Castello di Ama’s state of the art

Two months ago yet another Toscana adventure came to a close. The tastes and sights indelibly stamped are etched forever in memory. Before moving on down the SR2 from Siena to Montalcino we paid the most profound and contemplative Chianti Classico visit of all, sulle colline di Gaiole. To a place where wine, art and landscape interact, variegate and intertwine. A place where the slow pace of play is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated, not at Castello di Ama.

La Cappella di Villa Pianigiani (18th century)

It was mid-August 1995 and my wife and I were on honeymoon, holed up in a little nook of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Ponte e Bozzone, just outside of Siena. We used this idyllic spot as our base camp from which to explore Chianti Classico for two full weeks that summer, which incidentally was cool, often rainy and now, none to my decades of studiously learning about sangiovese surprise later, proved to have resulted in turning out some elegant and structured wines.

One day we drove up into the Gaiole in Chianti hills, up a long drive past what I now know as Vigneto Bellavista and parked on a crest of gravel straddling the picturesque vineyard on one side and on the other, Vigneto San Lorenzo of Castello di Ama. Just as it was on February 15th of this year, the scene was one of stillness and tranquility, frozen in time, albeit memory delivers the picture in black and white. We wandered aimlessly, taking in the vines and the quietude when a small voice came rising from a dwelling in the tiny hamlet. An old woman motioned for us to come down the steps and into a small room. We tasted a few sangiovese, purchased a few bottles and were on our way.

La Cappella di Villa Ricucci (18th century)

The woman was likely Lorenza Sebasti’s grandmother and five years ago I recounted the story for her when Lorenza was pouring Ama’s wines at their Ontario agent Halpern’s annual grand tasting. Her name was Ermellina, Lorenza’s nana that she called Mami. She could perhaps have been the fattoressa, or agente fondinario, land agent to the hamlet of Ama which takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural village, nestled in the Gaiole hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany.

The winery was founded in the 1970s by a group of Roman families; Tradico, Carini, Cavanna and Sebasti and in the 1980s Lorenza’s husband Marco Pallanti, a Tuscan, took over the winemaking duties. Pallanti is a former President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and the pioneer who undertook one of the most ambitious vineyard transformations in the region’s history during a five-year period in the 1980s when he chose to re-trellis 50,000 vines (planted to 2,800 vines per hectare) to an open lyre system. Much of the vineyards were also grafted to new sangiovese clones and other beneficial varieties (like merlot) to take advantage of Ama’s specific topography and singular geology.

Carlos Garaicoa, Yo no quiero ver mas a mis vecinos

Castello di Ama’s 80 hectares of vineyards surround the hamlet of Ama by an extended radius of three kilometres at altitudes ranging from 450 to 550 metres above sea level. The four valleys are marked by harvested Galestro rock at the top of each vineyard; Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Bellavista stands apart because set atop that hill at an altitude of 490m is the block that is used to make L’Apparita, Tuscany’s first pure varietal merlot. In 1975 this portion was planted with canaiolo and malvasia bianca, then grafted over with merlot clone 342 between 1982 and 1985.

Kendell Geers, Revolution/Love

The village of Ama is made up of aggregate buildings of medieval origin, along the axis of a main street and essentially protected by two villas on either end; Ricucci and Pianigiani. There are three small chapels, one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmine, at the Villa Pianigiani. The second, along the main street, is dedicated to San Lorenzo and the third, dedicated to San Venazio, in the garden of Villa Riccucci.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, L’albero di Ama

Marco Pallanti is proud of the more than 35 years of work and adventure he has poured heart, mind and soul into the purity of these Gaiole hills. “It is important for wines to maintain a link to their place of origin” he writes. “The fundamental idea of tasting a wine and displaying the vines from which it comes. Wine has to spring from the rocks of the vineyard and reflect the sun, the season, the heavens of that hill, in that moment.” Pallanti’s notion of connecting the past, in viticulture, viniculture and architecture with the future is manifested through 15 art installations on or abutting vineyards, set into landscapes and occupying cellar spaces. “To give the illusion of being able to perfect perfection,” he expounds from grape and through the intangible gift, to “make seen what cannot be seen.”

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Observer

The 15 site-specific installations are a collection of explicitly contemporary works still in progress, all created to marry place and idea. The artists commissioned and represented are Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Kendell Geers, Anish Kapoors, Chen Zhen, Carlos Garaicoa, Louise Bourgeois, Cristina Iglesias, Nedko Solakov, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Pascal-Martine Tayou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan and Roni Horn.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Confession of Zero

Once inside the tasting room at Castello di Ama Marco led John Szabo M.S. and I through the estate wines, focusing as we should on the four vineyards, Bellavista, San Lorenzo, Casuccia and Montebuoni. Here are my reviews on the six wines tasted.

Marco Pallanti, Godello and John Szabo M.S.

Castello di Ama Purple Rosé 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $20.85, WineAlign)

Bottled recently, going to market on March 1st, this is sangiovese with a minor amount of merlot, a new Rosato for Ama, really fruity, of an amazing colour, viscous, spicy, tart and so bloody delicious. Savoury and herbal moments but always that return to fruit. A touch of citrus pith and tonic mark the finish. Very fresh and spirited Rosé and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to drink two glasses. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018

Roni Horn, Untitled

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The artist now known simply as “Ama” is a highly touted, self-reflective sangiovese with fruit to end all fruit, every iota of sensory and sensual fibre filled in and a deeply inward, charted impression. The first vintage was 2010, when Gran Selezione began its newly classified journey, so this is the sixth instalment in the Ama new age. The Chianti Classico equivalent of a Bordeaux Château’s estate wine, the one to explain the house style and philosophy. Needs three more years to develop all its charms and move to the next stage of its life. There are 90,000-100,000 bottles produced.  Last tasted February 2018.

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Questa non è una finestra, @castellodiama an instrument through which something is represented. #danielburen #chianticlassico #landscapepainting … Daniel Buren, Sulle vine punti di vista

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Lorenzo is not actually a single-vineyard wine though the fruit source depends highly on this side of the estate. It is in fact a blend of all the best places of the property and from a vintage out of which no La Casuccia or Bellavista were made all the best fruit (including some merlot) ended up in San Lorenzo. The quality of the acidity and the tannin separate this from Ama but that wine’s pedigree should not be in question for it remains the broadest, most appropriate brushstroke for Ama. San Lorenzo delivers a domino structure, stacked and yet imagined as fallen, a set of roads and walls to walk and climb along, to eventually arrive at a pre-destined destination. This is the white meets grey meets sandy brown limestone of the broad amalgamation of the mineral estate, salty and rich, with depth into a grotto.  Last tasted February 2018.

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti Climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

You just have to stand and gaze out over said vineyard to feel the awe and then to understand its connection, for Castello di Ama, to the Gran Selezione category. The rise up to and astride the estate is a collina rocciosa so singular to Gaiole in Chianti. If it is not correct to intuit, self-convince and deduce that Bellavista just tastes like the salty, calcareous and deeply stony white rocks of that blinding light vineyard then so be it. The wine is saturated beyond imagination and without any possibility of feeling chalky on the palate. If this isn’t Grand Cru Chambertin or Montrachet in red, Chianti Classico form, then no wine in Toscana can be considered as such. That it also carries in pocket the great ripeness of sangiovese fruit, streamlined acidity and mille-feuille tannin is a variegation of thought to consider at every smell, taste and turn. Just amazing for the vintage with non-aggressive though confident tenets of structure. A Gran Selezione generally in production of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Giulio Paolini, Pardigma

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto La Casuccia 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Vigneto La Casuccia is a vineyard with different qualities in the stones of the soil and with malvasia nera accumulating another level of spice, even spicy when you taste. The sangiovese nose is deeper in fruit, bricks baked in and in emission of a graphite sensation, with more and differing effects brought on by limestone, though in apposite effect by the Galestro of Bellavista. The acidity is even more striking than what is derived from the adjacent block and the tannin stronger, broader, more obvious though never over-demanding. If apprised in the poetic terms of a haiku, this may deal in the facile of a read while mired in the inability to ascertain ultimate meaning. We’re only in the first incomplete five words at this stage and it will be five more years before we can say the next seven will even enter the discussion. So be patient. As with the Gran Selezione Bellavista the production is generally in the range of four to six thousand bottles. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Anish Kapoor, aima

Castello di Ama L’Apparita 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama L’Apparita IGT Toscana is merlot from atop the Bellavista hill and you just might see an apparition if you wander the rows in the dead of night. In reality, on a clear day when happening upon the vineyard, this is the spot from which the towers of Siena will appear. The first L’Apparita was 1985 so it is this 27th from 2013, with only 2002 and 2012 having been avoided. Merlot ripens earlier than sangiovese so it can be made more often. You recognize it as merlot, not Pomerol, not St. Emilion, not Maremma, but purely from this territory. The quality of acidity is vineyard-terroir driven and the tannins are sweet, plush and broad, different from Casuccia but sill set upon wide-developed shoulders. There is that ubiquitous Ama spice and in L’Apparita, a sense that tar is a factor and roses a quotient down the road. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli is Chianti Classico’s new renaissance ranger, a man on a mission to not only seek out great terroirs but also to reinvent what can be induced, coaxed, persuaded and realized from his denizens of field and plantation. Though Castello di Gabbiano’s portfolio is a massive project with scopic reach, Cerelli never rests on complacency, laurels or sales figures. There is no settling for average at Gabbiano or the blasé delivery of unexciting wines just because you’ve already earned the trust of your buyers. If a Gabbiano owned or managed vineyard in Mercatale Val di Pesa requires the cash to improve the health of the vines or to rip out and replant, than it is done. Can there be a finer example of commercial scope meeting artigianale than the quixotic and obsessive Castello di Gabbiano?

About his masterpiece novel F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful, simple and intricately patterned.” Like the vineyards of Gabbiano but also a project in Radda in Chianti that is Federico’s new baby, that being the remarkable IGT Toscana work at Poggio di Guardia with Stefano di Blasi. It is there on a storied plot and historical estate where they are producing sangiovese with cabernet, merlot and amphora raised rebo. Cerelli can thank the work he’s put in at Gabbiano and the team who support his endeavours for this springboard to something exciting and new.

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

A return visit to the 12th century Castello di Gabbiano touches an estate and a castle that remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century. After it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence, it was converted of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. I have had the pleasure to taste with winemaker Federico Cerelli, Managing Director Ivano Reali and Marketing Director Silvia Bottelli on several occasions and this most recent sit-down focused on vertical looks at Riserva and Gran Selezione. Ivano is responsible for directing the complete renewal of all estate vineyards including new plantings and managed improvements to the estate’s winemaking facilities and practices. At the start of our visit Federico drove us to the ridge opposite and to the east of the castle and winery to gain a clearer ante-understanding of Gabbiano’s soil types, slopes, aspects and exposures. Looking at the blocks you can intuit how the two men work side by side with meticulous attention, verging on obsessive, to focus on agriculture and how it connects to winemaking. Federico and Ivano are in constant analytic contact with the vineyards and corresponding production methods. There is no rest for these two. Later on our discussion on Gabbiano and Chianti Classico carried over to dinner at the estate’s restaurant, Il Cavaliere. These are my notes on the seven wines poured.

Triumvirate #chianticlassico Riserva and Gran Selezione verticals at @castgabbiano with Federico Cerelli 2011-2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The consistency of the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva continues in 2015 and it is becoming increasingly impossible to find matchable quality at this price level. The 2015 is a Riserva of extreme youth, really grippy, full, extracted and liquid chalky rich. Don’t misunderstand or be duped because this ’15 isn’t brighter than the more than surprising ’14. It is not a question of stepping back from success and time will be a factor for both longevity and the preservation of freshness. So it is a matter of vintage. This carries an early and spicy sangiovese wisdom and this will serve it well. It’s frankly a bit hot right now but that too will relax. With each passing year another rung is ascended up the CCR ladder forged by the Federico Cerelli and Ivano Reali Gabbiano union. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Now tasting with winemaker Federico Cerelli he says he wasn’t even sure he would make Riserva out of 2014 but with more skin contact and longer maceration he was able to add some structure. The depth is the thing. This will age much longer than most would choose to give it credit for.  Last tasted September 2017

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The advanced character is minor but poignant, as expected and predicted. A touch of balsamic, softness and richness.  Last tasted September 2017

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.  Last tasted September 2017

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Quite antithetical to the bookends of 2011 and 2013 this feels a bit cooked and raisined at this stage though it’s certainly a different sort of vintage and forged from a deferential set of structure parameters. Enjoy earlier while the others work their slower evolutions.  Last tasted September 2017

Sangiovese all in, 100 per cent pure-blood and nothing but new barrels to round off every divergence, angle and edge. Expectations demand secondary characteristics from such a bella Chianti and this piccolo Gran Selezione delivers. In 2012 it over-delivers, already hinting at tertiary aromas and flavours, leathery, cedary and potent. Due to its advancing ways it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, albeit carried by a knight on a beautiful horse. It’s a joust we should all be willing to wage in the near to medium term, especially if a Florentine steak or double cut-veal chop are part of the battle. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Gabbiano’s Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011 in 2017 is a treat of timing and perhaps the advantage is unfair, also for having already tasted 2012 and 2013 on two occasions each. The slings, arrows and raptures of experience offer perspective for having waited out this Chianti Classico borne of a hottish and dry season. Now having gained another two years in bottle it has benefited from the integration and the settling. I really get true sangiovese character, savoury, tart, energetic but certainly sheathed in more new barrel than the more recent and scaled back vibrant 2013. Really chewy, this ’11 has come together in such an amenable and fortuitous way. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

Gabbiano Dark Knight 2016, IGT Toscana (Agent, $17.99, WineAlign)

Dark Knight is cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Tuscan coast with some estate sangiovese, It’s lush, dark, silky with a little bit of residual sugar (7 g/L). Fruity, simple, faintly sweet and for so many commercial purposes, it’s a slam dunk. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

Characterizing Chianti Classico as a most heterogeneous wine region is substantiated by the multiplicity of its sangiovese and the endless permutations of soil. 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. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. Panzano in Chianti exists inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti and while it is not the only sub-zone of its kind, at this triennial level of the pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all. For good reason.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Panzano is the first consolidated district for organic wine production in Italy and in which 90 per cent of its vineyards are grown according to the criteria of organic viticulture. There are other tertiary Chianti Classico zones associated with the hamlet they surround, like the aforementioned Lamole and Montefioralle in Greve, Vagliagli in Castelnouvo Berardenga and Monti in Gaiole. These towns, the vineyards and associated producers are tied by a parochial set of idiosyncrasies but they’ve yet to coagulate into an equally unified level of coercion that is found in Panzano. That being said, in Panzano there are both practical and political decisions that charge some producers to remain on the fence or even outside the tight circle of the area’s union. These kinds of decisions work two ways, whether you are in or out, dentro o fuori dal territorioThe question is whether or not diplomacy would lead to greater success for all involved. Does the group need the high-profile individual or the individual the high-profile group?

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Either way you look at it, there is no denying that a band of brothers and sisters sharing information and mapping out their territory together is beneficial, especially towards defining the finest vineyards. The dividing lines in Chianti Classico are very difficult to establish because one always has to be wary of possible arguments over where a certain cru vineyard ends and another, lesser plot begins. If you ask the 19 members, Panzano is less prone to such argumentation. Besides, producers will speak their minds, but they may not always be able or willing to tell us exactly what we need to know. It’s ultimately a question of menzioni geografiche, or geographical notations, especially on wine labels, to tie the wines to place of origin. For Panzano the idea seems quite obvious with a playing field more equal than most but it’s not necessarily so simple for other frazioni in the region. Chianti Classico is fragmented and diverse with municipalities that may not always be homogeneously or consistently representative in terms of terroir or production style.

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Related – Castellina in golden light

The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level. Today there are 19 member producers of the Unione Viticoltori Panzano; Candialle, Casaloste, Castello dei Rampolla, Cennatoio, Fattoria La Quercia, Fatttoria Rignana, Fontodi, Il Molino di Grace, Il Palagio, L’Orcio a Ca’ di Pesa, La Massa, Le Cinciole, Le Fonti, Monte Bernardi, Panzanello, Renzo Marinai, Tenuta degli Dei, Vecchie terre di Montefili, Vignole and Villa Cafaggio. There are 91 producers in Greve, 31 of those are in Panzano. The 12 non-members are Carobbio, Vallone di Cecione, San Cresci, Sassolini, Reggine, La Marcellina, Le Bocce, Il Vescovino, Festeggiata, Fattoria Casenuove, Fattoria Montagliari and Campocorto.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

“To ensure for themselves a healthy environment the wine makers decided to take the path of sustainable and organic viticulture, which allowed to enhance aromas, flavors, character and personality of the wines, produced exclusively from grapes of their vineyards” are the words of Ruggero Mazzilli, an agronomist with experience in viticulture biodiversity, who since 2000 has been working with the Panzano Association.  In a Chianti Classico world where drawing lines along commune or sub-zone borders fails to recognize the multi-faceted and variegated intendments of geology, it is Panzano that suggests  borders can be drawn by “fellow producers to organise their individual communes and sub-commune designations under their own respective unions, as Panzano in Chianti has already done.” The argument can be made not just one way or the other, but in so many ways. I am no genius nor close to the first to perpetuate the idea that drawing borders along any definable lines in Chianti Classico is a very complicated subject. This is why we continue to seek the truth in the villages.

Complimenti @johnszabo for riding 87 kms #granfondo @chianticlassico #gallonero looking fresh and refreshed post lunch at #osterialapanzanelle

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and I had arrived from Budapest after three volcanic days (in many and every respects) in Hungary. We arrived in Castellina to the sounds and sights of race cars before settling in at Pierafitta. The following morning John competed in the Gran Fondo del Gallo Nero and with great Canadian representation completed the 87 kilometre Media Fondo in world-class time. Congratulazioni Gian Burrasca. Non siamo degni. Meanwhile Brad, Steve Robinson and Godello joined Il Molino di Grace’s Iacopo Morganti for a preview of the 2017 infant sangiovese straight from the tank, followed by a walk through Vigne Raphaella, Magdalena and Jae, culminating with a new look meets retrospective tasting in IMG’s brand new tasting room.

Gian Burrasca

A few days later we returned to Panzano for a morning spent with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi. A full report on that visit is chronicled in a link below. Later that afternoon we concluded our week-long Chianti Classico visit with Dario Faccin at Carrobio. This is the fifth instalment (of seven) reports concerning communes and sub-zones in Chianti Classico. In total I’ve written 24 notes on wines poured by these three Panzano producers. Enjoy.

Newly planted Carrobio Sangiovese vineyard on a dramatic Galestro slope

Carobbio

Related – Caro Carobbio

If my first visit with Dario Faccin was a profound and moving experience than my second Panzano summons later last calendar year could only be thought of as an epiphanic. In round one and nearing the conclusion of an epic lunch prepared by Chef Claudia, it was then that Faccin poured three acroamatic sangiovese blasts from the past in the forms of Chianti Classico 1997, 1991 and Leone 1995. In my Carobbio report I wrote “a great honour to taste this 1995 and in memory of Carlo Novarese, Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years.” Though I was making reference to the age of Leone (and also a nod back in time to my 1995 Chianti Classico honeymoon) I was also making comment on the ideas of fortuity and generosity. I could not have known that I would return to Toscana seven months later and this time to be present when Dario chose to open both a 1990 and a 1982 Chianti Classico. Collectively these five 1980-90s sangiovese have shed so much light on evolution and on what Dario is setting out to accomplish at Carrobio. As you may have noticed, Carobbio is not part of the UVP.

A walk in the newly planted sangiovese vineyard tells me everything I need to know. The dramatic Galestro slope captures humidity in spite of drought conditions to keep infant vines alive with vital growth in their earliest formative years. This fruit will be a Chianti Classico game changer. It all begins with the rocks and soil of these über-specific Panzano vineyards. It moves into the winery where Carobbio’s position as protector and purveyor of sangiovese purity and honesty reigns over all else. It concludes in the wisdom and generosity of the annate wines, with consistency and focus.

Tenuta Carobbio Rosato Terrarossa 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

Rosato Terra Rossa is the same 100 per cent sangiovese in 2016, from the red soil vineyard, a child of 15 days fermentation to a maximum 15 degrees of temperature and ultimately dry as the desert. The specs and methodology turn forth a classic blush of aridity, acidity and minerality; 6.0 tA, 3.35 pH, no malo, cooled down to six degrees after fermentation and one month on the lees. Dario Faccin lays it out clear and simple. “For me this is a wine, not an aperitif.” It is in fact built on character that lies between Rosé and the light Rosso; sapid, saline, rich and textured. Full of dry extract, perfect for lunch. La prossima annata may be even better. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @ 

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $58.95, WineAlign

A 100 per cent sangiovese from three vineyards in which Galestro, clay and Alberese each contribute by percentage of 30,30 and 10 towards an inextricably calculated Carobbio sangiovese in reward. Variegated for multiplicity purposes while complicit in even ripeness meets high and polished acidity. Once again the salty sapidity and the highest of polyphenolic qualities adds up to density, extract and layering. This wine will not turn secondary for at least five years and certainly not tertiary for 15. The composition and composure are one in the same and continue to repeat over and upon one another.  Last tasted September 2017.

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027. Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Sangiovese as Leone sees 20 months in new French barriques and a minimum eight months in bottle. “I have only one child. This is my second son,” smiles Dario Faccin. The prodigal sangiovese is seductive, spicy and intense from south exposed vines, at the time 35 years of age. The Carrobbio extract meets ripe acidity is unquestioned and on repeat albeit with an extra note of conceit, attitude, promise and as a cumulative, ultimate respect. The first vintage was 1989. Last tasted September 2017.

Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Pietraforte 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Pietraforte as cabernet sauvignon and its splash of cabernet franc is Carobbio’s ode to the Tuscan name for Galestro rock. Less than 1000 bottles were made and though it is a son or a daughter from French mothers, it is impossible to take the Panzano vineyard out of the wine. The varietal notes of Cassis and graphite are here, as is a pyrazine-savour but the sapidity and extraction of a Dario Faccin wine talks with clarity, even while thjs very dense young wine is so many years away from speaking loud and clear. The new wood is in charge, the perfume a bit closed and the tannins demanding more than the rest. Three years are needed, at the base minimum.  Last tasted September 2017

Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990 and 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

I love the irony of Dario Faccin choosing to open a 1990 and a 1982, two vintages from when Italy hosted (1990) and won (1982) the FIFA World Cup. Ironic because the next tournament will be the first without the great footballing nation for the first time since 1958. The 1990 Chianti Classico is from an exceptional vintage, in fact there are many who feel the finest 1990s are some of the best CCs ever made. The youth on this bottle is dumbfounding, still in full possession of the freshness originally locked in by the sweet and optimally extracted sangiovese fruit. This is the school of Vittorio Fiore and the vintage is a great contrast to the 1991 Riserva that we tasted seven months prior. In 1990 it’s so much more about fruit quality and though the acidity continues to lift and execute, the tones here are less floral, not as bright and fruit is a matter of pure thought. The innocence, clarity and luck of time and place is on display in this capsule. What more can you say? Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

Everyone knows that 1982 was one of Italy’s greatest years in the 20th century. Their beloved Azzuri won the FIFA World Cup 3-1 over West Germany and the wines were pretty darn good all over the boot. It was the final match of Group C stage play that may have been one of the most dramatic, exciting and famous because Italy won 3–2 with Italian striker Paolo Rossi scoring a hat-trick. The result eliminated Brazil. Meanwhile the only thing that matters right now about 1982 with respect to this Chianti Classico is how it shows and I’m overwhelmed with emotion to say it’s perfect. By now we’ve come to know that Dario Faccin demands a mentality of excellence, emotion and soul. He would not open a 1982 and a 1990 were they unable to meet expectations and deliver an intelligent quotient of age. These were and remain great and structured sangiovese to this day. This 1982 is full of fruit, like cherries preserved in cryogenic syrup and violets captured at the height of their scent, only to be released when the wine is poured into the glass. If this vintage was at all austere it could only have been for the benefit of guarding the fruit so that its purity and original virility and viridity could be revealed again and again, as it has here in 2017. Remarkable showing for a piece of Gallo Nero history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

48 hours @chianticlassico picked Sept 22, #sangiovese so primary, for breakfast @ilmolinodigrace

Il Molino Di Grace

For a full report on the history and current production at Il Molino di Grace please click on the following link.

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

Back in @chianticlassico with the progressivo, non dogmatico #sangiovese @ilmolinodigrace #volano #panzano #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #ilmargone #gratius

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Have yet to encounter an Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico that was not deeply hued, refreshing and spirited. Nor has there be one not designed to drink early but 2015 refuses to be left on the racks. It’s a progeny of upbringing in large Slovenian casks with zero panoply by wood addendum, of freshness kept and preserved. The spice is indubitable sangiovese and the tannins are wistful ones. There is some chewy constitution, more than most 15s and those dreamy tannins have texture too, chalky and fine yet grainy, with a fine grated finish of good dark chocolate shavings. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Now in a great place, fresh, direct, focused, clear, nothing to hide. This tells us right now why we should be more than satisfied with normale in ’14, with or without needing Riserva, because with no Gran Selzione and much of the Gratius grapes ending up in here you have a most impressive wine, with great structure.  Last tasted September 2017

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Il Volano 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Il Volano is a new label for the house, the wheel of the windmill, “il volano di molino” and also really, the name of the place as a whole. It brings together sangiovese (75 per cent) and merlot, raised only stainless steel, for a chill and a quick spill. Here from a vintage that gets better with some young age added, perhaps now at its best so this is a wine to drink, with little to no thinking required. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

It bears remembering that Il Molino’s Gran Selezione is the kind of Chianti Classico that remains in perpetual motion, of a consistency and of guarantees, like gravity and tides, from vintage to vintage. It is the embodiment of water passing over stone, like the windmill it carries in its name and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before, like the water and after, on the vine and in the barrel. Saw the same 18 months in barriques, the selection having long before begun in the vineyard. Violets are all over this very young GS, the elegant one, but typically tannic and while ’13 is very good, it seems to be showing its cards early. This is a surprise and a welcome thought because there needs to be one Il Margone to enjoy while other more fierce vintages take their sweet time to unfold. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February and September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

The 2011 is persistent, that much is obvious, in a hulking, Gran Selezione monstrous state, big in alcohol and bones. A curious and precocious chocolate-balsamic secondary note is just faintly starting to peek through, teasing the idea of drying the fruit by nature and leading towards the beginning of a savoury ascent. This may really take hold ahead of schedule, perhaps at some point in the latter stages of 2019.  Lasted tasted September 2017

What is Il Margone? “This is the best selection. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end,” explains Iacopo Morganti, director of Il Molino di Grace. The name must also refer to the particular construction of the vineyard at Montefili, on Panzano’s west side, of its altitude, slope and the Galèstro within. Il Margone is a kind of wine for the (Molino) windmill, where the water goes over the stone and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before and after, on the vine and in the barrels. Now it can be called what is has been whereas before it was the second Riserva but the more important one, the best one. It now spends 18 months in barriques, 50 per cent new and 18,000 bottles are made. It runs deeper still, far through the Galèstro and into the pietra forte, for the cementing of strong sangiovese (not just religious buildings). From the hot vintage of 2011 and with the alcohol to prove it (14.5 per cent), there is an inherent sense of yeasty culture, a sheep’s milk pecorino that runs through the warmth. It functions as a cooling centre, then compression, layered spice and tannin. That late attack co-conspires with acidity to freeze the mouthfeel and seek years of patient desire. Really energetic Sangiovese, iron-fisted and demanding but with so much seeping cherry fruit. Wait four years minimum. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Sangiovese and Galestro at Il Molino di Grace in Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Gratius 2012 is not the bomb that was (and still is) 2011, from the single, 70 year-old vineyard located seven kilometres away from the estate. Many of those vines are still thriving, with the hope to keep grafting for the purpose of perpetuating the biotypes through future plantings on the estate. Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with bits of canaiolo and colorino that spent 12 months in barriques. It’s always a chunky and tannic affair, of savoury red fruit but the nose here is more beautiful now, finally, as Gratius has scaled back just enough to be beautiful. When it’s now dry in the right way and not bent to steal anything from you or your palate it then reveals the chivalry and the charm. Lovely work here from the Bernabei-Morganti-Grace group. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’Oro, Panzano

Fontodi

To read my full report on this September 2017 visit with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi please click the following link.

Related – Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

Sangiovese of Fontodi

Fontodi Meriggio 2016, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale, Italy (WineAlign)

Meriggio is 100 per cent La Rota vineyard sauvignon blanc, whole cluster pressed with native yeasts, 75 per cent stainless steel ferment, no malo, 15 per cent in amphora and 10 per cent in French barriques. That said, without temperature control some malo, like it, happens. To go to Meriggio means to go and have a rest in the shade, from the verb meriggiare in reference to the (not Tuscan) poet Eugenio Montale, “merrigiare pallidio e assorto.” Empty is the literal translation but it’s more a case of the unoccupied mind at rest. Sauvignon should always be so calm and yet spirited, here with little to no oxidative character but rather metallurgy, saltiness and pure tang. The leesy reductive environment and Panzano acidity conspire with calcaire for a demonstrative locution. Bloody delicious sauvignon blanc for the man in me. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. It’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

The old Lamole winery is owned by Giovanni Manetti’s cousins, where the grandfather made important wines until he passed away in the 80s and the grapes were then sold to bulk. Then Giovanni began working with the family in the 2000s and this first vintage was ready because the finesse of 2014 spoke to him, to begin the new journey. This has seriously improved, settled, come together, developed its excellence with seven months added in time to bottle. Its characters of amaro, earth and texture are now as one, inseparable and fully vested in the calm. Drink 2017-2023.  Last tasted September 2017

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now.  Tasted February 2017

Father and son- Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti @fontodi #panzano #chianticlassico

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

The older vines are between 52 and 54 years old, the first vintage being 1985 and until 2011, contained some cabernet sauvignon, vines that have since been pulled out. The now site-specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo may have been muscular in 2012 but no such hyperbole exists in 2014. The vintage determined this and despite the deep black cherry chalkiness the true spirit and stripped down honesty of sangiovese is in display. Purity has returned, floral like an artistically-rendered natural, realist and perpetual field of flowers in bloom, in installation, of violet light and rose-scented glass. I can imagine drinking this for decades, with its albarese-galestro saltiness and effortless concentration. Sometimes sangiovese never relents and at the same time never tires. Meraviglioso. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $81.00, WineAlign)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2013. (Takes deep breath). Just imagine a box filled with all things sangiovese, in all its incarnations and permutations, each aspect teaching something about what you need to know. History, legacy and tradition. Risk taking, forward thinking and progress. What is learned (in retrospect) from two poles; heat and power (2012) and cool savour and elegance (2014). The ’13 is not a matter of being in between but rather an exceptionality, a sangiovese of energy, precision, clarity, purity and a pure reflection in the window of honesty. Everything this vineyard can offer is in the 2013; florals, herbs, fruit, acidity and fine, fine tannin. All in, together, as one. Perhaps its best years will end sooner than 2014 but the time spent will be unparalleled. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna Del Sorbo 1986, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Fontodi’s Vigna del Sorbo was obviously not a Gran Selezione designated Chianti Classico in 1986 but it was at the top of the pyramid. A sangiovese in which the acids and fine pear bitters stir in the tray, with a fruit from the (Sorbo) tree that was used to mix with grapes for Vin Santo. Not any more. In 2017 the freshness is impossible, implausible, perpetuated in the most floral and fine acidity combination of any older sangiovese ever experienced. This is like sucking on the most perfect lozenge of fruit, salt, mineral and Panzano mystery. This is Panzano sapidity perfectly realized, preserved and expressed. There is a touch of Cassis, less pyrazine but you can detect the cabernet sauvignon character, even in 10 per cent but combined with sangiovese it’s this frutta di bosco feeling. Just fantastic. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, WineAlign)

Flaccianello comes off of a different slope, aspect and exposition than Vigna del Sorbo, here facing straight south, collecting all the sun it can in the golden glow of the Conca d’Oro. The richness celebrates the legacy of this 100 per cent sangiovese, once so atypical and untraditional back in 1981, now the most legacy defining there may just be for varietal Panzano and for the territory in the sense of the greater good. Pure, nonpartisan just, unadulterated and perfectly powerful sangiovese with length from Firenze to Siena and back. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, BCLDB 55392, $109.99, WineAlign)

The Flaccianello is the Fontodi expression of uva nostrala, “our grape,” explains Giovanni Manneti, the most important local variety owned by Chianti Classico, protected and exalted by Fontodi. Sangiovese the solo act that must define Gran Selezione, to explain what is Chianti Classico in its purest form and to separate how it grows and what wine it produces, particularly when you are to compare it from commune to commune. This Flaccianello separates itself from the Vigna del Sorbo vineyard and Gran Selezione category, even from itself, with another bonafide elegant layer of Conca d’Oro stratified limestone richness and this ultra-savoury umami level of minty-herbal intensity. What else is there to say? Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2006, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tell it to the vintage perhaps but 2006 is so very floral, more than any Flaccianello in the memory bank and expressly sangiovese in temper. It’s a year with massive tannins and extreme acidity. For these reasons there is a tightness of being and even at 10-plus years it’s silly young to work with but the concentration impresses. Fruit at a premium indicates some citrus, in orange and lemon with compound interest calculated in further variegated acidity. The most sapid Flaccianello of them all has 15 years more initial development ahead before true secondary character will take over. It’s amazing when you stop to think about sangiovese of such structure. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted April 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“This is the vintage I open when I host a party or an important dinner, because no one asks me to open it.” The words are Giovanni Manetti’s and for him none truer are spoken, with a smile. The younger vines and super-selection from the “Bricco” part of the top of the hill in the exceptional vineyard make for a sangiovese of fine-grained tannin plus what the smallest berries of the smallest bunches gift. Their integration with wood has become a matter of balance, in terms of delicasse, even while supported by such structure. Secondary character is happening, in herbal, balmy and savoury, slightly pulsed and edging into balsamico. But it’s such a gentle and slow-sliding slope, years yet away from tertiary. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

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Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Two weeks from today I will make my way back to Toscana for another week-long immersion into all things sangiovese. More to the apposite point is a furthered plan for thorough if recondite excavations into the stone-cold secrets of Galestro, Alberese and other stratified limestone soils in Chianti Classico’s sub-zones. The preoccupation concerns communes, an instinct to break down the greater territory into its parts and a continued look at fissures and faults underfoot. It’s a matter of deeper understanding and meaning.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. This is the fourth edition in an ongoing series meant to encompass and expand upon definable territories in the municipalities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. This report is a by-product of the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini, Event Manager Christine Lechner and Caterina Mori, Marketing and Communications.

Look Ma, I’m on top of the #chianticlassico #albarese at Tenuta Mocenni, Bindi Sergardi

I’ve come to consider Castelnuovo Berardenga the outlier for Chianti Classico, not for being so unlike the other constituents but because of its location and size. As the largest of the communes it covers 177 square kilometres while only Greve and its 169 square kilometres comes close in total area. When you drive out from Siena or Castellina the approach is most efficiently taken along highways and larger roads. This in great contrast to the switchback and zig-zagging over winding roads connecting proximate sub-zones like Radda, Gaiole, Greve, Panzano and Castellina. Castelnuovo Berardenga also forms much of Chianti Classico’s southern border and there is this particularly striking contrast between its hills and soils in opposition to the ulterior geography and geology of Chianti Colli Senesi below. There is also a feeling of the great wide open, of vast expanses and a great big sky.

All aboard the Alberese with the intrepid Brad Royale

Related – Castellina in golden light

A little bit of history. Berardenga took its district name from the noble Frankish Berardo who lived in the second half of the 10th century. His lineage follows that of Guinigi, Count of Sienna. The family Berardenga reigned over a vast area of the eastern part of the territories of Sienna (Terra Berardinga) between the 10th and 13th centuries. In 1366 the government of Sienna decided to construct the castle of Castelnuovo in the centre in this important territory. It was soon assaulted by the Florentine army but not successful until 1554 with the annexation of all the Sienna territories to the Duchy of the Medici. Montaperti in the municipality of Castelnuovo was the theatre of the battle of  September 4th, 1260 which saw the victory of the Sienna Ghibellines over the Florentine troops and their Guelph allies.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S. at Villa a Sesta. The Italian job or TJ Hooker?

Today there are 54 estates (out of 580 total members) in the district, a number that is surprisingly small when you consider the vastness of the territory. Castelnuovo Berardenga is the commune with sweeping vistas, views of Siena’s towers in the distance and with crests of hills that on some mornings sit perched above the clouds. It’s a very powerful landscape with a tremendous amount of wind, less shelter than most and a place you often feel small and vulnerable to the elements and the power of the place. It’s also home to some of the most impressive Galestro and Alberese soils in all of Chianti Classico. In Castelnuovo Berardenga, even the size of these limestone variant boulders seem bigger.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

I’ve been extremely fortunate to pay some unforgettable visits to estates in Castelnuovo Berardenga in the recent past, including Losi Querciavalle with Valeria and Pietro Losi and twice with Andrea Bianchi Bandinelli at Villa di Geggiano. On my most recent trip back in September 2017 I was joined by John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and Steven Robinson for three calls within the district. I tasted and reviewed 21 wines at Bindi Sergardi, Fèlsina and Villa a Sesta. Here are the notes.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi introduces the Mocceni Estate

Bindi Sergardi

A family run business for 23 generations, the estate has long been in the hands of Nicolò Casini, grandson of Elisabetta Bindi Sergardi. It is his daughter Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi’s turn, after joining in 2005, she now leads the company into the future. The Mocenni Estate near Vagliagli is without exception one of the most beautiful spots in Castelnuovo Berardenga but there are so many others reasons to say it too occupies a place at the breathtaking locus pinnacle for all of Chianti Classico. What transpires in the aura and sphere of a Bindi Sergardi visit is memorable. First a pause on the road to stand amidst the wild fennel, above the clouds and gaze out towards Siena’s spires in the deep distance. Then a walk in La Ghirlanda Vineyard with the Alberese, Galestro and the sirenic Bindi Sergardi in disssertative delivery on history, change and expectation. Finally a tasting through these wines of fineness, harmony and passion with Alessandra and Giulia Bernini.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Ghirlanda makes reference to the woods “the shape of a garland,” in a CC of 100 per cent sangiovese (and the first as such for the estate). This is a form of the purest vineyard expression, a vintage “da manuale,” a vineyard in the amphitheatre, from part organic and part inorganic plots, halfway up the slopes above the Riserva and below the Gran Selezione. Serves memory with clarity in vision, impossibly old school but bright as a passage through the portico into the future could possibly be. These cherries are not only ripe, they are in phenolic harmony. Tannins are so refined on the heels of just as fine acidity. In terms of élévage it was 50 per cent in third passage barriques, plus 50 per cent in cement and/or stainless steel. Only botti grandi will be employed going forward. La Ghirlanda is highly composed, cultured and of calm demeanour in Chianti Classico. The price is approximately $20 US. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @BindiSergardi  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi  @bindisergardi  bindisergardi

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The dark fruit and ripe black cherry with fine acidity and now more vibrant than memory serves from February. Really juicy and forward, a modern sangiovese in retro clothing. It has brightened and improved so will likely age much longer than previously thought. Drink 2017-2022.  Last tasted September 2017

The Castelnuovo Berardenga Ghirlanda vineyard is found on the Mocenni estate, near Vagliagli. The modern palate in search of Riserva in Chianti Classico will want this, of extraction and compression, not to mention density and a sweeping vat of deep black cherry liqueur. A nice mineral streak comes from soil rich in galestro and alberese at 450 meters. in the shadow of Monteriggioni. It’s tart and tannic but of tannins that are already fully engaged, chalky and established in their grip. It’s all in there now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia is Castelnuovo Berardenga CCR from the Vigneto della Signora Chiara on the Mocenni estate near Vagliagli.
The terrain is rich in galestro and albarese stones at an altitude of 450m, a room with a view of the towers and spires of Siena in the distance. The Albarese and Galestro stones variegated into one-third each sand, clay and silt keep the sangiovese faith from what was one of the coldest vintages of the past 20 years. So much rain, especially in June and so this carries higher acidity and tough, fresh tannins, especially for Riserva quality. Here the truer originality of older schooling shows through but again with forward thinking clarity and understanding of a plant’s vegetative cycle. The south exposition and southerly location was a help in 2014. Remarkably a dark cherry from 2014, with depth of fruit and fineness of tannin. Some warmth for sure. Not as much of a departure from the Classica as many CC to CCRs can be. Drink this raven-haired beauty early. Would be approximately $28-32 US. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Szabo and Alberese

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia refers to the marriage of Calidonia Bindi to Sergardi, in a way to say thank you to the people who came before. This expression is so different from what’s to come later on, not quite acetic but much older schooled, with the red citrus sting and dried fruit, the tartness from acidity and the bleed from Albarese and Galestro so obvious, present and accounted for. From a low yielding vintage (which will replay in 2017), and then a real maturation shows up, with very developed grape flavours. This has entered into its drinking window. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Calidonia 2011 is the child of a vintage of few surprises, easy and regular in harvest, with some rains and cooler temperatures in September, helping to elongate maturation. Not as mature or advanced as 2011 mind you, still a bit reductive and even showing some volatility but it really opens with some proper agitation. Quite smooth and yet bright, even tight, tannins present and speaking with an authoritative voice. This will live much longer. Very composed Chianti Classico of terrific structure. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gran Selezione Numero ‘1989’ is consistently 100 per cent sangiovese and here we are in wholly, truly, inexorably inorganic, fully stony soil, from vines planted in 1998. There is this composure and this understanding in Gran Selezione that is at the top of the pyramid chart, a fineness of tannic structure, a roundness of acidity and a perpetual motive and emotive fruit that will not give up or in. This is the Bindi Sergardi expression, sultry and offers up every reason to believe in the category. This is the GS that tells us why and how the top of the quality pyramid begins to be explained, with intrinsic value and great confidence from this 2013 vintage. Approx. $58-62 US. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Numero “1989” 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Bindi Sergardi’s Numero ‘1989’ 2011 is a statuesque sangiovese, cemented in stone, built upon a foundation of Galestro and Albarese. When the possibility of the Gran Selezione category came along it became the perfect dress for a wine that used to be an IGT. The age is a part of it but there is more red citrus, high acidity and rusticity in this sangiovese. The tannin structure is consistent with the later 2013 but this certainly feels like it’s from another era. The window is now and will persist for another three to five years. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bella mattina @felsinawines

Fèlsina

In the spectrum of “winery tours” there are few that can match the breadth of Fèlsina. In May of 2017 I was fortunate to break bread in Toronto with Fèlsina’s Giovanni Poggiali, oldest of Giuseppe’s three sons and current leader of the thousand year-old estate. Arguably the most famous and influential of Castelnuovo Berardenga’s wineries, it is here that many sangiovese clones and rootstocks have been developed, allowing them “to have an infinite palette of nuances and possibilities, much like a painter has infinite shades to work with.” Fèlsina is one of Chianti Classico’s great sangiovese innovators and champions. As Fèlsina goes, so goes Castelnuovo Berardenga and Chianti Classico. Our visit was led by Export Manager Chiara Leonini. A four-wheel trek through the vineyards up to Rancia. A walk through the appassitoio where grapes lay drying to make Vin Santo. A tasting through sparkling, chardonnay, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Fontalloro IGT.

Fèlsina Vino Spumante Di Qualità Brut Metodo Classico, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The zone of production is Chianti Classico, in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga southeast of Siena. Blended from 60 per cent sangiovese with 20 each chardonnay and pinot noir, Fèlsina’s is a gingery, yeasty, rich and textured sparkling wine, definitely not Franciacorta or anything remotely Lombardic. The time wait is 24 months on the lees and not labeled millesimato but rather non-vintage despite indeed being 100 per cent 2014 fruit. A little direct and green with early harvested sangiovese the reason but it’s been transformed in conjunction with the Champagne varietals. The fantasy to make quality sparkling wine, especially in this furthest southerly Chianti area is made into reality by the Fèlsina risk taking, culminating in such delicious and textured reward. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chardonnay I Sistri 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

The sisters is IGT Toscana chardonnay that was first made in 1997. “This is our white wine, with a little bit of history,” says Chiara Leonini, from the ancient instrument sistro, shaken with a sound dedicated to agriculture. Quite a sunshine, golden hue, buttery, almond marzipan-laden chardonnay for the undisputed lover of such a phenomenon. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2015 is forged from a selection drawn off of the eleven parcels on the estate with many soils, clones, expositions and slopes. I can’t help but look at the commune’s name Berardenga and see Fèlsina’s estate plot swept gathering as a grazing sangiovese, from the Italian “radere” or “radente.” Big and medium oak casks are used, mostly Slavonian and eight-ish months in mainly used barriques. This CC is 210 of 480,000 total bottles produced on the estate. It’s certainly not too serious, fresh as need be but still with a thick consistency and a pure, rustic edge. Carries some cure, char and corporeal reality though it’s got its number pointed towards elegance. It was not hard to make great wine in 2015 and yet so many missed the point. Not Fèlsina. This is classic and I mean classico Chianti. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (730788, $29.95, WineAlign)

Still in a closed state of restraint, demure and only now gifting dried herbs, dusty fennel and a bit of char. The time is not yet but much further away for the challenged 2014. The acidity and structure are exceptionally intertwined and it should not be forgotten that with no Rancia made in ’14 the best grapes are here and much dedication is afforded this not oft so serious wine. It’s quite serious in 2014. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

The vineyard takes its name from the historic Rancia farmhouse, once a Benedictine monastery and few if any vineyards in Chianti Classico are equipped with vines as genetically predisposed as here. More recent plantings utilize DNA from massal selections gathered from the old vineyard, a decision not lost on the perpetuation of vine ancestry and classic ability. Rancia is the true Riserva, solely entrenched as such, kept safe from the temptations of Gran Selezione and always antithetical to sangiovese IGT. It’s all good in 2013 and from the stellar season comes one of CC’s most storied Riservas replete with layers of fruit from great parcels, in more wood than almost any brethren or sistren could handle and it amalgamates, integrates and ultimately transcends the sangiovese-Riserva continuum with seamless ease. The curative, hung long for slow development style brings such restrained power, exercised finesse and unbridled energy. This will live 20 years easy. These are wines of acumen and of a deep and pure understanding of sangiovese, Alberese and Galestro soil. Bravo Giovanni. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2005, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (82362, $55.75, WineAlign)

Rancia 2005 is an astute choice to follow-up the exceptional 2013, here from a warm year and it shows but it’s just as if everything has drawn further in, the fruit drying but keeping its flavour, its charm and its delicasse. The acid-tannin structure has not really changed, or so it seems because its composition was simply right and nothing seemingly can break it down. There is the secondary notion that imagines compressed and condensed balsamico but it has not yet even come close to syrup or liqueur. These sangiovese clones do not go there. It’s a special biotype and the farmers who have worked it surely have known what to do with it. “It was an ethical choice.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $208.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia 2011 is clearly designed to be different and unlike 99 per cent of the other wines in the category. Fèlsina’s shows the most restraint meets elegance in power shown by a 2011 GS, a year where big, grand, brooding and robust is usually the name of the game, order and direction. Not at Fèlsina where melting, integrating and implosive intensification is wrapped inside the great sangiovese enigma. Here the dusty, curative, floral and herbal aromas are expressive but the flavours, tannins and acidity are a kept group. The energy is controlled and the length is outstanding. “Our idea of Gran Selezione is this one,” tells Chiara Leonini. Was an IGT in 2006 and then GS in 2009. There are 3000 bottles produced, in wooden cases, kept separate and special. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Fèlsina Fontalloro 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

Fontalloro 2013 is not as much of a departure as most IGT, here the consistency of biotype and what you do with your exceptional grapes is followed with the same clarity, finesse and detailed instruction. The grapes come from vineyards straddling the border between Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi denomination, bringing sandy, loamy, silty with pebbles and marine sediments into the calcareous Alberese and Galestro make-up. The variegation means the broadest of sangiovese expression for Fèlsina. Marvellously rendered and structured, no holes, seamless transitions and the ease with which fine acidity and even more fineness of tannin work as one. When understanding comes freely and easy like this you know there are reasons why the sangiovese universe does sometimes align. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Tasting at Fèlsina

Villa A Sesta

Villa a Sesta, the name of the ancient Castelnuovo Berardenga village and also the winery owned by Riccardo Tattoni, Founder of CIGP Group. The hamlet lies along the provincial road that leads to Brolio in Gaiole. Until the mid ninth century it belonged to the Berardenga counts and in 1882 their estate was assigned to the San Salvatore Abbey in Campi, known as ‘della Berardenga’. Written evidence regarding the Church of Santa Maria in Villa a Sesta dates as far back as the eight century and it was once a subsidiary of the hamlet of San Felice. Our visit began with one of the greatest meals in my life time at L’Asinello Ristorante in the village of Villa a Sesta. Sales Director Franco Russo led us through mini verticals of Il Palei CC, CC Riserva and VAS IGT Toscana. We then followed to the winery for some barrel sample tastings with Technical Director Roberto Ciani.

Tasting through Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Il Palei, perhaps translated as the “ancient geological one” is 100 per cent sangiovese and nosing it side by side with ’13 the similarity is quite striking. Dusty fennel pollen and also the earth and stone, friable, crumbled in the air. Tart and black cherry flavours dominate. Shows off the work of the enologist Marco Mazzarrini from Alto Adige who toiled in the Bolgheri and began working with Villa a Sesta in 2011, so now there is a lighter, less pressed, more floral (here violets) perfume. Here in the southeast butterfly wing of the Castelnuovo Beradenga territory. Opens with time and develops more charm, character and length. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana # 7- L’Asinello Ristorante’s Tarragon pesto risotto con funghi porcini

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013 shows the same dusty reserve as ’14 and is not so giving, especially for the vintage. A bit more compressed, even a bit more pressed and intense, from sites at 450m with Galestro in the soil. There is a calm about it even while the intensity climbs but there is not much fruit because of so many early immovable parts. Plenty of stone and earth but the fruit is hidden away. Yet there is a lightness and a brightness, hard to explain but there. Also like ’14 opens after some time, with near secondary notes on the precipice. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Villa a Sesta’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 is a great example of the conundrum in some 13s, acting quite reserved (as per the house style) but also quite dramatic and volatile, yet miles from reductive. Tart red citrus meets currants and pomegranate on the direct attitude of the palate, with etches of dark black fruit and yet there are these hidden aromatic violets hiding in the wings. Waiting on integration and fleshing would be a smart move. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #8 – L’Asinello Ristorante’s Nastri di cioccolato, gel di zafferano e mango

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.99, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 is the richer of the two (tasted side by side with 2013) for sure. Still there is the dark black cherry fruit and violet aromatic undertones, also the one pressed deeper and with the wood felt stronger, though with less vintage-determined volatile behaviour it comes by this character honestly. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Godello with L’Asinello Chef Senio Venturi and Elisa Bianchini

Villa A Sesta VAS 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2013, as in Villa a Sesta, here clearly modern, with what just has to be cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It’s flat-out juicy, Cassis and mulberry laden, yeah, so juicy from wild berry flavours. Just a touch more cabernet is would seem (maybe 60 per cent), internationally styled and really clean, transparent even and did I say juicy? Spent 18 months in barriques but it’s not woody whatsoever. Turns on an about-face dime away from the sangiovese as much as any estate thus far but in the finest possible way. It is not possible not to find some enjoyment in this wine, even while it sheds or celebrates any regional character. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Villa a Sesta

Villa A Sesta VAS 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Vas Toscana IGT 2012 is quite similar to ’13 but with a slightly higher acidity and consequently more località or sense of place. It would seem that ’13 is purely a sangiovese vintage while ’12 finds a way to elevate the Bordeaux. A bit of roasted or braised meat flavour, with spice. Hard to say but that is what this wine tells us. Really shows the step up in quality with ’13. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Rancia Vineyard at Fèlsina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Each time I travel to Chianti Classico the conversation regarding sub-zones rises closer to the surface. The deep and profound understanding of sangiovese as contributing to the greater good and power of Chianti Classico will not soon be superseded but producers are increasingly adamant about presenting their wines in the context of località and cru classificata. An annata is coming soon from which the names of both commune and village will proudly by worn on the bottle. With time comes change, however slowly, as necessity draws nearer and clearer into focus.

Granted there are some exceptions in Chianti Classico where fruit from neighbouring communes get together to make a Chianti Classico blend, so to speak, but these examples are few and far between. The Gallo Nero producers own, farm and harvest grapes from estate vineyards surrounding or in very close proximity to their production facilities. Chianti Classico is a highly territorial place, protected to the ultimate end of and by a family’s (or a custodian’s thereof) genealogy, history and legacy. As the region continues its march into the most modern of golden age there is a palpable and emotional push to celebrate the places within the place.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

The thinking or imagining about the landscape of Chianti Classico is more often than not acquiesced by a general feeling of winding roads through hilly landscapes, verdant vineyards and lines upon lines of cypress trees leading up drives to Etruscan estates. Generally speaking there is plenty of truth in such a conjuring but the distinct vistas, angles, geologies and visually speaking, the casts of light are so very different from one collateral enclave to the next. In Castellina there is a sense of wide open space and undulation you just don’t find in neighbouring lands. Borders are shared with Castelnuovo Berardenga to the southeast, Radda to the east, Greve to the north and Barberino Val d’Elsa to the northwest.  There can’t help but be some venn diagram drawn circles to adduce commonalities with neighbouring communes but Castellina is unique to itself and to its 66 producers associated with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. In many respects and though it may be a generalization to say so, the sangiovese of Castellina are of the most lush, full-bodied and modern wines in the region. There is a thread that runs through, deep, mature and wise, an echelon of tangibility, from umbrage through illumination to loop a Castellina character from beginning to end and back again. The circle always returns to a point where Castellina is bathed in golden light.

This past September an ambassadorial group of Canadians paid visits to three historical properties in Castellina in Chianti. John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello took another step into the world of understanding, unearthing and disseminating the particular characteristics of communes and in the case of Castellina the epiphany was found in the consistency of the wines. It may be abstract to say but the Chianti Classico found here offer the greatest probability of correctness, high quality and regional guarantee. Read these 21 notes from Bibbiano, Castello di Fonterutoli and Rocca delle Macie, then judge for yourself.

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

My second visit in as many years with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reinforced the duality of landscape and sangiovese personality that the highly cerebral and zealous winemaker accepts, cherishes and celebrates through his wines. Bibbiano’s extraordinarily unique plateau position is a place of great dichotomy. The vines of Montornello slides gracefully down on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. “With glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.”

We tasted eight wines with Tommaso, some of which were revisits for me. He also shared three new vintage samples, first a 2016 barrel pull from fruit drawn off the northern side. From tonneaux it gave beautiful, sexy fruit, spicy, tart, of great acidity and fine, spicy tannins. Structurally speaking this can only be from Montornello, albeit from wood, unblended with concrete sangiovese, so tannic, and very much in spice. The 2016 southern side is sangiovese grosso, from 25hL Slavonian oak botti and again, could only be the Capannino side with its big, thick and cakey fruit, massive, spicy and long. A 2016 blend or “taglio” may or may not have had some malvasia nera in there, from French tonneaux. Such perfume, alarmed, unparalleled, velvety, mouth coating and intense. With spice again and tight, taut, tannic (tight grain) structure. Really cakey and the thought again is just wow.  Here are the notes on the eight finished wines.

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Listrice is a blend of trebbiano and malvasia, pretty much 50/50, a fantasy name says Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Il Istrice is a simple, fresh, straightforward white representative of the area. It’s salty, directly tart and made from fruit pulled only off the northern site/side of the Bibbiano estate. Is this so named because the northern vineyard’s fault dip is steeper near the surface then shallower with increased depth? Perhaps one day Tommaso will concur. There were approximately 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Rosato Scappalepre 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Scappalepre, as in “the run away hare,” another whimsical name for a Bibbiano wine. This follows the growing number of specifically designed Tuscan rosés, especially for the Chianti Classico territory, to join the trendy ranks but with great sangiovese purpose. Scappalepre is from 100 per cent sangiovese fruit picked off of north and south vineyards and harvested purposely for Rosato. It is picked early, at least a few days before for Chianti Classico. Not quite saignée method but with a wealth of Rosé possibility, fresh and structured, confusingly phenolic and up there in the 14-plus per cent alcohol realm. A wine of sugars, acids and alcohol. It’s in a league of its own. Approx. 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted  September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

“It’s a very genuine grape. It will never try to have fun with you,” explains Tommaso Marrochezi Marzi. This could easily have been said about the 2014 sangiovese though we know by now that the grape’s resilience has and will continue to bring itself about, and around. This 2015 shows its colours early, often and in great fruit strength. It’s beautiful and expressive, a spoken varietal message that is clear and understood. It should be enjoyed while it talks in fruit this way. Silky smooth, textured like fine satin, caressing and even sexy, sulty and lush. No colorino now and perhaps its inclusion with be more likely when the new vineyard grows up but for now the indigenous grapes are used in the Bibbianaccio IGT. Here again raised in all concrete for the élévage lending freshness, properly oxidative, anti-reductive character. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

John Szabo M.S., Steven Robinson, Brad Royale, Silvia Fiorentini and Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The first vintage not called Montornello is now a Chianti Classico Riserva on its own with that (northern slope) vineyard separated as a Gran Selezione. The smooth depth of sangiovese fruit character here is entirely Riserva though without edges or toughness. No grit, some minor grip, fineness and silkiness of tannin. The perfect summer of September allowed picking to happen at the end of the month, in delivery of enough quantity and quality for both Riserva and Vigne di Montornello Gran Selezione. A Riserva as polished, modern, clean and drinkable as they come and a terrific effort for the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigne di Montornello 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The artist formerly known as Chianti Classico Riserva is now Vigne di Montornello beginning in 2014, from the northern side so not a single-vineyard so to speak but a collection of very specific vineyards. Spent 18 months in a mix of wood, the thread carried forward from the Riserva but with a more focused, intense and layered approach. Having already needed a reset of the compass to wrap my head around the Riserva now taking in some Capannino side fruit, the recalibration also involves moving upwards in pyramid quality. The plan is for the best of Montornello fruit to work with precocious acumen so that it may immediately transport this GS to a new plenary place for Bibbiano. It’s offer of gratification is fleeting in comparison because it’s a conceptual baby as compared to the Capannino, in this or any near future vintage really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is monstrous, from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. The departure from Brunello is here, a huge, muscular, dare it be said Bibbianaccio of the sangiovese Bibbiano family, in GS form, thick, tannic, brooding, exceptionally structured, robust and 15 years away from announcing its true plans. This bottle is subdued however slightly from a spot of TCA but not enough to warrant skipping on past. Wow. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February and September 2017

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli

The Mazzei family lays claim to Chianti Classico’s origins in a document authored by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398. In correspondence from the 16th of December between “the keen notary” and Francesco Datini, “the merchant from Prato “Ser Lapo Mazzei made reference to “Chianti” as a production region and denomination. In 1435, when his granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, the holding became part of the family’s estate. Since then, for 24 generations, the Mazzei family have produced wine at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Filippo Mazzei led us through a tasting of seven wines, including the experimental and visionary “Mix 36,” an IGT composed of 36 clones of Fonterutoli planted sangiovese. We then followed Filippo across the road from the estate and village to Osteria di Fonterutoli for lunch and some spirited discourse on sangiovese and the future of Chianti Classico.

Mazzei Badiola 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (662197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Badiola is a sangiovese-merlot, 70-30 mix and its name comes from the tiny Roman times (circa 998) church set in one of the estate vineyard at 650m. This so happens to be the highest elevation in the area. Badiola sees 10 months in mainly used barriques for the intent to fashion a fruity, round, “everyday” Super Tuscan. It’s actually a bit lactic, dark berry dusty and with some solid grip. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Fonterutoli No. 10 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

No. 10 is something akin to a lottery pick, chosen from a group of samples and this specific sample was number 10 in the testing. It’s a dusty, properly volatile, minor bretty young sangiovese (with some other varieties mixed in) and led by dark currant to black cherry fruit. It’s neither avant-garde nor a legend but it is very particular in style. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #5- Pici con ragu di cinghiale at Osteria Di Fonterutoli

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fonterutoli’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo is named for Filippo Mazzei’s ancestor “Mr. or Signore Lapo,” the first to use the word “Chianti Classico” on a wine label, in December of 1398. This Riserva is 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 merlot and while it no longer fetches three florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinari for 6 barrels, it consistently represents one of the finest values for Riserva level on the CC pyramid. This 2014 spent 14-15 months in barriques and its classic, old time, rustica red tart fruit sangiovese with fine tannins wastes no time into the sidetracked distraction of unwanted meanderings. Walks the Chianti Classico line with classic distinction. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Some malvasia nera and colorino are blended in with the 92 per cent sangiovese, raised in 60 per cent new barriques plus tonneaux. The Mazzei GS is selected from the best parcels and finest quality grapes within those parcels. This is the fourth vintage, 2010 being the first and from a lineage for the wine known as Castello that began in 1995. Was not a Riserva before but just the Castello (IGT). It’s 2013 to be sure but with a deeper, nearly hematic and brooding character. Still the Fonterutoli dusty red fruit but with some iron fisted tannic management. It does carry this sexy feel and yet it’s so serious, so ’13. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello di Fonterutoli Mix 36 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Castello Fonterutoli’s Mix 36 IGT Toscana is a brilliant stroke of insular blending genius, from a plot with the 36 sangiovese biotypes planted together but all from the same rootstock, planted in 2003 and 2004. It’s from a very clay vineyard at 300m. An experimental wine to be sure, the commotion variegates layer upon strata, of multi-sangiovese personality interwoven with 35 more variations of its own distinct character self. The becoming may be muddled but it’s simply delicious, fruit juicy, high in acidity though the tannins seem tamed and rendered. Filippo Mazzei insists this to be considered at the top of the pyramid, on a Gran Selezione level. He’s more correct that even he might realize. Just bloody delicious multiplicity of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Concerto Di Fonterutoli 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Concerto di Fonterutoli is the Super Tuscan that started in 2001, originally with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon. In the nineties there was only half a hectare, and so ’94 was then the last vintage. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual migration to sangiovese and a restoration of this historical vineyard, but now there is a return or at least a mimic of what was done 20 years ago. So it’s a return to the 80-20 split, not a wine from Concerto Vineyard but a fantasy name, bringing two together, now sangiovese from Fonterutoli and cabernet sauvignon from Siepi. It’s deeply cakey, rich, tannic, very wooden sheathed, with almost a sweetness as a result, more like Napa than almost any wine from lands in Chianti Classico. It wells with big, sweet, grainy and chalky tannins. Huge monster of a wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Siepi is the 200m vineyard, west of Fonerutoli, a historical place that already had vineyards planted when the family arrived in the 1400s. This is the only exception to what is being done at the estate. Sangiovese (1995-2000) and merlot (1985) grown, picked and vinified separately. It’s essentially a single-vineyard blend, though on two sides of a road. A 50-50 split, separated and then brought together. It carries more tartness, high acidity and fine tannic structure. Very fine, less cake then Concerto and more of a seamless affair. Merlot in certain parts of Chianti Classico just seems to have this affinity, alone and in partnership with sangiovese, in ways that cabernet sauvignon just does not. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

Sometimes it just feels like Rocca delle Macie sits at the epicentre of not only Castellina in Chianti but the greater territory that is Chianti Classico. Consorzio President and estate proprietor Sergio Zingarelli is certainly a principal reason for the sentiment but it’s more than that. No other three-tiered pyramid set of examples for Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione speak to the perseverance of presence and consistency of quality in the Ontario market (plus 40 other countries) and yet it feels as though Rocca delle Macie is just beginning to reinvent its oeuvre. Zingarelli’s late father Italo, a former boxer and producer of spaghetti westerns, bought Rocca delle Macìe in 1973 and today the company produces wines off of six estates, including Macie, Fizzano and Sant’Alphonso. Sergio and his wife Daniela, daughter Giulia, son Andrea and Marketing and Communication Manager Thomas Francioni welcomed us into the Zingarelli home for a comprehensive tasting and the most exceptional home cooking. Not to mention the finest gelato in Toscana and Andrea’s very special craft gin. I made notes on the following six wines.

ry  And in #castellinainchianti we taste @chianticlassico @roccadellemacie with The Presidential #sergiozingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Moonlite 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (400879, $17.95, WineAlign)

Moonlite 2016 gathers vermentino, chardonnay and pinot grigio (40/40/20) from vineyards in southwest Toscana, not far from Grossetto. The lands are really, ostensibly, technically in the Morellino area. A white Super Tuscan so to speak, it’s fresh but also rich and funny in that it’s almost as wet stone smelling as it is pear fruity. There is this ubiquitous Italianate feel about it, not necessarily Tuscan but as a regional white (not sangiovese) it’s harder to define. The vermentino lends a saltiness and the nearby seaside a secondary note as such. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  roccadellemacie  profilewinegroup  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  @roccadellemacie  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

This VINTAGES Essential in Ontario delivers a contiguous style continued since the brand switched to fresher, less brooding gears over the past five or six years. Sees 10-12 months in large Slavonian casks (5000L), from many estates and a selection of vineyards. Freshness is a virtue and depth of fruit as important as anything, in a consistent, well-mannered and fleshy experience, top to bottom. Carries a small amount or Bordeaux varieties.  Last tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #4- Ribollita da Daniela Zingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alphonso 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tenuta Sant’Alphonso is the single vineyard Chianti Classico, from one of five estates, mostly clay and dictated by 100 per cent sangiovese. French oak of smaller size (25 hL mostly, up to 30) is employed because of the clay. The robust flesh and tannins need it and are coupled by it, but also refined by it. Aggressiveness only goes so far in sangiovese and then it hits you over the head so accepting the depth in espresso, dark chocolate and the eventuality of balsamic needs to be understood. The use of cement tanks (and less time in Inox tanks) helps to stave off reduction. This is one of the more Riserva like CCs on the market, carrying many characteristics that happen with more and smaller barrique aging. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macìe’s is a selection of the best grapes pulled from all four estates, but in different (separate) vinifications and vivifications, aged in French barrels, half new and half 2-plus year old. The methodology looks for consistency in every vintage, because it’s the gathering of best fruit, (including half the fruit from the Sergio Zingarelli Vineyard). Very round, fleshy, composed, integrated, a high acidity (more than many) vintage, dry and intense.  Last tasted September 2017

The vintage is not so much one for Gran Selezione but that category’s loss is the Riserva’s gain. This is a very balanced and structured Riserva with a healthy dose of oak and an even greater sense of the Zingarelli family style. It’s crucial and obvious, correct and loyal, so very modern. Why shouldn’t it be? Let is settle for one year. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Fran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Fizzano is the historical single vineyard that Sergio’s father Italo purchased from The Bertoli family (who did not have any vines) in 1984. From 1985 to 2010 it was CC Riserva and moved to the category of Gran Selezione for the 2010 vintage, keeping the Fizzano name. Mostly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five merlot, only French oak (20 per cent barriques), from calcareous (with quite a mix of sandy) soil. iIt’s a silky affair, ripe in tannin and from fruit so much so. One of the oldest vineyards (planted in 1985 to 1990) but needing replanting, to a higher (5,000+ plants per hectare) density. Not so much exceptional length but now having evolved into a really round, balanced and amenable CC. More than almost any GS.  Last tasted September 2017

Certainly the most affordable Gran Selezione on the market, Rocca Delle Macie’s From Castellina in Chianti is remarkably defined and tannic. The (32nd) vintage prepares for another profitable possibility, with ripe fruit, solid structure and those formidable edges. The re-branded single-Fizaano vineyard Riserva to Grand Selezione is again worth every bit of that advantage. Big, balanced and in the end, still brooding, let this rest for another two years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted January 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $51.95, WineAlign)

Roccato is the second Super Tuscan of the estate (along with Ser Gioveto), this beginning with the 1988 vintage. It’s a 50 per cent sangiovese and 50 cabernet sauvignon split and the reasons for pouring a not so current vintage will become clear. Aged only in barriques Roccato is rich beyond the pale and with the first (very apparent) volatility and bretty culpability, though remarkably not as tannic as expected. It’s quite a smooth, silky, velvet cupboard but filled with acidity. This seven year point of age is certainly part of the mystique and secondary character is beginning (or has well begun to take this next step). Most supple and round and then the finish goes into chocolate ganache, dark toffee and a feigned note of sweetness. Will likely carry more cabernet sauvignon in the future and conversely Ser Gioveto (not tasted) will likely become a Chianti Classico Riserva. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun.

We’ve talked ad nauseam of late about the marginalia of climate change, about cool climates and growing regions finding ways to ripen grapes at the edge of what is possible. As a greater entity Chianti Classico is not one of them per se but Radda may just be entitled to boast about being cool, relatively speaking. Everywhere vines are grown there has to be a coolest spot, where the altitude is highest, the temperatures are lowest and the vines are slower to manage phenolic ripeness. Radda is the coolest sector and the rest of Chianti Classico should be paying careful attention. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.

In #raddainchianti we find ourselves immersed in a recurring if revelatory theme #sangiovese #chianticlassico

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Radda is one of four sub-zones in the province of Siena and shares its borders with four other Chianti Classico communes; Gaiole to the southeast, Greve to the north, Castellina to the west and Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south. There is something about the Radda sangiovese that stands alone, a thread that runs through, with traces and shadows of the territory omnipresent in the collective psyche of these wines. While other communes like Gaiole have begun to gather and band together, it is the group from Radda that is most keen and desperate to share their collective heartbeat from the eastern corner of Chianti Classico.

In Radda the shift to one for all and all for one has brought 30 producers together. The recently formed group share a commonality defined by soil types and estate vineyards set at an average elevation of 450m. This is one of the oldest areas of Chianti Classico, a commune of castles and vineyards that date back to the 12th century. Elevation, the soils and the expositions make for some of the most elegant sangiovese in Chianti Classico. The results are a cause and effect summation due to less sun, more finesse and a most prominent mineral influence. Radda’s destiny is defined by deeper root delving and more extraction of trace minerals from well below the soil surface. “The territory has always has been considered a cold terroir with more difficulties to grow sangiovese, especially as compared to other communes that are lower, hotter and with fewer difficulties,” claims Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti. Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take center stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Radda is a story built upon a multiplicity of limestone, in all its Chianti Classico permutations, from grey calcaire to Galestro and everything in between. Terraces are all used, irrespective of the orientation. Two rivers, Pesa and Arbia mark the lowest points at approximately 300m and the slopes rise up from the rivers, up to 600-650 at the top where the Galestro and Alberese change to Macigno, friable limestone and sandstone, less calcareous, harder to work and therefore, places of lower yields.

“A subzone system for a definitive denomination as big as Chianti Classico should exist.” These are the words of Volpaia’s Giovanella Stianti. Signora Stianti’s vision may not be a singular one but not everyone is bold enough to speak aloud about an idea that most likely will soon become a reality. Until now the Chianti Classico discussion has been limited to varietal and the insistence that the main concern be about the multiplicity of sangiovese. September tastings centred on Radda, Gaiole and even more specific still to Montefioralle and Lamole speak to the idea of breaking down a territory into smaller parts. Defining sub-zones and then sub-sub zones is potentially discriminatory and ultimately controversial but the communes and villages are ready and stating their case for individual due. The murmurings ask the question. Has the time not come to proudly wear Radda in Chianti on your wine label? This piece of prominent information would help the consumer understand where this wine is from. The impressive number of producers and wide-ranging diversity suggests there are more than enough reasons to get behind the plan. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. So why not tell the world? Borders can’t be drawn underground but the lines can be demarcated above ground, by commune, village, river or road. Naturally the geologies will have to fall into line. In the case of Radda, that won’t be a problem.

Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Federica Mascheroni

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

In September of 2017 I made my second visit to Casa Chianti Classico, located in the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. Casa Chianti Classico has been converted from the old Franciscan monastery and is now home to meetings, conferences, events, a wine shop and a museum. Four intrepid Chianti Classico inquirers, John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello were hosted by three valorous representatives for the municipality. Federica Mascheroni of Castello di Volpaia, Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti and Oscar Geyer of Borgo La Stella. I have reviewed 23 examples from the tasting in Radda.

Sangiovese of Radda in Chianti

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The proposition indicts 2014 with a tight Chianti Classico, of fruit either berry or plum it’s hard to be sure, but either way it’s found wrapped and dragged through a stone-earthy ride. There is this deep into the soil liqueur that carries a mushroom funkiness, all within reason and finely integrated. Not a fruity CC by any stretch but carries plenty of character and might even be considered ripe for the vintage. From young vines, planted in 2006. That says something about its prescient present and the possibilities for the future. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  borgolastella

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Made with oenologist Maurizio Alongi, Oscar and Christian-Oscar Geyer’s Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 was bottled at Mazzei in Castellina. The vintage is all over this sangiovese (with 10 per cent merlot) planted to heavy, heavy density. The vines are but a mere six years old but already the Alberese is felt in this impressively layered, deeply hematic and starchy tart CCR. The mineral sensation is something that it quite striking at the Riserva level. It’s a big and tannic arena in which the wealthy deposits of mineral salts are pulsating with Radda terroir. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Brancaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)

Classic 2015 Chianti Classico of dark raspberry fruit and maximum ripeness with a side show of top notch acidity, bright enough to stay grounded in loyal and traditional footing. The tannins do cause a minor drying finish which only accentuates the correct and justifiable humility of sangiovese. An example to live and abide by. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted August and September 2017  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. The dusty, musty and leathery notes are up front, closed and somewhat suffocating for the fruit. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times. Needs three more years to perform due diligence, gain some traction and find its guaranteed due elegance. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March and September 2017

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (339937, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico is really quite ripe for 2014, even perched on the next edge but short of the dangerous ledge. The acids are a bit hard and the compression somewhat intense in a sangiovese that reeks of personality spoken loud and clear. Both fruit and tannins are set out to drying on the savoury finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017 castellodialbola  zoninwines  @CastellodAlbola  @zonin1821  @castellodialbola  @ZoninProsecco

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (315150, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello d’Albola 2013 is a gamey Riserva, with aromas of roasted meat and salumi, expressly extracted and pressed. This goes for broke and makes the most impression it can, with big fruit, tart edges and big tannins. It’s a formidable mouthful to be sure though lacks some balance, at least while it’s quite young. Time might help to shape the finesse and sharpen the clarity. Drink Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Here the exchange between fruit and acidity is seamless if simple, easy going and with no risk taken. Hard not to understand what’s going on here with its simple plan, fine execution and classic tart, red fruit and salty stone bent. On the sour side for Radda in Chianti Classico, particularly when discussing 2015. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  #castellodiradda  @CastellodiRadda  @castelloradda

Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This 100 per cent sangiovese is from Il Corno, a single vineyard meaning “The Horn” upwards of 400 m above sea level. The soil is a calcareous clay and the vines were planted in the early 1990s. The ’13 Gran Selezione is rich and expressly ripe, simply linear for the category with very high acidity. Over the top high acidity. Let’s hope the twain is met before the end of this decade. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (953828, $27.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia’s 2015 strikes me as a Chianti Classico with ancient wisdom and perfect vintage fruit quality in its calculated, curative concentration, a wine that modestly takes every advantage it can, which are few and far between. This is a rich and earthy red, of frutti di bosco, ropey and wild, yet generating power in its wonderful restraint. Take in and regard the gentile, non facile, wondrous mystery of Radda in Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)

Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 is expressly reductive with layers of beautiful fruit laid comfortable and resting below. The glycerin texture and fine, fine tannins tell us the life of this CCR will be long, slow developed and over time will become more beautiful than imagined. Benvenuto to the blessed nature of Macigno terroir exorcized properly, in allowance of place to hold court and fruit to slowly dance upon its stage, rhythmically and harmoniously together. This takes every advantage of a vintage that will build structure if you let it. Wait for Volpaia’s ’14 because two plus years from now the florality will floor you. So pretty. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Before #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Capotondo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

I had tasted both Capotondo ’14 and ’15 earlier in the week at Enoteca Nuvolari (Pietrafitta) though took no formal notes at the time. It was clear by way of perspective that ’15 was certainly drinking well but this ’14 holds more impressive and precise structure, at least by way of intensity. This is highly distinctive, chewy, somewhat chunky sangiovese, but the firm constitution and decidedly ferric edginess brings Radda soil into play. The “round head” tells us that it can be nothing but Chianti Classico in all its history and its glory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  cantinacastelvecchi  barrelselect    @BarrelSelect  @chianticastelvecchi.it  Barrel Select Inc.

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Riserva Lodolaio 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Riserva Lodolaio 2014 is not only scented by a curious perfume but a bit of a nutty one, connected to sweetness by oak in an immediate gratification, prompt to the consumer kind of way. This old castle, heritage vines sangiovese from high territory altitude is a veritable legume and spice spider, with legs of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, vanilla, coffee, dried herbs and dark chocolate. Here in the short term is an example of Chianti Classico Riserva ready for many a believer and quick to act appreciative imbibers. Lodolaio, the Riserva awarded, in a frame. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2017

After #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.95, WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti and one of Chianti Classico’s great young, forward thinking winemakers Bernardo Bianchi the wisdom is easily noted, deduced, accepted, considered and abided. Red fruit with an earth’s dusty, cracked crust allows for smells like fresh tiles and the just mixed mortar but that fruit is aching to burst forth. Very seamless for a young Chianti Classico, so this building will stand strong and last through the centuries, which in wine years equates to seven, maybe ten. Terrific sweet acidity, life-affriming sapidity and vitality. As good as young CC gets with the longest, pitch perfect tang in elongation, drift and persistence. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

The current incarnation of the single-vineyard Gran Selezione from “la vigna del Convento” is a wildly rich and structured, intuitive and interpretive expression. The vineyard resides in a great Radda amphitheatre, situated on the slope beneath Il Convento di Radda in Chianti. Winemaker Bernardo Bianchi does nothing to veer away from the house-composed, let the vineyard speak style, from a sun-worshipping, ambitious yet wise, 22 year-old Galestro soil block at a high Chianti Classico 500m peak. All together making for the new super Riserva of restrained power and elegance. If the aromatics in 2011 were of a wow factor they are somehow, magically and inexplicably improved upon in 2013. The field of flowering greens, the deep way you inhale the fruit and above all else, the mineral of this Galestro. It pervades and attacks, especially on the palate but when you taste sangiovese like this you understand the disconnected exaggerations, over-stressed acidity and the (comparative) imbalance in some of the GS peers. Bereto’s is one of the finest Gran Selezione and worthy of every charged sip. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February and September 2017

Istine Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Istine Chianti Classico is made by Angela Fronti out of vineyards set quite high between 480 and 550m, on the road that runs from Radda to Castellina in Chianti. From a great variegation of soils; Alberese, marly limestone, Galestro and some light presence of quartz. A rich red limestone ruby sangiovese is the result, collecting to a mild but notable unctuous liqueur, manageable acidity and tannin. This sharp and correct CC is lovely, well made, so proper. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  istine_raddainchianti    @istineraddainchianti

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva Levigne 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Levigne is considered the top wine of the estate and it is one of two assemblage-forged sangiovese. Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, a CC that combines all three vineyards and this Riserva. Since the 2012 harvest Fronti has opted for separate vinifications of sangiovese according to each vineyard of origin. Through different wines the characteristics of each specific vineyard, as in exposure, soil and altitude, are exploited. Fronti notes “we tell our reality through the best sangiovese harvested in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina), the one collected in the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda) and the one in the Vigna Cavarchione (in Vertine, Gaiole). Riserva is a story of assemblage and it seems to me, not the wine of Angela’s greatest passion. This CCR is chosen from her best fruit and spent 18 months in large botti. The fruit is raisin chewy and a bit stewed to be sure but with good acidity and tart, tight tannins to keep the faith. It’s disjointed and I would bet the single-vineyard CCs are more precise and focused. Should SV Riservas be the wave of Istine’s future? Only Fronti can answer that question, if adding more diversity to the portfolio is even a possibility. All that said this high quality blend will turn and morph for a more than interesting secondary CCR display of personality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 2015 Podere Terreno Chianti Classico makes a bit of a funky entry, not reductive but seemingly drawn from a lower slope, deep and earthy. In this vintage it wells deep as an inhalant of cherries, macerated and yet it’s entirely Radda, cool and wet, stony and such a calcari expression. You can enjoy this beginning in six months simultaneously alongside the tougher ’14, but their worlds will parallel one another for the rest of the journey. In both cases Radda represents. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  agriturismo_podereterreno  @podereterrenoallaviadellavolpaia

Poggerino Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 878777, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vines date back to 2004 and 1994 for Poggerino’s Chianti Classico, a 100 per cent sangiovese that sits at a zenith where the most red limestone earth and sour intensity is noted above all 14s almost anywhere, not just from Radda but for all of the territory. Almost over the top in this regard but stand up and counted is what this amounts to. Then it grooves forward and rebounds with warmth and depth before returning to that earthy calacari bonding. Gathers itself, the moving parts and glides along with solid length. Very interesting, honest, organic and naturally curated work from Piero Lanza. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard    @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugialla 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Here the ’13 vintage is really expressed for Chianti Classico in Radda with deep red cherry fruit, earth and real saline intensity. The tannins are a bit rough and tumbling but even in their coarseness there is charm and even beauty. In such a state of youth at this the deceitful Poggerino Riserva talks some trash, almost as if to lie (alla bugia) about what it’s worth, so let it settle, integrate, develop and expand. The chew and the grip will be replaced by something other. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Pruneto Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pruneto is the sole ’13 in the group tasting and the only one with Radda celebrated in larger font on the label. This is the outlier, from the singular winemaker (Riccardo Lanza) and was just recently bottled. The organics and organoleptic, earthy intensity are something to behold. It’s a stripped down ’13, Radda stye, needing time to unfurl and even bloom. This is hard to figure Chianti Classico 2013 but I suspect it will blossom after a few years time. Nothing else in Radda tastes like this. From the tiny, 3.5 hectare estate divided into just two vineyards, surrounded by forest. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #Pruneto

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Roberto Bianchi’s 2015 is a reserved and restrained aromatic Chianti Classico but there is a subliminal Galestro or Macigno message being delivered here and it would seem to be a grey to darker calcareous rock expression. The fruit is quiet but felt plummy and tart on the palate. This is a bit older schooled but surely carries great presence and length. A rich thorough finish concludes that ride through the mineral life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  valdellecorti  @ValdelleCorti  @valdellecorti

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Roberto Bianchi, the Val delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 comes from not just a challenging but also a complicated vintage. Despite the rains and the unusually cool temperatures the aromatics here are not just a pure distinction for CCR but also for Radda. This is because it eschews concentration, alcoholic heat and unnecessary intensity for purity, honesty and delicasse. Here sangiovese acts in a wine that stands on its own as the finest expression of fruit from this estate. It’s both pretty and earthy, peppery and really deep, really deep. This has layers and layers of trace mineral drawn up into the red cherry mixed with some dried fruit bright and vibrant of the bones of the Riserva level wine. It can’t be thought of as anything but most excellent. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Vignavecchia Riserva Chianti Classico Odoardo Beccari 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.95, WineAlign)

A consistent and terrific follow-up to 2010 from old vines in Radda in Chianti, this is warm and creeping north (or south depending on your explanatory orientation) from deep, religious aromatics. Fresh slices of fennel bulb and wet concrete are rich, wet, juicy and vaporous. Sweet acidity and tannin join spicy red fruit from what is ostensibly the most unctuous and deeply tangy sangiovese you are likely to ever taste. This is quite something else, both hedonistically indulgent and propitiously wild and engaging. You had better like it hot and bothered, fleshy, gregarious and sexy. This really has it all. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted February and September 2017  #vignavecchia    @VignaVecchia

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Good to go!

Godello

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50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Missed it by that much. #oldwine #vinonobile #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #cantineriunite

During the eight-day locomotive migration through Anteprime Toscane in February 2017 there were nearly 1000 wines to try, mostly sangiovese in all its various genetic, clonal and stylistic fluctuations.  The aberration was in San Gimignano, a stop on the tour that I regrettably missed due to a deeper delve into Chianti Classico’s (even in) February verdant hills. One checkpoint and more specifically one tasting stood out from the rest. Fifty years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

That the powers that be at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano thought to amass ten wines spanning four decades and launching with that fateful year of 1967 was more than a stroke of regional genius. It was both a major risk to take and a gift of great generosity. There was no way of knowing how those early virgin wines of DOC origin would show or if in fact that life would still be left in them. Perhaps another shortlisted vintage or two was waiting in the wings just in case a 1967 or a 1975 failed to survive but regardless, some serious props, high-fives and sincerest thanks go out to the producers and decision makers of this most storied consorzio.

While some examples expressed themselves with more spirit and vitality than others, any doubt cast on the structure of the Montepulciano sangiovese has been vehemently cast aside. The prugnolo gentile and other (increasingly employed) varietal variants cultivated in the Valdichiana and Val d’ Orcia are more than a 50-year-old project. “The oldest documented reference to the wine of Montepulciano is from 789 in which the cleric Arnipert offered the church of San Silvestro or San Salvatore at Lanciniano on Mt Amiata, a plot of land cultivated with vineyards in the estate of the castle of Policiano. Later, Repetti mentions a document in 1350 (in his “Historical and Geographical dictionary of Tuscany”) which drew up the terms for trade and exportation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.”

“The Sixties brought a reawakening in winegrowing geared principally towards the production of Vino Nobile rather than Chianti. State and EU funds used by the wineries to convert their vineyards into conformity with the requirements of the DOC (1966), enabled new wineries to enter the market. Recognition of DOCG status came in 1980 and Vino Nobile began a new life.”

In advance of the 50-year seminar the Annata 2014 and Riserva 2013 vintages were presented. The challenge of the growing season showed the fortitude and the persistence of Montepulciano’s producers. You can throw a difficult set of weather patterns at the Vino Nobile but you can’t break their spirit. The ’14s are different, that much is clear, but more than enough quality, firm grip and structure is available to send these wines well into the next decade. They are a grounded bunch. The 2013 Riserva are more of an elegant crew, for the most part and as representatives of the multiplicity of sangiovese they are as falling snow, like the endless repetition of winter’s everyday miracle. They are also wines that do not swing their arms, an indication of a secretiveness of character. Which smarts into contradiction a connection to the ten 50 years of Vino Nobile wines. It explains how exciting it is to spend time with them in 2017.

Post Anteprima Vino Nobile we paid a visit to Avignonesi. Two extraordinary vertical tastings were held with proprietor Virginie Saverys, Max Zarobe and winemaker Ashleigh Seymour; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014-2010 and Desiderio Merlot 2013-2010-2001-1998. “When I purchased Avignonesi in 2009 it was Mars, or Venus,” began Virginie, “it was not planet earth.” Today it is a model of Montepulciano consistency. Here are my notes on those Avignonesi vintages along with some Anteprima prugnolo and those 50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

50 years of #vinonobile @consorzionobile #50anni #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano

Contucci Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1967, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (486068, Agent, WineAlign)

Contucci’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ’67 was produced during a significant year in world history. The first heart transplant, the Six-Day War, the Monterey Pop Festival, The World Exposition in Montreal, The first Super Bowl and the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. It was also the year Celtic beat Internazionale in the European Cup Final. Contucci’s Vino Nobile is from a time when there were maximum seven producers in Montepulciano and only the second vintage as a denominazione wine. A primitive wine from a primitive stage in the history of the area. If it’s not totally oxidized, it’s certainly most of the way there. Smells like a nearly petrified orange, fermenting lemons and toasted meringue. Certainly many white grape varieties in here. Old and chestnut barrels were used for a seven to eight month period of aging. Much more life shows on the palate, with lemon, orange, caramel and lanolin or paraffin. Lingers for a bit. More than interesting. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  andreacontucci  #contucciwinery  kylixwines  #cantinacontucci  @KylixWines  Contucci  Andrea Contucci  @KylixWines

Tramps like us. @consorzionobile #borntorun #1975 #vinonobile #fanneti #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #toscana

Fanetti Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1975, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fanetti’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano almost defies 40 plus years having passed since 1975. The higher acidity may not exactly scream at this time but you can imagine it having done so for a long time in its harkening back to having been raised at a higher elevation. Fruit is completely gone (of course) but we’re still in forest floor, faint mushroom and compost. The acidity still kind of rages, incredibly and this smells like lemon wood polish but also musty leather. Twenty years ago would have been really nice. I like the mouthfeel, like old Rioja, really old, with a creamy and silken texture. Quite alive, despite the off-putting nose. This was worth the visit. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #fanetti

Boscarelli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1988, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1988 picks up where its most excellent peers left off but also leads back into a quality level of parity tasted after Boscarelli’s 1982. This nearly 30 year-old sangiovese is not alone in its walk through the woods, leading to the autumnal mushrooms, unearthing the truffles and yet its trudge though the forest floor is even more prevalent. And then the intense pungency of porcini comes flying out of the glass. Good acidity still travels up and down the tongue and then it retreats so very drying on the finish. Wonderful look back. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  avignonesi  rogersandcompanywines  mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines  @mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines 

Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano “Vigneto La Caggiole” 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Back in 1988 Poliziano’s Riserva style Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came from this single vineyard, the “Vigneto La Caggiole.” Named after an ancient farm and/or St. Mustiola’s “Caggiole” Parish, it comes from Cagio, a word in the middle ages meaning “a forest or a bounded area by forests.” When tasted side by side by each with the ’82 Boscarelli and the ’88 Avignonesi this Poliziano is much more reserved and muted aromatically so I’ll hedge a bet that the tannins are still in charge. Indeed this is the case but they are sweet and copacetic to fruit that persists, though only reveals its fleshy charms on the palate. A Vino Nobile yet very drinkable to date. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  polizianowinery  noble_estates  @PolizianoAzAgr  @Noble_Estates  @PolizianoAz.Agr  @NobleEstates

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Carpineto’s Nobile dating back 29 years is now wholly and totally volatile, of the vinyl curtain as carpeting on the forest’s floor. Some mushroom and lots of wood on the palate. Smoky and smouldering to a tart and still persistent, tannic finish. Still waiting for the settling though after three decades if it hasn’t happened yet it’s not ever going to. Would have offered serious and substantial pleasure when the fruit was still active but that finest moment was in the last decade. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Tenuta Di Gracciano Della Seta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 487074, WineAlign)

The Della Seta ’95 hosts and boasts an aromatic combination of forest earthy and floral pretty and so is this most interesting 22 year-old Vino Nobile, with dried wild strawberry (fragaria vesca = fragola di bosco), fruit, leaves, mulch and all. Quite tart and with some real texture, more structure and remarkable considering this was produced at the beginning of the house’s history. Well preserved and if it holds no candle to Chianti Classico or Sienese/Florentine Hills IGT sangiovese from the same excellent vintage, it surely lives to tell a similar tale. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  tenutadigraccianodellaseta  @GradellaSeta  @GraccianodellaSeta

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 685180, WineAlign)

The volatility and Bretty quality is there but I don’t imagine it so much more aggressive than it may have been at the start. Dried fruit is full on and in with very little in the way of mushroom and truffle. The small French oak barriques have certainly given this some preserve so that the fruit can turn to preserves on the palate. Good acidity persists as does so much residual spice from the wood. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017   #salchetowinery  hobbsandcompany  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco  @Salcheto  @HobbsandCo

Bindella Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wood used at the time is clearly in full view though in a settled, creamy and gently spicy aromatic way. This has evolved quite quickly and efficiently, now into a sangiovese turned to balsamic, five spice and soy wax. Was and still is a rich wine though I would bet that 1998 has fared better. The acidity is still quite prevalent, the tannins not so much. Two shots of doppio espresso mark the tail and it lingers long enough to suggest a couple of more years at this stage. Melts away like chocolate on the tongue. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #bindella  #tenutavallocaia    @bindellavallocaia

Tenuta Valdipiatta “Vigna d’Alfiero” Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Vigna d’Alfiero is not quite as evolved a 1999 as the Bindella with some more presentable and viable fruit life available, though the wood is very sheathing and in full couverture. Balance is better though because the acidity is finer and still persistent. Tannic and drying, this is exactly what I would expect for 18 year-old Vino Nobile. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #tenutavaldipiatta   rogersandcompanywines  @TenValdipiatta  @rogcowines  @TenutaValdipiatta  @rogcowines

Poderi Boscarelli

Boscarelli Prugnolo Rosso De Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Boscarelli’s use of varietal alias for the local sangiovese is both obvious and modern in approach. Their’s is a fresh and vibrant Rosso, lithe and unencumbered. Fragrant, sweet smelling roses lift the spirit and second the motion for needing no ornamentation. This completely self-adorned prugnolo is gentile but just firm enough a foil for the antipasti. Drink 2017-20219.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $51.00, WineAlign)

A firm ’14, not so unusual in itself and yet just ripe enough, with fragrant roses as indicated in the prugnolo ’15. Yet here the flowers also deliver a dried and saline line while everything seems to soften and emancipate on the palate. Notes of a future with tar and tabby developed red fruit comes dreamy yet clear with spice notes by barrel and varietal keeping the youthful spirit alive.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.95, WineAlign)

In accord of time under its belt and meltable structure afforded by the barrel it is the Riserva that strikes a now balance between ripe fruit and the firm grip of Vino Nobile tannin. I Boscarelli reference the least amount of volatility but the particular acidity is quite fastening as it works in cohorts with the tannin. These are musical wines of ligature and kedging anchors. While the Annata 2014 may have more bob in its sailing drift the Riserva is the stable schooner. It’s just a question of approach. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Sotto Casa DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $86.95, WineAlign)

Sotto Casa is a single-vineyard prugnolo from “beneath or below the home,” as the nomenclature suggests and is the house Vino Nobile paved with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five merlot. I don’t take huge stock in the need to discuss Bordeaux varietal addendum versus the endemic though in this case the floral lift and forgiving nature is worth a word or two. The 20 per cent expatriate accents make for a prugnolo of inclusion, in this case bringing the best out of that local sangiovese. Richness goes above and beyond, with nary a shrinking or chocolate shaken moment. The freshness here in such Riserva clothing is to be lauded. Really fine. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Il Nocio DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $148.95, WineAlign)

With some variegation in the alluvial soil to include sand and clay this 100 per cent sangiovese is drawn from the east side of the estate. The four hectare, 280 to 350 metres of altitude Vigna del Nocio has been owned by Poderi Boscarelli since 1988. It is here where terroir, aspect and existential vine placement changes everything. More than four and less than 5,000 bottles of the vineyard’s finest produce are gifted in this wine, “the nuts,” but also the bolts of Boscarelli’s noble fruit. Yes there is this bifurcate character about it, at once roasted nuts meets frutta seca and then this depth, seriousness and structure. The forked Vino Nobile is both blessed by that Boscarelli grip and lifted into noble elegance. Three years will pass and little will change. I’d expect it to linger for 15 more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta

Tenuta Valdipiatta Pinot Nero Rosso Di Montepulciano IGT 2008, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This small lot production is one of the most unique wines made in the Montepulciano hills, from just half a hectare on sand and clay. The vineyard was planted in 2000 to what must have been some whispers, giggles and closet envy, at the base of the hill beneath the winery. Dark berries, red ropey, ruby yet firm pinot nero fruit leads a wine of amazing toughness and grit. This must have really been something to behold in its first two or three years. All terroir and the hardest of nuts to crack. It has now softened somewhat but I wonder if in 2000 they could have known what might happen. The vines should hit their elegant stride beginning with perhaps the 2015 vintage, would be my best guess. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Rosso Di Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Rosso was just recently bottled, with 10 per cent mamaiolo and canaiolo in support of the prugnolo. It spent only three months in (20 per cent) used barriques and like the pinot nero is truly a terroir driven wine. While certainly dusty, firm, deeply clay fruit deepened its musicality plays anything but an astringent tune. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A multi-barrel slumber of six months in small barriques and 12 months in 500L Slavonian casks has ushered this firm sangiovese (with five per cent canaiolo) through the world of the traditional and the historically noble. In spite of its old school charm in upbringing it’s quite the amenable one with a wide reaching, outstretched arm of generosity marked by a salty-sweetness of candied-savoury accents. It’s quite the minty cool and fruit prosperous Vino Nobile that while tending to grippy is almost always open for business. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The 2013 Vino Nobile is a softer, understated in grip version of the ’14, still terroir-driven but from a less demanding albeit singular vintage. What’s different, aside from an extra year beneath its legs is the presence of sweeter and finer-grained tannins but also a wider, open door of invitation and possibility. The Valdipiatta acidity is quite consistent, as is the traditional way of styling. A pattern is forming, of the ideal out of which an intrinsic understanding is able to cogitate the links in these wines of place. Strong genes run through the lineage of the Valdipiatta family. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Unlike the allure into a smiling reception offered up by the Annata 2013 the Riserva is conversely closed and not yet in a forgiving mood. The firmness of fruit, tart shrill of acidity and fineness of tannin all combine in procurement of one seriously intense Vino Nobile. The orotund voice and dramatic attitude follow the company line and in the Riserva do so with great hyperbole. It’s quiet remarkable actually. Unmistakable Valdipiatta. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Avignonesi’s Virginie Saverys with Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Stephanie Johnson, on her right and The Reverse Wine Snob Jon Thorsen, on her left

Avignonesi

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Quite relaxed for sangiovese from the demanding coincidences of implausibility that arose out of the 2014 vintage, clearly directed as such to drink well while others have to wait. Tannins are certainly ripe and whatever agitative spearing or sparking that seems to be going on is given a healthy and humid oak bathing. Not so much found in the elegant oasis occupied by either or both ’12 or ’13 but a very grounded and centred Vino Nobile nonetheless. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Like so many 2013s the fruit is quite plussed, pure and distinctly raw, dusty, cured and naturally craft sangiovese. The wood also seems to be in a diminutive position and so distinguishes the fruit though when all is said and done this equivocation can only be from Avignonesi. Terrific spice elements rub in and out of every crevice. Long like 2012, elegant in of itself and it’s quite possible the better or best is yet to come. The elusiveness of development means that we can’t yet really know. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The vintage is the one with the reductive “lamentala,” but merely just a fraction of that idea and is quick to blow off into the Val di Chiana. “We have to be careful with sangiovese,” cautions owner Virginie Saverys, “it has a very thick skin.” Extraction must be a delicate process and so a gentle délestage is performed, plus from the bottom up, “not a very physical pump over from the top.” This leads to big fruit, well endowed by barriques and tonneaux towards and always elegant result. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The 2011 was augmented by late August into September warmth so late phenolic ripeness made for an adjustment to picking and a new wine was born. Though less floral and perhaps not quite as elegant as 2010 the slower developed will and power were a perfect fit for an Aussie winemaker’s roots. You can’t help but note the shiraz-like attitude in this ’11 but balance is afforded by a more extreme acidity. With thanks to prudent picking passes the greens were avoided and all was gifted by the reds and the blacks in one massive but now mellowing coexistence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

This first year production under the transfer of full ownership to Virginie Saverys was marked by a long, cool growing season and as a result, a lovely, long-developed ripeness. The 2010 Vino Nobile is one of alcoholic meets polyphenolic balance. Though quite young yet there is a triumvirate fineness of fruit, acidity and tannin in a sangiovese where richness and elegance meet at the intersection of texture. This is a wine of shoulders lowered, at ease and at peace. Ripeness is the virtue on a road that flows like a river. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10993456, $72.00, WineAlign)

Desiderio is Avignonesi’s wine of “desire,” an IGT usually made with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon though it’s as much a varietal wine as any sangiovese, or perhaps better as a comparison to Napa Valley merlot. From the Val di Chiana, a wine looking for Chianina beef. Proprietor Virginie Saverys explains the terroir is “the southern most limit of making a decent merlot in Tuscany.” Any further south and “you can lose your whole crop to the heat over the course of three days.” Concentration due to clay rich soils and a consumption of oak by healthy fruit like there is no tomorrow. It’s quite remarkable how little heat spiked spice is found on the nose. Smells as merlot should with just a touch less than obvious jamminess, a dusty and complex emulsion of fruit and herbs. The bite, spice and concentration well up on the palate. Desiderio is intense and implosive merlot. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2010, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a selection off of 32 hectares of merlot with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the 2010 Desiderio is not unlike ’13 but with more elegance, softness and demure. The spice is again hidden and here in ’10 it’s really a full case of fruit and what seems at first like nothing else. Time and the effects of that vintage have already conspired to soften a bring about this creamy mouthfeel and texture. Vanilla, chocolate ganache and a restrained sense of power. It’s quite pretty, ready to drink and yet there is this feeling that it’s not quintessential Desiderio. It’s beautiful nonetheless. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2001, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a classic, important and proven Tuscan vintage and for merlot, very good, if not wholly and unequivocally exceptional. The wood on 2001 carries more weight and massive couverture and at 16 years of age the rendered effect is dripping in chocolate and fine espresso. There is this sense of exotic spice in airy accents, like five-spice and liquorice, but then a swirling descent into demi-glacé. Tannin and acidity are both a bit lower here, a reminder of time and evolution, not the most lashing in any shape or form. Paolo Trappolini was the winemaker for this 2001, a powerful merlot with plenty of glory. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 1989, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Proof is in the varietal pudding that merlot is much more forgiving than sangiovese and also more adaptive in its longevity. This ’89 is from a time when the winemaker could not have truly known what would happen or have the varietal expertise to provide the tools for making exceptional merlot. That was Ettore, one of the two brothers (along with Alberto Falvo) who procured a merlot of structure and this passive commitment to time. It’s more welled up with chocolate but there is this tension that obviously never wavered nor has oxidation really crept in. Incredible really. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

The Valdichiana from the terrace of the Enoliteca del Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Good to go!

Godello

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