L’Etna and Parco Statella saved my Sicilian quarantine

Quarantine Passegiata

A few weeks back I experienced humanity in the vacuum of a chat with a man as proficient a listener as he is eloquent as a speaker. As for his writing prowess well, any words I can conjure only drift in mimic of what rhythms his melodies play. I am of course talking about Andrew C. Jefford. I recited my Covid story to the British born, France habituating composer about my quarantine up aboard the northern slopes of L’Etna and in kind he tuned in with great intent. The next day, after clearly having further considered my experience, the writer encouraged my going public with a recounting of the tale.

Parco Statella by night

Working through a bout of Covid-19 has been for each of us a personally possessive experience. We had all spent months and for some the better part of two years assimilating information, growing concern and formulating speculation as to what would happen when we contracted the virus. We also wondered how we might affect others. My turn involved only a few close connections, first my fostering and nurturing Sicilian hosts and chaperones at Planeta Winery. Then, aboard the mountain, the gracious and obliging staff at Shalai in Lingualossa. And finally the man so effing effable that is winemaker Giuseppe Russo. Sorry for the viral transfer Giuseppe. Cute sorry smiley Vector Art Stock Images | Depositphotos

Il Guercio

Let us back track for just a couple of paragraph’s moment. Travelling companion, beautiful friend, articulate writer and persuasive speaker Michaela Morris and I are having lunch with Il Guercio, the one and the only Sean O’Callaghan at Osteria Le Panzanelle in Lucarelli, Radda in Chianti. It’s the first truly warm day of March and so Nada Michelassi creates a table for us on the terrace. Sean hails from the U.K. and is asked to peek indoors on a distinguished and clearly famous solo British diner but he returns after not immediately recognizing the man. A moment later, as if having silently swept in like an apparition, he’s standing over our table. “May I join you?” he inquires, a chair is pulled up, a glass of Tenuta di Carleone is poured and introductions are made.

Sean O’Callaghan, Jeremy King, Michaela Morris and Godello

He is Jeremy King, London’s most famous restauranteur and we are treated to a story of his 44 million euro court predicament with investors. Sean takes a bite of Tagliata and he is suddenly choking, up desperately and stumbling over the stones, grabbing at his throat, liquids evacuating wherever they can find an outlet, terrified face turning blue. Still seated, legs crossed and calm as a hindu cow, Mr. King asks, “would you like me to do the Heimlich maneuver on you?” Sean shakes his head up and down hard, the towery King gets behind him and with one hoomph! the steak is dislodged and expectorating details aside, Sean falls back into his chair in heaving breaths. He’s fine. Saved. Left to live another day and enjoy another plate of Tagliata. King is back in his chair, story immediately in resume. Four days later I’m in Catania testing positive, alerting Michaela and Sean who in turn, both test positive with 24 hours. Coincidence? Perhaps. Fair trade? Absolutely. Like it or not Michaela Morris, Sean O’Callaghan, Nada Michelassi and Jeremy King, we are all inextricably linked for the duration of our times.

It was the Tagliata

Related – The five estates of Planeta earth

Which brings us to Sicilia and more specifically, L’Etna. My adventures with the candid and talented Patricia Tóth are visually chronicled and well documented in my previous article. After testing positive in Catania the winemaker picked up the necessary provisions of sustenance and medication then drove back up the mountain to the volcano’s northern slope. There at Parco Statella I passed my isolation for 11 days, albeit in one of the universe’s most spectacular, spiritual and enlightening locations. A few days of feeling quite unwell beget short walks and then full on treks through the forests and vineyards of this edenic playground. Friends were made and relationships forged with three sheep. two horses, a donkey and several sweet dogs. I ambled through the landscape in a Covid fog as easily as children might slip into their weariness like the soothing water of a warm bath. The effort of subterfuge was no match for Parco Statella’s beauty.

Verdant Parco Statella

Only came outside to watch the nightfall with the rain. I heard you making patterns rhyme

As the symptoms waned and the sun continued to warm Versante Nord there arrived, a case at a time, the wines of Etna producers, first Planeta and Donnafugata, followed by a stream of others. I began to taste and write in earnest, soaking up the innate imperfections and precise perfections of Etna Bianco, Rosso and variations on the parochial theme. Then there was the care provided by Manuela Scala, a plate of provisions here, a sublime slice of cake there. These gestures nourished some withered essential part of myself as I sat on the weathered wrought iron chairs at the table in Parco Statella’s piazzetta. I would fall gratefully on a perfect slice of cake, on this human gesture of connection and to know fortune smiles upon us. On the morning of my departure a caffé in Manuela’s presence made cause for true emotion and then, with the wind circling L’Etna and over the stones of the courtyard I was gone.

Una fetta d’amore

In the Planeta article I detailed the wines of Menfi-Ulmo, L’Etna, Noto, Vittoria and Capo Milazzo. Please click on the link to that post (above) to review those 45 wines. Here are 55 more tasting notes from Girolamo Russo, Emiliano Falsini, Donnafugata, Graci, Calcagno, Scirto, Eduardo Torres, Tascante, Vigneti Vecchio and Azienda Agricola Sofia. The wines on L’Etna that helped saved my quarantine.

With Giuseppe Russo

Girolamo Russo

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC Nerina 2021

Giuseppe Russo’s Etna Bianco honours his mother Nerina. Made from younger plants, including some planted three or four years old, but only carricante. That said Giuseppe will likely also plant some more grecanico in the San Lorenzo Vineyard because he likes the linearity and verticality it gives to the carricante. The Nerina is a startling and invigorating Bianco, as fresh, available and precocious as any on Versante Nord, or likely anywhere on L’Etna for that matter. A seven days a week wine for which there can be no reason not to engage. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC San Lorenzo 2020

From the single vineyard at 730-740m of elevation and vinified in tonneaux. The 2009 was the first vintage of San Lorenzo Bianco for a wine that leads amongst the 80-90 thousand total bottles made by Giuseppe Russo from 18 hectares. A strong selection from the plants of carricante with cattaratto and grecanico. The carricante are the oldest and they provide the breadth in the mouth, the texture in unction and the presence that really makes you feel the vineyard. The difference between it and Nerina is really in the selection of the grapes. Giuseppe wants his whites to speak for his territory, here to be a bit more generous and 2020 obliges first because it was easier and second because it is such a vintage specific to the white wines. Such beauty and emotion is purity and life. No stress and a wine you want to drink. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosato DOC 2021

Only nerello mascalese partly because cappuccia has more colour but also less body, acid and tannin than mascalese. And so the mascalese is the red Rosato variety, especially in Etna’s northern sector. Yes of course this is salty Rosé but that’s a given and hardly the point. Why does Giuseppe make it? Because it’s molto versate, literally “very poured” but meaning always worthy of consumption. For food, especially in summer and at low alcohol. He also believes it can age in fact he’s tasting some older Rosato here and there as witnessed by bottles laying around. Trust when it is said that Etna Rosato is a special breed. Indeed. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC ‘A Rina 2019

First made in 2005 as the initial vintage for Giuseppe Russo and from more than one vineyard, inclusive of fruit from some of the younger vines as an assemblage of micro-vinifications. In terms of maceration Giuseppe only does 15 days, nothing close to the Piedmontese ways with nebbiolo, even if he adores those wines. So much freshness, red fruit forward vintage but also a linearity because these wines always carry some of this emotion. ‘a Rina can be consumed just about when you want to but carries a sort of structure that is subdola, sneaky enough to see it go long. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC Feudo 2019

Many generations have been here but the story really begins with Giuseppe’s grandfather Giovanni Massimino, who planted the vineyard Feudo. Diversity of the vines is a profound part of the growing on these terraces, especially with the old vineyards, in Feudo 70-80 years old and also some as old as 100. Nerello mascalese with five per cent nerello cappuccio from a single vineyard cru and here 20 days maceration, five days longer than the on skins time for ‘a Rina. Again a vintage that Giuseppe Russo is a big fan of, rich and luxe to a great degree yet broad and deeply spiced. The depth and complexity are quite profound. First vintage was 2006 for a Rosso that needs the bottle in the ways of great grapes all over Italy. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Home cooking by Tóth and Russo

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC San Lorenzo 2019

Giuseppe Russo’s father purchased San Lorenzo but Girolamo never bottled and sold off all the grapes. In 2003 Girolamo passed away. Giuseppe has worked with Emiliano Falsini from Toscana since 2005 and continues through to today. The selection is mainly from the vineyard’s highest point and it is in fact the largest at Girolamo Russo, making up seven of the 18 total hectares. Such a crunchy nerello mascalese though with plants up to 100 years old there are likely some other varieties mixed in for what is ostensibly a field blend. Also volcanic chalky (if there really is such a thing) and the one that reeks but also tastes of orange, mainly blood orange. While San Lorenzo may lack the richness of Feudo it does so much in terms of finezza and this after so much perfume. Fantastic vintage. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella fixer-upper

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC San Lorenzo 2017

From a vintage that was very warm, like the rest of Italy and you’d not be fully paying attention were you not to notice this in the wine. You have to wonder when the fruit was picked and indeed though the alcohol was high in September it was Giuseppe Russo who waited well into October to pick his grapes. They are ripe through and through, even if the weight lays low and intensity runs high. This is by far the biggest wine of five Rosso tasted but at its height there is balance and togetherness. Brilliance in the face of adversity, covered in spice is a beautiful thing. Drink earlier than some vintages but also be surprised as to where this may go. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso DOC Calderara Sottana 2018

A label that was started in 2007 and from a contrada on the perimeter of the Russo property. From a very difficult vintage and a wine completely different from both Feudo and San Lorenzo, also because the contrada is so very different. A much more lifted Etna Rosso, edgy with some volatility but the kind that you can imagine settling in with this carefully picked, selected, sorted and vinified fruit. There is a wildness about this fruit that is specific to place but also the tannins that are spicier, grippier and forceful. This one really wakes you up and keeps you on your toes. Mi sveglia! I am awake! Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022

With a roof right over our heads

Emiliano Falsini

Feudo Pignatone Etna Rosso DOC 2020

Feudo Pignatore, from Emiano Falsini, the name of the contrada on L’Etna’s north side. A vintage a bit like 2018, difficult though not quite in the league of that challenge. Beautifully perfumed, youthful for sure and quite compact. Crunchy Rosso, red fruit in the currant and pomegranate vein, high acidity and showing its barriques though as a lithe, transparent and lifted wine it does so with great ease. Creates a cinnamon heart type spiciness and then you feel the wood on the back end. Very curious contrada Rosso. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Covid penicillin

Feudo Pignatone Etna Rosso DOC Davanti Casa 2020

Feudo Pignatore, the name of the contrada on L’Etna’s north side and the small cru/single vinyeyard Rosso. This is the selection, smaller quantity from Emiliano Falsini and a whole ‘nother expression altogether, here the wood and fruit conspiring for a frutta di bosco experience but also one with toasted coconut. Barriques and tonneaux are used and because the fruit is deeper and richer there is more depth, doubled down concentration and a feeling of that wood, earlier and throughout. This will need much time and there is definitely an affinity with nebbiolo this time around. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022




Donnafugata Lighea 2021, DOC Sicilia

Lighea, Sicilian for “light” is varietal zibibbo (a.k.a. muscat of Alexandria) grown on the Island of Pantelleria off the southwestern Sicilian coast. Not unexpectedly high in citrus both juiced (lemon and orange) but also floral with orange blossoms the obvious, ostensible and uncanny notation. So bright and popping, brimming with pressed acidity and waxy, spritzed, airy and vaporous of sea spray. Sun, afternoon and vacation are three words that easily come to mind. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2019, Passito Di Pantelleria DOC

Ben, as in “son of” and Ryé, a Sicilian riff on the concept of making strong mocker from the wheat grass. Think of grapes instead, in this case zibibbo (muscat of Alexandria) grown off the southwestern coast of Sicily on the Island of Pantelleria. Passito di Pantelleria DOC is one of the world’s great sweet wines, found only on this windswept promontory where the grapes concentrate, drink in the sea and express a view to which only this place commits. The warmest of vintages develops and comprises these particular sugars into something surreal. Extraordinary orange-ginger crème brûlée, perfectly embittered and made viscous in the most natural of ways. Layers of dedication and spice, health affirming herbs, respiratory fixing drops and sweetness captured, effortlessly and to gift plaisir. Apricots ripe and glazed, zen zero limone, giusto intenso. Nearly perfect. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Vineyards

Contessa Entellina Estate

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Rosé 2021, DOC Sicilia

Donnafugata makes two Rosato, one from Etna and this on the northern side of the Contessa Entellina Estate. A blend of nerello mascalese and nocera, two apposite varieties, one being the Dolce and the other Gabbana. Together they combine for exotic fragrance but also sweet candied florals, cottony feels and salty streaks right on through. Healthy acids easily deal with, mitigate and assimilate whatever sugars might want to express themselves but truthfully they only come out in the aromatics, rising at dusk and bleeding into night. Can’t think of a time when this Rosato would fail to please. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Contrada Statella

Donnafugata Anthìlia Bianco 2021, DOC Sicilia

What’s in a name? Anthilìa is the name given to the city of Entella on the top of the Rocca in Roman times. As a Bianco it is composed of the local (Contessa Entellina Estate) lucido, known in other parts of Sicily as catarratto, blended with other unnamed autochthonous and international varieties. Regardless of the bit parts there is no questioning Anthilìa’s tart, tight and citrus to mineral posit tug of Sicilian style. There is an herbal quality in sweet basil or chervil typology but lemon-lime meeting salty stones halfway is really where it’s at. Beck and call, “a place we saw, the lights turn lo. The jigsaw jazz and the get-fresh flow.”  Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sur Sur 2021, DOC Sicilia

Sur Sur is varietal grill0 from Donnafugata’s Contessa Entellina Estate in southwestern Sicily. More lemon and less mineral as compared to Anthilìa though sunshine is at an all time high. Sur Sur as in “On On” or in Italian Su Su. Like the lights and more to the point the sun, filling and lighting up this grillo. Light up the grill and throw on some fishes, large shrimps, even a squid or three. Sur Sur will compliment, alight and walk astride. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d’Avola 2020, DOC Sicilia

Sherazade, or Scheherazade is the fictional wife of a sultan and the narrator of the tales in the Arabian Nights. The Nero d’avola is taken from western Sicily’s Contessa Entellina Estate and nearby vineyards. Mixed cultures’ spice and exotica are the aromatic potpourri this calls home and nothing else scents as this. Nothing else is also so inviting, casting its varietal line and reeling you in to inhale, sip, smile and exhale. Red wine as aperitivo, unencumbered, calming and even a little bit divine. Track three, The French Dispatch, Alexandre Desplat. Drink 2022-2025.   Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Tancredi 2017, Terre Siciliane IGT

Tancredi, that exceptional Italian name is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, local nero d’Avola, tannat and ”other grapes,” field-ish so to speak, born in Donnafugata’s place of origin, Contessa Entellina Estate. Deeper in barrel, fruit substance, time and thought. All varieties well put, organized and once in conflagration now smouldering seamlessly together. What may have been an ignited engine of brush, tar and pressed juices is still tight and intense, raging in acidity and just now emerging with local style. Plenty of savour too, a western Sicilian kind, challenging the olfactory, making a concerted request for more time. Bordeaux, Madiran and Santa Margherita di Belice mixed, matched and melded together. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Parco Statella by day

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 2018, Rosso Sicilia DOC

Mille E Una Notte (1001 nights), a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, a.k.a. the Arabian Nights. A Contessa Entellina Estate near Santa Margherita di Belice blend of nero d’Avola, petit verdot, syrah and in the typical Donnafugata field blend idiom, also inclusive of “other grapes.” The deepest and most profound if brooding and structured of the estate’s reds while also hauntingly familiar, succulent and beautiful. Clearly one of Sicily’s most age-worthy red wines, reeking of roses and steaming in highlands acidities. To say tasting 2018 this early in its tenure does little to open the gates of knowledge or pleasure would be a vast understatement but these many nights hint at hidden treasure, meaning and the aforementioned beauty. A serious wine with endless time laid out ahead. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted April 2022


Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2019, Etna Rosso DOC

The Rosso from L’Etna’s northern slope near Montelaguardia is essentially nerello mascalese though there is a small percentage of cappuccio involved. From vineyards adjacent the stunning Parco Statella to the east of the village of Passopisciaro. Alberello-trained vines mix with volcanic rock terraces, grazing sheep and the wild ferla. Really quite precise varietal, location and lava coming together in a Rosso that exhibits the limit of Etna’s volcanic savour. Really brushy and herbal, fruit singing a ripe acid song, slinging arrows of basaltic intensity, creating a true to form and peace experience. A broad brushstroke of Etna Nord and yet one with vim, victory and relish. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2019, Etna Bianco DOC

Sul Vulcano, below L’Etna on the north slope, 100 per cent estate grown carricante adjacent the Parco Statella in Montelaguardia. Classic varietal profile, at once rich and then salty, volcanic soils and elevation so very present, buoyant and presenting this dramatic white wine. Richer and riper than some, vintage related and directed to be sure. Not so much croccante as much as being scorrevole for carricante, mid-palate and aromatic twin split between pomelo-mandarin and ferla-broom. Some structure here so wait a year and drink through the decade. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Vineyards adjacent Parco Statella

Donnafugata Fragore Contrada Montelaguardia 2019, Etna Rosso DOC

The single vineyard Fragore is an Etna Rosso out of the Montelaguardia contrada that announces itself with an ascoltami ruggire, in other words a roar. But a quietly controlled one, like a lion resting, expressing its content with the moment, using voice to engage, not warn. Take the Etna Rosso normale, improve and compress upon it multi-fold, concentrate all that savour, hillside naturalism and herbology, take things to an entirely unimaginable next level. This is the roar of Fragore, in control of emotions and sensibilities. Like a passegiata through Parco Statella on a windy Etna Spring day. An impressive vintage if just a bit barrel controlled, intimating fine chocolate and dusty espresso, needing time to integrate. Drink 2024-2031. Tasted April 2022


Donnafugata Floramundi 2019, Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG

As per the Sicilian DOCG a blend of nero d’avola and frappato grown in the southeastern sector, the latter made deeper and more profound by the former. What may be lost in sheer consumer attack-ability is gained through strength and vigour. Cerasuolo is meant to concentrate but also percolate, simmering two complimentary varieties in liquid layers, increasingly volumetric and akin to new thought music in a red blend of moods. No Donnafugata’s does not exist by dint of such pressed heights because it persists in airy, openly fragrant and flute singing tones. A best of both worlds appellative juncture is met, acquiesced and compressed. Give it time or simply air to enjoy. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Donnafugata Bell’Assai 2020, Vittoria DOC Frappato

Pure frappato from southeastern Sicily, fragrant and perfumed to the proverbial hilt and so bloody inviting. The freshest of summer strawberries, violets at peak and if aromatics could talk they would say hello. Juicy and justifiably tart, those peppery florals candied, inclusive of pansy and nasturtium. A veritable bouncing, fanciful and buzzing throttle frappato yet so easy to sip back. Inspiring. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022


Graci Etna Bianco DOC 2021

Graci’s viticultural epicentre is Contrada Arcurìa but they also grow in four other Etna north communes. The all-purpose Bianco is 85 per cent carricante with (15) catarratto harvested mid-October (on average) and raised in only stainless steel for nine months, on the lees. My how those lovely lees drive this wine, texturizing the local grapes and directing all the traffic. Rarely does an Etna Bianco recall Chablis but here is one in all glory and reminiscence. Fresh, luxe fruit round and abounding, mild yogurt to crème frâiche character derived by the infiltrations of those positive yeasts. Just salty enough to remind of the place in a generalized and beneficial way. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Parco Statella friends

Graci Etna Rosato DOC 2021

Etna Rosato comes from 100 per cent mascalese and the only grapes harvested in September. Just a soft press, no skin contact maceration and ultimately a salty, easy, light and rustic rose coloured meeting flavoured mingling with texture Rosato. Just what you want to drink in the sun, anytime after 11:00 am, preferably with the volcano looming above. Or anywhere the sun might hit in your place of living. Meets the non-plussed demands of delicious and satisfying, two most important blush ideals. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC 2020

From Alberto Graci in Passopisciaro, with vineyards in five contrade, Feudo di Mezzo, Santo Spirito, Mugnazzi, Arcurìa and Barbabecchi. A spontaneous varietal nerello mascalese in every way, from fermentation through emotive spirit. Smells like L’Etna by way of 18 months spent in grandi botti (tini), fruit skin musky, salumi curative and mint-scented without being minty. Fine acid crunch and fruit persistence, intensity yet in control, driven and determined. Clearly top echelon Rosso untethered to any one specific tract of contrada soil. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Bianco DOC Arcurìa 2020

Arcurìa is central to Graci’s farm and work, a contrada location on L’Etna’s northern slope at 600 to 700m of elevation. For Bianco only carricante is used, harvested mid-October, half in small wood and half in stainless, 12 months on lees followed by 12 in bottle. As a cool and windy place it refreshes, revitalizes and breathes great air into the carricante, joining forces with the multifarious volcanic soils to instil great salinity and ariosità in the Bianco. Even though it sees longer lees aging as compared to the normale there is less frâiche and more freshness but also depth, determination and desire. Great bite, snap and acutezza. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Bianco DOC Muganazzi 2020

Mugnazzi is Graci’s secret weapon property, five and a half hectares in Passopiscaro, once owned by Ettore Majorana, the “brilliant and mysterious gentleman.” Three of those are planted to carricante at 700m, harvested around the same time as Arcurìa, destined to shake, rattle and roll this Etna Bianco. Takes the grape and volcano to the next level, both in mineral salinity but also luxuriousness of substantial, fleshy and concentrated fruit. The most aromatic of the bianci, orchard and even exotics mingling with sea, lava and air. There is no end or conclusion to this Mugnazzi for it is both inspiring and one to take a breath away. Very special Etna Bianco indeed. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa 2019

Arcurìa is the homefront contrada location, flagship vineyard, late harvested nearing October’s finish and 100 per cent nerello mascalese. In the middle of 600 and 700m, on five types of layered volcanic mille-feuille, connected to the village of Passopisciaro. The best mascalese plants and rows are chosen for this single contrada Rosso, an Etna that takes the cumulative Rosso to a higher level of focus, preciseness and northerly understanding. This IS Graci, fruit and cure like a recipe passed down through generations, even if Alberto Graci is the family pioneer, at least in this place. Lightly chalky tannins present a structured notion for a Rosso that must be, has to be, can only be Arcurìa. Textured to settle on the palate and fortified just enough to explain something extra about the land. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022\

Walking on basalt

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Feudo Di Mezzo 2019

In Feudo di Mezzo a wholly antithetical experience is had, ninety degrees to the west from full on northerly Arcurìa, ancient and early vines of 80 years or more growing at 600m, sharing the already tiny 1.5 hectare space with free and sky reaching nerello cappuccio growing as alberello. The oppositional character does not end there, what with the finer soils, less volcanic variegation and earlier to ripen location. And so the (95 per cent) nerello mascalese plus cappuccio Rosso is blessed of fruit breadth, round, circulating and enriching acidity, not to mention luxurious tannins. Feudo di Mezzo makes for some of the volcanic idiom’s most generous and lavish Rosso with this by Graci up there with the best. Longer maceration and full acceptance of the large barrels make this a most impressive Rosso to gain and gather friends. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022


Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa Sopra Il Pozzo 2017

Sopra il Pozzo describes a special portion of the signature Arcurìa vineyard (and contrada of the same name), a block “above the well,” 100 per cent nerello mascalese picked in the last week of October. Treated to the same maceration and elévage as the Rosso for the same spontaneous style and time as Feudo di Mezzo. However Sopra il Pozzo’s refuse soil composition is different and requires patience in the name of time, due to its alternating layers of decomposed volcanics in stone and coarse sand. This is a section of recast material and the corresponding mascalese is both emasculated and chivalrous. The degree to which layers of fruit, mineral and umami incorporare and completare is finite and contiguous yet also lengthy, scorrevole and endless. There is rare Etna glycerin texture and perfectly timed acid tang. tempismo perfetto. Grande. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted April 2022


Calcagno Etna Bianco DOC Ginestra 2020

Ginestra, a.k.a Genista aetnensis, the Mount Etna broom. A no wood, only stainless Etna Bianco spent time on lees and yet freshness of airy and open character abounds. And so a saltiness and a mineral wealth mix with typically lime blossom floral and spicy scents. Classic unadulterated and naked carricante, citrus streaking, tight, tart and satisfying. Could drink and relish this Bianco seven days a week. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno Etna Bianco Superiore DOC Primazappa 2019

Primazappa comes from the commune of Milo, incidentally the only Etna area where it is allowed to bottle as Etna Bianco Superiore. A varietal carricante off of 30-40 year-old vines grown on both alberello and spalliera at 850m, picked in late September. The volcanic soils are quite weathered, decomposed and sandy, with a decided micro-mineral effect on this wood-aged and seriously flinty Bianco. Takes on a whole new appellative and stylistic meaning, clearly designed to age and enter another new Bianco world apart. Simultaneously smouldering and buzzing with mineral salts, fleshing if not yet quite fleshy. The curiosity and potentiality factors in this Bianco are developing and climbing off the charts. A bit wild now, it should settle into something really special. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Sicilian blood orange for what ails

Calcagno Etna Rosato DOC Romice Delle Sciare 2020

Romice refers to a Sicilian grass species and delle Sciare literally “of skiing” so clearly a Rosato referencing the flora and also the high Etna slopes. A north side, salty, sapid and pink pink citrus slinging nerello mascalese, infinitely fulfilling and drinkable. Acids sling right along and balance is had by all, including sugars and fragrant fruits. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno is the life work of Franco, Gianni and Giusy Calcagno, two brothers and a daughter, first vintage being 2006, now a full grown concern. From the Contrada Calderara the mixed soil consists of black pumice and basalt. Perhaps made most famous by Cottanera but never sleep on the passion and torch passing into this generation of Calcagno hands. Cherries and red fruit in concentration could never be dismissed and in fact must be celebrated in a nerello mascalese of sweet intoxication. I really wanna know this Rosso, I really wanna go with this mascalese, my sweet Calderara. Fresh and grounded, effusive and espansivo, meeting at both poles, one mission gained. Implosive Rosso from the famiglia and one to savour after many other wannabes have walked heavy in their soles and commercialized their souls. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022


Calcagno Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa 2019

Arcurìa contrada is a late October harvested cru for nerello mascalese grown at elevations between 600 and 700m, on five types of multi-layered volcanic soils associated with the village of Passopisciaro. The Calcagno profile is consistent with Calderara in red fruit as if cherries especially are prominent and yet sour-savoury and botanical tonic elements change the complexion of this particular Rosso. Less generous and effusive if more serious and even structured results. No, not the same wine at all, even if it is distinguished as being from Calcagno. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Calcagno Etna Rosso DOC Feudo Di Mezzo 2019

Feudo di Mezzo is neither Calderara nor Arcurìa, here much smaller plots of alberello vineyards with their twisted and ancient vines 60, 70 even 80 years or more growing at 600m.The nerello msacalese often shares space with less dominant and texture thickening cappuccio but most notable is the salumi and red fruit skin musk aromatics of these Rosso. There is nothing like Feudo di Mezzo, characterful, distinct, knowable and just plain funky. In a 70s bass beat way, not quite G.Q. but perhaps Love Train style. Calcagno’s is really special FdM, reaching for greatness and making itself noticed. Don’t sleep on this cru “‘cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you, well.” Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022


Scirto Don Pippinu Bianco Carricante 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

From the Contrada Feudo di Mezzo and also Contrada Porcaria, at 650m on L’Etna’s north slope, planted in the 1930s. Soils are black volcanic sand, sub-acidic, skeletal, rich in potassium and poor in organic matter. Don Pippinu is a name attributed to Giuseppe Scirto’s grandfather and the wine is made from carricante, catarratto and white minnella. Ages for 10-12 months in steel and in the bottle. Just a raw white assemblage with no strings attached save for 100 years of history and a little bit of skin contact. No volatile distraction to speak of but yes this wine settles on the palate like a dissolving citrus, chamomile and orange blossom salve. Not loathe but perhaps reticent to use the word natural though how else to explain this thing of delicasse, elixir of kind heart and vial of virility. Acids are purely substrata drive, flavours layered by lava and mixed white grapes so in touch with one another’s realities. Peak performance happens late, often and with persistence. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Scirto All’Anticas Vino Della Tradizione Nerello Mascalese 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

The term is “Rosso della Tradizione” or “Vino della Tradizione,” in other words Rosato. You have to look at and consider tradition where a certain style of Rosato is concerned and in Etnean terms this is a wine that must also be looked at under a Rosato lens. Still a matter of ungrafted 80-100 year old nerello mascalese (here with some cappuccio) subjected to 36 hours of skin contact. Where this diverges from a wine like the Don Pippinu Rosso is in the foggy, murky, uncharted, uncooked and untested waters of varietal sensitivity. And aromatics, here rising, inciting and inviting investigation. There is also a matter on minor Brettanomyces not present in the other Scirto wines. So yes tradition is on display, as is an unbending relationship for which control and sulphuring are not going to happen. Terrific aromatic display, mostly floral but also old vines and volcanic induced fruit substance but the palate is a world apart and to its own. That said it oscillates, wavers and delivers new complexities each and every time sipped. Curiosity takes on a whole new meaning. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted April 2022

Un’altra fetta d’amore

Scirto Don Pippinu Rosso Nerello Mascalese 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

Scirto is the work of Giuseppe Scirto and Valeria Franco near Passopisciaro, with grapes since 2010 and from vineyards inherited from their grandparents. They have vines in Feudo di Mezzo and Porcaria, mainly nerello mascalese. Don Pippinu comes from a tiny plot of ungrafted 80-100 year old nerello mascalese and nothing off of the north slope of Mount Etna resembles what’s in this glass. Throws a light sediment, its hue is orange sky pastel at dawn and a flirtatious volatility marks the nose. Opens to an earthy if wild berry fragrance and then the salty-geological basaltic rock energy alights, if of a purpose to wake up the palate. Do not be fooled into any commercial space or domain for this is a natural expression of the Feud di Mezzo zone. Not on purpose mind you but a Rosso that is precise and as was unintentionally intended. So much beauty in the complexion of its flaws, a taste into the mirror of what is necessary and also possible. Wouldn’t age this too long but can think of many, many wine geeks who could crush the bottles of such a quietly provocative Rosso. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Scirto A’Culonna Rosso Nerello Mascalese 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

monument in the centre of the nearby village of Passopisciaro. The volcanic stone was a three-sided carved obelisk indicating directions, to and from Milazzo, Taormina, Randazzo and Palermo. La Colonna was also the meeting place where peasants stopped for a chat and at the same time sold their wine. For Giuseppe Scirto and Valeria Franco it is predominantly nerello mascalese with some cappuccio picked in early October. Fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks using only natural yeasts, then aged 12 months in large and small used oak casks. Not filtered or fined with minimal use of sulphur at bottling. Clearly the most textural, glycerin and fruit pretty Rosso in Giuseppe Scirto’s Siciliane shed, flowers distilled into perfume, curious berry caramels swirling through the flavour profile. The swarthiness while there is perfectly seasoned and in check, the lasting impression is good, intuitive and reasoned one. A’Culonna is the bomb. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoltore Versante Nord Uve Bianche 2020, Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT

The white counterpart to the “north slope” cousins is this from old vineyards in six different districts: Pietramarina, Allegracore, Piano Daini, Friera, Zucconero and Marchesa. The red nerello mascalese dominates but the vines are always inclusive of 10-15 per cent white grapes. In this case half minnella (Bianca) equalized and complimented by (50) other endemic varieties, as in carricante, catarratto, inzolia and grecanico. Fine sands of volcanic ash are the product of various and recent lava eruptions. The “Uve Bianche” expresses purposeful clarity and seriously rich Etna intendment, giving away a fleshy and controlled lees-effected texture. The weave has melted and so the seamlessness with which this drinks is second to none. A white of glaze and shine, implosive acid zing and explosive flavour bursts. It’s bloody delicious, so expertly assembled and crafted, professionally and yet subtly designed. Saying yes to this glass is akin to being paid for telling people what you already know. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoltore Versante Nord Nerello Mascalese 2020, Terre Siciliane IGT

Versante Nord, literally “north slope” is nerello mascalese (plus 15 per cent “varietà locali,” in other words nerello cappuccio and friends) from old (50-plus years) vines of the Pietramarina districts in Verzella, Capreri in Castiglione di Sicilia, Zucconero, Piano Daini in Solicchiata, Allegracore in Randazzo and Friera in Linguaglossa. The land is obviously volcanic, of mixed stones, sand and ashes from eruptions, several quite recent. Natural farming and fermentation, picked in the first two weeks of October and a 15 day, free to its own devices skin maceration. This gives the VS a raw feeling but truth be told the Rosso perfectly straddles the lines between the exposed and the sheltered, the volatile and the calm. Tart yet sweetly scented red fruits, edging to pomegranate but also a woven fabric in the mouth that suggests chalkiness, bend-ability and structure. Persistence is the surname, braiding the middle and “ascesa” the given. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticoultore Quotan Vino Di Contrada Piede Franco 2020, Rosso Terre Siciliane IGT

Quotan as in “quota” is an apt moniker, a part or personal share, easily discerned for producers on L’Etna and what land they have to use. The wine comes from an old vineyard in Piede Franco, in the Contrada Nave, on the northwest slope of the volcano. Quota N is also the name of the vineyard, Q being the stamp of locally known “roads quota nave.” A most unique assemblage, of half nerello mascalese, 20 per cent grenache and (30) uve bianche, of grecanico, carricante and coda di volpe. Allegedly if obviously lighter, brighter and airy finer than Versante Nord, multi citrus strewn and waxy with both yellow and red citrus giving it all away. Neither Rosato nor full on Rosso, nor somewhere in between but residing all on its own. Not a structured wine but wouldn’t put 10 years past it without something interesting happening, eventually leading to curiosity and pleasure. Crushable in any case, like semi-soft lemonade in the best way. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022


Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Pianodario 2019

The vineyard was planted at 775m in 2010 in the contrada of Pianodario, one of four on the northern slope of Mount Etna, between the villages of Montelaguardia and Randazzo. Characterized by a degrading morphology from south to north on volcanics 15,000 and 4,000 years old. It is believed that the substrata is between 40,000 and 30,000 years of age. Pure nerello mascalese here is one of the latest picked in the last days of October, treated to a year in large Slavonian cask. Imagine sangiovese from somewhere like Montalcino but in this varietal world the lightness of being is palpable but also so accepting of the wood. If ever a mascalese from Etna were spoken in pure Sicilian blood orange terms this would be it. Tart yet never sour nor do you feel the acids in any sharp or inflammatory way. Really just purity and clarity, a well seasoned glass that comes from ripe fruit meeting nurturing barrel with the result being one of energy and spirit. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Sciaranuova 2019

Sciaranuova is located between the villages of Montelaguardia and Passopisciaro at 730m and is one of the four contrade (districts) farmed by Tasca on northern Mt. Etna. The terraces of nerello mascalese were planted in 2008 and are generally harvested a week earlier than Piandorio. Less intense, more calming, acids not as sharp and fruit more developed in a Rosso of great stage presence and nurturing feel. Acts with less emotion and more control, delivers the kind of perfume that makes you close your eyes to consider and inhale. Pure wild strawberry and while surely airy and stone-cut there is always something of ease about this wine. Spice in the form of nutmeg and then cinnamon heart give a light white peppery edge but all turns to liquid, seamlessly integrated and finishing long. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted April 2022

Tasca’s Tascante vineyard

Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Rampante 2019

This third of three Contrade Rosso farmed and bottled by Tasca on Etna is from a vineyard at 740m between Solicchiata and Passopisciaro. Same volcanic geological time period (between 15,000 and 4,000 years old) but a bit of a swing here towards the east, direction Feudo di Mezzo. Some really old vines exist here and Tasca’s are planted in 2000, making them eight to ten years older than Piandario and Sciaranuova. Also picked a bit earlier, stylistic tighter, wound and wrapped, like a rounded Napoleon or mille-feuille with so much to unravel, uncover and discover. Neither blood orange nor strawberry here but rather currants and pomegranate, with underlying botanical tonics and a layer of organza material. Increased curiosity, elevated enigma and mysteries to unfold. Wait longer on Rampante. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Contrada Rampante


Tascante Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Sciaranuova 2017

Northwesterly Sciaranuova at 730m is found between the villages of Montelaguardia and Passopisciao. These gently sloping terraces of nerello mascalese went in the volcanic soil in 2008 and harvest usually occurs in the second to last week of October. One nose of 2017 and one understands about vintages and also time. If 2019 Sciaranova feels like a nurturing and health affirming nerello mascalese than 2017 writes the proverbial book on the subject. The warmth of the season is to thank but so is two extra years of settling in bottle time. A fleshing and a reckoning have taken place but so have a refreshing and an awakening. It could be thought that ’17 would not have shown this fragrant, open and vital just a year ago but now, well something of a next level rejoicing has occurred. The ’17 is in a right honest, pure and giving place. It should remain here for three, possibly even five years deeper. All this bodes so well for the most excellent ’19. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Vigneti Vecchio

Vigneti Vecchio Etna Doc Rosso Sciare Vive 2020

From Solicchiata on the northeastern slope and the work of Carmelo Vecchio, mainly nerello mascalese with 10 per cent indigenous varieties (including minnella, inzolia, carricante, grecanico, catarratto and malvasia.) As per the disciplinare there can be up to 10 white grapes and in this living, scorrevole sledding Sciare Vive they bring lift, refreshment and a glide across the palate. Takes a page out of the Crasà book with some meaty juices but here they run rare, show little cured meat character and just bloody enliven the energy and spirit of this wine. There is some sneaky structure lurking but my you could really sip the you know what out of this blessed Rosso. Youthfulness does show through in a minor amount of austerity at the finish so let this ’20 rest a while. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Vigneti Vecchio Etna DOC Rosso Crasà Contrada 2019

Carmelo Vecchio and Rosa La Guzzaone farm one hectare of nerello mascalese in Crasà Contrada near Solicchiata on L’Etna’s north slope. Picked later in October, a wild ferment and a quick two week maceration on skins. Adds up to a stylish and perfumed Rosso, vibrant, pulsating and alive. The aromatics are curiously akin to the tightest lambrusco but with running meat juices, tonic, savour and pinpointed local accuracy. Cured meats too, impulsive and implosive fruit internment, definite block of a Contrada’s location intendment, trenchant in many purposed splendour. This Rosso means business and directs its own traffic. No affection or heirs, only truth out of Crasà effectuation. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2020

The eponymous north Etna winery is run by Carmelo Sofia, son to Gioacchino who was born in 1953 in Castiglione di Sicilia. Dad had inherited vineyards in Solicchiata where the Piano dei Daini Contrada is located. Carmelo now has three hectares, two on that volcanic soil and one on clay in the Pietramarina Contrada, just outside of the village. This is vintage number four, all nerello mascalese grown at 600-700m. La Vigna di Gioacchino comes from Piano dei Daini and also Pietramarina, averaging out at 25 years, picked middle of October. Short skin contact, aging in concrete and as a result a level of kept freshness, but also the living, breathing feeling of cured meats and musky red fruit skins. No overt or purposeful structure but a true, honest and highly enjoyable Rosso experience. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2019

The 2019 was Carmelo Sofia’s third vintage in bottle, here from the label dedicated to his father Gioacchino and drawn from the two parcels he farms on Etna’s north slope. Both the volcanics of Piano dei Daini and the clay of Pietramarina Contrada contribute but in 2019 they are so entangled, meshed and together. A terrific vintage to match flesh against bone, substance versus karst and meaty depth in tandem with mineral sway. A brighter and more lifted Gioacchino as compared to 2020, sure it’s got another year under belt but here the layers coordinate and open. Ready for business. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Lava Flow of L’Etna eruption, 1981

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Piano Dei Daini 2020

L’Etna’s north slope is the face of Contrada Piano dei Daini, here being the second vintage for which Carmelo Sofia decided to bottle as a single vineyard Rosso. The block is 65 year-old Alberello nerello mascalese that remains in contact with the skins a half week longer than Gioacchino and again there is no wood, only concrete for aging. Piano dei Daini straddles two worlds like few Etna Rosso can; swarthiness and clarity, lift and precision. Hard not to feel the volatility but it’s just so perfectly judged at the edge of the precipice in teasing, flirting and sly fashion. Whether intentional or nor it matters little because the ability to please both sides of that debate make this a deliciously risky and rewarding nerello mascalese. Confident and obvious, swagger and humility. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Azienda Agricola Sofia Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Piano Dei Daini 2019

The Contrada Piano dei Daini is on L’Etna’s north slope and Carmelo Sofia first made the decision to bottle a single vineyard/commune Rosso from the oldest (65 year-old) Alberello nerello mascalese in the previous ’18 vintage. Stays in contact with the skins a few days longer but again no wood is used, only concrete for aging. This went to bottle in September of 2021 but it still exhibits a reticence and hesitation to lift. The fruit is leathery and you feel a hidden musk pungency, a fruit meets salumi skin so typical of this vineyard and the volcanic strata it breathes upon. Great potential here, a year and a half away it would seem, before the florals, flavours and highlights begin to align and alight. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted April 2022

My friends are so lazy

Azienda Agricola Sofia La Vigna Di Gioacchino 2021, Terre Siciliane Bianco IGT

Carmelo Sofia’s Bianco scents of a singular set of circumstances and aromas, in part taken from 60-70 year-old Alberello carricante with a few percentage points of catarratto, minella and inzolia. Drawn from Piano dei Daini (volcanic) and also Pietramarina (clay) on the northern Etna range, picked late in September and staying in touch with the lees for the full five months in tonneaux. The crème frâiche quality and lemon curd viscosity are not as in charge as first thought with some (four months) of steely stainless extra time making sure to keep freshness and juicy behaviour a clear and present part of the style. Battles the urge to swirl in yogurt and comes away clean, chewy but clean. Seems like a work in progress to a certain extent, four years into its tenure, with great focus and precision to come. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Arrividerci bella Sicilia

Good to go!


Quarantine Passegiata

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

Interactions and conversations with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini over the years have been some of the most pleasurable and heartwarming, but most importantly they have been so very real. Violante’s approach is somewhere between extremely charming and matter of fact, specifically as it pertains to family history, Montalcinese culture and wines being made from two Tuscan estates. Her manner is inclusive and honest, her inherited view of societal matriarchy readily apparent. After all she is the daughter of Donatella Cinelli Colombini, founding mother, goddess and pioneering vigneron of Montalcino.

Godello and Violante

Donatella is the sister of Stefano Cinelli Colombini, proprietor of Fattoria dei Barbi, one of Montalcino’s most important and longest tenured, ancient estates. In 1998 she cast out on her own in the northern sector of Montalcino at the estate of Casato Prime Donne, the first Italian winery staffed entirely by women. In the Orcia Valley sits the second estate called Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. Back in 1998 a cellar master was needed but none were available. That is to say no unemployed men were in search of such a job. This sparked Donatella’s quest. To hire only women, promote equal representation and give life to the Progetto Prime Donne that is made up of four components: Casato Prime Donne winery, Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne, Casato Prime Donne Award and Prime Donne Trail – Ilda Bartoloni Hall.

In 1998 Donatella Cinelli Colombini created a new estate giving it her name while incorporating two properties into one brand; Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. In 2001 and 2002 the two wineries were inaugurated and 34 hectares of vineyard were almost entirely replanted. Donatella’s husband Carlo Gardini was born in Siena and in 2010 concluded his banking career in Florence at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro where he had been in charge of training personnel for the Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo branches. Which brings us to Violante, born in Montalcino in 1984 and graduated in Business and Economics at the University of Florence. After her Masters at OIV (International Organization of Vines and Wine) that took her all around the most famous viticulture areas of the world she now works in the marketing sector of her mother Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s wines. In 2008-2009 she was Tuscan president of the Leo (young Lions). From 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs). In December 2019 she was elected President of AGIVI.

Heart marks the barrel

Sustainability and the Casato Prime Donne Awards

“Many wineries are committed to sustainability but few are capable of communicating it because they make ethical choices out of conviction and not out of marketing.” Donatella is a keen observer of women studying the work of other women, in this case a case project carried out by (Valpolicella’s) Marta Galli of Le Ragose at Milan’s University of the Sacred Heart, together with professors Roberta Sebastiani and Alessia Anzivino. The study in 2021 concluded that for many producers (in this case female producers) showed great respect for the environment and support for local communities, but as a way of living and working, not a marketing tool. Eco-sustainable choices are more widespread than they appear because they are not put in the spotlight. Donatella’s ultimate conclusion? “Choices regarding environmental, social and economic sustainability are part of us, of our way of being and are not dictated by marketing. I like to think that it is a widespread attitude, especially among women.”

Nature and nurture of Casato Prime Donne

After a two year Covid hiatus the 22nd annual Casato Prime Donne Awards were presented to three Italian journalists, given to those who have contributed to the affirmation of the new role and new contribution of women to society and the world of work. “The award has now the new “mission” of incubator of local talents. The goal is to stimulate young Tuscan people, strengthening their motivations, giving training and visibility opportunities so that their success becomes a positive example for their peers.” Chiara Beghelli was chosen for the podcast on “Il Sole 24 Ore” on 23.01.2022 in which she talks about Brunello di Montalcino following the Wine Intelligence investigation. The second recipient was Aldo Fiordelli for numerous articles including “Il Divin Brunello now also has its temple,” published in the newspaper “Corriere Fiorentino” on 10-07-2021. The third winner was Elena Testi, who covered the Covid front, then migrants and then Ukraine for Tagadà La7.

Theatre in the cellar

After a trip to Abruzzo this past June I made my way up to Montalcino for the Rosso Anteprima. Over the last several years I had tasted with Donatella and Violante, hosted Zoom seminars with them on as guests and corresponded with mom and daughter. But I had not visited Casato Prime Donne. Ahead of the opening Red Montalcino evening journalists’ dinner at Il Giglio I had time for one visit. There was zero doubt as to which Montalcino producer that needed to be. Violante obliged and on a breezy June 10th afternoon she fetched me on Via Soccorso Saloni for a few hours afternoon passeggiare at Casato Prime Donne, followed by a tasting of 10 wines.

Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Sanchimento 2020, Toscana IGT

One hundred per cent traminer planted in the early 1980s down by the chapel in Trequanda by Violante Gardini’s grandfather Fausto Cinelli who received the property of Fattoria del Colle from his mother Lelia Socini. Violante’s mother Donatella has talked about living at Colle, tough at first “but right from the beginning strange things began happening, practically saying welcome, we have been waiting for you for a long time.” After white grapes could no longer be used with sangiovese for Chianti Fausto didn’t like the way his trebbiano made a white table wine. He planted traminer instead, if only as a trial at the beginning. Sanchimento in dialect is a simpler medieval way of saying San Clemente. So very aromatic, even for traminer, a bowl of yellow fruit, notable grape hyperbole and so refreshing. Less metallic and juicier than northern counterparts. Grandfather made a good choice. Made by the same women who make the wines at Donatella Cinelli Colombini under the consultancy of Valeri la Vigna. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Leone Rosso 2019, DOC Orcia

A wine dedicated to the Socini family in a blend of 60 per cent sangiovese and 40 merlot, fermented in stainless steel, aged just a few months in Slavonian oak. From the Fattoria Del Colle Estate at Trequanda in the Orcia Valley right in the middle between Montalcino and Montepulciano. Dark fruit, feels like raspberry, smooth and lightly peppery, juicy and easy. The kind of wine you choose “when you want to have fun,” simple stated and rendered with uncomplicated food, a slice of pizza or a piece of fish in tomato. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Looking east from Casato Prime Donne

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Il Drago E Le 8 Colombe 2019, Toscana IGT

Dedicated to Violante Gardini’s father Carlo. A blend of 60 per cent sangiovese with (20 each) merlot and sagrantino, all grown at Fattoria del Colle in Treqaunda. The sagrantino are vines taken from Marco Caprai in Umbria. Brings the spiciness, adding to the verdancy and roundness of merlot, both to compliment the acidity and elegance of the sangiovese. A complete package, affectionately referred to as le ali della colomba, the wings of the dove and then, the teeth of the dragon. Perhaps papa was sometimes tough and sometimes gentle but truth is in a sea of women he’s the only man in the office and on the team. Always a solid and delicious red blend, satiating and satisfying. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

The reds of Fattoria del Colle Trequanda

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Cenerentola 2018, DOC Orcia

Fattoria del Colle was where Sant’Egidio from Querciola made his hermitage, a saint from the XII century about whom very little is known. Livio Socini bought the estate in 1919 because “it was a real bargain.” As a wine from this Trequanda location Cenerentola (meaning Cinderella) was born in 2001, around the same time as the Orcia Consorzio. Her fairytale story is one of winning the prince, who chooses her over her two nasty sisters. The label shows a woman with no face, a pictorial allegory depicting an idea that if you put in all your efforts you can succeed and perhaps also win the prince. The blend is 65 per cent sangiovese and 35 fogliatonda, similar (in DNA only) but surely not the same. A richer, deeper and grippier red as compared with the Leone Rosso, acidity totally different and due to the fogliatonda acting out its passion play as a more beefy, pumped up and macho grape. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

“We need to explain that this is a wine that is very different than the Brunello and during the harvest we decide which grapes will be for Rosso and for Brunello.” The words of Violante Gardini introduce a wine that respects nature in a very specific vintage, made for freshness, fun and not as a baby Brunello. “Otherwise it will be a disaster. It must have identity, to show this wine in a different way.” The vintage gains importance 2020 because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. It does not try too hard, nor is it asked to do too much. Extraction is low, oak usage big, in botti. Donatella would like the consumer to drink this young but this vintage will do well for a minimum three plus years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

This Brunello is 38,000 bottles while the Prime Donne is only 3,000 and the third Annata (Progetto) is 3,300 (in 2017) to a maximum of 10,000 bottles made from a blind tasting by four women (including two masters of wine, Madelaine Stenwreth and Rosemary George) sampling top quality sangiovese aged in different barrels. This largest quantity Brunello was picked at exact maturation time, requiring 18 pickers and no stopping until the harvest was done. Freshness, aromatic clarity from northern Montalcino and equilibrium are the result. Bigger than many vintages with acidity captured through that haste plus fine, if still somewhat austere tannins. As good as it gets for the vintage in this style. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva means “the best of the best, thinking about the future and expressing sangiovese in a wine that will become one for celebration. It must tell the story of a long life, eventually with more things to say.” As if one needed a clarification about a Donatella Riserva and yet these words from daughter Violante place you in a frozen trance, if only until the next wine is poured. Tannins are still in charge but the wine is beginning a new chapter. Look ahead one year for new words in and out of the glass.  Last tasted June 2022

The purest sangiovese of greatest clarity for the Donatella classics is this Riserva, not just because it comes from 2016 but for the very fact that time has had a great effect in resolving the special needs of such a wine. What’s so very special about a Casato Prime Donne Brunello di Montalcino is the complex weave of northerly fruit, swarthy sumptuousness and textural crema. Never more on display then in this Riserva and from this vintage, bright and you can almost sense the smile on the face of this expressive and inviting wine. Also structured with great sneak and sly movement, sure, unlike the others, so beautifully crafted, painted as opposed to sculpted. Timeless. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

Riserva is a wine “to celebrate the best moments of your life” explains Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini and in this case of more structured vintages you would have to exercise more patience. Those rigid sangiovese will be even better in the future but if you want to taste a superstar Riserva right now you can choose 2015 for such an experience. Just now entering this stage though not without continuing grip and plenty of pop. Boundless energy, warming and with chewy fruit all the way through. Definitely evolving faster than 2016 yet still quite a ways away from 2013. Even so both are in “the zone.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Riserva is about times that will come. “Maybe you tell a story today that you will describe differently at another time in your life, or something new or different will become evident in those times.” Now fully entrenched in the secondary tales of its life, still with great pulse and presence. Some dried fruit and baking spice, good tart edges and boundless character.  Last tasted June 2022

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino “Io Sono Donatella” DOCG 2015

The first vintage of Io Sono Donatella was 2010, as a response to journalist comments on wines that were “different.” And so Donatella decided to say this is what I am and who I am. It remembers studying gold and enamels from the Middle Ages. Also made in 2012, 2013 and 2016. This ’15 is the current vintage made from only barrel. This is Brunello and not a Riserva, aged no more than 26 months and finished in cement eggs. The best expression of what Donatella likes and wants, from the vineyard, but then the women place hearts on the barrels to signify which she is to choose from. The most concentration but even more important is this tightly wound spool of acid and tannin making for the most profound barrel expression of Donatella’s Brunelli. Certainly more power and longevity here as compared to the other ‘15s. Wait two years. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!


From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


What comes next for the wines of South Africa?

A deep dive into the wine regions of the Western Cape, chenin blanc, and a Buyers’ Guide to South African wines

This feature was commissioned by Wines of South Africa, as seen on WineAlign


Several years back I commented that “the act of intense immersion into any important wine-producing nation and its diverse regional expressions can only leave a lasting impression if the follow-up takes a long, cool sip of its meaning.”

That was just the beginning of what I hoped to be a life-lasting fascination with South African wine and, seven years later, I can safely say the journey is going very well, if still only in the early stages of deep understanding. Just about exactly two months from today I will return to the Western Cape to rekindle, reconnect and extend my relationship with South African winemakers and their fascinating wines. Curiosity, anticipation and excitement have never been greater and so the questions is worth asking: What comes next for the wines of South Africa? At current the only answer forthcoming is how Cape Wine 2022 will be the most lekker experience of the year.

In all their combined iterations, the wines of South Africa are exciting communicators of heritage, history, emotions and declarative attacks. Collectively they spread with ripples like a large rock dropped into a pool of water. They are the beneficiary of effects created by two oceans and the great ancient, preeminent, decomposed and weathered soils found anywhere on this planet. Maturity is breathed into every phrase these wines are wont to play.

Growing regions of the Western Cape

South Africa is a medium-sized country that would fit into Canada eight times. It has a diverse population of 58 million people and is affectionately known as the ‘Rainbow Nation,’ a phrase aptly coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Wine growing is limited to the southwestern region of South Africa, in the Western Cape Province, which is an area roughly the size of Greece. South Africa has been making wine for more than 360 years. The first grapes were pressed in 1659. The wines reflect the best of the old and the new; they present fruit-forward styles with elegance and finesse. The South African wine industry is one of the most technically advanced in the world of wine. There is an extremely rigorous Wine of Origin Certification Scheme, introduced in 1973, which guarantees that the wine is what it is designated or described. Each bottle carries a certification seal to guarantee that the claims regarding vintage, variety and origin on the packaging are true. South Africa has more certified Fairtrade wines than any other country. That is to say their products “guarantee a minimum price to cover the costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium to invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities.”

There are five officially demarcated regions of production — they are delineated based on the massive variations in soil, climate and location. The regions are: Breede River Valley, Coastal, Klein Karoo, Olifants River and Boberg. There is a commitment to environmentally sustainable wine production and wines can be certified by Sustainable Wine South Africa, which is part of the Wine and Spirit Board. The designation refers to grapes which are produced in harmony with nature, which allows vineyards to flourish alongside their natural habitat. The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative is a unique partnership between conservation bodies and the wine industry.

Cape Floral Kingdom – A World Heritage Site

More than 95 percent of the wine is produced in the Cape Floral Kingdom, where there are more than 10,000 indigenous plant species, more than reside in the entire Northern Hemisphere. This Kingdom has been created by a diversity of soils, produced from granite, sandstone and shale; as well as a diversity of climates and geography. This, in turn, has created a treasure trove of winemaking possibilities. As a result, South African wines have a huge array of flavour and aroma profiles, which lead to wines with intriguing character and drinkability.

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc

While so many grape varieties take hold with utmost promise in the Western Cape, there is but one that persists, unwavering and timeless. Yes, it is true that grape varieties such as grenache, cinsault, syrah, pinotage, sémillon and many others are apt at aligning with covenant to their old vine sources but there can be little argument against chenin blanc residing at the top of that list, Chenin is the greatest beneficiary of age, fortitude and focus as provided by the old vine experience. The list of Western Cape chenin sites from Stellenbosch, Swartland, Citrusdal Mountains, Darling, Hemel & Aarde Ridge, Breedekloof, Bot Rivier, Walker Bay, Cederberg, Paarl and Robertson, reads like a biblical scroll; Bottelary Hills, Granite Hill, Helderberg, Kapteinskloof, Kasteelberg, Paardeberg, Perdeberg, Riebeek-Kasteel and Skurfberg. The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, and can perform well in warm and dry conditions. The signature grape variety is South Africa’s golden ticket to global recognition and success. No other varietal message speaks with as much clarity and consistency than that of chenin blanc.

Stellenbosch vines and heritage vines planted in the 1970s and before are now performing at their best. Johan Reyneke speaks of the illness that had been running through South African soils and how he sought to build immunity and disease resistance through a holistic farming approach. Things did not transform overnight, so fathers and neighbours may have doubted the long, arduous and yet understood process. But it is that organic and sustainable approach for which today’s health and prosperity can be thanked. When it comes to searching for chenin blanc plant material, vineyard sourcing can be quite broad, of multifarious soil types and elevations, 40 to 50 year blocks on average, sometimes also including old vine sémillon. The distance from the first to the last vineyard in a chenin blanc cuvée might be 200 kilometres or more but, when brought together well, magic often happens.

Windy places help in so many respects, allowing a larger canopy to remain in place and exaggerate the dappling effect which chenin blanc so dearly loves. Reyneke’s is South Africa’s oldest Demeter-certified biodynamic winery, with vineyards on the top of an ancient granite mound and on less weathered soils lower in the valley floors. The vine struggle is real, a positive one for the wines and ultimately for wine lovers. Granite soils further up the Stellenbosch hills are less colluvial, really old and weathered, predating microbial life. The vines produce lower yields and the weathered earth gives life to chenin blanc. For Mullineux Wines and a Cape chenin blanc assemblage, it gives meaning to the gathered idea, like an AOC Chablis made by a houses in names of Fèvre, Drouhin, Moreau or La Chablisienne. Mullineux’s twist is the back blending with some old barrel ferments to balance new and “other” fruit components. A chenin blanc may be bottled the same year it was picked though that’s easier to do so in the southern hemisphere, where harvest happens in the first quarter months. The reasons are simple. Intense investigations through schist, granite and old vines floats the boat and raises the bar for more professional and accessible chenin blanc cuvées. With older heritage vines involved, as is the case for Chris and Suzaan Alheit, the concentration and density of the vines is inherent. The use of heritage material is the South African version of Atticism; that is a return to classical methods and rhythms in making really old chenin, but also the likes of sémillon.

Chardonnay vineyards in Robertson

Cap Classique

One of the sparkling wine world’s most important and impressive categories in origin is no longer called Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), but now Cap Classique. This South African term indicates a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. As it stands, Cap Classique must age on the lees for a minimum 12 months to be labelled as such, though this number will surely extend once the realization sets in that more is better. Cap Classique produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. In Champagne the annual production is somewhere in the vicinity of 350 million bottles so compare this to South Africa where a fraction of that amount is released to the tune of seven or eight million. Méthode Cap Classique bottles are made by 100-odd producers, 73 of which are listed on the website for the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA), an organization established in 1992. The name was derived from the fact that the classic art of winemaking was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots, and the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine produced at the Cape was called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle).

It’s also very much a wine about terroir. In Stellenbosch the sparkling is often made from early picked, old vines chenin blanc grown on Duplex soils, colluvial decomposed granite overlapping gravelly clay. Ask Ken Forrester and he will tell you the gravels allow for good draining and the clays deliver a time release of water. All this helps during drought and the restriction of water creates texture on the palate. There are pioneers like Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira who are attacking with Brut Zero style “based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne.” For others, like For Christa Von La Chevallerie, it’s a matter of “how far I can go with [the combination of] chenin and lees.”

“We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum time on lees should be raised to 15 months. As for sugar dosage, he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” Ferreira has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but, more importantly, the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. As for Gerber, he will say “sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” “For Brut we have to extend [the lees aging time] to 60 months,” explains Ferreira. “So there is no lipstick or eye shadow. ”For a deeper dive into Cap Classique please read my article post Cape Wine 2018.

Bot Rivier 

Bot Rivier lies southeast of Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10 kilometre radius of one another. Here chenin blanc might be crafted with just a hint of residual sugar (at just above 5 g/L), to balance the effects of a long, slow, ocean-proximate Bot Rivier growing season.

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc


There is so much diversity in the Capelands. There are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow, Stan Getz, Ahmad Jamal, Dexter Gordon flow. Elgin also has layering, in riesling, pinot noir and chardonnay. The wines glide with cool climate ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless style.

Elgin’s Paul Cluver seems to be the first to label his chardonnay with the Bourgogne “Villages” idea. This tells us much about what we need to know — that Elgin vineyards are the fruit source if not site specific or singularly focused. But he also finds precision with his Seven Flags and Close Encounter wines. The wines of Thelema (and Sutherland) do the same, curating classic Elgin cool savour running linear like a beam through the joist of structure.

The Helderberg, Stellenbosch, Western Cape


Stellenbosch in undoubtedly South Africa’s most well-known region and home to the eponymous town that is the country’s second-oldest town. It sits a mere 50 kilometres southeast of Cape Town, capital of the Western Cape. Stellenbosch is the lushest of the Cape’s valleys, home to more than 200 wine producers and surrounded by the Drakenstein and Stellenbosch mountains. False Bay acts as the mitigator of this Mediterranean climate, creating ideal wine-growing conditions where just about any sort of grape variety can achieve ripeness. The reds of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz predominate on the granite-based soils farther west, while chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc thrive in the sandstone soils of the east.

Swartland Independents


The Swartland is Afrikaans for “Black Land,” so named because of the dark grey endemic renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that covers the landscape and turns black after the rains. The region of the Western Cape begins some 50 kms north of Cape Town and consists of the area between the towns of Malmesbury to the south, Darling in the west and Piketberg in the north. Home to the Cape’s greatest of wine revolutions, followed by a swinging era — and what comes next is anybody’s guess. What we do know is that the Swartland’s decomposed shales and granites provide some of the most existential and powerful growing sites in all of South Africa.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains, Franschhoek, South Africa

Buyers’ Guide to Wines of South Africa

Over the past two months there have been several opportunities to taste a wide range of wines from South Africa. Andrea Mullineux came through Toronto to give a seminar on chenin blanc, VINTAGES has seen releases with a dozen various examples and the WineAlign team recently tasted a box of stunning values. Just last week I taught a seminar on South Africa and poured five seminal wines. Here is a Buyers’ Guide that includes chenin blanc, Cap Classique, Bot Rivier, Elgin, Stellenbosch, Swartland and the Western Cape.

Western Cape

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$13.35, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – Hard to knock the consistency but even more so the varietal representation and transparency of this perennial steal of a chenin blanc. Fruit that sings, bones that stand upright and just textural enough to make you feel like chenin can do no wrong.

Spier Signature Chardonnay 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$13.35, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – Labeled as Western Cape though kind of essentially Stellenbsoch from Spier in a chardonnay of green apple, dried herbs and lime. A hint of reduction and then bitters and while not fleshy this is surely satisfying.

Franschhoek Cellar Statue De Femme Sauvignon Blanc 2020, W.O. Western Cape
$16.99, Perigon Beverage Group
Michael Godel – Franschhoek does sauvignon very well, not as cool as say Elgin but surely (on average) more complex than Stellenbosch. Note the elongated phenols and terpenes in this most stimulating and succulent sauvignon blanc. Steal of a deal.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2019, W.O. Western Cape
$59.95, Groupe Soleil
Michael Godel –  Soil excellency layers in oscillations, waves and variegation in one of South Africa’s most curious to crafty blends in which chenin blanc is the focus to the core. You feel the sémillon, indeed you do because it streaks through the chenin, but not as a sprinter or a shooting star. Cartology is a correlated, traced and tabulated white blend that stands up to be counted.

Fairview Goats Do Roam Red 2021, W.O. Western Cape
$14.00, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Rhône blend based on syrah and the stylistic departure from the past to be über rich and dark is now more a matter of bright and effusive. Black fruit is now red, tar and tension given way to open and generous. Loving the modern acids, clarity, purity and simplicity.

Bot Rivier 

Beaumont Wines Chenin Blanc 2021, W.O. Bot Rivier
$29.95, The Small Winemakers Collection
Michael Godel – Hard to conceive and thus receive more aridity on the aromatics, surely flinty, part gun and part struck granite stone. Stretches this chenin blanc like the pull of elastics or fior di latte. Also herbal, sweetly so, with a chanterelle apricot note in the freshest of fungi specimens. Acids take over, spit and shine over this wise and elongated wine.


Paul Cluver Village Elgin Chardonnay 2020, W.O. Elgin
$25.00, Buyers + Cellars Wine Purveyors
Michael Godel – Taut and tight, nicely reductive, orchard fruit focused with some bite and then a little bit of barrel smoulder. Not a smoky or toasty chardonnay but a balanced one with plenty of local, savour, savoir faire and flavour.


Ken Forrester Sparklehorse Cap Classique 2018, W.O. Stellenbosch
$29.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Michael Godel –  This may just be Ken’s most phenolic sparkling wine to date, emitting as a combination of blanched nuts and precious metals. Spent eight months in fermentation followed by 28 further on lees, in bottle. Creates orchard fruit flavours and textures while acidity retention keeps the groove and the balance.

Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – There is a feeling of warmth in Radford Dale’s 2020, not boozy per se yet the feeling is like cold sake going down. Then it’s all roundness and creamy fruit, ease and utter culpability.

Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$29.95, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Johan Reyneke’s chenin blanc is his and his alone, of South Africa’s first biodynamic winery and a level of say it as it is passion that can’t be touched. More like do as I do and Reyneke’s takes no liberties, asks no favours, gives and gives again. Spices and textural meanderings are concentrated and greater. An exotic notion as well, like ripe longan fruit and then a compound flavour profile going on forever.

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, W.O. Stellenbosch
$49.00, Family Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – A barrel fermented style that shows in a flinty, caramel and pineapple way, part Burgundy plus California yet all South Africa. Heeds the Reserve moniker well with buttery brioche richness and full sun gathered consciousness. This one is all in with an effect to invite a wide ranging if specific consumer response.

Boschendal 1685 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – Big, dark, brooding, as much about place as it is about grape variety.What’s special is the equally grippy and forceful fruit, exaggerated because the acidity is like a reduction of black currant syrup. Sharp and soil rich this is a serious mouthful of cabernet, firm, tannic and in charge. Roasted herbs and grilled vegetable notes, and a ferric-sanguine quality that brings the BBQ braai to mind.

Warwick Professor Black Pitch Black 2017, W.O. Stellenbosch
$19.95, NAVBEV INC
Michael Godel – Six grapes get together in Pitch Black, mostly made with cabernets with (13 per cent) cinsault, (10) merlot and then bits of malbec and petit verdot. Inky in feel if not pitch, tarry by natural nature if not by hue and also more Rhône meatiness then Bordeaux savour. A big, ferric and hematic example with strong bones and flesh all over.

Jordan Jardin The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, W.O. Stellenbosch
$30.00, Kolonaki Group
Michael Godel – Straight faced and matter of fact, all things being true in a cabernet sauvignon that reeks of variety and subtlety in spite of the violence required to excavate and plant a vineyard. Don’t sleep on the tension and the structure in a wine of meaning, profound as it gets for Stellenbosch.

Aslina By Ntskiki Biyela Umsasane 2020, W.O. Stellenbosch
$35.00, Gradwell Wine Agency
Michael Godel – Ntsiki Biyela is officially recognized as South Africa’s first black female winemaker and the meaning in her Bordeaux styled Umsasane blend is local vernacular for the umbrella acacia tree. The brand is called Aslina, tribute to Ntsiki’s grandmother and one can feel the love in this richly styled, boozy in relative balance blend.


Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2020, W.O. Swartland
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – Essentially chenin blanc and an example that pulls the full blessings and richness of the sun into a generous and gracious wine. Kloof Street is chenin blanc of feel, touch and “tekstuur.” The old vines concentration and density is inherent, the “frâiche, agréable and couvert de rosée” all over the palate with license and privilege.

A.A. Badenhorst Family White Blend 2018, W.O. Swartland
$57.99, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – The adage bears repeating as recited by Adi Badenhorst. “Fantastic grapes from old vineyards,” in a jazz mixtronic blend of chenin blanc, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier, verdehlo, grenache gris, clairette blanche, sémillon and palomino. Yet another paradigm shift in Cape white appellative white blends that seduces with its steely veneer, vine experience and turbulent soul to deliver in every way imaginable.

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Granite 2019, W.O. Swartland
$79.00, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – All barrel fermented in only neutral oak, full malo and with the intention to truly experience and taste chenin blanc grown on granite soils. A wine kickstarted by natural stabilization, equally expressive of tart acidity and freshness, fully reasoned by sunshine yet also seasoned with effortless and variegate ease.  Such an experienced and robust wine without solicitation, nor swagger neither. The ability, presence and precision are tops. There’s no question.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2021, W.O. Swartland
$16.95, Univins (Ontario)
Michael Godel – Unmistakable syrah from the Boekenhoutskloof clan, always the meatiest and meat fats dripping example for the price. That and a profile more Swartland than what comes from say Stellenbosch syrah.

Good to go!


Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


Always tasting Italian wines, doin’ allright


Back in the summer of 1987 I attended the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. This was considered “the benchmark year for Umbria Jazz in terms of the Festival’s appeal, its quality, its ability to combine popularity with exclusivity, with mass concerts in the football stadium and the fantastic evenings inside St. Francis’ church.” The memories of that July 16th to 18th weekend are strong, persistently vivid and what happened there was clearly transformational in my life. Sting had played the weekend previous and though my crew could not stay long enough to see Miles Davis on Sunday the 18th still there were grand moments indelibly stamped upon our lives. Walking the Piazza IV Novembre up to Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s Fontana Maggiore, drinking in the cafés, Sly and Robbie sitting at the next table. But the highlight happened at the Stadio Renato Curi where Dexter Gordon blew his horn and our minds. The saxophonist was fresh off of a revivalist’s record and hit movie. He was Doin’ Allright, as were we.


Jazz and wine. Two inextricably linked subjects and emotions in the summer of 1987. Now 35 years later I’m listening to Gordon’s seminal record and tasting wine. Time spent Far Niente. Tasting Italian wines from a wide ranging group of producers while paraphrasing from thoughts about the music of the OG big man, with no disrespect intended to Clarence Clemons. Dexter’s life and this group of wines are representative of that kind of size. Their rhythm section plays for the grape, seeming to sense what it wants, following the varietal lead and never falling out of balance. Full toned manner of wines, loping in medium tempo, solos unhurried, logical, warming and full of Italian melodies.

Umbria, July 1987

There are white wines that play beautifully and pensively while others pick up the mood by spinning out solos, staying texturally relaxed and thoughtful, ending with some perfumed chords. There are short bits and interludes but ultimately the way these wines handle their ballads is an indication of their length and depth. They know what it’s all about. The reds are at times wines of catchy and contrasting themes but they truly know how to build a solo. In today’s warming climate they climb up in temperature, chorus after chorus, until finally they satisfy at their apex. There are moments when the reds seem to be skipping and marching, alternating between funky riffs, leaping rhythmic figures and brightly lit burning flames of fruit and acidities. They build more slowly to climax while expanding in tones and for longer periods of time. There are chordal explorations in reds, blacks and of course blues. What connects them all is underlying substance in waves and weaves throughout each ensemble. Tasted consecutively or together theses wines all prove to be mutually significant. Thank you to Ira Gitler for the inspirational notes, to Stefania Tacconi and the prodcuers for sharing their wines.

Inama Vin Soave Classico DOC 2020, Veneto

Anything but entry-level from the grape garganega once known as Graecanicum grown in the basaltic lava, volcanic tuffs and orizzonti rossi. About as correct and defining as it gets for Soave, yellow and green floral, fruit recall more of the same and then the volcanic rock alterations that give the mineral-salty feel. While there might be a wish for a little bit more complexity and grape spirit there is some gelid to viscous texture in this 2020. In any case Inama’s is well made, educational and right on the varietal money. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Favorita DOC 2020, Piedmont

As for white wines from Italy’s northern climes there are those that speak to many and then there is the “favorita” of others, the varietal Piedmontese white for the dreamers and the romantics. This from Abrigo out of Diano d’Alba avoids the bitters, pith and boozy thiol moments to instead capture all the white flowers and more. The scents are fruity over metallic and clean instead of waxy. There is precision and most importantly a toothsome grace over the palate that brings you back for more and more. A picnic in the hills, a chilled glass after the day’s movement and the scent of dusk. That is favorita when it’s right. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Terra Costantino Etna Bianco DOC Deaetna 2019, Sicily

Terra Costantino’s is from Contrada Blandano in the Comune Viagrande, on soils sabbie di matrice vulcanica, a blend of carricante and catarratto, three to one, at 500m, part bush vine and part spurred cordon. Were the flinty smoulder the only beautiful thing going for this Etna Bianco it might almost be enough but the gelid and sweetly ripened fruit takes every moment to a higher caste and level. The thought of these wines being honeyed is not all that common and yet he we are, aromatically speaking, lemon meringue and curd, angel food cake, with the barrel impart knowable in vanilla and light caramel terms. A metallic feel as well, pure platinum gold, texture and some age already put behind. Not so typical but curious and highly enjoyable nonetheless. A drink now chardonnay or chenin blanc alternative that will begin to oxidize in a couple of years time. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted May 2022

Poggio Argentiera Morellino Di Scansano DOCG Bellamarsilia 2020, Tuscany

High-toned in 2020 with a marked level of volatile acidity and good if not maximum ripeness from sangiovese grown either in a (relatively) cooler year near the (Maremma) Tuscan coast. It would seem the winemaker is also looking for restraint and maintaining positive acidity because at this low level (13.5 per cent) of alcohol the resinous and stemmy nature of sangiovese is duly noted, if also accentuated. Texture is a bit chalky, almost grainy and the tannins throw a touch of green. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted May 2022

Usiglian Del Vescovo Il Barbiglione 2015, Terre Di Pisa DOC, Tuscany

From estate grapes in the Pisa DOC and from a winery also producing wines both coastal and in Chianti appellations. Centred around syrah with small percentages of cabernet grown in greyish, dry, shallow, sandy soil with some clay, lime and fossils. A bright, currants and other red fruit syrah with notable tang and wood resins. A touch pectin sappy while satisfying and complete. Held back to tame its wild side and drink upon purchase. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

La Regola 2018, Toscana Rosso IGT

A place of Etruscan origin just five kms from the Tyrrhenian Sea at Riparbella in the Cecina Valley. The vineyard lays within the Montescudaio DOC at 150-200m with soils described as Mediterranean with an abundance of stones. La Regola’s (the rule) is varietal cabernet franc, abundant, heady and as compared to the blended reds, so unfettered and uncluttered. The varietal purity is expressly coastal, of saltiness, algae, seaweed, tar and fruit so much more than a plenty. This is truly a stylistic and a place that makes wines just like this here screaming with clarity and truth. There seems to be little doubt that cabernet franc fits, unlike sangiovese, syrah or cabernet sauvignon. Franc is the signature red and 2018 announces its success. The structure, unimpeded drive and length confirm the pronouncement. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2019, Tuscany

Boscarelli is a name to conjure with, a producer from Montepulciano as direct and exciting as a communicator of sangiovese emotion as any, consistently declarative in attack. Case in point this 2019 though with the added advantage of a most generous and unselfish vintage. Fruit comes from estate vineyards in the parish or pieve of Cervognano, one of 12 newly minted UGAs, a.k.a. unità geografiche aggiuntive. These additional mentions for the overall appellation give us the consumer a more pinpointed sense of place and in Boscarelli’s world the vines were planted in the late 1990s. Depth burrows in an endless seeking of mineral wealth while highlights rise unencumbered, defying gravity and setting this local sangiovese free. When sangiovese does both it’s a bit of a revelation and in Montepulciano the truth is not always easy to come by. The wines can make you work for your pleasure and this 2019 gifts it freely. Drink now and for the next 10 years. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted May 2022

Il Bocale Montefalco Rosso DOC 2018, Umbria

The Umbrian work of i famiglia Valentini based around sangiovese accented by the local sagrantino, then merlot and colorino. Unequivocally balanced if not quite the increasingly generous vintage that will follow in 2019. The succulence and juiciness of the Montefalco Rosso appellation is captured with precise and succinct advantage and done so without any due stress or adversity. The fruit spreads with ripples into fine acidity and supple tannins like a large rock dropped into a pool of water. The rock disappears but the fluidity and gentle set of wakes linger on, ever so slowly decreasing their size and intensity. Bocale’s ’18 is an effortless Rosso, aromatic, flavourful and elastic. This is just what a top producer knows how to do. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Il Bocale Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2016, Umbria

From the Valentini family dating back to 2002 and a varietal sagrantino of the highest selection. “Bocale is the dialect word that indicates the two litre mug of wine or oil, but, above all, the name with which this family from Montefalco has always been identified.” From the most democratic of Montefalco vintages, long, studious and just, indeed a wine giusto e completo, time having settled the once formidable tannin and connecting the early unconnected parts. A wholly unique profile, indicative of tar, dark chocolate and espresso yet subtly so, with an allowance of many complexities to join the parade. Quite special in so many regards. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Il Palio, Siena, July 1987

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Tuscany

Grande Gaiole compass, cinch and girth in naturally swarthy sangiovese from Riecine in 2019, crunchy and tart. Inching up towards the volatile but such is the word in pace for the vintage. The fruit can handle the stark reality and veritable truth, equipped with grip and ready for the inevitable circumstance. Maybe wait a year for further resolution. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Villa Di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2017, Tuscany

Consistently presents with an evolved aromatic tendency as it breathes maturity into every phrase it plays. The jazzy mix of violet, spice cupboard and freshly baked earthenware speaks in open and knowable truth for a wine so upwardly representative of a DOCG with roots dating back to 1716. That is when Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany granted exclusive status to Carmignano at the same time he did so for the Classico territory of Chianti. Was not the easiest vintage to deal with and yet this is one of the Tuscan stars what with the piquant yet elastic spice condition rolling off of the palate with sage, fresh tobacco, finnocchi and tartufo. Deals with 14.5 per cent alcohol without adversity while modelling symbiosis between sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. Hard to do much better with the aridity and warmth, breathe life and plan for five-plus more years of pleasure. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Azienda Agricola Reassi Sparviere 2018, Colli Euganei Cabernet DOC, Veneto

Reassi’s two-thirds cabernet sauvignon and one-third cabernet franc comes from the Padova area in the Veneto, famously home to some of Giotto’s most profound and important 13th/14th century frescoes housed in the Cappella degli Scrovegni. The estate’s 1997 planted wines are located in the zone of Carbonara di Rovolon, harvested near the end of September and only 3,500 bottles are produced. This is a cheeky cabernet at the lead for the Colli Euganei DOC, full of sweet tar and tobacco, petrol in cars, wood resins, fruit from pods that grown on trees and really quite bright in disposition. How can you not adore the vitality and low alcohol proposition (12.5 per cent) plus this genteel pectin and glycerol feel. “Oh, it’s magic, Uh oh, it’s magic. Just a little magic, you know it’s true.” Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted May 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Barbera d’Alba DOC Marminela 2019, Piedmont

At the DOC Barbera level it would be hard to find another example so open, forthright, up front, bright, getable and delicious than this Marminela by Abrigo. Classic interpretation indeed yet without rustic strings tethering it to the past, instead expressive of a freedom to explore. Here barbera throws aside traditions in a spirit of experimentation. This is a blend of grapes from two vineyards in the municipalities of Grinzane Cavour and Diano d’Alba and aging takes place for nine months in concrete vats. Freshness is dutifully captured, preserved and the barbera perseveres. Will drink this way for two, maybe even three full years ahead. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Rocche dei Frisu is Abrigo’s top end, purest expression of barbera, from vineyards in Diano d’Alba and also nearby. The sites range in elevation between 230-360m, on clay-based soils mixed with sand and limestone, depending on the block. The name could mean “cones of frieze” in the literal sense but probably a name given to a hill of natural architecture that when looked at from afar there would be some sort of illusory effect. As in art, whereby a trompe l’oeuil or trick of the eye is created by a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration. In any case the barbera in this bottle does the exact opposite with its openly blatant and striking set of ripe fruit, varietal acidity and full throttle potency. Not shy to be sure, nor heavy neither but there is power contained within this bottle. Even after nearly four years the Frisu does not relent and as a member of the Alba Superiore fraternity the representation is bang on. Plenty of stuffing will see this through to the end of this decade. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted May 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2019, Piedmont

Marked valuation in animal musk through the masculine scent of Abrigo’s nebbiolo from Diano d’Alba, a parochial example equally rich in classic DOC notes. Only the nebbiolo from Alba’s territory smells and tastes like this, accentuated by wood with spice infiltration inside and out. The animal magnetism is captivating, as much as the barrel accents are condiments to the fruit and earth that fill up this nebbiolo. Quite tight for 2019, needing some time, acids equally taut and being open three days helped immensely. Be patient with this Alba, it will reward those who are. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Abrigo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Ravera 2017, Piedmont

Diano d’Alba producer of a Barolo in the municipality/cru/MGA of Novello. Meets the specs of Tortonian soil, laminated Sant’Agata fossil marl, in other words calcareous clay, deeply entrenched, at 400m, vine age ranging 20 to 35 years. Fifty per cent is treated to long skin maceration i.e. cappello sommerso and despite the aridity and heat of 2017 there is freshness captured in Abrigo’s Ravera. Luminous and immediately spicy, a piquancy of pure nebbiolo spiked by time, vintage and lastly barrel. Amazingly persistent Barolo, full, substantial and in charge. Must give this three more years to integrate and allow us to grow as tasters, eventually to be ready and willing to enjoy this wine. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted June 2022

Tenuta Di Pietrafusa Villa Matilde Avallone Fusonero 2015, Taurasi DOCG, Campania

Varietal aglianico from the Taurasi DOCG and a producer that also fashions top quality wines at IGT Campania prices coming in at under $20 CDN. This top drop comes from the production zone of Montemarano e Paternopoli off of vines planted in 1968 and 1985. The first commercial vintage was 2004 and so here in the 12th iteration is a most generous vintage from which the best of all worlds is accessed. The world of aglianico is reached earlier than that which hesitantly emerges out of some hard, at times sufferable and surely tannic vintages. Here the fruit is nearly up front, artistically open and and even playing with musical swagger. There is room for all the aglianico because they provide the opportunity to enjoy the standards, originals and forward thinking examples. Fusonero is a delightful combination of all three and for that we are grateful. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!



Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello


The five estates of Planeta earth

Welcome to Planeta Earth

The question often asked, if you could go back in time and meet just one person, who would it be? Shakespeare, Golda Meir, Beethoven, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Galileo, Marie Curie, Einstein, or maybe Gandhi? In the winemaking world there would be many great men and women to consider but this current fascination with Sicilia leads to the name Diego Planeta. Pioneer, visionary and a man who considered the entire island an agricultural playground where anything was possible. The Planeta family has Spanish origins and roots dating back five hundred years. Diego Planeta was the former president of the Settesoli Cooperative and founder of Planeta winery. His passing in 2020 left an irreplaceable hole but 15 cousins, including Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta are the beneficiaries of their uncle’s plans and legacy. Five family members run the day-to day operation and more than 200 vinicultural, viticultural, administrative and marketing artisans share in the collective vision. Today they work, farm sustainably and reap the benefits of five distinct estates but more than that they bring the fruits of these locations to the world. No other producer in Sicilia does this, not with the scope and breadth they do. This is the story of the five Sicilian estates of Planeta earth.

Godello, L’Etna

Related – Planeta’s Sicily

Un percorso non casuale, fortemente legato alla diversità dei paesaggi, dei venti, del carattere degli uomini e quindi dei loro vini. Not an accidental journey but one inextricably linked to the diversity of five landscapes, in soil, wind, climate and the relationship between the custodians and the wines they shepherd. Menfi, Vittoria, Noto, L’Etna and Capo Milazzo. No two are the same and all five contribute to the fabric of Planeta’s extant association and alliance with Sicilia. The Planeta family and head winemaker Patricia Tóth abide by their surroundings, as do the agriculturalists, guardians and caretakers, of olive groves, orchards, hinterlands and plantations. The pentamerous grouping of estates in all its micro and collective diversity is at once staggering to consider and then a thing of sensory overload. Taking in one at a time and appreciating the profundity of each place is the key to understanding. In March of 2022 I had the honour and pleasure to visit two properties and were it not for Covid-19 and later in June travel misteps I would have seen a third, quite possibly a fourth and perhaps even all five. As it is my personal and professional life have become enriched in ways that could never have been imagined.

Menfi Coast

Only came outside to watch the nightfall with the rain. I heard you making patterns rhyme

Not to be overlooked is above all else, Planeta’s production of IGP olive oil. Their’s is a painstaking process to achieve uncompromising quality borne of the trees in a landscape destined to deliver greatness. The fields of hospitality and cultural ventures integrate into their viticultural activities, all purposed to enliven the Sicilian experience. Sustainability without exception,  respect for the land and wineries completely integrated within the landscape are the values which guide the company’s activities. Winemaker Patricia Tóth was born in Hungary and received a degree in 2004 at the University of Corvinus in Budapest in Food Science specializing in wine, beer and spirits. Tóth worked at Le Vigne di Zamò Friuli, Bava in Piemonte and Vylyan in Hungary. She began her 17 year Planeta run in 2005 at Noto, then in Vittoria, later managing the setup of the estate in Capo Milazzo and on L’Etna. She now splits her time at 900m above sea level on the volcano’s north face and also nearest the beating heart control centre of operations in Menfi.

Related – All the wines of Sicily

Baglio di Ulmo

In Menfi the variety of terroir is infinite and to walk the phrygana is to stop time. The fauna ignites in the olive oil and the wines from Ulmo in a variety of styles and varietal personalities as sundry as the numbers of women and men who create them. They can be fast or slow, rich or discreet, loud or soft, hard or tender, loving or intense. They can be so packed full of notes it may feel like life speeded up. They can also be calming and interpretive. They can be anything at all.

L’Etna eruption, 1981

On L’Etna space and melody, in particular aboard the volcano’s north face (versante nord) there is a use of space so artful it enables the melodies of the original lines in the wines. Though Planeta (and so many others) use improvisations and embellishments, they do so in order to integrate the leading voice to grow together with the supporting cast. The main declarations of nerello mascalese and carricante are joined by nerello cappuccio, catarratto and grecanico, all evolving together organically, swelling and retreating as the complete pulse of the wines, the inner pulse guiding the creativity itself, as it is dictated.

The inimitable human and paradigmatic winemaker Patricia Tóth

In Vittoria, Noto and Capo Milazzo the path indicated is that of quiet intensity, of melodies so phrased that the rhythm and the space together build wines of strong driving forces. Their collective agency is power achieved without volume, tension without distortion. Some wines grab you and drive everything else from your mind. They seduce, softly engage your whole attention and lure you into the grooves they are travelling. All this without you being aware, of what is happening until it has already happened.

This is planet earth you’re looking at planet earth
Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop this is planet earth

Alessio Planeta

Related – Sicily in review

Paraphrasing from something Alessio Planeta said back in 2018, Planeta looks to connect the island by the phrase stato stazione delle una perfetta, meaning the union is currently situated in a perfect state, working together for the common good. Alessio and his family’s rich set of wine-producing circumstances, whether it be the individual refrains of each estate or the collaborative effect of the group, is a constantly growing and changing undertaking but never with the kind of urgency implied in some other producers’ body of work. Planeta’s is more than methodical, it is meditative, contemplative and organic. Calculated? Of course but with the future in mind and the greater good always considered. Leadership incarnate, always hospitable and most importantly positive. When I fell ill with Covid whilst visiting with Alessio and Patricia I felt safe and set up for recovery. I can never thank them enough, for their humanity and support.

Meet next gen Planeta custodian and burgeoning chef, Costante Planeta

Here are the 45 Planeta wines tasted in late March and early April in a cross-section of a portfolio interconnected and jointly illustrative of five estates. Their quality is what makes it so satisfying to taste, assess, compose, edit and finally publish the results. Working through these wines, like listening to the albums of a band’s tenure, or sitting in a club while they play their songs, well this makes for a great trip through an intensely diverse and ever-evolving viticultural terrain.

Menfi phrygana


The Menfi situation is really one of Ulmo, or rather Ulmo is Menfi. Here on the island’s southwest coast beneath Palermo is where Planeta’s first winery opened in 1995 near the village of Sambuca di Sicilia, Built near an ancient 16th-century baglio, or stone farmhouse, situated above Lake Arancio and blessed with chalky limestone soils. In the middle of the 1980’s Planeta planted their first vines around the baglio which the family has always owned. The Iter Vitis museum, surrounded by a “collection meadow’” of different Sicilian and Georgian vines, “inspired by the idea of enhancing the rich Sicilian winemaking tradition.” The nature footpath called La Segreta runs from the winery, connects with those that intersect the Menfi hills and also 250 cultivated hectares of vineyard. The name adorns the quadripartite set of wine labels that are arguably Sicily’s most well-known. The crux, core and heart is Dispensa where production, administration and planning all happen.

Beach at Menfi

The Infernotto, inside the small winery, is the family caveau, one of the most calming placing to read, rest and taste through Planeta’s portfolio of wines. Ulmo, Maroccoli, Cirami, Baglio di Ulmo and the 6th century B.C. Palmento di Bosco della Resinata; places of affinity, integration and varietal kinship. Of grillo, fiano, chardonnay, grecanico, sauvignon blanc, viognier, nero d’Avola, syrah, merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. The chardonnay stands out as the iconic label, a super chardonnay to be sure because no other varietal example delivers the two pillars of quality and quality like this Planeta label.

Planeta Serra Ferdinandea Rosato 2021, Sicilia DOC

A joint venture between Planeta and the family Oddo from the south of France. Rosato, Bianco and Rosso made high in the hills above the sea near Menfi, closer to Sambuca. Here nero d’avola and syrah made in the airiest, salty and light tart way, quenching and satisfying. The name refers to the story of a volcanic island that suddenly rose from the sea in 1831, fought over for claim by the Italians, French and British, before disappearing back in to the water many months later. There it sits 30 to 40 metres below the surface. You can drink the town dry out of this Rosato, any day, any time. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Ulmo Chardonnay

Planeta Chardonnay 2020, Sicilia DOC

Chardonnay comes from two vineyards, Storico which is the large white rock at 270m above the Menfi lake and Marrocoli, where red grapes (cabernet franc, merlot and syrah) really thrive. Here chardonnay is given roundness to mix with the stoic-stony and intense directness of what it could have been. A place of vibrations and nerves and so Marrocoli is needed to tame and soften Storico’s blunt edginess. That it does, injecting peach fleshy sunshine into the linearity of the wine. Keep in mind that 200,000 bottles a year are made and that doesn’t even keep up with the demand. Arch classic Planeta bread and butter wine, also in style. One of the planet’s great chardonnays of double Q effect. Quantity and quality. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Chardonnay 2019, Sicilia DOC

The two vineyards are Storico at 270m above the Menfi lake and Marrocoli where really white calcari predominates. While there is the plump presence of chardonnay giving “morbido” roundness in apposite to the mineral Storico fruit, there is also this persistent buzz and and nervy character. For a wine for which upwards of 200,000 bottles a year are produced it really is quite incredible how vintage dictates the personality of the wine. Fresh quality bread and churned butter in the glass. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2020, Sicilia Menfi DOC

As a reminder Cometa comes from two vineyards, the important one being Dispensa right by the winery and Paso di Gura, 10 kms away. Fiano, not off of volcanics but clay soils close to the sea, well-ripened, in a place where it likes the sun, suffers and gets a bit bronzing and golden. A fiano of white and yellow flowers, chamomile and the like. While the universe busy was sending more than enough chaos to humanity, in this vintage there were only good conditions and therefore excellent to raise a proper Cometa. Feels plump and salty, full and herbal, bitters so minor and subtleties available to those who wait for it. The upward trend continues, towards greatness. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2019, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Cometa is fiano “di Ulmo” in Menfi out of two vineyards, Dispensa and Paso di Gura. Clay soils over calcium carbonate and a place for full ripeness within the context of fulfilling the promise for golden grapes. The florals sing from 2019, more white than yellow and the vintage delivers a credibly balanced affair. In this last vintage before the world went mad Cometa seems at ease, confident and secure. Not as round and plump as the following 2020 yet equally saline, herbal if sweetly so and the crunchiest Cometa ever encountered. Not a shock because “every vintage of fiano is unpredictable” explains Alessio Planeta. More vertical, linear and direct. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Cometa 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Experimental grape introduction of fiano to Menfi in 1994 with the first vintage being 2000. “They (Avellino) grow fiano on volcanic soil in the mountains and we grow it in clay soils by the sea,” tells Alessio Planeta. “With low yields and small bunches.” Here it can be tropical but it’s always herbal and breezy. Can’t help but be salty, after all the air is filled with marine life.  Last tasted March 2022

Cometa has changed or rather in its youthful state of ultimate reductive freshness is so straight-laced, linear, tightrope walking along a razor sharp edge. There’s a tonic injection that helps to propel it forward and the envisioning projects two years ahead to see it develop some sweeter fruit notes, straight from the orchard’s hip. Watch for this special vintage of fiano, the ancient noble variety from Campania that Planeta’s braintrust took a well-advised flyer on in the 1990s. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Didacus 2019, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The name Didacus is Diego, from the Latin, a chardonnay dedicated to Alessio Planeta’s visionary uncle, the late Diego Planeta. These Storico Vineyard Menfi vines were planted in 1985 on the hillside up to 270m of elevation and below the white rock on calcareous-clay soils above the lake. As a vintage 2019 was dryer and warmer than 2018, especially in summer. Results in a richly concentrated chardonnay but one picked earlier with acids in tact and phenols well developed. Plenty of water stocks in the soil after a wet 2018 allowed the plants to ease through ’19 and take full advantage of the dry season. Full malo feel, good mineral backbone and a long sensation swept across the palate puts this in a place of Menfi specificity while also leaving an impression that next level notes will emerge over a good period of time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Didacus 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The chardonnay dedicated to Diego Planeta, from the oldest Menfi vines, planted in 1985. The name Didacus is indeed Diego in Latin and the inherent plus inferred further meaning is as thought, a didactic one, which says something about many things. It speaks to the pioneer Mr. Planeta’s two-toned, ahead of its time work and to the way chardonnay takes Sicily into another realm and brings reductive freshness into buttery bites that ties two voices together. And they will speak as one. Soon. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019 and March 2022

Planeta Ulmo tasting

Planeta Didacus Cabernet Franc 2017, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The Didacus red is a varietal cabernet franc from a very specific Ulmo block, also named for Diego Planeta, visionary and pioneer for wines in Sicily. The Piano del Sommacco (sumac) is the source, treated to whole bunch fermentation and aged in tonneaux because of the fruit’s great potential. The heat did not come until just before harvest (after a cooler season early). This is good for franc when the heat comes late for more concentration though also one picked later as it should be. The uncanny smell of carob and even bokser pod fruit, properly herbal, just the right amount of pyrazine, balsamic and spice. Long, blue and true. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Didacus is Diego, from the Latin and like the chardonnay this cabernet franc is dedicated in kinship to Alessio Planeta’s uncle, pioneer and visionary, the late Diego Planeta. Storico Vineyard in Menfi was planted in 1985 on white rock-calcareous-clay soils above the lake. There is little surprise that 2016 was a serious franc vintage, long and drawn out, perfect to bring the ripeness of necessary phenols that the grape so clearly needs and dearly deserves. Shows off cabernet franc’s dreamy complexion with a side of pyrazine though depth of fruit and dearth of (including American) oak are really the pair in charge. There is something Rioja Gran Reserva about Didacus but even more so there is Sicilian depth, Moorish density and Planeta gravity. Or gravitas it should be conceded from and for a wine of many splendored seasoning and structure. Perfume flies in the air and dreams will someday come true. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Fishes by Costante Planeta

Planeta Alastro 2021, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Alsatro the yellow flower that appears all over Menfi in Spring. Mainly grecanico with some sauvignon blanc, the former essentially the same grape as garganega. Similar to a Soave ideal, to add some aromatic swagger in a friendship to work with a local grape. Lean and light, like garganega in wet concrete, straight ahead citrus, neutral and refreshing with just a hint of petrol. Cool white. Drink 2022-2025. Tasted March 2022

Planeta Grillo Terebinto 2021, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Terebinto the red flower all over the hills of Menfi in spring, especially as you approach the sea. A cross between the aromatics and intensity of cataratto and the gregarious flavours of zibbibo. Made as a pure variety but only since 2016 because Alessio Planeta realized it was a beautiful beast. While the sunshine and richness are very much accumulated there is also the sea in this gently rolling and saline white. A great vintage of this wine and just what grillo should be. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Plumbago Nero d’Avola 2019, Sicilia DOC

Plumbago or “Ploom-baggo” grows in Menfi and around Ulmo, coming out in Spring though not right away. In nero d’avola it is a red that manifests Menfi missives though Planeta chooses to label it not in menzione geographica terms but rather Sicilia DOC. This is because a new vineyard’s fruit is involved and so it was not requested to be Menfi, but again in 2021 will be. Always rolling deep and seasoned, a black cherry and seasoned meaty depth yet ’19 seems to have more stones, air and lightness, a relative thing but it makes a difference. This Plumbago really gets it, or maybe we get it and how it translates transparently. Less rustic than usual, a wood adjustment made and so here with a bit more sympathy and less dealing with the devil. Or more perhaps? It may say, “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. But what’s puzzling you, is the nature of my game.” Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Maroccoli Syrah 2017, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Syrah, from a conca facing the lake in Ulmo, more calcareous than where the chardonnay grows, a sea of sediment that is more alluvial going down to the shore. This syrah grows on the white calcium carbonate which surely gives vivid florals to mitigate a hematic meatiness created by the clay, sun and varietal tendency. Not a syrah of bacon or smoked meat and also not overtly concentrated but instead quite pretty and elegant. It should be expected this direction will continue with subsequent vintages. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Vineyards in Ulmo

Planeta Maroccoli Syrah 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Syrah is grown above the lake in Ulmo on a “conca“ of alluvial and calcareous clay soils notably white and the purple flower aromas are surely there in this vintage. So are the meaty ones but also those that imagine roasted melanzane and other toasty vegetative scents. While there used to be so much concentration in this wine it seems that 2016 marks a turn towards restraint and that thing we like to call elegance. Still the dripping meat juices fragrance and flavour rear up in this ’16, as they have always been known to do. Ready to go now with the first hints of balsamic and flint coming through. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Sito Dell’Ulmo Planeta Merlot 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Pure merlot made since 1995, one of the first for Planeta and one that used to be called simply “merlot.” A style of spice and even balsamic but once again the florals, lighter activity and respect for vineyard in their sense of place is what really matters today. These were the first vineyards planted in 1985, along with chardonnay, nero d’avola and grecanico. The experimental early days. At 31 years-old these merlot vines are highly experienced, the varietal give is exactly of itself and the wine is almost OCD stringent. That is to say it knows what it is and wants to be. Not overtly rich but surely capable of aging and again a vintage of freshness meets long, cool and slow ripening. “A bit too fresh for me,” says Alessio Planeta and then “nordic style,” adds Patrica Tóth.” Beautifully chalky and like a Sicilian I will fight to the death to argue that soil has much to do with the mouthfeel of this merlot. Still needs one more year. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Burdese 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Burdese (Boor-dee-say) from a Sicilian dialect, as in Bordelais, looking back in time at Bordeaux, using the two cabernets from Ulmo, sauvignon and franc, 70-30 in every vintage except ’97-99, when it was only sauvignon. There is an acidity that can only be described as “Burdese,” even when the sauvignon dries out a bit, by the calcareous raised franc and most importantly the freshest of Menfi vintages. Here a fragrant and bright Bordeaux (or perhaps Ulmese?) joint, a blend that sings and raises the bar for such wines in Sicily. Tart and chalky, structured and really long. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Burdese 2015, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Burdese, the Sicilian Bordeaux blend, a word brought back and employed here in Menfi as the French dispatch for cabernet sauvignon (70 per cent) and franc grown in Ulmo. Now settled into its Bordelais by way of Sicilian skin, tannins softened and acids too. Feels like a warm season created the resolve in this wine but then again it also seems like there are parts unknown and things yet revealed. After all “all great beauties withhold their deepest secrets.” Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Sicilia DOC

Planeta La Segreta Grillo 2021, Sicilia DOC

An extension from the original Bianco bottle, added a few years back (2016) when grillo and nero d’avola were recognized as protected varieties under the Sicilia DOC. While made in greater quantity and with less complexity than the Terebinto grillo the idea and the ideal are one in the same. Citrus and herbs, some fleshiness and sunshine though quiet and calm. Spot on balance and amenability. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Il Bianco 2021, Sicilia DOC

Il Bianco is the original La Segreta, a blend of (50 per cent) grecanico with viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Remarkably the aromatics do tell of viognier but that changes across a palate that  s expressly grecanico with shades of the other grapes. Broader and more rounded than grillo, perhaps antithetically so but less specificity Makes Il Bianco the one to work for all. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Nero d’Avola 2021, Sicilia DOC

An extension from the original Rosso bottle, added a few years back (2016) when nero d’avola and grillo were recognized and added as protected varieties under the Sicilia DOC. Essentially Planeta’s varietal “lite,” a lithe and honest, pure and transparent entry into the Ulmo world for nero d’avola, with just a small portion from Noto. The key is all estate grapes, an entry into and sort of second set of wines for Planeta. The selection comes within the availability of 370 hectares of production. Safe, straightforward, varietally correct, tart and also too easy to knock back. Drink 2022-2024. T asted March 2022

Planeta La Segreta Il Rosso 2021, Sicilia DOC

As with Il Bianco, Il Rosso is the original red under the La Segreta label, a blend of (50 per cent) nero d’avola with merlot, syrah and splashes of cabernet franc. Deeper if not darker but certainly meatier and more ferric than the varietal nero. Herbal as well, a note of Amaro and dark chocolate shavings. As with the other three La Segreta wines the Rosso is a matter of different vineyard management as compared with the other Planeta wines, with the intendment to be less concentrated, less tannic and to drink right here and right now. That it does, especially with pasta in a sauce of eggplant and tomatoes from Vittoria. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Lava flow, Feudo di Mezzo


The year was 2008 when Planeta settled on the north side of Etna, among the lava flows and the woods which surround the village of Passopisciaro. Vines of planted nerello and carricante were planted and then in 2012 the winery was also established. The hospitality is housed to the north at Montelaguardia, in the middle of the Sciaranuova vineyard at more than 800m above sea level. Here the Etna cru are produced, in pinot nero, nerello mascalese, riesling and carricante. To the south the Feudo di Mezzo winery and vineyard (for Etna Rosso) are right in the centre of a 15th century lava flow. Nearby at Torreguarino and Rampante the vines are also best suited to red wines. At Sciaranuova the old terraces were transformed into a “Theatre in the Vineyard,” home to the Sciaranuova Festival.

Sciaranuova, Etna

To get a true sense of geography and location there are four passeggiate that will unlock the door to Etna enlightenment. The first is through the 15th century lava flow at Feudo di Mezzo and the vineyards with their gnarly bush vines. The second is the lava flow of “L’Etna 1981,” an eruption between the 17th and 23rd of March, at which time the village of Randazzo below came this close to being swallowed whole. The third is through Parco Statella to gain a sense of how Etna’s north face integrates Alberello vineyards, woods and homes. The fourth is ambling over volcanic boulder flows, admiring all the layers of lava rock, exploring the ancient, gnarly and propitious aboard L’Etna, as seen in Passopisciaro.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT

Eruzione is always picked later than the carricante for the Etna Bianco (from Monetalguardia), at least a week later, finished on the 20th of October, really early. You smell and taste the Bianco from 2019 and think it’s tight but then you do the same with the Eruzione and then realize just what tight is. In this amazingly compact ’19 there is the feeling of salts dissolving into the fine grain of the wine, volcanics in carricante disappearing with immediacy though their presence never leaves your palate. A vintage that so precisely and clearly defines what it means to grow this grape on the northern slope of the mountain between 810-900m, even though at this elevation it can’t qualify for DOC Etna. The higher you go, the tighter are the wines and the longer they live. That is a fact. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014, Terre Siciliane IGT

This is just perfect. To re-taste Eruzione carricante five years later, almost to the day and just past the halfway point in this 1614’s expected tenure. In fact it barely feels like any time has passed save for a fumé moment of character that Tóth admits “I don’t know where it comes from,” meaning it’s not technologically possible. Which means it comes from the vineyard. Or, the original sapid part of the wine transforming into smoulder. The texture is not organza but sheer, you can feel through it. The salt has fully melted to now extend the flavour but the wine remains tight. And so the longevity abides. And the score also rises, as the sun. Drink through 2027.   Last tasted March 2022

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” save perhaps Planeta’s Patricia Tóth, a winemaker who celebrates the past, the endemic varietal and in the present, the glaring truth. The name Eruzione is evocative of the estate’s Cru dell’Etna and in a mind’s eye transports history through the narrative of carricante (with 10 per cent riesling). It brings the legendary 1614 Mount Etna eruption to life, a longest ever recorded catastrophe that lasted ten years, halting just on the border of the vineyards of Sciaranuova. This is veritable mountain altitude wine, from high (790-890m) terraced, volcanic black soils delivering fresh conifer savour, saltiness and palpable mineral style. It is sharp and composed on the nose, with citrus distillate and elevated acidity. It does not matter whether you are wide awake or deep in R.E.M sleep. At all times it is a revelation for carricante. This is what it can be! There was no need for crop thinning, it was picked four to five weeks after the sparkling and it spent five months on the lees. The texture and the potential longevity are thankful for this. “Combien, combien, combien du temps?” At least seven years. Talk about the passion. Drink 2018-2025.   Tasted March 2017

Quarantine passegiata, Versante Nord, Etna

Planeta Riesling 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

What do you compare Etna riesling to? Nothing save perhaps Eden Valley but what’s the point? Texturally this from Planeta is quite soft but no matter the texture every sip goes salty. Volcanics, or more to the lava flow point, living, breathing and current (within the last 400 years) volcanics will do that, for real. Not like other “volcanic” soils, those from mountains that erupted maybe one million years ago. But that’s only half of the matter. The other and equally important matter is elevation, at 900m, less fancy, attractive and sexy. But this is real and this is what riesling wants and needs. Not Mosel, not Trentino, not Argentina but L’Etna heights. She is present and she presents. “Elevation is not as sexy as volcanics, “ said no one ever but this is the thing. Riesling was never that or like this but it has arrived. Say hello to my little friend TS-IGT. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Sciaranuova Vineyard

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Pinot Nero 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

Super fine pinot noir from Patricia Tóth on Etna’s north slope at 820m, like well-prepared sea urchin, straccato di manzo mantecato and fegato d’oca. If not the best Etna Rosso vineyard it may as well be in the conversation because this kind of pinot noir depth is usually reserved for nerello mascalese. Something cool this way comes every morning and dry, no matter the settling of precipitation the night before. Here the fineness of varietal and block share a feeling, a commonality of place within to the third degree, mimicking gastronomy and asking for the right set of partners. There is fennel and there are dried spices, cumin perhaps in how the delicate yet forceful south asianer’s carpet really ties the wine together. Sweet meanderings in dried rags really bring the rustica and the autentica. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Making friends in Parco Statella, Etna

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2020

Widest and most inviting smile yet from Planeta and winemaker Patricia Tóth’s 2020 Etna Bianco, generous gift of the volcano and the sun, elemental salts and even ripeness, controlled eruption and fleshy intensity. A relaxed bianco as an extension of the vineyard, 100 per cent carricante from Contrada Taccione in the village of Monetalguardia. The soil is deeply organic, nourishing, dark for Etna at 690-720m. Hard to find more direct accommodation and physical beauty than what this Bianco wants to share, without demands, strings or expecting anything in return. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Etna hospitality, Planeta

Planeta Etna Bianco DOC 2019

Though the next vintage of Etna Bianco DOC will be the perfect one, for everyone and all, this from 2019 is no difficult one, it’s just more linear, laser focused and intense. There are times when 100 per cent carricante can act this way, not because of any varietally finicky reason but just because the vintage makes it so. More central, linear, severe and seeking ways to branch out but that still may not be possible at this time. Super compact and it looks as though 2021 could also be this way. The grapes came early, seemingly counterintuitive to how things turned out and the winemaker looked around, not believing the harvest was done. But forget about it Patricia. It’s Etna. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022


Planeta Etna Rosso DOC 2020

A 100 per cent nerello mascalese from Pietramarina and Feudo di Mezzo (where the cellar is located), two vineyards 5km between them at 600m of elevation. The nose is almost clay even though there is none on Etna making for a very clean aromatic profile. Made in the Piedmontese cappelo sommerso method, 35-40 days on skins, because nerello mascalese doesn’t like and doesn’t need oxygen, regardless of its tannic structure. The vintage is a round and gifting one for all, bianco and rosso alike, less compact than some and fleshy as a ripe plum, especially with reds. A 2020 in which recent volcanics are a matter of wringing out a basalt sponge with the resulting juices running with charismatic invitation. That said a Planeta Etna Rosso clearly needs some time, not forever mind you and in this case a depth of developed fruit and mineral swath keeps things wrapped and taut. Notable for the red citrus bite, pique and pith across the back end. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Feudo di Mezzo, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT

Varietal nerello mascalese grown above the DOC line is a matter of great, compact and vertical concern from out of the 2018 vintage. Was a rainy and “fragile” vintage, a matter of nature putting more stress on bunches that can result in variegate meaning. The concept of rigorous table sorting and the use of a basket press are essential tools to getting pristine fruit and then juice. Etna’s conditions are so unique to Sicily and so here in Sciaranuova it is the last of Planeta’s estates to figure out the what, why and how for making quality wine. On the whites it was in and around ’16 and for the reds probably right here with this sharp, spiced and meaningful red. While it is quite compressed there is also an expansiveness that presses to the full extent in how the palate is swarmed and covered. My goodness. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Parco Statella, Versante Nord, Etna

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2017, Terre Siciliane IGT

Sciaranuova is the place closest to the village of Passopisciaro for nerello mascalese of a very specific style. From a warm vintage and one when there was nine per cent cappuccio mixed in with the mascalese. More of a salumi, curative and dried skins vintage, not just with an extra year affecting the wine but also because of the cappuccio influence with an increase in oxidative feel. Feels quite ready to rock and roll, more of the latter perhaps and with the right moment there will be a scorrevole of mascalese sensation running and then sliding across the palate. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

Capo Milazzo

Sicilia’s most extreme and dramatic northeast corner is home to some of Planeta’s most extreme and dramatic wines. Capo Milazzo’s soils are alluvial, deep soils, friables, born out of rivers that came from the northern mountains. The peninsula’s proximity to the sea leads to wines that are salty, with algae, black cherry and cypress. The four hectare vineyard is called La Baronia, used for the Sicilia DOCs in Nocera and Mamertino but also experimentally and for research in three ancient varieties known as varietà reliquie; vitraruolo, lucignola and catanese nera.

Planeta Nocera 2018, Nocero Sicilia DOC

Specific to Milazzo in the northeast of Sicily, in two appellations, Faro and Mamertino. Noce is “nuts,” growing in big bunches and blue-hued (much more so than cabernet sauvignon). Grows on volcanics, in a place with an active volcano (Stromboli) which is significant and in 2018 the vintage didn’t turn out the same beast of a bruiser in terms of the grape’s intensity of tannins. Forget the comparisons to sangiovese, barbera and tannat because this ’18 is a wonderfully harmonious and balanced varietal wine. Still the presence and obviousness of black cherry, peppery nocellara olive and just a kiss of orange. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Planeta Mamertino 2017, Mamertino Sicilia DOC

From the dramatic land and seascape that is Capo Milazzo and a wine surely as close to winemaker Patricia Tóth’s heart as any in her Planeta dreams. Blends 60 per cent nero d’Avola, with (40) nocera while paying homage to the Mamertini who produced a version of this wine at Milazzo, described by Pliny and beloved by Julius Caesar. First vintage was 2013 and so only the fifth by this warm vintage example. Can be a bruiser and a brooder but ’17 exhibits a surprising antithetical brightness and invitation for pleasure. Even when this young, now moving, not evolving but relenting, in structure and for spirit. The two grapes work in seamless if also delicious tandem, pushing and giving a little, extending an olive branch through clear Mediterranean scents, flavours and style. Like morning dew, soulfully guitar driven, modern jazzy in pure stone groove. Unexpected and warranted at the very same time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022


Noto is the birthplace of nero d’Avola, graced with calcareous soils like Jerez and Champagne, not really comparable to anywhere else. Noto is close to Vittoria in how the wines come to be but it’s a mobile texture, silken and with velvety tannins. The soft hills of Buonivini are blessed by soft breezes arising from the meeting of two seas, ideal for nero d’Avola and moscato, but also almonds, carobs and olives, symbolic plants of the Mediterranean location. The three vineyards are agliastro, buonvini and zuppardo on 45 hectares, acquired piece by piece, today producing the DOC wines Santa Cecilia, Moscato di Noto and Passito di Noto.

Planeta Allemanda 2021, Sicilia Noto DOC

Allemanda, opening baroque dance, 100 per cent moscato bianco, fully, completely Noto. The concept is before the meal, a winder upper, ahead of several courses and pairings, in lieu of that wine killing sundowner, Sicilian style. Quite a tart and powerfully stinging revivalist, to wake one up and keep the spirit alive well into the night. A palate refresher, making use of the indigenous and the parochial. Crisp, clean, tightly wound, acidity high, difficulty low. Revive your energy with a glass of Allemanda, dancer in the mouth. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Moscato Di Noto Dry 2021, Sicilia Noto DOC

Sister to Allemanda, 100 per cent moscato (di Noto) yet here dry as the southern Sicilian desert (proverbially speaking) and acids running jet propelled high. In the vein of riesling or say Hunter Valley sémillon, austere, intense, at present unknowable but tenable as time will surely race on by. Lime and the dream of petrol, sharp herbs and even sharper citrus, though not straightforward as such. Most curious and intense white wine, best with sea creatures now but with time, who knows, the sky just may be the limit. Age some and see what transpires. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Controdanza 2018, Sicilia Noto DOC

Not quite a year has passed and while a settling seems noticeable there still pulses and vibrates a dance of sorts. The white soils have yet to leave the floor and the wines continues to slide over the sleek surface. The nero needs more time, the austerity must chill out and the integration is still somewhat far away. Keep to the program.  Last tasted April 2022

Noto’s bianci soils on the Buonivini estate are the Controdanza source at of Sicily’s furthest southeastern point. Planeta’s relationship here dates back to 1998. The hoedown,”quadrille” or square dance is 85 per cent nero d’Avola plus (15) merlot, super Sicilian by way of Noto and no matter how many vintages pass on by there is still this irony between barn dancing and post-modern blending. It takes tasting this 2018 to realize how dominant the nero d’Avola really is and while merlot is supposed to soften and add a cream centre, in 2018 that’s a big request. Now 2017 makes even more sense and is a cream puff compared to this tannic and grippy 2018. A bigger wine of greater fortitude and one that needs some time to soften. Hold off on the Controdanza for now, the wine and the dance. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2021

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2016, DOC Noto

That idea behind tertiary fungi and umami is still a dream and should be shelved for at least four to five years. That said there is some movement now into the secondary, just hints mind you but there are the plums baked into the minced meat of a sciachiatta pie. Even a note of red pepper flake, parsley and dandelion to accent the sausage. Drinking with most excellent gastronomy right now.  Last tasted April 2022

The flagship 100 per cent nero d’avola must be poured last because of the power and the fact that it’s not something so easily understood. If you were to try and taste other wines after this it would be like Eric Clapton going on after Jimi Hendrix. There’s a deep olive, blood orange, tar and ribena profile that you just know will seek out truffle, porcini, tar and roses. Welcome to the world of aging Sicilian wines and in this very specific world, nero d’avola from Noto. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2011, DOC Noto

Santa Cecilia from 2011 is a special nero d’avola, balanced in silent but sweetly deadly acquiescence of Noto’s white chalky soils. Her tannins are abundant and smooth, running in one direction and so it’s a wonder how un-evolved and yet so involved this nero d’avola is equipped to believe about and with great kindred spirit with itself. That it presents this youthful and yet to advance is a thing magical and sincere. Inner strength is one thing but outward beauty is the real deal. Or is it the other way around? Either way they combine for one of Cecilia’s greatest acuity and remainder of structure. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018 and April 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2008, DOC Noto

Having now tasted several vintages, including a few older examples of Santa Cecilia the idea of taking nothing for granted is now engrained. Something happens to this nero d’avola after several years in bottle, part chemistry and part magic. When 10 years get behind this wine it begins to dig, deep and purposefully into the Noto soil, finding minerals and elements that never seemed to before be present in this wine. Well past the fruit stage here in this 2008, now underlying, primitive and fundamental. And yet it reeks of nero, wood a thing of the past, a perfume cast with spellbound, gripping and intriguing fascination. No shortage of earth and cocoa derivations but mostly the curiosity of place. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005, DOC Noto

Finding oneself in a state of utter disbelief upon nosing an older Santa Cecilia has just happened with thanks to this 2005 and the unthinkable aromatics it possesses. There have been some older examples like 2007, 2008 and 2011 which all showed morphological magic but this, this is something other. The state of perfumed preservation is impossible, the floral emanations and fruit continuance implausible and in suspension of belief. The 2005 is almost perfect, dark berries and red citrus alive, acids in perfect condition, wood dissolved, resolved and walked straight out the door. The life and vitality reside in the arena of the flawless, faultless and achievable. This is what nero d’avola, Santa Cecilia, Noto and Planeta can be, at its collective finest. Will drink this way (and also that) for five more years and with ease. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Passito Di Noto 2019, Sicilia Noto DOC

Planeta’s Passito di Noto is a rare and singular dessert wine, now in its 17th year of production, made with moscato (di Noto) and from vines so old it may not be known just how old they are. The grapes are dried using the appassimento method and then turned into this concentrated and naturally sweet dessert wine. This is a very particular viscosity and profile with resins and vapours as tenable as are the sugars, with herbs and plants nearby mixing with their vinous qualities for a sticky of superior savour and character. Imagine pineapple soaked in rosemary and vermouth, apricots bathing in fennel and golden Amaro, hazelnuts toasted with long pepper and green vines. Not unusual but particular, spoken personality and in the end, so very fine. Drink 2024-2035. Planeta’s Passito di Noto is a rare and singular dessert wine, now in its 17th year of production, made with moscato (di Noto) and from vines so old it may not be known just how old they are. The grapes are dried using the appassimento method and then turned into this concentrated and naturally sweet dessert wine. This is a very particular viscosity and profile with resins and vapours as tenable as are the sugars, with herbs and plants nearby mixing with their vinous qualities for a sticky of superior savour and character. Imagine pineapple soaked in rosemary and vermouth, apricots bathing in fennel and golden Amaro, hazelnuts toasted with long pepper and green vines. Not unusual but particular, spoken personality and in the end, so very fine. Drink 2024-2035. Tasted April 2022.Tasted April 2022


Southeastern Vittoria is home to the only Sicilian DOCG called Cerasuola di Vittoria, a blend of nero d’Avola and frappato grown on red sandy soils. As winemaker Patricia Tóth likes to say, “the main actor in all these wines is the beloved nero’d’Avola,” most important variety on the island, planted across 60 per cent of vinicultural surface area. Nero is the adaptable one, like pinot noir in France, nebbiolo in Piemonte and sangiovese in Tuscany. Vittoria’s are fresher and ignite more passion as compared to what comes from Noto and parts further east on Sicilia.


Planeta Frappato Sicilia Vittoria DOC 2020

First vintage of Planeta’s frappato was 2013 so by count this eighth is a Vittoria DOC of experiential significance, rare, low output yielding and as always, never showy. The grape and the amazing singularity it possesses makes for comparisons that are desperate but ultimately useless. That frappato in Planeta’s way can deliver this fresh strawberry and reductively earthy combination is testament to soil and sea. Think of the ripest fruit cut clear and clean by wet stoniness and sharp imagery. Crystalline vintage here for Planeta, potent, vehement and heartfelt. There is no hiding from such clarity and tempered ethos. The 2020 shows a little of that Etna Rosso feeling and from a location so far away. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Planeta Frappato Sicilia Vittoria DOC 2019

An extra year effects a significant amount of change and difference, especially when that vintage was so warm and generous. In the realm of rare and dignified frappato there are moods, as if sounds, environment, beats and emotion have become involved, as if music saved my life. The strawberries are wilder and deeper, the herbals ground by pestle and the sea just a bit dark, turned up and stormy. The mid-palate on 2019 is completely filled in, the acids circulative, the finish weighty and defiant. Not the light and bright frappato of some years and yet always sharp, direct, pointed. It can’t help but be. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted April 2022

Winemaker or dog whisperer? Both

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG 2020

From the red soils of the Dorilli estate and Sicily’s only DOCG in capture of a seriously striking vintage. The southerly location lands between the sea and the Iblean mountains, the name coming from cerasa, cherry in Sicilian dialect. Typical for Planeta’s take, blend of 60 per cent nero d’Avola with (40) frappato, coming together like Hall and Oates, a little bit 80s, funky and pretty. Cerasuola as method of modern love, in which “dreams are made of a different stuff.” Cerasuola pitting strawberry and cherry against a red citrus backdrop, remarkably well constructed and produced. Two grapes in harmony, with strong hooks and overlaying melodies. Adheres to traditional soul traditions while turning out the pop. Thus the DOCG. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted April 2022

Dorilli Sicilia Cerasuola Di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2017

Dorilli represents the pinnacle of the eponymous estate sound and vision in a Cerasuolo more Bowie and Lennon than any duo aligned for hits. The 2017 is Planeta’s Fame, higher in nero d’Avola (70 per cent) and lesser (30) in frappato as compared to the normale. Named for the nearby river Dirillo, “landing place of brave Aeneas,” and a red blend that aches with both maturity and confidence. “Could it be the best, could it be? Really be really babe. Could it be my babe could it babe?” The answer is yes, in spite of a warm vintage with some dustiness and dried fruit. Fame can be and is had with bowie knife sharpness and young Sicilian intensity. Yes this 2017 is too youthful to call but time will be kind and this wine will be timeless. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted April 2022

Good to go!


Welcome to Planeta Earth

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello



Forever in Chianti Classico

Gallo Nero at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

An ambassador’s return, Chianti Classico Collection 2022, 4 LCBO videos, 11 UGAs, 37 estate visits and 450 tasting notes

The story of two hats

The last pre-pandemic supper in Panzano takes place in the Officina della Bistecca at Dario Cecchini’s Antica Macelleria Restaurant on the 19th of February, 2020. Little could any one of the revelers that night have any inclination what lay ahead. Who could foresee less than a week later there would be a Casablanca-esque slipping out of Faenza in the middle of the night, heading to Firenze for a flight out of Italy before first light. A funny thing happens in between. Tutti Matti Chef Alida Solomon from Toronto is already feasting at the long Bistecca harvest table when the party Canadese arrives. A wonderful surprise save for the fact that Tuscany is actually her home. That night the writer surreptitiously leave his Sienese cappella in the officina and the next day no one at Cecchini is able locate it. Hat vanishing act. On route to Montalcino a necessary stop is made in Siena, specifically the Piazza del Campo, for a Spritz and the purchase of a new hat. Borsalino is closed so Cappelleria Bertacchi is the next best option and a brand new, similarly styled hat is procured. The following day, while sitting upstairs tasting Brunello on the terrazza of Caffè La Fortezza in Montalcino who walks in but Solomon, tosses up the aforementioned and abandoned hat, nothing is spoken and away Chef goes. This is the story of being the owner of two hats.

Tasting with Michaela Morris at Il Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, March 2022

A prodigal ambasciatore‘s return

This may be considered an inflated way to refer to one’s self in the third person but truth is that third person recounts with the fondest of memories 10 pre-pandemic Tuscan excursions in four years before the world shuts down to travel. The restart launches in October 2021 with the first of four more over the course of six ’21-’22 abridging months. There are extroverts and introverts but there are also ambiverts, those who exhibit tendencies in roughly equal proportions. Some are in the middle or on the fence when it comes to Chianti Classico wines. If one is to refer to oneself as a proud ambassador for said wines then there must be synergistic feelings of belonging. There will be connectivity with the wines, territory and a most profound connection with the people. In October of 2021 a rebirth takes place in the guise of travel renascence, a re-entry for the first time in 20 months made available by the most erudite, generous and hospitable folks at Gambero Rosso. An ambassador who sits not on a fence has zero trepidation in making a decision to fly first to Firenze for three days of arranged visits in the Classico zone to precede the Tre Bicchieri’s festivities in Rome. When a month later a special edition of Benvenuto Brunello is organized it makes super sense to follow that up with three more days of visits in the territory shared by Firenze and Siena. To see great Consorzio friends and colleagues again restores faith in this world. Car rides, lunches, dinners, tank, barrel, latest release and archived tastings, caffès and chats in the sun. Grazie tantissimo to Giovanni Manetti, Carlotta Gori, Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Caterina Mori, as always, sempre e per sempre.

Related – Chianti Classico goes to eleven

Chianti Classico Education in Toronto

The UGA designation, LCBO videos and continuing Chianti Classico education

In June of 2021 the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico announces the shift to 11 additional units of geographical designation to carve out new parameters and progressiveness for the territory. These Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive allow producers to make mention on labels of Gran Selezione wines. A first step towards full disclosure across all Chianti Classico wine labels in the future. This information comes to the writer on the heels of keeping busy during lockdowns and pandemic restrictions that sees the proliferation of tastings and education via platforms like Zoom. Connecting producers with sommeliers and prospective agents is key to continuity and Godello obliges whenever the call to duty arrives. The return in person late in 2021 and through the first four months of 2022 sees restaurant education sessions reach dozens upon dozens of sommeliers, front of house and back of house staff, denizens of Toronto’s restaurant industry eager to resume their absorption of wine information, especially as it pertains to tasting sangiovese. The filming of four educational videos for the LCBO is particularly gratifying, capped by a win of an LCBO Elsie Award for said videos. In three weeks time the producers will arrive in Toronto to participate in the WineAlign critic and Ambasciatore‘s Masterclass. They will also pour their wines at both trade and consumer walk-around tastings. The Toronto Island Chianti Classico Cup happens on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 and “Experience the Wine, Olive Oil & Food of Chianti Classico,” Monday, May 30, 2022 at The Globe and Mail Centre.” Click on the link for more information. Forever in Chianti Classico, even while at home.

Filming Chianti Classico videos for the LCBO, at Praise Bottle Shop, Toronto

End of season reaction to the April frost of 2021

For Luca Martini di Cigala of San Giusto a Rentannano the first vintage when he realized something was not right was 1998, when the skin of the berries were burned by the sun. Climate change, events and extremes are not something that just popper up in the past few years. 

Paolo de Marchi does not so much look at yields before high density but rather yields that are a quotient of each square metre as a function of bunches per plant. In a frost year like 2021 Guyot produces more fruit from secondary buds. Paolo makes use of a selection of clones but more importantly a massal vineyard. “This is how you get rid of vines that are not good and replicate those that are. Bud break is often so early and we will never escape the frost anymore. The real problem starts with earlier winter and Spring.”

UGA in reverse, Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

At Casa Emma Paolo Paffi admits to a 35 per cent loss in 2021 due to the April frosts, a vintage when even problems occurred even in the higher reaches. “You would have to go back to 1995 to find another vintage where this happened,” tells Paffi. At Villa Le Corti Principe Duccio Corisini and Oenologist Claudio Giglioni noted that in 2021 the single vineyard Guliae, nicknamed the Figo, produced seven tonnes per hectare. It remained safe from the frost, perhaps because of biodynamics, perhaps because of Guyot training, perhaps because of position. Maybe all three but regardless it was not caught in the April frost zone.

At Il Molino di Grace in Panzano their particular frost zone resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in yields.  There was a good quantity of water in the winter, a cool spring, warm and ideal summer, rain in the second half of August. “A perfect situation for quality and quantity,”  had the frosts not come. Says Iacopo Morganti, “we need to build artificial lakes.”

Related – When frost strikes, Chianti Classico responds

Chianti Classico Experience in Toronto

Fontodi and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti owns over 20 hectares of over 40 years. He explains that even if there are 20-30 days separating the picking from start to finish in a vintage there is always a marker, especially with sangiovese. “And with old vines they are not nearly as susceptible to stressors,” says Manetti. “Vigna del Sorbo will succeed even with all of what is mentioned here.” At Bindi Sergardi I Colli is where Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi was born and grew up. Built in the 1400s for the family, lower in elevation (350m) as compared to Mocenni (500m), still rich in Alberese but also high in iron content across the road in the Chianti Colli Senesi. Some frost kill but not significant enough to mention. For Angela Fronti of Istine, “this year 20-25 per cent less, part frost and part cinghiale, qualcosa nell-aia.” Something in the yard.

Alone with Chianti Classico Sangiovese, rooftop terrace, Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, Firenze

Roberto Bianchi of Val delle Corti: “It’s been a difficult year and we’re very lucky to be in Radda. We did not fear the frost. Most Radda producers escaped loss due to frost but the animals are another matter all together. Drought pushes the animals (wild boar, deer the size of cows), out of the forest and grapes are there biggest resource recourse.” Bianchi is still looking higher and a few years ago planted Malpensa Vineyard upwards of 650m. As did Fedecrica Mascheroni of Volpaia. Their new vineyard is planted at 650m, using five clones of sangiovese from Il Puro with two chosen for planting as half of the small (one hectare vineyard) and also malvasia and trebbiano for Vinsanto. It was finished in the Spring of 2021.

Educating the LCBO Buyers, February 2022

What about Canaiolo?

“Canaiolo is an underestimated variety,” insists Isole e Olena’s Paolo de Marchi. “It ripened so early this (2021) season and was picked before the chardonnay. It just may be the future” While that may sound like sacrilege in a land where sangiovese is the (literal) life blood of the wines, de Marchi is not the only one focusing extra energy on the endemic variety. L’Erta di Radda’s Diego Finocchi sees canaiolo as essential to blending into sangiovese because of its higher level of pH, a catalyst for balancing not only the high acidity of sangiovese but also helping to temper and even hide alcohol in warm and dry vintages. Both Robin Mugnaini and Claudio Gozzi of Fattoria le Masse would surety agree. Their Timeo is a 100 per cent canaiolo from 60 year-old vines (planted in 1961), picked in late September but before the hottest final days. A wine that is truly a matter of pH waving over the palate.

Learning with Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena, San Donato in Poggio

Angela Fronti of Istine in Radda has planted some canaiolo and malvasia nera, the latter replacing cabernet to return to roots and grow what is meant for this part of the territory. Salt and pepper if you will also to have more diversity going forward into the ever-changing climate change unknown. Canaiolo is more vigorous and so can add some good balance, both more quantity and for freshness in warmer vintages. At San Giusto a Rentennano 15 of 30 hectares are on tufo soil, not exactly volcanic but the left over from a receding ocean that left a mix of sand and pebbles of six or so inches over a bank of clay. This plus many large fossil shells makes for sangiovese of medium hue, specific mineral saltiness and a very specific Chianti Classico profile. Canaiolo is not a factor here.

Estate Vineyard, Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Old is the new agriculture?

There was a profound and at time controversial but always enlightening discussion with Monte Bernardi’s Michael Schmelzer. Michael talked of green harvest, rootstocks, Pietraforte, whole bunch fermentation and instincts. Standing in his Retromarcia Vineyard on a cool but perfectly blue mid-November day I asked him about climate change and what needs to be done about it. Can’t say his answers were what I expected. He began with the concept of dropping fruit. “We haven’t dropped since 2007.  We have to think like the old farmers thought. The new way was to have you reduce fruit to make better wine. It’s like losing nutrients in the ground. I look at the wine bunches as on a scale, they’re not unripe, they’re just less ripe. They help me come up to 55 quintali per hectare. I still get acidity and sapidity. For me the concept should be re-examined and re-thought. I look at everything as an asset. You should be using your fruit. What other industry drops 30 per cent of their produce? We should be seeing 30-35 year-old vineyards going to 50-55 years. Overall we’ve lost more than we have gained.”

New Fontodi vineyard, Lamole

Schmelzer continues onto the idea of choosing 110 Richter, instead of the commonly used 420A rootstock, showing how internodes should be the size of a fist and canes as pencil thinness or bigger. “People are compromising because they’ve chosen the wrong rootstocks,” he explains. “Granted we’re picking earlier than before but mid to late September is not extreme. We haven’t seen anything yet.”

“The only thing I don’t like is people telling me how to make my Riserva,” are the words of a winemaker who has seen his fair share of rejection. Perhaps I encourage the minor rant because there are two sides to every story. Maybe it’s the fault (or the advantage, depending on your perspective) of the rocks. “Brenna Quigley (Napa Geologist) came and made a study of all the famous soils of Chianti Classico and Monte Bernardi was identified as the plot with the hardest Pietraforte of all.” Sa’Etta Vineyard was planted in 1968, now 53 years old (similar to both Monte Bernardi and Tzingana) and trained in double (doppio) Guyot. For Castello di Monsanto’s Laura Bianchi the constant posit tug is Guyot vs Sperrone and both exist in a vacuum where necessity is the mother of invention. 

Macigno di Marne, Lamole

In terms of stems Schmelzer’s decisions are essentially instinctual, like that of a cook. “I don’t look at numbers. I feel as a winemaker it’s important to free yourself from technicalities and use your instincts. If you follow numbers you will always make a mistake that has to be later corrected.” As for barrel use, “if there is wood in a wine I want it to be so subtle. (Again) thinking like a cook. I’ve more stems, for longer, in post and of course also during maceration. Natural tannins come from the stems in that post-maceration state.” The conclusion lies in how stems are catalysts for the polymerization of tannin, without a trace of humidity. Completely secco.

Wines of Lamole

Nowhere is the “old is the new agriculture” refrain spoken with greater clarity than in the Greve frazione and newly minted UGA of Lamole. The spectacular amphitheatre is home to high elevation vineyards of a particular geology where Macigno del Chianti, schist and marl gift a most specific perfume to the sangiovese. Lamole is home to I Fabbri, Lamole di Lamole, Podere Castellinuzza, Castellinuzza e Piuca, Le Masse Di Lamole and Castello di Lamole. The UGA also houses one of Chianti Classico’s most famous vineyards, Paolo Cocci’s Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole, from which several producers have rented fruit to make über-Lamole scented wines. Still others are looking to the frazione to expand on their portfolios, including Podere Poggio Scalette (of Jurij Fiore) and Querciabella from the Ruffoli hill in Greve. It is well known that Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti produces Filetta di Lamole from his cousin’s vineyard but the latest project will take Lamole to an entirely new and different level. Manetti’s new plantation on Macigno di Marne, a wholly singular marine sandstone geology, will be a game changer.

Conzorzio President Giovanni Manetti and Filippo Bartolotta presenting Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Estate visits, the Chianti Classico Collection and Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi

This is the author’s most comprehensive Chianti Classico report to date. Nearly half of the wines chosen to taste were Annata and this is because there were numerous opportunities during estate visits to recall “lost” vintages as a result of the pandemic, along with the newer 2020s and 2019s presented at the collection. In February 2020 the Ambassador Ad Honorem from Canada organizes and acts as chaperone to nine compatriots (plus one favolosa Americana) for five days of exploration throughout the 11 UGAs of the area. Casa Chianti Classico, President Manetti, the Consorzio and the producers host La Squadra Canadese of sommeliers; John Szabo MS, Nadia Fournier, Scott Zebarth, Kristi Linneboe, Joris Garcia, Caroline Beaulieu, Hannah Egan-Lee, Natalie Pope and Paige McIntyre. A memorable trip. A month later on day two of the Chianti Classico Collection a masterclass is presented by Italian wine expert Filippo Bartolotta and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti titled Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi. Chianti Classico wines dating back to 1949 are poured during a most fascinating presentation and study, replete with historical images on screen depicting political, religious, cinematic, pop cultural, artistic and iconic scenes of Italian heritage, civilization and society. There are moments of white grapes mixing with their counterpart reds, old wines gifting scents and textures as if by Vin Santo and others so clearly a product of when they were made. That the wines show incredibly well owes to the longevity of sangiovese and its perseverance in the poise of Chianti Classico. More on this tasting will be shared through a separate article in the coming days.

The producers with Filippo Bartolotta and Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Over the course of the four trips to the region in October, November, February and March, 34 estates are visited; Bindi Sergardi, Cantalici, Casa Emma, Carpineta Fontalpino, Castell’In Villa, Castello di Monsanto, Castello di Radda, Castello di Volpaia, Cigliano di Sopra, Fattoria dell’Aiola, Fattoria Le Masse, Fattoria di Pomona, Fattoria San Giusto A Rentennano, Fontodi, I Fabbri, Il Molino di Grace, Il Palagio di Panzano, Isole e Olena, Istine, La Sala, Le Fonti di Panzano, L’Erta di Radda, Monte Bernardi, Montecalvi, Podere Capaccia, Quercia al Poggio, Querciabella, Rocca delle Macìe, Rocca di Montegrossi, San Felice, Tenuta di Carleone, Val delle Corti, Villa Calcinaia – Conti Capponi and Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini. During the coming weeks further reports in greater detail will appear on Godello concerning several of these visits.

Walk-around tasting at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Over two days at the 2022 Chianti Classico Collection more than 650 different wines from 180 gallo nero estates are made available to journalists and trade; 364 Annata, 161 Riserva and 125 Gran Selezione, along with 39 barrel samples from the 2021 vintage. Sales of Chianti Classico wines continue on an upwards steady trend. In 2021 the growth is plus-21 per cent versus 2020 and plus-11 relative to 2019. Through February of 2022 the increase is plus-seven per cent over the same time period of 2021. Grape prices are up 20 per cent, the United States holds strong at 33 per cent sales while Canada sits in third place with their 10 per cent share. A prediction towards 11 per cent by the end of 2022 holds strong. The great emergence is South Korea where sales have doubled and quadrupled relative to 2020 and 2021. Not surprising Seoul-based journalist Jung Yong Cho becomes the latest appointee as Chianti Classico Ambassador for 2022.

Godello in Firenze

The structure of the tasting notes remains consistent in terms of running through the three appellative levels but here for the first time each listing includes a mention of the associated UGA. Without attempting to review wines that would result in equal footing there is a good level of equanimity in that all 11 UGAs are well documented. The following 450 tasting notes are broken down as follows: Castellina (48); Castelnuovo Berardenga (32); Gaiole (59); Greve (30); Lamole (18); Montefioralle (10); Panzano (39); Radda (55); San Casciano (28); San Donato in Poggio (34); Vagliagli (25) and IGTs (72). By appellation the number of reviews are: Chianti Classico (201); Chianti Classico Riserva (113) and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (59). By vintage the breakdown is Chianti Classico 2020 (46); CC2019 (110); CC2018 (24); Older vintages (20). Chianti Classico Riserva 2019 (15); CCR2018 (45); CCR2017 (10); CCR2016 (10), Older vintages (33). Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2019 (2); CCGS18 (24); CCGS17 (12); CCGS16 (13); Older vintages (9). Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (7). Finally there are sangiovese from 137 estates reviewed in this report, the largest number covered to date.

Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Arillo In Terrabianca Chianti Classico DOCG Sacello 2020


Open and fragrant, south Raddese acidity on display, light and breezy with no oak interference whatsoever. Sacello in località Terrabianca is a sangiovese joy to sip, so long as someone else is lifting the heavy bottle and pouring your glass. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Banfi is another semi-closed and reductive 2020, not uncommon for the vintage and also surely caused in part by just how little time the wine has been in bottle. Cherry fruit and the mild bitterness of the pit dominate the aromas (at this early stage) while texture is pectin and glycerin, strawberry smoothie and a few drops of blood orange bitters. Not getting a real sense of location, perhaps herbal like Gaiole and red fruit centric like Castellina though savoury as if by San Casciano. Take your pick. Regardless of vineyard place this is so very sangiovese, acids et al. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Bertinga Chianti Classico DOCG La Porta Di Vertine 2020


Gaiole savour in all its woods and brush comes clear into aromatics and view through this ’19 Annata, almost vividly so. Deep well of varietal fruit, über sangiovese but more so Gaiole. Good and sweet ’19 tannins are plentiful and there is some green astringency as they pass over the palate. Wait a year and then drink for two more after that. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cacio e Pepe on a perfect February day in Firenze

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Bibbiano’s is at the forefront of youthfulness in that there is a closed aromatic launch and some reduction needing to blow off before the hounds of charm can be released. Head straight to the palate to be graced with the interspersions of texture and structure, first liquid Castellina chalky, then wound around the body of this wine. Sangiovese needs the bottle and with eyes closed those words of Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi play in refrain over and over again. Be patient and kind to his wine and in turn you will be kindly rewarded. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda and Castellina

Brancaia 2020 takes the torch from 2019 in so many ways and then again, not in every way. Same fruit exposition and multi-site expression but deep and soulful for 2020, as opposed to bright and airy. More texture and crunch in 2020 while also finest of fine acids. A bigger wine and yet things travel consistently from one vintage through to the next. The new era continues for Barbara Widmer and team. Drink 2022-2026. Tasted March 2022

Cantine Guidi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

From Poggibonsi and a 2020 showing stewed fruit and oxidation. Tasted from two bottles, each showing the same problematic notes.  Tasted March 2022

Artichokes, San Casciano

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Carpineto’s Greve sangiovese is both unmistakable and akin to wines from another time, of thyme and incense, acids and innocence. You might swear this wine is wearing bell bottoms and preaching about peace and love. Love for the territory and especially the land underfoot. This smells like things that grow, of herbs and tea, resins and saps. Light and with a fluid glycerol feel. Lovely and herbal vintage for the Zaccheo team. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

Distinctly Casa Emma from their corner of San Donato in Poggio though a bit deeper and darker of a blood orange sanguinity in 2020. Not the lightest or brightest vintage interpretation and really quite smooth, round, even lower in acid. One bottle shows this calm quality and surprising ease but a second bottle exhibits more acid, sharpness and clarity. Still there is a density of fruit and settling that’s a bit inconsistent with previous vintages while the tannins do take charge at the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castagnoli, Castellina

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


A reminder that Jacopo di Battista is sitting on one of the most striking properties and vineyard at elevation in Castellina so proximate to both Radda and Panzano. Here a striking Annata, sharp and also weighty, reductive behind which florals clearly lurk. Rich, luxurious even and with sour acids that infiltrate the drupe. Lots going on here and surely needs tome to settle in. Strange perhaps, misunderstood to a degree and yet all will fall into place. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Castellare 2020


Dusty, high acid, crunchy and lightly acetic sangiovese, not unusual for Castellina and Castellare, especially when the wine is so young. Tart is the understatement and tight the over, while some sweetness in the structure indicates there will be some fine push pull moments not too far way. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castelli Del Grevepesa Castelgreve Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

From the cooperative in San Casciano and their Castelgreve label, new and improved and a darker if more extracted version for the vintage. Not so much the light and bright example but one extracted, juicy, variegated of several points of acidities and really quite dense in texture. Gravity has a gain on Castelgreve and this will drink earlier than many. A touch of green and grey is already showing. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Castelli Del Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

The San Casciano cooperative’s knowable and most recognizable bottle is this Clemente VII, who incidentally was Giulio Zanobi di Giuliano de’ Medici, head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from November 19, 1523 until his death on September 25, 1534. The wine has not been made quite that long but it is one of the territory’s elder sangiovese statesmen and the 2020 version is a heady and fulsome one indeed. Higher in alcohol than some, concentrated to the fullest extent of the year (and Papal law if you like) with silky texture and sour acids. Classic really. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

UGAs of the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Castello Di Ama Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


A sign of the vintage is at first the declared alcohol (13.5 per cent) but also more than that a dichotomous relationship between lightness of actionability and creeping structural accountability. Castello di Ama’s Gaiole sangiovese exhibits these push-pull traits with both dictionary and thesaurus reality. A chiaroscuro Chianti Classico if ever there was, dappling of light against a darker shaded background, fruit swelling in the foreground with chalky grains liquifying throughout and behind. Time is essential and this wine has plenty of time. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Moving from strength to strength here we arrive at 2020 with a fruit-centric Castello di Meleto although like many recently bottled of the vintage there is some reduction to blow through. That said there is a depth to Meleto’s ’20 that holds attention for quite a stretch of time. Full and with palpable intensity in a desirably structured sangiovese. Also recognizable as Gaiole in origin, in a nutshell and so exemplary for the UGA. The clarity and understanding of changes are more than evident. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


No shocker that Castello di Querceto’s Dudda Valley location has produced a light and open-knit sangiovese from the less than round 2020 vintage. Like many others however there is a sly and crafty set of structural circumstances happening and running through this low alcohol (13 per cent declared) wine. Dare it be said old-school Chianti Classico but with modern clarity and charm. Could drink this every day of the week. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2020


San Jacopo is a Vicchiomaggio understudy, staying at the ready to step in, an Annata that knows all the parts and lines of the estate with it’s range of lead wines. This is straightforward and sure as sangiovese Annata, sturdy, solid and playing a perfectly reasonable support role. Well seasoned but never a wood-driven wine, salt and pepper got just right. The appetizer. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Castello di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Clasico DOCG Guado Alto 2020


Guado and Alto, meaning “a shallow crossing-place in a river” and “high” which seems like an oxymoron but allow me to explain. This second and arguably more important of two Annata by Vicchiomaggio is an über fresh one, lightly carbonic and juicy as a medieval quench from the Greve River. Tart and pulsating, oddly reminding me of poulsard. All this to mean Guado Alto is high-toned while creating a horizontal stretch of Chianti Classico openness.  Drink 2022-2024. Tasted March 2022

With Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia, Radda

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Freshness incarnate exudes from Volpaia’s 2020 Annata and in fact the wine seems like it has barely achieved its alcohol and malolactic fermentation. In fact at a realistically labeled 13.5 per cent this from Radda is as beautiful and honest as it gets. Modern as well, stylish, of great attitude and delicious. The Raddese acidity is of course present and accounted for but that fruit. My. Oh My. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Castello La Leccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Castello La Leccia’s Castellina location close to Macìe is northerly yet halfway between Lilliano and Fonterutoli. Certainly a Galestro soil happenstance and with 2020 that geology stands out. Classic and that is meant with the most complimentary commune and UGA commentary, blessed by perfectly local, parochial and conventional wisdom. Red to hematic blueing and blackening fruit, quite firm and grippy, tart, nearly searing and really driven. Needs time and when it arrives should persist for three to five proper drinking years. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


No other 2020 seems to scent like this from Monterinaldi and so it is more than worth commenting on the sense of place that is their southwestern Radda location. Herbal and dried flower potpourri but also something unknowable, intangible, even mysterious. Yes there is some early reduction but it can’t suppress the open-air meets underbrush perfume. Equanimity between maceration and fermentation makes this a candidate for top mid-term aging Annata, in other words begin drinking soon and make great use for three to four years thereafter. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Colombaio Di Cencio Chianti Classico DOCG Monticello 2020


Colombaio di Cencio presents a Gaiole herbology that’s always indicative and distinctive, sometimes by way of faintly sweet Amaro liqueur. That’s the first and then recurring feeling coming from this 2020, chalky and with acids that slide along with the red fruit speckled with fresh and also dried herbs. The tannins follow the latter with some pretty austere aridity. This will drink well in a few years, that much is certain, but unfortunately the bottle will not get any lighter. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

So young and impressionable, hematic, red blood of sangiovese while fresh, nervy and exciting. Also deep and concerned, dusty brood of San Casciano fruit, sottosuolo and fully nuanced earthy flavours. Big, big wine that needs to be looked at again a year forward because the youthfulness distracts from the potential. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

With Michaela Morris, Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile, Cigliano di Sopra, San Casciano

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

The emergence of 2020 is real, right now and while who knows for how long going forward, perhaps with luck and fortuitous execution, the suiting could be seemingly forever. What transpires here is nothing short of an epiphany and even perhaps a Chianti Classico miracle. How the most precociousness and hard work can conspire to make such a beautiful wine is beyond comprehension. But it does not matter because it has happened. Grande Maddalena. Bravo Matteo.  Last tasted March 2022

Will be bottled in December so essentially a finished wine. From 10 plots (of 11, one is merlot) facing southeast to southwest. Includes a small part of Vigneto Branca, the name of the fattoria and of who was working there. Here the fifth vintage for Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile is not only mature from a perspective of energy but also both succulence and sapidity that comes from changes, risks and learning what is possible. A bit oaky at this time but really showing what all these plots can effect, with solo sangiovese. No longer about precociousness but instead two winemakers who have arrived. “We don’t care about perfect phenolic maturity,” explains Vaccari, “when we feel the bitterness is gone, the tannins are good, then let’s extract.” Extract away young phenoms. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Viola Meacci and Alessandro Polombo, Luiano, San Casciano

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

Classico San Casciano as a notion of fresh and aromatic hillside reality, a purity of localized perpetuity through a glass of light and shadow, dappling, chiaroscuro. Wood creaming the red to black cherry, swirling, making it gelid. Stylish sangiovese in every respect, suave and instructive. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2020


Piero Lanza’s 2020 is a bright, effusive and luminescent version of itself in that there seems to be a lightness of being and avoidance of rich density. Quite the aromatic lift this early and time around, floral, like roses, hibiscus and fresh tar, not unlike some Tortonian raised nebbiolo. As sangiovese there is sneaky structure in quantifiably knowable admonition and that is said in the most complimentary of ways. Radda chalk, sand and whole bunch verdancy bring complexities and the struggle is real. Disregard the appellative concept of Annata in part, because this should go long. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Notably dusty and structured right of the top, feeling the wide open Castelnuovo airiness, sunshine and tart red fruit substantiality. Poised and restrained by extraction and pressing yet the Annata is a very taut and tight wine when assessed this young. Fèlsina always needs time and 2020 is far from the exception to that rule. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Casciano

Dark if high-toned sangiovese, not atypically San Casciano with first a musky note. Rich and filled with wood salve, creamy and textured, liquid chalky and sweetly tannic. Early signs of soy and tar so drink this early before the fruit turns to earth and mulch. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Angela Fronti, Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Radda and Gaiole

Just bottled last week, One hundred per cent sangiovese, “a wine to be drinkable,” insists Angela Fronti, “like my grandfather did in the past, at lunch.” A wine of freshness and acidity but also one that can age 10-12 years. Istine was planted in 2000, Cavarchione in 2010 and Casanova dell’Aia just a few years ago. All contribute to this Annata and all play a prominent role. If a bit (bottle) shocky no matter because Fronti, whether by purpose or promise manages to coax the best of all her fruit sources. What is showing early is this sort of herbaceous cabernet franc in sangiovese reality character, fleeting for sure and soon to come into a beautiful place. A reminder that 2020 was THE Covid vintage and so Angela was able to spend every waking moment with her vineyards and the season was neither hot nor cold but just perfectly somewhere in between. Drink 2023-2027.   Tasted February 2022

Campione da Botte, L’Erta di Radda

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


From a sample labeled campione da botte, in other words a tank sample. Freshness abounds, Radda style, from the breath of the woods, the cool of the stones and the rise of the hills. Herbal like fresh Genovese basil, spicy that way with a hint of anise and cinnamon. A co-fermentation of sangiovese and canaiolo (five per cent), the latter adding le forma, volume and expansione, all of which are self-explanatory. An opposite of linearity, not roundness but a sapid expanse across the palate and in the mouth. This is the harmony pulled and coaxed from the ’20 Annata in a wine that makes you feel but more importantly exists by the dint of how it feels. Full. Not yet bottled but will be soon and truth is while the wine is tight the aromatics and mouthfeel are good to go. Worth a full review. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Maurizio Brogioni Chianti Classico DOCG H’Amorosa 2020


H’Amarosa as in “a love affair” or perhaps “I have a lover,” which could be sangiovese, perhaps Greve in Chianti or in a more broader sense, Chianti Classico. Can’t help but think about Jackson Browne, ballads, a splash of merlot and what’s happening these days. In 2020 that would be truth, openness and clarity with respect to the wines which are the storytelling by the producers. Brogioni’s is forthright, specific, real and for everyman. Juicy and in touch with both reality but also emotions. “I had a lover, I don’t think I’d risk another these days, these days.” Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2020


Michael Schmelzer’s 2020 takes up right where everything he had been working on and through in 2019 left off. That is to say full on agricultural indemnity with all fruit all the time in use and winemaking that is afraid of nothing. The silky swarthiness of his ’20 Retromarcia endorsement and structural surety combine for freedom, exception and security. This Retromarcia ushers fruit in waves, oscillations, acetic sweeps and swells, coming at the palate with the full force of laws provided by nature. What happens at Monte Bernardi stays at Monte Bernardi, where calculated inventiveness experiences living life on the edge. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Alessandra Deiana and Michele Braganti, Monteraponi, Radda

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Monteraponi from Michele Braganti breathes in the high elevation Radda air and exhales with clarity, not to mention exclusivity. Yet another reductive 2020, albeit mildly so and not difficult to coax out of its savoury candied shell. While tart and even intense there is something mysterious and shadowy in the recesses of this sangiovese’s temperament and intelligence. Something guarded and misunderstood but time will make it all work out right. Keep this away and allow it to soften as it slowly gets to know you. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Montesecondo Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


A baritone beginning, low held Gaiole notes below with red to black fruit above. Not closed yet not expressive or generous either, reticent even and holding out because the tannins are in charge. Fruit quality and fleshiness are substantial, as is the wood and so the malic, creamy and sheathing sensation will need to settle before integration opens up the wine. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Big but not dense and for Lamole a heady sangiovese from the not so magnanimous Chianti Classico vintage. More than anything it is essential and encouraged to concentrate on the floral aspects of this wine, perfumed to the hilt with that Lamole commodity. Like all the bushy herbs in bloom, of purples and pinks, scenting the air at dusk even if one fails to brush on by. Lovely texture in 2020, mildly glycerol and giving the impression of almost gelid but surely sweet sangiovese fruit. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


There can be no surprise that Jurji Fiore’s 2020 is one of the more transparent and striking scintillants of sangiovese to emerge from out of the verifiable and veritably airy 2020 vintage. Sharp and pointed red limestone fruit off of the Ruffoli hill, rich undercurrent of currants red and also some black, intensity of right bank Greve acidity and tannins to carry this Annata longer than most. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted March 2022

Quercia al Poggio, San Donato in Poggio

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

San Donato in Poggio

The combination of definable and deliverable San Donato in Poggio terroir mixed with vintage compaction makes for this solid, chewy and fulsome Annata. Liquorice and blood orange, a deeper sentiment that for some reason seems to be a frazione thing for this vintage because this consistency of full emotive and textural sentiment runs through many of the wines. Look to San Donato in Poggio for more of everything in 2020. The wines are bigger than some of the other UGAs. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG L’Aura 2020


This is not a Riserva, that is made quite clear from a 100 per cent sangiovese that used to include some merlot. Now a matter of picking and choosing plots from the steep and sloping vineyard starting from the bottom at 450m and rising up to 510. Sees 12 months in 3rd and 4th passage French wood. L’Aura is Iacopo Di Battista’s mother, as in the “aura of Laura” and a label produced since 1998. Not red but ochre-purple limestone literally begets and becomes this Annata, a.k.a fully completely Alberese soil. What comes from 2020 is a doubling down, regardless of appellative level, a wow factor of laser sharp stone cut by even sharper acidity. Edgy balsamic tannins increase the seriousness of this wine. Sell it now if you must but this Annata needs time. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Riecine from Gaiole is the most radiant and glycerin version of itself, clean and concise, grippy yet available almost whenever you find yourself ready and in the sangiovese mood. Not a tart or intense Riecine by any stretch of the imagination, nor is there any real tannic demand. This is meant for now and should be embraced that way. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Incorporates five per cent merlot into the sangiovese, the grapes coming from all four Rocca delle Macìe estates. Essential, consistent and knowable for Castellina and especially a style that is unwavering as Rocca delle Macìe. A wine of layered commune earth, deep and even a bit brooding, so very sangiovese and with real Annata depth. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Young, taut, impressionable, high-toned and bright red fruit Gaiole Annata, rich in 2020 polyphenols and thiols, quite vibrant and intense. Less herbal than many of its locale and even past iterations of itself while the fruit concentrates and works through the earliest stages of its youth. Fine and meshing the way Annata should and offering beauty above all else. Will drink at peak next year and for four after that. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Marco Ricarosli Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi, Gaiole

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020


Always 90 per cent sangiovese, here with (8) canaiolo and (2) colorino. “Quite a regular growing season, warm but never too much,” says Marco Ricasoli, “and very cool nights.” The main character is first colour in a Classico never stressed by heat and so fruit freshens, with acidity sure to follow. A crunchy Annata, not too hard and not too soft. Picked in the last week of September, late enough for full maturity. Monti (in Gaiole) is a warmer area and while the alcohol checks in at 14 per cent it’s a well-managed and balanced wine all the way through. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Ruffino Chianti Classico DOCG Santedame 2020


Always a different and purposefully designed Annata from Ruffino, so very cherry liqueur, thickened by soil chalk in liquid varietal form. Here sangiovese with help from smoothing international varieties makes for a consistency of Chianti Classico to draw a crowd. Just a bit reductive and hypo-fresh, tart and sour-edged. Not edgy though and smooth as silk. Very professional wine and a good vintage from which to make that happen. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

A blend of sangiovese, pugnitello and colorino, the same dating back to 2009. Yet another warm vintage though with great changes in agricultural practices this Annata now shows great juicy freshness, especially from 2019 and now through this 2020. The acidity is more than maintained, the wood kept well in the back and this is just up front, accessible and on point. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Tenuta Di Campomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Campomaggio 2020


Raddese from the start, acids singing, zinging and slinging the lightning red fruit to the fore. In youth clearly dusty while a clarity and purity exists in a vacuum where lightness mixed with barrel make for a truly spirited Chianti Classico. Expressly and dutifully Radda sangiovese. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2020

Castelnuovo Beradenga

From Castelnuovo Beradenga and the Pellegrini farm where the wines are constructed with strict adherence to Glatt Kosher rules. Tart and chewy red fruit with a toasted and roasted quality, in other words cooked but with a light touch and sense of sangiovese gastronomy. As fas as Kosher for Passover wines are considered this Terra di Seta should reside at the top of anyone’s list. As for Chianti Classico it is real and exemplary of place albeit needing food alongside to tame the tannins and prepared food quality of the wine. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2020

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Vallenuovo from Castelnuovo Berardenga’s Tolaini is an extracted, generously macerated and humorously concentrated 2020. There is just something about Tolaini, an aromatic potpourri specific to this wine in great hyperbole. A bit reductive as many are so early in this vessel and yet agitation really does release the charm. A really well constructed Chianti Classico that will appeal to those who look for fullness, especially through the texture and the finish. Drink 2023-2027. Tasted March 2022

Pizzeria Lo Speso in Il Ferrone

Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Purely, expressly and properly San Casciano, structured woolly and snugly wrapped around fruit kept warm and nurtured in a blanket of care. Fragrant with fine tannins, “legno,” as it is said. A touch of green that is San Casciano because of the particular kind of savour and temper. Some minor austerity and demand in these tannins but mostly a sangiovese of land and air to express where it comes from. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Immediate attention is paid to the herbs and resins in the aromas of Badia a Colibuono’s 2019. From the outset this is clear and present Gaiole sangiovese, local, parochial and a sign of the time. No question the fruit is healthy and substantial but the vinoso quality of all that surrounds is just too blatant to ignore. As are the crisp acids and finely austere tannins. Transparent clarity is a given, as is a structural belief that this Chianti Classico Annata will live long with the best of them.  Last tasted March 2022

A distinctly herbal Annata from Badia a Coltibuono out of 2019, so very Monti with herbs and brush of all iterations. Notably rosemary with undertones of sage, cypress and gariga. The fruit keeps up with the greens but there is no mistaking the minty and pine forest behaviour of this wine. Super herbal, tart cherries and good fruit ripeness. Well managed tannins but those herbs! Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Belvedere Campòli Conte Guicciardini Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Again it is San Casciano that opens up the select savoury gates in an openly fragrant and knit sangiovese that is clearly and unequivocally 100 per cent just that. With thanks to a generous vintage and what is clearly a site that ripens ahead of many, the wine comes out smooth, itself also quite generous and even what could be called morbido. As easy as varietal Classico gets and ready to go. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Bibbiano’s Annata moves to the rhythm of infinite wisdom, coagulation, conjoining and come together, of dual terroirs, bright red fruit alighting with stern, edging to austerity tannin. The vintage rebelled against is one from which Tommaso Marocchesi Marzi sticks to his guns and creates an Annata of undeniable estate conviction. Needing time and yet smiling that Castellina smile, finishing with that spicy Bibbiano spice. Can’t think of more than three other Classico at this price that are equal in representation to pour by the glass. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda Tenuta Mocenni 2019


Exuberant Mocenni perfume and one could not help but to be fully cognizant of how expressively floral and stone cool it is. For Annata it gets neither more concentrated nor more in tune with a vineyard than this. So transparent and connected to Mocenni which is how and why Annata’s naked character is so important to explain an estate’s riches and what is possible with the other elevated, concentrated and investigative appellations. Wood is ambitious and justified in such a case, even at this Annata level, for later on. As for now or just around the corner, well that works as well. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2019


Taken solely from the I Colli Estate’s vineyards in the UGA zone of Vaglialgi at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga commune, adjacent the Chianti Colli Senesi, 10 kilometres from Mocenni Estate, 15 minutes house to house. Makes for an antithetical Classico expression to what comes from the Mocenni amphitheatre. The difference is dramatic, higher in pH, lower in acidity, velvety, easier, readier. This 2019 vintage is a prime example, lush, 100 per cent sangiovese ripe, aged no more than six months in used barriques. Picked near to the last week of September, without exception, a week before Mocenni. Just a hint of phenolic chalkiness repeated on the back palate. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October and November 2021

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Radda in 100 per cent sangiovese kicks into high acid and elevated tones, lifted and placed in the air above. Quite tart and also tannic, drying over the palate, feeling arid, dusty and enervating. Not a tired wine per se but one that makes you feel this way. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Vagliagli is the UGA and a 10 per cent combination of same-same colorino and merlot bring some colour and also softness to Borgo Scopeto’s sangiovese face. Crunchy sangiovese that is, well developed from the happy vintage though not without some austerity and grip in the tannin. More so than many vintages for this western Castelnuovo estate and the interest lies in how they will integrate and resolve. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cafaggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Cafaggio so beautifully and comfortably represents Panzano from 2019, fruit at the front, mild structure settling in easily at the back. A pure frazione expression of sangiovese and from a vintage that laid such possibility out on a silver platter. Cafaggio clearly heeded the call and jumped on the opportunity. Finest Annata from the estate in quite some time. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2019


Full on Gaiole from Baruffo in 2019, unsurprising and in effect expected from an estate that looks for fullness, wellness and acceptance from their generous wines. All sangiovese and nothing but the great red hope in desire for Cantalici and Chianti Classico. Crisp in fact, well seasoned while noticeably tannic yet there is a feeling that you are requested to drink this as soon as possible. Find some Prosciutto di Parma, Fennocchiona and Pecorino for best results. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022


With Filippo and Gioia Cresti, Carpineta Fontalpino, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

“A wonderful harvest for us and for the farm” tells Gioia Cresti. In terms of UGA this is Castelnuovo and as a broad expression this Annata is a micro-version captured in bottle, of wide open space and air. There are three vineyard locations, 10 hectares in Castelnuovo near to the winery, seven in Dofana (Vagliagli) and three in Montaperti. So fresh, 20 (normal) days on skins and the sweetest tannins available, even for a Carpineta Annata. Linear and long, elastically fleshy and just well, perfect. Yes, Gioia Cresti is a very good winemaker. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

A ninety per cent sangiovese with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera, fermented in stainless steel and concrete vats, aged one year in tonneaux (500ml), yet 40 per cent remains in barrel. An ideal and balanced vintage, slower to ripen than ’18 with no rush too fast to “fruitiness and complexity.” Also because the sub-zone of San Donato in Poggio performs better in warmer vintages. Great freshness, blood orange and intense red fruit but it’s just uncanny how this could be nothing but Casa Emma sangiovese. Tannins are denser, longer and impressive, the overall feel one that tells us this Annata can go deep. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Notable ripe fruit and also a verdant austerity makes for a wine of two positions, angles and disparate emotions. A sangiovese of floral and also avian display while in delivery of liquorice and bitter herbs. Almost Riserva in style, glycerol and concentration at the fore, the rest waiting in the wings. Needs time. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Ristoro di Lamole

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Castagnoli procures a deeply satisfying and fulsome Annata, ripe and at the ready through a coupling to acidity and a tripling because the tannin is fully engaged. Tripped and let loose more like it in a sangiovese of swirls, thrills and intensity. Feels like Castellina at elevation with serious Galestro effects for an eventual date with elegance. Five years down the road from vintage it would seem. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Clearly, unequivocally and unmistakably Lamole because that perfume jumps from the glass to gain your immediate attention. Part Macigno and part Calcari, so much vinous resin and a walk through a pine forest. Cool Lamole liqueur, fine capture of 2019 and really just an ideal vintage for e Piuca of Castellinuzza lineage in their native Lamole habitat. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Highest level of Panzano richness, depth of fruit and Pietraforte infiltration, allowed to emanate in natural highlights throughout. All these elements are together exhibited in great co-conspiratorial desire. Full on push-pull of sliding scale piques and roundness in a sangiovese that wants to be both and have it all. Caky too with merlot plus cabernet sauvignon for surety and fruit explosiveness. Substantial and even if some vintages include petit verdot methinks not this one. A “clean” one for Rampolla, as it is said, international in the best possible way. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Castello della Paneretta, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From the San Donato in Poggio property with 404 years of experience behind this upstanding, generous, careful and thorough Annata from the 2019 vintage. The blood orange, red currant and chalky Galestro-Alberese chime can only be from this additional geographical unit, a frazione so distinctive, like the 11:30am Sunday bells that ring through Florence. A perfect time to taste by the way, refreshing, affirming and ready to set one on their way. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Clear, ernest and caressing fruit is captured from the open generosity of the 2019 vintage. This Castelnuovo Berardenga example shows what 100 per cent sangiovese of warmth and substance can effect for über drinkable Chianti Classico. Bossi’s is readier than many, seasoned by spice more than it exhibits qualities urged on by structure. A slight drying finish indicates a few years of life lay ahead. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Cacchiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Really parochial and specific, a Monti in Chianti Galestro gifted CC, aromatic yet wound quite tight. Sheds some perfumed Gaiole light on the state and possibility in this mainly sangiovese wine that receives minor support from endemic and pH supporting roles provided by canaiolo and malvasia nera. Good promise may just result in better fortune should you give this and the austere tannin some time. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2019

San Casciano

While Gabbiano produces large volumes of other denominational wines it needs reminding that their Chianti Classico numbers are significantly lower and the attention paid to these wines spares no emotion, attention or expense. Economies of scale allow for bargain pricing and the wines over deliver at all appellative levels. Case in point the Cavaliere d’Oro 2019, fragrant and graceful, salutary acids riding shotgun to promising fruit like a well orchestrated pack with Galestro-driven tannin. Everything together, delivering the goods and for the money. Almost unbeatable. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


With 763 years existence and experience behind this 2019 Annata you just know someone has a distinct territorial advantage. Castello di Meleto’s is quite rich, luxe and creamy for Annata and especially Gaiol, but is comes replete with great and preserving parochial acidity. That and sweet herbs, brushy savour and long strides. Solid, fresh for the vintage and the estate. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

With Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

A vintage with more Riserva in a five to one ratio (to Annata) when usually the numbers are four to one. Of course more savour and grip than 2018 and long-chained tannins. The length is not merely outstanding in fact it resonates through all the senses, including there at which the quotidian and fantastic converge. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021 and February 2022

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Mainly sangiovese with 10 per cent colorino and canaiolo, from a diplomatic vintage, promising of quality and generous of quantity. For estate director Stefano Peruzzi it is harmonious and very much like 2016. Such a professionally composed and pragmatically styled Chianti Classico, not what could be called luxe or lush though clearly balanced in its fruit to acid compendium. Delivers a purity of citrus crunch and is surely a design of tradition and place. While you feel a slight malo creaminess this is not a question of texture but one that speaks in fresh sangiovese tones specific to these lower hills of Radda.  Last tasted March 2022

A fine vintage here for Castello di Radda with their well-judged, sweetly sumptuous and succulent sangiovese. Shows a level of consistency in place that may have or would not have been possible just ten years ago. Warmer vintages and dedicated agricultural concern elevate the year after year game. In 2019 the acids and spices merge, unite and fixate on the fruit for a lovely circular swirl of freshness, vim and flavour. Really fine in nine. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Really sweet perfumed Montefioralle entry from Verrazzano’s endemic and impartible Annata, mainly sangiovese with five per cent “other” autochthonous varieties. One of the most cherry red Chianti Classico in every respect; hue, aroma and flavour, then finishing with the slightest bitter pit. Just that touch of green in the tannin mixed with the purity of acidity makes this really sing. A song for Montefioralle. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


No doubt that Chianti Classico will always be fresh and spirited from Volpaia but it somehow finds a way in every vintage to become increasingly fluid, silky, clear and beautiful. The upper vineyards are helping more and more every year, plus a team working the vines and the wines together for more than 20 years. Yet this vintage still shows some backbone while overall much of the story remains to unfold and be told. Re-visit next year and the one after that for the emergence of the full story. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Filippo Bartolotta presents Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi at the Chianti Classico Collection 2022, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2019


Lovely textured vintage for the Capotondo in full capture of rich and ripe fruit. Some grip in tannin but mainly acidity that elevates and perches the substantial sangiovese up where it belongs in the Radda ether and with 2019 as the backdrop. Great work for the vintage. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

An ancient sea salty and airy western Chianti Classico sangiovese from Cinciano does Poggibonsi/San Donato in Poggio proud if in just a bit of its owns speacial and ulterior way. Always that silky, glycerol and substantial fruit ahead of all else. Beauty and purity, ease and such drink-ability. At the height of that ideal from 2019. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


So very Radda from Bernardo Bianchi’s ’19 Annata, fruit and acid structure in the arena of the cool while plenty of both preside. Only a small percentage of colorino shades the sangiovese from red to further red and the palate is simply sangiovese. There are parts iron and others blood orange out of 2019, fruit sorted to optimum purity and the least amount of bitters pressed into the hull of the wine. Quite structured and as always, impressive. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Concadoro Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Concadoro is Castellina on the western front, quietly aromatic and shilling the high toned, almost acetic style from the western edge of the central valley. Quite tart and astringent, more parts that make this tough and out of balance. Drink 2022.  Tasted March 2022

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Fine and far from presumptuous Annata here from Il Conte, exemplary of a Greve, digging a bit deeper into Montefioralle sangiovese. Firm of dark and even dusty fruit, antsy and a bit racy while still this youthful, unsettled and needing time. Firm and grippy for the vintage, absolutely Calcinaia in style and a true representation of the multifarious estate soils. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


From the geographical zone of Vagliagli in the western section of Castelnuovo Berardenga commune and a sangiovese augmented by seven per cent canaiolo plus (3) colorino grown at 335m. Spends 13 months in 41 hl (untoasted) French oak barrels. Classicism incarnate for the territory with a Vagliagli twist, über savoury, youthful and fuelled by stone-strewn Alberese (limestone) vineyards. Creates a tannic austerity and a request for allowing this sangiovese Annata time to flesh out and settle in. Two years minimum, after which the very cherry fruit will act more aromatically expressive. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted December 2021

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG Petrignano 2019


Petrignano is what Dievole assigns the lede of “a nuova voce del Chianti Classico,” a new voice, especially at the Annata level. The Gran Selezione is from Vigna Sessina and here 2019 is spoken through the younger vines and more precocious if not fully yet understood vineyard of Petrignano. Certainly a fresh and savoury Annata, sour citrus chalky and very primary. Almost nouveau but without the carbonic yet still this is as light and potentially sumptuous as it gets. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

Matteo Vaccari and Maddalena Fucile, Cigliano di Sopra, San Casciano

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

This the fourth vintage of Maddalena Fucile and Matteo Vaccari’s Chianti Classico takes the next step, with a level of sweet acidity that really moves your palate and also because decreased wood does less to distract as much as in ’17 and ’18. Also de-stemmed by hand (as opposed to a new machine that will do a much better job in 2020), so here there is also some crushing. While there is some efficacy and esculente essence in the tannins there is also a delicate nature about this San Casciano sangiovese. Very good energy, very river stone, sand-felt and also by a little bit of Galestro rolled into one fine and lengthy Chianti Classico. Good tannin management is executed with precocious acumen with help from adding the previous year’s lees in the bottle. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria della’Aiola Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Mainly sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and colorino aged in large botti plus stainless steel. Pitchy purple, Galestro meeting Macigno silk, mid-weight compaction and concern. Tannins are equalizing with the wood making a textural statement in a Vagliagli with good linger. Not a flashy Chianti Classico but one entrenched in the UGA soil. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Di Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

The Annata of Montecchio always express a deeper San Donato in Poggio, classically citrus and red fruit meeting salumi cure, but there is always more. To the story and the point, Annata from 2019 gives earth, juice bled through stone and clay. If other UGAs are akin to Santenay than this Barberino Tavarnelle could be compared to say, Volnay. In sangiovese of course and Montecchio accedes to a Villages level, here in their suitably hyperbolic Annata. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria La Leccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Beautifully blood orange sangiovese from Castellina’s La Leccia, fully equipped with red citrus, even some pink grapefruit. Then the structure and the verdancy take charge, especially on the palate, with some tannin unresolved and yet other structural parts that will work overtime to make the grade. Wait a year or two in any case. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Claudio, Cristina and Sole, Fattoria Le Masse, San Donato in Poggio

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

“To me, one of the best years for grapes,” tells winemaker Claudio Gozzi and the wood tank used for fermentation and now aging makes this noticeably a year wiser (than 2018) and so much more suitable to making this 100 per cent sangiovese. Even without tasting you can tell there’s a refinement, a calm and a settling that 2018 does not have. Cleaner, much more precision and seamless behaviour. Perfect volatility, sweet acidity and long, fine chains of tannin. Pure and honest, exacting, readier and will be just ideal with another year or so of time. Approximately 7,500 bottles produced. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2019


Fulsome and so purposefully developed sangiovese from Piero Lanza’s roll and sway of a Radda vineyard. Gelid yet tumbling and even a bit cumbersome while this youthful but what Poggerino is given is what Poggerino gives back. Strength over power, headiness over density, reality over headlines. A full and satisfying Chianti Classico with so much integrity in correct alignment with this place. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Yet another Pomona Annata pretty in pulchritude, handsome in heavenly sangiovese and grande by the goodness of grace. The blood orange by jove of sangiovese juiced for success. Trust when you hear that Monica Raspi’s cloudy ferments look like they will never clarify, purify and deliver the message of her Castellina vineyards but they have and they do. There is risk and leaps of faith in her work but she is a true scientist with artistic style and merit. She makes great Annata and more with 2019 being a new launching pad to prove the point.  Last tasted February 2022

The flesh and full palate address continues where 2018 left off though there is an openness to ’19 that speaks to more warmth and a weightiness of developed tannin. Of comports in structural components, polymerizing commotions and long chains of conveyance. Bread as sustenance and life from a 100 per cent sangiovese Annata out of Monica Raspi’s Sant’Ilario and Vigna del Termine vineyards teaming up for caress and no distress. Oh sweet Chianti Classico surrender, “I’d be a fool to try to escape you.” Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Santo Stefano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Greve and 100 per cent sangiovese, super Greve in fact, heady, sturdy, red lightning cherry and volumetric in terms of substance, alcohol and structure. Linear, translucent, dusty-savoury with more texture and silky consistency than what may have first been ascertained. Quietly aromatic yet attractively informative. Not what should be considered or called a crushable wine because all the constituent parts are solid, in tact, tactful and together. Almost seamless and perhaps an estate en route to being (almost) famous. Drink 2024–2028.  Tasted February and March 2022

Felciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Panzano and 100 per cent sangiovese, without a shadow of a doubt on either front, chewy and fulsome fruit, lots of sun and ripeness, chalky Galestro and perhaps even Pietraforte-induced structure. Acids are quite high for 2019 but then again it’s all sangiovese so why be surprised. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Giovanni Manetti explains “I have over 20 hectares of over 40 years. Even if there are 20-30 days separating the picking from start to finish in a vintage there is always a marker, especially with sangiovese. And with old vines they are not nearly as susceptible to stressors. This Vigna del Sorbo will succeed, even with all of the (climate events and vintage stressors) mentioned here.” Annata 2019 was bottled in July and is not yet released. “The vintage of balance, pleasant wines, very charming.” That said also toned musculature, grip, fineness of tannins. Plenty of acidity, here at 6.50 tA, chalky liquidity, round enough to offer an immensity of early pleasure. Don’t be fooled into thinking ’19 is simply for the here and now as longevity is a guarantee. This was known from the start when the wines were in tank, showing great perfume and tasting with Fontodi freshness and acidity. Not easy drinking but drinkable, with Panzano resin and parochial acidity. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Lamole di Fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2019


Filetta waits its turn, always the last picked vineyard in Lamole and as with 2018 October 10th was the date for Fontodi’s fruit. Giovanni’s cousin owns the vineyard and records date back to 1045, rare and historic for Chianti Classico. A restrained, elastic and finessed vintage is 2019, blessed with the Lamole perfume, blood orange addendum and Fontodi body. Not a vintage of power or strength and so much more so Lamole which makes one wonder just how cool climate accentuated the other producers’ 2019s will be. Other vintages of Filetta have been fine, even caressing and reaching levels of deep understanding but 2019 is more of a pop and pour vintage with true frazione acids and a harmonizing palate creaminess. Drink this while ’18 continues to settle in. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Frescobaldi’s Tenuta Perano takes full advantage of the white calcareous soils to set upon a path for and with great vintage promise. The sangiovese in this bottle is smooth, suave and mineral, tart and full on gregarious of a specific Gaiole tang. A drinkable Annata, tried and true, delicious, accessible and yet nary a moment of flaccidity or softness abounds. Ideal for three years on without any concern for devolution or change. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2019


Panzano sangiovese does not get any more pure, transparent and fulsome than Rubiolo, all the while spoken in utmost clarity. Not full, nor heady, nigh density neither. Think sweetness, aromatically calling, fruit speaking. Seasoning, not salt and pepper necessarily but spices unnamed, unthought, undeclared. An old friend dressed so dapper, not perfectly pressed but characterful and timeless. Like music played as adagio with very slight dynamic change, aesthetics and script expressed in equally essential concentration. The Annata you want. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted March 2022

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Woody, savoury and sour-edged sangiovese, tart and oddly confected. Quick and if stylish in its own way the San Casciano aspect is covered by the wood and the work. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri, Lamole

I Fabbri Olinto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Olinto, always from the highest elevation, Lamole perfume up to 11 where there is also some merlot planted, at 12 per cent part of the blend and again no barrel. Freshness at the highest premium and with the merlot so ripe with thanks to vine age and warmer climate conditions, a wine so drinkable you could hardly believe the truth. Beauty in florals incarnate, especially violets and candied iris, juicy if peppery pansy and nasturtium. Last tasted February 2022

Aside from the upfront, obvious and always beautiful I Fabbri as a function of Lamole perfume there is this incredulous ripeness and sweetness of fruit. Disbelieving because of the elevation and how it was once virtually impossible to achieve such sugar and phenolic ripeness in this part of Greve for Chianti Classico wines. The 20 per cent merlot is just so apropos for blending into sangiovese, from this most generous vintage and to tame the high level of acidity. While this classic normale from Susanna Grassi is about as crushable as any 2019 one can’t help but wonder if sangiovese needed no help this time around. No matter really. Just enjoy. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October and November 2021

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2019


Not that other vintages are lacking the clarity of Lamole perfume and terroir but 2019 brings the want and desire beyond the frazione’s intangibles. They being flesh and mid-palate, again not absent in other years though magnified, elastic and extra from 19’s warm generosity. Great thanks and aromatic response, more than this in the ways of accession, reach and scope. Purely Lamole plus, plus. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

La Squadra Canadese at I Fabbri, Lamole

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra Di Lamole 2019


The top “tier” Annata in Susanna Fabbri’s range is this main terroir sangiovese, the Terre di Lamole. Lamole at heights, in hyperbole, expressive and of course, so very perfumed. A veritable potpourri of Macigno del Chianti and all the florals imagined, tied up in one red petalled, native herb and mineral bouquet. Grace and understated charm, seamlessness and the sort of structure that build and builds but does so without mortar between the stones. Natural and beautiful. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


The Solo Sangiovese Annata (and listed as such only on American labels), bottled just three weeks ago, über fresh, a picture perfect vintage for all appellative levels but beginning here with sangiovese. So easy to drink, very pure, balanced, all things “it has to be because this is Chianti Classico, not Gran Selezione,” explains and insists Iacopo Morganti. Less acidity than ’18 but more than ample amount to strike an accord with ideally reasoned and ripened fruit. Picked in October and you’d know but not know it. Really like the liquorice chew in this sangiovese, it sticks to and along with you. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


More than promising and beautiful vintage for Monia Piccini’s Annata but a true Panzano expression of the swift and the sweet, patterned and handsome. Draws from vineyard blocks ever evolving and not from those one step short of necessary ripeness. Even keel and a knowledge meeting emotion just right for a wine like this. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Istine Estate Vineyard, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Radda and Gaiole

Made from the first pass in all of Angela Fronti’s vineyards, two in Radda and three in Gaiole, although the philosophy is to concentrate on Radda because that is the home-front and there is a prejudice provided by what happens through the vintage. That said Angela waits a full year before deciding where the grapes end up, as “the most objective approach.” A decent yielding vintage comparatively speaking and a Chianti Classico in 2019 as generous and round as Fronti has ever made. But in truth the Radda plus Gaiole freshness times savour multiplied by sapidity results in a quotient of great cumulative respect. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2019


One must have to look at, walk this and stand in awe of of this vineyard, the steepness at 30-50 per cent grade with a terrace in the middle to break it up. Heavy in Alberese inclusive of massive yellow calcareous boulders and also Galestro. In fact the medium stones removed were transferred to create terraces for olive trees on the other side of the cantina (by Angela Fronti’s father no less). The vineyard faces north so the freshness is off the charts, while the ripeness is so matter of purposeful vintage fact. The label represents the position of the vines in coordinates, echoed in the machicolations of a Fronti sangiovese that drops all the Radda stones on unsuspecting palates through fruit openings between supporting acid corbels of a projecting tannic parapet. Vigna Istine is at the forefront of Chianti Classico’s battle to win over the world. Follow this example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Casanova Dell’Aia 2019


Smaller stones in Alberese and Galestro soils, in Radda, a four hectare plot where trebbiano and malvasia bianca are also planted. The older plantings, their clones and density were not up to snuff so Angela restored and re-planted several years ago. The vines are just now coming into Raddese fruition. That zonal acidity is wholly unique and really shows through in this single-vineyard sangiovese, even if the breadth, complexity and power are not yet there, though elegance, charm and great possibility surely are. Look to 2021 for high end results. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Cavarchione 2019


Less rocky than the Radda vineyards, here a single steep block surrounded by forest everywhere and picked ahead of Casanova, therefore for 2019 in mid-September. The richest of the single vineyard Classico crus, a wine of texture, integration and qualcosa di Cavarchione, a fullness and a feeling of Gaiole woods, herbals, distillate and brush. The under, over and what’s growing all round. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

The 2019 has some spice, that much is true and that is the result of selection, ideally suited sangioivese clones and the pH directive brought about by some of Chianti Classico’s finest canaiolo. Fermented in stainless, aged in medium sized oak barrels, but older ones. Has entered a more structured and tannic stage and it may be wondered if that is the norm. Yes tells Paolo, when first in bottle there is freshness and fruit, then after a few months it closes in before opening up again the following summer.  Last tasted February 2022

Bottled only one month ago and a vintage that brings a pragmatic smile to Paolo de Marchi’s face, with thanks to good volume meeting even better quality. As a vintage “easier than 2015,” tells de Marchi, “which for Cepparello was a cabernet vintage.” Wink-wink. Here 15 per cent canaiolo intersects with sangiovese for a perfectly timed and executed balance between pH and acidity. “There’s always canaiolo in my Chianti Classico,” says Paolo and the truth lies in the generosity of both aromatics and structure. The 2018 was a more uneven season and the wine it produced is actually quite ready to drink, so why wait on it? The 2019 on the other hand has it all, from a growing period so facile and while more difficult to manage during fermentation (not to mention de Marchi’s battle with pneumonia) the end result is a Chianti Classico emblematic of Olena and one to see evolve slowly over a ten to 12 year stretch. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2021

Casole, Lamole

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Duelame 2019


The yellow to brown (or tan) label from Lamole di Lamole is the high-toned, highest of UGA acid sangiovese. Even a five per cent of pH balancing canaiolo does not seem to tame the acidity in this lightning red sangiovese. That said the wood brings a creaminess and an accentuation of malic meets morbido texture. Curious Lamole, characterful to be sure. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Maggiolo 2019


From 2019 the UGA’s estate coupling of nomenclature and doubling of additional geographic denominational vernacular finds beauty and silk road length. This sangiovese digs deep into the Macigno, Galestro and Alberese for a wide-ranging, multi-layered and form fitting Chianti Classico. Drink early. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Mainly sangiovese (95 per cent) and merlot in large format wood, because tells oenologist Stefano di Blasi “in general in Chianti Classico we are moving away from small barrels and into large cask.” Gateway sangiovese drug in that there is a plushness, softness and accessibility but also a purity and a San Casciano honesty. If the intention is honourable then you can drink this right now but also five years forward for a most positive result. An exacting wine from La Sala nel Chianti Classico, a comment so suitable for an estate in territorial description. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico 2019


The Panzano work of Valeria Viganò and Luca Orsini travels from strength to strength and while this ’19 Annata was only bottled one month ago it shows the best freshness and right kind of crunchiness here at the Chianti Classico Collection. Indelibly stamped with Le Cinciole and Panzano terroir, a combination of earth and fruit showing as well as any these days. Can’t help but relish the level of tart and eye-popping flavours with an immediacy of early drinking possibility. Terrific Annata in every respect. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Le Miccine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Le Miccine is truly, ostensibly and unequivocally Gaiole sangiovese what with the herbs and brush coming straight out of the forests of the UGA’s hills. It is also an Annata of great vintage ripeness, generosity and flesh. Deliciously delivered, well crafted and perfectly suitable for now plus five years forward. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Le Muricce Chianti Classico DOCG Leccione 2019


Le Murrice is a producer from Greve in Chianti with wines also made from lands north of the territory. The Greve (100 per cent) sangiovese is this Leccione, tart and lactic, old-school yet with a young and promising heart. Lacking some fruit and relies on winemaking to create a Chianti Classico experience, mostly succeeding though not really delivering Greve. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Same work as is done in 2020 with five per cent canaiolo in a vintage of more body and yet similar soul to the year that will follow. Definitely fuller and just as expansive but a touch rounder in 2019. Was a 25-27 day maceration, a week longer than L’Erta di Radda norm. Was released in September 2021 and will soon be sold through to allow the ’20 Annata to hit the market, likely in June.  Last tasted March 2022

Grown together so essentially a field blend and Diego Finocchi likes to use some canaiolo (five per cent) because it adds more pH to the wine, up to 3.5-3.65 compared to the 3.0-3.1 of sangiovese. But just the five per cent because it brings up that pH so that there is a salty sensation on the palate while the sapidity and freshness are guaranteed as well. Diego has also figured out over the last five years to allow his fruit to hang for seven to 10 more days, finding balance and with that extra pH, total harmony in his Chianti Classico. Alcohol is not considered and need not be because balance is everything, as witnessed by this pitch perfect Annata. Co-fermented and in terms of next up for Chianti Classico this is the one you have to try, taste and understand. Of structure that suspends for so long. A Classico epiphany. Only 14,000 bottles made. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Fleshy and refreshing will best describe the Mazzei Annata from 2019, a sangiovese-plus example from Castellina well heeded of fruit and looking to be given immediate attention. In return it will offer immediate gratification. Drink now and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Michael Schmelzer, Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Sangió 2019


Panzano vineyard purchased in December of 2018, of Pietraforte and Galestro. Sala is the name of the property, in conversion to organics and biodynamics, this being the first vintage of this wine from that property. Ripens at or earlier than Monte Bernardi, a place of higher winds and also sun. No stem usage yet in the first year because Michael Schmelzer feels that he needs to get a grip on the place but starting from 2020 stems are in the mix. Comes across like blood orange, a factor of heat and wind, with ripe tannins as a brightness from a young vineyard’s fruit. A sangiovese moving towards complex dynamism yet for now the opposite of cyclical viscous movement, angles rounded and such a crunchy wine. Brightness incarnate. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2019


A vintage of great fruit and acidity so heavy stem usage and also because Michael Schmelzer learned from a minor mistake in 2017. That vintage had better acidity then anticipated and so more stem use should have been employed. “I love the vintage, though I like the classic vintages more, like ’16 and ’18.” Here the high tannin quality and that acidity is really about as good as it gets. “I want people to think I make great wines but then find out they happen to be natural. It’s not a goal.” Everything is in check and all the edginess is just right there, lift, animal, swarthiness and grip. “Anaerobic winemaking is to me a broken idea. We see this in wines that preserve oxidative character.” And so this is a wine that will not fall apart as it ages. Here an Annata that will go well into ten-plus years.  Drink 2022-2028. Tasted November 2021

Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


A portion is whole cluster somewhere in the 20-25 per cent range, at once a precise number and yet vague enough to not be held accountable. Also a portion left on skins for more than two months time. Clearly a wine in which the winemaker (Tim Manning) held no fear of volatile acidity and this sits well under the threshold. Not exactly a 100 per cent sangiovese because there are some rows of canaiolo and also canina nera but not enough to quantify a percentage. Surely a wine of texture and what feels like a “thickened” acidity meaning there is no sear, certainly not out of fear and as a sangiovese is really quite near and dear. Darker cherry incidentally in a Chianti Classico that feels like tradition albeit new and in a very tactile way. I feel the touch.  Last tasted March 2022

Just a lovely, calm and inviting entry into Classico Annata, equalized by a harmoniously seasoned palate w,ell-integrated and equanimous set of sweet acidity and fine tannin. Modern and beautiful, fresh and refreshing, wood a player while also serving to make things whole. Drink early and often. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Getting to know the eponymous producer Montefioralle’s arch classic and definitive Montefioralle Classico is not easy because when you make so few bottles only a select number of people can actually access to taste. They are now in Ontario and if fortune smiles you will note the stealth savoury character and lithe swarthiness, the candid accessibility and clean groove running throughout. If 2019 is a perfect vintage for this Annata I cannot say but it naturally fits the Montefioralle UGA’s vernacular, softly spoken, in clarity and also humility. What may be referred to athletically as a natural. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2019


Dusty in youthful tonality for this 85 per cent Gaiole sangiovese in which canaiolo and malvasia nera bring the extra added seasoning into the multi-endemic varietal mix. Baking spice, of cinnamon and nutmeg, then savouries, by cumin and coriander, finishing with grasses, of stem and hay. Liquid wood salve texture changes the gears, adds to the credibility and creativity, even the complexity. Needs time to try and come together. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Chianti Classico Education in Toronto

Nittardi Chianti Classico DOCG Casanuova Di Nittardi La Doghessa 2019


Full juiced, pressed and throttled Annata here from 2019, deep, toasty and firm. All the fruit and more, berries, cherries and plum, tart and dependent on acids for support. That they receive and then some, especially with the level of tannic thrush so purposefully aligned. This is sangiovese that needs the bottle as much as any so oblige and set what bottles you own aside. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Ormanni Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Talk about the passion and sangiovese needing the bottle. Thankfully Ormanni and so many Chianti Classico have time. Thankfully the world is opening to a deeper understanding that sangiovese must be given respect and an open-ended line. The dust and the cries in this wine need to settle, the tannins calm down and the fruit be allowed to shine. It is there, all red leathery, juicy and tart, finishing on a quivering astringent string note. Bof Compte A Rebours. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Panzanello Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


High level of volatility surrounds and distracts from quality richness in fruit aching to be heard. Panzano does not often exhibit this high level of VA and so the maceration here went on just a bit long, followed by a pressing off that brought some angst along for the ride. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted March 2022

Pasolini Dall’onda Chianti Classico DOCG Pio 7 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Here from San Donato in Poggio comes a lovely if modern sangiovese augmented by “other varieties” but the push-pull, acid-pH balance seems to be a blessing of canaiolo in disguise. Merlot likely, as well if in addition to another international party due to the verdant and creamy swirl running through the blood orange and sanguine expression of this wine. Either way this is strawberry-cherry San Donato in Poggio as filling in a savoury polenta cake. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Pensieri Di Cavatina Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

The sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga is always another animal, openly fragrant, expansive and then deep on the palate. Just look at the place and then it would be impossible to wonder why. Pensieri di Cavatina’s is just this, full of air, sandy-salty and then fruit that layers in leathery roll-up style. Thought the tannins were just a bit gritty but they roll along and cover the fruit with equally proper style. Good work here and one to really consider. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Poci Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Poci is located in the southwest corner of Radda in close proximity to parts of Castellina, Castelnuovo (Vagliagli) and also Gaiole. A unique location and one to inspire characterful if singular sangiovese. There is a warmth and a depth to this ’19 Annata, and an affinity with Brancaia in the way it combines freshness with that depth. There is a good amount of chew here in a wine to really sink your teeth into. Seems a bit toasty now but that should settle down before too long. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Winemaker Alyson Morgan, Podere Capaccia, Radda

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Not only is 2019 an über fresh Annata vintage but see where is lands when tasting it side by side and each with the previous ’18 and before that ’17, both of which remain just about as fresh as they were last year and the one before. The level of aromatic concentration here is simply off the charts, olfactory opening and mind expanding. That said you feel the botti still, something that has melted away from the others even while their fruit remains fully intact. Part early life and part bigger vintage but ultimately the bar is raised and the 2019 is just a gorgeous wine. Flavour and texture work in cahoots to carry the load and allow this Annata to exhale and then inhale for several years of confidence and pleasure. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Lamole perfume straight away, up front and knowable, floral but more so a matter of herbs and fungi, legumes and grasses all mulched into an aromatic potpourri. Silky and savoury, a sangiovese of clarity with thanks to vintage mainly, serving to accentuate but also openly calculate a sense of place. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2019


From Greve and understandably so, fruit well developed, ripe and full, good depth overall. Not overtly aromatic yet a broad potpourri emits. Quite concentrated, pressed and tannic. Traditional and knowable. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

Ah the beauty and grace of San Donato in Poggio and in these Rossini hands a stunning 2019 Annata. Aromatic elation, exultant floral lift and mineral euphoria. Fruit so stylish and defined, a dignity of stone and elements run through, nothing out of place, all following a line as if on a circle. A wine that always comes back to where it started while fleshing and gaining traction, picking up subtleties but most of all concentrating in succulence. While the expression is clearly San Donato in Poggio, Podere La Cappella’s particular limestone terroir just can’t be missed, especially in an open and generous vintage such as this from 2019. Juiced orange, bloody, tart and health affirming, bled white stone and a soil gifting purity speak pure Colombino. There is so much to love and appreciate about the grace in this sangiovese. This is Bruno and Natascia Rossini’s land and style. Drink now and whenever, even forever. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February and March 2022

Podere Lecci E Brocchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

From Castelnuovo Berardenga and dramatically so, big and open hearted, well filled with red fruit syrup of sangiovese liqueur. Lots of pressing here, concentration and some heavy, weighty and full tannins are the result. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

La Locanda Di Pietracupa, San Donato in Poggio

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From San Donato in Poggio and a sanguine mix of iron and orange, mixed soil sensations and really quite classic frazione feels. Builds tannins, climbs, develops and shows off its range. Plenty of wine her, quite exemplary and designed to hold steadfast for up to five years. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Poggio Bonelli’s Annata from 2019 is quite advanced and so ready to drink as if a three or four year-old sangioivese were in your glass. Earth and musky animale lead the aromatic front with a minor amount of Brett to naturalize and synthesize with the chewy red fruit. Acids are sour-edged and follow right in line. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

Pratale Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Gets neither brighter nor further blessed of red fruit than this star of San Casciano. No missing the mineral element neither, in fact there is a schist, marl and river stone stream running through the plush and succulent fruit in this stellar example of Classico sangiovese. Good tannic delivery at the end is tart and drying yet properly austere. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Principe Duccio Corsini, Villa Le Corti, San Casciano

Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

A “complicated spring,” tells Duccio Corsini, not an overheated summer and good harvest, done before the end of the first week of October. Good yielding though for Le Corti it rests at just under six tonnes per hectare, well below the appellative “disciplinare,” i.e. production code. Sealed under Diam #5, classically Le Corti river stone savoury, with five per cent colorino. Full textured while maintaining the Corsini seasoning and San Casciano vim. Succulent acids, lengthy tannins and early integration. Especially for 2019, urged on by aging in concrete tanks. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Pruneto Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Seems to be the Pruneto Annata vintage we’ve all been waiting for. Such sangiovese air and breaths of freshness are welcome with arms and palates open wide. Great fruit man, pure cherries and then this feeling of distillate. Crisp and fresh with Raddese acidity and also herbology safely tucked within. Approach with naïveté and also know that aging is within the communal cards. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG L’Aura 2019


Similar to the upcoming 2020 in that the heavy prevalence of Alberese soil wants to take control, even at the Annata level. A 2019 of wild berry, balsam and full peppery piqued sangiovese seasoning and enough freshness if rounded in ways that make for a most accessible Annata. Already evolving ever so slightly this way and it is said that L’Aura rounds by wood, if on a scale so incrementally minor as compared to 2020. Truth be told this is as much like Radda than it is Castellina. Border proximity and elevation are responsible for this very fact. Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2022

Winemaker Manfred Ing, Querciabella, Greve

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Greve, Gaiole and Radda

Changes are in the air as always in perpetual and forward thinking motion and felt with most palpable readiness of promising concern in the Querciabella Annata. A wine of amalgamation, a triad of territorial delivery, each contribution as valid and poignant as the next. More to the point is how the grapes arrive and are poised to compliment, layer and celebrate each other. A wine of balance but understanding is a deep and wonderful thing. Note the brush with places, the layers of elevation and fluidity from red fruit flavours through textural tranquility. Seriously, serious and not so much. Just knowing, ready and willing to please.  Last tasted February 2022.

As always 100 per cent sangiovese from Radda, Greve and Gaiole, most of its life spent in larger format casks. At this point 25-30 hL with what would be even more purity extracted were there 50-70hL sizes involved. The level of transparent concentration is at what feels like the peak of Querciabella Annata. Every vintage is different and requires so much attention and that detail for fine tuning is so indelibly and intensely pitch elegant captured in the generosity of this wine. Clearly a balance in the vineyards but also in how here they layer and come together. Really young, tannins wound and yet not so compact, fruit singing with sliding scale through three communes in succession. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted November 2021.

As always 100 per cent sangiovese from Radda, Greve and Gaiole, most of its life spent in larger format casks. At this point 25-30 hL with what would be even more purity extracted were there 50-70hL sizes involved. The level of transparent concentration is at what feels like the peak of Querciabella Annata. Every vintage is different and requires so much attention and that detail for fine tuning is so indelibly and intensely pitch elegant captured in the generosity of this wine. Clearly a balance in the vineyards but also in how here they layer and come together. Really young, tannins wound and yet not so compact, fruit singing with sliding scale through three communes in succession. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Donato in Poggio

From 2019 the Annata is über savoury, of pine forest and a sangiovese with 20 per cent other endemic grapes that take turns delivering herbs, underbrush, wild herbs and forest mulch. Finer tannins even if the wine is tight after all those aromatics emitting from the wine. This is the epitome of a sangiovese in Chianti Classico form needing time, not just in elévage but also in the bottle. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Ricasoli 1141 Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Like the ’19 Riserva tasted last month in Firenze there is a rounded and getable nature about the Brolio Annata that just speaks to a combination of vintage and place. That being 270 hectares of well thought out Gaiole intendment, including in Monti where the grapes should help create harmony in Ricasoli’s biggest volume Chianti Classico wine. Can’t miss the Gaiole savour, herbals dried and also sweet, fruit layered from five distinct soils, each contributing and forming the basis for a pentangle of sangiovese righteousness. All in all a great modern era formula that would make the Iron Baron Bettino Ricasoli proud.  Last tasted April 2022

Ricasoli’s ’19 is really quite open, gregarious, sumptuous and available. A magical blend of five terroirs and one to enjoy with just about anything in the here and now. Certainly shows a sour cherry and red citrus angle caused by elevated volatility but that’s where the food will come in. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Grande Gaiole compass, cinch and girth in naturally swarthy sangiovese from Riecine in 2019, crunchy and tart. Inching up towards the volatile but such is the word in pace for the vintage. The fruit can handle the stark reality and veritable truth, equipped with grip and ready for the inevitable circumstance. Maybe wait a year for further resolution. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca delle Macìe, Castellina

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta Sant’Alfonso 2019


From the second property purchased by Sergio Zingarelli’s father Italo in 1973, the largest of the four estates, a place of clay and at times wet soil. Much higher tones and acidities than the Famiglia Zingarelli, in the Castellina air as opposed to mulched in the sottosuolo below. More specific, 100 per cent sangiovese and rounded out by fruits of all ilk; fresh, dried and everywhere in between. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


As calcareously tight and wound like a wire around a steel coil this Annata 2019 may be there is something other here, a feeling immediate, insightful and profound. Not just any sangiovese from Montegrossi and perhaps the vintage to explain a Gaiole notion for appellative Chianti Classico DOCG wines. A blend of 88 per cent sangiovese, (10) colorino and (2) canaiolo. A reminder that Marco Ricasoli makes this and he makes Gran Selezione with no Riserva bridge and so at the Annata level there is great fruit, observation and intent. Yes it’s true that three years minimum in bottle are required to release the hounds of charm, but the sangiovese here has done its work silently and the result is a ’19 we can depend upon. Domestic and secure, a wine of warm diplomacy that will certainly bring people together, even those of differing philosophies. Brilliant harbinger for the vintage and what’s to come from the community at large. Grande, once again. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted July and November 2021

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Rich and chalky, red fruit glare in the classic Castellina way and quite structured for a 2019 Annata. Drink now if you must and with some air this will open, release and please but two years will do well to soften the edges and also integrate the wood spice. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

San Giorgio A Lapi Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Flawed. Acetic well above 1.0, in fact this is acetic 1.0, likely upwards of 1.5 in volatile acidity. Hard to find any fruit or nuance as a result. Certainly no sense of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2022.  Tasted March 2022

Tasting with Luca Martini di Cigala and Silvia Fiorentini at San Giusto a Rentennano, Gaiole

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


“For us it was a bit different than the rest of Chianti Classico,” explains Luca Martini di Cigala. “There was a big hail in July, delaying ripeness and three layers of green harvest was necessary, to reduce yields and allow the plants to regenerate.” Meant for a late pick that finished on the 16th of October. The final count was 20-25 per cent down yet there are very few Chianti Classico that combine aromatic concentration, flavour complexity, textural glycerin and compaction of tannin like this. Every part of the cherry and cool herbals persist throughout. Prompts the question as to when Luca first saw signs of climate change, events and extremes. Luca’s response is that he realized something was not right in 1998, when the skin of the berries were burned by the sun. In 2017 the vintage brought early frost and then dry heat, with the coming 2021 being another frost year yet again. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021 and February 2022

San Leonino Chianti Classico DOCG Al Limite 2019


Direct spike of red lightning Castellina fruit in a right proper and openly fragrant, upright, generous and perfectly seasoned ’19 Annata. The fruit soars like an eagle, takes it as far as Annata will go. Lovely texture and generous mouthfeel. A wine senza limite. “So put me on a highway, and show me a sign. And take it to the limit, one more time.” Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Stomennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Stomennano’s western Castellina sangiovese is not merely one that delivers a juicy, fleshy and red citrus bleed but even more the kind that speaks to terroir as much as any in the UGA. This Annata screams Galestro, clay accessibility mixed with grippy schist. Literally smells and tastes like calcareous clay, wet and stony, like Villages pinot noir from Santenay, in a way, but sangiovese is sangiovese and yet this can be consumed just about any day. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Tenuta Di Campomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Campomaggio 2019


Herbal and tight, creamy and yet austere. A wine of disparate parts, true Raddese acids and a true altitude crunch. Fruit is substantial and invigorating, overall emotion kept in relative check. Bounces around and about so it will interesting to see where this will land. Drink 2023-2026. Tasted February 2022

A winemaker, an angel and two ambasciatori walk out of a bar ~ Il più grande piacere to taste, talk, break bread and resurrect with these heroes amongst us, @seanilguercio and the King. Sangiovese, maneuvers and the Lucarelli cuisine.

Tenuta Di Carleone Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


In 2016 the two entities of Karl Egger’s Tenuta di Carleone and Brit Séan O’Callaghan’s Il Guercio combined and they took over Podere L’Aja’s Radda vineyards, opposite Vertine. Retroactively it was 2015 that was the first vintage of Chianti Classico (made by Istine’s Angela Fronti) and then in 2016 O’Callaghan made his first as oenologist and winemaker for the project. “I make one Chianti Classico because I have to and I want to,” tells Séan. That said it is a sangiovese that does not pass the tasting panel at first try but eventually the slightly elevated volatility gets under the skin and lifts the spirit. Light? Not really but luminescent and a true scintillant of sangiovese. “The most important wine we make,” he adds, “because it’s the one that needs to grab your attention.” My goodness this is Niagara bench-land Bachelder pinot noir/gamay but in Radda! Crunchy and perfectly stemmy from 30-35 per cent whole bunch and two to three months maceration, depending on the vineyard. The lightest and elegant and fresh go into (the 100 per cent sangiovese IGT) Uno and everything remaining from Radda goes into the Chianti Classico. And yet this is light so Uno will be even lighter! Approximately 42,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Tenuta Di Lilliano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Nine months later and full confirmation guaranteed. Pretty and red fruit fleshy in a 2019 Annata with full compliment and support by those sweet lightning Castellina sangiovese acids. Just what to except, appreciate and even adore in straightforward, linear and crispy Chianti Classico for now and up to five years. Perfectly executed in lithe style by Lilliano.  Last tasted February 2022

The just released Ruspoli 2019 from western Castellina in Chianti’s Tenuta Di Lilliano takes off where the most amenable 2018 sangiovese left off and runs with the great vintage vibe. A traditionally blended Annata with five per cent each colorino and merlot, for old and newer school bookending and with this stacked vintage in pocket there will be some drawing upon the state’s track record for aging Annata level Chianti Classico. Ruspoli is an aristocratic family from Rome (and palace of the same name), but is originally from Florence. Giulio and Pietro Ruspoli are the proprietors of Lilliano and it was Princess Eleonora Ruspoli Berlingieri who first bottled Lilliano’s wines in 1958. This is just beautiful appellative sangiovese, full of ripe Castellina fruit balanced against a backdrop of inviting territorial acidity and sweet, sweet tannins. The essence of sangiovese is brought straight to the surface with immediate gratification available in a wondrous example that may not need any further development time in the bottle. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted May 2021

Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico DOCG Nozzole 2019


Quite the herbal hyperbole here from Greve, pine forest and the resin oozing off the trees. Syrupy in the mouth, thick red liquidity in sangiovese that draws the aura of the land, lends it sweetness and thickness its plot. It’s a soup metaphor for a reason. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Tenuta Orsumella Chianti Classico DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Really firm San Casciano sangiovese from Orsumella though the grip and also depth are in cohorts with quite the impressive vintage gather of fruit. You sense realism and intention in this wine, nothing overdone or gone too far. There is something strong and in charge for sure though everything is about structure and controlled longing. Impressive across the board. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Tenute Squarcialupi La Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Squarcialupi 2019


For the record The Squarcialupi Codex (housed in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) is an illuminated manuscript compiled in Florence in the early 15th century. It is the single largest primary source of music of the 14th-century Italian Trecento (also known as the “Italian ars nova”).The first of two Tenute Squarcialupi Annata out of Castellina is the one more textured, of glycerol and subjected to pectinization. A hematic and ferric depth is noted in the way a sanguine current runs through this sangiovese and it just feels like it comes from red earth. Fluid and structured, serious in a way but surely composed. Really well made wine. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Tenute Squarcialupi La Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Cosimo Bojola 2019


Further to what must be a connection with the Squarcialupi Codex, the first folio in the codex states: “This book is owned by Antonio di Bartolomeo Squarcialupi, organist of Santa Maria del Fiore.” On the following pages, added later, are humanistic poems in praise of Squarcialupi.” The second of two Tenute Squarcialupi Annata out of Castellina is this Cosimo Bojola, lighter, brighter and less texturized as compared to the Squarcialupi. Also more serious in the intensity of the elements, minerals and currents that run through, while also grippier, compact, linear and streamlined. This is the one that reminds of Bourgogne of a high-caste village and if any Castellina wine indicates where it comes from, this focused Cosimo Bojola is that one. My goodness. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


A very specific quadrant of Greve is accessed and acquiesced in Terreno’s Classico Annata, not shy but yes restrained, upwardly mobile and with an understanding of how to reach markets old and new, young and old. A great family member this Terreno, hospitable and generous, open and yet respectful of traditions, acquired and also introduced. Best Annata ever for the house. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Chianti Classico rocks

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Some merlot augments the sangiovese in this Castelnuovo Berardenga Annata and it shows in the lithely verdant plus creamy smoothness noted, from nose to palate. Also a 2019 of more tannin than many, felt and understood as the wine dries away with classic sangiovese austerity. Savour, acidity and brushy flora are all there, up front and at the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Triacca La Madonnina Chianti Classico DOCG Bello Stento 2019


Bello Stento, literally “hardly beautiful” is just a perfectly traditional example of Chianti Classico, especially in Annata form, finding a modernity of freshness, accessibility and beauty without compromise or giving in to trend. Aromatically brushy and Amaro herbal while also in delivery of real glycerol and sap running texture. Neither crunch nor chew but something in between. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Vallepicciola Chianti Classico DOCG 2019


Always fulsome, concentrated and so well developed, texture in sangiovese defined, climbing to syrup and jam but staying just shy of that consistency. Concurrently and expressly Vagliagli, hinting at the volatile and again remaining comfortably in check. Very blood orange and red currant with mineral earth running through the wood flavours. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre Di Prenzano 2019


Perfect medium weight and sweetly initiated entry into Classico is just this from Vignamaggio’s multi-terraced, tiered and controlled Annata 2019. A sangiovese plus parts thereof in varietal addendum to squeeze ripenesses and pack them in like punch. Fills by barrel and parts equalized amount to an easy CC that knows just what to do. Simple and forthright. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 54 2019


Not on the lighter side of Greve so near to Monterioralle per se but surely a Classico picked and rendered in a fresh, come and get it style. That said there is some mild peppery jolts mixed with spiciness that shows up both on the nose and also the palate. Continues into some sangiovese austerity with dried herbs and drying tannin at the finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Chianti Classico Experience, Restaurant Education

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2018


A beautiful and open-knit Mocenni Annata from 2018, not exactly lithe or shrinking but already quite available at this time. That said the acidity is in full control and while the tannins are ones of grip and fortitude they sidle in and connect with the other constituent parts. Further to that this is a wine that continues to roll forward, collecting matter and growing in stature and as a result complexities. Ok enough about that.  Last tasted October 2021

La Ghirlanda is the Bindi Sergardi Annata from the Tenuta Mocenni (estate) in Castelnuovo Berardenga and if any one single bottling from Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi should act as the spokes-wine, this would have to be it. The authentic and exacting sangiovese of full regale and ornamentation, the ”garland,” celebratory Chianti Classico of purpose for proprietors and place. Pulls from Mocenni’s Alberese and Galestro, managing structure while exulting succulence of fruit. The most getable and beautiful Chianti Classico Annata is here, bright and balanced. So ready to be taken advantage of which might act contrary to sangiovese messaging but do not fear because enough Alberese meddling equips this 2018 to offer its best through the middle of the decade. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Ser Gardo, Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2018


I Colli Estate’s Vagliagli vineyards abutting the Chianti Colli Senesi are the source and so different to that of the Mocenni amphitheatre. A higher pH and a lessening of acidity make for a silky smooth and lush Classico. The 2018 is a perfumed vintage, with brushy herbs and local flora. So much more perfume, lovely florals and a resolution of the tannins into the middle points and parts of the wine. Beautiful work with one hundred per cent sangiovese to express this southwestern corner of the Vagliagli sub-zone.  Lastt asted October 2021

Ser Gardo, sibling to La Ghirlanda, both Annata wines but here from Bindi Sergardi’s I Colli estate. Same Castelnuovo Berardenga zone but slight alteration in soil. Still the Alberese but less Galestro. Not as glycerin and luxe as Ghirlanda and even with a lighter to easy vintage like 2018 there is little doubt that sangiovese like this will need some time. The sensation taken here is lime-chalky, sapid in nature, less give and more demand. Not seriously tense but a year would assist in softening the grip and integrating the lighter 2018 fruit. Seemingly more traditional, herbal and savoury sangiovese to be sure and yet always with that post-modernist’s Bindi Sergardi thick brushstroke of style. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted May 2021

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2018


Baruffo the dog, one of twenty currently on the property. Baruffo the 100 per cent sangiovese of increased concentration, richness and breadth as compared to the blended Cantalici. Ages for one year in 20 hL barrels, plenty of development for what is a late-picked, fully reasoned and seasoned Annata. Will resolve and show its best in two years. Another step forward taken, consistent within the estate style. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Castelnuovo Beradenga’s Carpineta Fontalpino farms vineyards at the estate and also in Montaperti plus Dofana within the Vagliagli UGA of the commune’s western butterfly wing. Winemaker Gioia Cresti so magically and intrinsically marries the mix of fruit for a classico that resides apart from her cru sangiovese. Low yields for Annata off of mixed clay, sand and also (Alberese) limestone come from mixed elevations between 380-420m picked across the entirety of the month of September. A true stacked ferment concept, an honest and exemplary estate wine to get right at what Cresti and her estate are all about. Gioia is a cru fanatic but this sangiovese really matters. The succulence, salumi meatiness and forza della natura are all you need to know about her skills, humility and humanity. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


A unique and particular vintage, unlike others in the recent past or what would come from 2019. More important is how here at Località Il Becco along with nearby Il Corno the conditions were so different from the rest of the territory. Arid and warmer in this area, making for dry, tight and plum dusty sangiovese, even a bit austere. The warmth has not resulted in density of concentration as it might in some other vintages, take 2015 as an example. While it may be missing the sweet harmony of 2019 there is a clear message of Raddese acidity and likely a good long life ahead.  Last tasted March 2022

A sangiovese from Radda in Chianti that in Annata form and out of a vintage that requires less time in order to express its terroir. The vineyards are located in the lower part of the valley, below the Macigno sandstone and away from the more calcareous eastern and southern sections. This is the place of “formazione geologica particolare,” a schisty area where Galestro is common. A very pretty version of Castello di Radda’s sangiovese is exactly this, crispy and spicy, acid circulating and turning the fruit from soil earthy to creatively succulent. Crunchy too and ready for immediate work, best to match alongside grilled Tuscan sausages, eggplant and zucchini. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted April 2021

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

San Casciano

Still a good leesy reduction to start, wine of extraction and in the third year so different from before but not yet in discovery of the balance and especially tannic extraction. The wine has come into a much better place, the tannins have lost much of their astringency and the wood has melted in. Drinking well right now.  Last tasted November 2021

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

Fattoria della’Aiola Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Has lightened through linear design and really shows that it was not a vintage of great generosity. More so one of savour and direct impression though now feeling a bit closed. It’s a phase and should resume an open door policy from late ’22 through early ’26.  Last tasted February 2022

The field work put in by the team at Fattoria della Aiola in the most challenging 2017 vintage pays double dividends with the ease and amenability of ’18. The Annata arrives from low in the valley below Radda where the location looks easterly through the true Castelnuovo Berardenga UGA. If that ’17 carried the air of refreshment and lightness of Castelnuovo sangiovese then get a whiff and a taste of this ’18. Sharp, tight, composed, finessed and always shining bright. The depth of fruit and structure is magically subtle, hidden in shadows and at present allowing the pleasure factor to reign supreme. There is grip and determination behind that pretty scene and so some sangiovese longevity is surely promised. Drink 2021-2026.   Tasted August 2020

Fattoria Le Masse, San Donato in Poggio

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

San Donato in Poggio

First vintage with new (large format) wood and it shows on the nose, from the vineyards in Morrocco, a land totally different from Le Masse’s estate lands. Not exactly like the Classico soils of Galestro and Alberese but still rocky, hard soil that drains easily and very different than Chianti nearby. Solo sangiovese, land directed, soil funky, fresh and vital. Partially fermented in wood tanks, a touch Bretty and notable tannic. Needs to and will settle in nicely. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2018

San Donato in Poggio

Montecchio’s 2018 has come around, having strayed away and found how to amortize, acclimatize and ultimately prioritize what needs to settle and feel just right. A textural, liquid San Donato in Poggio red soil, Ligurian wind and stony sangiovese if ever there was, rounded by grapes that soften, including in their colour. A lovely drop at this age and perfectly present day drinking Annata. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Sold out already and truthfully a carbon copy, albeit lighter on its Castellina feet, of the Pomona Vineyard Gran Selezione. In this case fruit comes from Sant’Ilario and Vigna del Termine vineyards. Here in Annata terms with readied, steadied and intuitive ease. Different and dual vineyard impart and more elastic movement than the GS but also the two vintages that came before. Crafty Classico, of a caring knowable in the idiosyncratic Pomona stability of style. A smaller vintage than 2019 to come but says Monica Raspi, “such is life.” Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2018


No one picks before October 10th in Lamole and Fontodi’s Filetta was the last. Always is, that’s the pecking order and Giovanni Manetti’s cousin who owns the vineyard goes back to 1045 in Chianti Classico, the oldest in recorded history. That Lamole perfume is unmistakable, with all the character of Lamole and the palate structure of a Fontodi wine. Bigger than most in Lamole and yet more graceful and caressing than those of the Conca d’Oro. As complex and fine as Filetta can be, ushering in a new level of deeper understanding, resolution and completion for Manetti and Lamole. A harbinger for the great and symbiotic relationship between Lamole and the vintage, leaving an impression that says this is the Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive place to be in 2018. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted October 2021

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Great freshness in abundance and despite some critical vintage theory there is so much to find in a Panzano Annata like this from Il Molino di Grace. Piquancy and an open door policy, classicism for the UGA in an ideal snapshot and Chianti Classico profile. Memory recalls the violet perfume and purity of fruit when tasting this 48 hours after it left the vine. Nothing has been lost or sacrificed to virtue or clarity in solo sangiovese that begs to be seen, heard and tasted. Will require less time than some vintages, to ready itself for piacevolezza e gustosità. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Le Cinciole’s 2018 benefits from two things: Less than heavy vintage result and one extra year in bottle to soften the Panzano-Galestro tannins notably present in this chalky wine. Red schisty-clay-limestone consistency, texture and presentation with high toned, lifted and red citrus behaviour. Quite a vintage snapshot mouthful in emotion but never heaviness. Still a bit oak dominant which should pass in another year or so. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Every time I taste a Le Fonti sangiovese there is instant recognition of Panzano but even more so the north and northeast oriented vineyards of Vicky and Guido’s fine, fine estate. This from ’18 is purely, expressly and unequivocally Le Fonti. Cooler, more linear, precise, focused and intentional than broader Panzano and surely a child of craft, the chase and chaos. Bravo Guido, brava Vicky, thank you for this honest act of Chianti Classico humility and humanity. Drink this every day.  Last tasted March 2022

In Vicky’s world “a very alcoholic year,” hot and dry but an expected extreme. Came out at 15 per cent with great fruit to counteract and balance this out. Light chalkiness and long chains of tannins, full palate exposure and much pleasure to find. Picked between the 28th and 3rd of October so took all and full advantage of a late September Panzano 25-plus degree fluctuation of daytime heat spike to nighttime lowest lows Therefore not hard to know what to attribute the alcohol to, relating to evaporation, humidity or anything else that happens when grapes flash develop that late in the season. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


The year is 2022. The vintage of this Lornano Annata is 2018. Why is it in this glass and being assessed is anybody’s guess. “Sangiovese needs the bottle,” is said with a shrug and the simple utterance remains etched in mind forever. Nicolò Pozzoli said this five years ago, well before this wine was even a twinkle in his Lornano eye. The vinous, herbal essence and essential oils have yet to integrate. The tannins have to assimilate and the wine knows not yet where it will go. Or perhaps it does and has chosen to stay quiet, in slumber and protected. When it emerges there will be the same classic Castellina cool and savoury sweetness as ever. The vintage will offer this gift of Lornano. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Nardi Viticoltori Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Nardi’s 2018 is purely and confidently Castellina sangiovese, richly glycerin, sweetly herbal and parochially viscous. This is Castellina red fruit incarnate, croccante, seamlessly woven with fine if understood acidity and gentle, equally getable tannins. An Annata meant for putting in your glass, anytime, anywhere.  Last tasted March 2022

Nardi in Castellina in Chianti is found below Lilliano and Macìe covering an area of ​​forty hectares of property. Ten are vineyards and the rest is divided between olive groves, various crops and the farm for breeding Chianina cattle and Cinta Senese pigs. The work of Angelo and Giacomo, sons of Enrico. Their striking ’18 Annata scintillant is 90 per cent sangiovese plus five each canaiolo and colorino. It is truly Classico marl-Galestro Castellina, bleeding cherry red fruit, acids that travel up and down the sides and then further serve to circulate the succulent and juicy fruit as it moves around the mouth. It’s the full sangiovese from a specific commune allowed to shine experience. Dictionary entry, spot on and satisfying. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2021

Podere Capaccia, Radda

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Winemaker Alyson Morgan uses only large format cask to age her Annata and like the previous 2017 this 2018 comes from an arid and very warm vintage though not quite as extreme. That ’17 is still so fresh and this ’18 is outrageously youthful, not closed but vinoso, cinnamon dusty and giving this feeling of sangiovese scorrevole. In other words it clings to but also slides as if tethered to the inside of the mouth. Acid level is still strong and yet supportive with thanks to how and when the grapes are chosen to be picked. If ’17 is chewy then ’18 brings the crunch, easy to say when you know that ’19 will fall harmoniously in between. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Lamole with an extra year’s settling is always a wonderful plan especially when executed with precision to a cumulative point of no return. Castellinuzza’s Annata is at exactly that place and is that place, a perfumed frazione sangiovese of well-ripened and judged fruit, floral tones both under and over. Succulent and textured if just a bit green, not unusual and in fact concurrent, at least at times here and there, with the UGA’s way. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

San Donato in Poggio

Youngest vineyards are 15-20 years old so they are all able to defend themselves in dry or challenging vintages. An average year really and not all the grapes are picked to be bottled, making sure to always maintain quality. All the vineyards contribute to the Annata, even some from Vigna Le Cataste, the 1997 planted vineyard, two sides over two valleys, argiloso on north side and Galestro to the south. Mostly 500L tonneaux with new 28 hL botti installed two years ago. “Organic with biodynamic undertones.” All five wines smell so completely different. Up to 20 per cent are mixed endemic grapes, including 10 of ciliegiolo, plus canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Adds up to a multi-national and savoury blend, a parochial gathering that layers a true sense of place, dusty, plum peppery and a true sense of forest airs in this wine. Good weight, balance and length. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Marinai’s Panzano is one of the richest, most fruit cumulate sangiovese of the UGA’s lot. From 2018 there is warmth, development, spice and Amaro viscosity. Viscidity too, rightfully tacky while also full of gems and precious metals. Such a Panzano delight, full and ropey, resistant to sheer forces and ready for the main course. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Crunchy Panzano Annata here from Tenuta Casenuove, peppered as opposed to peppery, as if with freckles or micro-sized bits of earth. Plenty of salt and pepper seasoning but again nothing sharp or spicy about it and fruit so very berry red.  Last tasted March 2022

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

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Picked at the end of September and into the first week of October after a stretch of time from which humidity rose at night. There were some problems with mould and insects. And so the early picking (for Radda) lent finesse and Radda acidity for some of the Classico’s light and direct wines. Yet another moment of diversification from UGA to UGA and vintage to vintage. This is not a massive sangiovese of alcohol and grosso attitude. This is exactly the opposite, while 10 minutes drive away in Panzano some wines are big and bullish, pushing and exceeding 15 per cent alcohol.  Last Tasted October 2021

Roberto Bianchi’s steep hillside slope is where he farms a quietly dramatic terroir to conjoin or congiungere with Radda’s many high elevation localizzazione. These once not long ago too cool for ripening sangiovese vineyards are now the place to be and Bianchi takes full account, responsibility and risk to make the most of his new world Chianti Classico possibilities. Long macerations are often over 45 days, even longer for Riserva, though in this easy and lighter vintage perhaps not quite so long. Still there is a development of texture, glycerol and the finest tannins in his glistening sangiovese. The inescapable Raddese acidity shines just as bright, carries the light and infuses the pure compound cherry genere with a hyper real sense of varietal and location. As they say, posizione è tutto. If Chianti Classico is the future, the man who might be dubbed double B has delivered an Annata già arrivato. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted September 2021

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Geggiano’s Vagliagli Annata is just a baby, like the faces of the brothers Bianchi-Bandinelli, charismatic, timeless and chiseled. The forces of Galestro and Alberese nature conspire to equip this linear and focused wine with the necessary attributes for an impressive run through sangiovese life. As for now focus on the seamlessness of the structural ascension and a fruit quality so pure it can only plan to be there every step of the way. The ten year Annata run is special and that is this Geggiano’s plan. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted March 2022

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2018


Here in the year of her majesty 2022 a look at the 2018 vintage for this Trasqua Annata is so early. And yet here it is in this glass and so here goes nothing. The Castellina company knows its terroir and understands that sangiovese must take it slow, ease into grace and away from structural pain. Trasqua’s is like the curious case of Castellina, born as an old soul then transversing through life into middle age, adulthood and finally youth. An inverse Classico relationship with time, crisp, crunchy and crusted now, so very tannic and four years away from settling into comfort. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted March 2022

An American and six Canadians at La Sala, San Casciano

Chianti Classico DOCG (older vintages)

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG 2017


Sangiovese blended with 15 (merlot and cabernet sauvignon) and the “international” one, less aggressive and pure than the varietal Baruffo. As Chianti Classico the character augmented by Cassis, smoke and bell pepper changes the approach and then the result. Smooth, round and creamy while truth be told there is still a Gaiole sentiment running through. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Dofana 2017


The Dofana stone is sandy, more Arenaria then Macigno, with Alberese and clay. Faces southeast at 350m, planted to new clones of sangiovese, as opposed to Montaperto. All adds up to a sangiovese cru of musculature, great if slightly austere tannins, fleshier, cherries of deeper maceration and profound tang. All parts are raised, elevated, punchy and there is an intensity that really makes one think and feel. The vineyard was acquired in 2004, now at the point of Gioia Cresti having come to really understand the make-up, to claim the future of the wine, for what is going to happen. The classicism of needing to give sangiovese time is entrenched into Dofana, around which “the corners in this wine are personality,” tells Filippo Cresti. A wine to watch what happens with 12 bottles over the years. Even 30 years. Dofana’s tannins are that tight and compacted, even from arid 2017. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted November 2021

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG Montaperto 2017


A grey to light yellow calcareous plot, mainly Alberese facing northeast at 420m. Even in 2017 it will not get much more elemental and linear, balanced, fresh and the definition of an elegant cru-designate Chianti Classico. The oldest vines are 40 years and the vineyard is re-planted in stages, slowly, Bordeaux style. All sangiovese, remarkably bright, getable and cool. Hard to find more of this ilk from the aridity that 2017 gave to the territory’s vines. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017


More or less picked at the same time as 2018 (18th to 28th of September), give or take a few days and while the alcohol is felt more than in 2018 there is also a dry extract elevation and less grip as a consequence. More peppery spice and wood sensation, here in an Annata of tightly wound impression. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017


Only sees Grandi Botti, allowing the wine to breathe and expresses the appellation’s purest form. Has kept its fruit and energy without a moment of change since last tasted 25 months ago. Seriously no evolution, acting fresh as the day it was first popped. Represents top structure in Annata.  Last tasted March 2022

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

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017


Spiced to the hilt which is neither shock nor surprise from a pair of Castelnuovo brothers and their newly minted Vagliagli UGA. Men who allows allow and encourage their terroir to speak in clarity, regardless of vintage and no matter the circumstance. Warm and luxe, deep and profound, an exegesis of structure delivered by grapes of local, traditional and serious concern.  Last tasted February 2022

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

Alberese, Il Palagio di Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016


Includes fruit from the San Martino Vineyard, composed of Galestro, rich in iron, morphologically very different to the soils around the winery. Spends 12 months in large format casks, followed by 12 months in bottle. As an Annata Palagio’s is released late, certainly as compared to most in the territory. Still firm with notable tannins and yet to be resolved structural elements. There is a dryness on the upper palate, a case of clones and soils, still a closed door to the grace and possibility of this wine. There are grapes coming from the oldest (late 1980s planting) part of the vineyard and beginning in 2017 these grapes will all move to the old vines Rosato. This will mark a profound change in not only style but accessibility, especially for the Annata.  Last tasted October 2021

Upon further consideration, thoughts drill down and clarity comes into more micro view, six months after last tasting and 14 months after first tasting PdP’s 2016. It took some time but now the perfume is pure Panzano and in this case, right at the heart of the village. The essence of a northeastern corner of Conca d’Oro sweet savour, a purity and a concentration of sangiovese that carries the culture and tradition of its fruit, safely and securely. The tannins here are sneaky, creeping in, aiding and abetting, for longevity. This should become one of the longer lived Annata of the vintage.  Last tasted November 2020

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 and May 2020

Looking south towards Castelnuovo Berardenga from San Giusto a Rentennano, Gaiole

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016


For Luca 2016 is a true sangiovese vintage, equanimous from start to vintage and one from which the terroir and territory take control of the grape. Indeed this is Chianti in ideal if not the purest perfection of Classico form, deeply transparent and matched by an honest to greatness inner mineral wave in full command. There is a sense of blood orange but also red currant and ripe cherry. A classic year in which the ample but amenable tannins allow for early access but also plenty of time ahead. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2022

I Fabbri Olinto Chianti Classico DOCG 2014


Even back in 2018 ands 2019 there was already something intuited for the beautiful, ulterior and even ethereal if much maligned 2014s and more than anything a sense of wonder to see how well they could age. Now in 2022 enough time has passed to take deeper judgement and if I Fabbri’s Olinto is any indication then the vintage will deliver many quality wines for many more years to come. The Lamole perfume is front, open, lifted and centre. The sangiovese has only moved forward to a place where the classicism of Greve’s amphitheatric frazione stands right before us. Susanna Grassi has done it again, as she always does, filling her wines with realism and grace. This Olinto is in a really great place. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Full tasting of San Giusto a Rentennano, Gaiole

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2013


Not an easy harvest with recurring rain, on repeat from what happened during the spring. In a way like 2014 but the weather was much more fortuitous in between. The liveliness and grippy acidity wrapped up in persistent tannin keeps this a bit closed and two years further should really open things up. Incredibly fresh sangiovese and that specific San Giusto blood, part orange and part sanguinity. Will be just right around the corner. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2022

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2012


At the outset there is some animale, a cooked rabbit per se, a smaller animal, not bovine or porcine. such a curious and complex aromatic swell. In the vintage a big rain arrived at the beginning of September but not all of the vineyards were able to recuperate from the long dry spell and as such the tannins are a bit dry. That said they are settling now and it has taken this much time to get to this point. The fruit shines, the wine is just now in its window and while hydric stress clearly played a role there is much to gain at this time. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Cantalici Baruffo 2011

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2011


Holding the fort and going strong for a 10-11 year old sangiovese, same vineyard and specs as the ’18 tasted side by side. This was the third vintage labeled Baruffo, though the present day Cantalici dates back to 2002. Yes, still in very good form, notes surely secondary, tannins almost fully softened, some tartufo just emerging now. Far from oxidative, acids really quite sweet and true blue cool savour fully in charge and control. The finish is truly enjoyable, neither drying nor cloying, but with frutta seco and long, menthol cool. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra Di Lamole 2010


A blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, acid and pH in cohorts for a Lamole of true timeless terroir and of a time when the naked transparency of the frazione could never be denied. Not that hiding Lamole in 2022 is a thing but the linearity, stark reality and absolute transparency of the day is on full display from Susanna Grassi’s 2010. That and the barrel she would have augmented Terra di Lamole with to create a kind of Selezione for the time. Now in the waning stages with thanks to a warm vintage when such a thing was not the average or contiguous norm. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

With Winemaker Manfred Ing, Querciabella, Greve

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2010


Immediate waft of frutta di bosco from what was Manfred Ing’s first vintage at Querciabella, having arrived on the 3rd of May. An auspicious start because it rained the entire month. The heat never came and even in retrospect the team will say it was the worst vintage ever. Guido di Santi was in charge of winemaking (and in a way still is). The season continued despite the rains and lingered well into the fall. Was also the year new cement tanks and wood vats arrived for fermentation, plus the inaugural one as a 100 per cent sangiovese. Only four months into his tenure Ing urged the team to wait longer before picking. The fact is that’s all sangiovese needed and usually needs. Time. So now 11 years forward the cured salumi style of Chianti Classico is just what this is pleased to be. A vanishing point of previous stylistic expression for a future that began with the advent of a new unfolding story. Not much fruit to talk about but plenty of Ruffoli and gastronomic pleasure in many ways. Well matched to Fuoripiazza Ristorante Enoteca in Greve. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2009


Holding firm and quite well for an 11-plus year old Annata from a vintage not too dissimilar to what is coming from 2019. Bodes well for Capponi’s ’19 and so many kin. This retrospective look feels so very Montefioralle with the addition of down by the river Greve alluvial silt and clay deposit generosity. Airy yet grounded, high-toned yet also able to go baritone. Linear yet well-rounded, freshness in acidity persistent while never getting too high. A wine to sit down with, learn some history and stay in the present. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

I Fabbri, Lamole

I Fabbri Olinto Chianti Classico DOCG 2009


Full disclosure: This bottle has been open for 20 hours and by every logical sense of reality and the imagination should be lost to the nether world of sangiovese days gone by, but alas no! Susanna Grassi’s 2009 is glorious and texturally rounded, not to mention aromatically lifted and sound. The secondary elements are gracious, delicious and firmly entrenched in next level structure. There is no sense of demise or decline and as a vintage the overall sensation is one of climb, ascension and incline. Brava e grande Susanna. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2009


The Lamole label is a different animal than the Olinto when it comes to a retrospective look side by side with the Olinto 2009. More wood, evolution and secondary bleeding into tertiary character but most of all this cinghiale-animale note that can’t be denied. Earthy and hematic, a tale of brush, porcini and the sauce reduced after slow cooking the shoulder, hours later and complex. Lamole herbal, perfumed and fine. Past prime but a window into the recent past. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

A vintage from which the tannins seemed very hard and needed a long time to improve. Actually shocked at how this has yet to truly evolve, with almost no oxidation or dried components. No frutta secco or bosco but yes glycol and Amaro. Silken and mineral, as Luca’s sangiovese (with varying percentages of canaiolo and colorino always are). Will still drink beautifully for six to 10 years further. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2022

Villa Calcinaia 1975, Montefioralle

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 1975


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. TCA. A matter of clay and limestone and in Calcinaia’s vineyard the type of stone is Colombino, not rare but highly specific to certain Chianti Classico vineyards. Looking past the TCA there is a wild strawberry sense of fruit that while stymied and suppressed there is a persistence and longevity in this forty-seven year old wine. Truly sangiovese with mineral scents and an unkempt wildness about its disposition.  Tasted March 2022

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico 1949


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. The oldest wine in the flight. apropos and just when you consider the Ricasoli heritage and lineage. A mineral layering which instinctively mimics the compaction of argiloso, macigno and calcari from Brolio’s soils, no longer feeling the separation or mille-feuille effect but now just all morphed into one and the same. There were surely some white wines in this mix, as per the formula written decades earlier by Bettino Ricasoli. Probably helped keep the freshness for some time and while this is now all earth and stone the wine is very much alive. There’s even some sweetness and citrus showing, indicative of blood orange some 73 years later, finishing with a trebbiano and malvasia Vinsanto tang.  Tasted March 2022

Gurvinder Bhatia, Chianti Classico Collection 2022

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


My or should I say man is Bibbiano’s Riserva’s ’19 the most naturally sweet sensation of Castellina fruit that Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi  has ever produced. A well of sangiovese liqueur and liquidity of seasonings, fine spices, Mediterranean and even a bit exotique. I imagine he is most proud of this wine, traditionally Riserva but so above ground, out there and capable of running with his single-vineyard, one side of the estate or other, Gran Selezione wines. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2019


Hard not to appreciate the double entendre in Gabriele Buondonno’s wines, at once big and boisterous with well developed alcohol but then high elevation salty, airy and expansive. They are what they are what they need to be, from his place in Castellina, nearly Panzano in temperament, substantiality and fully equipped with measure. The ’19 is a bit more than tannic so let it rest another couple of years. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Castello di Albola’s Radda at elevation Riserva is quite tight and compact, especially this early in its assessment. Clearly a wine of Galestro with plenty of Calcari influence, glycol liquidity and just that classic sense of regional liqueur. Quite viscous and generous, tart at this stage with a hint of balsamica. Will settle in and drink with Riserva pride. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Montebuoni 2019


“Direct descendant of Castello di Ama Riserva in a return to the appellation with this being the second such vintage. Falling somewhere between the Ama Annata and San Lorenzo Gran Selezione, Ama’s Montebuomi is so very Calcari, regardless of the level of appellation, intensely woven, idealized and structured. Such mineral virtuosity at the Riserva level captured however, linear, vertical and compact. A compression exists by dint of those vineyard soils and also the living and breathing Gaiole terroir. Drying for now, fleshing to come, settling in later. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted March 2022.

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti lassico Riserva DOCG 2019


Tank sample but a finished wine. Phenomenal poly-phenolics and sensory gifting from a sangiovese 100 per cent in delivery of the Volpaia sweetness of fruit, cool sensibility, silky texture and equally tactile tannins. If a hole or an unresolved moment exists it would be impossible to unearth and in some ways, at this stage, Riserva is almost readier than Annata. But that shouldn’t really be possible with the grapes coming from the same vineyard, here in the upper part. The winemaking is exceptional and the vineyard’s voice is perfectly heard. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Fèlsina Berardenga Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

A bright, lightning red fruit and herbal oil Rancia Riserva here in ’19, working through pine and cedar, rosemary, sage and elderberry, fennel too. All the resins are here in their youth, circulating and formulating an exit strategy. At this point the fruit, sweet as it is, is wrapped up in the bramble, impossible to reach without getting bitten by the thorny tannins of this wine. Just wait, and wait some more because there is so much happening and still to come. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted March 2022

Gagliole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Nothing scents like a Gagliole and nowhere in Castellina does this sense of fruit compaction, timed and tidy acidity and then fineness of sweet, evolved and intelligent tannins co-exist. Herbal yet delicately so, dripping and oozing of terroir, spice infiltrate of every zone, pocket and pore. Not sure there can be recalled a Riserva with this much personality and oomph but here it is in all glory. Also not sure there has been an example that needs as much aging time as this generously structure ’19. Don’t touch and return five years forward. Drink 2026-2033.  Tasted March 2022

Le Miccine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Le Miccine 2019 is intrinsically Gaiole but also very personal. It feels like and comes with a sensation you will intuit whether or not you taste this wine alongside winemaker (and Québecoise) Paula Cook, or not. What amazing and exceptional fruit from ’19, building and building, fleshing and fleshing in a most beautiful glass of sangiovese Riserva wine. And you can access sooner than many, as you wish. Grande Paula. Veramente. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Diego Finnocchi, L’Erta di Radda

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Also a campione da botte, cask sample of 100 per cent sangiovese from a cru, of a very specific terrain. A parcel of Galestro and Alberese on a hillside though here a red earth and where two specific clones of sangiovese are grown. F9 and R4 to be specific, both producing very small bunches. So reminds of Montalcino’s Lorenzo Magnelli and Le Chiuse, in methodology and also result for which an intensely fine acidity defines and directs but here a Raddese variety to which there is no compare. Hard to find Chianti Classico sangiovese more profumato that does not come from Lamole and perhaps its a matter of the in-land, off-shore breezes that blow here and through this vineyard called La Casina. Another cask sample that is so expressive and so close to being ready, in fact they are drawn from their final resting vessel just waiting to be bottled. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019

San Casciano

Luiano’s tannins are variegated in 2019, specific to Alessandro Palombo’s San Casciano terroir, layering sweet, tart, savoury, salty, verdant and even umami notability. The fact that fruit is at the top of the local pyramid and spectrum will ensure a long and slow integration, without angst or difficulty. There will be no stops and starts but only forward movement and development. The overall succulence and incremental oscillations between acid and tannin confirm the plan. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted March 2022

Riecine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Crisp and crunchy like the Annata of same vintage yet less high toned and volatile. Also missing the swarthiness but what it lacks in wild revolution is gains in clarity and purifying resolution. Riecine is in fact a place of resolute and cool wines coming from and speaking the vernacular of mainly old vines’ vineyard ways. Will drink this way for five more and with great complexity on display for a further five. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe, Castellina

Rocca Delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019


Brighter if also possibly lighter than the previous vintage and in such regard a more accessible and amenable Riserva. As with the 2018 the complimentary grapes are five per cent each colorino and cabernet sauvignon, both bringing colour and the latter some black fruit sweetness. Drink this ’19 of lower acidity, lees brood, depth and easier feeling for now while the ’18 continues to settle in. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Sergioveto 2019


Rocca delle Macìe delivers the most substantial fruit to texture compendium that can be recalled from recent and even further back then recent memory. The fact that there is this iron-mineral swell and hematic underbelly being so strongly involved with the fruit means so much more than before. A magnanimous Rocca delle Macìe in the present that will surely become a Castellina of vim, relish and layered attraction in the future. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2019

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Still the current climate and execution for juicy freshness, of fruit on the berry, pomegranate and plum scale but also Castelnuovo dried herbs running amok. More chew, of liquorice namely and then the juiciness returns, persists and delineates the direction of the wine. No shock this is a very good Riserva vintage, one that will age well, not more than 10 years mind you and best between four and seven from vintage. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Tenuta di Arceno, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Tenuta di Arceno is located in San Gusmé, a hamlet of 250 people in the far eastern part of the eastern butterfly wing of Castelnuovo Berardenga. It is a Jackson Family Estates property with Lawrence Cronin was hired as the Winemaker in 2002. Here we are 17 years later with an Annata to perfectly represent this part of the territory with dark and compressed fruit, full on Berardenga savour and a sandy-stony-clay composite feeling. Not a sentimental sangiovese but one entrenched in realism and depth. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Enoteca Fuori Piazza, Greve

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

Ambrogio E Giovanni Folonari Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Nozzole 2018


From Greve in Chianti and a representative sangiovese not just for commune but also for the appellation. Truly Riserva in capture, rich and luxurious, fully complete in texture and for mouthfeel, concentrated and strong. Carries an estate and greater authority credibility in consistency throughout the years and were you to close your eyes you could guess 1998, 2008 and then 2018. Actually big for the vintage which indicates a late September pick inclusive of a hot spell during which nighttime temperatures did well to preserve acidity. Listed at 14 per cent though feels higher. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Next step, level and terraced sangiovese appreciation comes from Bibbiano’s Riserva, a wine of high tones, lightning fruit along with well versed and rehearsed Riserva lines. Linear that is, vertical and promising, not a promiscuous sangiovese but one that considers its time, place and future with profound regard. Juicy to be sure and also grippy for to see seven years forward and a softer time arranged. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Mocenni, Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia DOCG 2018


Calidonia is surely the more structured of the Bindi Sergardi Riservas, weighted in fruit, lifted by the succulence of Alberese drawn acidity and showing what this Mocenni sector of Vagliagli is capable of demonstrating. The 2018 is Bindi Sergardi’s Riserva of fortitude, not just in opposition to brothers and sisters but also as compared to several recent vintages. It requires time and will live for 10 years or more.  Last tasted March 2022

Calidonia’s is like I Colli’s power though not in strength but rather in depth. Immense depth, a gathering of all the vineyard’s stone mineral wealth, of Alberese, Galestro and Macigno at the confluence of Mocenni’s amphitheatric crossroads, with Radda and Castellina so near by. The beauty of fruit and exquisiteness of tannins are so evident, no matter how youthful this wine may be and so the future exists in a manner quite the matter of already knowable guarantee. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Bindi Sergardi I Colli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


A solo I Colli Estate Riserva, from vineyards in the UGA zone of Vagliagli at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga commune. The vines are planted 10 kilometres away from Bindi Sergardi’s Mocenni Estate and like the home vineyard counterpart this mimics if extends from Annata but with elevated acidity and also power. This bottle could not have been in Ontario more than a week or so and so it seems a bit closed, unwilling and perhaps in a minor state of shock. The previous one tasted at the winery took off where Annata left off but truthfully Riserva is higher in acidity and power but without hitting one hard, more about strength of character. Once again the sweet flowers as in Annata but of course . Drink 2021-2024. Tasted October 2021.Never the matter because Vagliagli’s florals, sweet scented and candied fruit, high tonality and grippy sub-structure are all locked in tight. Captures the late September pick but just before alcohol levels would have risen, here for a harmonious and graceful turn of Riserva phrasing. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October and November 2021

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Brancaia’s munificent and substantial ’18 Riserva grabs texture by the scruff of its neck and introduces it to that fruit which can only be described as ripe. Hard to recall recent vintages that do Radda this way, with grip, strength and power. Dark orange to red orange fruit, more blood than naturally orange, big, bouncy and intense. A notably heeded and competitve Raddese wine at the present moment capable of becoming a beautifully attractive Brancaia before too long. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Classic, distinct and ideal as Carpineto’s Greve Classico, full of brush and local flora, from wild fennel through rosemary and into sage all over the palate. And then the textural composition sets in, running the sangiovese sap of ointment and viscosity through and through the body corporeal of Carpineto’s Riserva wine. This is neither thick nor jammy, shows the land with idealism and while drying at the back end there is plenty of stretched and elastic stuffing to see this age five-plus years. Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2022

With Paolo Paffi, Casa Emma, San Donato in Poggio

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vignalparco 2018

San Donato in Poggio

Expectation dictates that a Casa Emma Riserva will deliver true and substantial San Donato in Poggio fruit but double what the Annata chooses to give. That is exactly the point in the ’18 Vignalparco, a blood orange smoothie with minerals running straight on through. Taut, tart, intense, fulsome and ranging in so many ways. Impressive ’18 to be sure. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted March 2022

Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Terrazze 2018


To be honest Terrazze is not like Castagnoli’s Annata, if not because of appellative level then surely a matter of vintage. Riserva is deep, brooding and profound, a sangiovese of acid intensity and fruit compression. More dried and leathery than fresh with plenty of wood spice but also that which is derived from the fruit source, namely the skins themselves. No lack of imagination, drive nor trenchant desire neither. Hard to know exactly where this will go. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Clemente VII 2018

San Casciano

A 100 per cent San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese from schists and limestone, mainly Galestro at 250-350m. Sees 24 months in Slavonian oak and French barriques. A Riserva of concentration and notably healthy pH for sapid texture mixed with dark fruit. Picked late into October so thereby gainful of a mini late September heat wave and converse diurnal nighttime temperature dips for healthy ripeness well foiled by sweetly kept acidity. Moments of verdancy in between swaths of sapid texture and dark chocolate make for a Riserva of diversity and variegation of an overall expression true to San Casciano and also vintage. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted December 2021

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

San Donato in Poggio

As with the upcoming thorough and thoughtful 2019 Annata there is a next level depth of craft and understanding intuited by way of Riserva 2018. The fruit seems so well timed, picked late in the season, developed and yet braced in the moment, frozen in time. Feels cured and dried by cellar air, the vintage captured and preserved. This will live a long life, that much is sure and always drink up on the ridge, with the image of San Donato in Poggio demure in the distance. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Great fruit Scott or rather great Scott what fruit! Here Albola captures 2018 in Riserva form with great, sheer and utter distinction. Hyperbole of red tree fruit, chew like liquorice and bokser too. Well positioned, proportioned and perfectly suited to all. A five year wine if ever there was.  Last tasted February 2022

The ’18 Riserva continues a thread of Radda-Classico consistency for Albola, stringing great wines from 2015 on through. This next Riserva shows excellent linearity and quality, namely at the hands of fine tannins, ripe and thriving, adding pulse and drive to already buzzing acidity. The fruit is well equipped to hang, participate, contribute and collaborate. Warming at the finish suggest spice and an Albola ability to age. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Castello Di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Youthful, high-toned, crisp and crunchy Riserva 2018 here from Bossi. Big Berardenga bones, Classico castello vibes. pomegranate and currants on high alert. Hematic as well, herbal to a degree and full of wood-fruit-acid swirls. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

San Casciano

Kind of surprised at how apposite this next bottle is showing. Young and nearly untouchable. not the accessible and easy drinking Gabbiano of last month’s bottle and recent vintages past, here dripping with tonics and concentrated fruit essence tinctures. More herbs too, a swell of minerality and wave after wave of acid-tannin breakers. Wait two years.  Last tasted March 2022

Sweet fruit and acids are compelling together in their Galestro-infused succulence and style. Here a Riserva of easy attitude and gratitude, well stretched and showing off the understated Cerelli style. Riserva of humility and humanity, cool and gelid, fine and harmonious. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Castello di Meleto, San Casciano

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


So informative to taste Meleto’s Riserva sandwiched between their Annata and Grand Selezione but also as 2018 between ’19 and ‘17. As if on cue Riserva acts, exacts and reacts right up the middle of that Gaiole road, equally rich and parochial, accessible and yet capable of aging, progressing and emerging with potpourri fully captured and kept. Riserva is a perfect compromise and offers the best of both worlds. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

San Donato in Poggio

A “thanks God cooler vintage” tells Laura Bianchi with an appreciative smile, in which not only the wines but also the San Donato in Poggio vines were able to re-balance. Laura believes it’s not only a vintage of great freshness and acidity but also one that can age well. Classic Monsanto grip as well, though style, flavour and sophistication of ripeness, plus an energy inherent as a factor of brightness and vitality. A great educative study involving a sangiovese of both incandescence and longevity, two things seemingly apposite but binary by definition. Knowing what Bianchi’s Monsanto can do there is no question about the possibilities that lay ahead. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2021 and February 2022

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Something about Greve’s Dudda Valley brings a distinct and higher level of aromatic concentration to sangiovese, especially in Chianti Classico Riserva form. This from 2018 is one of the the lighter, effusive and more lyrical ones with so much emanation of perfume. Still a savoury character with knowable rattle, tone and hum. Plenty of desire and hope with a good six to eight year run ahead, making this a perfect little mid-term cellar dweller at an attractive price. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted January 2022

Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2018


Everything about the Matta family’s 2018 Riserva screams late picked fruit in early October. After the late September day heat and nighttime lows, there’s just so much of all parts set to full in this wine. Wild and exotic perfume, fruit fleshy and so bloody ripe, body more muscular than this Riserva sometimes shows and alcohol well-developed. All are in synch, balance and complimentary condition. Crazy delicious Agostino Petri this time around with classic values and traditional character kept in a true Greve style. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted January 2022

A Count in his natural habitat – Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia, Montefioralle

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Not all Riserva are created equal and if nothing else Sebastiano Capponi’s could only be his from Montefioralle at Calcinaia. Not exactly sweet natural fruit endowed but surely herbal and the kind of Riserva that takes stock of your senses, sticks to your tongue, leaving behind an impression that will not dissipate. Even if you never take a second sip you are left with a Greve left bank, over the hills and far away into Montefioralle impression. “Maybe more than enough.” Nearly fulsome and yet wound quite tight, tannins not so much drying as compounding by land and zeppelin temper for a ride off into the proverbial sunset. Get the led out with this one. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Novecento 2018


Dievole is located within the newly minted Chianti Classico UGA Vagliagli and is in fact situated as close to the village as just about any estate. Clay, marlstone and limestone in Alberese soil holds the fort for a 95 per cent sangiovese with small amounts of equally endemic canaiolo and colorino. Spends time in no toast 41 hL French casks for upwards of 18 months and in bottle for the remaining six. Hard to match the depth of the great Novecento ’16 but this 2018 is no small Riserva. It is pure Vagliagli of a specific fruit and acid sweetness with breadth, girth and structure. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Della Aiola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Far more aromatic output as compared to the Annata but also less reduction from a Riserva that spends 24 months in second to fifth and six usage French and Slovenian wood. Not a single vineyard wine but “a blend of botti,” and the percentage is the same, 90 sangiovese plus some merlot and canaiolo. The barrels are in charge and will be for at least another 12 months, if not 24. Laden with chocolate and espresso and time is really the essence and the operative. Recent track record indicates that Riserva will open for business in its third year after release so look at this in 2024 and beyond. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Monica Raspi, Fattoria Pomona, Castellina

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2018


Monica Raspi’s Riserva 2018 was only bottled five months ago so don’t come expecting immediate gratification or revelation. Do come knowing this is sangiovese from a special place, that being the west Siena facing Castellina vineyard in front of the villa called Uomino, “the little man.” Only Pomona produces Riserva that scents and tastes like this and only Monica Raspi’s deliver peak wine experience moments that nearly always occur in repose, never connected with work. Such is the ease of her ’18 Riserva, big and focused, light and understanding. Given time it will also act charming, gracious and nurturing. Drink 2024-2030. Tasted March 2022

Gagliole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


A famous Panzano (in the commune of Greve) estate and a manuscript in the State Archives in Siena reveals that the son of the Langobard King Berengarius, who had fallen in love with the Tuscan countryside, bequeathed the Gagliole Estate to his wife in 994 A.D. This Riserva comes to us from a most curious vintage 1,024 years later and just two years earlier Riserva was called Gallule, but that ancient terraces reference is now reserved for Gagliole’s Gran Selezione. Riserva ’18 was picked on the 10th of October and this is significant because a late September heat spike nearing 30 degrees with opposite nighttime lows near zero meant more fruit ripeness and kept acidity for bigger but also balanced 100 per cent Panzanese sangiovese. These Galestro and Alberese vineyards at 450m picked well after the extreme climate moment, followed by 10 months in small, used French oak barrels has resulted in the most precise and focused Riserva imaginable. The acidity travels up the sides inside the mouth all the way to the eyes, or so it is imagined and then sends shivers down the spine. Warm, inviting, luxurious and so very real. This is exceptional Chianti Classico, intimating everything now yet with the knowledge that the best showing is still years away. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted December 2021

Tasting Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


I will personally implore you to look and think past anything you have heard about 2018, just as it would have been prudent to do so with both 1998 and 2008. The sneak of structure and linger in the name of longevity will conspire for a slow release of emotion, something seemingly absent in the wines’ early days of life. A bit high in acid and also drying, from knives cutting through tannin and this is is the essence of naked sangiovese. Not as supple and succulent as 2019 but will almost certainly last longer. Was bottled just ahead of harvest in September 2021.  Last tasted February 2022

Despite the great diversion and division between vintages that came before and will follow, the consistency of Il Molino di Grace’s Riservas are a testament to changes made and promises kept. The team has allowed these wines to crawl from barrel and into the light. The heat and drought of ’17 was followed by a lithe freshness from ’18 though sangiovese chosen to hang well into September and even the first days of October have come about and into some heady wines. Begin with Riserva’s perfume in a Panzano bottle, Galestro and Pietraforte bled, red berry made flinty by stone. Focus and expression are right on point and while both Panzano and proximate Radda are the additional geographic thought, Il Molino di Grace is the pinpointed place. Still emitting early life freshness and vigour, lovely for ’18, forward and structured to travel onwards. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2018

Radda and Gaiole

Angla Fronti’s mix of vineyards results in one of the most generous and layered Chianti Classico of any and all in the oh so generous 2019 vintage. Not sure whether fruit or structure are more up front and in charge but either way the compound effects of Galestro and Alberese meeting Istine’s multiple vineyard greatness puts this in a class all of its own. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted February 2022

Stefano di Blasi at La Sala, San Casciano

La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

San Casciano

Made with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. Some estates thread consistency and replicative DNA through their wines and one nose into this ’18 Riserva confirms La Sala’s situation within this ideal. Not that Riserva conforms to any sort of norm but the plush, soft and handsome beauty in such a wine can’t help but stay connected to the Annata, regardless of vintage. The aromas express more or shall we say a different sort of saltiness, more potassium graded through Galestro soil structure, from the same vineyard source yet imparted in hyperbole when it comes to Riserva. Flavours deliver more berries and balsamic, higher pH helps to soften the tannins and along with the location make them sweeter, softer and melted into the plush sofa. A gorgeous Riserva, succulent in fruit and acids, fineness of tannin and so very inviting. Ex-cellar price is 7.8 euro. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2022

L’Erta di Radda

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


In Diego’s mind 2018 was quite the perfect little vintage, one of piaggio e giusto, flattery and truth. Not that it was easy but it was transparent and real. That said it was a stop and go one, with changes in weather, temperature and demand. A vintage to keep agriculturalists on their toes and make them earn their pay. L’Erta di Radda’s Riserva has now entered a great place, just now beginning to show its charm and also breadth. It’s chewy and also croccante, chiseled and generous. Freshness is encouraged by this vineyard abutting a small river giving breath to the sangiovese.  Last tasted March 2022

Riserva is of a cru in the hills più basso, in poor red soils, very rich in iron, planted in 2009 to two clones suitable to this cru, but with rootstock worth its salt in vigour. Clones that offer lower quantities, in one hectare, which produces only 25 quintali per hectare. or 2,500 hL per hectare and the average in Chianti Classico is easily at 40. Five or six small bunches per plant, tiny bunches, “molto spargolo.” Picked in the first week of October also because it’s only sangiovese with higher pH (at 3.1 or 3.2), 35 days of time on skins, ages two years, first in 2000L grandi botti, 2nd in barriques and tonneaux. Diego Finocchi likes the micro-oxygenation, but in the second year. There is a liquid peppery note but also the smoothest body and caress with grace across the palate. You simply do not feel the wood on this Riserva and that tells you everything you need to know about the winemaking and the way this represents the cru. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted November 2021.

Maurizio Brogioni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Very young and even reductive Riserva here from Greve with good fruit substance behind and in waiting. Needs air and time to blow off yet not having enough of that, at least not yet. A linear, high acid and even crunchy, sangiovese, especially in Riserva form. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


“In ten years this is going to look like magic.” To thank are stems (60 per cent) and the post-macerative consciousness at a time when the catalyst manifests itself in youthful aggressiveness, to see a softening that now becomes something easier to understand. “We bring out the generosity sooner without sacrificing longevity,” is how Michael Schmelzer looks at and explains the situation. The slow release of complex aromas and also flavours is extended by the long maceration, post maceration and aging in concrete plus botti grandi. Has already entered the first stage of grace, grip surely present though not overtly or overly demanding and even if a bit shy. There is a roll off the tongue, a scorrevole in this sangiovese. Smooth, sliding and scaled for slow release. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG MB1933 2018


One hectare of “traditional field blend” at over 500m, high (7,000 plants per hectare) density plantation, co-fermented and it makes 3,000 bottles aged in used tonneaux for 18 months. Obviously sangiovese with what could very well be canaiolo, colorino, malvasia nera, calabrese, ciliegiolo and uva di ragnana (locally named). The freshness and salinity plus what must be named as mixed pH created sapidity surely speaks to white varieties as well, including malvasia and trebbiano. The label depicts a corbezzola, delicate of fruit, high in seeds, a great representation of this traditional wine. Will express equal freshness 10 years forward and without any sacrifice to acidity. No stems here, again wanting to understand the wine before going into that kind of catalyst meets polymerization intendment. More graceful brilliance with some drying tannin this time from Monte Bernardi. The lens is completely different so wait till Michael Schmelzer really gets a handle on this one. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Winemaker Tim Manning, Montecalvi, Greve

Montecalvi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Riserva is 100 per cent sangiovese from what is called the Montecalvi alto block (one of seven on the farm). From a particular tonneaux that winemaker Tim Manning just liked how it was so decided to keep it back extra time and bottle the estate’s first Riserva. While you feel the extra time (26 months in used wood) it is anything but a barrel driven wine. It seems it just accentuates the texture tactility and makes you feel more, including emotion. There is a suave sensibility here, silken and structured but never precious. It does feel like Riserva though the volatile acidity is just a touch elevated, not problematic and if anything reaching for another level of complexity. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Imagine a vintage where cool, sometimes wet and not exactly ideal summer weather is followed by a lovely if again not exactly sunshine drenching September. Keep the reverie going and see a heat spike by day, followed by low nighttime temperatures, eventuating in late-picked, fully reasoned and ripened Montefioralle fruit. This is Lorenzo Sieni’s Riserva, liquid chalky, low and slow cooked spice threading through every stitch of sangiovese fibre. Pragmatic Riserva that also incites emotion makes for a great and winning combination. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Nittardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Firm, tannic, swarthy and grippy Riserva with thickness and deeply profound fruit here from Nittardi. Chalky and edgy into handsome volatility with many unresolved parts. A big Riserva constructed for the long haul that will aim to please with ropey red Castellina fruit as impressive as any in the UGA. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Podere Capaccia, Radda

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Capaccia farms four hectares of vineyards at 500-550m on a spectacular promontory quite proximate to Castello di Volpaia. Of the four vineyards (Il Cortaccio, Il Prato, Lo Scopiccio and Le Capanelle) it is the latter’s 2007 planted sangiovese that is used for Riserva. From 2018 the Riserva shows more wood harmony with the handsome fruit and a settled feel, complimentary while also so bloody fresh, exceptional even for the UGA and appellation. Chewy this ’18, liquorice leathery but also like persimmon hung to a dried and toothsome consistency. Some dustiness but not the vinous aspect of 2017 and really quite calming otherwise. Tannins are gritty but not coarse and very close to settling into what would be called fine. Wait another year. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Podere La Cappella Querciolo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Unfiltered 2018

San Donato in Poggio

In Riserva form Podere La Cappella really sees a long developed through late picking sangiovese come to full fruition. Beautiful flesh and texture, fulsome fruit and sweetening acidity. Very fortifying with that blood orange to limestone bleed in great hyperbole. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2018


Piero Lanza has not made a small wine in Riserva from Radda for 2018. The ripest rows or rather the vines that grow in rows that find the highest level of phenolic development are chosen for a sangiovese of cool warmth, dripping grape resin and grippy tannin. Big, sumptuous, gangly at present, layered and so far from acceding to time and your palate. Wait seven years, trust the science and see this Riserva come out as bountiful and beautiful as they make them. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2022

Querciabella, Greve

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Not a shock that Riserva is so very young, “and for us even as Riserva it’s still about fruit expression,” tells Manfred Ing, with only 20-25 per cent having spent time in new wood. Plenty of Botti Grandi usage but again it’s about best vineyard fruit selection. The choices are made all the way along, even if the team really knows going in what the best vineyard sections really are. Sees 18 months in barrel. The depth of fruit also shows breadth and width, a three-dimensionality for sangiovese that reaches past aromas and onto the entirety of the surface area on the palate. Aided and abetted by picking that spreads across an entire month, only adding to the layers, especially in the tannins which are not simply of one ilk or another. There lies the crux of a Querciabella Riserva, when happened upon there comes about a squad of tannic complexities that cause a raciness and early tasting chaos. It’s wildly stimulating. Stupendo. Drink 2024-2037.  Tasted November 2021

Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Riserva Ducale 2018


Ever since the Riserva Ducale Oro showed up in Ontario as a Gran Selezione it seems this appellative level of similar distinction as fallen by the release schedule wayside. Which really is too bad because the original Riserva is eerily similar and drinks with closely resembling distinction as the Gran Selezione. Like looking in the mirror and seeing a reflection of your father, so to speak. Good fruit from 2018, on the lithe and easy side, ripe and medium bodied. Quite middle road taken all the way through and simply classic in design. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Santo Stefano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Drugo 2018


Quiet, even stoic Riserva, surely designed for slow release so patience and even aeration can only serve this well. Quite a compliment of barrel converges and smothers the fruit in this earliest of stages, only adding to the idea of time being a friend, not an enemy. Chewy Riserva, laden with liquorice, welling with macerations, cherries and herbals swirling in the limboed abyss. Save it for later. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Greve in Chianti

Tenuta Poggio Al Mandorli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Traditional, rustic, old school beauty. Riserva as imagined passed on through generations taken to a present day level and situation. Riserva as Greve, of sand and clay, alluvial deposits and sunshine. Cool and slightly wet as well, a vintage ever-changing and if misunderstood then simply exercise some patience. This will reward in two to three years time once the austerity of the necessary tannin settles in. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Triacca La Madonnina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018


Big punch and high acid crunch from sangiovese with deep cherry fruit and not much more than a modicum of Riserva density. An elastic one, of juicy tang and quite readily available at this early stage in time. Get at this before many others and feel the love. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cortevecchia 2018

San Casciano

Same cépage as Le Corti and here aged in 27hL casks. A selection in the first weeks after fermentation, tank by tank, vineyard by vineyard. The “final” decision is made after the “spezzaturra.” There is always a grounding and an earthiness (carnale as opposed to animale) to Cortavecchia that separates it from the Annata and has it move into singular territory and 2018 is a Riserva vintage indeed. Higher in acidity, vim and vigour. More elegance, elastics and elongation. Even if there was no showiness before there is now. “There is a time to taste wine and every wine has its time.” Today is a good time to taste. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

With Winemaker Leonardo Bellacini, San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2018

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Classic Leo Bellaccini styling, hung long on the vine, maximized phenolic ripenesses equal to sugars and developed berries for full on competition. Alcohol and wood move at a balanced if heavy set pace and all the necessary parts keep up with head high, esteem and quiet swagger. All in control through every stage, full on the palate, silky feel, concentrated, sophisticated, up to the minute. Resides at the top of this game, genre and idiom in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2018


San Giusto A Rentennano’s singular corner of Gaiole’s climate of 2018 was a carbon copy of 2016 (in summer) but in September the sugar ripeness was happening way too fast. Luca Martini di Cigala knew to wait. Three passages were made and in 2018 this began on September 22, concluding on October 16th. Results in a higher alcohol at 15 per cent and a really, really ripe sangiovese. Big in every respect and yet totally in balance, a San Giusto wine exactly representative of time and place. Fine tannins, really fine, no drying to speak of and the kind that will take this wine well into the next decade. True blue Riserva, stylistically as per the conceptual idiom but also for the tufo and clay of this once volcanic place. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021 and February 2022

Tenuta Orsumella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Corte Rinieiri 2018

San Casciano

A true blue Riserva of San Casciano grip, wit, charisma and style, cool and savoury, granita of texture, sip-able yet age-able. Black cherry flesh and pit, amaro biters and a pinch of sangiovese’s austerity from place, vintage and ways set in eras gone by. Settle for two or three years and drink for two or three after that. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Expands on the sand and clay richness found in the 2016 Castelnuovo Berardenga Riserva while finding more fruut-acid balance in this regaling example for 2018. Villa a Sesta’s is always warming, caring and silky smooth so that luxe and and piqued spice activity are always driving the Riserva style. Matters of the heart, purity and savoury intensity gather for great Riserva promise. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Gnudi, Le Panzanelle, Lucarelli, Radda

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

Cantalici Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Baruffo 2017


Like much of the territory it was dry and hot, the vines shut down in August but one day of rain in the late part of the month reignited the maturation process. Here a saturated and concentrated, smouldering and spicy sangiovese, implosive and tightly wound.High tannic vintage, picked mid-September, alcohol warm and all together needing time to settle down. At least two more years. Drink 2024-2028.   Last tasted February 2022

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vignalparco 2017

San Donato in Poggio

Despite the vintage of no rain there was very little hydric stress with thanks to the soils, heavy in Alberese, blue argiloso and northern facing slopes. Also the sub-zone San Donato in Poggio and three to four degrees cooler than most others. Similar fermentation in concrete and stainless steel but 26 days on skins and then two years in tonneaux. TA is 5.90, an impressive number for 2017 and yet the wine is muscular, big-boned and structured with no way to fully get out the vintage way. “What you see is what you get,” tells Paolo Paffi, a 100 per cent sangiovese of firm grip and forest proximate savour; of sage, rosemary and underbrush. Really shows in the herbal and spice masala at the finish. A definitive expression of vineyard. Cru as Riserva and Riserva as Cru. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2017


Riserva comes from what can be called the “little man vineyard or il omino,” vines at Villa Pomona of 20 years where a true mix of all the rocks litter the decomposed soil. Almost unlike anywhere else where Chianti Classico is raised; Galestro, Alberese, Piteraforte, calcium carbonate and quartz. All there, all infiltrating vines, grapes and wines. In some cases all these parts are integrated into one fist sized stone. The unity is remarkable and makes Monica Raspi’s Riserva so bloody special. She has quite a bit to do with that too while her soils’ nutrients and vines’ absorption of elements allows her to nurture as only she can do. There goes that Pomona perfume in a stylish sangiovese of palate essence, succulence and an emulsification with acidity sliding into tannic fluidity. Such a lovely Riserva for ’17. Truly. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Iacopo Moranti, Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017


Fulness, richness, full throttle savour, all captured and assembled. A wien picked so late in September the rear-view mirror was filled with Chianti Classicos jammy and green. Here phenolic ripeness and swelling fruit reigns in wood, with all cracks and crevices filled. Clarity and precision prevail which can only bode well for the future.  Last tasted October 2021

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

La Squadra Canadese at Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2017

Radda and Gaiole

The driest and hottest of vintages, as will happen in 2021 but this year some cold weather arrived in late September. The mix of the three in Riserva form takes all the best grapes and in 2017 a great portion comes from the Istine Vineyard, “because of freshness.” This with great thanks to the forest surrounding the steep vines, something essential and very real in especially Radda and also to a solid extent in Gaiole. Istine faces north and this is the trump card in Radda, for Angela Fronti and many others. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

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 2017


Riserva 2017 is so very similar to Annata in that the extract feels heightened and the wine is just now settled after one year in bottle. The peppery spice is lessened as compared to the Annata while the density on the palate is increased. Dusty espresso and chocolate surround the classicism of Le Fonti’s particular Panzano red fruit. This is quite ready to go. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Sa’Etta 2017


“I don’t think of it as a problem year. I had bigger problems in 2011 and 2015. Complaints about heat stress are all about the wrong rootstock,” insists Michael Schmelzer. “I didn’t see any hydric stress in 2017. Comparably speaking it was a walk in the park.” OK, not quite a classic vintage of coolness, cloud cover and in fact it ranks low on the challenging pole. Therce was a loss of Retromarcia (50 per cent) but the Riserva was untouched by frost in 2017. Sa’Etta is a hyperbole of transparency and also concentration as compared with the normale Riserva. What really separates these from Classico Annata is age of vines and Monte Bernardi is from Galestro while Sa’Etta is from Pietraforte. Thus the grip, circumstance, higher tonality and concentration of perfumes. Tannins are a little austere but that too is a matter of conglomerate rock co-efficient fact. Morbido is for some, Sa’Etta for others and true to a sense of place. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017


Podere Capaccia in Località Capaccia is owned by Belgian Herman de Bode with American Alyson Morgan as winemaker. The ’17 Riserva is seriously aromatic, yet unreleased and a good thing in more than one way. The herbals are powerful, vinous as with all of Capaccia’s wines, wood very much at the head, high acid as always, never lacking, the true component in charge. If ’17 Annata is chewy then Riserva is the opposite, crunchy, tart and grippy. Such a composed wine, very Riserva, seriously Radda. The mix of botti and 300L French barrel need to melt, dissipate and integrate before this really hits its stride. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted March 2022

Val delle Corti, Radda

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017


There was a section every September night when the plants could breath, helped by the woods, Radda’s “lung,” and “so we waited and waited while September and October were refreshing,” explains Roberto Bianchi. Keep exhaling after each sip to feel the freshness.  Last tasted October 2021

The 2017 was a scorcher in Tuscany, no less demanding in the Chianti Classico territory and yet Val delle Corti’s Radda was one of the cool spots to be. No rain from January to the end of the first week of September and yet desiccation in these vineyards were not like some other low lying areas. Lower yields yes but really high quality fruit. Roberto Bianchi’s use of long macerations, as much stainless steel as oak and older (and larger) wood at that makes for one of the coolest and freshest Riserva one is ever likely to find. Indeed this may be the most openly fragrant, unencumbered and blessedly humanistic 2017 in the entirety of the Chianti Classico lot. Hyperbole perhaps but nature and nurture conjoin for breathtaking results. Taste, consider and exhale. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted September 2021

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Producers who got it right in the hot 2017 are Chianti Classico heroes and Villa a Sesta is one of that ilk. Dry conditions through adversarial times there is a will and a way with sangiovese hung well into September, even in the sun radiant wide open spaces of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Strong and dry sangiovese gets fruit-filled centre help from seven per cent cabernet sauvignon, all grown on steep slopes at good (450m) elevation for the commune. This Villa a Sesta Riserva ages for two years in Slavonian and French oak of 500L and 40 hL. Acid crunch and pH sapidity are perfectly in balance with fine grains of tannin following in ideal suit. The winemaking is on point. Five to seven year wine beginning right now. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

With Dario Cecchini and Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti ar Antica Maccelleria Cecchini, Panzano

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (and older)

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG I Colli 2016


Quite a ripe vintage with well-developed fruit in causation of so many days of warm but not hot and humid weather. This ’16 also carries a high level of lift and acidity working the real room of many red and blue fruit. Yes, the sensation of a blue fruit vintage, cool, salt-mineral licked and sweetly savoury. Long and linear, swirling through fruit with Vagliagli savour.  Last tasted October 2021

The second of two Riserva from Bindi Sergardi, one coming from the Mocenni estate and this from I Colli, both in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Not just the name of the estate but also the old “borgo,” the family hamlet going back 23 generations. As with Mocenni there is ample Alberese limestone in this soil and I don’t know if any other producer in the commune can craft silkier or more glycerin sangiovese from this soil type. While Mocenni may gift more textural presence it is I Colli that lifts, elevates, rises and shines. Not that lightness of being is the dominant character trait but there is an emanating radiance. Blood orange coming across the palate speaks to the estate’s location and geological mix, that and persimmon, summer savoury and rosemary. Not herbal per se but more so than Mocenni. The two worlds collide and yet stay so apart. That is the beauty of having two singular Castelnuovo Berardenga vineyards from which to develop two dissimilar and diverse Riserva. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted April 2021

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016


Coming upon nearly four years since first tasting Barbara Widmer’s classic and that is said in the most complimentary of ways with respect to Chianti Classico. Now as a sangiovese with bottle time under its belt this Riserva has had emerged as the kind of wine it was meant to become. Right there and right now. A great timing for local release and a terrific red for the upcoming holidays at an affordable high end price.  Last tasted November 2021

The vintage is the succulent one for Brancaia’s Riserva, an (80 per cent) sangiovese, (20) merlot Radda in Chianti beauty that saw 16 months in a combination of barriques and tonneaux. Here we feel the point where 2013 and 2014 intercede, propagate and deliver a child that is observed to grow up so fast. While so tart, it’s primary concern is to deliver pleasure with a substantive and toothsome payoff. The wood is still a bit heavy but necessary to carry the ecumenical fruit forward three to five years. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018

Castell’In Villa, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Poured in two different glasses, one in the classic Chianti Classico consortium glass and the second in a hand-blown Grassl Liberté of Balkan origin. The aromatic launch in the latter is hyperbolic but also precise. Yes the land above is in this glass but also the iron mineral sottosuolo below. While 2016 Riserva is equipped with all the body, texture and depth anyone could be looking for (including the Principessa Coralia Leonini Pignatelli), there is more to this wine than just oomph but more to the profound point the intangible that sangiovese can deliver. “I never wanted to be a wine merchant,” so well describes the plan, ideal and what the Principesa wanted to get out of Castell’In Villa sangiovese. Complexity is the matter, some things already spoken and so many more to eventually become revealed. This 2016 has found it. “It’s nearly to what I consider very good and I don’t think I will produce anything like it anymore.” This a comment about one’s mortality and especially the climate. “You don’t know what you are going to get anymore.” Each time you taste this wine over the next 15 years something new will emerge. It will always change. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016


Riserva sees 24 months in Grandi Botti and also second passage Tonneaux, very much exactly halfway between the elévage of the Annata and the Gran Selezione. Again a professional and pragmatic methodology and by extension, result. Harmony is the ideal, to bring fruit, acidity and structure into a linear and extrapolative oeuvre. Hard not to see 2016 as a perfect example of an executed plan. There is a depth to this vintage and in its sixth year this sangiovese has entered its finest years of life. Won’t get any better than now to take full advantage of this wine. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Il Palagio di Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016


More refinement and sangiovese liqueur while maintaining a dryness and unresolved structure as found in the Annata that is caused by the older vines and their variegated fruit. Older clones that deliver a more rustic and grippy sensation in the wine. Like the Annata only bigger casks are used, no tonneaux. Chewy Riserva, gripped by real Panzano stage presence, pietraforte and arenaria soils with just a streak of calcari. Wait two more years in this.  Last tasted October 2021

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

Radda and Gaiole

The vintage while very good was not high in production for the Frontis due to more rain than wanted. And yet there is a fulsome sensation and really tannic thrush to ’16, far from resolved, deep and profound. A real liqueur that does not always happen in Fronti’s wines but beauty and power can co-exist. Feels like a good portion of Cavarchione from Gaiole, nearly as much as Istine with some bit parts of Casanova.  Last tasted October 2021

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016


Sangiovese from Vagliagli with five per cent canaiolo, ideal for raising the pH just enough to tame and balance the wild acidity in sangiovese’s crazy heart. Though it’s a 2016 it is yet to be released because tells Valeria Losi, “we believe it will still improve in the bottle.” Hard to argue with the logic because the tannins are not just UGA focused but so very Losi in temperament. And yet they are also sweet and suave in spite of being so forceful. Finally there is the persistence and length, qualities embraced by ’16 and especially through Riserva appellative form. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted March 2022

Piemaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Fioraie 2016


A certain and specific kind of Riserva concentration here from the Castellina rossa, direction Poggibonsi. Some beauty in tradition and rusticity, full on complement of acids and impart by the dusty track. A good interaction and integration overall where parts intersect and compliment in spite of the dry and high-toned character. Very Castellina Riserva in that regard and from an identifiable place within a place. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016


Fruit comes from the “vineyard down below,” the flysch, sandstone, marl, shale and clay 0.92 hectare old (2007 planted) vines of sangiovese block known as Le Capanelle. Not only was 2016 a vintage of promise and growth it also allowed for lengthy hang time and fully kept acidity. The ’16 has actually fleshed out since last tasted 25 months prior and yet the tannins have barely broken stride. Less new oak then ’15 (after no Riserva made in ’14) led to ’16 being a more balanced elévage (at 30 per cent). Radda is here in all its awe-inspiring vista glory, at 500m elevation, on a steep southern slope, breezy and making for seriously vinous wines.  Last tasted March 2022

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

Quercia al Poggio’s Michela and Vittorio Rossi, San Donato in Poggio

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

San Donato in Poggio

Though 2016 is not equipped with the fruit set that 2015 surely owns there is no shortage of substance to match Quercia al Pogggio’s packed house of herbs, savour, long-chained tannins and slow release from structure. Like the difference between Annata from 2018 to 2019 there is a similar change from Riserva 2015 to 2016. Night and day in a way, from perfume to a wine of finer compaction of tannins that will take even longer to release. You can really see the refinement in the Riservas, especially in the 2016. This will live longer than the 2015, that much is clear.  Tasted November 2021

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

Bindi Sergard Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG I Colli 2015


Holding strong and from 2015 a complexity emerging, of the I Colli earth and more elemental punch than noted in either ’16 or ’18. This is where Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi was born and grew up. Built in the 1400s for the family, lower in elevation (350m) as compared to Mocenni (500m), still rich in Alberese but also high in iron content as across the road in the Chianti Colli Senesi. The wood and its fortifying spice are quite notable in this glass. Perhaps a vintage push or perhaps time related. Either way Riserva ’15 is more than ready and also willing to linger for five years further. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Cantalici Messer Ridolfo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015


A single vineyard sangiovese Riserva, from 45 year-old vines, aged two years in 20 hL barrels. Next level concentration but also movement, here from 2015 showing almost as much development as both ’11 Annata and ’10 Riserva. That is surely a matter of wood and vineyard, a soft, creamy and evolved sangiovese, chocolate and dried fruits throughout.  Last tasted February 2022

Apposite to Barrufo in that Messer Ridolfo sees 18 months in 70 per cent small 20hL French oak and the rest in stainless steel. Also 100 per cent sangiovese from soils of Alberese and Galestro though slightly lower down on the Gaiole slopes, near the 300m mark. Richness, coniferous forest resin and wood accents in tobacco and dark chocolate make for a deeper, more resonant and even barbarous Chianti Classico Riserva. One of balsamico, tartufo and a certain era’s chic islands in the stream style. This will really take you back. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2020

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Castelnuovo Berardenga

That sweet Castell’In Villa Castelnuovo Berardenga volatility is elevated and exceptional in 2015 Riserva, as is the fruit substance, overall extract and concentration. That feeling of growing sangiovese amongst 200 hectares of woods is palpable, like herbs, forest nuts and shrubs injected into the DNA of this singular wine. As if sun and savour were threaded through plants, vines, trees and grapes, things trampled underfoot and spices by wood making for a full and credible sangiovese. True local liqueur and years to young to even consider where this will go, or to think about current exceptionalities. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Castello di Radda Riserva

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015


Riserva sees 24 months in Grandi Botti and also second passage Tonneaux, very much exactly halfway between the elévage of Annata and Gran Selezione. A bit more acetic acidity in 2015 which seems counterintuitive to the vintage but such is the singularity of the sangiovese that grows on the vines in this and neighbouring località. Dusty, plum and currant fruit, not unlike 2018 Annata, less “Riserva” than ’16 in sentiment though will age quite well. There is an affinity here with Castelnuovo Berardenga, in a way like Villa a Sesta and even Castel’InVilla. Wholly unique Chianti Classico Riserva (Radda) expression. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

San Donato in Poggio

A selection of all the vineyards around al Poggio but also a true factor of all the different soils and their vines needing many passes, for picking across 25 days. Aged in tonnaeux like the Annata, longer of course and the secret lies in the custom made sorting table, slanted, vibrating and allowing to find the most perfect fruit. The wine opens incrementally with each and every moment and with these passages of time the perfume really blooms. Time and timing is everything. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014


Talk about a strange and challenging vintage. In many parts wet and cold, even here but by using more grapes from Il Corno and allowing them to hang longer, well into October, the ripeness just about made the grade. A “balsamic” vintage, really fresh and with sneaky structure. Showing well, really savoury, no departure from the Castello di Radda style and with dusty, musky and dusky tannins that still bear their teeth. Just a little crunchy. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugaialla 2014, Radda

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2014


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. A wine as a child of cappello sommerso, stylistically Piedmontazine in origin, long maceration and from a really wet and cool vintage. Always elegant, always a matter of vineyard rows that ripen just bit earlier, better and with phenolic completion as compared to the rest of Piero Lanza’s fruit. Chewy, especially for the vintage but also layered and palate caressing. This has the no lo so of Chianti Classico, the umami found in just certain wines of understanding and humility. Lanza gets it and that’s important. It means he cares. Bravo Piero.  Tasted March 2022

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Sa’Etta 2014


It was my request to look back at an older version of Sa’Etta, to see how the earlier lift, animale and swarthy behaviour has either settled down or remained an integral part of a wine steeped in character as place. Things can be circumstantial and sometimes they simply are not. Now, 2014 has indeed settled but we are very aware of some beautifully feral character looking back. The newer vintages of 2017 through 2019 surely speak in more graceful tones or rather those edgy notes slide and integrate with greater subtleties. What has really come about is how the fruit and acid intertwine roll with tidal bio-endo-dynamism across the palate. That is because the extra few years of polymerized tannins have served to sweeten the once shy Pietraforte raised sangiovese. As it is said, timing is everything. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

With Angela Fronti, Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2014

Radda and Gaiole

Made from the three Istine vineyards and the best grapes from each though the percentage changes each vintage because the vineyards have strong identities and show differently from year to year. “It was 2014 that made me stronger so it is my favourite vintage,” tells Angela Fronti. Rained so much, disease pressure and botrytis were in effect and so the soil needed to be repeatedly cleaned, the grapes thinned and the harvest pass three times over. Talk about the passion and the ability to age Riserva into what is now a timeless exposition and impression, a liquidity now viscous and fluid like a cold stream of fresh water you so desire to drink. Savour captured, Raddese acidity set to the future, Gaiole threaded through and time so very much on this Riserva’s side. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2014


All together a different vintage for the Classico, cool, salt-licked, mineral, linear and ethereal. Not an orange or cherry one and quite frankly not one of fruit at all. “In our case the base Chianti Classico suffered a bit, but the ones picked later in October for Riserva were high quality.” Work with this 2014 in the glass for 10-15 minutes and it will flesh, silken and lengthen. No jam or concentration but elegance personified.  Last tasted February 2022

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

Le Vigne, Istine, Radda

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2013

Radda and Gaiole

As for 2013 it shows so much more evolution and the blood orange juicing simply can’t be missed. Here the lovely hint of oxidation creeps in, a feeling of warmth eight years later and yet there are some refreshing moments too. The tannins persist even while the fruit is on the wane and the end of the best years is nigh. Drink this for two three more years with confidence and pleasure.  Last tasted February 2022

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

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2012

Radda and Gaiole

Angela’s first vintage, a very dry one (similar to what would come out of 2017) and also the first from fully organic vineyards. Also a warm one (just as ’17 would also be) and the evolution is upon this very moment. The feeling of wood wells into a chocolate melt from 2012, something neither ’13 nor ’14 seem to possess or process. Full and satisfying, acidity intact and keeping the ripeness alive.  Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Cantalici Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Baruffo 2010


In Riserva form and from a year earlier as compared to the ’11 Baruffo Annata it is this 2010 that has fully and completely entered its secondary stage of development. All umami, in porcini and tartufo but also plum pudding and tells Giovanni, “the evolution we want.” This is a very handsome wine, in a calm and relaxed state, but with acids very much intact. The wood has melted and integrated so beautifully and while its excess is a concept of time, there is no doubting how well it was used. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010

Castelnuovo Berardenga

A look back 12 years and the memories are mostly in notes for a vintage of strength but not necessarily the body of some others immediately before and also after. Expediently secondary and holding that way now for a few years, not yet truffled but plenty of wood and woods, oak and bosco, nuts mostly, with layers of chocolate. Residing in between, not a wine of real age but well past its youth. There is nothing earthy about this whatsoever, rather it’s cheery and almost sweet. Good fruit vintage and generous oak are obvious and that is why the wine has survived so well though the latter plays a starring role. Still some unresolved yet resolute tannin for a few more years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted March 2022

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

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio delle Rose 2010

Castelnuovo Berardenga

A nearly two hectare single vineyard or if you like the Castell’In Villa cru and really just a fraction of what is made in the “other” Riserva. Similar aging profile but with more depth and also complexity, here in the 15th vintage (first in 1996) from a vineyard created by the cuttings of the best vines identified around the estate. Getting the the iron mineral in addition to the brush and herbs which make this feel younger and more alive. These tannins are impressively resolute and trenchant, trading blows with your palate but en route to their soft moment in the sun. Extraordinary really, a wine about a place within a place within a place. The proverbial enigma, wrapped, shrouded, etc., etc.  Last tasted March 2022

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

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2010


The 2010 is a big and concentrated wine for San Giusto, acidity running high, tannins still ruminating and spice all over the proverbial tufo map. A highly seasoned sangiovese with drying notes and sensations. This seems like a Riserva vintage that hit its stride at the 10 year mark as opposed to others where 15 is the bench. At least in terms of fruit that is. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted February 2022

Villa Pomona Bandini 2009, Castellina

Fattoria (Villa) Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2009


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. Just a baby in many ways, especially with Pomona’s particular Castellina character and specificity of acidity acting as backbone for this gently tannic wine. There is some tropical fruit on the nose, almost guava but more so persimmon and pomegranate, still very Italian but surely exotic. The wood has melted and it lingers in soft tones, not earthy but woodsy. Chocolate finish, not surprising and not overpowering.  Tasted March 2022

Val delle Cort’s Roberto Bianchi in the wilds of Radda

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009


From the upper Riserva block and now at 11-12 years of age, a wine of perfume and such porcini, tartufo and umami it is really quite amazing. From another time in Radda history and a vintage able to withstand the test of time. The acidity persists but truth is a fat year and yes, conceptualized Raddese will always be there. Lovely drop at this stage and with thanks to place. Posizione. Sempre. Always. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2008


Tasted alongside the 2018 and like the 9s there is also great affinity between these 8s, if a bit less so. This previous decade gave a vintage cool and elongated if perhaps a former one as well. The once commanding tannins are done working the room and glass while the grippy acids persist and dominate the dusty plum fruit. There is some acetic meandering behaviour here and also some soy, balsamic and deep baritone notes. Imagined as once reductive the 2008 now sees its best days in the rear-view mirror. Drink 2022.  Tasted February 2022

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2008


Sebastiano Capponi’s Vigna Bastignano was the single vineyard Riserva back in 2008, now one of three Gran Selezione wines bottled at Calcinaia. The structure and grip back then must have been something formidable because while these elements of architecture and control have relented and mostly subsided the sangiovese stands like a Florentine edifice with the Capponi crest up top, front and centre. Clearly a wine of drive and design, calculated and restored each and every time. The balsamic and earthy brewed notes are most noted while fruit wanes and hangs as if in a Baroque still life painting. Drink this with confit, preferably sauced and accompanied by a side of cavolo nero and white beans. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted February 2022

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggiorosso 2008

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Expectation dictates a much more advanced character for Poggiorosso (which predated the Gran Selezione at that time) but it is in fact a fresh and youthful example of a right and proper single vineyard wine. The tannins persist but reside in the arena of fine design with wood seasoning piquing the persistent fruit. Finishes with a meal ending shot of dusty espresso. Remarkable longevity. Should drink well easily for five more years. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2022

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2007


Though the secondary notes are just now fully in emerging form the fruit quality and persistence is just a bit more in linger than the three years younger 2010. This 2007 has held up remarkably well for a wine that for all rights and purposes should have begun to wane and fade away. Some good quality tannin also persists and while more wood effect comes through in chocolate there is a lovely balance and swimmingly beautiful character in true Riserva style. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Riserva Le Barōncole 2006, San Giusto a Rentennano, Gaiole

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2006


2006 was a very good vintage. People were worried at the end of August but in the middle of September there was a rain of 100mm and then for the last two weeks high temperatures (27 degrees) by day and cool (10) at night. Finished harvest on the 9th of October. Like 2012 there is a faint scent of cooking animal but here the tannins are really sweet and oh so fine. This is almost perfect Chianti Classico at 15 years old, exactly secondary, industrially complex and opening up the world of possibility, imagination and mostly emotion. Wildly aromatic and a bottle that represents Le Barôncole, Riserva and the vineyards of San Giusto in the best way. Could hardly be better. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Il Poggio, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 2004

San Donato in Poggio

Ideal vintage, not too hot or cold and aged in tonneaux. Clearly a sangiovese from a time when extraction and oak aging conspired not necessarily for huge wines but those of full-body, flesh and creamy flavours. If there is some chocolate and café so be it because the graceful rusticity, waning blood orange and traditional ambience are all more important than anything the wood (two thirds new) might have eventually wanted to say. A seasoned linger thanks the Galestro and acids for the drift. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2022

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2000

Castelnuovo Berardenga

“With sangiovese I never get bored. I drink it in all its versions. It gives you full satisfaction.” The words are those of Principessa Coralia Leonini Pignatelli. This from 2000 is one of those unique iterations, a cool vintage as they come, especially at that time. There is a sweetness to the fruit, matched with an equal and opposing savour, the polar opposite to the 1994 tasted last night. Almost blood orange but not quite, certainly not the iron-mineral notes of that ’94 or especially 2010. There is delicacy and grace from 2000, a fineness and a precision but nothing gangly or powerful at all. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted March 2022

Monsanto, Castell’In Villa e Brolio, I 9 Decadi

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1995

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. Quite excited to taste this ’95 Riserva from Principessa Coralia because the last time it was slightly tainted by TCA. This bottle is in much better condition, vibrant and bright, full of fruit. Full on Castelnouvo savour, brush and vineyard dirt. An older Castell’In Villa that so reminds of some older, oxidative and terrifically characterful Greek reds. Especially xinomavro from Naoussa. Yet the acids are higher and the texture more salve viscous.  Last tasted March 2022

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

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1994

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1994

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Looking back the style shows as a wood directed vintage and so not entirely aromatic at this 28 year point. Notable at the fore are soy, balsamic, tar and iodine. Acidity and structure are holding the fort though this really does feel like a sangiovese of a particular oak regime time. Mid-nineties IGT-ism if you will and yet the wine is showing really well. Full and having aged slowly to this point and degree, pitchy as it gets and really quite a heady wine. Pairs beautifully with cervo (deer) loin. Truly. After 30 minutes everything changes. The wood integrates and fades to the background, now spice up front and a sweetness emerges. Finally it is Castell-In Villa, intrinsic, automatic, for real. Drink 2022-2024. Tasted March 2022. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted March 2022

Lamole di Lamole 1993

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1993


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. Curious to assess this with the ’93 Annata in mind from September 2018, a wine that sat in quite good standing. Both are from Andrea Daldin’s first vintage at Lamole di Lamole. The Riserva is impressive with kept freshness and spirit of life in a 1993 filled with Lamole’s profumi in pocket and more so brushy herbs, especially sage noted on the nose. The wine is in terrific shape, easily hanging in as compared to tasting the 1993 Annata three and a half years ago.  Tasted March 2022

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 1986

San Donato in Poggio

A forgotten or passed over vintage 1986, right after 1985 and vintage of the century, like 1997, but not. Cool and equipped with great longevity, of bokser pod, fennonchiona, all leading to liquorice. But most of all a very pronounced San Donato in Poggio blood orange and sanguinity, with classic Monsanto tannins that likely fully resolved about 10 years ago. In fantastic condition, drinking with love and precision, generous and comforting. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Antinori 1985, San Casciano

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Marchese Antinori 1985

San Casciano

Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. Only the second year in DOCG (Chianti) status. Fully completely tertiary Chianti Classico and quite charming at that. Really scents and tastes like chestnuts, lightly roasted, also hazelnuts, gently toasted. A wine of barriques and San Casciano herbology, of mandarin orange, vanilla and baking spice. Chocolate is all over the finish with a sense of drying tannin still very a part of the mix. As much an older expression of Toscana as it could be Chianti Classico.  Tasted March 2022

Sangioveto and Il Poggio, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio 1969

San Donato in Poggio

From a bottle that was re-corked in 2005 and no surprise to be found in pristine condition. As much akin to a Sangioveto as to the 1968 Il Poggio due to a level of mulch and forest underfoot but also the blood orange fruit, dried nuts and high acid. You can feel the malic acid in the bottle, creamy and even more so like aged pecorino. Would have been very tight and closed for likely two decades and the three years in chestnut cask has also served to increase the longevity of this 1969. Not a big vintage, light on its 50-plus year old frame and with flavours that repeat over and over again. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February and March 2022

I 9 Decadi di Chianti Classico, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1958


Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. A unique expression of a time in Chianti Classico’s history, removed from the war and yet still well ahead of the abolishment of the Mezzadrie. A deeply plum-earthy sangiovese, connected to oenologist Maurizo Castelli. The most profound and dominant sensation derived is that of toasted nuts and dried fruit, two Classico characteristics that work so well alongside antipasti of salumi in all its Tuscan iterations. No citrus or white grape feelings are gained, only fruit in a fully dehydrated, raisin stage. The finish lingers and tells much about the 60-plus years of this special wine.  Tasted March 2022

Officina Bistecca, Antica Maccelleria Cecchini, Panzano

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2019

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2019


Take the 2018 Riserva di Fizzano and move ahead with forward and current conditions acumen to open a new door, that being Tenuta di Fizzano. Makes great sense and so ideal to use this round, beautiful and amenable vintage for the change to make even greater sense. Sweetly concentrated fruit, good quality ’19 acids that never sear nor steal the spotlight all fall into a round and soft structural line. Even better value if not the vintage to cellar too long. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2022

With Camilla Bellini and Nadia Fournier, Enoteca Bellini, Firenze

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2018

Antinori Badia A Passignano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

San Casciano

From 2018 and San Casciano the Antinori winemaking team has looked to fill this bottle with great concentration and all the vintage was capable of completing. As such there is some very late picked fruit and it shows through the mature development of those grapes. Also some variegation in that fresh, dried, chewy, crisp and toasty notes are all layered through this Gran Selezione. It comes from the Passignano vines but it all blends and blurs into a smouldering example of top level Chianti Classico. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colledilà 2018


Tasted in Rome with Francesco Ricasoli, a Colledilà picked just ante the final moments of September, ahead of the last days of heat and cold nights. And so a freshness that defines that very specific part of the vintage dictates how this Gaiole Gran Selezione will express what it means to be of itself. “For me one of the most creative times in the last ten years,” tells the Barone, “sharing decisions with the team.” Ricasoli refers to Covid-era collaboration, when members of the viticultural and vinicultural staff had more time. So perfumed, of roses and of course cherries but most of all a natural sweetness that pervades, prepares and readies the palate. Elegant, balanced and really as good as it gets for Colledilà, mimicking “the elegance of the Chianti landscape, its hills dotted with strongholds.” Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2021

Casale Dello Sparviero Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Paronza 2018


Paronza is a buoyant and almost weightless, gravity defying Gran Selezione, easy of mind, body and alcohol. Aromatically reticent and a wine so young you really have to play, swirl and agitate to get any kind of emotive response. Perfume, red fruit and fresh sanguinity do emerge, followed by a sappy, almost syrupy texture dominated by liquid Galestro-willed tannins. Very Castellina, wholly vintage related and will drink well beginning two years or so from now. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vecchie Vigne 2018


Vines that are quite old accentuate and concentrate the Lamole perfume, that much must be obvious but it also serves to emulsify and thicken the fruit wrapped in savoury bacon for a true roasted nightshade and meaty experience. This may not be for the vegetarians in the crowd but it packs a punch of high caste complexity and takes Castellinuzza’s work to an entirely new level. Full flavoured and throttled bottle with all the herbs, wood spices and florals fully in the mix. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2018

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Tasted as part of “Operatori Canadese,” in a tasting of Castelnuovo Berardenga wines for “La Squadra” from Canada. Bossi’s is knowable, highly effective and teachable Gran Selezione. The sangiovese right at the heart of the appellation and crux of the matter. Wide open, air filled, breezy, sunny and blue sky dreamy. Depth of fruit, smart, creamy and juicy as Classico summer Berardenga fruit. Concentration finds balance alongside structure. Ideal 10 year wine. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2022

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2018


A blend of more than 90 per cent sangiovese, with colorino and malvasia nera on predominantly Alberese plus Galestro soils aged for 20 months in small French barrels (225 and 500L, 60 per cent of them new). Finished for four months in concrete tanks to stabilize and capture that last moment of preserving freshness. A wily and exotically wild Gran Selezione, perfumed, high acid and stimulative. Attacks the buds and the senses with ferocity and with wholly operational spice piques due to the wood. Needs four years. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2022

Castello di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Prima 2018


Vicchiomaggio’s La Prima is singular and distinctive out of the potentially adverse and yet available for capture 2018 vintage. The fruit acts like sangiovese et al hung long on the vine, well-developed while in contact with roots, legumes, herbs and brush. From the savoury Greve, fully intact and in tact for a Gran Selezione that is linear, upright and long. Needs time, a whole lot of precious time. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2018


The Furnace made friends with 2018, heating up just enough but keeping its emotions in check to make this suave, emulsified and tempered Gran Selezione. Feeling the fully developed ripenesses is not a difficult task, nor is there any impediment to accessing what silky texture and even silkier tannin are available in full regale and display. Perhaps the least austere, demanding and grippy La Fornace ever produced at the hands of Sebastiano Capponi but the structure is indeed sneaky and built for a haul both stretched and long. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2018


There is little doubt that of the three Calcinaia Gran Selezione it is Vigna Luisa Contessa that exhibits the most elastic, lithe and calm character. Not that it lacks in concentration and in fact it exudes the feeling of long fermentation time with great quality sangiovese skins. Despite the high and haute tripling levels of fruit substance, sweet acidities and finest tannins there is just something single and stony vineyard stretched about how all parts react to and interact with one another. Luisa is both luxe and elongated, lush and forever. A Contessa’s vintage this 2018. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2022

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Omini Vineyard 2018


The little man was planted in 1998 and this is the first Gran Selezione for Monica Raspi. Based on the solo sangiovese and single-vineyard ideal with fruit that had previously only been sent to Riserva. As with all of Raspi’s wines there is this excitement of risk-reward, of living on the edge but with a controlled calm. They set out on their own, flying free from the nest, but always seem to find their way home. And so Gran Selezione is both rebellious and edgy in youth. Some time will be needed to clean up, dress for success, act all charming and elegant. This is surely an auspicious GS beginning, fruit picked in October, preemptive in postscript of the vintage, late arriving, playing “forza e equilibrio,” acidity running high and tannins low. Not small or simple tannins but baritone, “grave e robusto,” in other words, austere. A low and slow sangiovese braise, developing, far from ready. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2021

Vigna del Sorbo, Conca d’Oro, Fontodi, Panzano

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2018


Showed a bit astringent and tannic grippy at the 20-25 day mark during fermentation, but bold and concentrated. Very thick-skinned vintage and those grains of tannin are very fine. Bottled in February and not yet closed in but that will likely follow soon. The dry extract and concentration are off the charts. More than that the alcohol (15.5) and acidity (6.5) are so elevated because at the end of September the temperature rose to 30 degrees, down to 1 at night and then back up the next day. “Something I have never seen in my life,” tells Giovanni Manetti. And so Vigna del Sorbo (and many of the top wines) that were picked later and in this case after that crazy 48 hours are no shrinking violets. If one thinks 2018s are soft and easy wines, think again. Even at this level of largesse there is balance and as always, the old vines of Vigna del Sorbo. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2021

Gran Selezione Il Margone, Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2018


Bottled in May of 2021 so for Gran Selezione a very young wine. “It’s difficult to make a wine that is so very different, between Riserva and Gran Selezione.” You simply must take fruit from the best vineyard and keep the quantity at a consistent (approximately 6,000 bottles) level. Mainly Al Sole and Jack vineyards with a small portion from Raphaela. Actually too young, guarded and unavailable but see the forest for the trees and imagine the concentration meeting at the place where structure and balance collide, or get together. This will happen in three or four years.  Last tasted February 2022

“Everyone knows it depends on when you harvest,” chimes estate director Iacopo Morganti, echoed immediately by Daniel Grace. “That is when you make the wine.” And so picking started in October, after the late September heat and crazy isolated intervals of day to night temperature fluctuations. Picking in October is essential to making Il Margone what it is. A Gran Selezione made whole and knowing where to be. Il Margone regulates itself as time passes by, of temperature and pulse. A Gran Selezione of regular heartbeat, non-plussed, vigorous and fine. Given the word, changing the scene, getting better all the time. Who could not already drink 2018 all the time? If anyone knows, remembers and appreciates the relish and longevity of 1998, they will be able to imagine this 2018 and its similar qualities. They will begin with soon to act on haste and with experience in pocket, know to keep drinking this wine for two decades time. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted October 2021

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Grospoli 2018


Vigna Grospoli is an old vineyard and one of Chianti Classico’s true cru where Lamole’s favourite son Paolo Socci also has also produced a Gran Selezione under his Fattoria di Lamole name. So yes, vineyard specific, offering a sense of sand in Macigno del Chianti form but so much more so a matter of intensity and austerity interned or in turned by the hard limestone effect of Alberese. The Lamole perfume hides in the wings while wood seasoning and stone grip take centre stage. Here a sangiovese caught between a rock and a hard place, working through the grains and fissures to eventuate a clean break and openness of generosity. Forget about it, it’s Gran Selezione. Drink 2025-2031.   Tasted February 2022

La Sala, San Casciano

La Sala Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Torriano 2018

San Casciano

Il Torriano, “the tower,” enemy lookout likely destroyed during WW2. The thread and the lineage continues, here with Gran Selezione that takes all the purity of fruit, saltiness from the soils and plushness of sweet tannins to an entirely top level. A single vineyard of 1.5 hectares, tiny by any standards. Now the salinity is liquid, dissolved in water and the resulting solution is a drink well suited to receive fine acids and sweet tannins. Large non toasted casks help to stabilize the colour and further soften the tannins but virtually nothing else. The GS is the wine that truly incorporates all three soil types; Alberese, Galestro and Macigno del Chianti. The artist painted Casablanca and the sketch for this label, the four roosters and the importance speaks for itself. Just a touch unresolved so wait two years. Drink 2024-2032. Ex-cellar cost is 13.2 euro.  Tasted February 2022

Le Miccine Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2018


Le Miccine is perhaps the most perfumed of all the 2018 Gaiole Gran Selezione. The aromas include those of the forest and the herb garden but they reach florals more in bloom and quite frankly they that are profound. Violets in the way of sangiovese but also roses and exotics so radiant you’d have trouble separating from nebbiolo were this poured blind. An explosive display and also a grace, integration and style that sets this so readily apart. Will eventually flesh, depart from the current state of conflagration, slowly deflate and yet always emanate with that perfume. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted February 2022

Piccini 1882 Valiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG “6.38” 2018


By now Piccini’s Valiano in Castellina style is so consistently obvious and the hallmark red chalky flavours uncanny in their replicated design. The 6.38 Gran Selezione oeuvre is one of aromatic hyperbole mixed with textural charm. There is density and also weight but more so breadth in this volumetric appellative example. It is a sangiovese force to be reckoned with and earlier estimates wholly undervalued the structure. Wait two more years.  Last tasted February 2022

Bottled in December of 2020, expressive and knowable as a Vagliagli sangiovese, ripe and spicy on the nose. A child of late-picked, full phenolic development and very generous wood. The new label reflects the organic movement and future of the Gran Selezione category, not to mention the additional geographic unit (UGA) of Vagliagli (in the western section of Castelnuovo Berardenga) that will almost surely grace the 2019 release. High level quality, well made, full on and in, deep and long. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano

Principe Corsini Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Don Tommaso 2018

San Casciano

“Thomas” was Duccio Corsini’s grandfather, and his before him. The first vintage labeled as Don Tommaso was 2013, here in 2018 bottled under natural cork. Gran Selezione is 30 months with a few at the end in bottle before release. Like with Riserva the vintage is a boon for GS, not bust due to the acidity, amenability and vigour sensibilities. A drink earlier Selezione to be sure, accessible and saline delicious. Dark fruit yes and more wood to be sure but also the 20 per cent merlot that softens, texturizes and accentuates with the best grapes available. Shows this part of the territory in spite of or despite the amount of merlot. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Zac, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano

Principe Corsini Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG ZAC 2018

San Casciano

The top of the pyramid in all respects, second vintage after the inaugural 2016 with no production (across the board) in 2017, though it was first made in 2008. Varietal sangiovese from the eastern section of a Pliocene river stones vineyard just down right from the winery, away from the village of San Casciano. Labeled as San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a precursor to the new UGA initiative with sub-zones now allowed on the labels of Gran Selezione Chianti Classico. A biodynamic as well as organic vineyard split into three plots. More seasoning and spice, chalky, fine-grained texture (with thanks to the barriques) and yes more structure. Wood is a big factor but the acidity and freshness can handle it. Let this rest three years. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted October 2021