Varietal artistry of Collio Bianco

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

If the wines of Collio are to be described and more specifically if we are to look at the white blends collectively known as Collio Bianco DOC, this is what we see. Collio Bianco are wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.

Enjoy Collio Experience 2019

I visited in late spring as days warmed and nights still played it cool. Collio sits one kilometre from the Adriatic coast and also Slovenia so it’s no wonder that its white wines are highly aromatic and unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock to give them their distinct personality. They are to be paid great attention. I for one have made new space for them.

Collio is in fact one of Europe’s most fascinating wine regions, a white wine specialist located in the Gorizia Hills of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The amphitheatre of Collio vineyards follow a line along the western border of Slovenia in the northeastern corner of Italy. It is here where centuries of a mélange of multicultural histories meet in a venn diagram of multifarious Italian, Slovenian and Austro-Hungarian mythology. For introspective, historical and prospective perspective one only needs to walk the vineyards with the area’s director of connectivity, the one, the only Matteo Bellotto.

Matteo Bellotto

My trip to Collio in the last days of May was indeed an experience of territory, vineyard, cellar and people. Though the autochthonous varietal triumvirate of ribolla gialla, friulano and malvasia are the bones of Collio’s body politic, international grape varieties like pinot bianco, sauvignon and chardonnay add much to act as representatives of the heart, head, mind, body and soul of the producers. Ultimately it is the Collio Bianco that have emerged as front runners for spokes-wines of the place. The appellative white blends unite and really tie the territorial room together.

Collio Bianco

Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild speaks to a group of foreign journalists during what is the culmination of the wettest month of May since 1973. He is THE master Collio educator.

Collio Bianco is both business card and calligram, a Field Blend that speaks to the idea of co-fermented grapes, working together, for complexity and the possibility of aging, like the music and the story of the area. “Go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes,” tells Richard Baudains. Cuvées or field blends can fall within the DOC, or not. There are a total of 1,500 ha planted, as opposed to 1,700 in Soave and 1,900 in Macon and a production of 6.5 million bottles, as opposed to 10 in Soave. This is an indication to lower yields and significantly so. In fact it represents 11 per cent of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and three per cent of total Italian production. There are 16 DOC mono-varietals and two DOC blends. More than 95 per cent are white wines, made by 350 growers, 180 bottlers and one cooperative on an average 4.0 ha of planted space. The lead is pinot grigio at 26 per cent, followed by sauvignon (19) and friulano (15). The latter endemic grape declined dramatically and was in fact at 50 per cent just a couple of decades ago. The rest include ribolla gialla (7.5), chardonnay (9), pinot bianco (4) and malvasia (2.5).

In 1966 the English author and journalist Cyril Ray remarked upon the pre-DOC “white wine made from a mixture of Tocai Friulano, German and Italian Rieslings, and a number of other varieties grown in the hills that encircle Gorizia.” The DOC was then created in 1968 with the suggestion to “drink young when it has a fresh taste and floral bouquet.” A vino contadino. In 1968 the numbers were more like ribolla gialla (45-55 per cent), malvasia istriana (20-30) and tocai friulano (25). Wines of “pale straw, neutral aroma, lightly sparkling, not for ageing, alcohol around 11 per cent.” Whereas all the mono-varietals came in at 12-13 per cent. So the concentration at the time was on indeed on mono-varietals, eventually leading to the evolution of the Bianco in the 1990s.

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore

A proposal was made by then Consorzio President Marco Felluga, the idea being that Collio Bianco shouldn’t be the second or even last wine but rather the flagship of the estate. The most representative wine, top of the quality pyramid and to condense the total number of wines made in the area. He had to liberalize the blend, by taking away all restrictions. A carte blanche stylistic. Your best grapes go into the Bianco.

Wine villages in Collio form a half-moon shape around Slovenia though with not a lot of variety in the soils. Climate is highly variable however and if a line is drawn from east to west you go from warmer to cooler. Chardonnay and sauvignon are grown to the west, ribolla gialla to the east. The overall territory encourages for a connectivity that allows for producing blends. Aromatic grapes defined; including traminer and muller thurgau, “The whole is more important than the sum of the parts,” is what Marco Felluga thought. “These are wines that will keep because they maintain their freshness and won’t oxidize. The question is this. Are they long aging whites worth keeping and will they develop interesting tertiary aromas?”

The following Collio Bianco DOC were tasted blind.

Autochthonous Blends

Livon Collio Bianco DOC Solarco 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A blend of autochthonous varieties friulano and ribolla gialla, herbal, sweetly so and also dissolving lime tablet. Noses like white wine brought up in concrete with a wet stone character though somewhat grey and dullish. Simply rendered, fresh, quiet and quick. Improves with time and develops increased and variegated citrus notes. And he shall be Livon. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Terre Del Faet Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Gathers friulano and malvasia and if at first seems just a touch musty the lingering turns to dissipating, more than enough to move forward. Also a wet concrete nose and then more expressive on the palate with white peach juicy flavour and a bit of lime. Good persistence and fresh as required. Well-shouldered, spalla as they say and certainly necessary to elevate the Bianco ideal. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Keber Collio Bianco DOC Edi 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The mix is friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla from stalwart producer Keber and a completely different stylistic. More extraction and if not a longer skin-contact time, at least a higher percentage of a grape variety that adds hue and flesh. A bit reductive with an uva-sulphury note and then again, more expressive on the palate. Perhaps a bit of wood here so a disjointed wine in youth, plus this petrol natural sensation in the oxymoronic way it just seems to want to be. I’d say the winemaker is perfectly happy with the result. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Muzic Collio Bianco DOC Stare Brajde 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Made from friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. Even just a year has aged this Bianco with some oxidative advancement, off of a warmer set of sites and one particular variety involved that moves forward quicker. Barrel certainly a catalyst, so malolactic too and all tolled acting like chardonnay, or a blend involving an endemic variety when subjected to barrel that turns out like chardonnay in that it acts this way. Terpenes in an apple motive, moving along pretty quick. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Baroni Del Mestri Collio Bianco DOC Monte Quarin 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Lovely combinations here from the holy Collio triumvirate of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla, of white flowers and sweet herbs, advancement and next level complexities. Brings together flowers and petrol, likely an aromatic variety mixed with one that has its own fruit flesh and then something with shoulders. Broad and punchy, with good acidity though not aggressively so. White pepper and a pinch of salt so properly seasoned. Like grüner or better yet gemischten satz, revivalist, so very interesting, of grasso, ciccia and glycerine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019\

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Autochthonous plus International Blends

Gradis’ciutta Collio Bianco Riserva DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The traditional triad of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla are here in a good advancement for a blend that has aged the way and in the timing it should. Quite gaseous and preserved lemon, plus aromatics that indicate potpourri. Certainly seen some time in barrel and gone through at least a partial level of malolactic. White caramel, vanilla and more lemon though mild acidity and in then end, a touch pine resinous, mild tonic, pith and bitters. All the while an effect created by 24 months of Riserva-level aging. Essentially a lone wolf of a Collio. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Cociancig Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

A mix of endemic and expatriate varieties, of friulano, pinot grigio, sauvignon and traminer. Intensely fresh and fruit punchy, florals and fruit pectin up front and nigh gregarious. The presence of something gooseberry-passion fruit unctuous is very sauvignon blanc mixed with a lemon gelée sweetness that indicates malvasia mixed with pinot grigio. Very fresh and drinkable wine. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019

Colle Duga Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

Somewhat aromatically reserved or at least demurred, a touch of apple terpene and herbs in the basil world. A mix of friulano, malvasia, chardonnay and sauvignon that acts quite grigio and/or bianco by notation, ubiquitous, easy and properly dressed with grain acidity. Not overtly complicated or complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Raccaro Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)

The four-poster then and now gathering ying-yangs between friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla and pinot grigi. Reserved but indicative of something serious. Stone fruit on the nose with a minor addendum by mandarin though not overtly fruit sweet. A touch of petrol-alcohol but no advancement, just not fresh and spirited out of the gate. Great palate presence, fleshy and broad, unctuous and quite forward in mouthfeel clarity. Lingers and fleshes as it goes. This could get very interesting with a few years of age. A solid combination of richness and age. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Renato Keber Collio Bianco DOC Beli Grici 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

A blend of autochtonous plus international grape varieties that includes friulano, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, ribolla gialla and sauvignon. My how things have changed in this aromatic ham. Lemon in every respect, squeezed, preserved and baking with hocks. Both earthy and candle-waxy. Uncanny note of beeswax really points to extended skin contact mixed with wood-aged Riserva character. Then a gas note mixed with grasso and glück on the palate and high acidity. This might be construed as a train wreck to some and still an amazing revelation for others. A wine that separates camps and instigates prejudices. Depth to be sure though wood is just a bit intrusive with or without enough terroir to back up the ambition. In a way reminds me of some alvarinho in the Minho. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Korsic Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Combines friulano and ribolla gialla with chardonnay. Solid if certainly unassuming and zero risk taking production. Juicy and tart, fruity and ultra clean. Really travels the apple to pear to white peach spectrum on repeat and in replay. Hue, aroma, taste and bones are all cut from the same cloth. In thats sense it’s perfectly balanced, amenable and fine. Poster child and ambassador for the DOC. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Bracco Collio Bianco DOC La Mont Brach 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The local friulano amd malvasia take on sauvignon with a slightly reserved nose and that’s seemingly unusual when you consider it is 2016 and has had time to come about. Terpenes and sweet herbs do emerge, along with a scrape of orange zest and then a gaseous note. Nicely complex within reason and seasoned with just a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pretty wine, field blend rich and exemplary. Very Collio. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Collavini Collio Bianco DOC Broy 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Really pretty wine this modern combination of friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon, not so much aromatically floral but just enough to speak to elegance and balance. Some orchard fruit still quite fresh, with a high level of flesh, extract and unction. Almost crunchy and wealth simple in blended white wine defined. There may be a minor level of wood aging here. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Tenuta Di Angoris Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Giulio Locatelli 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The blend is friulano, malvasia and sauvignon.A chewy, fleshy and broad shouldered Bianco with all the expected and necessary components present and then some. Highly focused and accomplished white blend, full of white flowers, mild seasonings, orchard and stone fruit, pectin, glycerin, grasso and acidity. It’s all here, clean, simple and straightforward. That said it’s certainly more on the perfectly understandable and less on the risk assessment, task-taking spectrum. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Russiz Superiore Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Col Disore 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

The Felluga friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon and ribolla gialla show an advancement because of the notable petrol immediacy crossed with more than obvious barrel addendum. A malolactic creaminess pervades and yet good acidity gives it drive and ambition. Vanilla and spice, sweetness and tinned fruit. A well made wine in the force a square peg into a round whole kind of way. Finishes with some resinous notes, in pine and eucalyptus. More cellar blend than field in execution. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Agnul 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Agnul from friulano, pinot bianco and sauvignon is lifted by this herbal, minty, orange scrape expressive nose. Rich, wood-influenced unctuous palate with mild acidity and definite character so rich, pork belly fatty and rendered. Good grape spirit and extract. Proper for the style, pungent and leaning to sauvignon blanc. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Pascolo Collio Bianco DOC Studio Di Bianco 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

A different mix, of friulano, riesling and sauvignon. One of the more curious and complex aromatic profiles thus far. Perfunctory herbs and citrus rolls into perfectly sweet and and savoury profits, from chou pastry to profiterole. Gastronomic Collio blend at its best, with florals and gasses, fruit and acidity. Proper, focused, flinty, salty and fine. Will age with the best of them. Jumpy, spicy, gassy and in the riesling vein. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ronco Blanchis Collio Bianco DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Four grape varieties contribute here, friulano, malvasia, sauvignon and chardonnay. Terpenes and metals meet dried herbs and alloys. Lemon and lime but more preserved than fresh. These grapes do Collio like riesling, traminer and pinot bianco do elsewhere. Strangely reminds more of Alsace than anything else. A bit sweet to near cloying as it accumulates to the honeyed, sweet tart finish. Seems there is some botrytis here though there is no residual sugar to speak of. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Venica Collio Bianco DOC Tre Vignis 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)

Three vines, friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon from which a little bit of age goes a long way as witnessed by this richly hued, gregariously aromatic and notably metallic Bianco. It’s all here in this ambitious and gregarious example. Plenty of orchard fruit, wood-induced texture and an overall creamy impression that suggest a whole lot of battonage. Vanilla, crème frâiche and almond paste. Rich, rich blend. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Ca’Ronesca Collio Bianco DOC Marnà 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Only pinot bianco and malvasia. Metallic in the way of aromatic grapes like riesling and yet there’s also an herbal quality. Quite verdant actually, a pesto, a green goddess dressing and a blanch of legumes. Really fine acidity keeps everything lit and elevated. Quite fresh for 2015 and with impressive length. Not overtly fleshy and the extract is dry, not unctuous. Might just develop some salted honey or caramel in a year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

La Rajade Collio Bianco DOC Caprizi 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The three varieties are malvasia, friulano and chardonnay in quite a developed white blend, in every respect, hue, flesh and structure. Deeply golden, some botrytis affectation and a floral-spicy spectrum breached. Apple custard, metals and all sorts of elemental activity, from pyrazines to thiols. Almost fresh, somewhat famous. In the end freshness without acidity. Curious. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Marco Felluga Collio Bianco DOC Molamatta 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The binding pinot bianco gets in between friulano and ribolla gialla in this blend of curiously reserved aromatics, especially for a twenty fifteen. Sweetly herbal though faintly so. Composed, confident, stoic and sure of a slow evolving self. A Bianco for bianco sake, as if pinot is elevated and the international addendum is just not that important, i.e. bianco without overtly necessary barrel time. The palate tells a different story and so the richness and ambition comes out. Tart, tangy and creamy, long and metal fine. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

The blend in 2015 is the ideal autochthonous plus international mix, with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay and ribolla gialla. Rich, juicy and complex, with full fruit compliment, extraction and heft. Orchards of every respect offer layers and layers of fruit substance and unction. Moment’s notices of salt and surety add to the layers of pure fruit. Nectarines are part of the mix. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind, May 2019

Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2013, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)

Poured from magnum with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla. A metallic aromatic blend, namely friulano like, with glycerin, paraffin and now, a honeyed back half. Quite a special accumulation and a speciality of the whole Collio experience. Great spice on the tongue here, piqued and peppery, special in so many ways. Some botrytis like notation but the wood involved is either beautifully integrated or wasn’t that substantial in the first place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

San Floriano Del Cóllio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

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WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

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

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

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

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

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

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

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

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

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

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

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

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

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

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

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

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

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

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest for August 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

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Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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

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

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

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

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

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

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

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

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

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

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

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

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

Lunch at Le Fonti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Twitter: @mgodello

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Il costante sangiovese di Castell’In Villa

Castelnuovo Berardenga, February 2019

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

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

Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa

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

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

Spaghettini al ragú di cervo

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

Tagliata alla Bistecca Fiorentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ravioli al tartufo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Fifty years of Col d’Orcia

Back in February of 2019 I spent some time in Montalcino as part of a three and a half day Anteprime di Toscana visit at Benvenuto Brunello 2019 and also with producers at their estates. The most enchanting visit and one that sent journalists, sommeliers, chefs, servers and family members back to the future was at dinner hosted by Francesco Marone Cinzano at Col d’Orcia. Verticals of Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino were poured from the nines going back 50 years in time.

Related – Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

A few years back I chose Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 1997 as one of 14 Mind blowing wines of 2014. “From a golden vintage, this ’97 is crazy good. A fixed, double-edged blade fighting knife dipped into a warm pool of developed liqueur-like sweetness. Seventeen years of languorous modulation and wood-fruit integration had resulted in a gracious Brunello, intrinsically delicious and living large in senescence. Life for the Col D’orcia ’97 is a bowl of cherries. Open one now and for the next three to five years and you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get. Me, “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.” Tasted April 2014. Strutura. Structure, ability and longevity. This is Col d’Orcia.

The Estate

History, tradition and strutura do not dig any deeper in Montalcino than at Col d’Orcia, an Orcia Valley, (Val d’Orcia) southern slope estate in the Montalcino territory. The lineage dates back to at least 1890, when records show the Franceschi family of Florence purchased the property, then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle. One of two brothers Stefano Franceschi inherited the property, split from Leopoldo in 1958 and then re-named it Col d’Orcia, “{hill above Orcia” after the river that runs through the property. Franceschi later married into the royal family of the future King of Spain Juan Carlos and sold the property to the Piemontese family Cinzano in 1973. At that time only a few hectares under vine and it was Count Alberto Marone Cinzano that pushed the reach up to 70 hectares by the early 1980s. Francesco continued plantings to the current number at 140 hectares, 108 of which are dedicated to Brunello production.

Cold d’Orcia’s soils are loose, skeletal and permeable, poor in clay, rich in limestone and inert materials. Fog, ice and late frosts are of little to no concern and breezes blow frequently for persistent and profitable vine health conditions. Climate is typically Mediterranean, with limited rainfalls concentrated in the months of March, April, November and December. Col d’Orcia the third largest owner of Brunello vineyards in Montalcino.

Plin farciti galletto, conditi con olio, parmigiano e pepe

The Dinner and the wines

Chef Roberto Rossi of Il Silene.

Montalcino, 14 Febbraiao 2019

Col d’Orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2009, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

So poignant for this to be poured alongside the Brunello of same vintage because we’re usually comparing Rosso to Brunello of the next and the next vintage. Both move with similar advancement though fruit in Rosso at nine years is far along the trampled path, deep into the bosco. If the aromatics have gone secondary than imagine how tertiary entrenched the palate is now. Lovely final chapter for this wine while still drinking with great charm. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2009, Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Not a question of heat but clearly a matter of having taken full advantage of a vintage. Here Brunello sits compressed, of mille-feuille fruit layers intersected by spotting acidity and still important tannins. Col d’Orcia tannins specific to a place “in the middle of nowhere.” Tasted side by side with the Rosso of the same vintage the notable difference is a peppery shell, almost a still persistent reduction and clearly a kept freshness. This fruit is Col d’Orcia’s red fruit, wild in the forest and warming inside. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2019

 

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio al Vento 1999, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Very youthful sangiovese, young Brunello, spritely Riserva and teenage Poggio al Vento. At 19 and a half years of age it acts like a kid, with unbridled energy and innocence. Still not in any real hurry to grow up, the pulse, energy and intensity are all plucked from barrel and left to play out in the yard. It feels as though it’s running and running. You can call it in for dinner but there’s no guarantee it will come in. Primary fruit is still a thing and food will sing along, happy to saddle up with this Montalcino cru king. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quiet, not just at first, but in continuum, a good thing with just a few initial hints of age. There can be immediate concern of this being 40 years-old. It’s hidden talents prevent you from knowing and of those, fineness of acidity is at the top of the heap. I’d say there was some astringency and mean streak tannin in the first ten years, or perhaps maybe more. It seems this Riserva was a beast for so long and only the last ten years have allowed it to deliver such gentility and charm. It’s amazing really and glad this bottle hung in there. It’s very special. In fact it’s still unfolding. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Coniglio in porchetta farcito con pistacchi, accompagnato da spinaci saltati e sformato di cavoli

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1989, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A huge Col d’Orcia, perhaps the biggest, broadest and most ferric I’ve ever tasted. That pool may only be 25 but this bites twice and is far from shy. It’s obviously vintage but also feels like a vintage of ambitious winemaking. The oak, oak spice, alcohol, unami and dried fruit are all fully throttled and simply add up to deliver a vibrant massive attack. Red fruit is nowhere to be found, left instead in a void filled by porcini, sanguine carne and herbal potpourri. The acidity eventually brings out more charming moments but this is really an unrelenting sangiovese. Will live 15 more years easy although there wont be the type of fruit still lingering shown by the 1979. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1969, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Tasted from three different bottles, the first showing TCA, the second alive and quiet, the third singing. Bottle variation is not surprising at all, especially in wines of this ilk and age. The family arrived at the estate in 1973 to find some vintages in barrel and this ’69 in concrete. Because the third sample was not just the best but the one with real personality we’ll just concentrate on it. The nose is very floral and full of toffee, toasted chestnut and burnt orange. The palate is lively, hopping really. A mild bitterness marks the finish, still pulsing with acidity though not with tannin. Great look back. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019

Millefoglie al pistacchio e caffè

Pascena, Moscadello di Montalcino 2014

Piccola pasticceria

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Vertical Carpineto

On a few separate occasions early in 2019 I have had the opportunity to taste the Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano sangiovese of Tuscany’s Carpineto winery.  Carpineto Appodati comprises five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). No less than 28 different wines are produced off of the five properties and while Dudda in the Chianti Classico appellation is the epicentre of the operation it is the storied Vino Nobile sangiovese from Montepulciano that have garnered the most international accolades.

Related – A traditional afternoon with the wines of Carpineto

During February’s Anteprime di Toscana Chianti Classico Collection in Firenze I had the pleasure of having dinner with proprietor Antonio Zaccheo Jr. and the most recent sit-down happened when Zaccheo came to Toronto on April 16th. A group sat down to lunch with Antonio and tasted through an eye-opening vertical that included Vino Nobile going back to 1990. Here are my notes on 12 recent assessments.

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Rich and unctuous Greve in Chianti Annata with classic savour and raging acidity. Still in tense command and not ready to uproot to advance any time soon. Cool, minty and understood. Much improved since first tasting this 26 months prior or more likely a case a not perfectly sound first bottle. Improved score as a result. Drink 2019-2023.  Last tasted April 2019

Carpineto’s is no shrinking 2015 sangiovese violet with its extracted fruit, soil funk and carob-chewy flavour. After a year further in bottle the extremities are exposed so that secondary notes are emerging, in tempered chocolate, funghi and dried leather. It’s more evolved than expected and while curious it shows the complexity of Greve in Chianti soil. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Much further along the road to expression is the way I’d have to announce the immediacy from Carpineto’s quick to gratify Annata ’16. The fruit aches to be pounced upon and used as quickly as you can make this happen. And yet there is a moment of microbial grounding to keep it honest and traditional. In the end it’s a really full and gregarious expression for sangiovese with true red limestone liquidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Carpineto

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tough reductive nut to crack though a swirl, some agitation and air releases some classic Greve in Chianti Carpineto aromatics. Chewy sangiovese, after that initial rock solid wall broken through and full of rendered fruit, some leathery, very cherry and quick to speak. Such a mouthful with bones and a verdant streak run right through. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Packed in suitcase from Greve by Antonio M. Zaccheo for this Toronto tasting. True to the Carpineto, Greve in Chianti, Classico style in that there is no real departure in stretch to the Gran Selezione, at least in terms of a thickening to syrup or shaken consistency. The cool, minty, dusty, high-toned and big red fruit personality are on headlights display, front, centre and all in. Here is the highest quality acidity that ’15 can gift and the fruit takes full advantage. Great cupboard spice and length. Really well done. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (368910, $32.95, WineAlign)

True to character for sangiovese exclusive to Vino Nobile, dusty, high-toned, dark fruited and also to Carpineto. More than the average amount of hectares bring a healthy dollop of the syrupy fruit, especially and in waves. The clone of prugnolo gentile is traditional to the estate for the appellation, incidentally Italy’s first in terms of red wine. And yes the prune quality is inherent here, with freshness by fruit off of young vines. More fruit abounds than Montepulciano is readily willing to gift and it seems two great things will happen. Consumers will enjoy this now and those with modest cellars can look to 2022 and maybe beyond for another credible layer of pleasure. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted April 2019

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (368910, $32.95, WineAlign)

The development in the 2013 Vino Nobile is multiple for reasons obvious and also obfuscating. The cool and demanding vintage adds dusty tension while extract brings more grip and power. What’s less obvious is the earthiness that crusts through and over dried fruit because of a vintage that simply can’t run away and hide. A characterful wine here, complex and a bit feral but still connected to its primary fruit, though not for long. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2019

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (368910, WineAlign)

The 2012 has passed over into next epoch territory, found initially with balsamico on the nose. The strong, grip gifting vintage brings the tension and the depth with darker fruit and some brooding personality. What ’12 also delivers and still does so with notable tonality is acidity. Fine Montepulciano, wind-ushered and assisted acidity. Further proof that this will live longer than 2013.  Last tasted April 2019

There is no missing the amount of big, old and sheathing barrel in the Carpineto ’12 Riserva but there too is no mistaking the Vino Nobile style. There is a lot of structure in such a handling and rendering, from a vintage with maximum fruit that can handle this sort of big-time wood addendum. That is because acidity, sapidity and edgy volatility work in cohorts, not in ante-productivity. This will age into umami, funghi and figgy-balsamic bliss over a 10-plus year period. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted October 2017

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (368910, WineAlign)

It’s more than merely interesting to taste this in a flight with ’12-’15. It’s both as evolved or more but also deeper in tones, just as grippy as ’12 and perhaps even tighter, finer and further into structure. All the parts moving or otherwise are accentuated and exaggerated, not the least of which are the toasty earth and the aforementioned architecture. This will dive deep into the old school, mushroom and umami well. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2019

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (368910, WineAlign)

Still amazingly youthful with what was clearly some of this estate’s best prugnolo gentile fruit of all time. Secondary character is but a whisper or a faint idea though the umami hints are always in the conversation. Just a terrific execution from this great vintage. Great complexity developed over the past three years warrants an extra bit of scoring love. Drink 2019-2024.  Last tasted April 2019

Carpineto’s Riservas travel to such gossamer and spiritual territory, taking the normale freshness and turning it into plausible hyperbole. The soil is inherent and complicated into the big star Nobile’s soul. Liquorice and tobacco, purity and sangiovese classicism. Oh, my soul “we’re going to get on up and drink till we drop.” Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2016

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy (368910, WineAlign)

Impressive in the way this Vino Nobile is hanging in early secondary character development, still showing more fruit, albeit into the prune but not far along in terms of mushroom, tar and forest floor. A bit scorched but that was the vintage and even more reason to appreciate the slow movement and the length.  Last tasted April 2019

Carpineto’s Vino Nobile hails from further inland, where the climate is more continental and the dry-farmed clay soils help carry the grapes through warm summers like 2007. Has an intense grapey, raisin and resin character. Really big fruit yet still old school enough to remind us all of the Carpineto oeuvre. This has stuffing, with nary an advancing moment towards a premature future. Blessed with a seamless nose to palate to tannins structure. This is really fine Vino Nobile, “scelto,” a chosen mocker. It’s thick and full but not from oak in any shaken or splintered way. This Prugnolo Gentile comes by its substance naturally, with minimal effort or need of applause.  Tasted September 2014

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1995, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The 1995 is immediately notable for being the most floral of all the Carpineto Vino Nobile and that’s saying something in a vertical that includes ’15, ’13, 12’ 11, 10, ’07 and ’90. It’s also blessed with the most acidity of them all. That said there is more earthy character down low and volatile-acetic personality up high. The violets, ultra-violet light and string violin musicality make for a tension filled journey through sangiovese in the clonal hands of prugno gentile that is anything but when you take the two words at their endemic and etymological sources. Neither prune nor gentle but something completely off the charts. What kills it in the end is texture, ahead of the curve and in charge. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2019

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1990, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The impossibility of three decades grace comes out of Carpineto’s 1990, still youthfully dark and brooding, kept in place with all three eras intact; primary, secondary and tertiary all play together in this Montepulciano sandbox. Plums beget prunes, begetting raisins and then dug into the funghi and truffle of the earth. It’s a porcini bend but also a tartufo shaved over red wine soaked risotto, starchy, creamy and silky smooth. Acidity still rules and if I were to compare this to the 1988 tasted in Montepulciano in 2017 I’d say this is easily five or perhaps even 10 years behind in its development. Hard to imagine a vintage getting better than this. I’d say 2010 and 2015 are closest. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted April 2019

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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I Fabbri’s perfume of Lamole

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

Related  – Chianti Classico is the future

Sunset in Lamole

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

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

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

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

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

Related – Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

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

Casole

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

John Szabo, Susanna Grassi ands Michaela Morris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lamole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

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