Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Benvenuto Brunello is the highlight of many people’s calendar, for good reason, because there are few wines that can match its depth, class, character and structure. No one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste a pile of Brunello from Montalcino. And those who know understand the remarkable fact that it is indeed quite special to find such a level of consistency across a spectrum of very high end wines.

For a look at our reports published over at WineAlign where John Szabo and I offer opinions on the 2013 Brunello, please click on these links.

Coming Home With Brunello di Montalcino

Feature Report: Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Vintage and Buyer’s Guide

The travelling Brunello experience is taking place in the Consorzio’s 52nd year, now in the hands of Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. On March 5th, 2018 the 27th road show came to the Carlu in Toronto and I had the ambassadorial pleasure of presenting the wines alongside Brunello Consorzio Director Giacomo Pondini. The session was just the third international presentation of the new vintage of Brunello, the first having taken place in New York and Chicago in late January and the second just over two weeks ago in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. That the Consorzio continues to view Canada as such an important market and partner speaks volumes about our longstanding relationship with Italia, Toscana and Montalcino.

Benvenuto Brunello

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

We all remember our first love. We may hide the memory away and rarely speak of it but it’s always there. For me, Brunello di Montalcino was my first. In the spring and summer of 1987 I was a naive young McGill University student living in Siena. Bad hair, bad clothes, not a care in the world. My professor from the University of Toronto knew quite a lot about the wines of Toscana so when we made a class pilgrimage to Montalcino he asked if anyone would like to join him for wine tasting at the Enoteca di Fortezza during the afternoon break. All of my classmates opted for a siesta in the July shade and this at a time when there were no cell phones, computers or tablets to distract us from actually learning something. I was the only one who chose to accompany Professor Wollesen to the fortress.

In retrospect, what happened over those next few hours changed my life. It might have done the same for my classmates were they to taste, guided by a man of sangiovese experience, though 30 samples of Brunello di Montalcino 1982. If only I knew then even a fraction of what I have learned since, what value that would be for me now. No matter, for I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Brunello. And here we are.

A #benvenutobrunello2018 discussion with @marcora85 on all things #montalcino means there is lots of thinking to do ~ #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino

Last month I came to Montalcino for the second straight year to assess the presentation of the current Annata and along with tasting more than a hundred of those architectural 13s I went out into the field to visit important vineyards. Because two ears are better than one mouth I also spent time listening in with other journalists and with producers to get a consensus on the vintage. In 2018 there isn’t one and in my view, that is a very good thing.

The mixed messaging coming from talk about the 2013 Brunello may seem confounding but as Mark Twain wrote, “it were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” Thinking about a year like 2013 makes for a terrifically exasperating enigma because it presents a very particular kind of challenge. To some it was a case of extreme or at least unusual and unsettling weather patterns and the many shifts made harvest and winemaking decisions crucial, but also far from universally obvious. The vintage is to me a head scratcher because of how many opinions I’ve heard expressed as to its overall quality. I like to refer to the wines as ones of structural expressionism but however you choose to qualify them, the Annata wines are perhaps the most diverse that Montalcino has produced in a very long time.

The hill that is Montalcino. The look that is Godello. The argilo of the northern vineyards #tuttoèpossibile

The 2013 vintage began with a rainy and snowy winter. The spring was cold and the rain played havoc on bud break and development. Veraison was very slow. The harvest for many took place in late September through the first week of October. A common play for journalists or anyone trying to assess a vintage like 2013 is to lay blame on and conversely congratulations to producers who choose to pick their fruit at one junction or another. In this case, either before or after the September rains. If we have learned anything from Montalcino, where your estate vineyard or vineyard holdings are located will determine when, how and why you make your decisions. Every cru, block, plot and row carries a specific picking window and in 2013 even further under the microscope. It would be fruitless to try and generalize and to say that the greatest wines were made because they were picked before or after one pinpointed day during harvest.

So, are the 2013s much better than the 2012s?  Do they exhibit more character, structure and depth? I would say better is the wrong word, especially because we are discussing sangiovese, all of which, as I’ve said many times before, are snowflakes. As for character, structure and depth? Many wines speak of all three and many more will, in time, even if many of you are not yet convinced that this will happen. I am confident that history will be kind, even apologetic, to the 2013 Brunelli and in turn, the wines and their producers will look forward to reconciling with the early naysayers. Diplomacy, kindness and patience will reward us all.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

What about the long-employed term sangiovese grosso? The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, with clonal selection so varied, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

As with anywhere grapes are grown, your vineyard passes must act on phenolic ripeness and when it hits, the qualities that come along for the ride in that package are the ones you must work with. The best wines are the ones that speak this truth so if your site achieves optimum ripeness with dark fruit and generous alcohol, make that wine. If its ripe centre includes transparent, lithe and verdant fruit, make and own that elegant style of sangiovese. Be true to variety and location. In Montalcino this is the greatest compliment you can pay to your vines and your fruit.

#Repost @michaelawine・・・Because I just can_t get enough of Brunello di Montalcino – and @mgodello @brunellodimontalcino #brunello #benvenutobrunello #bbcanada2018 #tuscany #tosc

To gain a keen understanding of what separates one bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from another, especially when trying to compare and contrast from a specific Annata, I would suggest you concentrate on the location of the vineyards that produce the fruit. In some cases it’s a cru or a single estate set of blocks and in others a gathering of sangiovese from several locations. The advantage of the latter is the ability of multiple fruit sources to mitigate the deficiencies of one through support by the others. It also helps to create a house or estate style.

You have to know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino; south, north, northeast, northwest, far south and even more specifically, from which block and micro-climate you farm within that zone. You have to consider the zones; running clockwise from the centre of the region, first on the hill of Montalcino (together with La Croce and Canalicchio), next to the north we have Montosoli, then to Torrenieri in the northeast, to the east – Pianelli, the southeast – Castelnuovo dell’Abate, extreme south-southwest – Sant’Angelo in Colle, southwest – Tavernelle and Camigliano, to the west Casanuovo and finally Bosco, to the northwest. While some zones are more widely recognized than others it is important to associate each with the style of wines they are prone to produce. Our goal here is not to dwell too much on sub-zones and it often requires great generalizations to try and do so, but it is still a very useful tool to align your palate and to gain an understanding of Montalcino’s diversity through multiple places of origin.

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

In the 1970s the number of Brunello di Montalcino producers increased to 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases. According to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, 120 producers made 300,000 cases of wine in 1995. Today, there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio producing more than 500,000 cases of Brunello.

Before I get to the 83 Rosso and Brunello tasted and reviewed in Montalcino, at the Toronto seminar we poured, compared and contrasted 10 Brunello di Montalcino, eight from the current Annata, including one Cru, plus a 2011 Vigna and 2012 Riserva. Here are my tasting notes, replete with background information on those 10 wines.

Tasted through all 60, you know, for your safety #brunellodimontalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

From the northern hillside vineyard of five hectares facing south next to Caparzo’s La Casa and one of the most historical vineyards in all of Montalcino. Montosoli is blessed of an ancient limestone soil and an exceptional 360 degree exposure. It combines 380m of elevation and great quality Galestro in clay, was first produced in 1975 and only in years deemed worthy of its abilities. It is traditionally aged for four years prior to release; at least two years in Slavonian oak barrels, three to four months in medium-toast Allier barriques, and four months in bottle. If the normale is rich and elegant this is fuller, bigger, uncanny of that omniscient blueberry fruit and unlike any other Brunello in all of Montalcino. Is it the clone, the rocks, the place? What is it? Is is a different grape? No, it’s the terroir. But how? The Montosoli clone, mixed with the land and farmed by the people. True-blue, more than just climat-esque in Montalcino? Yes. How else to explain it. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February and March 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Cupano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In Montalcino you can find Cupano on 34 hectares of land in Tavernelle on the stony hill of a rolling plain above the Ombrone River. Their seven hectares of vines (three of which are new) grow at an average altitude of 200 metres on terroir with good drainage and high mineral content at the far edges of the territory. Their organic and biodynamic estate is a cultural marriage between Ornella Tondini, an Italian, and her husband Lionello Cousin, a Frenchman. They credit great mentors; Henri Jayer from Bourgogne who is a firm believer that wine is made in the vineyard, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, low yields, native yeasts, malolactic on the lees and aging in French barriques over Botti. Carlo Ferrini selected the land for the vines and the vine-stocks, the growth system and the height of the vines. François Bouchet introduced the idea of biodynamics and finally, approval from the great sangiovese enologist Giulio Gambelli. From “a regular Tuscan summer which led to a good ripeness and structure,” Lionello Cousin feels “pretty confident of 2013’s potential.” If the early presence of even-tempered and richly endowed fruit showing its flesh through well-aligned teeth is any indication than longevity will be a real asset to this Brunello. Everything points forward and there is zero doubt as to the passion, attention and provenance paid to the method, the gurus and the teachers. This is sangiovese worked by the hands of agriculturalists and winemakers on the ball, present at all times. It does not speak of consulting oenology popping in and out of view. Very special and singular in kind. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cupanomontalcino  @Cupano_Brunello  @CupanoMontalcino

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (113357, $64.95, WineAlign)

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018    donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (112607, $72.00, WineAlign)

Fanti’s 10 hectares of 20-30 year old vines have been developed in the amphitheatre of the south facing hills of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, at 350-430m, a part of which are quite proximate to the Roman Basilica of Sant’Antimo. This seems to be the optimum age for vines in Montalcino and for the production of a classic, estate or house style. Also a matter of manual harvest and the use of the sorting tables. Their Brunello is a classic expression of a gathered terroir. Ageing is done in part French oak barriques and partly in medium capacity (3,000L) casks for a minimum of 24 months (usually 28). Before release the wine is bottle-aged for a minimum of four (but usually up to 12) further months. Fanti’s 2013 is a deeply swelling affair of cherry liqueur and fresh leather, rich, decisive and quite intense. The liquid gelée is fully and completely welling in fruit and earth with more tonic and fine bitters in linger than most. This is a very specific sangiovese with a composed and singular style, chalky, variegated and gregarious. It will have many fans on restaurant lists all over the greater diaspora for Brunello. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February and March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018  #ilgrappolo  @GrappoloFortius  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

La Colombina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (445650, $69.95, WineAlign)

La Colombina di Caselli Anna Maria is the full name, a small three hectare estate in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, bordering on both the Ciacci and Uccelliera estates. The vineyards have been in the Caselli family for generations. Though they had always chosen to sell the grapes rather than bottle their own wines it was in 1997 when they converted to specialist wine growing with the planting of the three hectares and released their first wines in 2001. The Brunello is aged in a combination of barriques and tonneaux plus Bottle aging for eight to 10 months. Castelnuovo dell’Abate is one of Montalcino’s hottest sub-zones, protected from cold easterly winds by the extinct Amiata volcano and open to briny hot Mediterranean winds on from the west. The speciality of this zone and micro-climate bring great structure to La Colombina’s sangiovese though in 2013 a concentrated effort to emit amenable and enjoyable fruit puts this in an earlier frame of mind. That said it will outlast the ’12, a wine of fine liqueur. This is surely a consistent follow-up to that wine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  #lacolombina  wineonline_ca    @wineonline_ca  WineOnline.ca

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (237263, $59.00, WineAlign)

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018  #cortepavone  

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (363028, $49.95, WineAlign)

Pierluigi Tagliabue purchased the “healthy hill” Villa Poggio Salvi in 1979, now 21 hectares of vineyards owing its name to its historical location on the south side of Montalcino, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The altitude is between 300 and 500 meters, with a rich weave of clay soils and a beneficial breeze. Pierluigi Tagliabue’s grandson Luca Belingardi is the winemaker. The Brunello spends 30 months in oak casks plus a minimum 6 months in bottle. The 2013 is an agriculturally clean, sound and precise wine meeting a viniculture on the same, extended plain for sangiovese of substance, passion and flare. This is quite tart and angular though only because the structure is meant for a launch forward, beyond the turn of the decade and forward to the next. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and March 2018  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine      @HalpernWine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $79.95, WineAlign)

Having tasted the follow-up 2012 a year earlier in Montalcino made for more than a curious moment to look at this 2011 one year later and in Toronto. Nothing against the rock solid ’12 but this vintage is simply glorious. Waiting 12 months was not just worth it but clearly essential. The walls have come down, the sea departed, volcano stepped aside and all that is right in a Castelnuovo dell’Abate Brunello world is also righteous and beautiful. Some of Montalcino’s most famous and iconic wines have come from Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Fattoria Barbi, the oldest of which date back to 1870. There are two centuries of history with thanks to Francesca Colombini. The Vigna del Fiore “vineyard of the flower” or maybe “flower garden vineyard” is unique to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of the oldest (and furthest south) in Montalcino. The block is just under six hectares from an area where vines have been cultivated since the XVI century. It sits on the top of a hill that descends toward the Asso and Orcia rivers and faces Mt. Amiata. The hill is a natural corridor between Montalcino and Mt. Amiata and it connects the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia and the basin of the Ombrone valley as you head to the sea. The production varies a lot; in some years it is not produced and at a maximum it reaches the 13,000 bottles range. The first vintage was 1981, chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Francesca Colombini Cinelli. Aged in small to medium size (that is 5-20 hL) oak barrels for the first months, it completes the aging in larger oak barrels for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least four months before it’s released. The oenologist is Paolo Salvi. This represents what matters in terms of Vigna-designate Brunello and what it means compared to broader expressions drawn from and combining several vineyards. So close to drinking perfectly but to tell you the truth, you don’t have to wait. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted March 2018  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $222.00, WineAlign)

Massimo Ferragamo purchased the 2,000 hectare estate in 2003. With close to 60 hectares planted at 350-450 metres to sangiovese, Castiglion del Bosco produces three wines: Brunello di Montalcino, the single-vineyard Campo del Drago and this Millicento Riserva. Located in the northwestern part of the zone, an isolated tract of wild forest surrounds the vineyards, all part of the Val d’Orcia Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park. The organically farmed vines were planted in 1998 and some new planting took place after the purchase in 2003. There are two distinct growing sections, the 20-hectare Gauggiole vineyard, just beneath the borgo and Capanna, with 40 hectares. As for soils, it was five million years ago that sea levels dropped leaving sand and clay deposits across the Val d’Orcia. The Radicofani and Amiata volcano eruptions also spread a dark magma known as trachite, resulting in a soil mixture perfect for growing sangiovese. Marl and Galestro predominate. Since the debut vintages, winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi has decreased both the predominance of barriques and the amount of new oak. Since the 2012 harvest the Millicento Riserva has only been aged in 33 hectoliter casks, but sees an additional year in bottle. This is just the third vintage of this bottling and the first to set the record straight because the vintage is a true barometer of what it is to benefit from an extra year of aging. The effect of altitude and a surround sound of forest solicits the gelid savour and cool, elemental, semimetal, crystalline coal streak that runs through the luxuriance of mahogany fruit. Brunello has the ability to layer density and weightlessness in a way that is impossible yet understood. Like here, in the Castiglion del Bosco Millicento 2012. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

The future so sub-zone we’ve got to draw maps

“Montalcino is too small for micro-zones,” explains La Mannella’s Tommaso Cortonesi. “We have to communicate about winery crus or zones, this will be beneficial for the territory, but 95 per cent of consumers have no idea where Montalcino is, so why do we need to divide it up into micro-zones? Cru, but nut sub-zones.” It’s true, each producer knows the soil, the vines, the specifics of their cru and what needs to be done to make the best wine possible from that cru.”You have the exult the main characteristic of your single-vineyard. You can talk about freshness in the north, but not in the warner parts of the south. And you have to work in the right way to exult the freshness or conversely the big body possibility of that area. Work woith what the zone gives you.” Generally speaking, the northern side has much more vigour, on more clay and more water, where green harvest at least once or twice must be performed. On the southern side the yields are lower.

My friend and colleague Monty Waldin wrote “there’s no better way to understand this intriguing wine than to seek out the single-vineyard expressions.” Identifiable single-vineyard Brunello will more than likely be completely different from one other, “proof, if it were needed, that differences between Brunello terroirs are something that can unite rather than divide the region.” But there is also the concept of single vineyards versus single terroirs. The latter is also a good way to divide and make sense of the region.

Many have raised the question “to zone or not to zone,” a debate hotly contested for years but still with no clear answer. Is Montalcino ready for sub-zones or is it still far too early, decades early even, to be expecting this shift? Does zoning runs the risk of giving imprecise and misleading evaluations? Are many more years of experience required to figure out where (as in Bourgogne) are the locations of the best soils and cru? Is it not generally agreed already which ones these are? Remember that sangiovese is the only grape allowed in Brunello, is notoriously site-sensitive and performs differently depending on its environment. Do the producers know with certainty where it consistently works the best?

Annata 2013 #benvenutobrunello2018 highlights from a confounding vintage with some inspired upside. Wait for it. #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino #poggiodisotto #salvioni #sanpol

One way to look at Montalcino is as an inverted cone with its peak just south of the town of Montalcino (think of dividing the square into four isosceles triangles as shown on the map, with the center forming the apex of the cone). From the center, the slopes generally descend out- ward across the region. It thus becomes apparent that one of the most influential variables in the character of these wines is altitude. This wine zone enjoys a Mediterranean climate as well as high altitudes that provide a cooling effect that is beneficial to the grapes and prevents disease. The differences in altitude and exposition throughout the zone play a substantial role in the vegetal cycle of the vines. Due to high altitudes, cooling conditions from winds and evening temperature drops sustain a slower cycle in vineyards. It is important to note that all variables are not constant and generalizations can oversimplify a complex subject. Individual site soil, exposure, viticulture and vinification technique, producer style, and vintage conditions can change these characteristics.

Here are the notes on the wines tasted in Montalcino; 62 Brunello and 21 Rosso.

Brunello di Montalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (994095, $63.00, WineAlign)

Lovely exotic spice on the nose of the Altesino Brunello ’13, something the ’12 did not at first and continues not to show, but this is not too dissimilar to some other 13s. This northern song of multi-vineyard, micro-climate and terroir fruit carries itself admirably, with admiration for its variegated origins and for what you do with such a complex and volatile subset of territory. The dark fruit meeting rich and warm texture quotient trips off the tongue like E Più Ti Penso in what is surely of the more beautiful classica annata 13s. “Non ha l’acqua per nuotare.” Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.00, WineAlign)

A year makes an incredible difference. No dissipation of the richness and deep liqueur though now the emergence of marked elegance and of course, the Montosoli blueberry. Still a calcareous pietraforte vein runs through in chalky liquidity but a year makes such a difference and now the breathing is calm, undisturbed, lovely. Last tasted February 2018.

In its present state Montosoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037. Tasted February 2017  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Emotional tasting through #altesino & @caparzowines with #elisabettagnudiangelini #brunellodimontalcino #montosoli #vignalacasa

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.95, WineAlign)

Let’s talk about what changes in a year, with the settling of tannin and acidity still working its magic, munching away on the wood and the fruit, combining and alone united front getting all together. Unlike Montosoli however, Altesino’s Riserva ’12 exhibits a high level of spice that is still biting, like a Riserva does. Though I prefer to drink the Vigna, usually, but especially with Motosoli, there is no doubting the layering and age forward ability of a Riserva like 2012. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (65114, $64.95, WineAlign)

More wisdom is readily apparent from Pian Delle Vigne through the art of estate blending to amalgamate, mitigate and ultimately realize the best for the vintage. Deep cherry, smoky to smoldering fruit solder but with a sense of calm beneath the warm. A swarm of red fruit and then this marly mineral streak running deep into the drupe. Absolutely defining, no matter how few or many you will taste from 2013, this is how it happened and will continue to do so for a decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (154609, $55.00, WineAlign)

With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m. In 2013 a stolen vintage warmth is readily apparent on the nose, with a fine elemental streak through thick air willing and able to carry this sangiovese through its formative years. The palate and texture are next to brilliant with the great feeling of plush, silken tapestry, woven for complexity and thinking about the future. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (928028, $49.95, WineAlign)

If there is another estate in Montalcino with more ode in pocket to tradition and history while always moving and thinking forward then I’d like to meet it. Barbi’s ’13 takes an express leap ahead, away from where it came but with notes and stories that recall its past. This fruit is serious, wise, salumi-frutta di bosco meets fragola based, chewy, ropey and exact. The tannins are drying over round and bounding acidity while the age potential never wavers. It’s a baby, like so many, but in a Brunello as here, as always, there is no speculation, only certainty. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Though not yet convinced that 2013 will be a the vintage of the century it is always a pleasure and indeed an honour to taste a house moving from strength to strength. You can feel the give and take of the grippy framework, certainly before all else but behind a textured weave of a curtain there is the fruit lying in patient wait. The whole package brings about a well-thought out design, from that calm and collected fruit through very fine acidity and into the masonry of supporting structure. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted February 2018  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is bright, cheery, wild cherry and fresh leather sangiovese with a medium body meets semi-plush texture, medium acidity and some drying, grippy tannins. It’s extremely correct for its take on 2013 and ostensibly tells the story of the vintage. You can use a Brunello like Camigliano’s to benchmark wines in either or all directions. It offers a vantage point at the centre of a four-corner intersection with traverses in right angles and on diagonals in all directions. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  commercialecamigliano    @camiglianomontalcino

Canneta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

From a most challenging 2013 vintage, this can only be Brunello di Montalcino, with ripe, intense, dusty and edgy fruit wrapped up in grippy tannin. There is a verdant streak running through the tannin, not surprising considering the vintage and there too is the black cherry, leather and cypress savoury liqueur. The acidity is well-managed, the typicity bang on and in the end, a perfectly correct example of vintage and place. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #canneta    Società Agricola Canneta Srl

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 378513, $47.00, WineAlign)

It is here where so much collision occurs, terroir, weather, climate and agriculture are all involved, without recourse, to machinate a sangiovese of deep warmth and wealth by fruit and earth. This is the deep liqueur of Brunello di Montalcino, extreme of vintage and skilled as only this place can be. The fruit ability is equally matched by ministrative acidity, maneuvering the moving parts and delivering them into the grippiest of tannin. What a formidable mouthful this is, at present lacking a bit of charm but hopefully, in time, will all balance out. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  #capanna    @capannamontalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (579094, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Caparzo Brunello 2013 is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, a celebratory anniversary wine that spent three years in botti grandi. Caparzo’s Classic sangiovese gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is borne. This deep inhalant and liqueur also delves into earthly sand, Galestro and clay microbes in which earth and fruit challenge the notion of complexity and to which direction it pulls the senses. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. High acidity into slightly volatile air confirms and eventually carries the visa to conform. Drying tannins are not a huge surprise considering the pressing matters of this wine. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

La Casa, Montalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Caparzo’s home block Vigna La Casa 2013 this young may be even more difficult an assessment than looking at 2012 this time last year. But if noting what a year further in bottle did for that 2012 than some plenitude must be afforded the more confounding 2013. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, La Casa sits next to sister Montosoli (Altesino) and its pure fruit doles out high-level Montalcino elegance and in more ways than the normale Caparzo. It also behaves with more calm and collected demeanour. Though reduced with early bite and taut finings this is clearly a very refined Caparzo for the people. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, quicker to amalgamate and settle than many in the region, the ’12 single-vineyard La Casa is a true ambasciatore of Caparzo terroir, rich and regaling but lithe and elegant. If you are trying to gain an understanding of the Caparzo way this is the place to start, in 2012, from a living, breathing Vigna, out of the storied vineyard. Perfume and finesse are special and this is how it’s done, without pretension and with class. So much to learn from an extra year in bottle. Drink 2019-2026.  Last tasted February 2018

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $112.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012 is from a producer with parcels all over Montalcino, even though the estate is located in the northern sector. This seems today like a very smart forward-thinking decision. The bringing together of multi-geographical and climatic fruit helps to mitigate variability and vintage variation and towards keeping away from the heat, jam and heavy concentration to raisining of the southern vineyards. This is particularly poignant in an age of climate change or more important, weather extremes, but it is Elizabetta Gnudi’s holdings all over Montalcino that put together the balanced blends that Caparzo can do. Case in point this noble Riserva from which the very idea of freshness and light wines are always the result. The ideal is furthered with a set of wines, even at Riserva level that relatively speaking are always affordable. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (956391, $54.95, WineAlign)

Warmth to nose and a deep inhalant of sangiovese liqueur are a calling card of the northwest regional house in a Brunello of proper wealth and massive appeal. Yet another wine to define vintage it is the house style that truly takes centre stage, from grippy tradition through exfoliated structure and down the deep well of varietal elixir. Castiglion del Bosco carries baggage with purpose and extends an outstretched tannic hand forward as we and they are making plans for the future. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo del Drago 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

Campo del Drago is Castiglion del Bosco’s cru from the finest vineyard in the Capanna area, a hectare and a half at 450m, marking the highest elevation. Structure, refinement and pure sangiovese expression are the intent through content and goal by execution. The dragon keeps it old-school, travelling loyal to tenets of experiences learned and known. A bigger oak presence is felt in the tannic architecture so that the wine is still in chains, but also in love. The clay-shale and gravel-pebble terroir decides what this Brunello can do. It speaks to you, “all these changes everywhere, just go ahead and take my hand…we can try to learn to make it through, cover the other side.” Density and high acidity determine the plan so looking ahead, the feeling and deeper understanding will come, in three years time. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

 

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Classic is the operative for Col D’Orcia and in this vintage, a deeper understanding of Brunello di Montalcino and how feeling determines expectation, that no matter the pain we may or may not want to feel this early, the eventuality will be a positive affair. The structure in here is nothing short of pyramids strong and so know this. You will drink this is 15 years and have nothing but positive, wistful things to say. As for right now, perhaps not so much. So grippy. Wow. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (279083, $70.95, WineAlign)

The vintage posed more than one problem but success has been won by the Montalcino producer who after the heat waited out the rain, followed by a few weeks of settling and thus allowed their grapes to complete the phenolic journey. Case in point Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2013, a modern, many steps forward taken Brunello with little to no fear of a world hard to figure. It remains calm and focused in light of the challenging vintage. The fruit is intensely driven, the acidity equally so and the finale a continuance of linger in the face of great tension and demand. A northern location and an expertly farmed estate block (as opposed to single-vineyard) is the catalyst to this ’13’s success. The composure and details of minutiae acquiesced add up to a fine effort, not presently a matter of delicasse but certainly a result that is sure and exacting. This will be one of those fortunate Brunelli built to outlast a bigger group conjoined by jammy fruit, green tannin and astringency. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

With @nicholaspearce_ the #brunellodimontalcino man himself @marcora85 poured his exceptional #sangiovese so we fed him the archetypal @barquebbq wings. And it was good #poggiarelli #lam

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 420m high, single-vineyard Brunello hails from the southeast section of Montalcino. Warmth is not the only advantage/alternative to growing conditions but also soil which is rocky and rich in marl, as opposed to the clay-sandstone earth of the northern vineyards. The expectation persists for richer, deeper and darker, at least in terms of fruit. There is in fact this aphasic maroon sensation felt at the heart of the Poggiarelli matter. The rocks are so important to the southern vines, notably Galestro because it streaks through the tenebrous dimension with a clarity of cool savour. Power is kept in tow so that notes in mind of things like svelte and grace are given due consideration. This southern slice shows Tommaso’s specific mentality, as will the other, but here it’s one of care and precision. Poggiarelli as a cru is not La Mannella, but they are inextricably tied together by their one maker. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

#Repost @nicholaspearcewines (@get_repost) ・・・ Serious Brunello talk going down #therealmontalcino #cortonesimontalcino @mgodello @marcora85 @barquebbq @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella Riserva ’12 is composed of grapes taken from the oldest vines though by a predetermined decision communicated to the consorzio one year before release, whether it turns out to be a vintage from which a Riserva is made or not. This is an essential rule that prohibits producers from not giving a wine an identity. Riserva is a completely different wine than the Annata, as always with more mature notes though here in salumi hyperbole, long aging oak spice and fruit elongation. Cortonesi’s spent four years in large Slavonian oak barrels and at this five point five year mark it turns to wild strawberry, chocolate and cocoa. It’s both elegant and taut while just now beginning to stretch its legs. Even if you can’t quite imagine or envision what will be, there has to be some level of blind-spotting or just plain denial to not see this is as pure magic. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Vallocchio is Fanti’s single (Vigna) expression from Castelnuovo dell’Abate fruit gained off of vines up to 35 years old from what the estate refers to as their mosaic of uniquely gifted plots; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. The two hectares produce only 10,000 bottles (in many but not all vintages) in what can only be translated as “the valley of the eye,” or it is these highly perceptive vines that see the forest for the trees. Always a rather grand and impressive expression of Brunello with big bones, fruit and alcohol, Vallocchio is remarkable for how it smells and even more so tastes like limestone, with thanks to the presence of Galestro in sand. The focused and precise 2012 is aged mostly in large casks with just a few barriques, an elévage stylistic that will only continue to trend in the direction of older wood restraint as time goes by. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $139.95, WineAlign)

Two and half hectares of old vines (averaging 35 and some as old as 40 years) at 250m is Fanti’s cuore di sangiovese vineyard called Le Macchiarelle, or shall we say “the little thicket.” The soil is critical to this sangiovese, sandy with scattered Galestro rock in the marl. Like the Vallocchio the terroir is very much the same but the wine so very different. Structure rich, layered and extrapolated is the understatement but “raffinato” is exactly what this Riserva should be called. That it speaks to refinement or “sottile” is amazing considering how much its size, wildness and density attempt to obscure or blemish (macchia) the beauty of its red fruit. A broad expression it surely is but one that will stretch, extend and unwind over a decade or more of time. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (33498, $39.95, WineAlign)

It gets neither more modern nor accessible than this fruit-centric Fattoi, a sangiovese of primary charm and acidity to manage that precocious, boyish charm. Expect early returns from this succulent sangiovese but less structure for longevity. This needs to be expressed and turned into a positive because some Brunelli need to offer immediate gratification. Perhaps not too many but this is the one to take one for the team. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (245225, $92.00, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is classic Brunello, as expected, because it really celebrates its acidity more than it presses for tannin to lead it into a long future. Though the tannins could not be accused of not drying a bit and the fruit may not live for two decades it is the fine acidity that will keep it very much alive. I for one will look forward to seeing how this particular Fuligni keeps the energy alive. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018    @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

The push-pull, ying-yang workability of density and elegance move to and frow in Gianni Brunelli’s 2013, a wine of substance and finesse. The Le Chiuse Di Sotto estate fruit from an area south of La Croce and north of Castelnuovo dell’Abate has a lovely freshness about it, fully expressed in chalky cherry liquidity and a side addendum of smoulder and wood spice. Good to very good structure will deliver a long run into the next decade and beyond. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If you wish to be quick to point out a sangiovese as acting as a classic poster child for the vintage almost before it has even lived, this from Il Palazzone could very well be the one. It’s as fresh as a 2013 can be though also compresses deep down into the syrupy Brunello well. Once again it is a vintage related affair that speaks quite clearly through the opaque lens of 2013 eyes. Young by territorial standards with the first vintage having been produced in 1990, the estate’s (just southwest in direction) close proximity to the village of Montalcino links it to the centre of the regional psyche. I would not hesitate to make use of Il Palazzone as a yardstick from which to measure the 2013 Annata in every and all directions. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  ilpalazzone  @ilpalazzone  Il Palazzone

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

This is found to be a dense, compressed and intense sangiovese and as a result the tannins are quite formidable at this youthful early stage of its evolution. Nothing says strutura like this angular and impressive Brunello but anything less than five years of patience will do little to offer an immediate or near-term reward. Plus the necessity for fruit longevity is part of the package of hope. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Vini Lazzaretti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (318352, $53.95, WineAlign)

The deeply hematic, ferric and brooding nature of Lazzretti’s 2013 demands attention and time though there is hardly that much available at this early stage. This is one of the grippiest and firm of the lot, a wine of intensity, full throttle activity and ambitious-driven functionality. Everything here is grand; fruit flesh, strong bones and heavy footprint. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Modernity for 21st century Brunello is truly forged from sweetly ripe, perfectly phenolic fruit. Just as noted in the estate’s ’12 Cilegio I once again imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards at harvest, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. Sweet spot found once again. In 2013 there is also a new found spice, so much it bites but the precision, finesse and elegance remains. The fruit is of a deep red clarity, at times downy soft but then the pique moments strike, again and again. So much fun. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Brunello di Montalcino La Màgia is aged for three years mainly in 500 litre French oak tonneaux with an eye towards grip and a construct to age, all the while staying true to the ripe and the elegant. This 2012 tasted side by side with 2013 is quite similar and the consistency is bred from great phenolics. It is admittedly firmer here in ’12 but the red berry fruit and spice are both hushed in quieter tones. Tangy tart edging mixes with grippy, chalky tannin. The two wines will age in similar fashion. Drink 2018-2029.   Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

La Màgia the name is likely from “magione” a Tuscan rendition of the French “maison.” The house produces exceptional south-central Montalcino Brunello and this Riserva from vineyards at an altitude of 400-450m is only produced in exceptional years, from the very best old vines (35-40 years) grapes. It’s aged in new (500 litre French oak) casks for a period of three and a half to four years. The profile from Annata through Riserva and into the estate’s Cilegio is consistently uncanny and with subtle variegation, also magical. The Riserva highlights and perhaps even hyperbolizes the liquid chalky and talcy feel of the others, along with an elevated tonality and acidity. It’s age proposition is boundless. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Palazzetta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Luca and Flavio Fanti’s 20 hectares of vineyards on the hill overlooking the Badia valley of Sant’Antimo, southeast from Montalcino in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. La Palazzetta’s is the rare and elusive Brunello at once full-throttle yet still elegant enough to remind that it can only be a factor of sangiovese. Even with a full-pressed compliment of fruit and acidity it’s actually quite pretty and certainly full of flesh and charm. The acidity is in fact quite striking, as are the grippy and hydration stripping tannins. Some time will be required to bring it all together. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lapalazzetta  pillitteriwines    @Pillitteriwines  La Palazzetta  Pillitteri Estates Winery

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie farms four vineyards in the central zone of Montalcino; Vigna del Lago, Vigna Fonte, Vigna Cappuccini, Vigna Vecchia but also plots in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Petroso close to the village. It is the gathering of contrastive and complimentary fruit that deals in defining an estate stylistic for the Classica Brunello. Le Ragnaie’s emits the most exotic perfume of almost any of the oft-stingy ‘13s, in fact this brings a level of fragranza that’s almost impossible for the vintage. I will admit to having waited the entire morning to come across such a floral sangiovese from a vintage that seems reluctant to give such aromatics away. The palate follows along, with smoky smoulder and spice, then turning wonderfully savoury, sapid, salty and herbal. This is the complexity we’ve come to covet from Montalcino, along with a fineness of acidity and lightness of touch. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fornace 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

Tasted one year later the special selection, 2,000 bottle lot from the Castel Nuovo Vigna Loreto vineyard has come to teach us a thing or two about Montalcino patience. If only the Benvenuto could skip a year to allow vintages like 2012 to gather themselves in bottle then the unresolved angst of fruit heft, wood and structure might never be noted. Fornace is now a matter of layering, stratified by mille-feuille intersectionality of earth, acidity and dark fruit. The pieces fit snugly together and move as one, without the sort of tension that makes you hold your shoulders high. The relaxed state is such a better way to go. Imagine the weightlessness two years from now.  Last tasted March 2018

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG V.V. 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

The 60-70-year-old vines (Vigne Vecchie) Brunello planted at 620m in Ragnaie’s Vigna Vecchia make it the highest altitude vineyard in Montalcino. The more you discuss with winemakers what makes for and separates great sangiovese from its peers, the more altitude comes up in such discussions. Winds from the Maremma, vineyard situation with respect to Monte Amiata, soil composition (with or without Galestro marl) are all matters of importance as well but it is the winds and temperature fluctuations at heights that producers are so keen to impress. Ragnaie’s trump card is this vineyard and that is exactly why this wine, especially from a vintage like 2012 (and 2013 won’t change this attitude all that much), why this wine needs time. I did not understand or see the clarity through the clouds when I tasted it last year. The skies have cleared, the polish and the beauty have emerged and the heat by day has turned over to a great sapidity and cool savour of the night. Traditional and old-school ideals are still the order of the day with the old vines digging deep into the dirt and keeping a compression of the faith. The window will not open for a while yet but when it does the air will be fresh, sweet, pure and honest. Last tasted March 2018

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

This is thicker, deeper and well-pressed Brunello, now typically vintage-driven, with sharp acidity and drying tannin. The fruit is generous and up front so though some time will be needed to fully realize the potential, that fruit will fade and morph into an artful, earthy, truffled and leathery mix before it travels too long. Enjoy this in the mid-term. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Mocali’s 2013 is a warm, rusty and dried fruit roll-up compressed sangiovese, with grippy tannins and a fleshed-up corporeal feel. Seems to be most typical of ’13, with some time needed to feel its way through to the amenable side. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (434696, $37.00, WineAlign)

A fruit first, copacetic and highly floral sangiovese from the Villa al Cortile estate southwest from Montalcino in the Tavernelle zone. Winemaker Santo Gozzo accesses varietal purity through sincere concentration on place, altitude (350m), climate (breezes that blow in from the Maremma coast) and soil (limestone with schist and clay). Red fruit honesty and exquisite texture lubricated by wood build this Brunello home with solid intent. Villa al Cortile is a true, honest and lithe expression, using the vintage with exact and correct complication. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 205724, WineAlign)

When you consider how firm and grippy the 2012 Riservas can be this Villa al Cortile is just beautiful. Winemaker Santo Gozzo comments “we don’t need café or vanilla. These things are not about the identity of the sangiovese or the place.” And so wood is not used to flavour but rather to slowly oxidize, develop flavours and exchange information with the outside world. The fruit swells forward accompanied by gentle and mild developing spice. Still just a baby and not yet morphed into its true character but the assurance for longevity is assumed by a taut structural quotient understood. It’s layered yet elastic and will be easily adjustable to and the ups and downs laid out by the adversities of time. Is it an example of a five-star Brunello vintage? “Stars are for meteorologists,” notes Santo, “not for rating vintages.” Then quips Mario Piccini “I have wine, women and music. Which one do I give up first? I give up music. Next? Depends on the vintage.” Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cielo d’Ulisse 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Impressive debut for a new Ripi Brunello, from schist and limestone just northeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Quite a closed and reserved for 2013, built on promises and ideas, with a chalky vein, salty even, and a temptation for a sensuous future. Le Ripi is in no hurry to give anything away for free, choosing structure over all else though the complete absence of astringency says so much about the strength of the agriculture and the winemaking. This promises to be beautiful. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2018  podereleripi  @PodereLeRIpi   Podere Le Ripi

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Really forward, beauty before beast ’13 Brunello that speaks to the fineness of sangiovese. This strikes as coming from an estate that chose to do less is more from the dangerously confounding and mistake tempting vintage, with a celebration of fine fruit balanced by equal and supportive acidity. Would have really climbed to a next level elegance by restraint away from the modernity of sweet oak, but still there is much to learn from this early enjoyment style and approach. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Altero 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

First made in 1983, the Vigna-designate Altero spent two years in French Oak, so at the time it couldn’t be labeled Brunello. Then in 1995 the regulations were brought down from three years to two, so it left IGT and became labeled as a second Brunello. Altero is the one of the two Annata gifted greater structure, deeper notes that think of the wood and how it spices the fruit and finally, what happens down the road. The smoulder and spice are much greater, the shoulders broader and the musculature ready for bigger fights. The composure is quite something, the confidence great and the results striking. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

In terms of the structured and the formidable it is this Poggio Antico Riserva that sits in the upper reaches of such a stratified realm. If the Altero is broad shouldered (in either or both 2012 and 2013) than it is this ’12 Riserva that walks with fierce confidence. With an extra year to show for its troubles Poggio Antico’s Riserva 2012 has accumulated more body, what seems like greater acidity and certainly a wild side. Here the reminder that more is sometimes more comes out in Riserva level impression. The oak is massive and intense, fully in charge, in a how do you say, a Silver Oak Napa Valley way. This is a massive expression of top quality selected fruit and its youthfulness is only exceeded by its over the moon acidity. Just a massive construct that will take 10 more years to begin to break down. Why anyone would touch this before 2022 would fail to teach me anything. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted twice, February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

With six more years in the rear-view mirror the wood has integrated substantially and so the beauty and the charm is beginning to be revealed though the barrel will always be a part of the equation. There is this sense of savour and sapidity now that would not have been in the mix before. Even still the cask strength quality dominates and so the largesse and impressive concentration can not be denied, though the finish is all sweet digestif and demerera sugar. Big oaky Brunello, very international in style, in adherence to time and more specifically, vintage. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

A highly serious, concentrated, richly endowed and full-fruit acquiesced sangiovese with extremely fine tannins overtop just as fine acidity. The style is by now well-known and persistent though it would not be a stretch to note that it’s also something almost impossible to repeat with fruit from anywhere else. The confidence and quiet ego of this wine is owned by Poggio di Sotto and Poggio di Sotto alone. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is no shortage of grandiosity in Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva though it does not reach for too much hedonism or flamboyance. Fruit is a wealthy player while acidity ranges from wild to extreme. There is a feeling of tonic embrace and plumped up stone fruit bitters though fleshy and spirited is really the operative. There is this juicy orange note on the back end of the acidity with a long, stretched and syrupy finish. Really big Riserva. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiolo 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The utter freshness of sangiovese is the ideal and the rasion d’être in Giulio Salvioni’s most important work, with little to no encumbrance. This is a Brunello that eschews bright, clear and deeply honest work from out of the shadows cast by years of adulteration. Salvioni is the never wavering producer, continues to dream lightly and without panic, in the most calm and collected manner. The vineyards southeast of Montalcino at 420 meters are a collection of exceptionally rocky, friable marly soils and from 2013 they open the window into fruit, structure and longevity. It’s cool and soothing sangiovese for the beautiful in everything that is Montalcino. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2018

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Certainly one of the more aromatic sangiovese from 2013, with exotic scents, floral and spice, far from feral and dangerous. There is warmth to be sure but not out of a compressed or angry place. There is also a bit of brettanomyces, well beneath the threshold and serves to develop character within the fine-grained chalky network. This needs several years to integrate and ultimately come into balance. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $169.95, WineAlign)

San Polino. This is just beautiful. Though the richness of juicy, fleshy and tangy fruit is so important to the core, it is this sweet earthy compost that really brings the character and the charm. The acidity is rounder than some though its integration is seamless. How this will evolve into a wise and curative secondary sangiovese will come about because of the turning to nuts and dried fruit stone. Finally it will fade into a truffle and tea sunset. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In certain Montalcino vintages a house will craft a sangiovese that pulls no punches nor pushes the river. Scopetone’s is really big, warm and clearing of the throat speaking sangiovese, with smoulder by tobacco and deep black cherry fruit, pressed to deliver quicker access and hopefully, success. So we can get down to the real tang and the real soul. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #scopetone    Scopetone

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Another deep and pressed 2013 with a very drying impression so there is no question about the tannic quality and age potential. The fruit too is a bit dried, with a currant-salumi-pomegranate mix that takes quick, sharp turns as if along angles of geometry. This needs time to gather its thoughts and to take fuller advantage of its greater cool abilities, of herbology and savour. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

From Giuseppe Sesti who planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. Now in the hands of Elisa Sesti the élevage is territorially appropriate and necessary thirty-nine months in 30 hL botti. The result is quite a gregarious one this Sesti, with really bright acids circling the sangiovese wagons and tying the fruit up in ropes and casings. You can sense the alcohol though it’s not really a heavy, pulling or dragging feeling. It persists as airy and free in spite of the early heat spikes. Should float on, through the skies for a decade or more. Classic finish of deep red cherry liqueur. Drink 2020-2031. Tasted February 2018  #sesti  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $76.00, WineAlign)

Talenti’s Annata comes from vineyards in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and like the Rosso but 10 times more concentrated and focused this is sangiovese of a most intense aromatic, flavourful and textured liqueur. Cherries never came swelling and macerating so succinctly pure and fascinating as they do here, taking every advantage of vintage and how it works in conjunction with place. This is what happens when vines spend long hours in an arid yet humid place to develop grapes for the purpose of variegation and structure. The layers will take two years to peel away and expose the true character, followed by five more for a classic transparency of expression. Talent’s 2013 builds like a jet engine preparing the craft for take-off. The two years will pass and you’ll then feel the angle skywards while you press back in your seat. This is the effect created by truly tactile Brunello. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian di Conte 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $120.00, WineAlign)

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.” Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

 

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is a most beautiful, composed and seamlessly constructed southern Brunello di Montalcino 2013, with exceptional blending of vineyard fruit for balance and pure pleasure. What is so special here is the realized Castelnuovo dell’Abate area phenolic ripeness and the way in which great Galestro marl and sandstone terroir, exceptional micro-climate and hands free viniculture conspire for such elegance. Tenuta Buon Tempo delivers the vintage warmth with grace and the deeper understanding. It is precise and focused for what needs to be accomplished, in a modern world with so much temptation but ultimately it is restraint and doing things the right way that matters most. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018  tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A lovely freshness in the wild berry fruit of Crocedimezzo’s ’13 brings fine definition, that and bright acids with chalky, grippy tannins. The purity and honesty in this focused sangiovese is a breath of fresh, not connected with before air. The relationship should continue for a decade, then on to subsequent anticipatory vintages. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (922054, $44.95, WineAlign)

Extreme unction and sultry personality separate Nardi’s ’13, in definition and construct away from so many peers. 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. There is no sense of drying fruit and tough tannin in this luxurious sangiovese, no, rather its bright, effulgent and outwardly sexy. 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. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Casisano Estate is found eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle, incidentally of population 204, as noted by a 2011 census. At 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. The Brunello developed here (like Ragnaie) turns out classic red clay and stone derived deep cherry liqueur but of a constitution and flavour unlike any other sangiovese on earth. It’s almost brambly and even a bit scorched. It’s rich, proper and righteous. Best of all, the best years still lay ahead. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

From Casisano in Sant’Angelo in Colle, to the south of the village. Tomassi’s Montalcino situation is another one of altitude and therefore a great choice of location from which to develop a strong and structured Brunello ideal. This ’12 is not unlike the ’13 but perhaps with a bit more hyperbole, at times of warmth and at others, elegance. It’s not completely sure of its position, but that is both a matter of vintage and still getting to know the lay of this land. The follow-up 2013 will continue to cement the altitude influence and the understanding of these exceptional vineyards. This ’12 is a great building block for the future of what will be one of the more storied cru in Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaiolo 2011, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tommasi’s Colombaiolo Brunello is the pinnacle of their tier from grapes sourced out of the 1991 planted, hectare and a half single vineyard on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. This 2011 is Tomassi’s first vintage though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. Fermented in wood vats and then aged ion Slavonian casks. No French wood is used, as per the direction of oenologist Emiliano Falsini. The ’11 dovetails as only Riserva can so “dream, if you can, a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.” This is an ethereal prince of Brunello di Montalcino thieves, thick as black cherry liqueur, sumptuous, chalky, coming down like purple rain. It’s the juice of a revolution, now integrated, evolved but as music that stands the test of time. It’s also hard to get in its very structured way so you may find it too demanding or that you’re yelling at each other. More time and reconciliation will bring you and it together. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.” The finish is just on point, between balance and perfect. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirit

 

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio’s leads with a new age earth wealth of grippy charm and accentuated perfume right from the word smell though the rock layers are many and the well runs severely deep. This is an ambient sangiovese of seriously condensed and compressed liqueur, hematic and poignant, dense and yet somehow the eventuality of the ashra electrical meets the minimalist ethereal will be found. In the deep distance. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso di Montalcino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Certainly richer and deeper than cousin Caparzo but really just a different child for Elisabetta Gnudi and just as important in its own right. This Altesino Rosso exhibits the ’15 freshness but with a year further under wing it has settled and added some weight, albeit in liquidity, sweet, viscous liquidity. So much joy here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (467787, $31.95, WineAlign)

Pian delle Vigne is quite a perfumed affair in 2016, raspberry to plum fruity and then a courtyard of exotic flowers in early bloom. The fruit is very primary, almost fresh from the tank and so early in its evolution. This will smell and taste so completely different in six months but looking past this should act and play out as an ideal indicator for the fleshiness and grippy nature of the vintage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018    marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

With new winemaking ideals in place since 2013 Argiano is now coming into its new own, into a place and position of deep confidence and mature mastery. Though tighter and grippier than many this persists as a joyous bit of Rosso, albeit more in a young Brunello vein than many. Should live with its tart fruit and grippy acidity for five years minimum. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is a strong candidate for one of the firmest 2016 Rosso that delivers a distinct and serious impression. It too seems so recently drawn from the barrel with piqued notes that bite and sting overtop not yet developed fruit. This is a serious Rosso, ambitious, woody and wise. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  poderebrizio  @PodereBrizio  @poderebrizio

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (333575, $20.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s 2015 is a red fruit forward, ropey, rosy and wild citrus Rosso di Montalcino done up in botti grandi for one year. In replay of that aromatic intensity it follows with a vivid and bright red acidity and a flavour run in the pomegranate-currant-sweet basil vein, pretty and fresh and all in all, just a lovely rendering. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 857987, $34.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2013 is from fruit in La Caduta vineyard, the name the place used to have, on the west side of Montalcino, where vines take advantage of the winds from the sea. The Rosso is aged in tonneaux and then after in bottle. It’s quite a fresh and fragrant Rosso, not taking itself too seriously but certainly with more power and for certain intents and purposes, may as well be Brunello. A terrific expression that would just make grilled and roasted meets rock and sing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

The finest of fruit-acidity-tannin continuums comes through in Romitorio’s Rosso ’16, a wine of more structure than most. This is a Rosso from whose lens will really help to imagine where the Brunello will come from and to where they will go. Firm, strong, grippy and intense, not only for Rosso but Romitorio has crafted a sangiovese to stand as a beacon for the greater Montalcino good, whole and exemplary of the vintage. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.78, WineAlign)

Lovely effulgent fruit in this Cortonesi family Rosso radiates to extrapolate for a 2016 Brunello future, in many ways. First it is this Rosso that benefits from the particular handling, showing in an immediately gratifying plus available sangiovese that drinks with fast-forward Rosso promise and does so on its own terms, for the right Montalcino reasons. Second, even though the producer’s approach to Brunello is another matter in which generally speaking it deals only with older vines, it is this youthful exuberance and wealth of amenability meeting attack that bodes well for the impending grandi vini. It is here that we see the present and the future of Rosso di Montalcino and the respect it is both given and deserved. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $44.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse di Sotto ’16 is blessed of lots of firm flesh and full fruit extraction to mark a territory of style, a wine as much in common with Brunello as any Rosso from the vintage. This runs deep, into macerating cherry and a real feeling of wet argilo filling in as mortar in the crevices of brix. Not exactly formidable but this is certainly one of the bigger and more structured wines of the Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Mocali Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (286260, $19.95 WineAlign)

Quite fresh and reeling Rosso from Mocali in 2016 brings the energy of 2015 and adds another stratified layer to the appellative compendium. If this is any indication then it would suggest more structure, grippy and drying tannin will come from the 16s. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018    #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (460295, $20.00, WineAlign)

It is here that we see Rosso having been produced in the right way with honest intentions and correct handling. It just has to be fresh like this, rich but responsible, ripe and just a bit firm. This is exactly how a three to four year Rosso should and can act. Excellent work from Villa al Cortile with a deep respect for the vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Poggio Antico Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

As with all wines, Poggio Antico’s Rosso, like everything is vinified separately, along with Annata, Riserva and Altero. A sharp and fleshy Rosso from a longer fermentation after a longer ripening period, with clearly more structure than 2015 and this cool, almost minty savoury streak. It’s darker and surely carries a deeper intensity and in the end, a nice Rosso is made. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Polino’s is a beautifully earthy, funky and natural Rosso with a fleshy red fruit upside and fine, liquid chalky grains of acidity meeting tannin. There are some Rosso that really need to be considered and assessed as Brunello and it is only where such structured sangiovese fit relative to the estate’s other Brunello that need qualify it as Rosso. In today’s Montalcino one’s Rosso is another’s Brunello. It’s now more than ever a matter of location, soil and altitude. This San Polino is quite a tart affair that needs two years to soften and ultimately please. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

Riccardo Talenti’s is Rosso for Rosso addicts, a pure, unaffected, grippy cherry liqueur welling sangiovese of ultra-precise focus and deliciousness. That it manages to acquiesce the holy trinity of Rosso di Montalcino ideals of flavour, texture and structure means that it can accomplish the two most important aspects of sangioveseness. Drink and enjoy now or wait five years for it to begin breathing anew. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo offers up just a lovely aromatic profile in delivery of what 2016 should and could, with exotic florals, red citrus starlight and a sense of airy breaths. The best of 2016 acidity is brought out, alongside and of hands intertwined and interlaced with the fruit. The slightly firm finish indicates a few years of low and slow development. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018   tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is a nice bright freshness in this 2016 Rosso by Crocedimezzo, a sangiovese of great presence radiating in its effulgent nature. You really have to appreciate the round acidity circulating to encompass the red fruit and then the earthy quell that helps to soften the firm composure. A really correct, clean and pure Rosso. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Radiant, fresh and effulgent Rosso is a wonderful thing and although this has yet to shed its barrel fat it offers a great glimpse into its fruit-filled, long-lasting and expressive future. There is much to admire in how this puts the fruit at the forefront and then welcomes both fine acidity and some fineness that incorporates structure. Solid Rosso from a range of vineyards by winemaker Emanuele Nardi. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pierangelo Tommasi notes that they began making Brunello but decided mid-gear to declassify and only make a Rosso instead. With best available fruit in hand Tomassi went ahead with this firm, grippy, saucy, sassy and forest-scented verdant sangiovese. It’s oh so drinkable but with more structure than many of the fresh, spirited and tart red fruit specimens that populate the Rosso spectrum. The ’14 is like Brunello but with the vintage savour and who knows how long this can go. Just might fool us all. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Val di Suga Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (455683, $24.95, WineAlign)

Val di Suga offers a lovely turn for the 2016 vintage and for the house, clearly making a statement of fruit first and all else second. There is an airy freshness about this Rosso and still the sensible firmness of backbone to carry it forward. A shot of juniper tonic marks the final stages of its youth. Should develop into next stage character with a lovely secondary impression. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #valdisuga  churchillcellars    @imbibersreport  Val di Suga  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOCG 2016, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio tries neither too hard nor does it try to be exaggerate in the direction of either too lithe or too strong. It’s this candid and focused confidence that shows the strength of resistance to speak in a Brunello voice. The precision and clarity make this sangiovese certainly act Brunello-like but this always remains grounded in the Rosso culture. Just terrific as the previous vintage was, so consistency from Ventolaio persists in the guarantee. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

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Godello

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The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

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

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

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

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

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

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

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Twitter: @mgodello

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If you’re going to San Casciano

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

Chianti Classico the region is both muse and magnet, its reservoir of territorial intrigue and sangiovese anthology infinite in possibility. By junket or by migration through its communes there is always a sense of awe and wonder, yet no matter how many times the roads, villages and vineyards are travelled there is always something new. This is the story of San Casciano in Val di Pesa.

Related – A river runs through Greve

San Casciano is one of nine sub-zones of Chianti Classico, also a hamlet, while the commune sits on the north-western border of the greater territory in Toscana. It shares only two sectional borders, with Tavarnelle Val di Pesa to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast. From the town’s centre to Piazza del Duomo in Firenze should take about half an hour, excluding summertime. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that it’s location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river. My colleagues John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steve Robinson and I paid a visit with an armful of San Casciano producers in September, 2017. Our host was the affable meets honourable Duccio Corsini of Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti. The take away from this visit was a sense of San Casciano’s inner voice and exclusive temperament but also how it fits into the puzzle that is Chianti Classico.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The word congeries comes from the Latin verb congerere, which means “to carry or bring together,” though it could also move through the Italian, palificazione, or piling. I’m not sure any sub-zone typifies this concept more than San Casciano, in part because the multiplicity of its sangiovese rivals or even exceeds many to most anywhere in the greater district. When you pile one on top of another in a tasting you feel the weight and the density but also the permutation and variegation. These are a collection of sangiovese hard to pin down even if this particular sample size is perhaps too small and so a sooner over later return for more will be crucial.

The Gallo Nero of Luiano

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

From San Casciano we expand outwards again to think on Chianti Classico the concept as based on the figuration that is the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines raised from these multifarious soils but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of amour-propre approval, for a conceit of quality, not out of outrecuidance but in recognition that the opinion of others does matter. San Casciano now sits in requiem of such avowal and validation.

Inside the Chianti Tower, San Casciano in Val di Pesa

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Just as you’ve settled into the comfort zone of knowing your way around the landmarks of a place, the people take hold of your hand, put on a blindfold (not literally) and reveal a site that blows your mind. The Chianti Tower of San Casciano is an unusual spike of architecture, quirky and seemingly displaced, that is until you make the climb (by elevator) up to its observation deck. From up above there are vistas that take in the Florentine hills and Vallombrosa, the mountains of Pistoia, and Pisa. The panorama turns to the Chianti and Chianti Classico landscape, Siena’s hamlets and perhaps, on a really clear day, the Ligurian sea.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The 33 meters high cylindrical surge tank tower is part of the Museo di San Casciano in Val di Pesa, owned by the Comune and is characterized in form as suggestivo or evocativo. It’s post World War Two reconstruction continues its function as a storage water reservoir, but it is the panoramic terrace that steals the visitation show. Our group was joined by a gaggle of San Casciano winemakers to take in the immediate and extrapolated lands.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Over these last few weeks I have published six articles on sub-zones and this seventh and final essay on San Casciano concludes the heavily scrutinizing reconnaissance mission. For now. By the time this week has come to its end I’ll be back in Chianti Classico for more, this time with the knowledge that everything I have thus far learned will be turned on its head, refreshed and begun anew. The goal is always deeper understanding but who am I to speak in absolutes. The journey has just begun. If you’re going to San Casciano you’re gonna meet some gentle people there. Here are my tasting notes on six examples from six wamhearted producers.

Niccolò Montecchi, Cigliano

Cigliano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Deep, dark and sombre inhalant of grand vineyard fruit in the premium selezione vein, this is indeed a sobering San Casciano in Val di Pesa Chianti Classico with wild berries, herbs and drops of fine liqueur, almost like Vin Santo but without sugar. Cigliano takes a certain road for 2014 and gets away with murder. This could have turned out hot and bothered but the balance is struck by chords of great acidity and tension. This pulls no sangiovese or vintage punches and is clearly the work of a rogue winemaker. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February and September 2017  Villa del Cigliano    @VilladelCigliano

Stefano Pirondi, La Sala

La Sala Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Sala from Stefano Pirondi carries 10 per cent merlot in address of the sangiovese with some green tannin integrated into the black cherry. From sites up at 300m, a mix of Alberese and deep clay but almost all red clay in 2014. Not a very ripe CC, only five hectares (20,000 bottles) were vinified. Half and half stainless and large French wood, very spicy and quite red citrus, but on the dark side. I would give it a year to soften. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  La Sala

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From vineyards quite close to Florence (8 kms) this 100 per cent sangiovese has been organic since 2001. It now seems ripe for 2014, into the depth of steeping cherries, a touch hollow up the middle, but deep, rich and actually quite easy to drink. Last tasted September 2017.

From the most northern Chianti Classico vineyard located in the area of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, La Querce Seconda by Niccoló Bernabei is high-spirited, of tart to volatile brightest of bright red fruit with toasted fennel to nose. Quite a tart palate as well with furthered spirit and quite sweet tannin. This is old school but alive and vital. Will live this kind of life for a spell. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017    @LaQuerceSeconda  laquerceseconda

My triple-threat of @luiano terroir is right over there, in #sancasciano #alessandropalombo

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Luiano’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 by Alessandro Palombo, is 95 per cent sangiovese with a touch of body-adding merlot. “For us Riserva has always been a cellar selection and a representation of Luiano’s three distinct sub-soils,” tells Palombo. This is a 2014 postcard in a nutshell, cool and deep, with some bretty and volatile nature though just a wonderful whisper. Done in bigger oak casks and recently bottled (well March of 2017), some cakiness is baked into the structure though filled in with binding mortar. It’s silky, supple and certainly a wine that will age into umami secondary character. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  luianowine  ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  Luiano®   Alessandro Palombo  @treamiciimports

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino 2014, DOCG, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

It’s a wise old story but the San Casciano 2014 from Massimo Becattelli is a beacon to reel us in towards a new Chianti Classico understanding. Named after his mother Mori this vino is very much alive, anything but memento mori, more like a reflection on immortality. The very small production is the work of a one man band with modest hands, only one hectare, planted by Massimo’s father 40 years ago. It has now been replanted with the clones of the old vineyard in June of 2015. This Annata is 80 per cent sangiovese, 12 canaiolo and eight colorino. There is soul, volatility, depth, intensity and finesse in what is a rustic but cultured ’14 with fruit and more fruit, but graced by this underlying Galestro feel. Only 287 bottles were made of Massimo’s “lavoro di passione.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  @az.agr.moriconcetta

Linguine con coniglio, Villa Le Corti

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Tommaso 2013, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Don Tommaso 2013 is named after Duccio Corsini’s father, was first made in 1994 and here contains 80 per cent sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot. The latter is meant for smoothing the angles, something that is also accomplished by aging in tonneaux and second passage barriques. Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini’s Gran Selezione is a very silky smooth, deep black raspberry fruit forward wine with high acidity and green savour running through. Not from a cru originally, just the right grapes but over time narrowed down to three vineyards. Chocolate oozes all over the finish. “I do what I do with what I have, adding people,” says Duccio. Sounds like the Chianti Classico equivalent of climat. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  villalecorti  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  Principe Corsini  @artisanalwineimports

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

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Twitter: @mgodello

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A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern shows how visits to Querciabella, Villa Calcinaia and a subset of Montefioralle wines now explain a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The Greve river (fiume Greve) is a 43 kilometre slide of twists, turns, switchbacks, rises, falls and settles into floodplains. It’s origins are upon Monte Querciabella in Radda, north of Volpaia, southwest of Badaccia a Monetmuro and southeast of Lamole. Heading swiftly northwest it then crests as a flat flood plain between Panzano and Greve, known as the Piano di Montagliari. Continuing north it slices the village of Greve in Chianti and along Strada 222 past Villa Calcinaia, Verrazzano and Vicchiomaggio. It eventually spills into the Arno River at Firenze.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Querciabella’s position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the river is one of the more distinct and perhaps least understood of Greve’s areas. Ruffoli is another communal sub-zone that requires the introspective investigation for its singularities and peculiarities. It is the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees. Along with neighbours Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato there forms a special bond for the combination of altitude, great stands of forests and the multifarious soils that have been unearthed from beneath those heavy woods. In fact Ruffoli may be the most Burgundian meets Alsatian terroir in all of Tuscany. It’s a very cool place.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Not all clones are created equal #sangiovese #ruffoli #chianticlassico #greveinchianti #querciabella

Related – Castellina in golden light

Comparatively speaking Villa Calcinaia and the hills west of Greve are more of a landscape of tumbling rocks and stones down hills into gravel and silt where the river lies below. Stand on the upper terrace of Calcinaia’s property, look up into the hills and then back across the Chiantigiana and the study in contrasts is a fascinating one. Calcinaia’s soils down by the river are clay-loam and as you climb the hill the sand and calcaire with Galestro predominating lends the name “chalk quarry” to the estate.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

South from Calcinaia and Viticcio we come upon the next great Greve sub-zone known as Montefioralle. Simply assessed Montefioralle is close to Castello di Montefioralle, southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. The zonazione is home to the Associazione Viticoltori Montefioralle of 14 producers; Altiero, Belvedere, Brogioni Maurizio, Villa Calcinaia, Podere Campriano, Podere San Cresci, Roberto Grassi, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto, Terre di Baccio, Castello Di Verrazzano and Vitticio. The growers refer to their collective soil soul as “on the left side of the river, the peculiarity of the soil and the microclimate give to the Sangiovese grapes a unique and strong identity.” The terroir in Montefioralle is indeed mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico to be considered for menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

This sixth of seven exposés on i cru di enogea, the greater and smaller territories within Chianti Classico covers the visit to Querciabella and the Montefioralle tasting with Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia. I’ve reviewed 18 wines in total.

Querciabella

Querciabella is the continuing vision of the late patriarch Giuseppe Castiglioni, a man of Milanese origins who purchased and launched the estate in 1974 in the post sharecropping, mezzadrina era. Since 1988 with his precocious and ahead of the global game decision to convert the farm to organic practices, it is the emotional and soulful braintrust of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni that leads Querciabella forward. The estate is also biodynamic (2000) although minus the hocus-pocus, voodoo chile, astrological, new age nonsense. There are no animal-based preparations employed, no stuffing cow horns with manure, only plants, all in the name of applications rooted in ethical principles. The forests are maintained and cover crops are composed of grasses, herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes. 

Our visit to Querciabella coincided with harvest so we were able to watch first hand the sangiovese grapes coming in and going through the presses. Grapes destined for Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana. In 2000 Querciabella’s Camartina was proclaimed as the greatest Italian wine of the year by virtue of combining scores rated by the Italian wine guides. At the time it was a sangiovese dominant blend and in this tasting we were able to taste a vertical that showed how it has transformed into the cabernet-led blend it is today. The cru of Ruffoli was investigated through pours of Chianti Classico and Palfreno, a merlot only made in selected vintages. We also got a glimpse into the history and evolution of Bátar, a white wine of not so subtle reference to Bâtard-Montrachet. Our tasting was one of patent application for full Querciabella disclosure, led by winemaker Manfred Ing and CEO Roberto Lasorte.

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

Querciabella Mongrana 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $28.95, SAQ 11192183, $25.25, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mongrana was 2005 and the blend is now 50 per cent sangiovese plus 25 each cabernet franc and merlot. The fruit comes coastal from the Maremma, easy-going dusty and orchard red. Very red fruit, so crushable with ripe acidity and a grippy finish. Spicy and round, but pointed, in a right and delectable direction. Bloody delicious, this medieval blend of poetry, of knights and horses. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella   @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

This vintage is the third as a 100 per cent sangiovese and Manfred Ing points out how there is a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. Whatever (lack of) balance may have been in question last February is no longer debatable. This is a most exceptional 2014.  Last tasted September 2017

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Querciabella Turpino 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Turpino Toscana IGT is a blend of cabernet franc (40 per cent), syrah (40) and merlot (20), with this being the second commercial vintage. For winemaker Manfred Ing it’s about “having the ability to do small, micro-vinifications,” to produce a Super Tuscan wine from the Maremma coast, but here also including some cabernet franc and merlot from Greve. It’s hematic with still a minor reductive note that persists and though its draws from grapes and sites around the region the Querciabella liqueur distinguishes and pervades. The name’s origin might come from one of a few sources. Turpino, an eighth century monk and archbishop of Reims, Turpinus or Tylpinus. Turpino from the poem written by Ludovico Ariosto, the “Orlando Furioso.” Or perhaps fictional from the medieval verse Cronaca di Turpino o Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. The wine is grandioso in its own right, really wound tight, still of the Querciabella red fruit but quite forward and stand alone despite the oak and the age. The freshness is actually quite remarkable as it seems both agronomist and winemaker really understand their fruit. There is even a marine saltiness running through. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Camartina

Querciabella Camartina 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $100.00, WineAlign)

Camartina is Querciabella’s red of greatest reason, lineage and purpose, from Giuseppe Castiglioni through Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Manfred Ing. The first vintage was 1981 of this 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 30 sangiovese from organic (1988) and biodynamic (2000), frightfully low-yield vineyards and it is not produced when the year is not right. The varietal obviousness from the cabernet is so transparent, especially for Toscana, dusty, Cassis-led, full of black raspberry fruit and ripe verbena. The sangiovese brings the acidity and a secondary layering of tannin but there is nothing fat or brooding about the cabernet. Freshness again and elasticity that starts wise and comes back in. Very focused and length that delivers more and more waves of that fruit. Tannins are pure and their fineness only stretches and further lengthens the accord. There can be no consideration of understanding until at least four years after vintage with seven being the correct launching point. Alas. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina in 2005 is 70 per cent cabernet and 30 sangiovese, two years forward after 2003, the point where the cabernet replaced the sangiovese as the varietal so here we are early in that ideal. An ideal that has persisted to 2011 and beyond. Warmth of vintage shows with 12-year mark secondary character but of a vintage that wasn’t (at the time) considered great (being between 2004 and 2006). Here it’s really claret-Bordeaux like, with Cassis, graphite and this open phase of life. Really quite expressive and yet the wood is more a part of the mix, albeit with a savoury edge. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina back in 1999 was a very different wine, of 85-90 per cent sangiovese and 10-15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, all from Greve, specifically the cru of Ruffoli. Would have qualified as a Chianti Classico Riserva back then (and potentially Gran Selezione now, though not for long), both because of varietal percentage and location. So the reference point is taken, this from the last Camartina that winemaker/enologist Giacomo Tachis followed through to the end. The structure has made this one built to last with the umami factor running plateau high and the acidity persistent and lifted, but sweet and layered. The spice, savour and this mint-rosemary-lavender-sage mix is really quite striking. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Palafreno is organic and biodynamic Greve farmed 100 per cent merlot from Ruffoli made in small quantities and only in the finest vintages, with 2000 being the first. Picking merlot is the most precarious preoccupation in Toscana, as explained by Manfred Ing, “it’s nearly ready, it’s ready and it’s gone.” The three-day window of merlot. Palafreno is an ancient Italian word designating a noble riding horse used by medieval knights for travel, parades or tournaments. Palafreno the merlot is an open book, quite ripe, not from a cold vintage to be sure but one of a a slow ripening gait, with some rain and then long, extended trotting through heat. Very spicy, really chalky, tart, tight and highly tannic. In other words, merlot of structure, musculature and regal status. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Batter

Querciabella Bátar 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (SAQ 12294771, $97.00, WineAlign)

Batar from the Latin battere, variant of battuere, to beat, strike repeatedly hit. Bátar, a not so subtle reference to Montrachet and at Querciabella the name used to have a D on the end, but a letter from the French changed that, to Batàr with the accent but the Milanese translation remains essentially the same. Between 1988 and 1991 the wine was called Bâtard-Pinot, which was a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Between 1992 and 1994 the name was Bâtard because Chardonnay had been added to the blend. In 1995 the name was changed to Batàr in order to avoid confusion with French AOCs of Burgundy whose name contains the word ‘Bâtard’ (Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet). Batàr is the Querciabella outlier, a long thought on project to combine pinot bianco and chardonnay and elevate its white appellative status though barrel aging and full malolactic. It may just be the most singular white wine in all of Chianti Classico, perhaps in all of Toscana. It’s like Beaune-Bourgogne and Norman Hardie rolled into one Tuscan white blend package, with a fine oxidative line running through a fresh, tannic and pure wine, with thanks to the generous use of French barrels. The length is exceptional but to be honest, not unexpected. Another galestro-elastic-saline wine, in its own special way. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Batàr has been the name since 1995 after the Bourgignons forced Querciabella to drop the “D” at the end. This ’98 is certainly oxidative (and unavoidably so because of style and time) but the acidity really persists. A comparison with 2014 is quite futile as this is just from another era. Texture and flesh is strong, floral, honeyed, tannic again and even carrying some notes of pineapple, beeswax and almandine. Would make for a wonderful blind pour at a pirates on a picnic dinner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

For a full report on Villa Calcinaia please click on this link.

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

After a September evening visit to Calcinaia we convened at Ristorante Pane E Olio in Firenze for a final meal with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Calcinaia’s Count, Sebastiano Capponi. It was here that he opened the only varietal bottle of its kind.

Villa Calcinaia Occhiorosso 2015, IGT Vino Dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Occhiorosso is Endemic to Lamole, cultivated at Calcinaia and raised by Sebastiano Capponi. Only the lonely occhiorosso are the red eyes of Greve in Chianti, the war on drugs varietal feeling, in cohorts to cousin sangiovese. “Come and see, where or when there’s everything. On my ways, be better, get to my soul.” Drink 2017 -2019.  Tasted September 2017

I was under the impression this was called “Ocolos” which could very well be a shortened version of concupiscentia oculorum, “the lust of the eyes,” or in this case sarcopodium odoratum, with a sangiovese-copycat more volatile (but not screaming sour in any acetic way), just earthy, not microbilia, but soil funky. This is in fact Occhiorosso, drawn from a specific seven rows of vines, adding up to one barrique and it will go to bottle in July. Earthy, from Galestro soil located on the upper seventh and eight terrace of sangiovese, so different from the single-vineyard cousin, Gran Selezione Bastignano. The perfume is redolent of sweet scented bedstraw and exotics, like orchids just beginning to decay in water, still in control of its enticements. This is the natural sangiovese, very specific to place. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted from barrel, February 2017

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

The Montefioralle Divino wine festival organized and promoted by the Grape Growers Association of Montefioralle took place on September 23 and 24, just four days before we met at Villa Calcinaia to taste through the wine growers’ wines. The harvest festival is a two day event with tasting stalls and direct sale. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill west of Greve.  @ViMontefioralle  @viticoltorimontefioralle

A #greveinchianti #montefioralle @chianticlassico run through @villacalcinaia in Sebastiano’s caves

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014 by Paolo Baldini is 100 per cent Montefioralle sangiovese with a distinct reduced balsamico, soy and tar complexity. Oak stands out in a deep, dark and handsome way. It’s kind of sweet in a chcolate ooze of dessert topping sort of way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  aziendaagricolaaltiero    Azienda Agricola Altiero

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February and September 2017  #brogionimaurizio  Maurizio Brogioni

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Win eAlign)

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014 is Elena Lapini’s organic 100 per cent sangiovese. The label notes Greve in Chianti straight under the winery name and the sense of appellative pride is duly noted. Lapini’s ’14 is so proficiently correct, righteously tart, deeply rendered and soulful. The low-yielding, young adult (15 year-old high density vines) fruit was picked on fine acidity and carries this plummy note to counteract the launching tang and direct energy. Really stays focused and keeps it clarity through a long finish. Great example from Montefioralle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini

Podere San Cresci Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Santa Cresci Chianti Classico 2013 from David Ballini carries both five per cent of cabernet franc and merlot alongside the sangiovese in the only sample of ten from Montefioralle that comes from the little peninsula outcrop with a slightly different soil composition, “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less Alberese and more into the Macigno than the others. The unfair playing field puts this in ’13 territory, with its silky and filled in mid-palate and plenty of vintage energy. The cab franc and merlot do indeed impart a right bank Bordeaux moment, however fleeting, and the roasted meat meets dark ropey fruit is quite the excitement creator if ever there was in sangiovese. This the outlier is quite vital even if some raisin notes pop in and out of the fruit. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  ballanza12_  David Arnold Ballini

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014 from Montefioralle boldly expresses the rich brooding of sangiovese and an acquiesced savoury streak with 10 per cent cabernet franc in the mix. This final sample of 10 confirms the consistency of terroir, style and execution, readily apparent across the Montefioralle grouping. They are deep, hematic, dark and intense sangiovese. This is no exception. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  #terredibaccio  @TerrediBaccio  Agriturismo Terre di Baccio

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico from Luigi Cappellini is 95 per cent sangiovese with five per cent “other varieties.” A really ripe and filled to the brim CC for ’14, fully pressed and expressed. Oak laden in as much as Greve in Chianti can be, like a milkshake with bitter almond elements. From the north part of Montefioralle on Alberese and some Galestro with sandy soils. A solid early drinking and lush Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

Viticcio’s also hails from the north part of Montefioralle (on the western side of Greve in Chianti) and its typical Alberese, Galestro and sandy soils. A good punch of dark red and black raspberry fruit is mostly sangiovese (with two per cent merlot), spicy and bitterish with wood notes and plenty of savour. This ’14 from the vintage of great demand and attention to detail is tart and chalky, needing some time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017   viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. 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. This tasting 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.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

As with the rest of the territory, the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017  coltibuono  noble_estates  @coltibuono  @Noble_Estates  Badia a Coltibuono  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (683474, $38.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fietri Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Dinner at Badia a Coltibuono

Podere Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Matteoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (B.C. $63.49, WineAlign)

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Badia a Coltibuono

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

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

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

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

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

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

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

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

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

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

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

Castello di Fonterutoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

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

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

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

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

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

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

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

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

Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Federica Mascheroni

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

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

Sangiovese of Radda in Chianti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

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

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

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

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

After #bistecafiorentina #enotecanuvolari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallo Nero Sangiovese Vendemmia 2017

Good to go!

Godello

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