the 90’s “Super Tuscans” period… when it was really difficult to sell sangiovese wines.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano in Val di Pesa: “As you know when I started managing Villa Le Corti I had no viticultural background or specific family tradition, even though my family has owned Le Corti since 1363. So I would set the first pin in 1997 after five years of observing and learning. What I understood was the wines needed not only to be good because there was a good amount of good wine in Chianti Classico; they needed to be different in the sense of unique. So I abandoned the market trend, “the Parker style” and started searching for a Ville Le Corti natural style and identity in wine. I introduced a punchdown system and open vats vinification. I also understood that estate identity (terroir or better said, “genius loci”) is a very delicate concept, easy to ruin if you go by the book so there comes the second pin date 2005. This is the year I introduced after five years of experimentation, our unique selection of yeasts. Expensive but very important to emphasize terroir. 2010 was the vintage when I discovered the extensive use of cement vats to age Le Corti vintage (Annata). This is also the year I decided to reduce dramatically the use of new barriques and introduced 500 and 700L barrels for Don Tommaso Gran Selezione. 2014 like all hard years allowed me to understand how important is the quality of the fruit and how much added value you get in wine when you preserve the berry and you don’t crush it before putting it in the fermentation tank. That is the year when I changed the de-stemming machine, (instead) introducing a selecting machine. But the major change came in 2015 with my son Flippo starting the Fico Wine project. Perfection and integrity of fruit produced in my opinion is the most transparent representation of our terroir. In addition of no added sulfites and no filtration. Fermentation happened in barrels and ageing in the same barrels. In 2019 the main fermentation cellar was equipped with conveyor belts that brought the berry to the vats without ruining the skin; fermentation did the rest in a very natural timing and no hurry.”

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi, Monti-Gaiole: “I can’t say that a particular vintage has marked the turning point for me as a winemaker. I believe that each vintage, year after year has added a new chapter to the winemaking history, giving me a deeper understanding on the choices to make in the vineyards. Sadly, there’s no strict or clear rules to follow, because the climate affects each decision, and month after month you may need to chance or revise the decisions that were taken earlier. But, after more than 25 vintages I feel I now have some understanding of viticulture. Additionally, since 2015 I also have two consulting agronomists that help me to make the best decisions.”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole: “I started managing Badia a C in 1985 and I always tried to allow the wines to express the place so I have a hard time finding a turning point because I always maintained the course. However in the last few decades the challenge has been adapting to the dramatic variations in climate. From this point of view a turning point was 2011, one of the hottest and driest vintages (until then…  we break records frequently nowadays).  In 2011 we had a record sized crop and one the most outstanding vintages and realized that in today’s climate it actually helps to have a larger crop that will delay maturation a bit.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe, Castellina in Chianti: “I would say that vintage 2010 was the result of our company’s major investments, renovation of the vineyards and of the cellars, as well as the ageing procedures and containers, which began at the end of the 1990s with the aim of obtaining excellent grapes. That one was also the year in which Lorenzo Landi started his consulting activity with our winemaking team and the first vintage of the Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli. This I would say was really the harvest and the year of the turning point!”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia, Montefioralle-Greve: “I think 2014 was a recent vintage that really set a watershed for the whole appellation as it showed to the wine world that in Chianti Classico even in small vintages producers were able to make not only delicious wine but age worthy ones. If you think of the last rainy vintage in Chianti Classico which was 2002, I have to admit that it was a worse harvest than 2014, and you look at which important wines each winery decided to make that year and you compare it with the 2014 winemaking decisions, it feels like a century has gone by not just a little over a decade. I think that winemakers in Chianti Classico now have the ability, like Roberto Conterno had in 2002 when he made Monfortino, to interpret every single vintage without distorting what nature bestows to them.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace, Panzano-Greve: “Vintage 2016 is the turning point in the cellar, by taking up the Grand Selection and trying to bring freshness, cleanliness and fruit – all characteristics for making a wine that I like.”

With Federica Mascheroni

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia, Radda: “I think it’s not a vintage but luckily it is a team :-). I have the same team In the vineyards and the cellars, working for Volpaia since a long time. The experience collected in these years and in the different vintages help us to make the right choices; but at the same the particular microclimate of Volpaia, terroir, exposition and soil are making the difference. As you know, we are over 600meters above sea level in the Radda district where we have a nice quantity of surface cover by forest and this changes very much the clime of the area and makes hot summers much “fresher.”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi, Castelnuovo Berardenga: “2016. It is a great vintage for Tuscany, for Chianti Classico generally speaking; it is a “must have in my cellar vintage”. 2016 allowed our Chianti Classico Pyramid to express itself at its best. The season was perfect and our vineyards had the possibility of expressing their personality, style and authenticity without having to compromise with frost, drought, excessive heat etc. The vineyards of Tenuta Mocenni, in the Vagliagli area, face south, are at 1600 feet (500 meters) and are surrounded by woods; they need time to reach maturation. The weather of 2016 allowed us to harvest after the first week of October reaching the peak of maturation and quality of their terroir.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli, Gaiole: “I would say that there have been several “turning points” because the wish is always improve and getting “ahead” with experience and learning from mistakes. If I have to mention a vintage I would say 2015 or when we decided to release this vintage as the first one of our single vineyard pure sangiovese, Colledilà, Roncicone and CeniPrimo. These three wines are the result of many years of researches in trying to find the different “expression” of sangiovese planted on different soils (limestone, marine deposit and fluvial terraces). This work has been done in a very meticulous way, year after year, without being impatient or finding the shortest cut to prove something. It gave us the satisfaction of something done properly and the work is still ongoing.”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri, Lamole-Greve: “The vintage is 2015: This has been generally a warm vintage, which at the highest elevation of Lamole is the best. In this year we had the chance to produce all our range, even Gran Selezione I Fabbri (100 per cent sangiovese) and Il Doccio (100 per cent merlot) that we produce in rare vintages and that are able to show the best of our quality. In 2015 every variety we cultivated in all the vineyards showed an incredible quality which allowed us to vinify them separately and bottle them with different labels. Each, in my opinion, was able to show its unique terroir: Acidity and freshness for Lamole (100 per cent sangiovese); acidity and velvet for Olinto (sangiovese/merlot); incredible and surprising minerality for Lamole origin (100 per cent sangiovese) and Il Doccio (100 per cent merlot); Terra di Lamole:  structure in unison with acidity (sangiovese/canaiolo); I Fabbri Riserva:Elegance and depth, best selection (sangiovese/canaiolo); I Fabbri Gran Selezione – embroidery of authentic finesse.”

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

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti, Panzano-Greve: “Starting with 2006 and 2007 for us – first top years in our making without my dad. Perfect vineyard conditions, great growing conditions & weather. Then later on with the constant weather changes and ever hotter summer 2015 and 2016 taught us a lot about managing the dry heat better, leaving the “green harvest” for much later in the season to even out the sugars and not over burden the single grape bunches. So many seasonal works had to be adapted due to the extreme weather conditions.”

Michael Schmelzer, Monte Bernardi, Panzano: “I can’t say there was a recent vintage that marked a turning point in my style per se, as our philosophy has been pretty much the same since the beginning. Evolving with experience but always with the same goals and philosophy. That being said, the 2005 vintage was the most important vintage experience of my career beacuse it shaped the way I think as grower and as a winemaker. It was my third vintage at Monte Bernardi and it was a difficult one. It rained five out of seven days for weeks on end as we approached harvest. I was practicing organic farming from day one at our farm but not with a whole lot of experience. This finish to season was truly challenging my notions of whether we could farm organically. Every time a new storm approached at night I’d look out the window, worried about how much rain was on its way with this new storm. Would it be too much for our berries to handle? Would the berries split or would grey mold start and ruin our whole crop before it had a chance to fully ripen, before we had a chance to harvest? It was so stressful. In the end we did have mold, a significant percentage, but we hand sorted every bunch and made our wines. The resulting crop was smaller, however the wines ended up being a wonderful reflection of a difficult vintage. I came away from that experience with more confidence in organic farming because neighbouring Panzano farms who did not farm organically lost a lot more crop to mold than we did and we were able to keep our fruit on the vine longer which gave us a better quality wine. We fermented that harvest with native yeasts, like the previous years, even though with so much mold I had my doubts there too, doubts seeded from my university degree in enology. I am so glad I didn’t succumb, as I would have convinced myself it wasn’t possible to ferment with native yeasts in such a difficult year. I have never had another doubt about farming organically or fermenting with native yeasts after that early challenging vintage at Monte Bernardi. It was the most formative experience and has influenced how I think about everything we do both in the fields and in the winery.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti, Radda: “It is a progression/combination of experiences and of constantly changing – and challenging – vintages, that made us and our wines what they are, more than a specific point in the recent history of Val delle Corti. There are nevertheless three ‘turning points’ along it that may well represent this evolution. In 1999 my father Giorgio died quite unexpectedly and the sky – and Val delle Corti – fell on my head. No idea how to run a winery nor how to make a great wine. I just continued what I thought my father would do and added a lot of intuition of my own. But I was immensely scared. Later on I could realize that the millenium switch had exactly corresponded with the true beginning of a steady climate change. To the advantage of Radda and Val delle Corti. 2005 was the “2TP,” a difficult, rather hot but then dominantly cool year. The wine was for the first three years after picking quite undrinkable, hard, acidic, really grumpy. Desperate. And then sudden epiphany : A subtleness, an elegance, an unexpected finesse. Val delle Corti could bring out fine but complex, delicate wines. And especially on cooler, difficult, Bourgogne-reminding vintages. The proof of this came then in 2014, a cold, dark, humid, mould-haunted, devilly difficult year. We lost about 40 per cent of the crop. But what was left gave us some of the most delicate and moving wines we have ever produced. Indeed Val delle Corti identity is to be searched in the vertical dimension, must express the Radda-sangiovese straightness, vertical intensity and ‘droiture’. This is the mission we are committed to.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena, Barberino-Tavarnelle: “Michael, very difficult to give short answers to your questions, building a wine estate after the collapse of sharecropping in the late sixties has been a lifetime project where decisions taken many years ago have determined what we are today. Living on a vineyard I had to understand what the difference between animals (i.e. humans) and plants: we react and make quick decisions, changing our lives for the best (or worse…), plants (vines) cannot move and tend to adapt themselves to ever changing conditions. I think a successful vintner has to understand the needs of his vines and help them in the effort of adapting. As a result, no quick events, no life changing revelations but a vision and lots of small decision tending to make the vision become real…What Isole e Olena is now, is the result of a path I briefly resume here: 1977: In my second vintage I started to tag all sangiovese vines showing above average quality. I bought the first small new oak barrels and I started to use less white grapes in the Chianti blend. 1980: First vintage of Cepparello, pure sangiovese issued from the tagged vines (= massal selection).1982: A huge hail storm in May ended in a very limited but really excellent quality: Mother Nature was showing me that we were producing too high yields. 1986: After the Italian wines “methanol scandal”, a five days meeting with a group of young new vintners discussing how to overcome the crisis and invest in territorial vines, this was really a mind opening experience. 1987: Planted my first new vineyard, higher density of plantation, an in depth study of the soils of the estate (what today is called “zoning”). Rootstock were field grafted with all the best vines tagged in the ten years period. This has really been the foundation vineyard of Isole e Olena of the future. 1990s: Micro-vinifications of single vines grapes in order to select the best individuals among the previously tagged vines. 2001:Fiirst new vineyard planted entirely with our own selections. 2011: The research on local strains of yeasts and the importance of social insects in preserving them from year to year: defining how the origin is a much deeper concept involving all the life around our vineyard. 2010/2020: Working on canaiolo the same path of research done with sangiovese, more and more convinced how important canaiolo is to give the real Chianti Classico expression.”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella, Greve: “Since joining Querciabella in 2010, the turning point for me was around the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Thanks to our hard work with our plant based biodynamics, I feel we reached a great understanding of the minute details of our vineyard sites and consequently we started to truly express their uniqueness. This particularly applies to our Sangiovese which we grow in the 3 different sub zones in the three communes. In the cantina, with the same meticulous attention to details we fine-tuned our winemaking to really bring to life these unique characteristics in our wines. For the first time in 2016 our blend of 60+ single vineyard micro-fermentions from Greve, Radda and Gaiole were aged predominately in larger oak vessels (500L and 3000L) as opposed to smaller barrels (225L). These finer details, such as this gradual transition of the oak vessels sizes, are all just some of the small steps we continually take to optimise our expression of Sangiovese moving forward.”

 

The tendency of over-extracting during the maceration process and the fixation on the amount of polyphenols in the wine, the more the better, were as we say in Italy, “peccati di gioventù.”

  Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia

 

Rushing belongs to humans and not to nature, always respect conditions and the needs of nature, never force time and wait patiently

  Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri

 

I’ve made a lot of mistakes – I’ve been in wine for 30 years now, but what I remember was bottling a white wine that’s not ready yet, very good to drink but ugly to look at

  Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

 

Quality could be defined in different ways. In my way complexity with balance became the absolute priority, well above power

   Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

 

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi introduces the Mocceni Estate

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make form your property?

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “We have learned to trust the vine, the specific vineyard, more than anything else. Years ago, when we did not produce cru wines, if the wine form a very good vineyard did not taste as we expected, we would blend it. Through time we have learned to believe in the vineyard and even if it may be disappointing in a specific moment, it will eventually show its personality. It is a matter of time. Of course every vintage is different but the essence does not change. We have learned to trust sangiovese 100 per cent; Mocenni has a soil and a microclimate that produces outstanding sangiovese, the essence of the Chianti Classico tradition. We have learned not to generalize. Attention to details can make a huge difference – giving specific attention to each vineyard; they need to be treated differently even if a few meters apart.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “The market is always asking for “news” and the pressure is always on our neck for “new” things to bring on the market but when you learn to take the time you need to reach your goals you feel better and your products are of much higher quality and integrity.”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “Mistakes? Well, I have always made them in every aspect of my life! Yet, I’m an optimist and I’m always ready to accept and to learn from them…! The major mistakes I have done are related to timing. Each time I tried to force nature and its course because I was in a hurry, it always created problems for me and I needed to wait double the initial time to resolve it! In particular I have one memory. Once I had to bottle for one of my customers who was in a hurry but conditions were not right. It was a cold winter, early January, our basic cellar has no heating system, as a consequence the temperature was too cold! When the wine left its warm concrete tank the thermic shock was so important that the wine needed double the normal amount of time to refine before it could reach its perfect balance! Rushing belongs to humans and not to nature, always respect conditions and the needs of nature, never force time and wait patiently. In Lamole,  more than in other areas, temperature is an important factor, especially if cold! ( this for sure was a simple mistake. At the time I was a beginner wine producer and was afraid to loose an important order. However, what an important lesson for was it for me!)

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Quite a few and one constantly learns. Adapting to making a 100 per cent sangiovese compared to always having our five to 10 per cent merlot and cabernet added changed the oak ageing quite a bit. Wine making is constantly evolving, better methods, less intervention.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “I make mistakes every day. Luckily they haven’t been too relevant – until now … In 2014 I had a stainless steel vat which was refusing to start fermenting. I introduced a long infrared heating lamp from above, wanting to pierce the one-meter thick skin layer in order to reach the liquid most underneath. But the skins where so thick and solid, that the lamp didn’t make it through and turned up again, unseen in the skins. I lit the lamp and went out or dinner with my wife. When we came back some 3 hours later, we so already by parking the car thick smoke coming slowly out of the outdoor part of the cellar. The vat was slowly burning, the skins, dried out by the overheating of the big lamp, caramelized and finally took fire. I had invented a new way to give premium wine a ‘toast’ scent without investing fortunes in useless and redundant new french barriques …Only old wood should come in touch with our sangiovese.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “Most times, even mistakes become clear time after they have been made when you realize the vines have taken a different direction from the one you wanted…When my genetical work started to show huge improvements, I got very excited with the the results and planted some vineyard with very limited genetical richness. The consequence: The wines from those vineyards showed high quality but lack of complexity. The lesson: Quality could be defined in different ways. In my way complexity with balance became the absolute priority, well above power and in the more recent vineyards I planted good material but as diverse and rich as possible.”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “Probably underestimating our vines ability to handle the vintage extremities. In the last decade that I have been here in the valley, I have witnessed diverse climate changes and challenges that Mother Nature has thrown at us, forcing us to pay even more attention in the vineyards. Thanks to our plant based approach to biodynamics, we have become more knowledgeable and responsive. For example, the lessons we learned by handing the warmth of the ’11 and ’12 vintages, which produced some spectacular wines, allowed us to make even better wines in ’15 and ’17 which had similar conditions. The cooler ’14 vintage with its challenges resulted in us deciding not to release our Camartina, Palafreno and Turpino. But out of it came our Chianti Classico and Riserva which were produced in smaller quantities but still of the highest quality as expected at Querciabella.”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “Mistakes are useful to improve and to learn that working hard is a must. When I was young sometimes in the winemaking I was looking more for extreme limits than harmony and balance but getting older with maturity I realized that it was a mistake.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “At the end of the 90s and beginning in 2000 we started to use barriques on Il Poggio. I remember in particular the vintage 2001 when we decided to age the wine entirely in new oak barriques. The wine was overpowered by the oak. It took almost 10 years to rebalance the oak. Now it is a beautiful wine, the wine won over the oak, but for sure was a winemaking mistake that made us learn how careful we need to be in picking the right type of oak for sangiovese. It also taught to us that sangiovese needs its time, we can not force it, we need to wait and the bottle aging is so important. This is way we do not release Il Poggio before five years from the harvest, with a minimum of two years in bottle.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “I cannot count the mistakes made in these 28 years. I am considered a hands on education program. Only curious people make mistakes and learn from them.”

Marco Firidolfi-Ricasoli, Rocca di Montegrossi

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “To be wrong and admit your own errors is a big help to improvement. Certainly, in agriculture the climate/weather has a big influence on the final results, so if it difficult to rate this single variable. You can make predictions, but at the end some choices based on the weather trend are all very similar to “small bets.” What I’ve learned in all those past years is trying to listen to the people and professionals that are your consultants but at the end taking the final decision for yourself. But in the end, those who come with the smallest mistakes have the best results! I don’t think I’ve done any big or unfixable mistakes in my winemaking history. But I can recall the last one, last year, when I have left a little too much grape on few vineyards. The fortunate thing is that the weather in September was so favourable that nonetheless the grapes managed to ripen very well and given an excellent result. I still need to get the hang of the guyot, which is more productive than the cordone. This year, I  have certainly learnt a lesson …”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “In 1997 when we moved production to the new winery we also started using commercial yeast and for a few vintages we had serious problems of reductions, stuck fermentations and Brettanomyces.  Going back to biodiverse fermentations with a starter of grapes from our vineyards turned out to be all that was needed to solve these problems. Also, with Sangiovese the wines fermented with their own yeast tend to be more complex.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “In 1980 my father planted many hectares of vineyards, with the aim of obtaining quality grapes, but with an obsolete technique and agricultural vision. With the new vinicultural knowledge and from the observation of our vineyards we decided to renew most of those vineyards with the new goal of “excellence” so more plants per hectare, extremely careful attention and parcel control of the individual vineyards to let every single soil express at its best. Actually I do not feel like to say that we made mistakes, surely we were and are in continuous growth and every day we work hard to be better than the day before using all the experience collected in these almost 50 years of Rocca delle Macìe.”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The mistakes I have made are the typical mistakes of youth when you are trying hard to leave your own imprint in your management and make things in the different way than before. Mind you some of the innovations, like the organic farming or preserving the estate genome by planting all the different varietals found in the old share cropping vine lanes, were good decisions. Others like the tendency of over-extracting during the maceration process and the fixation on the amount of polyphenols in the wine, the more the better, were as we say in Italy, “peccati di gioventù.” In time you come to understand that in order for a wine to be great, and I am quoting Paul Trimbach here, it needs only three main features; balance, balance, balance.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes – I’ve been in wine for 30 years now, but what I remember was bottling a white wine that’s not ready yet, very good to drink but ugly to look at.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “Every day we have to work with nature and every day we can try to predict the future, but each moment it is the nature, clime, etc. that make the change and the more we grow the more we have to listen to them. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important to be organic, fill the nature and follow it instead of “acting and trying to contrast them.”

 

I do believe that Gran Selezione must be a single vineyard

  Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto

 

It is again the nature that make the first difference. The second important moment is the work in the cellar where we wish to find in our wines the terroir and the vintage

  Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia

 

The quality and style of the wine, at the end, is more important than the classification!

  Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli

 

So you see Michele, we have been producing a ‘Gran Selezione’ already for 45 years now…”

   Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti

 

The endless complexities that come from the different villages is a very unique situation for us in the Chianti Classico

   Manfred Ing, Querciabella

 

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono

What defines your reasoning in how you produce Riserva and other then aging time, what truly differentiates it from your Annata? 

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “We make Riserva selecting each year the best vineyards or part of vineyards for that vintage. We do a partial early harvest in those vineyards and pick the grapes for Riserva last, usually in early October at the end of harvest. The next step is after a first year of aging when we do the final selection (…la vera grande selezione ) of the lots that will be part of the blend. Usually at that point we finalize the Annata blend and reincorporate some of the Riserva lots in it. Compared to the Annata the Riserva has more stamina, more body, denser tannins. With Annata we want a fresher expression, with Riserva a much deeper one.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “Obviously our Gran Selezione wines refine more in wood than the Riservas, but the important thing is that for us, in addition to being produced with proprietary grapes, they are also derived from selections of individual vineyards. Our Riserva black label is the result of all our terroirs as a selection of the best grapes from our vineyards as well as the Chianti Classico Annata, but obviously we use grapes from younger vineyards, with the aim of obtaining fresher wines with great fruit, but also more adaptable to every palate and meal.”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The three wines have different purposes in my opinion. When we make the blending for the Annata the main feature we think the wine should have is “serbevolezza,” which is a similar concept to one expressed by the French word “digestible,” often used by Eric Asimov to describe wines which are easy to drink without being simple. A Chianti Classico Annata should be first and foremost “serbevole,” allowing the wine to be paired with many different dishes without smothering them. It’s like those great Hollywood actors who were often used in supporting roles because they could play different parts in such an amazing way and without overshadowing the main star of the movie. I have a soft spot for these wines and they are probably the ones I drink most. When you make the blending for the Riserva instead your are trying to make a wine that will not be ready to drink right away but which will disclose its qualities slowly over time. It will not have the same versatility of the Annata therefore it should be paired with more structured dishes which one does not usually eat everyday. If I can make a whisky comparison our Riserva is our best “blended,” even if it is made nine times out of 10 with only Sangiovese from a selection of grapes coming from multiple vineyards. If the Riserva is the winery’s best “blended” then our Gran Selezione are the winery’s Single Malts. In this case it’s not the winemaker showing his blending skills by mixing the different vineyards together but the single vineyard expressing herself in a more natural and distinctive way. The only evaluation the winemaker needs to make before bottling is if the vineyard has expressed her character distinctively enough in that specific vintage in order to be allowed to be bottled by herself. Certain single vineyards may have a character which reminds more of the Annata, others more of the Riserva, but the important thing for me is that they should be distinctive and recognizable throughout the different vintages.”

With Iacopo Morganti of Il Molino di Grace at Castellana, Montefioralle

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “La Riserva is always an important historical wine even if when the Grand Selection arrived I would have liked not to do it again. Then I changed my idea also because the market always required that type. For me the Riserva must have the characteristics of the vintage but with a different body, greater concentration and elegance.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “One of the first differences starts since the beginning, during the picking of the grapes. The Riserva and the Annata come from the same vineyards but for the Riserva we select the best grapes. It is again the nature that make the first difference. The second important moment is the work in the cellar where we wish to find in our wines the terroir and the vintage.”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico come from two different vineyards and although both are 100 per cent Sangiovese, they reflect two different concepts and styles of wine. The soils, the specific vineyards give birth to wines with specific taste and characteristics that correspond to what we have grown to believe a Riserva and a Chianti Classico are. Calidonia, our Riserva coming from the Vineyard Signora Chiara, is a tremendously elegant wine, you can lose yourself in the glass finding the different nuances that change continuously. It is a wine that is more apt to age, a wine that you can enjoy through its evolution with continuous surprises. The Riserva is intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable. You have to discover her sip after sip. La Ghirlanda, Chianti Classico Annata, is a bit easier to understand, more fruit forward, you can drink it young and yet you can keep it for some years in your cellar and enjoy its elegant evolution. La Ghirlanda is like a book that you read to relax, it gives you the joy to travel with your imagination through the Chianti Classico region; its sunny climate, its hills, its landscape.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “I have been among those producers of Chianti Classico favouring for the introduction of Gran Selezione because Riserva was not representing anymore the peak of excellence in our appellation. Chianti Classico has been going through a “revolution” in the last 25 years or more, re-inventing itself, producing among the most interesting and elegant sangiovese around the world. Having said the above you know that our grand vin Castello di Brolio is now Gran Selezione, but until 2009 it was just labelled Chianti Classico (Not Riserva) although from a production and quality point of view nothing has changed from before or after 2010 in the way we produce it. The quality and style of the wine, at the end, is more important than the classification!”

Deep into Greve there is Lamole ~ Tasting at Casole with Susanna Grassi and 17 years of @ifabbriclassico ~ what a great night in Chianti Classico

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “At I Fabbri, Riserva is produced using grapes cultivated in specific vineyards, our old vines that are located in lower altitude (450- 550m). In those vineyards (Pianaccio, Pian del Doccio, Terrazze), the first day of harvest is dedicated to the harvest of the best grapes which will be vinified separately to be bottled as Riserva. A longer ageing in French oak tonneaux of 12 months completes the process. Our recipe? Specific vineyards, selected grapes and longer ageing. On the other hand, our Chianti Classico Annata from the same vineyards is produced with the rest of the grapes and the wine has a different ageing: French oak tonneaux for 50 per cent of the wine and traditional concrete tanks for the other 50. Other Chianti Classico (Lamole and Olinto) are produced with different vines, the one located in highest elevations (630-680m) and the wine produced is aged just in traditional concrete tanks.”

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Each vineyard parcel is picked on its own and fermented on its own. We have a lot of small fermentation vats to enable these selections. Generally we already have an idea before harvest which parcels will make it for Riserva or Annata or Gran Selezione, but only after the fermentation has finished do we confirm or change it. So for Riserva only the best selections of sangiovese together with a tiny bit of merlot and cabernet sauvignon are added. The Riserva then stays 24 months in barrels, about 20 per cent new oak, mostly French but usually also one 500 litre Hungarian oak tonneaux, before being bottled and then resting in bottle for another nine to 12 months.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “Easy answer: Single vineyard. Ever since my father’s time the higher located, wood-surrounded vineyard north of the house is the very best cru in Val delle in Corti. The Riserva selection has always come from there: 100 per cent sangiovese old clones, separately picked, fermented and aged in very old barriques and tonneaux. If we are not satisfied with the result, this selection may be downgraded back to the Chianti Classico Annata. So you see Michele, we have been producing a ‘Gran Selezione’ already for 45 years now…”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “I do not produce an official “Riserva,” not since the mid 80s, when Cepparello got well established on the market, but I think we could say that in my mind sangiovese in Chianti Classico has a great flexibility expressed in two different styles, both great. It delivers wines which are a joy as medium bodied, fresh and enjoyable in their youth, with lively acidity, easy to match with an ample array of food, even drunk slightly cool: A perfect “table wine” to be enjoyed on the table with friends, the Italian way. On the other side, wines with much more structure, which have the potential to age for a long time and gain complexity. It depends on the vineyards, the vintage, the Winemaker but both expression are as noble and great, I refuse the concept of first and second wine but rather like the idea of two different expressions. With the recent introduction of Gran Selezione I was hoping to see a home back in the Appellation for many so called “super Tuscan” whose compositions could now fit in the new appellation rules, wines where small additions of other varietals could tame sangiovese when it becomes too angular… But this is a different story and it seems it is not going to happen…”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “Starting in 2010 we introduced a new vineyard by vineyard, site by site approach to picking the grapes, micro-fermentation in 3 and 5 ton oak and cement tanks of each site, followed by separate ageing in oak barrels and tonneaux of the various lots right up until blending. What distinguishes the Riserva from the Annata is that the grape picking decisions and selections of the parcels of fruit for the Riserva not only depend on the vineyard/village as a whole, but can sometimes be the first 3 rows of vines or up until the 5th pole in the vineyard. With this more specific approach and thanks to the symbiosis of the vineyard and winemaking team, we decided to release a 100% Sangiovese Riserva from a small selection of the 2011 vintage. A special moment for us considering we stopped releasing our Riserva back in 1999. The intensity of our Riserva I think is down to a combination of parcels for fruit from the 3 different sub zones where we grow our Sangiovese. The endless complexities that come from the different villages is a very unique situation for us in the Chianti Classico where producers generally make wines from one village or hillside where their winery is situated. The ageing of the Riserva is similar to the Annata in the sense that they both age for 14-16 months in oak with just the new oak percentage being slightly higher for the Riserva (always less than 20%).”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “I don’t produce any Riserva but only Fontodi CC and Vigna del Sorbo CC Gran Selezione. The main difference is that VdS is a single vineyard, one of the most beautiful of Fontodi estate with very old vines capable to make a superior quality with more finesse and depth every year.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “Since 20 years we have vinified all our Chianti Classico parcels separately. This method (more than 50 parcels) allows us to know exactly what is going on in each single parcels vintage after vintage. Then we start to taste them blind (so not to be influenced by knowing the origin) and after several tastings we define which parcel is going into Annata and which one into Riserva. Gran Selezione is always produced in the single vineyard Il Poggio. I do believe that GS must be a single vineyard.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “Today i don’t think that Riserva is qualifying; Gran Selezione is the great challenge for the future, At  Le Corti we decide what is fit to age in bottle with added value at the end of vinification.

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “I do not produce Riserva. I only produce Gran Selezione. Compared with the Chianti Classico Annata (that I like to call battleship), the Gran Selezione is a single-vineyard wine from partly 50 and partly 26 year-old plants. It comes from a very strict selection, with a two to three weeks maceration at the end of the alcoholic fermentation, which is carried out in conic shaped barrels. Our Gran Selezione has the contribution of a small percentage of pugnitello which gives its special touch to the final result.”

 

However Canada has held up very well and we are very proud of this, sign of the great branding work done in the past

 Sergio Zingarelli – Rocca delle Macìe

 

Covid has confirmed our values and human relationships are fundamental in our ethos

  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi

 

The virus, crossing fingers, is under control and sales are going back to pre-Covid

  Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

 

The situation could become very critical for many producers

  Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono

 

Vintage 2020 has been a challenge in part, many more beasts around. With the pandemic and no traffic on the main roads for nearly three months I ended up having three mamas with more than 20 little ones

  Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti

 

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia

How are things going in Chianti Classico, both from the perspective of the vintage and from the pandemic?

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The 2020 vintage is looking good but the grape quantities will be less in Chianti Classico than last year. It will not be an early harvest, the grapes are slowly going through veraison as we speak, but if the weather holds it will be another year like 2016 or 2010. About the pandemic things are tough especially for wineries, like mine, which dealt mainly or exclusively with the HO.RE.CA. sector but the Capponi have survived the black plague of 1348 and the plague of 1630 and I am sure that we will manage to recover from the COVID of 2020.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “At the moment the vintage 2020 is good. We decided to reduce the quantity and make probably 40 per cent less like the turnover so far. In Chianti area we are probably one week in advance for the maturation but all can change in the last mount. For the pandemic we have to see what happens in September and October otherwise the problem became very big. Speriamo bene.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “For the vintage I can give you a personal perspective. I didn’t call my winemaker who is finally taking some holiday after the difficult period we are living. The next weeks we will start with the picking of the grapes in Maremma. It looks a very nice vintage, with a nice rainfall during spring and now the good clime for the growing. In Maremma we are already planning the picking of the grapes but in Volpaia we still have in the front several weeks and you know better than me, everything is still possible. Anyhow for the moment I’m thinking it could be a good vintage, but I will talk more later. :-)”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “The 2020 vintage started off with challenges: we faced two frosts in March that luckily did not hit us too hard (approximately five per cent production loss). Up to now Summer has not been too hot and the vines did not suffer drought due to rainfalls during Spring. The vineyards are enjoying a big difference between day and night temperatures. Quality is looking good but as always we need to wait until we harvest in October. The pandemic has hit our territory. Chianti Classico is a wine that is distributed mainly through restaurants and hotels which have been closed for some time all over the world. In Chianti Classico we all suffered the absence of foreign wine lovers and tourists. At the same time Italians started travelling again in Italy and it is great to have people from other regions coming and ‘rediscovering’ Chianti Classico. Generally speaking we faced a reduction of turnover, but if we all have a positive attitude we can overcome the difficulties. It is crucial that we all concentrate on what can be done instead of complaining about what we have lost. Covid is a challenge and a source of deep reflection. As Bindi Sergardi we focused on people. People – our team: all of us attended online courses for professional growth, we made our team feel protected and aware that we are behind them and not planning to downsize them; – People – our partners: trying to help where and when possible, listening to their difficulties and thinking of different ways to stay close to the sales team; — People – our consumers: maintained the contact as much as possible, we have opened a Wine Club with a shop on-line in order to keep them close while in safety. Covid has confirmed our values and human relationships are fundamental in our ethos.”

When you take a drive with @francescoricasoli you stop to breathe in the air. Castle behind sold separately ~ #gaioleinchianti #baronericasoli

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “We are close from harvest and right now (August 20th) we would need some healthy rainfall. This vintage could turn out such as a 2017 or also another excellent vintage (if it rains). COVID-19: Still too early to say but for the majority of quality wine producers it has been (and still is) a big problem because of the shut down of HORECA. For the lucky few that sell to supermarkets it has been a double digit growth. Let’s see what happens in autumn…”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “The vintage in Lamole seems very nice, however we have to wait until the grapes are in the cellar. We had a nice spring, good water in late spring and now there is an alternation of hot and rainy days. Finger crossed, we will see! Pandemic has affected the Chianti Classico wine and zone. The area is empty, no tourism, which is an important factor for our economy; sales have been affected due to the lockdown of restaurants, especially for small “niche” wineries that don’t have any access to the supermarkets. I personally think e-commerce can be a good opportunity…but…this is another skill to add!”

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Generally it is going ok-ish here. We continued working in the vineyards and cellars throughout the whole time and got lots of things done in the vineyard and olive groves due to the good weather and no outside distraction as visitors or wine fairs… since mid-July there has been quite a busy European and domestic tourism for wine tastings and tours. Vintage 2020 has been a challenge in part, many more beasts around. We normally have about three to four wild boars coming around all year around, with the pandemic and no traffic on the main roads for nearly three months I ended up having three mamas with more than 20 little ones (who are now not so little anymore and starting to eat). Adding to that a bit of mildew (oidium) which luckily we managed to control. If all goes well we should have quite a fine 2020 harvest by end of September. fingers crossed.”

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

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “Difficult situation. We have lost some 6 months of sales and we are all concerned about the risk of speculation on the wine price in hls. Cellars are still full and picking is approaching. Bottling wolves are already howling in the distance …We are lucky, ’cause we produce wines which get excellent while aging, so a longer bottle aging period can only be positive. Will all the small producers be able to resist or will they have to sell under price because they need cash ? This is the main question now, which the Consorzio has to manage now. The market will hopefully recover next year. Beside this, vintage 2020 is looking great: The big starting drought has been defeated just yesterday by long-lasting generous rain. The wished end-of-August weather break has not deceived us. Let us see and think positive.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “2020 is not in yet, but it seems it is going to be a good vintage, regardless the fact that the climate has been challenging. Covid-19 is certainly charging a huge toll on the estates, sales are down and it will take time to recover. We are on the good side though as at least we have a product which in fact improves in quality if it stays a little longer in the cellars. It is for me very difficult to imagine the long term effect of this disaster, but I think I’m not alone. We will need patience, time and lot of fantasy…”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “Things are going much better. The virus, crossing fingers, is under control and sales are going back to pre-Covid. At the end of July sales of CC appellation is -10 per cent in comparison with 2019. Regarding the vintage, we have great expectations. The grapes are healthy and ripening well, one week in advance than last year. The vineyards benefit of the extra time that all the vintners dedicated them because the lack of wine fairs and promotional trips.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “The 2020 vintage started with a mild winter, the spring was mild in March, cooler in April but without frost problem in our area. May was beautiful and fresh, June with several days of rain which helped the vines. July has been warm but without extreme temperatures. First two weeks of August very hot (35-38°) …grapes look great … but for my superstitious attitude I am not adding anything else ’till all the grapes are in the cellar :-). The markets situation due to Covid : April and May have been really difficult months … most of the markets (with the exception of Northern Europe , like Denmark, Norway, Germany and Belgium ) slowed down dramatically. In June we started to see a reaction, also in Italy. July closed with the same income of last year and August started with a great increase in orders. Of course we are suffering in the on-premise business worldwide but most of our importers react to the situation addressing their sales to different channels. In Italy, where we lost 90 per cent of the on-premise business in April, May and until the beginning of June, we see in the last two months an encouraging recovery of restaurants business. Of course we all are praying that there will not be a second wave…”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “After a typical warm Tuscan summer, in the last week of August we received some welcome rain which is setting us up for a pretty special vintage after optimal spring conditions. I’m incredibly happy with our first few barrels of Chardonnay and Pinot bianco for Batar 2020 that are fermenting away… so fingers crossed for the rest of season. It’s the best we can hope for after what has been a challenging year for everyone with this pandemic. At Querciabella were are always concerned about the wellbeing of those around us and we took the whole situation very seriously.  We implemented all measures suggested to contain the spreading of the virus, some of our colleagues were granted parental leave to look after their children and families, and we had to adopt different schedules and spilt shifts in the cellar to guarantee the basic operations. Of course, all trips and events have being cancelled or postponed until further notice, so we are starting to evaluate new strategies and diverse business opportunities. We are confident that we’ll come back with a strong proposition once the situation improves. Personally, I got to spend more time with my kids and wife which was quite special looking back on it.. And after all, if you had to be under lockdown, may as well be in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world ;)”

With @principecorsini at Le Corti and the many varied shades of his sangiovese. The genesis of San Casciano, right here, as always, right now.

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “2020 vintage looks good; the colouring of the grapes started some 10 days ahead of normal (17th of July). All can still happen but I feel it will be a good year with some 20% less production due to a front in the beginning of April. The Covid ’19 is hitting very bad. Chianti Classico system showed clearly the week points; Mostly exported. Mostly sold to restaurants. Very long and expensive sales system where were most of the margin is left to middle people. At villa Le Corti we were already organized with a good shop online for consumers and a new b2b online platform for the Italian restaurant that reopened. That said we lost only 40% of sales.”

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “In Chianti Classico region I can’t say, but for Rocca di Montegrossi things are going well. The first semester of sales have even registered a slight increase than in 2019. During the first three months of 2020 and in the month of June we have sold very well and this allowed us to make up for the -50 per cent of April and -33 per cent of May. So I can’t really complain! So far, the vintage is very promising, but anything can still happen. However, May, June and July had quite cool night average temperatures and moderately warm days, so this has kept the grape in perfect condition. Now it is very warm and we would need some rains … let’s hope to get some rain because a few vineyards are starting their suffering, and I suffer with them …”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “The vintage is very promising, and conditions are ideal. The rest is very problematic. Even though Italy did a good job of controlling the pandemic the effects of the lockdown on restaurants and the reduced tourism are having a major impact on sales in Italy. Export markets are also affected by the pandemic again because the closure of restaurants. The situation could become very critical for many producers.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “The 2020 vintage is anticipated in all phases, and we are not experiencing any phyto-sanitary issues. Certainly the production this year will not be huge, but for the moment there are all the conditions for a hot but very high quality harvest. As about Covid ,Italy is in great recovery since June, unfortunately there is not the same scenario in the US, one of our main markets. However Canada has held up very well and we are very proud of this, sign of the great branding work done in the past.”

Good to go!

godello

The Gallo Nero of Luiano

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Grande, Chianti Classico

      Tasting through 175 Chianti Classico DOCG from the last three vintages confirms the territory’s ability to consistently achieve another level of quality

Passport to Chianti Classico

In February I made the annual pilgrimage to Tuscany for the Chianti Classico Collection to taste through a few hundred examples of the local sangiovese, a perennial workload that is my pleasure and indeed, my privilege. Feel free to scroll down past the next few thousand words to read the reviews. I have been repeatedly fortunate to take in the renowned history, food, olive oil and vineyards but most importantly have been the forged relationships with so many producers and custodians of what is affectionately called the Gallo Nero. At this time travel for work and also pleasure remains unknowable and it will be this way, at least for the immediate future. All of us have to wait and see when the next visit can be possible, to again take in the hills and landscapes where Italy’s most important grape variety is grown. That is why the partners at WineAlign have joined virtual hands with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Chairman Giovanni Manetti, the producers and sangiovese to orchestrate a different kind of sensory experience. They created an opportunity for the region’s wines to be delivered directly to the consumer’s doorstep. Two unique Chianti Classico mixed cases, each a masterclass in a box. A second set will follow in late summer/early fall.

The Passport cases are a culmination of years of learning, tasting and hard work. They are the first of their kind for WineAlign and the 12 wines chosen are foremost a decision made collectively after the critics each sat down to taste dozens of examples. The wines are also an extension of what new facets and nuances about Chianti Classico’s sangiovese John and I learned in Florence back in February. For me that continuing education goes back several years now. Since May of 2016 I have made nine visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than 1,700 different wines. In February 2017 I was honoured as an official ambassador by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. I take my role as ambasciatore to heart and feel the profound weight of the title and the endearment. It is a great professional honour to speak, write and educate on behalf of the region but the work and the messaging from and for the farmers, producers and the land is a two-way street. The people who bottle Chianti Classico are shepherds of place and I, along with many others, act as messengers of their wines, but more importantly, their story. We all take this journey together. The sentiment is a shared one, the relationship symbiotic and the feeling entirely mutual. And so the Passport Cases are a product of much thought, purple teeth, blood, sweat and joyous sangiovese tears.

Since 1716 Chianti Classico has preserved the unique qualities of its native land and soils and it is the Black Rooster that protects the wines from all imitations.

Chianti Classico Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti

Sangiovese and the quality pyramid

Sangiovese. The grape that defines Chianti Classico. Other endemic grape varieties may or may not augment the wines; canaiolo, colorino, pugnitello, malvaisa nera and others. So too might cabernet sauvignon, merlot or syrah but at the heart and the crux (at a minimum 80 per cent to qualify for DOCG status) of the matter there is always the local and unwavering sangiovese. Then I would imagine many of you are wondering about the levels of appellation that make up the tiers of Chianti Classico’s DOCG pyramid. There are three, Chianti Classico DOCG, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. Each and every bottle that is made from 100 per cent grapes grown in the delineated Chianti Classico area is stamped with the Gallo Nero, a 304 year-old symbol of guaranteed quality for the territory. What separates the tiers is aging in barrel and bottle (12, 24 and 30 months minimum) but also thresholds for extract and alcohol. As a general rule the price rises as the pyramid is ascended but some Annata (as they are referred to) can be more expensive than Riserva and vice versa. Same goes for each of these levels in relation to Gran Selezione, but for the purposes of simplicity, for an estate that bottles one, expect the GS to be at the peak of importance and also cost the most. For others the traditional Riserva or perhaps a self declared cru rises to the top. Keep in mind that Chianti Classico is a region of vineyards farmed by single estates. You need to get to know them, one at a time. We all want to compare apples to apples but one producer’s silver may be another’s gold.

PDO Olive Oil is a guarantee of quality

Partnerships also travel across commodity lines and one of Italy’s most symbiotic affairs lies within the joint ventures of Chianti Classico DOCG and Olio DOP Chianti Classico. The two are inextricably linked, not just by territory but by a shared passion of estates. Winemaker and Olive oil producer are in so many instances one in the same. While many consumers don’t know the difference between a PDO oil, an Italian extra virgin oil, and non-Italian or even non-extra virgin olive oils, there are profound reasons to care. Looking at price without understanding the real value of a PDP product is key to the message.

Start with preventative benefits and a healthy lifestyle. Two spoons a day of Italian extra virgin olive oil, or better still, PDO oilcan prevent serious illnesses. Some Italian doctors have proved that oleic acid creates an anti-inflammatory barrier that can prevent, for example, some forms of tumour from growing. The Food and Drugs Administration (USA), also maintains that oil is, to all intents and purposes, a “medicinal food”, if it contains at least 70 per cent of oleic acid: Italian extra virgin olive oil certainly does. But although this information is easily accessible to everyone though multiple means of communication, there is still a great deal of confusion and even ignorance surrounding the oil sector.

The first organized (and voluntary) Consortium of Extra Virgin olive oil produced in Chianti Classico dates back to 1975. From the beginning this structure defined strict regulations to obtain a traditional, fine quality product. In the year 2000 oil produced in the Gallo Nero hills obtained European recognition with PDO certification, thanks to those very specific chemical and organoleptic features that link it inextricably to its terroir of origin. Twenty years on, PDO Chianti Classico olive oil is still a small niche production of very high quality.

Gallo Nero Lounge, Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Regulations and the 2019 harvest

The fruit must be processed within three days of harvesting, in temperature-controlled conditions. All PDO Chianti Classico oil is cold-extracted and the processing temperature may not exceed 27°C. Yields may vary from 2-3 kg per tree, depending on the number of olive trees per hectare (but it is actually much lower). As with sangiovese for DOCG wines PDO Chianti Classico must include at least 80 per cent of olives from the four main varieties grown in the production zone; frantoio, correggiolo, leccino and moraiolo. The year of the olive harvest must always be shown on the label. Lastly, it must correspond to certain chemical and organoleptic parameters which are an improvement on and/or more selective than those for non-PDO extra virgin olive oil.

In 2019 the total quantities were hugely affected due to the weather and compared to the previous year’s harvest PDO Chianti Classico suffered a 75 per cent loss of oil destined for certification and 50 per cent of non-certified extra virgin oil. Despite all this organoleptic qualities were high, showing the pleasant, piquant hints of fresh and aromatic herbs on the nose, typical of Chianti Classico PDO oil and the bitter olive/raw artichoke flavours with a spicy finish of rocket, chilli pepper and black pepper. All these features are typical of Gallo Nero PDO oil, and of the terroir, problematic for olive growing but generous in the complex sensations it offers.

Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Come on up for sangiovese’s rising

When we look retrospectively back at the last seven vintages in Chianti Classico the upward trend in quality argues in favour of the law of increasing returns. Producers have invested time, money and hard work, small farms have moved from home-gardening to professional vignaioli and larger estates have ticketed block-specific projects to compliment commercial continuity. Chianti Classico’s agglomerated return is more than proportionate to investment. Any graph will show the rising, from market share through qualitative studies of ripeness, extract and balance, to critical praise across the board. Writers everywhere are on the bandwagon, circling the region with written hyperbole in recognition of the good becoming great with a kind of religious and spiritual belief.

Chianti Classico Ambassadors, 2020

Vintage reports

The 2013 vintage saw great variabilities, first from the weather, in spikes and storms, then in the resulting wines of which no two seemed the same. The “blood orange” vintage I like to call it and the first in recent memory to really speak of sangiovese’s great complexity, multiplicity and diversity. What followed might have ended things altogether and prevented the current streak from continuing. The 2014 growing season was fraught with challenge; inclement weather of frosts, rain and cool temperatures, not ideal to make impressive and strutting sangiovese, but producers hunkered down and their mettle tested, showed what experience, acumen and forward thinking could produce. Like 1998 and 2008 before, 2014 was and still is a vintage of sneaky structure.

Sommeliers of the Chianti Classico Collection

Then comes along the easy, breezy and close your eyes year that is 2015. Virtually no climate hurdles and wines that make themselves. Is ’15 one for the ages? In a word, no. Will these sangiovese drink beautifully and defend cellars everywhere from bottles snatched, their corks pulled and the wine spilled too early? In another word, yes. All wine regions need a 2015 in the throes of enigma and glory. That’s where 2016 fits in, after the calm and before the storm, or in the case of 2017, the fire. The 2016 vintage was about as perfect as it gets, allowing sangiovese to fully ripen at 600, 650 and even more meters above sea level, to turn vineyards in places like Radda, Ruffoli, Lamole and Monti into veritable Edens. The wines of 2016 are glorious and structured. They will live in infamy, respectfully, without grandstanding, low and slow in development, long into a sangiovese night. This is where Chianti Classico became the future.

John Szabo M.S., a.k.a. Il Professore

It may have rained some in the last months of 2016 but after the calendar turned there was no precipitation until the beginning of the second week in September. Imagine what the berries looked like on vines before those rains. Picture the desiccation, consider the sugars and know the unevenness of phenolic ripening. Once again the farmer’s imperative for digging deep to trust intuition became paramount to save the vintage. Patience encouraged those sangiovese clusters to swell and take advantage of three blissful weeks that followed. Warm by day, cool at night, phenolics hitting their peak. The sangiovese of 2017 are singular and in the most concentrated wines their tannins are really something, at times dire, aforementioned in terms like “so-called death squads.” At the base of the appellative pyramid they can be consumed early but as a general rule, the higher you climb, the wider the gap becomes and the longer you may need to allow for the structural components to settle in. A complete about face comes with 2018 in Chianti Classico of grace, understated beauty and ease of drink-ability. They are a fresh collective breath of sangiovese air, a break from adversity and a set of wines to enjoy in advance of another vintage that will bring yet another step up in quality and ultimately glory.

If nine were eight

In Chianti Classico we break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. I am not alone in truly believing that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. Even recently it may have been far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, but with so much good wine on the market the qualifying of definitions is becoming clearer and easier to do. The sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soils, however complex they may be, within the boundaries of their commune.

Through to December 31st, 2018 there were nine communes. Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. On January 1, 2019 Barberino Tavarnelle became a new commune, thus 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 is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. 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 geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing.

With Dario Cecchini and Nadia Fournier

The territory is commonly divided by commune but its tiers of structure do not end there. There lies within more specific sub-zones, zonazione, places of interest where microclimates and shared geologies bring land and producers together. Five of the nine Chianti Classico communes have their own Associazione Viticoltori or Vignaioli; Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and San Casciano Val di Pesa. San Donato in Poggio has also banded together within their commune of Barberino Tavarnelle. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. These three exist inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti. Panzano may not be the only sub-zone of its kind but at this triennial level of the place within a place, within a place pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all.

Chianti Classico Collection 2020, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

The reviews

Which brings us to the wines. In February I tasted and reviewed the following 177 examples of sangiovese. Please feel free to advance forward to the DOCG level and vintage you wish to read about by right-clicking on their WineAlign-linked sub-headings.

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #1

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #2

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (31 Notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (50 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (13 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (12 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (32 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 (6 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004 (5 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 (8 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (16 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($29.02)

Tasted with Roberto Stucchi from a tank sample ready to be bottled. Stucchi reminds of the 220mm of rain in August which causes a déja vu Gaiole reminiscence for me going back to August of 1995.  A wet and auspicious start fasts forwards to a a happy ending. So fresh. Light yes but back up the truck and imbibe with reckless if joyous abandon. You just want to drink this while Roberto quips, “and present it as Grand Selezione.” Wink wink, nudge, nudge for the tongue-in-cheek gamay of sangiovese vintage in Chianti Classico. Shine sangiovese shine. Drink 2020-2025.   Tasted February 2020

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (168286, $23.95)

The brightest Bibbiano to date is this 2018 from Tommaso, ripe to ripest and with an extended cappello sommerso feel to the glycerin fruit. Crunchy in as much as you could want, very Castellina (or at least Bibbiano’s two-pronged valley within) and perfectly positioned as a Chianti Classico sangiovese of character. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Fresh sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga and quite heady in its rich constitution with a wooly character and sneaky thick texture. There is a sour if supportive edging to the acidity and it rolls right along with the fruit. New version of old school if a label needed to be put on what this is. Still crazy after all these years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2018

You need to consider the micro-climate of these terraced vineyards of Casavecchia alla Piazza in the heights of Castellina at the western limit of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro. ’Tis a weightless weightiness, a crafty way to compose sangiovese with energetic blood orange winter lightness of citrus being and to make for a wild ride in Chianti Classico expression. Big and invisible simultaneously while conversely stretched, elastic and regaling. You must taste this to not understanding but smile trying to do so. The only living boy in Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (356048, $19.95)

Classic Carpineto, savour in and out of every red fruit poured pore, sip and savour. Long as a Greve in Chianti summer’s day and so worthy of carrying across and through several winters. Keep warm with this comforting and soothing Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Extreme brightness of Castellina in Chianti sangiovese in Castagnoli’s 2018, tightly wound and crunchy herb and earth crusted, tart and properly focused on both its intentions and the small lot crafting it purports to tell. Good story right here and one worth knowing. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (970095, $24.95)

Solid work in 2018 from Castellina’s Castellare, fresh as you might desire and developed to a starting point that’s ready to enjoy as the words are spoken. Structure is somewhat sneaky, more so than initially realized. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Ama 2018 ($34.95)

Forget about launching points for 2018, Castello di Ama’s is the whole matter, all points 360 degrees on the compass covered, at the beginning, through the middle and extended at the end. More than just a fresh face there is a density of fruit-acid circling on the palate and then this slow simmering warmth developing late, later and latest. “I never, never wanted water once.” Quenching. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.95)

Quite the startling and striking sangiovese from Querceto’s Dudda Valley in Greve vineyards from 2018. Real savour over fruit attack, short perhaps of full glycerin though no slouch in terms of macerated texture. Just a touch, if properly volatile. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG Volpaia 2018 (953828, $28.95)

In terms of 2018 this from Volpaia is one of the harder vintage Annata to crack and in fact the traditional construct speaks to sangiovese’s need for time. A crunchy exterior protects the soft and layered interior to double down on suggestions that say wait five years before diving straight in. You of course can enter this Radda sanctum earlier but 2024 or 2025 will see the beginning of true glory. The worth will prepare, support and enrich the wait. Volpaia’s is truly one of the most structured Annata for the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2018

Guado Alto is indeed a high level Annata and spoken in upwardly mobile tones for Greve sangiovese. Rich as ’18 can thrust upon fruit and then really wound acidity that strides and even sings baritone along. Big wine, very red and layered with the tops of them. The smallest and the the first of four Vicchiomaggio cru that provides for only 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Coccia Giuliano/Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Perfume of an ulterior sort, not just exotica but also something sappy, resinous, oozing even. Pine and more herbology than many this speaks to Lamole certainly but even more so altitude and all the Mediterranean shrubs that grow at altitude. Also speaks to wind and aromatics flying hither and thither. Such parochial stuff oh my. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($31.95)

Radda perfume for sure and certain, but the most pertinent aspect to note and ultimately take away from Bernardo Bianchi’s 2018 is architecture. His is structured Annata that cries for patience and expects to be at best three years forward from Anteprima. The fruit content and variegated intermingling with the structural parts is elastic in its seamlessness so you can envision a ten year or more development before real secondary character interjects. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Journalist taste at Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($27.95)

Floral and candied aromas, rose petal and a liquid, San Casciano Galestro melted and stirred into red juice. Quite juicy and liquid chalky in fact. Simple, quite pretty and very drinkable straight away. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From a place (San Casciano) that gifts perfume but in the most savoury of ways. There too is a deep red darkness to the fruit and here the full advantage of 2018 is taken into consideration. Everything here is done with acumen intention, including maceration, pressing and extraction. The redundancy effects the outcome, restricts the subtleties and brings immediate gratification. Fourth vintage for the estate’s young winemakers and expect two steps forward from 2019. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico DOCG Berardenga 2018 (730788, $29.95)

Fèlsina’s Berardenga is a fully developed 2018 with massive attack of the greatest generosities offered and with zero inhibition. Crunchy, Castelnuovo fluff-earthy and in a world where “you drink my wine, so why don’t you make your world mine.” Trouble moves away with a sip of this ’18, leaving a feeling of warmth and settled intensity. This will develop remarkable secondary attributes in only ways Fèlsina can. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Le Miccine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Subtly aromatic, seemingly brushy, forested and mountainous in origin. Gaiole in fact, surrounded by olive groves and plenty of cinghiale housing woods. You can feel the wood and the woods in the way it smothers, exhales and reels you in. Very rich and highly irascible in its voracious meatiness. Singular expression to be sure. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.50)

This is perhaps the most approachable, amenable and refreshing Luiano ever made by the unflappable Alessandro Palombo. Beautiful wine here made by the man with the mitts, the maestro from San Casciano. Fruit first, fulsome, flying and mouth-filling. What else needs to be said? Perhaps that this will live in a certain kind of infamy, to be opened in 2055 at which point Palumbo will taste, shrug and walk away. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Big, deep and low-toned sangiovese is just this, having taken full vintage advantage for the great welling effect. Dark, purposed and attacking. Leaves everything on the table, securely weighted and fastened. From Greve. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2018

Let’s talk about the passion. Let us discuss the care, the careful consternation and the vineyard work that leads to something so effusive, effulgent and expressive. Let’s consider this southern Panzano perfume. Once we have exhausted all the shadowy hyperbole we can then begin to understand how Michael Schmelzer builds or rather stands back and watches as his sangiovese constructs itself. The present and the future are right here. Drink now, then and forever. Would love to see this in 15 years, or perhaps more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

There can be no denial or denying the knowing, no lack of understanding in fully accepting a Radda height accessed, performed and used for full effect. Sangiovese knows how to make über plausible use of its hillside altitude and by association the forested surroundings, but in certain cases it requires a sanctimonious winemaking intuition and that right re dihere is the crux of Monteraponi’s situation. A corner of Radda expressed by Michele Braganti in ways no one else may try and as such, exercised as it must be. This is Chianti Classico for what it is. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

If ever a Poggio Scalette adapted to, extended from and celebrated a vintage it is this from 2018 that hyperbolizes the context. Richesse like never before or perhaps memory serves short and blinders allow for new beginnings at every time and turn. Big sangiovese for Ruffoli in Greve here from Jurji Fiore and one that speaks to what can happen at heights in warm times. A bit apposite to expectation and causing some wild thoughts. Need to re-visit this time and time again. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Regini Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Quite resinous and sappy sangiovese, reminding of Lamole but without the accompanying floral perfume. A touch beyond, on top of and reaching over the subtle line. Fine enough and better to drink this young. From Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($28.95)

Fully conceived, attacked and modernized sangiovese in the brightest red fruit vein, of berry mixed with red lightning. Amazing Gaiole vineyard gives life to the 21st century. Fabulous acidity and freshness from the hands (or lack there) of Alesandro Campatelli. Structure creeps in and confirms without conforming to any static standard or typicality, in mixed levels of attack. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (222810, $19.95)

Full on attack from warm, ripe and concentrated 2018 fruit defines Rocca di Castagnoli’s 2018. This brings and delivers the whole lot of goods right from the top for immediate enjoyment. Total extraction to throw every iota of acidity and available tannin into the mix. Acts youthful and wise at the same time. Terrific three to five year Annata that expresses everything at once and all the time. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($34.95)

Monti in Chianti is gathered, accumulated and condensed into this Annata with extreme prejudice. That which is left to the imagination in the work of Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi is sottosuolo, in the Galestro of his Gaiole vineyards. Not that the ’18 is less than intense because Marco’s sangiovese takes nothing for granted and leaves little behind on the canes, spurs and leaves of his vines. It’s all here in this Annata, boasting of great confidence and every rock that can be bled into sangiovese’s varietal lifeblood. Extreme tightness of acidity and structure for to speak of freshness, protracted towards potential. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (234308, $21.95)

Quite heady and excitable Castellina here in San Fabiano Calcinaia’s Annata out of 2018. Crunchy, classically rustic, in request of patience, time and the need to wait in bottle. Pretty traditional and fresh stuff right here for you who like what style of Chianti Classico you’ve known, seen and wish to continue drinking. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (282996, $19.95)

The most extracted and distracting sangiovese comes from San Felice and in 2018 the fruit is met, matched and driven by the barrels from whence it came. What a full bodied, throttle and concentrated Annata this is, truly, unabashedly and completely. The hands of Leonardo Bellaccini go all out to brings even bigger parts for the all in example. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From the southwest corner of Greve in Chianti, southwest of Montefioralle and close to Panzano. Modish and modern for 21st century sangiovese is just this, stylish, chic and highly motivated. Quite fully developed and felt red fruit of glycerin, pectin and mouthfeel but you want more and more. Impressive magnitude in bringing so much fruit into the mix. Not overtly high in acid or tannin so use this early and often. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted twice, February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Reductive and peppery stuff here from Kosher Chianti Classico producer Terra di Seta in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Quite representative for the capabilities of the commune in warmth, strength and early tension. The shell needs to crack before the charm may spill forth. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Panzano

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Newfangled and old-school actionable in simultaneousness Panzano activity, an entanglement of classic sangiovese and colorino in a web of reductive meets candied shell beauty. Very tannic in a surprising turn away from the fast and furious fruit welling. Wait for the twain to be met. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2017

Such a pretty, focused and far from enigmatic 2017 is this comforting sangiovese, the floral and sweetly perfumed La Ghirlanda from Bindi Sergardi. Yes it’s an expression of Castelnuovo Berardenga but so much so a feeling of Mocenni, at least in great part. Also peppy, wryly and with a devilish smile, like an ironic Leonard Cohen song. “Is this what you wanted?” Not to worry, La Ghirlanda is not haunted by the ghost of you and me. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Warmth and altitude combine for Radda beauty in a modish sangiovese so much more fine than beast. The earliest onset of drinkable recognition comes straight from the charm of this well-made wine. Cracks the whip quickly to solicit structural notes for a fast interaction with fruit to find an immediate and insistent coefficient of existence. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (23325, $16.95)

The warmth and the development make this the most approachable and get me now sangiovese you ever did encounter. Well done for 2017 in that the fruit was allowed to develop its phenolics across a broad spectrum of high yield vineyard fruit. Solid reasoning and seasoning makes this work. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Burrone 2017

Quite wildly aromatic this from new and exciting Ca’ di Pesa with a deeper set of structural values than the initial fruitiness would have led you to believe. Just feels like a conglomerate bleed, full of Panzano Galestro, Alberese and even a streak of wispy Arenaria running through like dark cherry in its veins. Very impressive indeed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2017 (403733, $24.95)

Deep feelings from this Gaiole sense of sangiovese wonder. All that 2017 can gift is settling in with comfort, warmth and the R.E.M. subconsciousness of a Chianti Classico dream. Richly fruity, layered, dramatic and fine. Finest modern day Annata from the house in a vintage that makes the result even more impressive, poignant and important. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In bottle from a tank sample and essentially a finished wine yet bottled. Picking started on September 19th. Quite heady for 2017, full of all the acids and Caparsa tannin that came of 2016. Lively sangiovese with drive, structure and one of the greater abilities to age. There’s a perpetual triangle of motion and precision that keeps the drive alive. An Annata in Radda that clearly benefited from the heat of the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($33.60)

Tank sample – a finished wine but not yet bottled. The 2017 Annata from Carobbio comes as such a surprise, a complex equation identified with the sweetest tannins imaginable. Really quite unexpected, fresh and feels silky in the mouth, clearly one of the finer ’17 Annata’s produced. Structure’s candle may not hold up to the vintages that came before but that does not seem to matter. Don’t think too much, just drink this one and thank Dario Faccin for making it this way. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2017

Classic Radda and savoury, dusty and quickly reached sangiovese for Capotondo and exacted as would have been expected. The traditional quotient is reached, breached and put into full effect. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From Barberino Tavarnelle. High tonality and dusty, reductive and closed young sangiovese. Pressed and picked early with heat and kept acidity though somewhat greenish tannins and not wholly formed phenols. Needs time and then not so much. Drink 2021-2023.   Tasted February 2020

Casale Dello Sparviero Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (10358, $17.95)

Such a big and polished wine, like something out of reach neither in the immediate nor in the deep past. The barrel is everything and yet nothing at all. Fruit swoons and hides behind the wood and waits in wings, static, without wings. Strong and not far from balsamic and cedar notes of the next stage to quickly come. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A subtle, quiet and reserved Annata from Panzano’s Casaloste, a bit in demure and not the 17s of many other. That said there is plenty of fruit traction and interaction. The warmth of the year is noticed, the pepperiness exaggerated and the acidity quite the same. Pretty big and boisterous. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico DOCG Clemente VII 2017

All sorts of fruit collects and weighs down in this attacking sangiovese, of tart raspberry, strawberries red and green, currants and a spice masala that speaks to sources here, there and everywhere. Savoury dried nuts, meats and cures make this complex if a bit all over the place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.00)

San Donato is Poggio orange, hematic and of a specific tang and that makes for a notably distinct and obvious sangiovese. This aromatic recognizability is comforting and conditions the palate to accept the reality that one need’s to pair this wide open red so that it and all feel supported. Fresh pasta ands cinghiale would do right. Such a proper version of ’17 for the frazione. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s 2017 is one of the deepest sangiovese expressions, more flavourful than aromatic, fully formed, developed and realized. That means the vines, vintage and veins run deep in Radda’s blood and the feeling is of deep concentration. Nothing is left on the table. It’s all in the glass. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2017 (219808, $18.95)

If the all-purpose Chianti Classico is what you seek from 2017 and for immediate gratification than you have arrived and that can be pronounced unequivocally. This is a Mercatale-San Casciano in Val di Pesa beeline straight to the right place. Crisp, clean, fresh and elastic fruit speaks of the grand time and place. Warm and inviting with a concrete freshness that does what needs. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($22.95)

Quite bright and effusive in 2017 there’s a feeling of the gentle and the comforting in this from the Castello di Radda. The liquid chalky texture is a bit distracting while the wine strolls uncaringly along. A bit aloof and unremarkable but surely no offence meant or taken. Happy is a glass in hand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($30.45)

Such a unique aromatic expression here from Castello di Verrazzano and the pattern is becoming a thing of great consistent beauty. The judgement is sound if nearly spot on from a challenge and so the structure supporting makes for a resounding drink of sangiovese speciality. Very impressive for the year. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (383604, $19.95)

The bulk of the juice ferments and ages in concrete vats and a mere 20 per cent sees time in old barrels. A house that travels from strength to strength says so much about the supporting cast of characters that have elevated the game over these last three vintages. Just as this has happened you wonder what will come next. In the meantime this ’17 walks lightly, speaks confidently and pours a charming glass of deliciousness. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Pretty wine here from Cinciano, ripe and really acting out the vineyard play of multi-faceted sangiovese coming together for a seamless estate expression. No holes, plenty of charm and more than what is needed from varietal, vintage and place. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.78)

Hard to imagine how a 2017 Chianti Classico can raise the bar across all its constituent parts as this from Conti Cappone is able to effect. The level of primary meeting intellectual notability is well, notable. Fruit rises up to meet acidity and acidity to rise for the challenge of sweet tannin., The bond and the chain is unbreakable. In Annata. No less. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole La Vendemmia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($23.95)

A sweet and salty liqueur from Dievole’s 2017 with all the layers that great modern aging vessels can gift. A highly skilled effectuation and subsequent result gives this Annata such a drinkable and amenable feeling. Very polished and chic wine right here. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (354019, $19.95)

A wide array of fruit qualities come together with hope, dreams and anticipation. Along with the pressing also comes a reductive and slightly baritone note thats speaks to the style as it repeatedly goes out, seeking love. It will find some, in time and for a few good drinking years. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattorie Melini Chianti Classico DOCG Granaio 2017 (395145, $19.95)

Candied florals, a sour note with hard-pressed fruit and brittle tannins. Plenty of wood and a tough nut to crack. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2017 ($36.95)

Un unmistakeable moment begins right away with I Parfumi di Lamole, forging an immediate connection by way of aromatic emissions from the always suave and conversely strengthening Filetta from Fontodi. The vintage is both fortifying and also hyperbolizing for the frazione and with this stellar house’s ability it just comes out equal and right. So long and never dissipating. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (933317, $39.95)

Equally if oppositely aromatic to the Filetta from Lamole and so properly judged, with wood less interested in taking over the project in this vintage. The production seems to have taken a step away and just allows the lightness of structure to mellow along with the litheness of being. Great decision making puts this in a league of its own. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (435123, $18.95)

Ripe and relatively pretty sangiovese from I Sodo, a touch pressed but within reason. Goes for all the marbles early and so that is when you must make use to pair, match, sip and enjoy. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (85209, $24.95)

Recently bottled and more than a pleasant surprise because 2017 is a vintage that you had to make exaggerated adjustments then wait to see if the chances taken would lead to positive results. For Il Molino di Grace the proof is in the depth of fruit expression but also in the consistency, or rather the torch taken and growth forward. The best 17s are those that adapted to challenge, adversity and were willing to change. In that way they resemble themselves and add new breath to the light that is sangiovese. Here Annata shows off idiosyncrasy, complexity and multiplicity. As fresh as 2017 can be with enough structure to keep moving forward. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2017

The savour and dustiness of sangiovese coupled with a challenge are on display from this deeply rendered wine. Il Poggiolino’s is not uncommon for the vintage and the fruit is dug in so deep, into ripeness and the earth. There’s surely a dried component, both fruit and herbs but also acids and tannins in their tight angles. Will settle a bit and drink well for three years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (704346, $34.95)

The vintage sends sangiovese in so many directions, some into the well filled with simple fruit and others over the wall into ultra-savoury territory. Paolo di Marchi’s does both and more. There’s a freshness and a depth to the not so serious but oh so serious conflagration. What’s special is the supple and actionable structure, of acidity embracing and unproblematic tannin. Works like an Isole e Olena Annata should, with imaginary Riserva folded in, with all stones rendered and all points looking north. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG White Label 2017 (476317, $24.95)

A solidly constructed Annata from Lamole here with some advanced features that have it drinking well at exactly this juncture. Tart and rich in converse relationship but conjoined as required. Well made and a triumph for the estate. “Had to keep walking” to find the amazing. Sensei Lamole. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Very pretty wine again from Le Masse with greater acids and bigger tannins than many. That this was accomplished without too much consternation or pressed aggression is a true testament to all facets of the process. Commendable in many ways. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A wild berry sangiovese if ever there was one from Radda and clearly a vintage matter coupled with the want of L’Erta to happen. So much fruit substance and not exactly a drive to age. Matters not in cases such as this. Crushable as a result. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Expect Montefioralle to deliver something other at all times but especially from this. Expect the unexpected, the idiosyncratic and the unusual. Look out for the beauty from things even if you have little frame of reference. Then take in the Damson plum and the dusty tannins. Most of all don’t be shocked at the acidity that can only come from Lorenzo Sieni’s parochial sangiovese.  Last tasted February 2020

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2017

One of the tougher sangiovese nuts to crack, Gaiole or otherwise and yet this Vaggiolata vineyard Annata is so very brushy and bushy Chianti Classico. This maker is that kind and the heart is soft beneath the stony exterior. A perfect example of Chianti Classico needing time to enter the fields of agreeable and charming. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Things turn brighter in a sangiovese like this from Radda, not so much lighter as one from which fruit can shine. Light in terms of tannin but sneaky enough to elevate and extend. More chew than crunch in a pressed fruit roll-up carnival of the heart ’17. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2020

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2017

Quite a boat filled with sweet and herbal notes are part fruit and part tannin though less so in terms of acidity. A bit soft that way even while the grains keep things seized at present. Drying late in that way and not ready to say three words, like yes, now and integrate. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A little bit of San Donato in Poggio goes a long way into defining a special sort of Chianti Classico with this by Podere La Cappella a prime example. The white Alberese is herein always a factor with the orange so deeply sensory and frankly distracting. In a good way to even better so think about fruit and acids as one with the strength to receive and work alongside structure. Rich 2017 here.  Last tasted February 2020

Sangiovese with merlot in two and three year old botti and barriques, to be bottled in two weeks. Smells like Colombino stone, licked by rain with the fruit at its highest La Cappella promise. It’s never been this rich or full but sapidity will always streak through these wines. It reminds me of really high quality mencìa, in a way, piqued by toasty spice, juicy and ready for great meats and roasted vegetables. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($26.75)

Almost always set at the centre of the heart, of richness and hematic depth. The warmth and development of Piero Lanza’s Radda sangiovese are never to be underestimated nor should there ever be shock from the accumulated results. They are made exactly as the vineyard and the vintage dictate. And they are in balance. This 2017 falls right into line. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Tons of fruit and fruit pectin content in Poggio al Sole make for a delightful if quite sumptuous 2017. There is nothing light or lacking here and in the short term it’s a good a bet as you are likely to taste. Not all vintages and every estate need to provide structure. Seek, find and imbibe. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

The way of Pomona is carefree and natural yet knowing and exacting. The Castellina in Chianti sangiovese here may seem at ease, mellow and even soft but it can bite if it so chooses. The fruit sources are wise, the chance they are afforded high and the way the slow build careens then slides is magic. Few Chianti Classico can do what this can. Get to know the plan. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Francesca Semplici and Riccardo Nuti, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2017

From 95 per cent sangiovese with colorino, picked smartly over the course of September, if a bit variable the stacking and layering saves and fills, covers and extends so that the middle palate gains flesh and the tannins are ripe enough. Going strong.  Last tasted February 2020

Spring frost has resulted in minuscule quantities from a very young vineyard (though 22 years of age). Pretty impressive for Annata, with enough freshness to balance the weight and the sheer presence of this wine. This is the Premium (Primum) alternative to the original and much larger production Chianti Classico DOCG. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Vineyard truths are spoken in a San Donato vernacular with exceptional grace and humility. This is a bit richer and pressing than might have been ideal so the tannins are somewhat brittle and drying but the overall togetherness is more than proper. Finds the ways to reach back for more when needed and to hold back when necessary. Mostly in balance as a result. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (728816, $48.95)

The Querciabella warmth and relative hedonism is on display in 2017 but knowing what a year or two can effect on this sangiovese is so essential to looking at them in their youth. This 2017 will turn into one of the finest of the territory for two most important reasons. A collection of grapes from more than one commune source and a stringent sorting process that pulls out then combines the best. The tannins are really fine here. Let it rest and look for the great relish between five and ten years on. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, hematic, rich and also ferric. This fully extracted and concentrated sangiovese brings it all up front, centred and with furious haste. Gives everything now and for all to want. Wants for nothing moving forward so use it, abuse it and don’t pause too much in case you are thinking to cellar and then reuse it. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Risotto, Caffe dell’Oro, Firenze

Ruffino Santedame Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (523076, $19.95)

The advantage in vintages like ’17 is clearly one enjoyed by larger estates because moving fruit around for cuvée speciality makes blending the crux of the matter. And so Ruffino’s is a well-managed, masterly arranged and all purpose Chianti Classico. This is a time to try Ruffino’s beautiful Annata. It will not disappoint. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Welcome to Roberto Bianchi’s wonderful world of sangiovese foraged, forged and formed by a cappello sommerso beginning. Creates a texture that captures Radda and the new Chianti Classico from out of the ashes of a hot vintage and a really old Piedmontese technique. Nowhere can locked in freshness and texture combine for such great effect. Dramatic and grounded, each with as much necessity as feeling and time will dictate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Not so many reductive sangiovese in 2017 and those that are tend to be peppery with brittle tannin. Not the case in Vecchie Terre di Montefili’s as the shell protects freshness without compromise to safety. Aromatics therefore come through the cloud and talk in floral tones. This sits elevated at a lovely precipice but not so high as to extend volatility above and beyond the fruit. Organic, from Panzano and truth be told no other sangiovese smells as exotic as this. Just delicious and will age really well. A highlight of the year. Bravissimo. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2020

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre Di Prenzano 2017

The middle of the road is properly taken for a 2017 Annata of medium bodied notability. Hard to say what the winner is but going with fruit is a good bet. Acids and tannin are a bit soft and a bit hard, neither really winning or losing. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($35.95)

Truth be told this 2017 from Geggiano persists as a youthful and too early to call Annata. The particular Galestro and Alberese in these micro-climate championed western wing of Castelnuovo vineyards make for some of the communes most charming meets structured sangiovese. Why should the heat and the challenge effect anything otherwise. So much here, so many levels of Chianti Classico to unfurl. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (283580, $23.95)

Beautifully drinking 2017 Annata with a Montefioralle smile and charm. All the adjustments have been made so that acidity fully supports, surrounds and extends the fruit. Some tannin at the finish but thankfully quick and not the point that matters most. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Giulia Bernini, Bindi Sergardi

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2016

The newer of the two Bindi Sergardi Annata is Ser Gardo, taken from vineyards on the producer’s I Colli Estate. Dedicated to Niccolò Sergardi, a.k.a. Sir Gardo, Governor of the city of Siena (1530) and guardian of the city. I Colli gives way to the IGT (Achille) and this Chianti Classico off of stony, calcium carbonate soils rich in Alberese. Epitomizes the Bindi Sergardi-Castelnuovo Berardenga cherries and roses freshness. If lighter then great, if sneaky structured even better and it is those roses (mixed with nasturtium) in an imagined spice that comes from chewing on fresh petals. Ripe, 2016 and intensely satisfying. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Caparsa, name of the estate and the main house. One hundred per cent sangiovese aged mainly in cement. A straight ahead and crunchy Annata with a noblesse and a natural accountability that speaks in Paolo Cianferoni’s body language. Still a touch aggressive and yet the acid-tannin structure is quite impressive. Also tasted from a bottle open four days ago and truth be told the difference is negligible at most.  Last tasted February 2020

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

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($33.60)

Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2016 (994608, $22.95)

The push-pull of conversion takes richesse and melts it into firm grip for sensations only a ’16 of such style can drift. The cherries of Chianti Classico are so magnified in maceration and liqueur, so much so this may just be the dictionary entry. Wild and so full of energy as if this were not Annata and yet not quite Riserva. Wow from this wine. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

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

Five months in there is really not a huge amount of movement to speak of save for a rise in energy that indicates this Annata is coming out of its slumber. It also means that six more months should really see it blossom, flower and sing.  Last tasted February 2020

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 Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2016

The single vineyard at the top of the hill at 450m is the Alberese dominant site for this stunning sangiovese of concrete and barrel, but the treatment is just about as hands off as it gets. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and these 28 year-old vines at the time are surely in their prime. Yes time is important but the actionable gestures are already playing with our emotions and tugging on our heartstrings. Such a focused wine. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the isolated cru in the best vineyard making this wine. Just think about it. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2016 (250563, $17.95)

A solid Annata in 2016, fruit already moving forward in development, acidity hanging strong and tannins melting in. One of the more silky, creamy and chocolatey of Chianti Classico. Well-made to be sure and offering plenty of maximum consumer friendly pleasure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Il Barlettaio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite an extracted and well-pressed 2016 from Il Bartellaio that has steamed straight ahead and come into drinking window view. Take this and use it now for best results. Solid sangiovese to clear the senses and begin anew. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (211599, $18.95)

Lornano is one of those Chianti Classico estates that requires patience, both from its makers and its buyers. The soils and the compounding elévage work insist that the wines remain in bottle before revealing their charms. This 2016 is exactly one of those wines that speak to the manifesto. The fruit is here and the possibilities are long and endless. Wait to embrace them. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($19.95)

Talk about time. Losi’s sangiovese demands it, insists it be granted and brings beauty when we are properly listening. The Alberese remains in charge and the fruit is aching, waiting, nearly ready to bust out. So crunchy and chewy in simultaneous rumination, so cherry hematic and full of vintage wealth. One of the estate’s best Annata to date. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Piemaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Le Fioraie 2016 ($29.99)

A remarkably rich and layered 2016 from Piemaggio, full on with impressively concentrated fruit. The cherry ooze and chocolate melt are unrelenting, coating the palate with each subsequent sip. Leaves a mark in many coats. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (10360, $24.95)

The white and grey clay plus fine decomposed Galestro soil mixes with great 2016 promise for one of Gaiole and the greater territory’s most polished ’16s. Almost too good to be true and in just Frescobaldi’s second vintage. Almost feels like a peak has been reached so the question is, how far can this property go. Sky’s the limit? Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico DOCG Il Palei 2016 ($23.99)

Lovely wine from the kids at Catelnuovo’s Villa a Sesta in 2016 with so much grace and beauty. Not that this has been lacking before but this takes a wonderful step forward. Helps to wait another year to taste the pure cherries and the fine liqueur. Has really integrated and is ready to roll. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The wait is almost over and the opportunity nearly upon us to seek and find what grace comes from Castell’in Villa’s Annata 2015. There are few peers that require this much attention to detail and patience but it is the Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa who demands that she ands also we do this. The estate gifts sangiovese from so many plots, blocks and micro-climates and yet we still must wait for these parts to come together. They are and in rhyme will only slide in for the ultimate glide, in time from fruit, herbs, wood and in the fineness of what lives. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Pruneto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Developed dried fruit resides in Radda space, oxidative and old-school. A charmer with a very specific style. Know what it is. Spice all over the finish, both from wood and in that dried drupe. Drink 2020-2021. Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2017

Gabriele Buondonno’s 2017 is what you might refer to as a tour de force, a recklessly controlled gangly and gregarious mulch of ripe fruit and massively structured maintenance. That it maintains its poise is remarkable considering the heft and the fortitude. Warm spot where these vines grow and so there was no avoiding the sun in this torching vintage. So young and far from innocent, fruit so priceless and anything but precious. Let it ride for a while. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (508507, $29.95)

So much cherry and so little time. Not the biggest expression of Castellina though surely one of the most effulgent there is. Rich in the faux sugary ways of sangiovese from warmth and in youth. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (705335, $40.00)

Quite reductive for a sangiovese from Volpaia and so indicative of what the land requests, matched be the efforts of the team. A liquid white pepper pique is so unique, so interesting and so much the catalyst to create the lift and the character. The possibilities for changes through the aging process are of a stronger potential here than from so many 17s, though time remains for the results to be seen. Real length from this high altitude sangiovese purports to promise that Volpaia’s ’17 Riserva is in true Radda form and charm. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Rància 2017 ($55.75)

Few Riserva can seem so far away and yet so close to within reach. Rancia would have survived the 2017 crazies as unscathed as any, of that there can be little doubt. Quite reductive and youthfully challenging the matter here is one of no holds barred and options yet unexplored. The mild astringency is perfectly normal and Rancia Riserva will find its way out. Bank on it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Only from the upper vineyards closest to the cellar, one of the more pristine Riservas, of freshness, purity and clarity that Molino di Grace sangiovese did not used to show, but changes have led to this. You don’t think about the transitions or the structure because they just present themselves effortlessly and seamlessly. A remarkably fresh ’17 that was picked late, on time and best decisions were made in the cellar.  Last tasted February 2020

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($39.95)

Luiano’s ’17 Riserva is a bad boy, a troubled youth of rebellion and great strength, its frontal cerebral cortex not yet fully formed. Massive attack of fruit and tannin, not to mention natural acidity of another mother. Really wants to see you and be with you, ‘but it takes so long my Lord.“ Hmmn my lord. What a formidable San Casciano Riserva, still full of innocence, searching for its elegance. May turn out to be one of the best. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Marchese Antinori 2017 (512384, $49.95)

Quite reductive and yet relenting for an Antinori Riserva with a dollop of cream silkening the formidable fruit and its shellac of structure. This is ’17 at the height of warmth and everything else that makes the vintage one of great interest, To some the tannins could be seen as unrelenting and more than challenging for balance. That they are yet when they give in the fruit should be at its peak. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

“I’m happy with our 17s but I don’t know that i would classify them as Monte Bernardi wines, in fact Retromarcia was missing 50 per cent of its fruit due to frost.” The honesty of Michael Schmelzer. That said it’s as delicate and pretty as it gets for the vintage and while a bit of an anti-Riserva so to speak, I have to beg to disagree because the mild swarthiness is very recognizable, comforting and always lends to energy and excitement in the wines, especially when they are young. What wan’t necessarily noted in Monte Bernardi’s Annata that shows in Riserva is the silky and elastic woolliness of the texture and the coating tannins. This is a most unique expression of Panzano and the vintage, a coagulated, hematic and crunchy earth-driven sangiovese with some of the finest varietal tannins around. Crisp and taut, fresh and promising with a long future laid out ahead. If Monte Bernardi is what you seek, this will satisfy your every desires, and your means. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2017 ($45.00)

Another hefty and balanced piece of Radda sangiovese heaven here from the Bugialla label, a Poggerino sign of true reality and success. A Riserva of the land, of the vineyards and of specific blocks, rows and vines. What tannins these are, demanding, of a time, certainly a vintage and a place. Make ‘em as they are given to you, That’s what winemakers like Piero Lanza do. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2017

Such a fine liquid intensity with deeply sensorial acidity makes Riecine’s 2017 an unmistakably dramatic one. You have to appreciate the lightning fruit matched against the savoury herbal Gaiole backdrop and the sheer luminosity that brightens the fruit. This is a formidable Riserva but for reasons not usually noted. In a world and a class of its very own. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 (930966, $24.95)

Rich and so developed, a Riserva for the people and one to hang an early hat on. So many have to wait but the Zingarelli is telling you the time is now to seek enjoyment. While the unapproachable ones work their way through trials and troubles this Famiglia will welcome you to the table. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2017 (23358, $32.95)

Poggio a’ Frati is consistently layered with all its categorical character, beginning in the soil and finishing in the glass. Never overbearing and always filled to the tang in prim brim with ever-bearing berries. Quite tannic this 2017, less than ready, impressively structured and fashioned in a Gran(d) way of design. Could easily slide appellative categories, up, down, side to side. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Cantalici Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Baruffo 2016 (541078, $32.95)

Ahh, that Gaiole essence. The hills, the bush, the things that grow, all the scents and perfumes. All found tucked under the arm and laid beneath the skin of this glorious sangiovese. Carlo Cantalici is surely proud of this 2016 and he has pressed his fortune for a ticket to longevity. The wine is almost ready, almost but not quite. “Under my thumb, the girl who once had me down.” Won’t be for long.. soon the change will have come and it’s down to Baruffo. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Few Chianti Classico Riserva exhibit this combination of heft and also hard to get demure. Mildly smoky and with a tar-roses-char like some nebbiolo and more so because of the gangly wood spice and tannic thrush. Big wine with years to go before the herbs and the grains relent. The fruit needs to be patient and hope holds for that to happen.  Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

If you can’t smell and taste the Galestro soil specific to Carparsa’s corner of Radda than you may need to heed a bit more attention. There’s an elegance and a fortitude mixed with a fine sour cherry that makes this singular, specific and a wine that mimics the place. Very structured, acids sharp, pointed and fine, linearity sure and trustworthy. Clean, finessed and definite with all the organic, natural and compost plusses kept in mind. Carries all the necessary bones and attributes to arrive at a seven year mark up to double that time. Inimitable saltiness that’s not really noted anywhere else.  Last tasted February 2020

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

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2016

A single-vineyard Riserva from the plot above the smaller second house called Caparsino and filled with all the soils; argile, Galestro and Alberese. Surely an absolute about face expression with higher volatility and a high, near and nigh potential for advancing porcini notes. A deeper and darker black cherry. Characterful and mature in such a different way, The acidity is uncompromising even while the wine acts oxidative with more wood than the other Riserva. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (47118, $29.95)

The classic Carpineto way, done in the vein of ancients with a look to the future. There’s a high tone running amok with a toast of the fruit and a plum maceration deeper down. High level acidity and “you can’t disguise” the type of work done here. Tell me lies? Not so much. The truth in clarity of a Carpineto CCR is always spoken. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A San Donato in Poggio vernacular comes closer into view with this Riserva from Paolo Paffi. The orange is studded with aromatics and the local limestone runs through every vein. It also bleeds from every pore before talking tannins and the probabilities for a long future. Tightly structured wine here, compact, versatile and voracious in its virtuous pursuit to eat, drink, sleep and extoll the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Castello di Paneretta strives for clarity and purity from a gorgeous vintage that could have allowed for more depth and density. The decision to stay clear of overdone and overwrought is a beautiful thing and so much pleasure is our fortune. Lithe, open, fragrant and sumptuous. A Riserva reserved strictly for drinking. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (113316, $38.95)

A Riserva from Bossi is one that makes so much sense in what we’ve come to expect from the appellation, that is sweetly rendered fruit, spice primarily oak derived and great punch. A crunchy Riserva this is, taut, tight, tannic and worthy of time. Give it that and more. The fruit is 2016 after all and from the great wide open Castelnuovo Berardenga space. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (719864, $34.95)

Great godly perfume, San Donato to the nth degree, welling and simultaneously rising. The glass is full no matter the quality of the contents, the texture filling and seamless, the extension forever forward. What you have is the portal into Il Poggio and know this. That Riserva and that Gran Selezione can and must be extraordinary and off the charts. The launching point here seems plenty great enough for all combined and concerned. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($49.60)

Deep Riserva from Verrazzano in 2016, full of all things driven, ambitious and tonal. Volatile at this stage because of a reductiveness multiplied by fruit liqueur that can’t help but rage. Really needs to settle and become itself. For now there’s angst and intensity. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2016 (993360, $29.95)

The appellative category is looked at, considered, scrutinized and a decision on its stereotype lands here. Petri is the cornerstone and the exactitude, especially for Greve in that it just acts in ways you expect there to always be. Earthy crunch, crusted fruit, herbs, Amaro and sweet tannins. Drink this early. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($41.95)

You really do need to pay a visit to Colle Bereto’s slice of the amphitheatre pie in their sector of Radda in Chianti because the soil, expositions and micro-climate beg for this response. How else to try and understand the tenderness and desire multiplied for such high level and full-bodied result. Few if any combine richness with elegance, mid-level volatility with down to earth sensibility. Clear and animal magnetic together. It’s remarkable. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (216309, $24.95)

Come and get me is the quick, early and olive branch extension from Castello di Gabbiano’s ’16 Riserva with all the Mercatele in Val di Pesa confluence that can be jam packed into one voluptuous bottle of sangiovese. Plenty of stuffing and deep red flavours, into plums and a clafouti full of softened berries. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

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

The Riserva is a highly refined wine but it is not wood that makes it this way. Concrete is the order of the way that wines are refined, with some old barrels and some amphora. No it is the vineyards the cause this Riserva to act so polished and stylish with so many herbal and woodsy hints it flashes before your nose, brain, taste and eyes. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the Riserva as being the wine of best selection and has always been this way. Hard to find a reason to change. Perhaps soon from another set of parameters (including concrete eggs and amphora) and vines.  Last tasted February 2020

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 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Amphora 2016

From a tank sample. The in process sangiovese with no name that includes quite a compliment of concrete eggs and amphora raised fruit. Fermentation as with the others one year in concrete vats and then to the new vessels which could become the Monterinaldi answer to Gran Selezione. The fruit sources are part Boscone and part Riserva sites that are in the middle of the hill below the borgo. Same silk texture, same stylish classicism and yet the brushy, fennel savour is somewhat lost. Same but different and in this opinion completely worthy of the Gran Selezione appellation. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($43.95)

Still a youthful, closed and reductive 2016 in Riserva form there is a whole helluva lot going on in Capponi’s wine. Wooly, swarthy, volatile, uninhibited and nearly exhibitionist from all there is to nose and in showing its natural self. There’s something of a missive vernacular far from soft spoken in how this acts like whole bunches redacted in unstoppable fermentation. Like a waterfall rush of flavours, textures so wild and so free. What have you done here Sebastiano? Gotta give in and try, put some away and see if you can figure out the reasons why. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Famiglia Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Villa Cerna 2016 (14200, $29.95)

Proper, rich and savoury, very soil driven Riserva, ubiquitous in that it speaks for a large set of parcels and remains focused. Chewy with fully developed fruit sets, some dried sweetly in leather jackets, some perfectly ripe and yet to advance. A verdant note mixes in. All there, layered and at times disparate but complex as needed. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Fashioned from 95 per cent sangiovese with a richness that reaches peak San Donato. Elevates so much so it speaks to layering, variegation and intention. Warm, inviting and alleviates any concerns about nervousness or undue tension. So carefully extracted, crafted and exacted. A house in flux of experimentation and the pushing of boundaries moves from strength to strength. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($39.95)

A warm and fuzzy Panzano feeling felt straight away, humid, spicy, Galestro instructed. Some pretty serious tannin, weight, magnitude and a considerably deep impression. Quality with high acid notes acting as a foil to the formidable thing of it all. Bigger that ’15 in so many respects. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2016

Levigne from Angela Fronti delivers a duality that talks in a vernacular made of more than a commune. The concept is Gaiole meets Radda and each has its say though their mingle and intersectionality layering clouds the distinction in the way you’d hope they would. There’s a softness and a brut strength behind the exterior that tells something conceptual and educational is happening. Forget light, bright and easy. Bring on the ambition, the execution and the swagger. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (282921, $44.95)

The full compliment fills Le Fonti’s 2016, led by a purity of vintage fruit second to none and a fineness of aromatic spice that repeats with delicate bite after you taste and let it linger. So subtle and balanced, danced with agility and poise. A wonderfully understated and stealthily structured 2016. Remarkably delicate. Truly. 20 years easy. It’s the good shit from Guido Vitali. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Borro Del Diavolo 2016 (435149, $44.00)

So you say you want a feeling for how things once were, how there was a time when steeping in tradition made for comfort, understanding and nobility. So you want to taste sangiovese with the intuition of ancients but you want crisp, clean and pure. So look to Ormanni, dual commune citizen, Poggibonsi meets Barberino Tavarnelle soil and climate. Big and gracious this is, magnanimous and generous too. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The bright light and fresh face of Capaccia is something exceptional, exciting and new. So much fruit and rose petal emits from the nose and while comparing sangiovese to other important grape varieties is neither necessary or my style I have to say that the Premier Cru (Nuits-Saint-Georges) feeling of this fruit can be imagined in pinot noir terms. Rarely do I feel the need to do this but this Riserva takes me there and then comes home. Huge stride forward for the estate. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Just what you might, would and will expect from a 2016 Riserva in the hands of Poggio Torselli, leader for the modern San Casciano. Silken, sweet fruit filled, creamy, soft oak and mellow. A menthol note runs through and cools. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2020

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Surprising or not the ’16 Riserva from small batch Quercia al Poggio is a pretty heady and serious wine, reductive, rich and a tough nut to crack. Plenty of wood sheathing at this very stage brings texture, silken and quite creamy. A whole lot of everything that will require time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Querciabella is entrenched deep in its roots in that Riserva is a true extension of Classico, stylistically speaking. While there are moments of density and hedonism the grounded nature keeps it cool, calm and collected. The level of development is something that has begun but the low and slow process is born of a structural guarantee. Aging potential is really there. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. Wood off the top, spice, spicy and full of sultry notes. So specific to place and its just understood. Crafty Riserva with sweet tannin and an effortless swagger. Soft enough to begin drinking well in late Spring 2020. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Gioveto 2016 (974964, $28.95)

Some Riserva need time and some are so fresh they beg to be had. Sergioveto is one unto itself, of a moniker that says I am a clone and a different sort of sangiovese. In fact the herbal and dried fruit notes mixes with graphite and incense make for a distinct Castellina affair. Drink this early and often for best results. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2016 (716266, $29.95)

A Leonardo Bellacini sangiovese will always seek top ripeness and first rate barrel and so no shocker here. Reached the expected heights with 2016 fruit carefully crafted for best results. Leo did not press matters or go too far despite the vintage temptation and a really fine wine has been made. Classic, pristine and enticing. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Greve is the source and Terreno’s gorgeous fruit comes from a Right Bank spot that warmed to the task in 2016. The silkiness and quality glycerin texture is so inviting and truth be told, born of fruit so pure and true. A highly polished wine with so much upside. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Rich and high acid Castelnuovo Berardenga ’16 from Villa a Sesta, warming, caring and smooth. No fruit has been missed or harmed in making this lush and lightly spiced Riserva. Real quality and clarity with just a hint of local savour. Makes this the real deal. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (599308, $31.95)

Montefioralle savour and development covers the phenolically parochial fruit for Viticcio’s well made 2016. Pressed for success, showing its full plume and locally developed flavours. Very much a sangiovese with a sense of place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2015

Warm, inviting, broad shouldered but on the leaner side of muscular. Rich liqueur, fine tannins and here sharp acids. Crunchy Alberese and Galestro earthiness and real savoury as a textural ideal. Just drinking right well in the here and now. Use it up while waiting for the great 16s. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2015 (230672, $24.95)

Anyone who knows the Lornano oeuvre knows that looking at a 2015 Riserva so soon in its life is like looking at a stopped clock. Gets you thinking about wanting to leave. The zeppelin walls of tannic fortitude, faux reduction and rock led solid elemental credit are far from paying out. In this neck of the Castellina woods they make Alberese sangiovese the way they used to do. In five years time we’ll be able to say “I can hear it calling me back home.” Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($24.95)

Losi Querciavlle, bastion of one of the globe’s most impressive Alberese landscapes and home to some of this territory’s finest chiselled sangiovese. Like marble structures slowly formed by only those who know how to separate the form from the mass. This is the intuition Pietro Losi and his prodigies know and gift to the world. Give their wines time and you will understand. Like this ’15 Riserva, strong, confident, understated, perhaps yet misunderstood but surely pure and true. Bravissimo. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Lunch, Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Pellegrini Della Seta 2015

A Kosher Chianti Classico Riserva made from 95 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon. Aged in tonneaux and barriques, half new. A smoky touch and very silky texture. A selection of grapes as opposed to the cru of the Gran Selezione. The first vintage was 2010 and while there persists the style of peppery reduction there too is a smoothness and a mentholated note to what happens when fruit hits wood. Sangivoese with agreeability, age ability and certainly a step up for the table when the category needs to be employed. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Fanatico 2015

Villa Trasqua Riserva comes into its own no less than five years after vintage so the window of opportunity for pleasure seeking is really just now opening. The glimpse into what it can be reveals a recent school of stylistic thought, rich and extracted, full of concentrated sangiovese with a savoury edge. This ’15 is one of the warmest yet, resolute and resilient to keep moving with energy and constant speed. Riserva in the marathon, not the sprint. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2014

The quercetina vintage, from which vines protected themselves with flavinoid, anti-oxidant properties in response to solar radiation and changing weather. The crystals that form in the wines and on the corks are harmless and do not alter aromas or flavours and Paolo tells the world they are there. Funny because it was a cold and wet vintage. The Caparsa style, cool excitability, finesse and structure are here in the way they will be in ’16 albeit with more cool thoughts. Under appreciated and undervalued. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa, Radda in Chianti

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsa Doccio A Matteo 2012

Lovely bit of development from a vintage of great fortitude and possibility though seemingly only recently softened. Now smooth tannin and yet so, so very sangiovese. The red fruit carries a liquorice note not noted in later wines and here the complexities are blooming, changing and renewing their vows. Lovely look back and easy on the volatility scale. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007 (1500ml, $115.00)

There is a depth here and a development that says ’07 will not last another fortnight though while it acts this way it will continue delving in the sort of secondary truffled and porcini notes that dole great pleasure. Solid start right here to a 13 year-old Riserva that is simply a treat to behold, wonder and nod in agreement at the 2020 Chianti Classico Collection. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2007

A warm vintage and Piero Lanza would say “similar to 2015,” higher in extract and well-developed phenolics. Has aged really well, the secondary notes fine and so closely recalling a dried strawberry mind. Acids are very persistent and strengthen the drying tannin and the longevity of this wine. Won’t travel another 13 years but should linger nicely for a few more. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2004

While 2004 has aged considerably as compared to 2007 the style and character are so different you would almost think they are not linked at all. Deeper, stronger and of a plum fruit way, with balsamic and lightly truffled notes. More wood, wood spice and a brown butter nuttiness. The palate is staying alive with a Tuscan flavour that was the order of that time and eventually leaves the door open for a Raddese character 10 years forward to take its place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2017 ($48.95)

The first of the so-called death squads to be released, a.k.a 2017 Gran Selezione is this from Castello di Ama, collective soil of top estate Gaiole fruit and fully recognizing the soul from whence and where is came. Quintessentially Castello di Ama and full of all the warmth and succulence in the way that fruit can act out of such a heat-scorched and arid season. Crunchy and dusty, plenty of macerating plums and no lack of wishful tannin. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 ($75)

So apposite to the Fonterutoli Annata “normale” in that the tonality is high, mighty and still rising. More crisp notes, feathered ripeness and a liqueur that seeps, steeps and spills. Some might feel it hot, others bothered and here the sentiment is like indoor winter comfort. That must be the idea; farmhouse dining room, hearth alight, hearty fare, company, sangiovese to the maximum degree. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vicoregio 36 2017

Of the Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Vicoregio 36 is the biggest, baddest and most tannic beast of them all. The fruit seems worthy and task equal though time is of that essence in understanding. Such a wild ride and yet so like 2017 to make that happen. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Badiola 2017

Badiola is an entirely new way to investigate Gran Selezione in that it hits all the high notes. Tripping the acidity light fantastic and sweet tannic grains of mighty proportion. Where the fruit is at is anyone’s guess but let’s assume it will emerge when the lights begin to dim. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Picchio 2017 (938738, $49.00)

Il Pichio 2017 is a fully formed, rich endeavour of concentrated fruit and a bastion of structure. Delivers all the necessary goods to develop, pivot, morph and turn into something secondary that will be no less interesting to behold. Watch it unfold and behold the pleasure. Top styling, balance and wonder that captures, subdues and puts a vintage in its place. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltassala 2017 ($84.00)

Volpaia’s Coltassala is a really concentrated Gran Selezione and one of the vintage’s early risers. That tells us it will go to bed equally early and slumber for quite some time. The architectural wonders of Radda heights are acclimatizing as we speak but will not open up the shutters and the doors for years it seems. A full compliment of ready and willing fruit is there but kept and suppressed. The emergence will be a vintage exceptionality and live that way for longer than the average ’17. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2017 ($74.95)

Magnificent and magnanimous perfume emanates from Bastignano 2017 in ways never noted, nosed or thought to be needed. Jackie Wilson Gran Selezione. A wine that can “step up and face the world.” Listen. The roses and violets mix with that ’17 savour and the dried notes match the fresh ones step for step. “Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sei 2017 ($57.95)

Querceto di Castellina’s varietal Gran Selezione sangiovese is the work of oenologist Gioia Cresti (Carpineta Fontalpino) and agronomist Valerio Grella. Sei is the number six in Italian and there were many instances of this number coinciding with the production of their Gran Selezione. The (Belvedere) single-vineyard wine comes from a special selection of grapes in a vineyard area measuring 6.6 hectares with a density of 6,666 vines per hectare. The tonneaux barrels predominantly used hold 666 bottles of wine and family matriarch Laura was born on 6/6/46. Another wild and carefree Gran Selezione from the Castellina estate brings acidity to new sangiovese heights, to no surprise at 480m, with a tone not oft seen in this territory. Serious tang and seriously tart, fruit buzzing of currants and citrus everywhere. Will evolve into the most singular GS that can be next level imagined. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Capannino 2016

Capannino’s side of the Bibbiano tracks makes Gran Selezione that dissolves like good dark chocolate on the tongue. Never relenting, piquing of energy and spice, here the land makes sangiovese buzz and pulse with drive and intensity. Rich and rendered, still a meaningful two to three years away from integration. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Mocenni ’89 2016

Mocenni takes all the advantage that 2016 can possibly pass its way and runs carefree into the wind. The fruit is pretty much as ripe as there can ever be in sangiovese struck by silver acidity and gold tannins, so you can imagine the result. This needs 10 years to fully unfurl, unwind and unfold. Please give it at least half that much time. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 ($60.00)

Just a lovely smooth, acidity supported, chocolate and spice Gran Selezione with stage presence and drawn by an artist’s fine line. Great attitude here, a mix of the new and the old. Presents Gaiole to the world in beautiful hyperbole and with accredited distinction. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Classic Carpineto with big juicy fruit, high acidity and a dusty volatility that speaks to youth like few others of its ilk. Will settle and turn into something lengthy, characterful and fine. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

From San Donato in Poggio and some of the territory’s juiciest sangiovese is magnified and hyperbolized in Gran Selezione form. Plenty of wood though not overly suppressive of the fruit. Nice balance and spice to boot. The vineyard is a piece of heaven on a hill and Paolo Paffi’s touch is full of grace. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2016

The richest of Verrazzano’s wines is this Sassello and the story is a great one. One of history, progression and birds with great taste. Grapes gone from table wine to Annata through Riserva and now in Gran Selezione form grown at 480m. So much chocolate and wood derived spice. Thick and unctuous for the category and that’s really saying something. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Disessina 2016

Vigna Dissesina occupies a Castelnuovo Berardenga world of high level fruit, acids and tannin encouraged and accumulated at the highest professional level around. All the necessities that resources can provide do what’s right necessary and abide by making high level Gran Selezione. All are here in this bottle. Exceptional wine with style, layering and class. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colonia 2016 ($208.99)

The consistency of Fèlsina in terms of well pretty much everything reaches the summit, apex and summit of this Colonia. Fruit, acidity, style and effect are all accessed in a similar way while barriques fatten and enrich this Gran Selezione to the point of bracing. Perhaps the most accumulation ever in a Colonia fills this 2016 with supreme fruit quality and a base of acidity that drives the engine. Massive tannic extension and energy of intensity. Huge wine with big plans and twenty years lay ahead. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2016

Extremely youthful ’16 but the clarity of that vintage’s fruit can’t help but be up front and present. The accountability begins right here, with 2016s out of which fruit was allowed to stay fresh and yet in Gran Selezione form there has to be time. Allow for development and the accumulation of flesh, but also succulence. This sumptuous Margone comes replete without the old style of hammer on head mentality. It’s the new and elegant one. Tasting this offers a clear picture into how Iacopo Morganti has impressed his talents and his will onto the wines of this estate. Sip one here and there over the next 15 years and it will be as close as one gets to standing in these Panzano vineyards in a pair of the Grace’s shoes. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Begins at a point just exactly where the Riserva ’16 takes its leave and carries the torch of purity and delicacy. Efficacy too, efficiency for sure and an effusive level of strength that belies its lightness of being. Yes it takes richness in sangiovese from Panzano and this estate to another level but never forgets the heeded understatement it demands to pay forward. Another outstanding effort and worthy of 20 plus years in the cellar. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Principe Corsini/Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Zac 2016

The transition from 2015 to 2016 takes Zac out of the IGT realm and into the appellative one occupied by Gran Selezione at the top of the heap. This new position atop the pyramid is the right and apropos one as a legacy of love and respect. Extreme juiciness defines this Zac from Duccio Corsini’s Le Corti and the amount of kudos it deserves has everything to do with how it has been given every opportunity to shine. Succulent acids and grand red ripeness are what you want and hope for. That and a long life ahead. Grande Duccio. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colledilà 2016 (293522, $59.95)

Of the three Ricasoli Gran Selezione Colledilà is the succulent and opulent one, of candied roses with spice and high quality, succinctly Gaiole acids. Sumptuous, unctuous and built for pleasure. Amore even. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Roncicone 2016

The Monti in Chianti artist formerly known as IGT is now a knight in shining Gran Selezione appellative armour. The 2016 vintage marks the launching point for one of Francesco Ricasoli’s sangiovese explorations and believe when it is said that one thousand years of Ricasoli thought have led to this. Roncicone is varietal strength embodied, also wisdom, methodology and in potion terms, herbolgy. Mixed an elemental Amaro with chewy red fruit in hyper-sangiovese reality. Ripe and concentrated, a tour de GS force. Single vineyard, proud and opulent. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Ceniprimo 2016

As with the Roncicone, Ceniprimo moves from IGT to Gran Selezione in a catgory shift to peak pyramid appellative Chianti Classico that is, well, categorical. The dine first single terroir sangiovese exploration is the biggest of Ricasoli’s three and also the one submerged under the most amount of barrel. Gaiole and Monti are reasoned and seasoned in GS framing with richness and über smooth consistency. While surely a big big wine it too will silken and lengthen after enough time has elapsed. Sangiovese. It needs the bottle. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2016 ($122.95)

Sergio Zingarelli the Grand Selezione is the rock, the gentle giant, the patriarch of the company’s wines. As a Grand Selezione it allows its actions to speak for the rest of the portfolio to follow. It leads the estates; Macìe, Sant’Alphonso, Fizzano and La Tavelelle. In 2016 the sangiovese is so different and yet so Castellina in that red cherry fruit core teased by spice. Smells like roses and the feel in the mouth is swelling, rising like a tide increasing as it barrels in. In the scheme of timing it would be prudent to allow those waves in years to go out several times before looking for that window of Grand Selezione opportunity to begin. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2016

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux A step up in fruit quality handles the wood and the category (including the Kosher angle) with more energy and finesse. Also a reductive rubberiness that so reminds of South Africa. Quite the dark chocolate component though also vanilla in waves. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2020

Carpaccio at Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2015

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux. A hyperbole of dark fruit, strong wood adage and fully reasoned meets seasoned Gran Selezione with all the protective, resinous, wood-spiced and tacky tannic bite. Really needs to settle and mellow. A top Kosher expression of firm, big-bodied reds will satisfy a high end corner of a very specific market. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Good to go!

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Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

A Lamole is a Lamole is a Lamole

Lamole

In a previous post about Lamole I posed a question. What is I profumi di Lamole? How is it the wines produced from Lamole’s eastern Greve in Chianti hills are so particular and distinct? What gives them their singular perfume? The quick answer is location, location, location. This is the story of Lamole, frazione within Greve commune, of vineyards upwards to 700m blessed with great sun by day and cold nights. Nothing else in Chianti Classico or the world carries a perfume like these sangiovese. A Lamole is a Lamole is a Lamole. Smells like, Lamole.

The portal into #lamole and what a portale meraviglioso it is to peer into. Parfumi, tradizione, altitudine. Grazie ai viticoltori.

Related – I Fabbri’s perfume of Lamole

Lamole is perhaps Chianti Classico’s least celebrated, a hidden gem set in an amphitheatre of gliding and sliding terraces around the horseshoed ringing hills of a unique viticultural landscape. There has been no obvious reason to travel there unless you knew what it is you were looking for. So what exactly is there to find in Lamole? For one thing, the aforementioned high altitude vineyards. The hamlets of Casole and Lamole are another, accessed east of Panzano and the SR 222 Chiantigiana by way of the Località Petriolo road. Ristoro Di Lamole is reason enough to make the trip, accessed off of the Località San Leonina road that connects to Via Lamole.

Sangiovese of Lamole

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The Galestro terra is filled with marl and schisty rocks but also Macigno del Chianti decomposed into sandstone soil on terraces. The magical acclimazione del sottosuolo has attracted many producers in search of the special fragrance found in the frazione‘s sangiovese, including Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, producer of Fontodi’s Filetta Di Lamole off of fruit grown at his cousin’s farm. Jurji Fiore of Podere Poggio Scalette makes small lots from Lamole.

Pasta al Tartufo, Ristoro di Lamole

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Lamole sangiovese is the collective soul of less than 10 producers; Azienda Storica Castellinuzza Proprieta Cinuzzi, Castello Di Lamole, Fattoria Di Lamole Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole by Paolo Socci, I Fabbri, Lamole Di Lamole, Le Masse Di Lamole, Podere Castellinuzza and Castellinuzza E Piuca.

Ristoro di Lamole

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The valley is not a common thoroughfare or often transversed en route from greater territorial points A to B, so to arrive in Lamole you climb with gradual ascendance from way down along the Greve River and up through an amphitheatre that graces the horseshoe ringing hills of its unique viticultural landscape. The origin of the Lamole perfume. Diurnal temperature fluctuations and high solar radiation are also important, resulting in wines that are lithe, crunchy and ethereal.

Paolo Socci

Every association of producers is led by a great mind, by a historian and philosopher with the knowledge and the experience to educate on behalf of the community and their land. In Lamole that would be Paolo Socci. Sit down with Paolo every chance you get. The following notes cover 18 sangiovese tasted at Lamole di Lamole in September 2019. As with many Chianti Classico there are some that had been previously tasted so those have now been updated to reflect these most recent observations. Your next visit to Chianti Classico must include Lamole because while the territory has many frazioni worth knowing, when it comes to perfume in these wines, nothing else smells like Lamole.

Azienda Storica Castellinuzza Proprieta Cinuzzi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

There are a few Castellinuzza aziende and this from Cinuzzi is off of two hectares cultivated to old sangiovese, malvasia nera and canaiolo. The top of a well-ventilated promontory is the sunny spot on well-draining soils of clay and shale. Diurnal temperature swings most often result in an aromatic heritage that is Lamole. However, 2016 is somehow different. The juice factor here is almost uncanny; blueberry and boysenberry mostly but also Ribena. It’s just the fruit and cement and old wood. Simply rendered, structured and easy. Happy to have a quick glug and notable for its singularity, if not entirely synaptic and syncopated to I parfumi di Lamole. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Azienda Storica Castellinuzza Proprieta Cinuzzi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

The blueberry and musky melon is met by pomegranate and blood orange in this tangy mess of fruit, acidity and feral furtive moves. Dances with the lupi, cinghiali and cervi. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Lamole 2013

From the larger Chianti Classico cooperative and their Lamole holdings, a ’13 of high tones, blackberry fruit and liquid chalky, wood-derived tannin. Spiced and vanilla tinged with good bones and length. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A classic Lamole house melds in 10 per cent canaiolo to support the local sangiovese. Dark if high toned and dusty, riper than might be expected (surely because of a hot vintage in the coolest of Chianti Classico frazioni) and if a bit demure for the place it still reeks and rages with Lamole acidity. And the perfume. That Lamole perfume. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Piuca 2016

Not your lower elevation Gran Selezione and while the finest selection is made in the Piuca Vineyard there is no escaping the high black cherry baritone swirling through the dusty, dried and edgy volatility. A good energy, tense and nervous, really structured and full of possibility. Needs time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Le Stinche 2013

Quite fresh and youthful, reductive even. Also dried fruit and herbs, mildly mephitic and stodgy.  Last tasted September 2019

From the Lamole producer connected to one of Tuscany’s oldest castle properties, going back one thousand years and a high altitude vineyard restored 16 years ago. This is the sangiovese of the Macigno (sandstone) soil terraces of Lamole, richer than many of the frazione and deeper in textures and transitions. Raised in cement and tonneaux there are floral as well as smoky notes, almost tobacco but more like wild herbs and wood smoulder. You’ve not likely ever whiffed (or tasted) anything quite like Le Stinche, also known as “carcere delle Stinche,” the prison on Via Ghibellina in Florence. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2016

Filetta is fermented in concrete vats then sent to large casks fore 18 months, but no small barrels. From Macigno soils at 550-600m in Lamole. This is the third vintage and 17,000 bottles are produced, on average. What is referred to as succulenza, but also salata and volontà.  Last tasted September 2019

Once again Lamole both astonishes and confounds. It’s make-up, constitution and display are unlike any other in Chianti Classico. It’s both liquid lava flowing and petrified, salumi cured and fresh as just picked red fruit. It’s quite a scene this Fontodi from land occupied by cousins to Giovanni Manetti, sangiovese that is chewy but linear, chalky while viscous, savoury but far from herbal. It’s the umami of Chianti Classico sangiovese I suppose. It’s so singular and needs to be investigated, nosed and tasted, again and again. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Grassie E Figlio Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto 2017 ($26.95)

The 2017 is a rich number to be sure, high on solar radiation and warmed by just a few plus percentage points of merlot. Great ’17 fruit to the point of welling and bursting with i profumi and that natural high acidity of Lamole. Crunchy for ’17 and in a way only this ancient Etruscan frazione can effect.  Last tasted September and November 2019

“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG ‘I Fabbri’ 2016

Susanna Fabbri’s highest elevation raises vines capable of producing grapes that are Lamole’s most impressive and afford her a selection to isolate the best of the best. The schisty marl in Galestro and sandy decomposition of Macigno are a soil source to reckon with. The chalky texture and simulate of structure look forward a decade or more and yet with this vintage that run is on hold because there is a pause. A Riserva of extreme youth this just is, mired for the time being in darkness and tannin. Also a tone that rings in current perpetuity to prevent the fruit from singing. No shortage of Lamole scent, stuffing and engagement though and also a locked in freshness. Possibilities once again speak of a potential for greatness. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Susanna Grassi @ifabbriclassico

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG ‘I Fabbri’ 2015

From the highest vineyard’s vines and a selection at a point which allows for the picking of what is best. Richly rendered, liquid Galestro and Macigno chalky and structured for a 10-15 year run. There’s plenty of Lamole, stuffing and possibility. Fresh enough for the vintage and certainly capable of greatness.  Last tasted September 2019

From the first passage through the vineyard, when all the fruit is ripe and ready to go. Now Riserva gets serious, or not really at all, but the table is set anew with an entirely new look at the category. Chew on this fresh and leathery wine for awhile. Take your time, feel the heights and the aspects. The acidity is incredibly fine and the effect like a blood red sunset to the west of the Lamole valley. There may be five per cent canaiolo in here, hard to say because of the way and the timing of the picking. Sapidity and salinity are perfect streaks through the sunken, drunken, oxygenated red fruit. Length all the way up to Terrata and La Sala at 100m and back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Jurij Fiore Viticoltori Chianti Classico DOCG Punto Di Vista Lamole 2017

From Poggio Scalette’s Jurji Fiore of the Ruffoli hill in Greve and his other project off of a 645m vineyard in Lamole. This is truly something other, of 70 year-old vines planted to sangiovese and other endemic varieties. Captures the civility of heritage vines and older times albeit with optimally ripened fruit and kept Lamole acidity. It’s also from the challenge of 2017 though loss was modest in Lamole and heat less of a problem. If what you want in Chianti Classico from 2017 is big, beautiful and structured then this from Lamole is a great bet. Dark fruit, great protection and protracted ability to age gracefully for two decades. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted September 2019

Jurji Fiore of #PoggioScalette

Jurij Fiore Viticoltori Chianti Classico DOCG Porcacciamiseria 2017

The second Lamole from Jurij Fiore is from younger vines (50 years of age) which is downright youthful as compared to the PuntadiVista field blend. There is indeed more spirit and energy, more spice and lift, more intensity and masterful Lamole spirit. I parfumi di Lamole for certain and without any equivocation. Same structure on brighter fruit. Up to you which matters more. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Full expression of Lamole shrouded and rung up the ladder with merlot and cabernet. The use of an optical sorter at crush time finds only perfect berries of provenance, concentration and internationally delegated varietal purity. The generosity of wood compounds the deep, dark and silky perfection. All is laid out for the here and now. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Full expression of Lamole clouded and raised up a bar with merlot and cabernet. The optical sorter finds the grapes for maximum concentration and internationally designed varietal purity. That and the very generous barrels. A bit higher toned and lighter at this point. That is all and all in all this Riserva is all in. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Le Masse Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From Lamole’s highest estate and sangiovese (95 per cent) at 630m. Raised in Tuscan chestnut barrels. Big and fresh, absolute classic Lamole perfume and acidity, what you expect and exaggerated to many degrees. That is because of grapes hung long into October it is suspected. Big wine for the frazione. Sings with the classic cuisine of the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Le Masse Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Like the ’17 Annata this ’15 Riserva continues the thread of big and bountiful but with Tuscan oak instead it climbs into spice and volatility. Quite sappy albeit lean and so much balsam in many respects. A bit of innocence lost as a result. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

An all cement, 95 per cent sangiovese with colorino. Lamole specimen of salinity, sapidity and spirit. There’s great freshness, energy and life to this one of simple pleasure and from an aromatic standpoint it is pure Lamole. Classica standout in every respect. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Serena Coccia

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

A 100 per cent sangiovese in Riserva clothing that comes through with lithe appellative action but is sneaky spicy and structured. Getting into a sleepy moment but just woke enough to be classed on its own.  Last tasted September 2019

Podere Castellinuzza’s Riserva is one of Lamole’s most generous (100 per cent) sangiovese though not without the very particular salty-mineral-sapid streak the hill always delivers. Only 1,500 bottles were produced of this highly traditional Greve-Lamole ’15 and it’s most certainly a perfect foil for fresh pasta with pumpkin, roast chicken, pork and rabbit. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

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Lamole

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

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 Gondonne 2017, Bourgogne Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France

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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I Fabbri’s perfume of Lamole

What is I profumi di Lamole? Why is it the wines produced from Lamole’s hills are so particular and distinct? What gives them their singular perfume? For starters the sangiovese initiated, cultivated and habituated in these Greve in Chianti hills is unlike any other in the Chianti Classico territory. As a sub-zone or frazione it lies and breathes in spirit beyond compare and in today’s Lamole landscape no one knows, intuits and understands the reasons more than Susanna Grassi of I Fabbri.

Related  – Chianti Classico is the future

Sunset in Lamole

The valley is not a common thoroughfare or often transversed en route from greater territorial points A to B, so to arrive in Lamole you climb with gradual ascendance from way down along the Greve River and up through an amphitheatre that graces the horseshoe ringing hills of its unique viticultural landscape. As evidenced by ancient documents preserved by Susanna’s father Giuliano, the family history in this place dates back to 1600. By age 37 (and I would suggest much earlier) Grassi knew that both her fate and her destiny were to be winemaker, in this place and with her family’s tradition held close.

Deep into Greve there is Lamole ~ Tasting at Casole with Susanna Grassi and 17 years of @ifabbriclassico ~ what a great night in Chianti Classico

Related – Chianti Classico Fall 2018: September and November, 25 estates, 150 wines reviewed in 18,000 words

Susanna farms organically with the credo to “give equal dignity to that place, producing typical high-quality wines in a traditional way and sell bottles with our brand.” When you read my tasting notes below you will find that experience is not everything, but intuition, humility, beauty and grace are. Every wine that Susanna Grassi has made has stood the test of time, going back to her very beginning in 2000. They are some of Chianti Classico’s most elegant sangiovese from which structure has emerged and been preserved, in remarkable harmony.

There’s 32 kilometres to Lamole, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a six-pack of Chianti Classico, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses

Related – Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

Lamole is a Chianti Classico hidden secret, home to Castello di Lamole, one of Tuscany’s oldest castle properties going back one thousand years and where historically it connects Macigno del Chianti (sandstone) soil terraces to carcere delle Stinche, the prison on Via Ghibellina in Florence. The magical acclimazione del sottosuolo has attracted many, including Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, producer of Fontodi’s Filetta Di Lamole off of fruit grown at his cousin’s farm. Jurji Fiore of Podere Poggio Scalette makes Lamole Nonloso out of a special vineyard. Over the past few years I’ve tasted Lamole sangiovese from Le Masse Di Lamole, Castello Di Lamole, Fattoria Di Lamole Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole by Paolo Socci, Lamole Di Lamole, Podere Castellinuzza and Castellinuzza E Piuca.

Casole

What you need to know about I Fabbri and Lamole is found in the territory of Casole (surrounding the village of the name), above Castello di Lamole and below the high Ruffoli hill. Casole is a wide, sunny valley catheterized by the diversities in its range of altitudes, from 450 to 650m. Macigno (sandstone) predominates in loose soils, permeable and poor in organic substances. This is the crux and the origin of the Lamole perfume. Diurnal temperature fluctuations and high solar radiation are also important, resulting in wines that are lithe, crunchy and ethereal.

John Szabo, Susanna Grassi ands Michaela Morris

Susanna Grassi is a member of the Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (Toscani), an organization of like-minded wine producers scattered about in Italy. The Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers is all about the concept of quality and authenticity of Italian wines. If you have ever had the great fortune to taste with Matilde Poggi, Monica Raspi, Angela Fronti or Elisabetta Foradori then you will have a good idea of what it is like to taste with Susanna Grassi. Along with Michaela Morris and John Szabo M.S., these are the 12 wines tasted with her in February 2019.

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Olinto 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

From sangiovese (80 per cent) plus merlot, named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, nonno, patriarch and pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. A very different wine because of the merlot, more of a big hug, with sweeter and less tart acids, not the same caress in the mouth, but surely silky and easy. Get into the glass and note the orange, blood or just simply orange. Fresh and spirited regardless of merlot or not. Pair with Pino Daniele, the Italian Van Morrison. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Olinto 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

Named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. Once again an old vintage from Susanna Grassi is slightly backwards, reductive peppery and confounding in how it’s so very stuck, or gone back in to youth. Again the 80-20 split between sangiovese and merlot, with a real porcini nose but then the palate is so fresh and almost bouncing around in the mouth. You can chew this, or at least the merlot which is or was so ripe. And it was a cool vintage. So great. Pair with Pino Daniele, a.k.a. the Italian Joe Jackson. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassi E Figlio 2017, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassi E Figlio 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

From a normal vintage really, warm in Spring, hot in summer and back down to pleasant in the fall. A phenolic journey just right for Lamole, More savour, in fennel and gariga than ‘17, surely not as juicy sweet. Still so mouth watering in a way that most sangiovese doesn’t normally accede. This really sparks the taste buds and livens up the energy required to come back again and again. Succulence through acidity assured. Really proper. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Lamole

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassi E Figlio 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

The vinification was the name. “The big change was the vintage. We remember 2011 as a very good vintage, with a balance between quantity and quality.” So says Susanaa Grassi and her sangiovese is still so very young, reductive even. There’s a pepperiness bordering on band-aid but it blows away with air. A whiff of pancetta or bacon fat and a note of banana. All locked up in the youth of this sangiovese, a wine suspended in time, from an average vintage turned around and stood upon a head. At once young and then to look at quite advanced, then so young again. A dichotomy stuck inside an enigma, wrapped in a Lamole mystery. Feels so good in the mouth. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Take the Lamole terroir and taste it again and again. Though it may be confounding the first 10 or 12 tries it continues to educate and with time you are unable to avoid the understanding and the temptation. There is a layer beneath the Greve level, of altitude and aspect but also a variability that deems sangiovese impermeable within a context of repeatable. Hard to explain, really. Sweet as original fruit, a genesis of Chianti Classico and a fineness that slides and grooves effortless and with succulence. Drink 2021-2027.  Last tasted February 2019

Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, circa 10 per cent, including the vines planted in 1964 (by Susanna’s father Guiliano), plus 1989 and 2002. This is a whole ‘nother matter of fruit sumptuousness and exquisite tannin. There’s a fine bitters note and fruit that enters into an area where it’s almost a middle-aged, mature version of the Lamole sangiovese. The tannic structure is so very different than the “Lamole” surely because of the altitude 200m lower down the slope. There’s a bass note here apposite to the higher Lamole horns, but also something umami and salty. Wow did this need a year to open up.  Last tasted February 2019

Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva I Fabbri 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the first passage through the vineyard, when all the fruit is ripe and ready to go. Now Riserva gets serious, or not really at all, but the table is set anew with an entirely new look at the category. Chew on this fresh and leathery wine for awhile. Take your time, feel the heights and the aspects. The acidity is incredibly fine and the effect like a blood red sunset to the west of the Lamole valley. There may be five per cent canaiolo in here, hard to say because of the way and the timing of the picking. Sapidity and salinity are perfect streaks through the sunken, drunken, oxygenated red fruit. Length all the way up to Terrata and La Sala at 100m and back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG I Fabbri 2006, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the first selection through the just ripened vineyard, the first vintage from the artist formerly known as Chianti Classico. Un annata molto buona, smiles Susanna Grassi, here with 15 per cent merlot. A 12 year-old Riserva that has not lost a beat of sapidity, salinity or acidity. That said ripeness is the virtue and the operative, markedly so, looking ahead very different than that ’15. Moving away from red fruit and into blue, perhaps even into the black. Also a spice not noted later on. Lovely Riserva. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

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

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A choice selection of sangiovese only from the oldest vineyards (1969 and 1984, planted by Susanna Grassi’s father Guiliano). The fine, fine lines, streaks and sets are all a matter of taking the best of the best. The two wines made before this were 2011 Gran Selezione and 2007 (special) Riserva. Texture is drawn from altitude, climate and states of grace. Susanna believes that a special bottle should be made in only the most special vintages. A pretty good argument for commerce in terms of the category, if not everyone were to make it every year. A serious argument. No make-up, no overblowing of extraction, wood or horns. Know this wine. It’s from Lamole. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2019

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From back a decade when it was simply called Riserva and in this case the best wine of the estate, only made in special vintages. From the first pass at harvest time and is indeed the artist that starting with the 2011 vintage will become known as Gran Selezione. This is different altogether; sumptuous, sensual, exotic, so perfumed. A warm vintage, a sexy vintage and one that could have gone south pretty fast. But not Lamole, not I Fabbri, not Susanna Grassi. A true team effort for 2007 to stay so vibrant, with sapidity, salinity and energy. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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