Gaiole’s great nuance

Gaiole Sangiovese

Every time I go to Gaiole something memorable happens. Mayor Michele Pescini knows what I’m talking about. He too recalls the deluge of August 1995. A walk through Castello di Ama’a art installations; a room with a view at Cappanelle; a moment of geologiocal, micro-block and micro-climatic epiphany with Angela Fronti in her Istine Cavarchione Vineyard; A perfect meal 25 years ago in San Polo; cooking dinner in the Coltibuono Abbey; sifting through epochs of Galestro and Alberese in Rocca di Montegrossi’s Monti in Chianti San Marcellino Vineyard; a drive with Francesco Ricasoli circumnavigating 270 hectares on a perfect Gaiole afternoon; a sombre moment in Castellio di Brolio’s crypts to find a shared birthday and death date with not one but two Bettino Ricasolis. Everything set to permanence and forever etched in memory.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Each and every commune in Chianti Classico carries a distinction that defines them, a set of character traits to speak of a collective past and a vision for the future. In Gaiole the sangiovese farmed and magically transformed is not immune to idiosyncratic behaviours and the southeastern sector proudly boasts some of the territory’s most singular spirit and peculiarity. The frazione question comes into focus inside of Gaiole because Monti in Chianti is one of Chianti Classico’s most prestigious, prodigious and policy defining. All this to say that gaining a deeper understanding into the nuance of Gaiole requires a heed of great attention.

The Gaiole Winegrowers Association was conceived in 2017 by Barone Ricasoli – Castello di Brolio’s Francesco Ricasoli and Badia a Coltibuono’s Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti. Created to promote the collective ideas and wines of the commune, The Associazione Viticoltori di Gaiole (AVG) held their first public tasting back in October of 2018. Upwards of 25 of the nearly 30 Gaiole producers participated. Fast forward two years and in September of 2019 13 Canadians met at the Coltibuono Abbey to taste through the work of 16 Gaiole Producers.

Badia a Coltibuono’s Roberto Stucchi

Related – They say all roads lead through Greve

There’s no such thing as being ‘not anti-menzione’ or believing in an ‘anti-menzione neutral’ policy

Gaiole is one of the three towns of what was once defined as Chianti Storico and remains at the heart of the Chianti Classico area. It is also the town within which the Iron Baron, Bettino Ricasoli defined the formula of the region’s “perfect wine” in 1872 after dedicating a great deal of time to research in the field of wine-growing and producing. It is also the host of the world’s most famous antique bike race, L’Eroica Gaiole in Chianti, “born for the love of the cycling that formed a good part of the history and literature of Italy. The idea was to seek out the authentic roots of this fantastic sport, with its great, popular heart, and rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest.”

Related – San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

There’s no such thing as being ‘not anti-menzione‘ or believing in an ‘anti-menzione neutral’ policy.” We’ve talked a considerable amount lately about the sub-zones that need to be addressed in adjunctive terms, not just for wine labels but also with regards to teaching and talking about Chianti Classico. The issue is that we are acting for or abstaining from the subject of menzione geografiche, or menzione geografiche aggiuntive (MGA). The middle ground proves that we’re in denial about the subject because there can be no such thing as being neutral. Saying you have no opinion or that this is not the time is saying that you are anti-menzione. Monti in Chianti is one of Gaiole’s most prized terroirs and it’s time to show up on labels is either now or not but either way it needs to be discussed with great pursuit. I can’t imagine Ricasoli, Stucchi or Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi would disagree.

A writer and a winemaker walk out of a winery… #chianticlassicobootcamp #chianticlassicoeducation #chianticlassico

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

“Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure.” I wrote these words after a September 2018 tasting, one month ahead of that first official AVG gathering. The 2019 assessment once again confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.”

Before we convened at the Abbey on Gaiole Mountain the group paid a visit to Riecine, one of the commune’s more modern, forward thinking and avant-garde producers. The following 29 tasting notes cover that meeting and the nuanced Chianti Classico wines tasted with the association’s producers at Badia a Coltibuono.

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($27.99)

Endemic grape varieties are always kept alive in Badia a Coltibuono’s Gaiole vineyards and always will be as long as Roberto Stucchi is around. And so his exemplary Annata is built upon a foundation of sangiovese with 10 per cent aiding and abetting by colorino, canaiolo and ciliegiolo. There is an unresolved chalkiness to the 2016, a textural and structural aspect owed to the forests, altitude and soils of the place. Clay limestone as per the party line but clearly a variegated mix of rocks, decomposition and blocks that give this distinct sangiovese its parts; bone, tissue and blood. All together the conveyance is an illusion of meticulousness and a frisson of simplicity. Stucchi will always keep us on our toes. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted on several occasions throughout 2019

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (683474, $43.99)

It may not purport to act as single-vineyard or plot specific, nor does Roberto Stucchi’s appellative Riserva seek to glorify as a 100 per cent varietal sangiovese, but from a Gaiole abbey that does not venture into Gran Selezione territory this is indeed the top Chianti Classico expression of castle and house. Like the Annata it feeds with colorino, canaiolo and ciliegiolo and here is drawn from four Monti in Chianti (frazioni) vineyards; Poggino, Vignone, Montebello and Argenina. All the chalky aspects of the Annata are liquified, silkened and elasticized throughout this seductive sangiovese. Even if the proprietor may passive aggressively stalk the idea of eliciting a spatiotemporal dimension free of any striving for beauty I will tell you that this from Badia a Coltibuono is indeed beautiful. It surely is Monti, Gaiole and Chianti Classico incarnate and will drink dutifully for two decades. Drink 2021-2036. Tasted twice, October and November 2019

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Impressive in how Ricasoli has taken the vintage and kept it intact, embracing the speed of ripeness and yet preserved as classic Gaiole in its spirited and savoury red fruit splendour. Lovely tang, plenty of drive, worthy of kudos for a positive cause and effect. Perfect for its ilk. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Ancient Fluvial Terrace of the Ricasoli Estate

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (418822, $34.95)

Riserva is but a bambino, locked tight, with great acidity, fruit agglomerated as one from a selection of all the vineyards. It’s the Ricasoli signature sangiovese dish, a true estate combinative Riserva. This is like taking a tour through all of the plots scattered around 270 hectares, to gain an understanding of what goes into making this Gaiole in Chianti body of work. The insight and grasp is yet unfulfilled because in this case it will take some time for all the moving parts to come together. Solid work in Riserva regardless, really really solid. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February and September 2019

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

This is the flagship Chianti Classico established in 1997, always the man, the most important and expensive wine of the estate. It’s also the first to shun the Super Tuscan commodities, eschewed to establish a Chianti Classico at the top of the game. Pioneer for a place that was once and can forever be great, now travelling retroactively back to the future of fame. In this context it surely makes sense that it then moved forward into the Gran Selezione category going back to 2007, always priced near the top. This generous and mostly easy vintage brings together classic Brolio cherries and acidity with powerful, linear and soliciting 2015 tannins. Draws you in, ties you up and keeps you around for the long run. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2018 and September 2019

Cantalici Baruffo Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (403733, $24.95)

Located in Castagnoli, organic since 2015. Baruffo the most beloved cinghiale hunting dog. Varietal sangiovese, rich, thick and on the dark plum side of Castagnoli. Good acidity keeps it swimming downstream. Drink 2019-2021.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite a barrel affected Annata with a richness of fruit that can handle the toasty wood and carry forward with expressive character, along with quite alimentary tannin. It’s not so much an older schooled Chianti Classico as much as it’s one of swagger, ambition and going hard for the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Varietal sangiovese selected from the oldest blocks and than selected again in the samples tasted in the winery. Not made in every vintage and was first made in 2013. Rich in fruit, chocolate and balsamic, high acidity and very solid architecture. Classic really for the early stages of the appellation. Controlled, professional and even slightly romantic work from Carlo Cantalici. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico DOCG Aria 2016 (378026, $19.95)

The estate dates back to 1982 under the current ownership. The Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese, “to tell the people about this place,” at 450m in the southeast corner of Gaiole, on marl and clay. A really silky sangiovese, modern CC with real classic undertones. Tart, tangy, rich in acidity and tannin. Tells a commune story but a territorial one as well.  Last tasted September 2019

‘Tis a savoury and yet also rich Chianti Classico, pretty much what you’d want and expect from Gaiole in Chianti. At present it’s found somewhat in a shell with inherent structure from what seems like a pretty solid variegate of soil. You can sense Alberese, Galestro and clayey-marl in the layers of fruit and the blocks that stack one upon the other. An unmistakeable sangiovese albeit well-extracted and very modern. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG FOHO 2015

Refers to Foco as in the fire, to give it a Gaiole+Casa al Vento accent, relating to a 175 year-old story. Here also 100 per cent sangiovese. From an estate micro-climate with vines at 500m and a windy, southern exposure. Rich and luxurious, very Riserva in the way of welling and layering, stylish and chic. Vanilla melting into white pepper Riserva is so known to be. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (332114, $18.95)

All sangiovese and classic red fruit specific to Gaiole, dusty-savoury and cumulatively lush. Succulence for the commune, elongated and enough restraint considering the warmth. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Fietri Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Grown at altitudes between 460 and 580m in the “end of Gaiole” quite near to Castelnuovo Berardenga. If ’16 was classic Gaiole and Chianti Classico then ’17 is not but it is exactly what the vintage demands. And Fietri has dialled back the wood to make a more lightning red sangiovese with high tonality and lime-Galestro undertones. Once again really well made. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Fietri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

Grown at altitudes between 460 and 580m in the “end of Gaiole” quite near to Castelnuovo Berardenga. In Riserva form this sangiovese from a single vineyard called Cillegio is the seventh incarnation and at this time is showing more than expected age. Oxidative yet still with sharp acids the fruit is turning to umami in tartufo. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (435123, $18.95)

From Andrea Casini in the frazione of Monti in Chianti, in the woods southeast of Brolio and close to the village of Cacchiano. With seven per cent canaiolo, traditionally fermented and aged for 16 months in Slavonian oak. Rich, herbal and high in acidity. Proper, old-school, well-expressed. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

I Sodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($29.95)

From the best sangiovese and from an estate that makes no Gran Selezione. Deepens all the Annata’s exemplary old-school contributions; pressing, concentration, herbal qualities. A hyperbole in exactitude. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2016

From Arenaria sandstone and schisty clay Galestro soils. The name is a fantasy, a fantasia vecchia. From Saverio Basagni and very old school at the highest altitudes in Gaiole, at approximately 560m. Just lovely classic Gaiole with the absolute truth spoken in Gaiole savour, of the woods, the porcini and the perfume of wildflowers. Tart acids, sharp and elastic. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Seretina 2015

A Riserva from the Vineyard deemed to be the better of the two, more worthy of producing grapes that can handle the aging and the structure to age. Smells like cinnamon it’s uncanny. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted September 2019

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($29.85)

Varietal sangiovese first made in 1973, fermented in concrete tanks and then sent to old tonneaux and grandi botti. Aged for 18 months. Final blend is done up in cement and released two years after the harvest in February the following year. A quick maceration makes for red lightning fruit, as far from cooked and jammy as there can be. Pure delight, exacting and proper for Gaiole and Riecine’s specific, iron-clad soils. Also the apposite of aggressive and overdone. That can’t be overstated and should never be under-appreciated.  Last tasted September 2019

Riecine’s is the true limestone sangiovese, of pure and striking, fast as lightning red fruit. This is without any equivocal wavering a Chianti Classico for purists, for those who look to tradition and who seek the truth, with the most clarity and modernist’s approach. The acids are perfectly succulent, defined and refined. An Annata that will live in infamy, fifteen to twenty years or more I should think. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted February 2019

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2016

Sangiovese 100 per cent, a selection, fermented in concrete tank, followed by large barrels for 24 months. Quite a departure from the Annata and also stylistically very different to Riecine di Riecine. So much more lush texture and weight though still the deep red fruit, just in hyperbole. Acids are developed, tangy and full.  Last tasted September 2019

Older schooled, tart, tangy, intense, welling and oozing Riserva. Very, truly, obviously Riserva. Like ’13 in a way but the vintage is almost a polar opposite so it’s clearly an estate style in as much as there ever could be. Built to age for a long time. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Riecine winemaker Alessandro Campatelli

Rietine Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Southern exposures at 450m. Sangiovese (80) and merlot. Sappy, jammy and layered though truth be told its ripe in both ways so works well and into balance. Very soft acidity, almost non-existent and easy. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Riserva is 100 per cent sangiovese and planted in 1997, five years after the first planting. Dark liqueur, fully rendered, daring and quite frankly a better acidity than the Annata. Rich and chalky, so full of barrel notes; graphite and especially vanilla. Good work. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

Riserva is 100 per cent sangiovese and planted in 1997, five years after the first planting. Really beginning to show age, with balsamico notes and soy. Really getting past the point. Volatile too. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (222810, $19.95)

Vineyards are between 420 and 600m, very near to the village of Castagnoli. Plenty of imbalanced or at least inconsistent ripening from the driest of vintages, in vineyards planted between 1993 and 2018. Very fruity and I mean fruity, lively, red cherry bright and accentuated by colorino. Steely and sweetened by new big oak barrels. Low toast and high on soil. Spicy and raging with fun, mixing Alberese and Galestro for a very integrated style. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2015 (23358 $32.95)

At 550m, Poggio A ‘Frati of 15 hectares planted to sangiovese and a small amount of canaiolo. A single-vineyard wine on Alberese soils, feeling the acidity, lightning tannins and grip into structure. That said this is made to be consumed so there is some soft, lush and plush sensations. It’s still grippy and really tangy regardless of what you say.  Last tasted September 2019

Poggio A Frati 2015 is primarily sangiovese though usually contains a few percentage points of canaiolo, for tradition. The vines grow on 12 hectares of schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Frati, “the hills of the friars.” The generous season is blessed of beautifully defined tannins, fine and sweet, with that vintage’s glycerin fruit and really intense acidity. This is such a baby but with tannins so accomplished there will be a really fine future, sooner and later. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

“Not easy but in the end I’m very satisfied by the vintage.” The words of Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi. Only 11 per cent less production for Montegrossi. A mature but to the maximum without going over and a saltiness from Alberese soils rich in limestone. So very classic Montegrossi with balancing acidity and plenty of dark sangiovese fruit. So well made and precise Monti in Chianti, of kept humidity and energetic vigour out the vines.  Last tasted September 2019

Monti in Chianti is a special tour de force location for grooming sangiovese and the vintage takes this terroir for a real spin. The Galestro rocks heated up in a way they had not recently been accustomed to doing, having received so much intense sun and you can feel the accumulation in this 2017 Annata. The fruit is particularly sweet-scented and richly developed. It needs little settling time and with acids not overly demanding I would suggest early enjoyment. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto San Marcellino 2015

If you don’t know by now it is San Marcellino that defines the single-vineyard oeuvre for Gran Selezione and so many could learn about what needs to be done to elevate the category. Sangiovese from vines as old as 70 years is joined by six per cent pugnitello. It’s certainly rich and lush but the quality and maturity of the acidity is exceptional in ways only this Alberese corner of Monti in Chianti can gift. Fine tannins will help this develop complexities for two decades. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted September 2019

San Vincenti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (399907, $19.95)

At Gaiole mountain at 400-450m, vinified in concrete then moved to 500L tonneaux. Texture first and a look at modernity within the classic oxidative red cherry liqueur sangiovese that we’ve come to know so well. Made for texture through planned execution. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

San Vincenti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

At Gaiole mountain at 400-450m, established in 1984, vinified in concrete then moved to 500L tonneaux. Oxidative, lacking lustre and full of dried fruits, followed by a similar grain of tannin. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($35.00)

There are no vineyard textures like Perano, white and yellow calcareous chalky, steep, well-draining, full of rocks and minerals. This sangiovese (with just a few points of merlot) reflects this composition, just as the soils reflect and collect the sun. Few Chianti Classico have as much lightning red fruit ripeness as this Riserva. It is simply chock full of flavour. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Welcome #lambertofrescobaldi @frescobaldivini to Chianti Classico. So many reasons to smile ~ incredible vineyards #alberese #galestro #steepslope #gaioleinchianti #tenutaperano #peranoestate #collinedigaiole

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Rialzi 2015

This first vintage of Rialzi “the terraces” reflects a plot with small berries of great colour and concentration. Three hectares that produces only 5000 kilos of grapes. And so Frescobaldi does right by the appellation with not just a single-vineyard but more so a single block for Gran Selezione. It took only a few years to isolate this block as having different and special fruit. Very ripe, very lush and high in acidity. Will age dutifully. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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Gaiole Sangiovese

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WineAlign

Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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

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

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

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

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

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

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

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

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

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

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

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

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

Lunch at Le Fonti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

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San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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