Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun.
We’ve talked ad nauseam of late about the marginalia of climate change, about cool climates and growing regions finding ways to ripen grapes at the edge of what is possible. As a greater entity Chianti Classico is not one of them per se but Radda may just be entitled to boast about being cool, relatively speaking. Everywhere vines are grown there has to be a coolest spot, where the altitude is highest, the temperatures are lowest and the vines are slower to manage phenolic ripeness. Radda is the coolest sector and the rest of Chianti Classico should be paying careful attention. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.
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Radda is one of four sub-zones in the province of Siena and shares its borders with four other Chianti Classico communes; Gaiole to the southeast, Greve to the north, Castellina to the west and Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south. There is something about the Radda sangiovese that stands alone, a thread that runs through, with traces and shadows of the territory omnipresent in the collective psyche of these wines. While other communes like Gaiole have begun to gather and band together, it is the group from Radda that is most keen and desperate to share their collective heartbeat from the eastern corner of Chianti Classico.
In Radda the shift to one for all and all for one has brought 30 producers together. The recently formed group share a commonality defined by soil types and estate vineyards set at an average elevation of 450m. This is one of the oldest areas of Chianti Classico, a commune of castles and vineyards that date back to the 12th century. Elevation, the soils and the expositions make for some of the most elegant sangiovese in Chianti Classico. The results are a cause and effect summation due to less sun, more finesse and a most prominent mineral influence. Radda’s destiny is defined by deeper root delving and more extraction of trace minerals from well below the soil surface. “The territory has always has been considered a cold terroir with more difficulties to grow sangiovese, especially as compared to other communes that are lower, hotter and with fewer difficulties,” claims Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti. Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take center stage. Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”
Radda is a story built upon a multiplicity of limestone, in all its Chianti Classico permutations, from grey calcaire to Galestro and everything in between. Terraces are all used, irrespective of the orientation. Two rivers, Pesa and Arbia mark the lowest points at approximately 300m and the slopes rise up from the rivers, up to 600-650 at the top where the Galestro and Alberese change to Macigno, friable limestone and sandstone, less calcareous, harder to work and therefore, places of lower yields.
“A subzone system for a definitive denomination as big as Chianti Classico should exist.” These are the words of Volpaia’s Giovanella Stianti. Signora Stianti’s vision may not be a singular one but not everyone is bold enough to speak aloud about an idea that most likely will soon become a reality. Until now the Chianti Classico discussion has been limited to varietal and the insistence that the main concern be about the multiplicity of sangiovese. September tastings centred on Radda, Gaiole and even more specific still to Montefioralle and Lamole speak to the idea of breaking down a territory into smaller parts. Defining sub-zones and then sub-sub zones is potentially discriminatory and ultimately controversial but the communes and villages are ready and stating their case for individual due. The murmurings ask the question. Has the time not come to proudly wear Radda in Chianti on your wine label? This piece of prominent information would help the consumer understand where this wine is from. The impressive number of producers and wide-ranging diversity suggests there are more than enough reasons to get behind the plan. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. So why not tell the world? Borders can’t be drawn underground but the lines can be demarcated above ground, by commune, village, river or road. Naturally the geologies will have to fall into line. In the case of Radda, that won’t be a problem.
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In September of 2017 I made my second visit to Casa Chianti Classico, located in the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. Casa Chianti Classico has been converted from the old Franciscan monastery and is now home to meetings, conferences, events, a wine shop and a museum. Four intrepid Chianti Classico inquirers, John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello were hosted by three valorous representatives for the municipality. Federica Mascheroni of Castello di Volpaia, Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti and Oscar Geyer of Borgo La Stella. I have reviewed 23 examples from the tasting in Radda.
The proposition indicts 2014 with a tight Chianti Classico, of fruit either berry or plum it’s hard to be sure, but either way it’s found wrapped and dragged through a stone-earthy ride. There is this deep into the soil liqueur that carries a mushroom funkiness, all within reason and finely integrated. Not a fruity CC by any stretch but carries plenty of character and might even be considered ripe for the vintage. From young vines, planted in 2006. That says something about its prescient present and the possibilities for the future. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted September 2017 borgolastella
Made with oenologist Maurizio Alongi, Oscar and Christian-Oscar Geyer’s Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 was bottled at Mazzei in Castellina. The vintage is all over this sangiovese (with 10 per cent merlot) planted to heavy, heavy density. The vines are but a mere six years old but already the Alberese is felt in this impressively layered, deeply hematic and starchy tart CCR. The mineral sensation is something that it quite striking at the Riserva level. It’s a big and tannic arena in which the wealthy deposits of mineral salts are pulsating with Radda terroir. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted September 2017
Brancaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)
Classic 2015 Chianti Classico of dark raspberry fruit and maximum ripeness with a side show of top notch acidity, bright enough to stay grounded in loyal and traditional footing. The tannins do cause a minor drying finish which only accentuates the correct and justifiable humility of sangiovese. An example to live and abide by. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted August and September 2017 brancaia_com noble_estates @ @
Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)
Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. The dusty, musty and leathery notes are up front, closed and somewhat suffocating for the fruit. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times. Needs three more years to perform due diligence, gain some traction and find its guaranteed due elegance. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted March and September 2017
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (339937, $18.95, WineAlign)
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico is really quite ripe for 2014, even perched on the next edge but short of the dangerous ledge. The acids are a bit hard and the compression somewhat intense in a sangiovese that reeks of personality spoken loud and clear. Both fruit and tannins are set out to drying on the savoury finish. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted September 2017 castellodialbola zoninwines @ @ @castellodialbola @ZoninProsecco
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (315150, $24.95, WineAlign)
Castello d’Albola 2013 is a gamey Riserva, with aromas of roasted meat and salumi, expressly extracted and pressed. This goes for broke and makes the most impression it can, with big fruit, tart edges and big tannins. It’s a formidable mouthful to be sure though lacks some balance, at least while it’s quite young. Time might help to shape the finesse and sharpen the clarity. Drink Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017
Here the exchange between fruit and acidity is seamless if simple, easy going and with no risk taken. Hard not to understand what’s going on here with its simple plan, fine execution and classic tart, red fruit and salty stone bent. On the sour side for Radda in Chianti Classico, particularly when discussing 2015. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted September 2017 #castellodiradda @
This 100 per cent sangiovese is from Il Corno, a single vineyard meaning “The Horn” upwards of 400 m above sea level. The soil is a calcareous clay and the vines were planted in the early 1990s. The ’13 Gran Selezione is rich and expressly ripe, simply linear for the category with very high acidity. Over the top high acidity. Let’s hope the twain is met before the end of this decade. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (953828, $27.95, WineAlign)
Volpaia’s 2015 strikes me as a Chianti Classico with ancient wisdom and perfect vintage fruit quality in its calculated, curative concentration, a wine that modestly takes every advantage it can, which are few and far between. This is a rich and earthy red, of frutti di bosco, ropey and wild, yet generating power in its wonderful restraint. Take in and regard the gentile, non facile, wondrous mystery of Radda in Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2017 castellodivolpaia rogersandcompanywines @@
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)
Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 is expressly reductive with layers of beautiful fruit laid comfortable and resting below. The glycerin texture and fine, fine tannins tell us the life of this CCR will be long, slow developed and over time will become more beautiful than imagined. Benvenuto to the blessed nature of Macigno terroir exorcized properly, in allowance of place to hold court and fruit to slowly dance upon its stage, rhythmically and harmoniously together. This takes every advantage of a vintage that will build structure if you let it. Wait for Volpaia’s ’14 because two plus years from now the florality will floor you. So pretty. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted September 2017
I had tasted both Capotondo ’14 and ’15 earlier in the week at Enoteca Nuvolari (Pietrafitta) though took no formal notes at the time. It was clear by way of perspective that ’15 was certainly drinking well but this ’14 holds more impressive and precise structure, at least by way of intensity. This is highly distinctive, chewy, somewhat chunky sangiovese, but the firm constitution and decidedly ferric edginess brings Radda soil into play. The “round head” tells us that it can be nothing but Chianti Classico in all its history and its glory. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017 cantinacastelvecchi #Castelvecchi @chianticastelvecchi.it
Riserva Lodolaio 2014 is not only scented by a curious perfume but a bit of a nutty one, connected to sweetness by oak in an immediate gratification, prompt to the consumer kind of way. This old castle, heritage vines sangiovese from high territory altitude is a veritable legume and spice spider, with legs of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, vanilla, coffee, dried herbs and dark chocolate. Here in the short term is an example of Chianti Classico Riserva ready for many a believer and quick to act appreciative imbibers. Lodolaio, the Riserva awarded, in a frame. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2017
From Radda in Chianti and one of Chianti Classico’s great young, forward thinking winemakers Bernardo Bianchi the wisdom is easily noted, deduced, accepted, considered and abided. Red fruit with an earth’s dusty, cracked crust allows for smells like fresh tiles and the just mixed mortar but that fruit is aching to burst forth. Very seamless for a young Chianti Classico, so this building will stand strong and last through the centuries, which in wine years equates to seven, maybe ten. Terrific sweet acidity, life-affriming sapidity and vitality. As good as young CC gets with the longest, pitch perfect tang in elongation, drift and persistence. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted February and September 2017 #collebereto @ Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto
The current incarnation of the single-vineyard Gran Selezione from “la vigna del Convento” is a wildly rich and structured, intuitive and interpretive expression. The vineyard resides in a great Radda amphitheatre, situated on the slope beneath Il Convento di Radda in Chianti. Winemaker Bernardo Bianchi does nothing to veer away from the house-composed, let the vineyard speak style, from a sun-worshipping, ambitious yet wise, 22 year-old Galestro soil block at a high Chianti Classico 500m peak. All together making for the new super Riserva of restrained power and elegance. If the aromatics in 2011 were of a wow factor they are somehow, magically and inexplicably improved upon in 2013. The field of flowering greens, the deep way you inhale the fruit and above all else, the mineral of this Galestro. It pervades and attacks, especially on the palate but when you taste sangiovese like this you understand the disconnected exaggerations, over-stressed acidity and the (comparative) imbalance in some of the GS peers. Bereto’s is one of the finest Gran Selezione and worthy of every charged sip. Drink 2020-2035. Tasted February and September 2017
Istine Chianti Classico is made by Angela Fronti out of vineyards set quite high between 480 and 550m, on the road that runs from Radda to Castellina in Chianti. From a great variegation of soils; Alberese, marly limestone, Galestro and some light presence of quartz. A rich red limestone ruby sangiovese is the result, collecting to a mild but notable unctuous liqueur, manageable acidity and tannin. This sharp and correct CC is lovely, well made, so proper. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted September 2017 istine_raddainchianti #Istine @istineraddainchianti
Levigne is considered the top wine of the estate and it is one of two assemblage-forged sangiovese. Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, a CC that combines all three vineyards and this Riserva. Since the 2012 harvest Fronti has opted for separate vinifications of sangiovese according to each vineyard of origin. Through different wines the characteristics of each specific vineyard, as in exposure, soil and altitude, are exploited. Fronti notes “we tell our reality through the best sangiovese harvested in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina), the one collected in the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda) and the one in the Vigna Cavarchione (in Vertine, Gaiole). Riserva is a story of assemblage and it seems to me, not the wine of Angela’s greatest passion. This CCR is chosen from her best fruit and spent 18 months in large botti. The fruit is raisin chewy and a bit stewed to be sure but with good acidity and tart, tight tannins to keep the faith. It’s disjointed and I would bet the single-vineyard CCs are more precise and focused. Should SV Riservas be the wave of Istine’s future? Only Fronti can answer that question, if adding more diversity to the portfolio is even a possibility. All that said this high quality blend will turn and morph for a more than interesting secondary CCR display of personality. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted September 2017
In 2015 Podere Terreno Chianti Classico makes a bit of a funky entry, not reductive but seemingly drawn from a lower slope, deep and earthy. In this vintage it wells deep as an inhalant of cherries, macerated and yet it’s entirely Radda, cool and wet, stony and such a calcari expression. You can enjoy this beginning in six months simultaneously alongside the tougher ’14, but their worlds will parallel one another for the rest of the journey. In both cases Radda represents. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted September 2017 agriturismo_podereterreno @podereterrenoallaviadellavolpaia
The vines date back to 2004 and 1994 for Poggerino’s Chianti Classico, a 100 per cent sangiovese that sits at a zenith where the most red limestone earth and sour intensity is noted above all 14s almost anywhere, not just from Radda but for all of the territory. Almost over the top in this regard but stand up and counted is what this amounts to. Then it grooves forward and rebounds with warmth and depth before returning to that earthy calacari bonding. Gathers itself, the moving parts and glides along with solid length. Very interesting, honest, organic and naturally curated work from Piero Lanza. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017 fattoriapoggerino vins.balthazard #poggerino @
Here the ’13 vintage is really expressed for Chianti Classico in Radda with deep red cherry fruit, earth and real saline intensity. The tannins are a bit rough and tumbling but even in their coarseness there is charm and even beauty. In such a state of youth at this the deceitful Poggerino Riserva talks some trash, almost as if to lie (alla bugia) about what it’s worth, so let it settle, integrate, develop and expand. The chew and the grip will be replaced by something other. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2017
Pruneto is the sole ’13 in the group tasting and the only one with Radda celebrated in larger font on the label. This is the outlier, from the singular winemaker (Riccardo Lanza) and was just recently bottled. The organics and organoleptic, earthy intensity are something to behold. It’s a stripped down ’13, Radda stye, needing time to unfurl and even bloom. This is hard to figure Chianti Classico 2013 but I suspect it will blossom after a few years time. Nothing else in Radda tastes like this. From the tiny, 3.5 hectare estate divided into just two vineyards, surrounded by forest. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2017 #Pruneto
Roberto Bianchi’s 2015 is a reserved and restrained aromatic Chianti Classico but there is a subliminal Galestro or Macigno message being delivered here and it would seem to be a grey to darker calcareous rock expression. The fruit is quiet but felt plummy and tart on the palate. This is a bit older schooled but surely carries great presence and length. A rich thorough finish concludes that ride through the mineral life. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted September 2017 valdellecorti @
From Roberto Bianchi, the Val delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 comes from not just a challenging but also a complicated vintage. Despite the rains and the unusually cool temperatures the aromatics here are not just a pure distinction for CCR but also for Radda. This is because it eschews concentration, alcoholic heat and unnecessary intensity for purity, honesty and delicasse. Here sangiovese acts in a wine that stands on its own as the finest expression of fruit from this estate. It’s both pretty and earthy, peppery and really deep, really deep. This has layers and layers of trace mineral drawn up into the red cherry mixed with some dried fruit bright and vibrant of the bones of the Riserva level wine. It can’t be thought of as anything but most excellent. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2017
A consistent and terrific follow-up to 2010 from old vines in Radda in Chianti, this is warm and creeping north (or south depending on your explanatory orientation) from deep, religious aromatics. Fresh slices of fennel bulb and wet concrete are rich, wet, juicy and vaporous. Sweet acidity and tannin join spicy red fruit from what is ostensibly the most unctuous and deeply tangy sangiovese you are likely to ever taste. This is quite something else, both hedonistically indulgent and propitiously wild and engaging. You had better like it hot and bothered, fleshy, gregarious and sexy. This really has it all. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted February and September 2017 #vignavecchia #Vignavecchia @VignaVecchia
Good to go!