Grande, Chianti Classico

      Tasting through 175 Chianti Classico DOCG from the last three vintages confirms the territory’s ability to consistently achieve another level of quality

Passport to Chianti Classico

In February I made the annual pilgrimage to Tuscany for the Chianti Classico Collection to taste through a few hundred examples of the local sangiovese, a perennial workload that is my pleasure and indeed, my privilege. Feel free to scroll down past the next few thousand words to read the reviews. I have been repeatedly fortunate to take in the renowned history, food, olive oil and vineyards but most importantly have been the forged relationships with so many producers and custodians of what is affectionately called the Gallo Nero. At this time travel for work and also pleasure remains unknowable and it will be this way, at least for the immediate future. All of us have to wait and see when the next visit can be possible, to again take in the hills and landscapes where Italy’s most important grape variety is grown. That is why the partners at WineAlign have joined virtual hands with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Chairman Giovanni Manetti, the producers and sangiovese to orchestrate a different kind of sensory experience. They created an opportunity for the region’s wines to be delivered directly to the consumer’s doorstep. Two unique Chianti Classico mixed cases, each a masterclass in a box. A second set will follow in late summer/early fall.

The Passport cases are a culmination of years of learning, tasting and hard work. They are the first of their kind for WineAlign and the 12 wines chosen are foremost a decision made collectively after the critics each sat down to taste dozens of examples. The wines are also an extension of what new facets and nuances about Chianti Classico’s sangiovese John and I learned in Florence back in February. For me that continuing education goes back several years now. Since May of 2016 I have made nine visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than 1,700 different wines. In February 2017 I was honoured as an official ambassador by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. I take my role as ambasciatore to heart and feel the profound weight of the title and the endearment. It is a great professional honour to speak, write and educate on behalf of the region but the work and the messaging from and for the farmers, producers and the land is a two-way street. The people who bottle Chianti Classico are shepherds of place and I, along with many others, act as messengers of their wines, but more importantly, their story. We all take this journey together. The sentiment is a shared one, the relationship symbiotic and the feeling entirely mutual. And so the Passport Cases are a product of much thought, purple teeth, blood, sweat and joyous sangiovese tears.

Since 1716 Chianti Classico has preserved the unique qualities of its native land and soils and it is the Black Rooster that protects the wines from all imitations.

Chianti Classico Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti

Sangiovese and the quality pyramid

Sangiovese. The grape that defines Chianti Classico. Other endemic grape varieties may or may not augment the wines; canaiolo, colorino, pugnitello, malvaisa nera and others. So too might cabernet sauvignon, merlot or syrah but at the heart and the crux (at a minimum 80 per cent to qualify for DOCG status) of the matter there is always the local and unwavering sangiovese. Then I would imagine many of you are wondering about the levels of appellation that make up the tiers of Chianti Classico’s DOCG pyramid. There are three, Chianti Classico DOCG, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. Each and every bottle that is made from 100 per cent grapes grown in the delineated Chianti Classico area is stamped with the Gallo Nero, a 304 year-old symbol of guaranteed quality for the territory. What separates the tiers is aging in barrel and bottle (12, 24 and 30 months minimum) but also thresholds for extract and alcohol. As a general rule the price rises as the pyramid is ascended but some Annata (as they are referred to) can be more expensive than Riserva and vice versa. Same goes for each of these levels in relation to Gran Selezione, but for the purposes of simplicity, for an estate that bottles one, expect the GS to be at the peak of importance and also cost the most. For others the traditional Riserva or perhaps a self declared cru rises to the top. Keep in mind that Chianti Classico is a region of vineyards farmed by single estates. You need to get to know them, one at a time. We all want to compare apples to apples but one producer’s silver may be another’s gold.

PDO Olive Oil is a guarantee of quality

Partnerships also travel across commodity lines and one of Italy’s most symbiotic affairs lies within the joint ventures of Chianti Classico DOCG and Olio DOP Chianti Classico. The two are inextricably linked, not just by territory but by a shared passion of estates. Winemaker and Olive oil producer are in so many instances one in the same. While many consumers don’t know the difference between a PDO oil, an Italian extra virgin oil, and non-Italian or even non-extra virgin olive oils, there are profound reasons to care. Looking at price without understanding the real value of a PDP product is key to the message.

Start with preventative benefits and a healthy lifestyle. Two spoons a day of Italian extra virgin olive oil, or better still, PDO oilcan prevent serious illnesses. Some Italian doctors have proved that oleic acid creates an anti-inflammatory barrier that can prevent, for example, some forms of tumour from growing. The Food and Drugs Administration (USA), also maintains that oil is, to all intents and purposes, a “medicinal food”, if it contains at least 70 per cent of oleic acid: Italian extra virgin olive oil certainly does. But although this information is easily accessible to everyone though multiple means of communication, there is still a great deal of confusion and even ignorance surrounding the oil sector.

The first organized (and voluntary) Consortium of Extra Virgin olive oil produced in Chianti Classico dates back to 1975. From the beginning this structure defined strict regulations to obtain a traditional, fine quality product. In the year 2000 oil produced in the Gallo Nero hills obtained European recognition with PDO certification, thanks to those very specific chemical and organoleptic features that link it inextricably to its terroir of origin. Twenty years on, PDO Chianti Classico olive oil is still a small niche production of very high quality.

Gallo Nero Lounge, Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Regulations and the 2019 harvest

The fruit must be processed within three days of harvesting, in temperature-controlled conditions. All PDO Chianti Classico oil is cold-extracted and the processing temperature may not exceed 27°C. Yields may vary from 2-3 kg per tree, depending on the number of olive trees per hectare (but it is actually much lower). As with sangiovese for DOCG wines PDO Chianti Classico must include at least 80 per cent of olives from the four main varieties grown in the production zone; frantoio, correggiolo, leccino and moraiolo. The year of the olive harvest must always be shown on the label. Lastly, it must correspond to certain chemical and organoleptic parameters which are an improvement on and/or more selective than those for non-PDO extra virgin olive oil.

In 2019 the total quantities were hugely affected due to the weather and compared to the previous year’s harvest PDO Chianti Classico suffered a 75 per cent loss of oil destined for certification and 50 per cent of non-certified extra virgin oil. Despite all this organoleptic qualities were high, showing the pleasant, piquant hints of fresh and aromatic herbs on the nose, typical of Chianti Classico PDO oil and the bitter olive/raw artichoke flavours with a spicy finish of rocket, chilli pepper and black pepper. All these features are typical of Gallo Nero PDO oil, and of the terroir, problematic for olive growing but generous in the complex sensations it offers.

Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Come on up for sangiovese’s rising

When we look retrospectively back at the last seven vintages in Chianti Classico the upward trend in quality argues in favour of the law of increasing returns. Producers have invested time, money and hard work, small farms have moved from home-gardening to professional vignaioli and larger estates have ticketed block-specific projects to compliment commercial continuity. Chianti Classico’s agglomerated return is more than proportionate to investment. Any graph will show the rising, from market share through qualitative studies of ripeness, extract and balance, to critical praise across the board. Writers everywhere are on the bandwagon, circling the region with written hyperbole in recognition of the good becoming great with a kind of religious and spiritual belief.

Chianti Classico Ambassadors, 2020

Vintage reports

The 2013 vintage saw great variabilities, first from the weather, in spikes and storms, then in the resulting wines of which no two seemed the same. The “blood orange” vintage I like to call it and the first in recent memory to really speak of sangiovese’s great complexity, multiplicity and diversity. What followed might have ended things altogether and prevented the current streak from continuing. The 2014 growing season was fraught with challenge; inclement weather of frosts, rain and cool temperatures, not ideal to make impressive and strutting sangiovese, but producers hunkered down and their mettle tested, showed what experience, acumen and forward thinking could produce. Like 1998 and 2008 before, 2014 was and still is a vintage of sneaky structure.

Sommeliers of the Chianti Classico Collection

Then comes along the easy, breezy and close your eyes year that is 2015. Virtually no climate hurdles and wines that make themselves. Is ’15 one for the ages? In a word, no. Will these sangiovese drink beautifully and defend cellars everywhere from bottles snatched, their corks pulled and the wine spilled too early? In another word, yes. All wine regions need a 2015 in the throes of enigma and glory. That’s where 2016 fits in, after the calm and before the storm, or in the case of 2017, the fire. The 2016 vintage was about as perfect as it gets, allowing sangiovese to fully ripen at 600, 650 and even more meters above sea level, to turn vineyards in places like Radda, Ruffoli, Lamole and Monti into veritable Edens. The wines of 2016 are glorious and structured. They will live in infamy, respectfully, without grandstanding, low and slow in development, long into a sangiovese night. This is where Chianti Classico became the future.

John Szabo M.S., a.k.a. Il Professore

It may have rained some in the last months of 2016 but after the calendar turned there was no precipitation until the beginning of the second week in September. Imagine what the berries looked like on vines before those rains. Picture the desiccation, consider the sugars and know the unevenness of phenolic ripening. Once again the farmer’s imperative for digging deep to trust intuition became paramount to save the vintage. Patience encouraged those sangiovese clusters to swell and take advantage of three blissful weeks that followed. Warm by day, cool at night, phenolics hitting their peak. The sangiovese of 2017 are singular and in the most concentrated wines their tannins are really something, at times dire, aforementioned in terms like “so-called death squads.” At the base of the appellative pyramid they can be consumed early but as a general rule, the higher you climb, the wider the gap becomes and the longer you may need to allow for the structural components to settle in. A complete about face comes with 2018 in Chianti Classico of grace, understated beauty and ease of drink-ability. They are a fresh collective breath of sangiovese air, a break from adversity and a set of wines to enjoy in advance of another vintage that will bring yet another step up in quality and ultimately glory.

If nine were eight

In Chianti Classico we break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. I am not alone in truly believing that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. Even recently it may have been far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, but with so much good wine on the market the qualifying of definitions is becoming clearer and easier to do. The sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soils, however complex they may be, within the boundaries of their commune.

Through to December 31st, 2018 there were nine communes. Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. On January 1, 2019 Barberino Tavarnelle became a new commune, thus reducing the total in Chianti Classico from nine to eight, by merging the municipalities of Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. The joining is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. These days of writing feature articles about a place within a commune inside a territory tells and potentially schools us about something highly profound. Riddles, mysteries and enigmas are now yielding to solutions, comprehension and understanding. The special nooks in Chianti Classico are geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing.

With Dario Cecchini and Nadia Fournier

The territory is commonly divided by commune but its tiers of structure do not end there. There lies within more specific sub-zones, zonazione, places of interest where microclimates and shared geologies bring land and producers together. Five of the nine Chianti Classico communes have their own Associazione Viticoltori or Vignaioli; Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and San Casciano Val di Pesa. San Donato in Poggio has also banded together within their commune of Barberino Tavarnelle. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. These three exist inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti. Panzano may not be the only sub-zone of its kind but at this triennial level of the place within a place, within a place pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all.

Chianti Classico Collection 2020, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

The reviews

Which brings us to the wines. In February I tasted and reviewed the following 177 examples of sangiovese. Please feel free to advance forward to the DOCG level and vintage you wish to read about by right-clicking on their WineAlign-linked sub-headings.

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #1

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #2

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (31 Notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (50 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (13 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (12 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (32 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 (6 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004 (5 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 (8 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (16 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($29.02)

Tasted with Roberto Stucchi from a tank sample ready to be bottled. Stucchi reminds of the 220mm of rain in August which causes a déja vu Gaiole reminiscence for me going back to August of 1995.  A wet and auspicious start fasts forwards to a a happy ending. So fresh. Light yes but back up the truck and imbibe with reckless if joyous abandon. You just want to drink this while Roberto quips, “and present it as Grand Selezione.” Wink wink, nudge, nudge for the tongue-in-cheek gamay of sangiovese vintage in Chianti Classico. Shine sangiovese shine. Drink 2020-2025.   Tasted February 2020

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (168286, $23.95)

The brightest Bibbiano to date is this 2018 from Tommaso, ripe to ripest and with an extended cappello sommerso feel to the glycerin fruit. Crunchy in as much as you could want, very Castellina (or at least Bibbiano’s two-pronged valley within) and perfectly positioned as a Chianti Classico sangiovese of character. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Fresh sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga and quite heady in its rich constitution with a wooly character and sneaky thick texture. There is a sour if supportive edging to the acidity and it rolls right along with the fruit. New version of old school if a label needed to be put on what this is. Still crazy after all these years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2018

You need to consider the micro-climate of these terraced vineyards of Casavecchia alla Piazza in the heights of Castellina at the western limit of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro. ’Tis a weightless weightiness, a crafty way to compose sangiovese with energetic blood orange winter lightness of citrus being and to make for a wild ride in Chianti Classico expression. Big and invisible simultaneously while conversely stretched, elastic and regaling. You must taste this to not understanding but smile trying to do so. The only living boy in Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (356048, $19.95)

Classic Carpineto, savour in and out of every red fruit poured pore, sip and savour. Long as a Greve in Chianti summer’s day and so worthy of carrying across and through several winters. Keep warm with this comforting and soothing Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Extreme brightness of Castellina in Chianti sangiovese in Castagnoli’s 2018, tightly wound and crunchy herb and earth crusted, tart and properly focused on both its intentions and the small lot crafting it purports to tell. Good story right here and one worth knowing. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (970095, $24.95)

Solid work in 2018 from Castellina’s Castellare, fresh as you might desire and developed to a starting point that’s ready to enjoy as the words are spoken. Structure is somewhat sneaky, more so than initially realized. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Ama 2018 ($34.95)

Forget about launching points for 2018, Castello di Ama’s is the whole matter, all points 360 degrees on the compass covered, at the beginning, through the middle and extended at the end. More than just a fresh face there is a density of fruit-acid circling on the palate and then this slow simmering warmth developing late, later and latest. “I never, never wanted water once.” Quenching. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.95)

Quite the startling and striking sangiovese from Querceto’s Dudda Valley in Greve vineyards from 2018. Real savour over fruit attack, short perhaps of full glycerin though no slouch in terms of macerated texture. Just a touch, if properly volatile. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG Volpaia 2018 (953828, $28.95)

In terms of 2018 this from Volpaia is one of the harder vintage Annata to crack and in fact the traditional construct speaks to sangiovese’s need for time. A crunchy exterior protects the soft and layered interior to double down on suggestions that say wait five years before diving straight in. You of course can enter this Radda sanctum earlier but 2024 or 2025 will see the beginning of true glory. The worth will prepare, support and enrich the wait. Volpaia’s is truly one of the most structured Annata for the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2018

Guado Alto is indeed a high level Annata and spoken in upwardly mobile tones for Greve sangiovese. Rich as ’18 can thrust upon fruit and then really wound acidity that strides and even sings baritone along. Big wine, very red and layered with the tops of them. The smallest and the the first of four Vicchiomaggio cru that provides for only 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Coccia Giuliano/Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Perfume of an ulterior sort, not just exotica but also something sappy, resinous, oozing even. Pine and more herbology than many this speaks to Lamole certainly but even more so altitude and all the Mediterranean shrubs that grow at altitude. Also speaks to wind and aromatics flying hither and thither. Such parochial stuff oh my. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($31.95)

Radda perfume for sure and certain, but the most pertinent aspect to note and ultimately take away from Bernardo Bianchi’s 2018 is architecture. His is structured Annata that cries for patience and expects to be at best three years forward from Anteprima. The fruit content and variegated intermingling with the structural parts is elastic in its seamlessness so you can envision a ten year or more development before real secondary character interjects. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Journalist taste at Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($27.95)

Floral and candied aromas, rose petal and a liquid, San Casciano Galestro melted and stirred into red juice. Quite juicy and liquid chalky in fact. Simple, quite pretty and very drinkable straight away. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From a place (San Casciano) that gifts perfume but in the most savoury of ways. There too is a deep red darkness to the fruit and here the full advantage of 2018 is taken into consideration. Everything here is done with acumen intention, including maceration, pressing and extraction. The redundancy effects the outcome, restricts the subtleties and brings immediate gratification. Fourth vintage for the estate’s young winemakers and expect two steps forward from 2019. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico DOCG Berardenga 2018 (730788, $29.95)

Fèlsina’s Berardenga is a fully developed 2018 with massive attack of the greatest generosities offered and with zero inhibition. Crunchy, Castelnuovo fluff-earthy and in a world where “you drink my wine, so why don’t you make your world mine.” Trouble moves away with a sip of this ’18, leaving a feeling of warmth and settled intensity. This will develop remarkable secondary attributes in only ways Fèlsina can. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Le Miccine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Subtly aromatic, seemingly brushy, forested and mountainous in origin. Gaiole in fact, surrounded by olive groves and plenty of cinghiale housing woods. You can feel the wood and the woods in the way it smothers, exhales and reels you in. Very rich and highly irascible in its voracious meatiness. Singular expression to be sure. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.50)

This is perhaps the most approachable, amenable and refreshing Luiano ever made by the unflappable Alessandro Palombo. Beautiful wine here made by the man with the mitts, the maestro from San Casciano. Fruit first, fulsome, flying and mouth-filling. What else needs to be said? Perhaps that this will live in a certain kind of infamy, to be opened in 2055 at which point Palumbo will taste, shrug and walk away. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Big, deep and low-toned sangiovese is just this, having taken full vintage advantage for the great welling effect. Dark, purposed and attacking. Leaves everything on the table, securely weighted and fastened. From Greve. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2018

Let’s talk about the passion. Let us discuss the care, the careful consternation and the vineyard work that leads to something so effusive, effulgent and expressive. Let’s consider this southern Panzano perfume. Once we have exhausted all the shadowy hyperbole we can then begin to understand how Michael Schmelzer builds or rather stands back and watches as his sangiovese constructs itself. The present and the future are right here. Drink now, then and forever. Would love to see this in 15 years, or perhaps more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

There can be no denial or denying the knowing, no lack of understanding in fully accepting a Radda height accessed, performed and used for full effect. Sangiovese knows how to make über plausible use of its hillside altitude and by association the forested surroundings, but in certain cases it requires a sanctimonious winemaking intuition and that right re dihere is the crux of Monteraponi’s situation. A corner of Radda expressed by Michele Braganti in ways no one else may try and as such, exercised as it must be. This is Chianti Classico for what it is. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

If ever a Poggio Scalette adapted to, extended from and celebrated a vintage it is this from 2018 that hyperbolizes the context. Richesse like never before or perhaps memory serves short and blinders allow for new beginnings at every time and turn. Big sangiovese for Ruffoli in Greve here from Jurji Fiore and one that speaks to what can happen at heights in warm times. A bit apposite to expectation and causing some wild thoughts. Need to re-visit this time and time again. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Regini Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Quite resinous and sappy sangiovese, reminding of Lamole but without the accompanying floral perfume. A touch beyond, on top of and reaching over the subtle line. Fine enough and better to drink this young. From Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($28.95)

Fully conceived, attacked and modernized sangiovese in the brightest red fruit vein, of berry mixed with red lightning. Amazing Gaiole vineyard gives life to the 21st century. Fabulous acidity and freshness from the hands (or lack there) of Alesandro Campatelli. Structure creeps in and confirms without conforming to any static standard or typicality, in mixed levels of attack. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (222810, $19.95)

Full on attack from warm, ripe and concentrated 2018 fruit defines Rocca di Castagnoli’s 2018. This brings and delivers the whole lot of goods right from the top for immediate enjoyment. Total extraction to throw every iota of acidity and available tannin into the mix. Acts youthful and wise at the same time. Terrific three to five year Annata that expresses everything at once and all the time. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($34.95)

Monti in Chianti is gathered, accumulated and condensed into this Annata with extreme prejudice. That which is left to the imagination in the work of Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi is sottosuolo, in the Galestro of his Gaiole vineyards. Not that the ’18 is less than intense because Marco’s sangiovese takes nothing for granted and leaves little behind on the canes, spurs and leaves of his vines. It’s all here in this Annata, boasting of great confidence and every rock that can be bled into sangiovese’s varietal lifeblood. Extreme tightness of acidity and structure for to speak of freshness, protracted towards potential. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (234308, $21.95)

Quite heady and excitable Castellina here in San Fabiano Calcinaia’s Annata out of 2018. Crunchy, classically rustic, in request of patience, time and the need to wait in bottle. Pretty traditional and fresh stuff right here for you who like what style of Chianti Classico you’ve known, seen and wish to continue drinking. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (282996, $19.95)

The most extracted and distracting sangiovese comes from San Felice and in 2018 the fruit is met, matched and driven by the barrels from whence it came. What a full bodied, throttle and concentrated Annata this is, truly, unabashedly and completely. The hands of Leonardo Bellaccini go all out to brings even bigger parts for the all in example. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From the southwest corner of Greve in Chianti, southwest of Montefioralle and close to Panzano. Modish and modern for 21st century sangiovese is just this, stylish, chic and highly motivated. Quite fully developed and felt red fruit of glycerin, pectin and mouthfeel but you want more and more. Impressive magnitude in bringing so much fruit into the mix. Not overtly high in acid or tannin so use this early and often. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted twice, February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Reductive and peppery stuff here from Kosher Chianti Classico producer Terra di Seta in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Quite representative for the capabilities of the commune in warmth, strength and early tension. The shell needs to crack before the charm may spill forth. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Panzano

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Newfangled and old-school actionable in simultaneousness Panzano activity, an entanglement of classic sangiovese and colorino in a web of reductive meets candied shell beauty. Very tannic in a surprising turn away from the fast and furious fruit welling. Wait for the twain to be met. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2017

Such a pretty, focused and far from enigmatic 2017 is this comforting sangiovese, the floral and sweetly perfumed La Ghirlanda from Bindi Sergardi. Yes it’s an expression of Castelnuovo Berardenga but so much so a feeling of Mocenni, at least in great part. Also peppy, wryly and with a devilish smile, like an ironic Leonard Cohen song. “Is this what you wanted?” Not to worry, La Ghirlanda is not haunted by the ghost of you and me. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Warmth and altitude combine for Radda beauty in a modish sangiovese so much more fine than beast. The earliest onset of drinkable recognition comes straight from the charm of this well-made wine. Cracks the whip quickly to solicit structural notes for a fast interaction with fruit to find an immediate and insistent coefficient of existence. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (23325, $16.95)

The warmth and the development make this the most approachable and get me now sangiovese you ever did encounter. Well done for 2017 in that the fruit was allowed to develop its phenolics across a broad spectrum of high yield vineyard fruit. Solid reasoning and seasoning makes this work. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Burrone 2017

Quite wildly aromatic this from new and exciting Ca’ di Pesa with a deeper set of structural values than the initial fruitiness would have led you to believe. Just feels like a conglomerate bleed, full of Panzano Galestro, Alberese and even a streak of wispy Arenaria running through like dark cherry in its veins. Very impressive indeed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2017 (403733, $24.95)

Deep feelings from this Gaiole sense of sangiovese wonder. All that 2017 can gift is settling in with comfort, warmth and the R.E.M. subconsciousness of a Chianti Classico dream. Richly fruity, layered, dramatic and fine. Finest modern day Annata from the house in a vintage that makes the result even more impressive, poignant and important. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In bottle from a tank sample and essentially a finished wine yet bottled. Picking started on September 19th. Quite heady for 2017, full of all the acids and Caparsa tannin that came of 2016. Lively sangiovese with drive, structure and one of the greater abilities to age. There’s a perpetual triangle of motion and precision that keeps the drive alive. An Annata in Radda that clearly benefited from the heat of the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($33.60)

Tank sample – a finished wine but not yet bottled. The 2017 Annata from Carobbio comes as such a surprise, a complex equation identified with the sweetest tannins imaginable. Really quite unexpected, fresh and feels silky in the mouth, clearly one of the finer ’17 Annata’s produced. Structure’s candle may not hold up to the vintages that came before but that does not seem to matter. Don’t think too much, just drink this one and thank Dario Faccin for making it this way. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2017

Classic Radda and savoury, dusty and quickly reached sangiovese for Capotondo and exacted as would have been expected. The traditional quotient is reached, breached and put into full effect. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From Barberino Tavarnelle. High tonality and dusty, reductive and closed young sangiovese. Pressed and picked early with heat and kept acidity though somewhat greenish tannins and not wholly formed phenols. Needs time and then not so much. Drink 2021-2023.   Tasted February 2020

Casale Dello Sparviero Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (10358, $17.95)

Such a big and polished wine, like something out of reach neither in the immediate nor in the deep past. The barrel is everything and yet nothing at all. Fruit swoons and hides behind the wood and waits in wings, static, without wings. Strong and not far from balsamic and cedar notes of the next stage to quickly come. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A subtle, quiet and reserved Annata from Panzano’s Casaloste, a bit in demure and not the 17s of many other. That said there is plenty of fruit traction and interaction. The warmth of the year is noticed, the pepperiness exaggerated and the acidity quite the same. Pretty big and boisterous. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico DOCG Clemente VII 2017

All sorts of fruit collects and weighs down in this attacking sangiovese, of tart raspberry, strawberries red and green, currants and a spice masala that speaks to sources here, there and everywhere. Savoury dried nuts, meats and cures make this complex if a bit all over the place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.00)

San Donato is Poggio orange, hematic and of a specific tang and that makes for a notably distinct and obvious sangiovese. This aromatic recognizability is comforting and conditions the palate to accept the reality that one need’s to pair this wide open red so that it and all feel supported. Fresh pasta ands cinghiale would do right. Such a proper version of ’17 for the frazione. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s 2017 is one of the deepest sangiovese expressions, more flavourful than aromatic, fully formed, developed and realized. That means the vines, vintage and veins run deep in Radda’s blood and the feeling is of deep concentration. Nothing is left on the table. It’s all in the glass. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2017 (219808, $18.95)

If the all-purpose Chianti Classico is what you seek from 2017 and for immediate gratification than you have arrived and that can be pronounced unequivocally. This is a Mercatale-San Casciano in Val di Pesa beeline straight to the right place. Crisp, clean, fresh and elastic fruit speaks of the grand time and place. Warm and inviting with a concrete freshness that does what needs. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($22.95)

Quite bright and effusive in 2017 there’s a feeling of the gentle and the comforting in this from the Castello di Radda. The liquid chalky texture is a bit distracting while the wine strolls uncaringly along. A bit aloof and unremarkable but surely no offence meant or taken. Happy is a glass in hand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($30.45)

Such a unique aromatic expression here from Castello di Verrazzano and the pattern is becoming a thing of great consistent beauty. The judgement is sound if nearly spot on from a challenge and so the structure supporting makes for a resounding drink of sangiovese speciality. Very impressive for the year. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (383604, $19.95)

The bulk of the juice ferments and ages in concrete vats and a mere 20 per cent sees time in old barrels. A house that travels from strength to strength says so much about the supporting cast of characters that have elevated the game over these last three vintages. Just as this has happened you wonder what will come next. In the meantime this ’17 walks lightly, speaks confidently and pours a charming glass of deliciousness. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Pretty wine here from Cinciano, ripe and really acting out the vineyard play of multi-faceted sangiovese coming together for a seamless estate expression. No holes, plenty of charm and more than what is needed from varietal, vintage and place. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.78)

Hard to imagine how a 2017 Chianti Classico can raise the bar across all its constituent parts as this from Conti Cappone is able to effect. The level of primary meeting intellectual notability is well, notable. Fruit rises up to meet acidity and acidity to rise for the challenge of sweet tannin., The bond and the chain is unbreakable. In Annata. No less. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole La Vendemmia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($23.95)

A sweet and salty liqueur from Dievole’s 2017 with all the layers that great modern aging vessels can gift. A highly skilled effectuation and subsequent result gives this Annata such a drinkable and amenable feeling. Very polished and chic wine right here. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (354019, $19.95)

A wide array of fruit qualities come together with hope, dreams and anticipation. Along with the pressing also comes a reductive and slightly baritone note thats speaks to the style as it repeatedly goes out, seeking love. It will find some, in time and for a few good drinking years. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattorie Melini Chianti Classico DOCG Granaio 2017 (395145, $19.95)

Candied florals, a sour note with hard-pressed fruit and brittle tannins. Plenty of wood and a tough nut to crack. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2017 ($36.95)

Un unmistakeable moment begins right away with I Parfumi di Lamole, forging an immediate connection by way of aromatic emissions from the always suave and conversely strengthening Filetta from Fontodi. The vintage is both fortifying and also hyperbolizing for the frazione and with this stellar house’s ability it just comes out equal and right. So long and never dissipating. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (933317, $39.95)

Equally if oppositely aromatic to the Filetta from Lamole and so properly judged, with wood less interested in taking over the project in this vintage. The production seems to have taken a step away and just allows the lightness of structure to mellow along with the litheness of being. Great decision making puts this in a league of its own. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (435123, $18.95)

Ripe and relatively pretty sangiovese from I Sodo, a touch pressed but within reason. Goes for all the marbles early and so that is when you must make use to pair, match, sip and enjoy. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (85209, $24.95)

Recently bottled and more than a pleasant surprise because 2017 is a vintage that you had to make exaggerated adjustments then wait to see if the chances taken would lead to positive results. For Il Molino di Grace the proof is in the depth of fruit expression but also in the consistency, or rather the torch taken and growth forward. The best 17s are those that adapted to challenge, adversity and were willing to change. In that way they resemble themselves and add new breath to the light that is sangiovese. Here Annata shows off idiosyncrasy, complexity and multiplicity. As fresh as 2017 can be with enough structure to keep moving forward. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2017

The savour and dustiness of sangiovese coupled with a challenge are on display from this deeply rendered wine. Il Poggiolino’s is not uncommon for the vintage and the fruit is dug in so deep, into ripeness and the earth. There’s surely a dried component, both fruit and herbs but also acids and tannins in their tight angles. Will settle a bit and drink well for three years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (704346, $34.95)

The vintage sends sangiovese in so many directions, some into the well filled with simple fruit and others over the wall into ultra-savoury territory. Paolo di Marchi’s does both and more. There’s a freshness and a depth to the not so serious but oh so serious conflagration. What’s special is the supple and actionable structure, of acidity embracing and unproblematic tannin. Works like an Isole e Olena Annata should, with imaginary Riserva folded in, with all stones rendered and all points looking north. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG White Label 2017 (476317, $24.95)

A solidly constructed Annata from Lamole here with some advanced features that have it drinking well at exactly this juncture. Tart and rich in converse relationship but conjoined as required. Well made and a triumph for the estate. “Had to keep walking” to find the amazing. Sensei Lamole. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Very pretty wine again from Le Masse with greater acids and bigger tannins than many. That this was accomplished without too much consternation or pressed aggression is a true testament to all facets of the process. Commendable in many ways. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A wild berry sangiovese if ever there was one from Radda and clearly a vintage matter coupled with the want of L’Erta to happen. So much fruit substance and not exactly a drive to age. Matters not in cases such as this. Crushable as a result. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Expect Montefioralle to deliver something other at all times but especially from this. Expect the unexpected, the idiosyncratic and the unusual. Look out for the beauty from things even if you have little frame of reference. Then take in the Damson plum and the dusty tannins. Most of all don’t be shocked at the acidity that can only come from Lorenzo Sieni’s parochial sangiovese.  Last tasted February 2020

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2017

One of the tougher sangiovese nuts to crack, Gaiole or otherwise and yet this Vaggiolata vineyard Annata is so very brushy and bushy Chianti Classico. This maker is that kind and the heart is soft beneath the stony exterior. A perfect example of Chianti Classico needing time to enter the fields of agreeable and charming. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Things turn brighter in a sangiovese like this from Radda, not so much lighter as one from which fruit can shine. Light in terms of tannin but sneaky enough to elevate and extend. More chew than crunch in a pressed fruit roll-up carnival of the heart ’17. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2020

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2017

Quite a boat filled with sweet and herbal notes are part fruit and part tannin though less so in terms of acidity. A bit soft that way even while the grains keep things seized at present. Drying late in that way and not ready to say three words, like yes, now and integrate. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A little bit of San Donato in Poggio goes a long way into defining a special sort of Chianti Classico with this by Podere La Cappella a prime example. The white Alberese is herein always a factor with the orange so deeply sensory and frankly distracting. In a good way to even better so think about fruit and acids as one with the strength to receive and work alongside structure. Rich 2017 here.  Last tasted February 2020

Sangiovese with merlot in two and three year old botti and barriques, to be bottled in two weeks. Smells like Colombino stone, licked by rain with the fruit at its highest La Cappella promise. It’s never been this rich or full but sapidity will always streak through these wines. It reminds me of really high quality mencìa, in a way, piqued by toasty spice, juicy and ready for great meats and roasted vegetables. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($26.75)

Almost always set at the centre of the heart, of richness and hematic depth. The warmth and development of Piero Lanza’s Radda sangiovese are never to be underestimated nor should there ever be shock from the accumulated results. They are made exactly as the vineyard and the vintage dictate. And they are in balance. This 2017 falls right into line. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Tons of fruit and fruit pectin content in Poggio al Sole make for a delightful if quite sumptuous 2017. There is nothing light or lacking here and in the short term it’s a good a bet as you are likely to taste. Not all vintages and every estate need to provide structure. Seek, find and imbibe. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

The way of Pomona is carefree and natural yet knowing and exacting. The Castellina in Chianti sangiovese here may seem at ease, mellow and even soft but it can bite if it so chooses. The fruit sources are wise, the chance they are afforded high and the way the slow build careens then slides is magic. Few Chianti Classico can do what this can. Get to know the plan. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Francesca Semplici and Riccardo Nuti, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2017

From 95 per cent sangiovese with colorino, picked smartly over the course of September, if a bit variable the stacking and layering saves and fills, covers and extends so that the middle palate gains flesh and the tannins are ripe enough. Going strong.  Last tasted February 2020

Spring frost has resulted in minuscule quantities from a very young vineyard (though 22 years of age). Pretty impressive for Annata, with enough freshness to balance the weight and the sheer presence of this wine. This is the Premium (Primum) alternative to the original and much larger production Chianti Classico DOCG. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Vineyard truths are spoken in a San Donato vernacular with exceptional grace and humility. This is a bit richer and pressing than might have been ideal so the tannins are somewhat brittle and drying but the overall togetherness is more than proper. Finds the ways to reach back for more when needed and to hold back when necessary. Mostly in balance as a result. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (728816, $48.95)

The Querciabella warmth and relative hedonism is on display in 2017 but knowing what a year or two can effect on this sangiovese is so essential to looking at them in their youth. This 2017 will turn into one of the finest of the territory for two most important reasons. A collection of grapes from more than one commune source and a stringent sorting process that pulls out then combines the best. The tannins are really fine here. Let it rest and look for the great relish between five and ten years on. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, hematic, rich and also ferric. This fully extracted and concentrated sangiovese brings it all up front, centred and with furious haste. Gives everything now and for all to want. Wants for nothing moving forward so use it, abuse it and don’t pause too much in case you are thinking to cellar and then reuse it. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Risotto, Caffe dell’Oro, Firenze

Ruffino Santedame Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (523076, $19.95)

The advantage in vintages like ’17 is clearly one enjoyed by larger estates because moving fruit around for cuvée speciality makes blending the crux of the matter. And so Ruffino’s is a well-managed, masterly arranged and all purpose Chianti Classico. This is a time to try Ruffino’s beautiful Annata. It will not disappoint. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Welcome to Roberto Bianchi’s wonderful world of sangiovese foraged, forged and formed by a cappello sommerso beginning. Creates a texture that captures Radda and the new Chianti Classico from out of the ashes of a hot vintage and a really old Piedmontese technique. Nowhere can locked in freshness and texture combine for such great effect. Dramatic and grounded, each with as much necessity as feeling and time will dictate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Not so many reductive sangiovese in 2017 and those that are tend to be peppery with brittle tannin. Not the case in Vecchie Terre di Montefili’s as the shell protects freshness without compromise to safety. Aromatics therefore come through the cloud and talk in floral tones. This sits elevated at a lovely precipice but not so high as to extend volatility above and beyond the fruit. Organic, from Panzano and truth be told no other sangiovese smells as exotic as this. Just delicious and will age really well. A highlight of the year. Bravissimo. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2020

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre Di Prenzano 2017

The middle of the road is properly taken for a 2017 Annata of medium bodied notability. Hard to say what the winner is but going with fruit is a good bet. Acids and tannin are a bit soft and a bit hard, neither really winning or losing. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($35.95)

Truth be told this 2017 from Geggiano persists as a youthful and too early to call Annata. The particular Galestro and Alberese in these micro-climate championed western wing of Castelnuovo vineyards make for some of the communes most charming meets structured sangiovese. Why should the heat and the challenge effect anything otherwise. So much here, so many levels of Chianti Classico to unfurl. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (283580, $23.95)

Beautifully drinking 2017 Annata with a Montefioralle smile and charm. All the adjustments have been made so that acidity fully supports, surrounds and extends the fruit. Some tannin at the finish but thankfully quick and not the point that matters most. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Giulia Bernini, Bindi Sergardi

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2016

The newer of the two Bindi Sergardi Annata is Ser Gardo, taken from vineyards on the producer’s I Colli Estate. Dedicated to Niccolò Sergardi, a.k.a. Sir Gardo, Governor of the city of Siena (1530) and guardian of the city. I Colli gives way to the IGT (Achille) and this Chianti Classico off of stony, calcium carbonate soils rich in Alberese. Epitomizes the Bindi Sergardi-Castelnuovo Berardenga cherries and roses freshness. If lighter then great, if sneaky structured even better and it is those roses (mixed with nasturtium) in an imagined spice that comes from chewing on fresh petals. Ripe, 2016 and intensely satisfying. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Caparsa, name of the estate and the main house. One hundred per cent sangiovese aged mainly in cement. A straight ahead and crunchy Annata with a noblesse and a natural accountability that speaks in Paolo Cianferoni’s body language. Still a touch aggressive and yet the acid-tannin structure is quite impressive. Also tasted from a bottle open four days ago and truth be told the difference is negligible at most.  Last tasted February 2020

Lovely glycerin and elastic sangiovese not without a generous component from barrel. A touch of greenish tannin from that wood but plenty of fruit to swallow it up, or at least will do so in time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($33.60)

Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2016 (994608, $22.95)

The push-pull of conversion takes richesse and melts it into firm grip for sensations only a ’16 of such style can drift. The cherries of Chianti Classico are so magnified in maceration and liqueur, so much so this may just be the dictionary entry. Wild and so full of energy as if this were not Annata and yet not quite Riserva. Wow from this wine. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016 (383604, $19.95)

Five months in there is really not a huge amount of movement to speak of save for a rise in energy that indicates this Annata is coming out of its slumber. It also means that six more months should really see it blossom, flower and sing.  Last tasted February 2020

A huge leap in quality for the Radda producer, clearly a sign of work put in the vineyard and steps towards making the right, correct and delicious local sangiovese. A really textural wine and of really fine acidity. Molta buona. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2016

The single vineyard at the top of the hill at 450m is the Alberese dominant site for this stunning sangiovese of concrete and barrel, but the treatment is just about as hands off as it gets. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and these 28 year-old vines at the time are surely in their prime. Yes time is important but the actionable gestures are already playing with our emotions and tugging on our heartstrings. Such a focused wine. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the isolated cru in the best vineyard making this wine. Just think about it. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2016 (250563, $17.95)

A solid Annata in 2016, fruit already moving forward in development, acidity hanging strong and tannins melting in. One of the more silky, creamy and chocolatey of Chianti Classico. Well-made to be sure and offering plenty of maximum consumer friendly pleasure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Il Barlettaio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite an extracted and well-pressed 2016 from Il Bartellaio that has steamed straight ahead and come into drinking window view. Take this and use it now for best results. Solid sangiovese to clear the senses and begin anew. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (211599, $18.95)

Lornano is one of those Chianti Classico estates that requires patience, both from its makers and its buyers. The soils and the compounding elévage work insist that the wines remain in bottle before revealing their charms. This 2016 is exactly one of those wines that speak to the manifesto. The fruit is here and the possibilities are long and endless. Wait to embrace them. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($19.95)

Talk about time. Losi’s sangiovese demands it, insists it be granted and brings beauty when we are properly listening. The Alberese remains in charge and the fruit is aching, waiting, nearly ready to bust out. So crunchy and chewy in simultaneous rumination, so cherry hematic and full of vintage wealth. One of the estate’s best Annata to date. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Piemaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Le Fioraie 2016 ($29.99)

A remarkably rich and layered 2016 from Piemaggio, full on with impressively concentrated fruit. The cherry ooze and chocolate melt are unrelenting, coating the palate with each subsequent sip. Leaves a mark in many coats. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (10360, $24.95)

The white and grey clay plus fine decomposed Galestro soil mixes with great 2016 promise for one of Gaiole and the greater territory’s most polished ’16s. Almost too good to be true and in just Frescobaldi’s second vintage. Almost feels like a peak has been reached so the question is, how far can this property go. Sky’s the limit? Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico DOCG Il Palei 2016 ($23.99)

Lovely wine from the kids at Catelnuovo’s Villa a Sesta in 2016 with so much grace and beauty. Not that this has been lacking before but this takes a wonderful step forward. Helps to wait another year to taste the pure cherries and the fine liqueur. Has really integrated and is ready to roll. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The wait is almost over and the opportunity nearly upon us to seek and find what grace comes from Castell’in Villa’s Annata 2015. There are few peers that require this much attention to detail and patience but it is the Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa who demands that she ands also we do this. The estate gifts sangiovese from so many plots, blocks and micro-climates and yet we still must wait for these parts to come together. They are and in rhyme will only slide in for the ultimate glide, in time from fruit, herbs, wood and in the fineness of what lives. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Pruneto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Developed dried fruit resides in Radda space, oxidative and old-school. A charmer with a very specific style. Know what it is. Spice all over the finish, both from wood and in that dried drupe. Drink 2020-2021. Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2017

Gabriele Buondonno’s 2017 is what you might refer to as a tour de force, a recklessly controlled gangly and gregarious mulch of ripe fruit and massively structured maintenance. That it maintains its poise is remarkable considering the heft and the fortitude. Warm spot where these vines grow and so there was no avoiding the sun in this torching vintage. So young and far from innocent, fruit so priceless and anything but precious. Let it ride for a while. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (508507, $29.95)

So much cherry and so little time. Not the biggest expression of Castellina though surely one of the most effulgent there is. Rich in the faux sugary ways of sangiovese from warmth and in youth. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (705335, $40.00)

Quite reductive for a sangiovese from Volpaia and so indicative of what the land requests, matched be the efforts of the team. A liquid white pepper pique is so unique, so interesting and so much the catalyst to create the lift and the character. The possibilities for changes through the aging process are of a stronger potential here than from so many 17s, though time remains for the results to be seen. Real length from this high altitude sangiovese purports to promise that Volpaia’s ’17 Riserva is in true Radda form and charm. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Rància 2017 ($55.75)

Few Riserva can seem so far away and yet so close to within reach. Rancia would have survived the 2017 crazies as unscathed as any, of that there can be little doubt. Quite reductive and youthfully challenging the matter here is one of no holds barred and options yet unexplored. The mild astringency is perfectly normal and Rancia Riserva will find its way out. Bank on it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Only from the upper vineyards closest to the cellar, one of the more pristine Riservas, of freshness, purity and clarity that Molino di Grace sangiovese did not used to show, but changes have led to this. You don’t think about the transitions or the structure because they just present themselves effortlessly and seamlessly. A remarkably fresh ’17 that was picked late, on time and best decisions were made in the cellar.  Last tasted February 2020

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($39.95)

Luiano’s ’17 Riserva is a bad boy, a troubled youth of rebellion and great strength, its frontal cerebral cortex not yet fully formed. Massive attack of fruit and tannin, not to mention natural acidity of another mother. Really wants to see you and be with you, ‘but it takes so long my Lord.“ Hmmn my lord. What a formidable San Casciano Riserva, still full of innocence, searching for its elegance. May turn out to be one of the best. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Marchese Antinori 2017 (512384, $49.95)

Quite reductive and yet relenting for an Antinori Riserva with a dollop of cream silkening the formidable fruit and its shellac of structure. This is ’17 at the height of warmth and everything else that makes the vintage one of great interest, To some the tannins could be seen as unrelenting and more than challenging for balance. That they are yet when they give in the fruit should be at its peak. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

“I’m happy with our 17s but I don’t know that i would classify them as Monte Bernardi wines, in fact Retromarcia was missing 50 per cent of its fruit due to frost.” The honesty of Michael Schmelzer. That said it’s as delicate and pretty as it gets for the vintage and while a bit of an anti-Riserva so to speak, I have to beg to disagree because the mild swarthiness is very recognizable, comforting and always lends to energy and excitement in the wines, especially when they are young. What wan’t necessarily noted in Monte Bernardi’s Annata that shows in Riserva is the silky and elastic woolliness of the texture and the coating tannins. This is a most unique expression of Panzano and the vintage, a coagulated, hematic and crunchy earth-driven sangiovese with some of the finest varietal tannins around. Crisp and taut, fresh and promising with a long future laid out ahead. If Monte Bernardi is what you seek, this will satisfy your every desires, and your means. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2017 ($45.00)

Another hefty and balanced piece of Radda sangiovese heaven here from the Bugialla label, a Poggerino sign of true reality and success. A Riserva of the land, of the vineyards and of specific blocks, rows and vines. What tannins these are, demanding, of a time, certainly a vintage and a place. Make ‘em as they are given to you, That’s what winemakers like Piero Lanza do. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2017

Such a fine liquid intensity with deeply sensorial acidity makes Riecine’s 2017 an unmistakably dramatic one. You have to appreciate the lightning fruit matched against the savoury herbal Gaiole backdrop and the sheer luminosity that brightens the fruit. This is a formidable Riserva but for reasons not usually noted. In a world and a class of its very own. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 (930966, $24.95)

Rich and so developed, a Riserva for the people and one to hang an early hat on. So many have to wait but the Zingarelli is telling you the time is now to seek enjoyment. While the unapproachable ones work their way through trials and troubles this Famiglia will welcome you to the table. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2017 (23358, $32.95)

Poggio a’ Frati is consistently layered with all its categorical character, beginning in the soil and finishing in the glass. Never overbearing and always filled to the tang in prim brim with ever-bearing berries. Quite tannic this 2017, less than ready, impressively structured and fashioned in a Gran(d) way of design. Could easily slide appellative categories, up, down, side to side. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Cantalici Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Baruffo 2016 (541078, $32.95)

Ahh, that Gaiole essence. The hills, the bush, the things that grow, all the scents and perfumes. All found tucked under the arm and laid beneath the skin of this glorious sangiovese. Carlo Cantalici is surely proud of this 2016 and he has pressed his fortune for a ticket to longevity. The wine is almost ready, almost but not quite. “Under my thumb, the girl who once had me down.” Won’t be for long.. soon the change will have come and it’s down to Baruffo. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Few Chianti Classico Riserva exhibit this combination of heft and also hard to get demure. Mildly smoky and with a tar-roses-char like some nebbiolo and more so because of the gangly wood spice and tannic thrush. Big wine with years to go before the herbs and the grains relent. The fruit needs to be patient and hope holds for that to happen.  Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

If you can’t smell and taste the Galestro soil specific to Carparsa’s corner of Radda than you may need to heed a bit more attention. There’s an elegance and a fortitude mixed with a fine sour cherry that makes this singular, specific and a wine that mimics the place. Very structured, acids sharp, pointed and fine, linearity sure and trustworthy. Clean, finessed and definite with all the organic, natural and compost plusses kept in mind. Carries all the necessary bones and attributes to arrive at a seven year mark up to double that time. Inimitable saltiness that’s not really noted anywhere else.  Last tasted February 2020

From Paolo Cianferoni on a 12ha Radda estate at 450m. A citrus note lines the aromatic front, almost white grapefruit but also bleeding red, of pomegranate and red currant. Lovely mid palate, pure and purely ’16, with purest Radda acidity and chaste laser focus. Great attention to detail in the vineyard is more than apparent, translating with utmost unalloyed and unsullied clarity straight down through the glass. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2016

A single-vineyard Riserva from the plot above the smaller second house called Caparsino and filled with all the soils; argile, Galestro and Alberese. Surely an absolute about face expression with higher volatility and a high, near and nigh potential for advancing porcini notes. A deeper and darker black cherry. Characterful and mature in such a different way, The acidity is uncompromising even while the wine acts oxidative with more wood than the other Riserva. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (47118, $29.95)

The classic Carpineto way, done in the vein of ancients with a look to the future. There’s a high tone running amok with a toast of the fruit and a plum maceration deeper down. High level acidity and “you can’t disguise” the type of work done here. Tell me lies? Not so much. The truth in clarity of a Carpineto CCR is always spoken. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A San Donato in Poggio vernacular comes closer into view with this Riserva from Paolo Paffi. The orange is studded with aromatics and the local limestone runs through every vein. It also bleeds from every pore before talking tannins and the probabilities for a long future. Tightly structured wine here, compact, versatile and voracious in its virtuous pursuit to eat, drink, sleep and extoll the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Castello di Paneretta strives for clarity and purity from a gorgeous vintage that could have allowed for more depth and density. The decision to stay clear of overdone and overwrought is a beautiful thing and so much pleasure is our fortune. Lithe, open, fragrant and sumptuous. A Riserva reserved strictly for drinking. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (113316, $38.95)

A Riserva from Bossi is one that makes so much sense in what we’ve come to expect from the appellation, that is sweetly rendered fruit, spice primarily oak derived and great punch. A crunchy Riserva this is, taut, tight, tannic and worthy of time. Give it that and more. The fruit is 2016 after all and from the great wide open Castelnuovo Berardenga space. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (719864, $34.95)

Great godly perfume, San Donato to the nth degree, welling and simultaneously rising. The glass is full no matter the quality of the contents, the texture filling and seamless, the extension forever forward. What you have is the portal into Il Poggio and know this. That Riserva and that Gran Selezione can and must be extraordinary and off the charts. The launching point here seems plenty great enough for all combined and concerned. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($49.60)

Deep Riserva from Verrazzano in 2016, full of all things driven, ambitious and tonal. Volatile at this stage because of a reductiveness multiplied by fruit liqueur that can’t help but rage. Really needs to settle and become itself. For now there’s angst and intensity. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2016 (993360, $29.95)

The appellative category is looked at, considered, scrutinized and a decision on its stereotype lands here. Petri is the cornerstone and the exactitude, especially for Greve in that it just acts in ways you expect there to always be. Earthy crunch, crusted fruit, herbs, Amaro and sweet tannins. Drink this early. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($41.95)

You really do need to pay a visit to Colle Bereto’s slice of the amphitheatre pie in their sector of Radda in Chianti because the soil, expositions and micro-climate beg for this response. How else to try and understand the tenderness and desire multiplied for such high level and full-bodied result. Few if any combine richness with elegance, mid-level volatility with down to earth sensibility. Clear and animal magnetic together. It’s remarkable. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (216309, $24.95)

Come and get me is the quick, early and olive branch extension from Castello di Gabbiano’s ’16 Riserva with all the Mercatele in Val di Pesa confluence that can be jam packed into one voluptuous bottle of sangiovese. Plenty of stuffing and deep red flavours, into plums and a clafouti full of softened berries. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016

The Riserva is a highly refined wine but it is not wood that makes it this way. Concrete is the order of the way that wines are refined, with some old barrels and some amphora. No it is the vineyards the cause this Riserva to act so polished and stylish with so many herbal and woodsy hints it flashes before your nose, brain, taste and eyes. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the Riserva as being the wine of best selection and has always been this way. Hard to find a reason to change. Perhaps soon from another set of parameters (including concrete eggs and amphora) and vines.  Last tasted February 2020

Lovely vintage in Riserva form for Daniele Ciampi, of fruit sweetly developed, ripe and effusive. Full extract, tang and force all combine to grip the palate and keep it all swimming upstream. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Amphora 2016

From a tank sample. The in process sangiovese with no name that includes quite a compliment of concrete eggs and amphora raised fruit. Fermentation as with the others one year in concrete vats and then to the new vessels which could become the Monterinaldi answer to Gran Selezione. The fruit sources are part Boscone and part Riserva sites that are in the middle of the hill below the borgo. Same silk texture, same stylish classicism and yet the brushy, fennel savour is somewhat lost. Same but different and in this opinion completely worthy of the Gran Selezione appellation. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($43.95)

Still a youthful, closed and reductive 2016 in Riserva form there is a whole helluva lot going on in Capponi’s wine. Wooly, swarthy, volatile, uninhibited and nearly exhibitionist from all there is to nose and in showing its natural self. There’s something of a missive vernacular far from soft spoken in how this acts like whole bunches redacted in unstoppable fermentation. Like a waterfall rush of flavours, textures so wild and so free. What have you done here Sebastiano? Gotta give in and try, put some away and see if you can figure out the reasons why. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Famiglia Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Villa Cerna 2016 (14200, $29.95)

Proper, rich and savoury, very soil driven Riserva, ubiquitous in that it speaks for a large set of parcels and remains focused. Chewy with fully developed fruit sets, some dried sweetly in leather jackets, some perfectly ripe and yet to advance. A verdant note mixes in. All there, layered and at times disparate but complex as needed. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Fashioned from 95 per cent sangiovese with a richness that reaches peak San Donato. Elevates so much so it speaks to layering, variegation and intention. Warm, inviting and alleviates any concerns about nervousness or undue tension. So carefully extracted, crafted and exacted. A house in flux of experimentation and the pushing of boundaries moves from strength to strength. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($39.95)

A warm and fuzzy Panzano feeling felt straight away, humid, spicy, Galestro instructed. Some pretty serious tannin, weight, magnitude and a considerably deep impression. Quality with high acid notes acting as a foil to the formidable thing of it all. Bigger that ’15 in so many respects. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2016

Levigne from Angela Fronti delivers a duality that talks in a vernacular made of more than a commune. The concept is Gaiole meets Radda and each has its say though their mingle and intersectionality layering clouds the distinction in the way you’d hope they would. There’s a softness and a brut strength behind the exterior that tells something conceptual and educational is happening. Forget light, bright and easy. Bring on the ambition, the execution and the swagger. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (282921, $44.95)

The full compliment fills Le Fonti’s 2016, led by a purity of vintage fruit second to none and a fineness of aromatic spice that repeats with delicate bite after you taste and let it linger. So subtle and balanced, danced with agility and poise. A wonderfully understated and stealthily structured 2016. Remarkably delicate. Truly. 20 years easy. It’s the good shit from Guido Vitali. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Borro Del Diavolo 2016 (435149, $44.00)

So you say you want a feeling for how things once were, how there was a time when steeping in tradition made for comfort, understanding and nobility. So you want to taste sangiovese with the intuition of ancients but you want crisp, clean and pure. So look to Ormanni, dual commune citizen, Poggibonsi meets Barberino Tavarnelle soil and climate. Big and gracious this is, magnanimous and generous too. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The bright light and fresh face of Capaccia is something exceptional, exciting and new. So much fruit and rose petal emits from the nose and while comparing sangiovese to other important grape varieties is neither necessary or my style I have to say that the Premier Cru (Nuits-Saint-Georges) feeling of this fruit can be imagined in pinot noir terms. Rarely do I feel the need to do this but this Riserva takes me there and then comes home. Huge stride forward for the estate. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Just what you might, would and will expect from a 2016 Riserva in the hands of Poggio Torselli, leader for the modern San Casciano. Silken, sweet fruit filled, creamy, soft oak and mellow. A menthol note runs through and cools. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2020

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Surprising or not the ’16 Riserva from small batch Quercia al Poggio is a pretty heady and serious wine, reductive, rich and a tough nut to crack. Plenty of wood sheathing at this very stage brings texture, silken and quite creamy. A whole lot of everything that will require time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Querciabella is entrenched deep in its roots in that Riserva is a true extension of Classico, stylistically speaking. While there are moments of density and hedonism the grounded nature keeps it cool, calm and collected. The level of development is something that has begun but the low and slow process is born of a structural guarantee. Aging potential is really there. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. Wood off the top, spice, spicy and full of sultry notes. So specific to place and its just understood. Crafty Riserva with sweet tannin and an effortless swagger. Soft enough to begin drinking well in late Spring 2020. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Gioveto 2016 (974964, $28.95)

Some Riserva need time and some are so fresh they beg to be had. Sergioveto is one unto itself, of a moniker that says I am a clone and a different sort of sangiovese. In fact the herbal and dried fruit notes mixes with graphite and incense make for a distinct Castellina affair. Drink this early and often for best results. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2016 (716266, $29.95)

A Leonardo Bellacini sangiovese will always seek top ripeness and first rate barrel and so no shocker here. Reached the expected heights with 2016 fruit carefully crafted for best results. Leo did not press matters or go too far despite the vintage temptation and a really fine wine has been made. Classic, pristine and enticing. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Greve is the source and Terreno’s gorgeous fruit comes from a Right Bank spot that warmed to the task in 2016. The silkiness and quality glycerin texture is so inviting and truth be told, born of fruit so pure and true. A highly polished wine with so much upside. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Rich and high acid Castelnuovo Berardenga ’16 from Villa a Sesta, warming, caring and smooth. No fruit has been missed or harmed in making this lush and lightly spiced Riserva. Real quality and clarity with just a hint of local savour. Makes this the real deal. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (599308, $31.95)

Montefioralle savour and development covers the phenolically parochial fruit for Viticcio’s well made 2016. Pressed for success, showing its full plume and locally developed flavours. Very much a sangiovese with a sense of place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2015

Warm, inviting, broad shouldered but on the leaner side of muscular. Rich liqueur, fine tannins and here sharp acids. Crunchy Alberese and Galestro earthiness and real savoury as a textural ideal. Just drinking right well in the here and now. Use it up while waiting for the great 16s. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2015 (230672, $24.95)

Anyone who knows the Lornano oeuvre knows that looking at a 2015 Riserva so soon in its life is like looking at a stopped clock. Gets you thinking about wanting to leave. The zeppelin walls of tannic fortitude, faux reduction and rock led solid elemental credit are far from paying out. In this neck of the Castellina woods they make Alberese sangiovese the way they used to do. In five years time we’ll be able to say “I can hear it calling me back home.” Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($24.95)

Losi Querciavlle, bastion of one of the globe’s most impressive Alberese landscapes and home to some of this territory’s finest chiselled sangiovese. Like marble structures slowly formed by only those who know how to separate the form from the mass. This is the intuition Pietro Losi and his prodigies know and gift to the world. Give their wines time and you will understand. Like this ’15 Riserva, strong, confident, understated, perhaps yet misunderstood but surely pure and true. Bravissimo. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Lunch, Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Pellegrini Della Seta 2015

A Kosher Chianti Classico Riserva made from 95 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon. Aged in tonneaux and barriques, half new. A smoky touch and very silky texture. A selection of grapes as opposed to the cru of the Gran Selezione. The first vintage was 2010 and while there persists the style of peppery reduction there too is a smoothness and a mentholated note to what happens when fruit hits wood. Sangivoese with agreeability, age ability and certainly a step up for the table when the category needs to be employed. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Fanatico 2015

Villa Trasqua Riserva comes into its own no less than five years after vintage so the window of opportunity for pleasure seeking is really just now opening. The glimpse into what it can be reveals a recent school of stylistic thought, rich and extracted, full of concentrated sangiovese with a savoury edge. This ’15 is one of the warmest yet, resolute and resilient to keep moving with energy and constant speed. Riserva in the marathon, not the sprint. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2014

The quercetina vintage, from which vines protected themselves with flavinoid, anti-oxidant properties in response to solar radiation and changing weather. The crystals that form in the wines and on the corks are harmless and do not alter aromas or flavours and Paolo tells the world they are there. Funny because it was a cold and wet vintage. The Caparsa style, cool excitability, finesse and structure are here in the way they will be in ’16 albeit with more cool thoughts. Under appreciated and undervalued. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa, Radda in Chianti

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsa Doccio A Matteo 2012

Lovely bit of development from a vintage of great fortitude and possibility though seemingly only recently softened. Now smooth tannin and yet so, so very sangiovese. The red fruit carries a liquorice note not noted in later wines and here the complexities are blooming, changing and renewing their vows. Lovely look back and easy on the volatility scale. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007 (1500ml, $115.00)

There is a depth here and a development that says ’07 will not last another fortnight though while it acts this way it will continue delving in the sort of secondary truffled and porcini notes that dole great pleasure. Solid start right here to a 13 year-old Riserva that is simply a treat to behold, wonder and nod in agreement at the 2020 Chianti Classico Collection. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2007

A warm vintage and Piero Lanza would say “similar to 2015,” higher in extract and well-developed phenolics. Has aged really well, the secondary notes fine and so closely recalling a dried strawberry mind. Acids are very persistent and strengthen the drying tannin and the longevity of this wine. Won’t travel another 13 years but should linger nicely for a few more. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2004

While 2004 has aged considerably as compared to 2007 the style and character are so different you would almost think they are not linked at all. Deeper, stronger and of a plum fruit way, with balsamic and lightly truffled notes. More wood, wood spice and a brown butter nuttiness. The palate is staying alive with a Tuscan flavour that was the order of that time and eventually leaves the door open for a Raddese character 10 years forward to take its place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2017 ($48.95)

The first of the so-called death squads to be released, a.k.a 2017 Gran Selezione is this from Castello di Ama, collective soil of top estate Gaiole fruit and fully recognizing the soul from whence and where is came. Quintessentially Castello di Ama and full of all the warmth and succulence in the way that fruit can act out of such a heat-scorched and arid season. Crunchy and dusty, plenty of macerating plums and no lack of wishful tannin. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 ($75)

So apposite to the Fonterutoli Annata “normale” in that the tonality is high, mighty and still rising. More crisp notes, feathered ripeness and a liqueur that seeps, steeps and spills. Some might feel it hot, others bothered and here the sentiment is like indoor winter comfort. That must be the idea; farmhouse dining room, hearth alight, hearty fare, company, sangiovese to the maximum degree. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vicoregio 36 2017

Of the Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Vicoregio 36 is the biggest, baddest and most tannic beast of them all. The fruit seems worthy and task equal though time is of that essence in understanding. Such a wild ride and yet so like 2017 to make that happen. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Badiola 2017

Badiola is an entirely new way to investigate Gran Selezione in that it hits all the high notes. Tripping the acidity light fantastic and sweet tannic grains of mighty proportion. Where the fruit is at is anyone’s guess but let’s assume it will emerge when the lights begin to dim. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Picchio 2017 (938738, $49.00)

Il Pichio 2017 is a fully formed, rich endeavour of concentrated fruit and a bastion of structure. Delivers all the necessary goods to develop, pivot, morph and turn into something secondary that will be no less interesting to behold. Watch it unfold and behold the pleasure. Top styling, balance and wonder that captures, subdues and puts a vintage in its place. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltassala 2017 ($84.00)

Volpaia’s Coltassala is a really concentrated Gran Selezione and one of the vintage’s early risers. That tells us it will go to bed equally early and slumber for quite some time. The architectural wonders of Radda heights are acclimatizing as we speak but will not open up the shutters and the doors for years it seems. A full compliment of ready and willing fruit is there but kept and suppressed. The emergence will be a vintage exceptionality and live that way for longer than the average ’17. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2017 ($74.95)

Magnificent and magnanimous perfume emanates from Bastignano 2017 in ways never noted, nosed or thought to be needed. Jackie Wilson Gran Selezione. A wine that can “step up and face the world.” Listen. The roses and violets mix with that ’17 savour and the dried notes match the fresh ones step for step. “Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sei 2017 ($57.95)

Querceto di Castellina’s varietal Gran Selezione sangiovese is the work of oenologist Gioia Cresti (Carpineta Fontalpino) and agronomist Valerio Grella. Sei is the number six in Italian and there were many instances of this number coinciding with the production of their Gran Selezione. The (Belvedere) single-vineyard wine comes from a special selection of grapes in a vineyard area measuring 6.6 hectares with a density of 6,666 vines per hectare. The tonneaux barrels predominantly used hold 666 bottles of wine and family matriarch Laura was born on 6/6/46. Another wild and carefree Gran Selezione from the Castellina estate brings acidity to new sangiovese heights, to no surprise at 480m, with a tone not oft seen in this territory. Serious tang and seriously tart, fruit buzzing of currants and citrus everywhere. Will evolve into the most singular GS that can be next level imagined. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Capannino 2016

Capannino’s side of the Bibbiano tracks makes Gran Selezione that dissolves like good dark chocolate on the tongue. Never relenting, piquing of energy and spice, here the land makes sangiovese buzz and pulse with drive and intensity. Rich and rendered, still a meaningful two to three years away from integration. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Mocenni ’89 2016

Mocenni takes all the advantage that 2016 can possibly pass its way and runs carefree into the wind. The fruit is pretty much as ripe as there can ever be in sangiovese struck by silver acidity and gold tannins, so you can imagine the result. This needs 10 years to fully unfurl, unwind and unfold. Please give it at least half that much time. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 ($60.00)

Just a lovely smooth, acidity supported, chocolate and spice Gran Selezione with stage presence and drawn by an artist’s fine line. Great attitude here, a mix of the new and the old. Presents Gaiole to the world in beautiful hyperbole and with accredited distinction. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Classic Carpineto with big juicy fruit, high acidity and a dusty volatility that speaks to youth like few others of its ilk. Will settle and turn into something lengthy, characterful and fine. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

From San Donato in Poggio and some of the territory’s juiciest sangiovese is magnified and hyperbolized in Gran Selezione form. Plenty of wood though not overly suppressive of the fruit. Nice balance and spice to boot. The vineyard is a piece of heaven on a hill and Paolo Paffi’s touch is full of grace. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2016

The richest of Verrazzano’s wines is this Sassello and the story is a great one. One of history, progression and birds with great taste. Grapes gone from table wine to Annata through Riserva and now in Gran Selezione form grown at 480m. So much chocolate and wood derived spice. Thick and unctuous for the category and that’s really saying something. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Disessina 2016

Vigna Dissesina occupies a Castelnuovo Berardenga world of high level fruit, acids and tannin encouraged and accumulated at the highest professional level around. All the necessities that resources can provide do what’s right necessary and abide by making high level Gran Selezione. All are here in this bottle. Exceptional wine with style, layering and class. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colonia 2016 ($208.99)

The consistency of Fèlsina in terms of well pretty much everything reaches the summit, apex and summit of this Colonia. Fruit, acidity, style and effect are all accessed in a similar way while barriques fatten and enrich this Gran Selezione to the point of bracing. Perhaps the most accumulation ever in a Colonia fills this 2016 with supreme fruit quality and a base of acidity that drives the engine. Massive tannic extension and energy of intensity. Huge wine with big plans and twenty years lay ahead. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2016

Extremely youthful ’16 but the clarity of that vintage’s fruit can’t help but be up front and present. The accountability begins right here, with 2016s out of which fruit was allowed to stay fresh and yet in Gran Selezione form there has to be time. Allow for development and the accumulation of flesh, but also succulence. This sumptuous Margone comes replete without the old style of hammer on head mentality. It’s the new and elegant one. Tasting this offers a clear picture into how Iacopo Morganti has impressed his talents and his will onto the wines of this estate. Sip one here and there over the next 15 years and it will be as close as one gets to standing in these Panzano vineyards in a pair of the Grace’s shoes. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Begins at a point just exactly where the Riserva ’16 takes its leave and carries the torch of purity and delicacy. Efficacy too, efficiency for sure and an effusive level of strength that belies its lightness of being. Yes it takes richness in sangiovese from Panzano and this estate to another level but never forgets the heeded understatement it demands to pay forward. Another outstanding effort and worthy of 20 plus years in the cellar. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Principe Corsini/Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Zac 2016

The transition from 2015 to 2016 takes Zac out of the IGT realm and into the appellative one occupied by Gran Selezione at the top of the heap. This new position atop the pyramid is the right and apropos one as a legacy of love and respect. Extreme juiciness defines this Zac from Duccio Corsini’s Le Corti and the amount of kudos it deserves has everything to do with how it has been given every opportunity to shine. Succulent acids and grand red ripeness are what you want and hope for. That and a long life ahead. Grande Duccio. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colledilà 2016 (293522, $59.95)

Of the three Ricasoli Gran Selezione Colledilà is the succulent and opulent one, of candied roses with spice and high quality, succinctly Gaiole acids. Sumptuous, unctuous and built for pleasure. Amore even. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Roncicone 2016

The Monti in Chianti artist formerly known as IGT is now a knight in shining Gran Selezione appellative armour. The 2016 vintage marks the launching point for one of Francesco Ricasoli’s sangiovese explorations and believe when it is said that one thousand years of Ricasoli thought have led to this. Roncicone is varietal strength embodied, also wisdom, methodology and in potion terms, herbolgy. Mixed an elemental Amaro with chewy red fruit in hyper-sangiovese reality. Ripe and concentrated, a tour de GS force. Single vineyard, proud and opulent. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Ceniprimo 2016

As with the Roncicone, Ceniprimo moves from IGT to Gran Selezione in a catgory shift to peak pyramid appellative Chianti Classico that is, well, categorical. The dine first single terroir sangiovese exploration is the biggest of Ricasoli’s three and also the one submerged under the most amount of barrel. Gaiole and Monti are reasoned and seasoned in GS framing with richness and über smooth consistency. While surely a big big wine it too will silken and lengthen after enough time has elapsed. Sangiovese. It needs the bottle. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2016 ($122.95)

Sergio Zingarelli the Grand Selezione is the rock, the gentle giant, the patriarch of the company’s wines. As a Grand Selezione it allows its actions to speak for the rest of the portfolio to follow. It leads the estates; Macìe, Sant’Alphonso, Fizzano and La Tavelelle. In 2016 the sangiovese is so different and yet so Castellina in that red cherry fruit core teased by spice. Smells like roses and the feel in the mouth is swelling, rising like a tide increasing as it barrels in. In the scheme of timing it would be prudent to allow those waves in years to go out several times before looking for that window of Grand Selezione opportunity to begin. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2016

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux A step up in fruit quality handles the wood and the category (including the Kosher angle) with more energy and finesse. Also a reductive rubberiness that so reminds of South Africa. Quite the dark chocolate component though also vanilla in waves. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2020

Carpaccio at Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2015

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux. A hyperbole of dark fruit, strong wood adage and fully reasoned meets seasoned Gran Selezione with all the protective, resinous, wood-spiced and tacky tannic bite. Really needs to settle and mellow. A top Kosher expression of firm, big-bodied reds will satisfy a high end corner of a very specific market. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Good to go!

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Rock steady Bersano

You’ve got to visit the cantina of Bersano Vini in Nizza Monferrato, if for no other reason than to wander through the on-site, outdoor Museo Bersano delle Contadinerie which houses implements and machinery from peasant life and transportation in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. All the brainchild of Arturo Bersano and in his successor’s words the installation is “a memory of what made our wine great. The cellar, farming tools, wine presses and a collection of old wine prints. Bersano – winemaker, scholar, poet. His anxiety of research, patient and cautious, dictated by a deep passion for the land and for work, has been able to condense in the Collections and in the Museum of the Peasants, the most suffered and joyful testimonies of the wine-peasant civilization.” All of that and of course to taste a portfolio in Monferrato’s widest breadth, consistently exceptional of quality and for consumer value across the board. Rock steady Bersano.

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

The humble beginnings were early, first decade times in the 20th century. They say 1907 to be exact but surely somewhere between 115 and 120 years later the estates cover 230 hectares, the largest single entity as such in the Monferrato hills. The original and most historic property is Cremosina, once the seat of a great Palazzo (dei Conti della Cremosina) and now home to Barbera d’Asti vineyards. Bersano farms nine estates and two single vineyards in these hills: Cremosina (Nizza Monferrato), Generala (Agliano Terme), Prata (Incisa Scapaccino), Badarina (Serralunga d’Alba), Castelgaro (Baretta – Acqui Terme), Pallavicini (Mombaruzzo), Buccelli (Nizza Monferrato), Serradivaglio Vineyard (Incisa Scapaccino), San Michele (Nizza Monferrato), Monteolivo Vineyard (Castelnuovo Belbo) and San Pietro Realto (Castagnole Monferrato). Today these estates are in production of 90 per cent of what constitutes the Bersano portfolio: Three whites from cortese and arneis, seven sparkling wines from cortese, moscato, brachetto and pinot noir, 13 reds from barbera, grignolino, ruché, nebbiolo and dolcetto.

Related – You say you want a Barbera d’Asti revolution

Pinta Piedmontese

Of great historical interest is the presence in Bersano’s cellar of what Arturo designed and called the “10VT.” The Pinta Piedmontese was a 12.5 litre transportable for the times vessel and four Pinta could be filled from one 50L barrel, half the size found in the cellars of Marchesi di Barolo. This last historical barrel called the 10VT is now housed in the upper floors of Bersano’s Nizza property to avoid flooding. At any given time there can be 80,000L aging ion Slavonian oak casks in this cellar, “of all grandi botti sizes,” 50-60 years of age and from 47 to 107 hL. In fact, no two are the same, perhaps in shape but not in terms of volume. Only 10 per cent of all wines see barrique, they being Nizza Barbera and Barolo Cru.

Related – Barbera d’Asti Del Monferrato E Nizza Monferrato

I have had the pleasure of tasting Bersano wines on many occasions in Toronto and over the past three years I’ve done so four times in Piemonte. The first was at Collisioni Festival in 2017 and then in 2018 on several occasions with winemaker Roberto Morosinotto, namely at the Cascina San Pietro where ruché, barbera and grignolino grow in the Monferrato hills. Then in 2019 on this visit at the Cantina in Nizza and in 2020, at Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe in Alba. These are the six wines tasted in Nizza with Bersano’s Carmen Pergola and the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato’s Valerio Bertolino.

Bersano Gavi Di Gavi DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($21.19)

A fresh and sweetly herbal cortese for a smooth and balanced Gavi of straightforward execution and finesse. Relevant acidity keeps everything set up for levels most simple wines just don’t have access to be there. A very fruity vintage with a crushed almond oil extract, perfectly correct and positioned. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted December 2019 and February 2020

Bersano Barbera d’Asti DOCG Costalunga 2017, Piedmont, Italy (348680, $14.10)

Taken from four estates and without a doubt the most versatile, inexpensive and properly delineated barbera d’asti for the territory to express what needs to the world. Dark fruit, high acidity, classically trained in large Slavonian oak and just exactly what to expect. Never asks too much and delivers across the board amenability. The value is exceptional. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Barbera d’Asti Nizza DOCG Riserva Generala 2016, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $52.00)

Drawn from fruit off of the Generala estate and though a recently awarded appellation there is great history in the grapes and the place. Nine months in large Slavonian cask plus nine months in 500L French tonneaux make for a very amenable barbera with a prominent personality. Big on cherries and wood spice, balsam and dried herbs. Dark and even a bit mysterious, cool, almost mentholated and structured for age. Glycerin texture and an oil extract not atypical for the get together of grape, place and elévage. Top vintage for this particular and relatively ambitious wine. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Nirvasco Barolo DOCG 2014, Piedmont, Italy (713628, $34.95)

The grapes in Barolo come from three areas, Serralunga (Badarina) along with Monforte and La Morra. Aged in large Slavonian casks for three years, easily recognizable as nebbiolo, not just in hue but surely in aromatic rose to tar profile. Classic really and also dried fruits, but especially this wild strawberry note. Dry and then dried cherry, wild and free on the palate. It’s very classic, clean, crisp and easy to get with. Make great use early while other tannic nebbiolo work their way through adolescence. Winemaker Roberto Morosinotto has done all the work for you and serves it up at the right time to drink. Clean and uncomplicated. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Ruché Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG San Pietro Realto 2018, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $22.00)

Fruit is grown on the San Pietro estate to the east of Monferrato and the unmistakeable and specific cherry with cherry stone note is uncanny, not to be missed. A sandy soil with calcaire and small stones of steep slopes make for an aromatic note that stands alone. The herbal amaro play is on the sweet side and what this really wants and needs is a game bird, roasted and savoury of local herbs. You might think gamay meets frappato or somewhere in between but no, this is singular. This is the red wine for Szechuan food. Truly. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Bersano Grignolino d’Asti DOCG Valdelsalto 2018, Piedmont, Italy (Approx. $22.00)

Coming from the same estate as the ruché, meaning San Pietro in the eastern hills of Monferrato. Beautifully effusive and luminous, light in appearance and weight but do not be fooled into thinking it’s light. Castagnole is the origin and the grape is considered the wine of the family. Fresh, young and the summer wine. OK so light it is but salty, mineral, taut and complete. What else do you need? The kind of wine that never makes you tired and is utterly representative of the place. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

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Agnolotti del Plin, Caffe Roma – Enoteca con Cucina, Costigliole d’Asti:

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Gaiole’s great nuance

Gaiole Sangiovese

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

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

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

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

Badia a Coltibuono’s Roberto Stucchi

Related – They say all roads lead through Greve

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

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

Related – San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

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

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

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

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

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

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($27.99)

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

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

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

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

Ancient Fluvial Terrace of the Ricasoli Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG FOHO 2015

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

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

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

Fietri Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

Fietri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

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

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

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

I Sodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($29.95)

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

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2016

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

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Seretina 2015

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

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($29.85)

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

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

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

Riecine winemaker Alessandro Campatelli

Rietine Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

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

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

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

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

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

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

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

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

San Vincenti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($35.00)

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

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

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Rialzi 2015

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

Good to go!

godello

Gaiole Sangiovese

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They say all roads lead through Greve

In Greve’s Piazza Giacomo Matteotti there is a Chianti Classico institution of local gastronomy called Oliosteria la Terrazza. Could there be a finer location to meet up with six wine producers from the commune, listen to them pour out their hearts and their finest sangiovese? I think not.

Related – Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

La Squadra Canadese, Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Greve

Twelve other intrepid Canadian wine travellers agreed, abided and tasted through 12 Chianti Classico whilst the benefactors explained the origins, underscored the merits and revealed their expectations for what these Riserva and Gran Selezione could become.

Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Greve

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Over the last two years I have capitulated about the larger notion of Greve on this site in two published occasions. To read up on the history, geography, geology and general realities of the double-banked, extensive and magnificent commune, please click on the link above, and also below.

Related – A river runs through Greve

Post Greve tasting, snacks at OliOsteria La Terrazza

As I noted two years ago, “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…explains 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.”

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The estates who came to the central piazza in September 2019 were Carpineto, Castello di Querceto, Querciabella, Tenuta di Nozzole, Vicchiomaggio and Vignamaggio. This is my seventh recently published exposé (and fourth for Greve) on i frazioni and i communi that are the smaller sub-zones and greater micro-territories within Chianti Classico. These are the 12 wines tasted that day in Greve.

Related – A Lamole is a Lamole is a Lamole

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($29.95)

A 90 per cent sangiovese with (10) canaiolo. Meaty, cured, porcine. Minty, sharp, white peppery. Puts a tease intro the nose. A vintage of generosity taken over by a pressing focus. Will not likely age with some of the estate’s more recent highest of quality vintages so take advantage of what’s on offer, right here, right now. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Dusty and high-toned mixed with well reasoned, seasoned and developed fruit. Reminds of southern Montalcino, in a way.  Last tasted September 2019

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

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (650754, $28.95)

families that have maintained their properties for more than 100 years. One of the founding members of the Consorzio in 1924. Always love the aromatic front of a Querceto. It’s a mix of place, indigenous varieties and tradition. In Riserva styling it’s also like overripe pinot noir, a.k.a. strawberry jam. In sangiovese that’s perfectly cool. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Querceto’s Marco Fizialetti

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Picchio 2016 (938738, $49.00)

Querceto’s unique location in Greve is the Dudda Valley, an angular and broad swath of evergreen terroir in the northeast sector of the commune and the greater territory. Il Picchio is an old name referring to the land of the vineyard and perhaps “the woodpecker.” From only three hectares, “an aisle in the sea of the forest.” Dark red soil in iron and magnesium, dry, rich in stones. Almost a desert floor, not a woodland. Only one bottle per bunch, per vine, of Il Picchio. That says so much. Mainly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five per cent of the five local grapes. That combination of great richness and mineral streak – it cuts through the fat, enlivens and lifts. Same big extraction, concentration and in 2016 an earthy high note that speaks to hyperbole of nose, palate and tannin provided by this particular terroir. Old traditions and sense of place dies hard in these parts so expect dark fruit, a posit grab of structure, conservative styling and a tug on the sangiovese heartstrings. That and the unction meets beauty of 2016 fruit. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted September, October and November 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($48.95)

Presented by Valentina Bertoli, Sales & Marketing Assistant Manager and Winemaker Manfred Ing. Has been 100 per cent sangiovese since 2010 and it is in fact a rare occurrence of a confluence of estate managed grapes located in Greve, Radda and Gaiole. Spicier than I remembered and conversely more settled than last February. Seems to have lightened and brightened. “Every single vineyard has its own recipe of cover crops,” tells Ing, “specific to the biodynamic and climatological needs of each of the 70 plots around the Chianti Classico.”  Last tasted September 2019

On the ripest side of 2016 life, Querciabella’s Annata is all in, developed, deep and pure. The fruit already there, unencumbered by holds barred and of a picking that pushes the envelop to gratify at the highest level. There’s nothing stopping the early enjoyment and while the tannins are anything but astringent they are there, albeit sweet and fine. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2019

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Greater balance is happening in the vineyard between the top, middle and lower parts. Cover crop workings are leading to equal vigour in all parts of the vineyard, no longer soaking up moisture run down at the lower sections. Clearly no compromises in the Querciabella Riserva 2015, fruit exemplary, lively and layered, lush and elastic, ripe of little compare. A right, forward and courteous example of aromatic overstatement, so perfumed and surely special. Right at the forefront of Riserva culpability at the verge of possibility to the grander appellation. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Nozzole 2015 (324160, $24.95)

From the Folonari family, originally from Ruffino. Ambrogio Giovanni Folonari is still at the head of the family. Special bottling for the North American market, 150,000 in the US alone. A varietal sangiovese, as is the sister Riserva La Forra and are the Gran Seleziones. Sees aging time in Grandi Botti. Perfectly ripe, ubiquitous and modern classic version of Chianti Classico. Made for the markets. Approximately a $25 Canadian price. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG La Forra 2015 (362731, $36.95)

Very specific single vineyards and selection of grapes. Ages for two to four months longer than Nozzole and in some small barrels, along with Grandi Botti that Nozzole sees alone. Quite reductive, chewy, ropey, like red and black liquorice intertwined. Approximately a $37 Canadian price. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

 

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Le Bolle 2016

The vineyard borders on the hamlet called “La Bolle.” One of the few locales where another producer could quite possibly plant a vineyard on the same “cru” where this clay landscape is located. “This is what we call uncompromising sangiovese, Gran Selezione,” tells John Matta. This is a Selezione with an unmistakable character that is a sense of the place, even if we don’t fully yet know about the true and full capabilities of this particular place. I imagine we will come to know it through the generations of this wine.  Last tasted September 2019

Named for the small group of houses to which the vineyard abuts, a vineyard where the large gathering of stones resembles Les Galets of Châteauneuf-de-Pâpe. The total prodcution is 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Just going into bottle as we speak, there is a structural architecture to this Gran Selezione that stands apart. La Prima is the wine for everyman while Le Bolle will appeal to ye who wants edgy, artistic and deferential. The blood orange, cranberry, pomegranate and sapid-herbal attributes are all part of the extenuating mix. Terrifc single-block within a single-vineyard expression of solo sangiovese Gran Selezione. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Vicchiomaggio’s John Matta

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Prima 2015

Sangiovese (90) and merlot (10), on average. ”Our style is to make very elegant wines with oak in the background.” Wines that can from a picking time that is so precise. “A race of age,” meaning two or three extra days will make all the difference. Like 1/10 of a second in a car race.  Last tasted September 2019

Made with a few percentage points of merlot, this is the a small-ish production Gran Selezione, a 100 hL output so the number is approximately 15,000 bottles produced. Really high-toned aromatically for Gran Selezione and then a palate of great richness and layering. Truly a selection created sangiovese, with drinkability and steak house amenability. Suits the style and the intent so perfectly. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Gherardino 2015

Presented by Stefano Bernabei. In the Greve valley on the Right Bank, Lamole side. “Vignamaggio has a double identity because half of the vineyards are located in the Panzano area,” explains Bernabei. Double indemnity more like it. Selection of vineyards. Chewy sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot. Rich and luxe, easy to understand, not hard to see the great commercial appeal.  Last tasted September 2019

Gherardino is Greve in Chianti old school, in a way, with dried fruit, potpourri and a wealth of fennel-liquorice savour. Spice notes are very prevalent, as is the idea that in three years or so this will turn over into balsamico, porcini and tartufo. Wise and traditional Riserva. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018

Vignamaggio’s Stefano Bernabei

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Monna Lisa 2015

There is five per cent cabernet sauvignon in the 2015 vintage. “Now Vignamaggio is concentrating more and more on sangiovese,” having rid Monna Lisa of merlot. Once again the luxe swagger and chic, smooth and silken texture completely distracts and renders the other parts inconsequential. Fulsome as much as any GS, easy to get at and with little need for air, or time. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

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Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

They are growing in sangiovese divinity, or should it be said, divino. L’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle, producers with more than a feeling, who share common ground but also something bigger, stronger, more profound. Montefioralle Divino is a September festival that unites this tiny Greve in Chianti frazione and with a purpose all its own. Theirs is a small section of Chianti Classico and one to call their own. This band is so good they named a medieval village after it.

Castello di Verrazzano’s Luigi Cappellini and the Granfondo del Chianti Classico squadra Canadesi

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Let’s orient you on Montefioralle’s location. Montefioralle is situated on the west bank of the Greve River and close to Castello di Montefioralle, essentially, ostensibly and mostly southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. As for their famous harvest festival, “Montefioralle Divino è una manifestazione organizzata e promossa dall’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle che saranno presenti alla manifestazione e offriranno i propri vini in degustazione sui banchi di assaggio per due giorni.”

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Two days of wine tasting in Piazza Santo Stefano in the historic centre of medieval Montefioralle, presented by a group in flux, from time to time. In 2019 they were Azienda Agricola Altiero, Brogioni Maurizio, Castello di Verrazzano, Montefioralle, Podere Bucine, Podere Campriano, San Cresci, Grassi Roberto, Terre di Baccio, Terre di Melazzano, Terreno, Villa Calcinaia and Fattoria Viticcio. From year to year membership rises, wanes and changes. And so there are others who bottle within this micro-terroir of i cru di enogea; Belvedere, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto and Tenuta Monteficali.

Dinner at Terreno

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The zonazione’s terroir is 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 for Masnaghetti and the geologists to consider in the cartological advancement with an eventual conclusion in menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Tasting at Calcinaia

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following wines were tasted with Conte Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia, followed by a tasting with the producers of Montefioralle in the same location. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill. Two years earlier my group had met with eight such producers at Calcinaia. These 21 tasting notes cover the September 2019 speed dating sit-down with nine estate principals, followed by dinner at Terreno.

Wines of Montefioralle

Altiero Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Always 100 per cent sangiovese, from winemaker Paolo Baldini, from the southeast exposure off the the younger vineyard. This is the perfume of Montefioralle, inexplicable in a way, a very specific combination of flowers and herbs but there is a calm and when made this way, a purity, a clarity. A tradition from before that is forever. Slightly more unctuous and full on the palate with some wood addendum. Proper Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Altiero Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Like the Annata always 100 per cent sangiovese, this time from the older vineyard facing southwest, away on an angle from Montefioralle and looking towards Panzano, the Conca d’Oro and Le Fonti. The red fruit liqueur is quite silky, savoury in a sweet and almost amaro way, so in a word, stunning. Full and polished with some tradition fully stashed away in pocket. From Galestro and Alberese. And it shows. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($30.45)

Essential balance in Chianti Classico Annata, obviously with thanks to the ’16 vintage but even more of a many splendored thing. Concentration and intensity intertwined but truth be spoken this really climbs the hills and then descends, with grace, power and ease. A brilliant Annata from Luigi Cappellini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($49.60)

A sangiovese raised organic and a textural matter really defined by the quality and the length of time in contact with its skins. While not too long the extension was embraced and the certainty of a spot on result is certainly admired. Excellent skins, earthy, rich in tannin and also used to great structural advantage. This Riserva will travel long and go deep. Bank on it. Most rewarding work from il cicliste Cappellini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2015

This is the wine at Verrazzano first made in 1982 as a Vino de Tavola, then as Riserva and finally as Gran Selezione, first in 2013. The Sassello is the small bird that seeks out the best grapes, in this case at 450m from the highest vineyard on the estate. This just intuits and explains vintage, place and appellation, together in harmony. It’s a cool sangiovese of smooth savour, with great length and slow developing parts. Needs more time. Just does. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Lorenzi Sieni, Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is quite lush and full from 2016, no shocker to be sure and of a perfume that moves from Annata and into what grows low to the ground. Really proper appellative effort for the estate and for the frazione, richly embrued in liquified glowing embers and wet spice for days. Needs time to settle in. Very structured Riserva in which to imbibe after some time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A perfectly consistent follow-up to a ’15 that stole that vintage’s show, here with equal aromatic excellence in 2016. Now showing as a great floral expression (remarkably early it should be noted) in a full bouquet bursting from the glass. There is a level of roundness and fine acid tang with circulative layers as good as it gets. Succinct as sangiovese, Greve and hanging around the finest of Montefioralle. A true Galestro idea presented clear as a clear blue frazione day. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Two sides of the Greve River

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze di Montefiorealle 2015

Perhaps not as balanced a vintage as the follow-up 2016 will bring to this Montefioralle Riserva but ’15 can stand on its feet, no problem at all. No sway but plenty of torque indeed. Love the fruit of 2015, as much as one needs to love fruit. The fruit goes in and then back out of your mouth in equal and opposing fashion. In balance, with acids and tannins in tow. Drink 2020-2026.  Last tasted September 2019

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. It’s because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young.  Tasted February 2019

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG San Pietro di Sillani 2017

A cru at the highest altitude at 480m of sangiovese and merlot (five per cent) with some time spent in new wood. Altitude meant no frost and also less heat from the arid vintage. Eighteen months in big oak casks, this time in new and while the high up frazione perfume is indeed fully emitting its rays there too is a silky smooth note that recalls the new wood. Looks really good and seems very fine though the wood is very involved. Should be very, very interesting. It’s quite refined. Way too young to call. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Mezzuola 2015

The vigna-designate Annata is likewise a modern take on Chianti Classico label appearances notwithstanding but the smooth texture detail and lush glycerin flavours pale in comparison with the new barrique-aged Riserva. Here second and third passage tonneaux allow the marl and limestone of Montefioralle vineyards to speak a bit clearer and to breath a breath of 500m fresh air into this (85 per cent) sangiovese. The merlot (10) and cabernet sauvignon (5) smooth out all the wrinkles for a lush take on Annata. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Guardingo Di Passignano 2015

Do not be fooled by the whimsical classicism of the label into thinking this Greve Chianti Classico from the heart of Montefioralle will be old-schooled, rustic and ancient-styled sangiovese. It is in fact a facsimile of such a notion and in point of fact the opposite is true. The salt and pepper seasoning of 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon are more like spice and sauce to prove the first point. The small barriques aging for 18 months is the second, acceding into a textural Riserva at once silky smooth and then oozing with vanilla, balsamic and resiny syrup. A mouthful to be sure and in the style so well made. A fun fact to know is about the Guardingo Di Passignano, a medieval road and the only passage that connected the three main valleys of the Florentine countryside; Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa and Val di Greve, Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Melazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cantinato 2015

“Born in the cellar,” of sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon. A true glycerin Chianti Classico for Montefioralle, with unction and spice. Sings like a blackbird. Truly Cantinato, truly. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019

Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia Mauvais Chapon Rosato Metodo Classico 2014

A tirage of VinSanto in 2015, 37 months on lees and disgorged April 2018. In reference to a siege of Florence by the French in 494, an offer was made, not accepted and the trumpets were sounded. Piero Capponi responded with a call to arms at the gates. A matter of familial propaganda and a wine that reminds of France. Linear, sharp, citric, toasty and so very fine. Really crisp, of utter clarity and streamlined like a sail on a fast vessel. Impressive to say the least. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Sebastiano Capponi

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo 2017, IGT Toscana

Varietal mammolo, fully, completely, capably in control of the wet wool character that only Sebastiano Capponi and (Monte Bernardi’s) Michael Schmelzer can effect, establish and conquer in unique red wine made in the Chianti Classico territory. This is good, righteous and proper volatility surrounding red fruit formed in a cake. Thick and unctuous from 2017 with endless character. Had been looking forward to tasting this finished wine since a first encounter out of concrete tank. Lives up to the billing and the hype. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

This limestone, that Alberese

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016 ($74.95)

A warm and unctuous La Fornace in fine form, consistent to its loam-sand origins, planted in 1975, at 250m of elevation. Faces due south and sees oak casks, 10 hL, approximately six years old. Showing secure and prevalent texture admitting everything about itself, a single-vineyard sangiovese sight that draws the sun and uses every iota of its energy. Good showing from the furnace, Surely not a shocker from ’16.  Last tasted September 2019

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano.  Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016 ($67.95)

The magical Gran Selezione from the old lady of a vineyard, dating back to 1959. A plot marked by Colombino rock, not quite limestone and not quite sandy Alberese. There is a character in Luisa that no other Gran Selezione displays, neither from Calcinaia or elsewhere. Done up in oak cask, 10 hL, approximately six years old and showing the ease meets power of 2016. Bravissima.  Last tasted September 2019

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016 ($74.95)

A component of cement egg on top of the 10 hL, approximately six years-old oak casks brings new layers and light to Bastignano and separates it from the other two sangiovese. It also clay darkens and broods, hides in shadows and remains softer, fleshier, but also sneaky in structure. There’s less pinpointed Calcinaia character and more outside in the diaspora personality. If that splits hairs so be it though it needs saying that Bastignano is a man of means.  Last tasted September 2019

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2014, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale ($54.95)

Capponi’s varietal merlot is from the 1967 planted vineyard not realized as merlot until many years later. Fermented in cement vats and then 24 months are spent in barriques. A beast really, young at five years in ways most sangiovese are not. So much verdancy, spice, grip, grit, power and need for space, not to mention time. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 51 2016 ($23.95)

Only two points of merlot with the sangiovese from two picks, the first of which goes here, for increased acidity. Dark floral and fruit scents for sure and some spice. Really like the mouthfeel and the acid-fruit structure. Tannins are quite easy. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($31.95)

With small amounts of merlot and syrah, it’s quite sappy and resinous. Plenty of smooth chocolate ganache, blackberry and backbone with thanks to a Galestro and Alberese soil mix filled with stone. Big Riserva. Really big. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Feeling Panzano’s pull

During the final days of September 2019 we Canadians made our way to Toscana for a week of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico business. While a group of road hardy cicliste e ciclisti were racing their team bikes up, down and around the Granfondo del Chianti Classico winding roads of the territory and others were taking in the sights of Firenze, I was strolling through the Sunday market, visiting with friends and pre-tasting some sangiovese di Panzano. Every time I go I find myself feeling Panzano’s pull.

Godello, Cecchini, Manetti

Panzano’s central Chianti Classico location is crucial in so many ways. Its two most famous inhabitants and native sons are the Consorzio’s incumbent President and proprietor of arguably the territory’s most well-known and respected family-run, not too large, not too small sized estate. That would be Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. The second is the village’s figlio nativo and world famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Cecchini’s Dario Cecchini. Panzano is also home to the Conca d’Oro and few vineyard enclaves are as prolific, scenic and fertile as this wide swath of sangiovese heaven. The frazione within Greve commune is also invisibly set upon the Greve River flood plane, positioned with stead grace and soil exceptionality.

Within Greve it occupies a centrality bordered by commune neighbours Castellina, Barberino Tavarnelle and Radda. You might actually imagine Panzano as the exact middle inside a circle drawn clockwise from Greve in Chianti (12 o’clock), to Volpaia (three o’clock), through Castellina in Chianti (six o’clock), past San Donato (nine o’clock) and back to Greve. Heart of the matter.

Panzano above the Conca d’Oro

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Two years ago I wrote about Panzano and its pioneering association of producers, the Unione Viticoltori Panzano. Please click on the link above to get the full story on Panzano and its raison d’être. The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level.

Breathing in the glory of the Conca d’Oro

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Consider Panzano as a wild unknown country where nothing could go wrong, as a dividing line running through the centre of town, as a ridge slicing on a diagonal axis from Volpaia in Radda to Mercatale in San Casciano, direction Casanuove. All part of the same hill. The ridge’s particular geological composition is consistent and these atmosphera sottosuolo soils that run through Panzano are the epicentral factor in determining the type of physiology common to the sangiovese. Somewhere, somehow, that means something, to someone. It’s a savoury-sapid-saltiness equipped with acidity that makes Panzano’s a freshness not really like any other. This is especially true in Riserva and even in Gran Selezione examples. 

Panzano rocks are all in

These words about Panzano are part of a contiguous acceleration to investigate inward, to focus on the visceral isolations within Chianti Classico. This third such essay published since that September trip means there may be five or more to come in advance of the coming Anteprima and Chianti Classico Collection 2020 taking place in Firenze two weeks from today. Panzano’s story writes itself because the thread of sangiovese consistency has few if any cleaved rivals in the greater territory. Panzano’s wines stand apart with their attention to textured detail, in their ability to shine even in their youth and finally, their acumen to intuit a very straightforward and knowable set of structural values. These are sangiovese of great upbringing, etiquette and most importantly possessive of a great respect for their origins. Panzano is spoken for with great clarity by these producers and their wines.

The Cecchini experience ~ Grazie Dario, Panzano and Chianti Classico #chianticlassico #chianticlassicobootcamp

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following are 34 Panzano sangiovese tasted at Le Fonti, Il Molino di Grace, Fontodi and then followed by dinner at Cecchini. Many are wines I had previously tasted and some of the notes have been updated to reflect new observations. If you ever find yourself in Chianti Classico, I would imagine you’ll not be immune to feeling Panzano’s pull.

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Ca’ di Pesa is 95 per cent sangiovese, raised in second passage barriques (80 per cent) and 20 per cent grandi botti, on average. Dark and rich, black cherry ambitious and really, really modern. A high quality vintage and goes for it, no holds barred. Lots of wood. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Barrone DOCG 2016

Riserva is 100 per cent fermented in amphora and then moved into barriques, much of it new. Again the ambition is clear. Vanilla, graphite and everything spice. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 ($37.00)

Dario Faccin’s is 100 per cent sangiovese as it will always be going forward and with an amazing acidity of 6.4 (tA). Wow is this still so youthful, even just a touch reductive, from an alcoholic fermentation at a very low temperature. Very low. Oxygen is only introduced at that very low temperature, to preserve not only colour but also aromatics. So be patient because time is its and your friend. The palate is so broad and generous but this is not a barrel tasting. This is real life. Such structure should be illegal. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

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

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2014 ($62.00)

From a vintage that was made for the intensity and manic work of Dario Faccin. You need to investigate so very deep to desalinate and to feel the layers peel away before getting to the crux of Carrobio’s Panzano Galestro and Alberese. Magnificent and large, balanced and massive ’14 oh my. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The amalgamation of ripest, richly purposed fruit and high toned meatiness brings the great divide together between levels of the appellative period. This is what you want from a well-developed and purposed Riserva, in structure, out of passion and back into reality. Most excellent and rigorous work from Gionanni Battista d’Orsi out of Panzano. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

I Canadesi and I Produttori di Panzano at Cecchini

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Don Vincenzo 2016

An equal representation of selections from vineyards east and west, harvested and fermented separately and then brought together. Once again there is ambition and heft but balance is brought on by ripe acidities and everything resisting going to the breaches of edges. Such a fine liqueur for Gran Selezione and one to age for decades. A captured snapshot of 2015 with great structure as a frame to the picture. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The first vintage, 80 sangiovese with 15 merlot and 5 cabernet sauvignon. The sangiovese was raised in 25hL botti and the inernational grapes in tonneaux. Darker and deeper than the ’16 to come. Good acidity keeps it moving through the waves of vanilla and graphite. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($44.95)

Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted March 2019

Fattoria La Quercia Il Chellino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From a more northerly vineyard with later ripening and the cool savour is readily apparent. Very expressive, chalky tannic and not yet resolved. Will turn and fire into a terrific expression of Panzano albeit in a highly singular, off the noted grid sort of way. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2016 ($97.95)

Vigna del Sorbo sits in the Conca d’Oro at the southeastern end of the vineyards in clay soils dominated by Galestro and away from the Alberese of the Flaccianello sites. It’s always a refreshing meeting meaty wine but then along comes 2016. The satiating and pleasing factor is there from the start, not wanting for wondering if indeed the possibilities are there. They are in waves with bigger bones, more flesh hanging on though teasing to fall off at the slightest touch of the hand. They will not because structure keeps the meat secure even though it is so bloody tender. With acidity nearing eight on the tA scale there is every reason to believe 2016 Vigna del Sorbo will go 25 years easy, with or without the shedding on tears. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2010

Tasted from magnum at Cecchini with fruit wholly, ostensibly intact from a warm and grip-inciting vintage when these Vigna del Sorbo vines would have been in the 35-40 year-old range. Also from a transitional period in the climate change pantheon so therefore a time when climate was more unusual and not yet the new norm. A fruit bomb this sangiovese, juicy and bursting from a blue to black fruit year. Almost Cassis in orientation, cool truth spoken and acidity in the premium value category that lifts the wine with ease. Sip it with grilled beef and the picture is complete. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Standing on the shoulders of giants #flaccianello #fontodi #sangiovese

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2016, IGT Toscana Centrale ($147.95)

“For me this is a Chianti Classico. I’m waiting for others to cross the river together,” says Giovanni Manetti. It tastes of Chianti Classico, albeit with an ulterior profile to Vigna del Sorbo. There is a variegation of Galestro in the soil, along with Alberese, Calcium Carbonate and Pietraforte. The vineyards come down from Panzano and face an opposite direction. Flaccianello is strong and structured, meaty, floral, a compound composition of elements, minerals and the flesh of animale. It’s a big boned boy with acids and structure as a full throttle experience. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2017 ($24.95)

Drawn from Botti now at 18 months and the new plan is to extend that even further so 30 months after harvest will become 33-36 when the bulk of the wine goes to bottle. If anything is going to teach the world about the aging needs and worthiness of Panzano sangiovese and Chianti Classico, well the gentle suggestion and confident persuasion starts right here. Dusty and conversely soft, then grippy and elegant too. Drink 2021-2027.  Last tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2016 ($24.95)

Very little has changed in fact ’16 has moved almost nowhere in the best possible way. Sneaky structure is there, in movements of Bach tones and the usual sangiovese brilliance, especially from these multifarious soils. Galestro, Alberese, Pietraforte, calcium carbonate. All in. Last tasted September 2019

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Tasting through @ilmolinodigrace ~ The dramatic ’16s and super surprising ’17s. One breath of Gratius and see how it has separated from the pack. These are Panzano of sneaky grip and structure.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Incredible depth and richness in Riserva out of ’16, with layers of variegated red fruit not seen in these parts or this appellative wine in quite some time. The linger and the effect is all encompassing and timeless. There will be very little movement in the next three years and perhaps longer. This came to know the who, what and why from the genesis.  Last tasted September 2019

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2006

Poured from magnum at Cecchini in Panzano. It had been nearly five years since last tasted and the large format has suspended time. Still a matter of all constituent parts lifted, elevated and residing where things are haughty and high. Nigh time to drink up certainly but there is a freshness and an accumulated presence of acidity that speaks of the southeast Panzano site. If land could talk it would utter these sangiovese words. If vineyards could sing these would be the notes.  Last tasted September 2019

An ’06 Chianti Classico Riserva you say, pre-aged, delivered to the Ontario market and presented here in 2014, all in for $24? You can’t fool us. We’ve been duped too many times before. This must fall into the “too good to be true” category. The answer depends on which style of Chianti Classico you prefer. This walks all the halls, plies the trades and hits the marks of the CCR ancients. Comes from a remarkable vintage, holding on but in true advanced, oxidizing and fruit diminishing character. Mushrooms and truffles abound, as does game in the early roasting stage. A note of Brett is here too, not over the top but its presence can’t be denied. Acidity speaks, as does bitter chocolate. This is not for all but all should have a go.  Tasted November 2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2017

No change in ’17 “but of course we made less.” Only 15,000 will come of it and don’t expect to see this hit the market for at least two more years. Don’t expect to drink it for three to five beyond that. The concentration multiplied by the concentration multiplied by the barriques makes for an eight digit factor. Yes this is very different than the others and the acidity too but its a magnificent specimen. Massive tannic attack. Just massive. Wait for the elegance to emerge in 2030. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2017, IGT Toscana

Gratius expresses the vineyard in ways the Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione appellative sangiovese do not. This 100 per cent sangiovese reeks of the vineyard; fennel. rosemary and gariga. From the part of the vineyard at the peak of the hill where San Francesco’s hulking sculpture towers and watches over the sangiovese. Grip, intensity, signs, wealth of fruit, knowledge and portents. So fine. Drink 2025-2038. Last tasted September 2019

Only sangiovese as is the plan for the entire estate. That Panzano perfume and glycerin though there is some more weight and bones than others. Reminds of the style that’s constant from Fontodi to be honest. These are some of Chianti Classico’s finest acids, sweet and refined, They compliment and support. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Pomegranates of Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Bambole is the place, the first selection of one piece of land, to have a Chianti Classico that expresses Il Palagio within the territory but more so within Panzano. Richer than some but balanced and sumptuous, big again but you wouldn’t really know it. Definite connection to Annata 2016 even if the vintage is different. And it needs time. No shocker there. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Particular, personal, vintage related, so Panzano. So consistent with the wines to come.  Last tasted September 2019

This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready.  Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2017

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (207795, $19.95)

A floral, bright as a clear blue sky day sangiovese, 100 per cent as such and meaningful. There can be no better compliment that a Chianti Classico can pay then this. It tells you it is happy to see the warmth in your smile and the contentment in your face. That’s because it has charmed you and helped you through. It’s really that simple. Wonderful vintage and the best in modern times for Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

The Conca d’Oro below the village of Panzano

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Aluigi 2014

A rich and luxurious ’14 from a vintage out of which austerity might be expected. Instead there is sapidity and structure, glycerin and silken textures. Really good work, surprising or not from Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($31.95)

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyards of Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($44.95)

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyard was hit hard by the frost and so only 24,000 bottles were produced, as opposed to the normal number at 55. There’s great freshness especially for ’17. That said the heat stress was not an issue because the right rootstock, the organics and the it factor gave away what was wanted and what was needed. Bright, effusive, even if 2017 offers just a bit less of the place than usual. It’s ultimately elegant and balanced. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Of 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. From 8.2 hectares in the Conca d’Oro. 35,000 bottles produced, maximum to 40 in the next few years. Organic since the beginning, in the 90s. Same beauty on display as noted back in February 2019.  Last tasted September 2019

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Bought in 1970 and 11.5 hectares planted, jut over half of the estate. A warm, rich and heady sangioivese with 15 per cent merlot. Liquid chalky from French oak on the merlot and very textured. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Cecchini

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Campicaia 2015 ($44.95)

Sangiovese blended with cabernet sauvignon in a Cassis, resiny and sappy Riserva. Plenty of ripeness, richness and ambition. A modernity not always witnessed. Could be Napa cab and a good one at that. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo, eight months élevage. A slight wet wool note though just slight and blended delightfully into the glycerin fruit and high reaching acidity. Just what Annata from Panzano needs to express, light, bright and naturally curated. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

A completely new floral approach to Annata, of flowers and herbs specific to the place though not necessarily a stretch to imagine the aromas like Balinese or Vietnamese exoticism.  Last tasted September 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Rock of Panzano

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico Grand Selezione DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015

A vineyard planted in 1982 and a matter of big barrel élevage. Lovely savoury and brushy perfume again, hyperbolized and extended to extenuating GS style. Lovely texture and mouthfeel. This is the way of connectivity to the land and the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

 

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Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Radda Rocks

Modern discourse concerning the sangiovese of Chianti Classico submits to a motif of matters integral and essential in observing a common style found in the territory’s wines. While the variegate of soils in clay, limestone, schist and sandstone decomposed into the Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Calcari, Colombino and Arenaria are the lifeblood, it is acidity that acts as the crux and the catalyst for elevating these particular sangiovese. Matters swell, flow and develop even deeper when communes, sub-zones and frazioni are taken into account. In the case of Radda there is an exacting set of acidities that come to the forefront of these wines. They are the big Raddese.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Radda in Chianti

L’Associazione “Vignaioli di Radda”

L’associazione “Vignaioli di Radda” ha come scopo principale la diffusione della cultura vitivinicola di Radda in Chianti presentando strumenti, provvedimenti e politiche che sostengano la viticoltura, ed in particolare la produzione di vino di qualità. The association of vignoli, a group of producers with the mission to spread Radda wine culture by presenting tools, measures and policies that support viticulture, and in particular the production of quality wine.

Val delle Corti, Radda

Radda’s 24 produttori are a strong and unified unit. They are Allesandro Gallo (Castello di Albola), Alyson Morgan (Podere Capaccia), Andrea Samichelli (Cantina di Castelvecchi), Angela Fronti (Istine), Barbara Widmer (Brancaia), Bernardo Bianchi (Colle Bereto), Claudia Guercini (Terrabianca), Cristina Grilli (Podere Terreno), Daniele Ciampi (Castello di Monterinaldi), Diego Finnochi (L’Erta di Radda), Federica Mascheroni (Castello di Volpaia), Gabriele Rosi (Borgo Salcetino), Ilaria Anachini (Fattoria di Montemaggio), Martino Manetti (Montevertine), Michele Braganti (Monteraponi), Orsola Beccari (Vignavecchia), Oscar Geyer (Borgo la Stella), Paolo Cianferoni (Caparsa), Piero Lanza (Poggerino), Riccardo Lanza (Pruneto), Roberta Contrino (Podere L’ Aja), Roberto Bianchi (Val delle Corti), Stefano Peruzzi (Castello di Radda) and Valentina Stiaccini (Tenuta di Carleone).

Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you, Roberto Bianchi @valdellecorti

In the words of Roberto Bianchi. “Large and small we are all aware of being guardians of a very special spot of Tuscany. The differences of wine production within a territory is its greatest asset. As for the vintage, ’18 is complicated with a bit of greenish tannins. The heat and then rain, followed by two weeks of tropical humidity in late August. Higher elevations were a real plus, despite the factor of less concentration but those who hung longer and avoided mold and mildew made elegant wines.” Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take centre stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage and Krysta Oben at Casa Chianti Classico

In the words of Godello when last he waxed on about Radda. “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. 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.”

Canadians at Val delle Corti, Radda in Chianti

In September 2019 a fourth visit to Casa Chianti Classico in the past three years could only yield a deeper understanding. The educational and promotional home of the Consorzio is housed in what was once the Franciscan 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. This time around 13 professional, intrepid and curious Canadian sommeliers and journalists attacked a comprehensive tasting of Radda’s sangiovese. John Szabo M.S., Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Jean-Sébastien Massé, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage, Christina Hartigan, Robert Stelmachuk, J.P. Potters, Toni Weber, Krysta Oben, Faye MacLachlan, Adam Hijazi and Godello. A visit earlier in the day with association president Roberto Bianchi at his Val delle Corti property opened 26 eyes to Radda’s high, cool and fringe possibilities. Here are tasting notes on 30 such examples replete with the commune’s big Raddese acidity.

Chianti Classico Annata

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

You must walk these Radda vineyards to understand what’s in this glass. Regard the way the rows of vines change colour in September and give up a variability of timing. It is these stops along the way where winemaker Piero Lanza makes his picks then crushes, macerates and collectively ferments. It results in the most seamless, albeit high alcohol, glycerin and textured sangiovese. It is Chianti Classico made precisely the way it needs to be made from this very specific place. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

What has one year brought to Annata ’16? Not much to be honest. A roundness of Raddese acidity has come about. A result of slow and steady work in the vineyard that strays away from acidity that disturbs but instead allows for a doming effect, a cappello sommerso, a rounded cap with help from what was done inside the walls.  Last tasted September 2019

Just bottled and I mean just bottled, a sangiovese of bright red to purple fruit with a 30-40 per cent assistance by what Roberto Bianchi employs through fermentation called piemontazino, or macherazione carbonica a capello sommerso. Leaving 30-40 per cent of the fruit in stainless steel tank on skins for three to four months. Tames the Raddesse acidity for the Annata and makes it more than drinkable. In 2016 it’s crushable, back up the truck gulpable. Beauty in sangiovese “questa, è radda.” This, is Radda. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Brancaia’a Barbara Widmer with Vancouver’s Christina Hartigan

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (519173, $24.95)

Brancaia ’17 shows some breath of fresh restraint air out of a vintage not exactly simple to effect. There is some glycerin and also some warmth but there too is balance and joy. Solid ’17, the kind I’d like to meet. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.95)

Bernardo Bianchi’s 2017 benefitted from the most stringent if mechanical sorting process to bring about a clean, transparent, effusive and spiced Annata. It’s modern and also refreshing, fully expressed and crunchy, as Radda should be. Not one for the ages but clearly high level in its class. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (953828, $28.95)

Pretty taut for Volpaia though truth be told this Radda sangiovese always requires some time. Fullness of fruit and equally supportive acidity meets the texture of altitude and the advantage of acumen. There are layers here that many ‘17s will just not have, exhibit or develop. A tour de vintage force really. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A young, tense and reductive Annata, not yet responsive, quiet and bashful. Plenty of fruit lurking and needing some air to open up. A touch of green tannin on the back end. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Walking on Alberese with Angela Fronti in her @istine_raddainchianti and #cavarchione Gaiole in Chianti vineyards ~ #chianticlassico #vignaistine #vignacavarchione

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Angela Fronti’s come together of twofold Radda plus Gaiole vineyard fruit is the future of crafting balanced and understandable Annata. In the world of changing climates you will need to balance elevations, acidities and ripenesses in order to keep Chianti Classico on point. Welcome to the microcosmic confluences of Istine, with fineness, fruit and spice. Some solid tension too. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Lovely glycerin and elastic sangiovese not without a generous component from barrel. A touch of greenish tannin from that wood but plenty of fruit to swallow it up, or at least will do so in time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Tasted with Orsula Beccari in Radda in Chianti, from a just about ready barrel sample. The dusty rose and violet perfume, pretty and savoury of a particular Vignavecchi localitá nose. This is the Macigno and the Alberese speaking, of elegance woven through structure. Lovely purity. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018 and September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016 (383604, $19.95)

A huge leap in quality for the Radda producer, clearly a sign of work put in the vineyard and steps towards making the right, correct and delicious local sangiovese. A really textural wine and of really fine acidity. Molta buona. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s are some of the highest of any vineyard not only in Radda but in Chianti Classico, ranging from 350-680m of elevation. The average age of the vines is around 20 years, and since 1999, 10 hectares have been replanted per year. The Acciaiuoli family of Florence built the Castle in the 15th century and commissioned the estate to plant in the 15th century as a symbol of their high status. The estate was acquired in 1979 by the Zonin family. The Annata is aged in 3,400-liter Slavonian grandi botti for a year, followed by three months in bottle. In a changing climate the ripeness of this sangiovese and with help from an ideal vintage means the highest level of glycerin red fruit, sweet savour and silky tannins. Top shelf stuff in 2016. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Sweet fruit, simple, red and ripe, all red berries, nothing flashy or fashionable. Straightforward and a touch into the syrup. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Terreno’s lights are flashing with sangiovese of bright fruit and ultra high tones. That said there is a macerated and extracted depth to this, with layered acidity and grippy tannins. It’s very youthful and not showing its best, at least not yet. Might allow the shell to be cracked in a year or more likely two. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February and September 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva follows the ’16 Val delle Corti line, a selection from the original 45 year-old vines and young beyond estate compare. A visceral, glycerin-collective, more perfume inclusive of what grows and yet the attack of acidity is ulterior, of another motive all together, relatively speaking as compared to the Annata. This is Riserva of truth and potential, to live longer than those wishing and crying out for immediate rich attention. This does not beg for anything. You should let it lie, allow it to breath and drink it in. Later. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Much, much hotter than ’16 and now with two more years of bottle age, which is so necessary. There is an emergence of floral spice, a tickling, salty that gets in the sense of smell and wakes you up. Enlivening vintage of sangiovese Riserva from Bianchi. Also comforting so it does both for you, with great generosity.  Last tasted September 2019

The 45 year old vines are responsible for this single cru, 100 per cent sangiovese that while older is yet bolder than the barrel sample tasted of 2016. Here you feel the hottest weeks of the summer, less elasticity, fluidity and fluency than that 2016. And yet it is so intuitively elastic, fluid and fluent in mineral rich, marly limestone soil. Here from the Corti Valley on the east facing slope above the river below. Richness, weight and red fruit so specific to this place meets the Radda acidity head on but can’t help but be submissive and respectful. Pure expression of estate, valley and commune. Truly. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

From Paolo Cianferoni on a 12ha Radda estate at 450m. A citrus note lines the aromatic front, almost white grapefruit but also bleeding red, of pomegranate and red currant. Lovely mid palate, pure and purely ’16, with purest Radda acidity and chaste laser focus. Great attention to detail in the vineyard is more than apparent, translating with utmost unalloyed and unsullied clarity straight down through the glass. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (260802, $36.95)

Perhaps the richest Brancaia Riserva to date while keeping the supporting parts bin balance, movement and support right alongside. Namely acidity, Radda acidity to be sure and the most proper and correct actions to boot. Does everything it should, it needs and what you wish for from the house and the place. Will be long-lived and accept plenty of secondary notation; balsamic, iodine, tartufo and porcini. Can’t wait. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (705335, $40.00)

A perfectly brilliant Riserva from Radda’s Volpaia in ’16, not exactly shocking but nothing taken for granted. Texture is the greatest portent and harbinger for time, age worthiness and slow melt. The linger of collective parts all in synch also bodes to the future, well, good and timeless. Timely wine right here, tidy and generous. Would only be normal to imagine what the Gran Selezione Il Puro will do but then again curiosity plus knowledge leads to great anticipation. For now the present moment concentration allows the foreshadowing to speak of a 15 year run in excellence for this top echelon Riserva. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Podere l’Aja Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A linear sangiovese in the finest sense of fruit crashing through acidity, each taking on a component of the other. Bright, lifted and effusive there is red and more red, low in savour and high in energy. Should find some good distance from this Raddese. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (315150, $23.95)

Great strides, long strides, strides in the shadows of Radda at the end of harvest. The eloquence is understated and the fullness of fruit quite impressive, though not without the work of the Radda acidity. Just a touch of tonic late indicates that mid-term aging is the product of a correct imagination. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Dall’anno Mille 2016

Lovely vintage in Riserva form for Daniele Ciampi, of fruit sweetly developed, ripe and effusive. Full extract, tang and force all combine to grip the palate and keep it all swimming upstream. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2015

The amazing confluence of Gaiole and Radda come about as a variegation of all possible soils and climates. It’s a lovely generational wine that bridges worlds, places and people. Fine structure makes the fruit seem plentiful, as it obviously is and allows the wine to stretch, whisper and then speak within control, but especially with emotion. Buona. Better than before. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

No disrespect intended and in fact a great compliment is paid to winemaker Bernardo Bianchi for his ability to craft exceptional Chianti Classico in the most difficult of vintages. That his 2013 and 2014 Riservas were two of the better efforts for Radda’s terroir and the great curving amphitheatre of Colle Bereto vineyards is a testament to the ethic and the ethos. This 2015 is clearly a polished and generous sangiovese from a vintage that was almost too easy for a man of Bianchi’s modesty and talents. The wood only adds to the smooth textures and plentiful flavours and it is these barrel notes that here are more obvious if respectful in their obvious interference. Once again highest quality tannin works with the sangiovese and the specific Radda acidity. Drink this earlier than the others. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Unique aromatics, part violet floral and part carbonic. Very fresh especially for Riserva, full of candied notes over stones, rocks and savour. Not overly extracted or pushed in any way, just comfortable and of a simple, lively and fun acidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2016 ($45.00)

Some Chianti Classico just are; exact representations and looks of knowing, mirrored or not, of who they are. But even more so, where they are from. On the bigger and brighter side in balance of Radda, of a specific vineyard site and within clear, knowable and transparent sight. So proper and distinguished, if schooled by essential knowledge and possibility.  Last tasted September 2019

Piero Lanza’s selection is so smart, protracted and tidy within the framework of what a Poggerino Riserva just happens to be. It’s almost as you find yourself scanning the vineyards and your mind’s eye settles on a few perfect plants. You taste the berries from those vines and imagine them bound together in wine. This is the sangiovese mimic of those isolated points of a very special vineyard and also a perfectly constructed stone house in Gaiole, variegated, tightly intertwined and just beautiful to behold. Perfectly streamlined, built to last a few hundred years, but I would suggest to drink it 280 years before that. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Pruneto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Savoury, liquid dusk and dusty, from a grippy vintage and showing some age. Bretty and gritty, noticeable volatility and some angst. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Deep toned and lifted together, fruit of many layered splendour and full throttle acidity. Big and bigger components working separately at present. Give this five years for the weight of the early ferment to aerate, re-coagulate and tie il all together. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG I Salci 2015

Glycerin fruit, full ripeness on the palate and a touch of verdancy in the phenols. Rich and unctuous, perfectly heady and bountiful sangiovese for the shorter splurge and be content term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2015

There really is nothing else in Radda that emits the aromas of a Vignavecchia sangiovese. Like sweet fennocchio but a slow-cooked, rendered and caramelized one. Also contrario of an unwashed rind sheep’s milk cheese. There’s an acidity of effusion and then a verdant note, a legume, like lentils cooked down. Plenty of gastronomy here while missing a step of structure so abundant in the ’14. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG “Madonnino Della Pieve” 2012

Big-boned, roasted osetta of a sangiovese with compounded and hyperbolized mountain savour. There is so much brushy green botanical presence here, prescient and possessive of great staying power. Needs time. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Radda Rocks

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Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

These days of writing feature articles about a place within a commune inside a territory tells and potentially schools us about something highly profound. Riddles, mysteries and enigmas are now yielding to solutions, comprehension and understanding. The special nooks in Chianti Classico are tenderly referred to as frazioni, geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing. San Donato in Poggio is one such frazione, a hilltop village, hamlet and fraction united by the make-up of both constituents and terroir.

Barberino Tavarnelle from Isole e Olena

San Donato is found inside Barberino Tavarnelle, a new commune established on January 1, 2019 (reducing the total in Chianti Classico from nine to eight) by merging the municipalities of Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. The joining of Barberino Tavarnelle is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. On May 26, 2019 the citizens of Barberino Tavarnelle were called for the first time to the polls for the 2019 municipal elections. Mayor David Baroncelli was elected.

Paolo de Marchi in the Galestro of Isole e Olena

Going back in time the near-northerly and fully-westerly section of Chianti Classico saw Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa as border cousins sharing one particular mitigating and characterizing commonality; a ridge running from the southeast to the northwest affectionately housing the vineyards and paeselli of the people of San Donato in Poggio. SDP may not be household named to all but it’s surely the most prominent and prestigious of the angling, corrugated crests running through the entirety of the greater territory. 

Castello di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The Evolution of Chianti Classico

What was controversial only three or fours years ago is now part of everyday, commonplace discussion. While the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has yet to take an official stance on frazioni, especially with regards to labelling or menzione geografica, the fact is they are open-minded and even encouraging towards promoting the associations in search of marketing for their collective soul. Several years ago it was Roberto Stucchi of (Gaiole’s) Badia a Coltibuono who spoke about the “The Evolution of Chianti Classico.” Stucchi wrote “this zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory. The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the commune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory. The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history. This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.”

Without being able to categorize by geological commonality the defining of sub-zones is always somewhat arbitrary, conceived of subjective opinion and potentially discriminatory to fringe participants, either for reasons of location or ideology. Borders can’t be drawn underground and to try do so above is nearly impossible. The only way is seemingly by commune but in the case of San Donato in Poggio, the namesake village situated upon its prominent ridge allows for its constituents to double down on the prospect.

A great big hug

The San Donato in Poggio room is tied together by climate in a well-bounded area affected by the mistral wind coming off of the Tyrrhenian Sea wafting in from the northwest natural corridor of Monte Serra between Pisa and Lucca. Winters are warmer than the Chianti Classico interior average while summers are cooler and windier. Bud break comes early, seasons are stretched longer and later hang-time allows for top quality phenolics. While finesse and elegance are the two go-to descriptors, those of glycerin and high-toned grip should also be considered. San Donato’s are some of Chianti Classico’s sneakiest tannins, shrouded in the beauty of these wines in their youth. Potential and possibility for great longevity is a hallmark trait of SDP’s sangiovese. If you are looking for comfort or a hug in Chianti Classico, you’ve come to the right place.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Tavarnelle

Rocks in common

San Donato in Poggio’s lifted ridge is typical of the Ligurian sea’s platform push but here the cause and effect is two-fold. Flysch (an alternating sequence of sedimentary limestones, sandstones, and shales, the beds of which are thin, regular, and alternating) is this frazione‘s ace up the sleeve. That and the Galestro (schisty clay with friable white, grey, blue and charcoal rocks) typical of the greater territory are the soils with which all of these producers have in their vineyards to some varying degree. It may be argued that no other commune, village or valley shares such distinctly common terroir. Some compact limestone (like Alberese) exists as well but in some cases it is the Galestro clay and rock known as the Iolithium Unit that is found in large, hard and ghostly white Colombini that separates San Donato from the rest of the territory. Of great interest is to see how the sliding of the two platforms caused on the contact surface and the composition of blue clays prevents water loss in the deep layers. This creates natural availability of water, essential during drought vintages. Now you know where to look for 2017 Chianti Classico.

Natascia Rossini, Podere La Cappella

Associazione Viticoltori di San Donato in Poggio

The association of thirteen producers began their collective journey on January 24, 2018. Their total land holdings add up to just under 2000 hectares, 20 per cent of which are planted to vineyards.  “A time of change and exchanging ideas,” explains association secretary and Podere La Cappella’s Natascia Rossini. “Here there is a longer growing season and we tend to harvest late” and yet two years ago just a couple degrees cooler in temperatures meant that the frazione avoided damaging frost, with help from the winds blowing in 60-70 kms away from the coast. While it is difficult to find a commonality within a sub-zone, you can agree that the climate here is consistent throughout.

Passione per le nostre terre ed i suoi frutti, un territorio ed una cultura unici al mondo, un tesoro comune: il vino.
Siamo un gruppo di viticoltori, di un piccolo ma prodigioso territorio del Chianti Classico raccolto tra i comuni di Tavarnelle Val di Pesa e Barberino Val d’Elsa, che vogliono tutelare (o custodire) e far conoscerne la loro secolare tradizione agricola, storica e culturale evidenziandone le eccellenze vitivinicole, nonché le caratteristiche che le contraddistinguono sottolineando l’importanza degli aspetti climatici e geologici.

The manifesto translates as such. “Passion for our lands and its fruits, a unique territory and culture in the world, a common treasure: wine. We are a group of winemakers, from a small but prodigious Chianti Classico area gathered between the municipalities of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and Barberino Val d’Elsa, who want to protect (or preserve) and make their secular agricultural, historical and cultural tradition known highlighting their wine excellence, as well as the characteristics that distinguish them, emphasizing the importance of climatic and geological aspects.”

Paolo de Marchi

The thirteen members currently ensconced in the all for one directive are Badia a Passignano, Casa Emma, Casa Sola, Castello delle Paneretta, Castello di Monsanto, Fattoria La Ripa, Fattoria Montecchio, Fattoria Quercia al Poggio, Fattoria Spadaio e Piecorto, Isole e Olena, Le Filigare, Podere La Cappella and Poggio al Sole. The following are 21 examples from the association’s 13 members (plus three likely soon to join) tasted in September 2019 with Alberto Albisetti at Castello delle Paneretta and with Paolo de Marchi at Isole e Olena.

Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (384552, $49.95)

Presented by Stefano Carpaneto. From Barberino Tavarnelle and well entrenched in the association of vintners in San Donato in Poggio. Surprisingly high toned but also immensely structured in a 100 per cent sangiovese Gran Selezione. You can really feel both the calcari inlaid and braided through the Galestro clay by a richness albeit under the influence of the highest tone. Gains flesh, bone and energy as it goes. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (56952)

From Paolo Paffi off of 25 hectares at 450m in production of 95,000 bottles. San Donato sangiovese with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera, 70 per cent raised in tonneaux and 30 in Inox tank. What’s good for goose is great for sangiovese and so 60 are employed in the vineyard, helping to release the compaction in the clayey Galestro soil. Classic in every expected respect, in the specific savour, motivating intensity, high tonality, deeply good and plenty cherry fruit. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A 120 hectare property owned and operated by a Genovese family, third generation now. The Gambaro Family has been in Barberino Tavarnelle since 1960; Giuseppe, Claudia and their children, Matteo and Anna. Some canaiolo, cabernet sauvignon and colorino augment the sangiovese, for one year in barrel. A sapid and savoury sangiovese snack of red fruit deepening to dark and sullen. Deep toned wine. Really deep. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($24.00)

Presented by Alberto Albisetti, owner of the Castello della Paneretta. A mix of fruits fresh and dried mark the basket of this San Donato sangiovese, with 10 per cent canaiolo and (five) colorino off of 23 hectares of vines. Dry and duty, red ropey, some liquorice and a real estate cuvée blended from vines across the estate. True blue stylistic from large 5000L French barrels. Old school in some ways, classic, like old Rioja. Perfect for the style. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 

Showing in the only way Castello di Monsanto can, with forest scents, of cypress and all the brush you can shake into the fine liquid of a sangiovese off of these San Donato hills. Mainly Galestro schisty soils bringing the essential balance, along with some volcanic tufo. It all adds up to a posit tug between freshness and structure. Experience tells us that the possibility exists for 2016 to go long like 1968. Perhaps.  Last tasted September 2019

Annata of 90 per cent sangiovese with both canaiolo and colorino, traditional, loyal and streaked by the Galestro qualified off this ridge extended out of San Donato in Poggio. Juicy, fresh and forward, expressive of the vintage, not so muscular. Sangiovese like going home and crawling into the bed you slept in as a child. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2013 ($85.00)

Il Poggio from the San Donato in Poggio Galestro and Flysch has barely even climbed the hill of its first stage. Not even sure it has left the stable and surely has no current aspirations of making it to the fortress. The seventh year should show the first signs of initial ascent and transitions into secondary life. Formidable structure and presence are in surround of fruit from one of Chianti Classico’s most distinguished cru.  Last tasted September 2019

The cooler, cloudy vintage has been taking its time to emerge and 2018 is now live, in the present and in the flesh, ready for its time. This is confirmed by the grand artist known as Riserva from perhaps the most iconic hill in all of Chianti Classico. Still bright, effusive and not fully ready to let its tannin melt away. The sangiovese component is in the 90-95 per cent range, again with canaiolo and colorino coming around to complete the whole. The tension persists and the tannic structure in this “Selezione” is much tighter than the Annata or the first, non terroir specified Riserva. Still hard to believe how grippy this is. A soon to come epiphany with the 1968 helps to explain Il Poggio’s phenomenon. As a racer Monsanto’s Riserva 2013 is Marco Pantani, greatest climber of a generation, with so much grandiosity, potential and possibility, straight to the top of Il Poggio. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2018

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Though not in the association Le Masse is unequivocally a San Donato in Poggio institution, under the auspices of brother and sister Robin and Lea Mugnaini, owners and winemakers. Theirs out of Barberino in Val d’Elsa vineyards is a child of natural fermentation, has been organic 10 years and two as biodynamic. No sulphur, no pumps, all manual, a mano. This 2016 is the last year of barrel use, of those in their fourth year. The solo/varietal Annata is 100 per cent sangiovese of high energy, intensity and impressively developed structure, linear and so driven. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria La Ripa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by winemaker Nicholas Caramelli, La Ripa farms 12 hectares in Chianti Classico divided into two valleys, one marked by Alberese, the other alluvial deposits. Ten clones of sangiovese adding up to 90 per cent of the Annata, with other native varieties. Quite high-toned and graced by liquorice inflected red fruit, a touch leathery and dry. Only stays in tonneaux for six months. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2016

Presented by Riccardo Nuti, of 95 per cent sangiovese with alicante in big (33hL) barrels for aging. The vineyard source happens to be the most recently planted, with a combination of Galestro and Flysch (rhythmic alternations of sandstone and fine-grained layers that contain siltstones, silty shales, and clayey shales) to the south of San Donato.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite reductive and wound with a tightness that moves the adage one step up the rung, the one that says sangiovese needs time. For ’16 it’s a matter more pressing and a story yet to be told. It’s tart but so very layered and there’s a feeling of Galestro here, with a darker chalky texture and mouthfeel. Perhaps not the same weight as 2015 but more power and structure by a mile. It’s about preference of style and vintage variation. You may have to drink 15s while this waits two or three years before seeing the glory unfold. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2016

Alberto Fabbri is also not yet a member of the San Donato in Poggio association and his work from vineyards in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa is exquisite. A combination of reduction and cured meat, pancetta, from Galestro soils at 300m with five per cent canaiolo. Even finer touch from the most excellent 2016. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($34.95, 704346)

Was finally bottled in July, to be released in February. “I like 2016, it’s a very different vintage.” As usual there is 15 per cent canaiolo mixed in. Why Canaiolo? “Because it’s from here. And it’s a late ripening variety like sangiovese, and also not heavy and jammy like merlot.” Canaiolo is like sangiovese in that it must be selected and used in very particular ways. Paolo’s is actually a darker depth of fruit from 2016 while the spice is so much more sophisticated. There is so much wisdom now, more than even before and a calm, settling depth about this wine.  Last tasted November 2018, February and September 2019

Chianti Classico 2016 is composed of 80 per cent sangiovese, (15) canaiolo and (5) syrah, which since the 1980s has always held a spot, in fact it may have been as much as 10 two plus decades ago. Paolo de Marchi explains.”Syrah in my opinion, was really about thinking, about blending in an earlier ripening variety.” It also added colour, not for quality necessarily, but for pleasure. “If I were a consultant I don’t think I would recommend to plant it anymore.” But Paolo loves it, its bright acidity and lower pH, and loves the warmth. You can feel the liquid peppery hug from the combination of canaiolo and syrah in the constitution of this CC and now a new texture evolved from a traditional one, clearly passed on through generations. It is spoken in the clarity of this 2016, but it has taken decades to arrive here. Finessed, soft tannins and an effulgent acidity wrap fruit chewy and yet very crisp. Singular again and alone but quicker to please, at least for now. Perhaps it too will shut down in 2019. Perhaps not.  Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 (704346)

Poured from magnum. Should we expect an Isole e Olena ’13 to be the least unusual in the appellation? Yes. While higher in acid and lift it’s more a representation of the land and the soils, but also the style. In a way a classic vintage because grapes hung into October. Quite youthful, an uprising of energy, a pump up, not over. Quite seamless and full of Paolo de Marchi pride. Spice and strength, fortitude and extension.  Last tasted September 2019

Quite the syrupy aromatic liqueur fills the glass for the ripe and nearly floral brooding Chianti Classico from I e O out of the gregarious 2013 vintage. The stylistic makes me think Riserva but that just says so much about the quality and layering of the fruit. More than ample tart and variegated acidity up the equanimity and longevity factor so the house’s ability with Chianti Classico of less time in barrel is once again confirmed. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2010 (704346)

Poured from magnum. A beautiful vintage, certainly apposite to the challenge of wet, stretched then long 2013. A vintage with fine tannins that developed early enough and without much compromise to elongated structure. A top notch sangiovese vintage from which a great Cepparello was extracted. Wow factor winding and circling, dramatic and savoury with all the bushes and herbs magnified as they will be. Magnum perhaps but if nine years has only beget this, well then surely nine plus nine more will soothsay forward towards the secondary and tertiary numbers. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Le Filigare Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Alessandro Cassetti Burchi, proprietor of the smallest producer in the San Donato in Poggio association. Vineyards at 450m and from a winemaker who strikes an uncanny resemblance to American rock legend Tom Petty. With five per cent each colorino and canaiolo raised only in old barriques. Quite rich and savoury, of maritime pine, comfortable, old school, long developed with help from extended, even late harvests. So charming. This sangiovese belongs amongst the wildflowers, by a house in the woods, where “I ain’t got a neighbour for nine or ten miles, back in the tall pines.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Ivan Batignani, from the family with a presence in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Immensely and incredibly rich in acidity and tannins over some pretty solid and heady fruit. Big Slavonian oak. Big aging, big vessels, big wine, all in balance. A 100 per cent sangiovese that still needs time.  Last tasted September 2019

The combination of Poggibonsi and Barberino val d’Elsa is Ormanni’s trump card, a straddling of commune borders that creates the ideal estate Annata in perfect alignment. It’s really layered and sumptuous, old school at heart but clear, pure and honest, always looking straight ahead. There’s no rusticity but there is this red fruit beauty that reminds of days of yore. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Ormanni Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Etichetta Storica Dugentanni 2013

Dugentanni, as in two hundred years, a reference to contiguous ownership by the Brini Batacchi family. The oldest vineyards in western Barberino Val d’Elsa supply the fruit for Ormanni’s top level sangiovese and one held back with traditional territory patience before its release to market. More loyal to the past then many, with a crisp clarity and the kind of Gran Selezione that wafts with nonno’s pipe tobacco flavour. Tells a story of tradition with unclouded vision and empathy for both family and place. Really smart Classico and ready to be enjoyed. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Michaela Rossi. Located on the hill in front of Paneretta, of 100 hectares with only 15 planted. Maximum altitude is 300m with 360 degrees of exposition. Organic practices since ’97 and officially certified since 2009. Clay and Galestro terroir with sangiovese, ciliegiolo, canaiolo, malvasia nera and colorino. This Annata is 80 sangiovese with the rest in 20 parts. One year in concrete after spending a year in wood. Terrific energy and balance, a wildly vibrant and driven Annata with great presence and intuition. Structure too. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

From Vittorio and Michaela Rossi and their best fruit from an amphitheatre of a hillside vineyard as rich in clay of any found in San Donato is Poggio. Pockets of Galestro and limestone take on some responsibility for the grip ins and structural outs of this glycerin beauty of a sangiovese but rich fruit is the catalyst and the star. That said there is a sculpted or architectural notation mixed with the excellence that this frazione in this commune (Barberino Tavarnelle) is able to provide and prove from a vintage of mixed feelings. The feelings are obvious from 2013 and for Quercia al Poggio, of sumptuousness and delight. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($28.95)

Always something completely other. From vines six to seven years old. A blend of sangiovese (90) and 10 merlot. The elixir that the others in San Donato are not, a gentle syrup, a sweetly endowed savour and a texture silky fine.  Last tasted September 2019

Only San Donato in Poggio delves into this kind of specific calcaire, the Colombino in lieu of most other’s Galestro. The coolest of notes are broken down and fragmented in mimic of the soil and run like a river of savoury stone through stratified fruit. There is a perception of sweetness, imagined as perfectly ripe, low-lying fruit in early summer. But the sweetness is just a dream because with such a level of mineral, not salty but sapid, it is impression that supersedes expression. The young vines are growing up before our noses and eyes, lending impeccable balance in the here and now, with appreciable development laid out ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Project Manager Valentino Davaz. “Hill at the sun,” and the most northerly winery in the association of San Donato in Poggio, near to the abbey of Badia a Passignano. Organic and at good elevation, at 420m with five per cent each canaiolo and also merlot, in one quarter barriques for one year. One of the more wooded wines in the lot, lush, rich and silky smooth. Needs time to submit and gently glide into that sunset over the hill. Drink 2020–2024.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Bonomonte Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Presented by Sonia Gianni. Bonomonte is situated in front of the Paneretta hill in Barberino and their Annata’s sangiovese is blended with five per pent each canaiolo and colorino. A production that has been in play since 1982, the 2016 goes for the entirety of the vintage, a bit pressed with some overripe fruit and drying tannins. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Castello delle Paneretta portal to San Donato in Poggio

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Conceptual and aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino, 6pm

October 2019

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the Galestro, Arenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. What was learned on this particular October visit? For one thing the idea that patience, exactitude and static sobriety are assumed of a confident Montalcino. That and the new discourse concerning both a conceptual and an aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino.

Montalcino. Typically a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cold winters, 700 millimetres of annual precipitation and a moltitude of soils; alluvial fluvio-lacustrine, clay, clayey-marine, sandy-marine, limestone, sandstone, shale, siltstone, magmatic rock. Argille, Calcare, Sabioso, Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Arenaria. In every permutation, inculcation and combination, though the understanding in Montalcino is perhaps more readily defined because the pockets of specific soils are large and often uniform. This means that diversity and complexity can be distilled into a deeper and knowable comprensione. The confidence of Montalcino.

Brunello 2019

I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount and during a most recent visit to Montalcino extraordinary things were in fact presented to me. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. In due course I will explain.

Road to Montalcino

Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was formed in 1967 as a coalition of 25 original members. There were 15 producers who signed the page on this accord kept at Bellaria Estate: Assunto Pieri, Ivo Buffi, Loffredo Gaetani Lovatelli, Giuseppe Cencioni, Bramante Martini, Pierluigi Fiovaranti, Silvano Lambardi, Annunziato Franci, Ferruccio Ferretti, Giovanni Colombini, Dr. Leopoldo Franceschi, Silvio Nardi, Gino Zannini, Lucia Perina and Elina Lisini. The other nine original members were Nello Baricci, Siro Pacenti, Milena Perina, Orazio Machetti, Dino Ciacci, Guglielmo Martini, Emilio Costanti, Sabatino Gorelli and Rev. don Leopoldo Bianchi.

Montalcino sunset

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2014 for Brunello, 2017 for Rosso.

Related – Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

Most of the October visits were arranged and facilitated through the auspices and generosity of the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. President Fabrizio Bindocci, Vice-Presidents Giacomo Bartolommei, Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Riccardo Talenti. Director Giacomo Pondini and Consorzio facilitator Martina Iannotta. One month after returning from Italy the Consorzio paid us a visit here in Toronto for a gala event and 2015 vintage preview at Alfonso Iaccarino’s two Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890.

We traversed the roads and landscape in covering much of the parts that make up the whole of Montalcino. We being a group of four, two Canadians and two Americans; Christopher Sealy, graduate of French Language and Literature Degree from University of Toronto, Sommelier and Wine Director of Toronto’s Alo Restaurant Group. Cathrine Todd, a.k.a Dame Wine, New York, WSET Diploma graduate, Freelance Wine Writer, Forbes Contributor and the Wine Columnist for La VOCE di New York. Jeffrey Porter, Sommelier, Consultant, Educator, NYC-based beverage professional with over 18 years experience in retail and restaurants. Now starring in his video series creation, SipTrip Italy, an exploration of many of Italy’s best wineries and wine regions: the ultimate Italian wine adventure.

Related – Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Cathrine Todd, Godello, Jeff Porter and Christopher Sealy

Conceptual versus aesthetic function

Consider this phrase. “Discontinuity attains a level of aesthetic creation.” If we look at this through the lens of conceptual versus aesthetic truth and apply it to the Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino then we are on to something. Examples of both are what define the appellations in southern Tuscany. A tradition exists in which making wines is ensconced in rational truth but these last two decades have seen a wave of aestheticism rival, take over and even surpass that of rational winemaking behaviour. The wave of richness, ripeness and over-oaking the local sangiovese is not over and there still persists many pockets and factions of IGTism. To each his own and yet the pendulum has begun to swing with more producers coming back to basics. The neo-conceptualization of Montalcino sangiovese has returned a freshness to Brunello and the gleaning is real because a greater void has opened up for all to share. It’s a mathematical game of philosophical implication.

Part of a week’s pasta induced coma thanks to Montalcino. #gnocchialtartufo

“Continuous functions are of utmost importance in mathematics, functions and applications. However, not all functions are continuous. If a function is not continuous at a point in its domain, one says that it has a discontinuity there.” Sangiovese and even more so grape varieties like merlot and cabernet sauvignon grown in the Montalcino hills form a discrete set, a dense set, or even the entire domain of the territory’s function. They are examples of appellative discontinuities “in the simplest case of functions of a single real variable taking real values.” They are wines that represent the aesthetic function.

Let me count the ways. Comfort and classicism from Mario, Anna and Michele at Il Giglio, Montalcino

Sangiovese of purity, honesty, transparency and a sense of place are those that hold court for the conceptual truth of Montalcino. They are neither better or worse than their aesthetic brethren and sistren but they are making themselves open for discovery in 2019, 2020 and beyond. If you travel to the region at this time you will collide with them and their makers because they are crying to be heard. In October of 2019 I heard from both sides and their stories were expressed in understated forms of beauty, at times in the varietal austerity of the times and at others quite spiritual. In all cases we are taught that we are nothing and that we are all deserving of life. And to taste the wines from Montalcino. Wabi, if you will.

The visits

Le Ragnaie Winery was established in 2003 by the Campinoti Family. The estate follows the guidelines for organic agriculture and the vineyards are divided into three distinct parcels throughout Montalcino which allows the production of three diverse Brunello terroir. There is no usage of fertilizer but instead cover crops are planted of legumes, clovers and grasses.
 This helps to regenerate the land after a long summer season of work and aids in enriching the organic substance of the land all the while penetrating deeply the roots of the various planted species.
 The diversity of plants in the vineyard prevents superficial erosion and instead favours the absorption of water and creates an important habitat for many species of animals and insects.
 This process guarantees the formation of an ecosystem full of life which is essential to the health of the vines.

Le Ragnaie

Riccardo Campinoti at Le Ragnaie poured so many instructive sangiovese that work their conceptual way into his poignant, powerfully restrained and profound Rosso and Brunello. He also afforded a glimpse into two new aesthetic behavioural wines, the Vino Bianco and Fiano. Both are seven day skin-contact Montalcino whites, the first made from estate grown malvasia and trebbiano. They are fashioned like reds, with punch downs and very traditional styles in a Tuscan white vein. The Bianco is all orange skin and lemon arid as it gets but also gelid, surging, textured. The fiano is made for fun, tastes salty and acts so fine. So delicious and only 600 bottles made.

Mario Bollag

At Terralsole Mario Bollag and Athena Tergis Bollag reside on a hilltop peninsula plateau that is surely one of Montalcino’s most beautiful locations. They embrace aesthetic function like no others, in the food they cook, the music they play and the wide array of wines they make. Philanthropy, art, whimsy, generosity, warmth, sangiovese and the only cabernet franc in Montalcino.

Athena Tergis Bollag

Trio is a real “Super Tuscan” because it’s made from international varietals; cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. Takes 18 months in barrel and seven more years in bottle give or take, to be ready. Super fruit forward, super heady and super structured. Now integrated and singing smoothly, silken and fine. Coldoro, Solista and Pasticcio round out the symphony. Their first vintage for Brunello was 2000, 2001 for the Rosso.

Felix and Sabine Eichbauer

Podere Salicutti is in a south-eastern Montalcino location, on route SP 55 towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Now in the altruistic stewardship of owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer who heed the tradition and ideology created by its previous owner, Francesco Leanza. The agriculture and winemaking team remain to keep the promise and the faith for all of the estate lands and and inner workings. They do so as custodians of three essential vineyards, Piaggione, Teatro and Sorgente. We should all look forward to what this power couple and team will bring to the community, wines and landscape of Montalcino.

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

Your next trip to Montalcino must include a stop at La Mannella to discover the conceptual present and future of the area. Tommaso Cortonesi is a young superstar full of spirit who knows and understands the beauty and enchantment of wine. Sangiovese that gives you the feeling of having come through a storm because of simple wines that make you happy with the present moment. Also complex wines of great functionality, pragmatism and all due to great work ethic. Watch Tommaso’s father pumping juice at dusk and you will understand. The future is here, in these hands, with great humility, ethos and promise.

Gianni Bernazzi

The Bellaria Estate first came into being in September 1963, when Assunto Pieri and Bruna Tempori purchased a farmhouse and land in one of the finest and most characteristic Montalcino winegrowing areas. Bellaria’s position just a stone’s throw from the village speaks to its founders’ connection and who else but Gianni Bernazzi could carry forth what his grandfather “Sunto” had set out to accomplish. In ode to his grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97, a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original coalition at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community’s accord. Now Gianni is blessed with extraordinary terroir filled with Galestro schisty clay, iron, Alberese limestone and Arenaria sandstone.

Francesco Ripaccioli

Conversely at Canalicchio di Sopra with Francesco Ripaccioli a Rosso di Montalcino 2018 barrel sample instructs that sangiovese is built on dry extract. It is silky, sensual, full of acidity and fine chiseled tannins. Very giving and also serious but in a nurturing way. The Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 50th Harvest “Canalicchio di Sopra” 2015 barrel sample is a fist full or armistice, liquid cocoa limestone gold, in a desperate state and full of mineral of potential explosive nature and ready to spew graphite and chalk all over the place. It currently sits at 15.6 alcohol and 6.5 acidity. Crazy talk.

Lorenzo Magnelli

At Le Chiuse it was Lorenzo Magnelli who introduced us to a Montalcino speciality, the sparkling Stellare Rosé from the most recently planted vineyard (Pullera) at Il Greppo. This vineyard is destined for Le Chiuse Riserva when Lorenzo’s daughters will be making these wines. For now it’s a no dosage, picked three weeks early, two to three years on lees Rosé made from 100 per cent sangiovese. Quite a lot of sangiovese fruit with high acidity taking this into tart currant territory. An eight hour maceration and healthy hue extraction. Named for Lorenzo’s wife, Stella Renzetti. A wine that says “you can’t have a full barrel and a drunk wife at the same time.” All about happiness, in marriage and making sparkling wine.

Montalcino from Le Chiuse

The sangiovese made by Lorenzo Magnelli are not merely genetic ties to Biondi-Santi. They are without argument some of the most important and expressive Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in the territory. And they are produced for reasons so intrinsically correct the results perfectly fit the methods. Learning from Lorenzo is the best two hours you could ever hope to spend in Montalcino.

Poggiali

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona estate is located on the South East hillside of Montalcino, close to the medieval village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and to the famous Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is more than a storied estate and in fact lies in the heart of the Val d’Orcia Park, UNESCO World Heritage. In 1985, after the end of the Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona family, Giuseppe Bianchini took control of the winery that is managed today by his sons and nephews. That includes pro cyclist Paolo Bianchini who moved giros to switch paths en route to becoming one of Montalcino’s most important winemakers.

Poggio di Sotto

Luigina Villadei led us through Poggio di Sotto’s certified organic portfolio. The estate was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino and in 2011 became part of the ColleMassari family. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for a property that enjoys a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The same winemaking team of nearly three decades continue to produce sangiovese of great traditional and authentic construct. The sangiovese are timeless, unparalleled for this special part of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the rising of San Giorgio. Perpetual upholding for decades of generational standards.

Altesino

It would have been a great pleasure to spend another visit with Elisabetta Gnudi nevertheless at Altesino we sipped on aesthetic Palazzo Altesi, made from 100 per cent sangiovese. The barriques used to aged this Altesino IGT for 12-14 months change everything about the way the grape is expressed from Montalcino vineyards. Younger, less experienced fruit succumbs to the silky beauty and vanilla lushness for an elixir that’s just different than the local Rosso and Brunello, Call it international or what you will.

Leonardo Bellaccini

Thankful to Leonardo Bellaccini for driving down from Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti Classico to Campogiovanni in Montalcino to walk the San Felice vineyards and pour for us the Brunello only he can make. At San Felice’s Campogiovanni property we walked the vineyards with Leonardo Bellaccini and tasted Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Quercione out of the barrel. There is lift and bright character in 2017 despite the desiccation, concentration and aridity but this was well judged, especially in picking time so poly-phenolic ripeness matches the sugars. It’s big and brawny but curiously, magically and mysteriously carries ripe and ripping if round acids. It keeps everything buoyant and alive. There is 2016, a vintage with excess everything, namely fruit and tannin. This is the year where balsamico and vineyard notes speak louder, of Galestro, clay and calcari. There is more balance between all the parts even while the fruit acts deeper, broods more and talks with more barrel adjunct. Big vintage to be sure and will be long lived. 

Filippo Chia

Then there is Filippo Chia. Filippo’s father is painter and sculptor Sandro, considered the leading member (along with Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi) of the Italian Neo-Expressionist movement,  baptized as Transavanguardia by Achille Bonito Oliva. Sandro Chia bought Castello di Romitorio in 1984, producing his first vintage in 1987 from neighbours’ grapes, now the Loacker property. The Martinis, father and son, have been cellar masters at Romitorio for six generations. Said Sandro, “sangiovese aged for five years is the most extreme and also the most naive. It’s sweet and kind and are wines made by dreamers.” Surely one of Italy’s first expressionistic ideas after the unification of 1861, in 1868 it began with Biondi-Santi. Said Filippo. “Inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize sangiovese from Montalcino. I like a Brunello you can drink six months after release, after it’s five years of aging.”

I had been tasting Filippo Chia’s Castello Romitorio wines for a few years and so now it is this discourse, tasting and northwest Montalcino experience that brings it all together. Another sangiovese epiphany. Thanks for your time Filippo. Of dramatic note is the new vineyard Filippo has cleared for Romitorio’s future. You must stand on this rocky, deeply ferric red soil to understand the estate’s position and its future in Montalcino.

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

All visits to Montalcino should conclude at La Fattoria dei Barbi. Barbi has been owned by the Cinellí Colombini family in Montalcino since 1352. The property extends over 350 hectares (865 acres) of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino, Scansano and Chianti. Production of Brunello dates to 1892 and Barbi were the first to export it to Europe, America and Asia. Fattoria dei Barbi is now run by Stefano Cinelli Colombini, educator, historian, keeper of tales, lore, mythology and chosen one who continues a story that has seen the Colombini family connected to these lands for more than six centuries.

With Stefano Cinelli Colombini

Stefano Cinelli Colombini’s ability to relive and rejoice every iota of this territory’s history is the crux of everything Montalcino. His deeper understanding is what you need to know and is based in his family’s long time defence of the traditions and values of the culture of Montalcino, whose ultimate and most valuable fruit is the Brunello. A Montalcino education begins with Stefano Cinelli Colombini, in museums housed of edifice and in mind. What a visit.

The tasting notes

The following 56 tasting notes cover the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino tasted at the 13 estates we visited in October 2019. Hundreds more will follow when I visit Montalcino again in February 2020 for the next edition of Benvenuto Brunello.

Altesino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($27.95)

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (994095, $56.95)

From the vintage where agriculture, winemaking and now selling came and will come easy so you can expect the warm, fuzzy, generous and soft. Perhaps too straightforward to be what the powers that be call a five-star vintage but if Brunello is what you want or even what you think you need then begin or continue the journey right here. Very berry, ultra liquorice and über morbido. Soft, amenable and unencumbered. Positive but certainly not overbearing structure. A now and through mid-term years drinking Annata. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014 (994095, $56.95)

Making the most of the vintage and a quantity 20-30 per cent down from the norm there is a stoic, classic Altesino benchmark quality about the knowing impression derived. It’s just the thing, the feeling, the absolute confidence and polish and precision, out of fields, through winemaking and into glass. Fruit arises out of savoury ashes and ultimately there’s a sense of inclusion, amenability and proper consciousness. Good acids and fine tannins come about without any overbearing qualities. Fine work to no surprise. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015 ($121.95)

Expect more from Montsoli, open your mind and palate to the possibilities and 2015 will deliver more complex notions as it must and should. Always the savour, the rocks bleeding or rather in 2015 causing the fruit to bleed through acid structure and then tannins, ever-bearing and in charge. Not quite the power and ability of other vintages in this regard but still Montosoli generated. Also a mid-term prospect but clearly destined for a minimum 10 year run. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2014 ($121.95)

Montosli is so antithetical to the Annata, a Brunello cuvee that takes its fruit from a wide gamut of Montalcino sources. The northern Galestro-strewn hill brings brushy and bushy savour, a pinch of salt and plenty of site specific sapidity. The cherry aspect is replete with a charred sense of skins and a dusty, alloy bled feeling. Grippy, taut and structured. We’ll see about Montosoli from 2014 but you can bet on the house. The track record is undeniable. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012 (928028, $54.95)

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Bellaria

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

One year in Slavonian and French oak. In more than one way a deep and developed Rosso though when you look at the iron-rich Galestro vienayrds there’s little surprise. To many this would strike with Brunello immediacy and in fact many producers would make Brunello from this level of juice. There’s some VA though beneficial integration is the command and the order of its ways. Quite ferric and traditional with a salty, near volcanic-esque, certainly mineral vein. A tannic Rosso that will improve with two years time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Estate

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Remarkably alternative vintage for Gianni, fresher and more effusive to be clear and sure. Shows with great immediacy and tells a story of vintage variation, especially at altitudes like Bellaria (550-600m) and from soils so poor in organic materials. It’s luxe but also so perfumed, pretty and expressive. Just gorgeous Brunello with fine acidity and sweet tannins. The window will open wide sometime early in 2021 and stay that way for as much time as you need.  Drink 2021-2031. Tasted October 2019

View of Bellaria

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Spent 28 months in Slavonian and French oak. An extension from the Rosso in every respect; colour, depth, volatility, tannin and the edge of ripeness. The 550-600m of altitude would have been a problem in the past and was indeed in 2014 so don’t come here in search of lush, fruit bomb Brunello. This is sangiovese in requiem for years of time. It’s as grippy, firm, traditional and prim as you are ever going to taste. That said a few minutes of air brings about a swelling of liquid chalky texture. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Gianni Bernazzi and Assunto Peri

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2015

Stratified depth of vineyard layers are so controlling, the sangiovese classically styled, Gianni acting as messenger, custodian and shepherd for this place. It’s all here; Galestro, iron, Alberese, Arenaria, tradition, nonno Assunto and everyone else who made Brunello happen in Montalcino. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2013

Selection of grapes from the oldest (30 year-old) vineyard, 30 months in French oak. First produced in 2006 and now an ode to Gianni’s grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97. An ode now to a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original 16 at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community. Rich, luxurious, deeply traditional and long, with fine tannins and plenty of barrel feel. Old school, wood spiced and spread throughout the mouthfeel, though never cloying or misdirected. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted October 2019