All in with Chianti Classico

Ci vediamo domani @chianticlassico #cc17 #gallonero #chianticlassico

The Chianti Classico Collection 2017 was held over two days, February 13th and 14th at Stazione Leopolda in Florence, Italy. The largest of the Tuscan Anteprime poured more than 430 examples of DOCG sangiovese grown and produced from estates in the region. There is no other such opportunity to taste such a wide diversity of one multi-faceted entity in one place. Even if you’ve been privileged to attend before and are fortunate enough to be afforded the chance again, sitting in at Anteprima Chianti Classico should always be viewed as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

I must always remind you that what we are talking about is Chianti Classico, two words strung together that mean so much. One without the other diminishes the meaning and the significance. Chianti Classico was my rock, my galestro and my home base in and out of February Anteprime tastings. I made six new estate visits in 2017, bringing the total number visited in the last calendar year to 14.

In advance of the two-day affair I joined the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Christine Lechner on February 12th for a three-estate visit, first to Podere La Cappella, next to Bibbiano and finally, back to Villa Trasqua. I tasted in the most impressive and unparalleled of press rooms on the morning and into the early afternoon of the 13th, followed by a walk through on the producers’ side to assess further with winemakers and vintners. My focus on day one was Annata 2015 and 2014 with a short delve into some young Riserva examples. I took a break to take in a panel discussion led by the Consorzio’s Director Giuseppe Liberatore and on the night of the 13th attended the gala dinner.

Consorzio Vino del Chianti Classico Director Giuseppe Liberatore hosts an Anteprima panel discussion

On the second day of #CCC2017 I began with an Annata refresher and then worked my way through Riserva and Gran Selezione, careful to attack all vintages presented so as to gain some understanding into the tenets of agreeability, evolution, development and to be able to compare and contrast with these thoughts in mind. At the end of day two I jumped in Iacopo Morganti’s car and high-tailed it out of Dodge. We drove to Il Molino di Grace. The next day I joined Silvia Fiorentini for another two visit excursion, to Villa Calcinaia and Carobbio.

Anteprima Chianti Classico 2017

This step back into Chianti Classico time was purposed for an all in, taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible two-day inculcation at Anteprima 2017. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do you taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

To a world who considers all sangiovese to be cut from the same cloth, from a fichu always woven of volatile acidity, fresh cherry and old leather, there are some things worth knowing. Like for instance did you know that both the Ricasoli and Carobbio estates are variegated with five unique and distinct soil types? Did you know that in Chianti Classico marl and limestone come in many variations, three of which are called Galèstro, Albarese and Colombino? Soil matters for what differentiates hundreds of contrastive sangiovese.

But why or more importantly, how are they different? What factors separate Castellina from Tavarnelle Val di Pesa or Gaiole, San Casciano from Poggibonsi or Greve, Mercatale Val di Pesa from Barberino Val d’Elsa or Radda, Castelnuovo Berardenga from Monti, Lamole, San Donato in Poggio or Panzano. Take these last two micro sub zones and dig deeper still. How do the micro-terroirs within these sub-appellative areas like Panzano or San Donato in Poggio differentiate within themselves from one ridge, hill or valley to the next. How is it that one side of the Conca d’Oro is responsible for wines that so profoundly contrast with the other? The answers are never simple but let’s see if we can gain some understanding, especially through an analysis of the DOCG wines presented at the Chianti Classico Collection 2017. Later this month I will host a Masterclass at the Shangri la Hotel and we’ll look to acquiesce some answers through the eyes and the knowledge of seven outstanding producers.

Many of you will recognize the following potentially controversial quote from Roberto Stucchi’s “The Evolution of Chianti Classico.” Stucchi writes “this zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory. The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the Comune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory. The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history. This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.”

Now I am not here to revive a discussion about breaking Chianti Classico up into sub-zones, based on geology or not, although I wouldn’t get in the way of highly experienced, intelligent and opinionated Chianti Classico folks from expressing their own views. We know that defining sub-zones and sub-sub zones is partially arbitrary, certainly based on subjective opinion, potentially discriminatory and so ultimately, controversial. There are no borders underground so to try and compartmentalize by geology is almost impossible. The only way to draw lines is above ground, by commune, village, river or road.

No, I am here to talk about the multiplicity of sangiovese. Though it is almost impossible to qualify what that means and by the end of this discussion we all may feel even further away from a clear and concise regional definition, we will have traveled through a healthy discourse that sheds more light on the personality and character of these wines. I’m not going to lead us into a pedagogical wasteland but rather open the door to the diversity of Chianti Classico. What we need is to talk about is the allogeneous capabilities of the grape, so that’s the plan.

#chianticlassico #gallonero #cc17

My friend and colleague Dr. Jamie Goode noted “The soils vary quite a bit, and it’s not easy to make a link between the geology and the way the wine tastes.” Jamie’s comment refers to the disconnect between geological zones and administrative boundaries. I don’t disagree with the challenge presented but I wholeheartedly oppose the idea that Chianti Classico’s variegated rocks and earth underfoot do not influence the taste of the wines. This is where the positive and as I have been warned, even the negative connotations of the word complexity come into play. Simply drawing lines and borders does not do justice to the multiplicity of sangiovese throughout the region. There are pockets of each of the many sub-soils found all over. Galestro is not confined to one location with a defined and easily traceable perimeter.  Wherever it is found, the other trace minerals, clay, silt, Macigno sandstone or calcareous tufa it might mix into will alter the character building nutrients it lends to the roots and their vines. Sangiovese in Radda with Galestro in the soil has a distinct character, just as it does a different one in Panzano. Even within Panzano the wines will differ, depending which slope and depression in the land on which the sangiovese digs deep into that galestro.

#cc17 #chianticlassico #gallonero

In Chianti Classico, just as there are anywhere grapes are grown, there are these schema of the earth created and then developed over millions of years. Just as one example there is this ridge, an escarpment really that works its way from Tavernelle and across to San Donato in Poggio. The intendment of this geology and geography and its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex sangiovese. The significance of this is not lost on my mission.

Galestro is a sedimentary rock deposit left behind by the ancient Ligurian-Piedmontese ocean. When the Apennine mountain chain was formed the sediments were raised and pushed to the east giving rise to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The galestro, clay and rock known as the “iolithium unit” is also referred to as “palombini” or “colombini” limestones, found (among other locations) in San Donato in Poggio, while in ​​Castellina in Chianti there is this gray-hazel limestone, of fine grain and concoid fracture.

After tasting through 150 sangiovese over two days at Stazione Leopolda in Firenze I joined Iacopo Morganti for the drive to a pin on the map south from Firenze along the Chiantigiana, sidestepping for the Florentine view from Impruneta, then through Greve and into Panzano. The reason for my return began as it always does, to adduce a lifelong pursuit deep into the meaning of sangiovese. It also fosters a fixation dug into the variegated soils of Chianti Classico and even further still, to the nurturing, sub-appellative specificity of sangiovese’s intaglio secrets. With each return it also ingrains a feeling of coming home. In this case home feels like Il Molino di Grace.

#pasta #perfetta #castagnoli

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

I first visited Il Molino di Grace in May 2016 and was graciously welcomed into the family’s estate by Morganti. In the months leading up to that first visit I had opportunities to assess Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione at LCBO media lab tastings in Toronto. I became an instant convert and a buyer even before I stepped foot onto Il Molino di Grace’s sloping Galèstro soil-driven vineyards in Panzano. After that May visit I was transformed into a life-long friend.

Later that May I was handed the keys to Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Masterclass presentation at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. My role was to open the door to sangiovese perception before a crowd of Toronto sommeliers, agents, buyers and media. It was the Gallo Nero’s 300 year anniversary and its Ontario reputation was entrusted to me by the consorzio braintrust of President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini and Christine Lechner. At that Toronto event I had the pleasure to meet and sit on the panel with Tim Grace.

To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

The Count Sebastiano Capponi of @villacalcinaia in his element #greveinchianti #ilconte #conticapponi #chianticlassico

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

The following morning, on a more than crisp and impossibly beautiful February morning, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Sebastiano Capponi and I took a walk around Villa Calcinaia, away from the Greve River and onto the fanned amphitheatre of a hill that encompasses the estate’s holdings. Within Calcinaia’s boundaries the soils change dramatically, not unusual for Greve, so the consistency of the landscape alters depending on the proximity to the river. Just across the road it changes again. At Calcinaia we tasted the four classico tiers of Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Vin Santo along with a second line called Piegaia, also organic and produced from younger vines at a slightly more attractive price point.

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

Related – Caro Carobbio

What about Tenuta Carrobio? Aside from the specialized plots that deal with Dario Faccin’s best wines, there is this specific, steep-terraced red clay soil vineyard he uses for Rosato. Rosé? Single-vineyard. Terra Rossa. Yes, this is what Chianti Classico brings to the table. A year ago in 2016, as I do now,  I repeat the mantra. Singularite, diversite, qualite. Tenuta Carobbio at Panzano in Chianti lies at the heart of Chianti Classico and below the hilltop town sits the “golden basin” of the Conca d’Oro, once a prized wheat producing area interspersed with grape vineyards and olive groves. Carobbio is not so easy to find. The tight twisting road from Panzano climbs and descends before turning off-road for the descent into the valley where tucked away and recondite Carobbio lies. It is no stretch to call Carobbio a hidden gem. The soils are characterized by a significant proportion of deep clay, sandstone, siltstone strata, marl and Alberese, the latter two most typical of Chianti Classico.

Who's ready for lunch? #poderelacappella #chianticlassico

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Related – The heart and the hearth of Podere La Cappella

The day before the Chianti Classico Anteprima I toured the region with the Consorzio’s Christine Lechner. Which brings me to this very special visit I made to see Bruno and Natascia Rossini at Podere La Cappella. You do your best to breathe in and with eyes wide open examine to commit to memory the simple and extraordinary truths that you see around a property such as this. You see it as beatific, elysian, baronial and devout, as a small piece of paradise in a sea of paradisiacal estates in Chianti Classico, but here unequivocal to San Donato in Poggio.

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

If you stand on the plateau at Bibbiano and look down one slope and then the other, another epiphany will follow. You listen to what Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi has to say about his vineyards, how each affect his wines but also what happens when he combines the two together.  What stands apart with glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from, in some cases one or the other and yes still in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.

A study of the district of Castellina in Chianti and geomorphological Bibbiano is paradigmatic to the variety of the appellation. The estate is placed at the southwestern side of the area with altitudes varying from 250m to 600m. It’s plateau is perched on two slopes, on a late Miocene and early Pliocene seabed platform aged 5-10 million years. On one side the highest and eastern is based on primary boulder platforms; the lowest and western on silt sediments. More specifically it is broken down as calcareous silt and sediments of diverse kinds of clay mixed with round pebbles, rare sands, rare chalk veins on the NE estate side; pure gray clay with fragmented limestones, shattered schists on the SW estate side.

On that glorious February 12th afternoon in between Anteprime days I exited the car at Bibbiano and noticed this most beautiful stone wall bathed in Chianti Classico light. Castellina in Chianti light to be precise, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni and I laid my body down for a quick rest. Here in Bibbiano with Montornello on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. A stillness filled the air. Minutes later, refreshed and ready, I sat down to taste Bibbiano’s wines. A river of adroit style runs through the wines of Bibbiano. They are uncluttered, ingenious, precise and successive sangiovese (and sangiovese grosso) wines of tradition and modernity. I tasted Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione.

A restful return and new visit with the #chianticlassico of #villatrasqua #castellinainchianti Thank you Sven. Thank you Giorgia. #graziemille

Related – A Chianti Classico return to Villa Trasqua

Like love, sangiovese from Chianti Classico can’t be owned because no two are the same. It was a return to Villa Trasqua where the revelation snuck into my brain and my heart because while their wines are no exception to the Chianti Classico rule, they are becoming increasingly exceptional and each are their own emotive exemption. I joined Sven Hulsbergen and Villa Trasqua’s Export Manager Giorgia Casadio for dinner and to taste through the estate’s current releases, not to mention some spirited conversation and debate.

I have tasted, assessed and reviewed 121 Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione since February 2017. Most of these tasting notes were taken at the Chianti Classico Collection and during my six estate visits. A handful were also done at ProWein 2017 in Düsseldorf, Germany in March.

Journalists at Chianti Classico Collection 2017

Chianti Classico DOCG (Annata) 2015

Villa Belvedere Campoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Since January 2016 the estate has been under the ownership of Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini, on the ridge of the hills between Mercatale and Montefiridolfi at an altitude of about 400 meters. Since the 18th century it was held by the Winchler family attending the court of grand duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorene, located in the village of Mercatale Val di Pesa. The 2015 is notable for a remarkable fresh raspberry purée but with some firm and rich grip. Softens on the palate into a very easy, gulpable, gamay-like sangiovese. Just a fractive bit of sweet tannin comes up the backside, unannounced and soothing. Cool minty finish and ultimately noted as a mineral, Mercatale specific sangiovese. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017   Villa Belvedere Campoli  #villabelvederecampoli

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From Castelnuovo Berardenga. Quite bretty and old-school, not so funky but certainly earthy-volatile. Still reeling and not settled in its glass house. Scents of strawberry and the rubbed or bruised leaves, so the savour and herbiage is a good foil to the funk. Chalky finish. Drink 2018-2019. Tasted February 2017  @TheCaseForWine  Cantine Bonacchi  #cantinebonacchi

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

“The road from Radda leads to Amma,” where some of Chianti Classico’s most fertile land treats sangiovese vines as if they were planted in a garden. Hard not to experience this Gaiole Chianti Classico as a sangiovese of extreme youth for a quick to bottle Ama, so floral and what just has to be so as a result of some whole cluster, feigning carbonic and hyperbole of managed freshness. Some exotic spice in perfume and real, certain, credible clarity. Not that this will entertain notions of Ama longevity but the purity clarifies the 2015 vintage position of consumer and critical mass quality. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (219808, $17.95, WineAlign)

A broad brushstroke of sangiovese around San Casciano in Val di Pesa conjoins and completes Gabbiano’s Chianti Classico, a rich to riches ’15 of pure red berry and some plum fruit. Spice blankets the expression and is certainly needed to match and offset the level of ripeness. This is hands off, ultra-clean work from winemaker Federico Cerelli and über exemplary of the vintage. Consumers will not be able to resist. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Collazzi has been producing this CC since 2002 from seven hectares located in the adjacent town of San Casciano. The exposure is south/south western on rocky, well drained soils. Quite firm and somewhat muted aromatic entry out of the good must but musty nonetheless. I’m getting white to grey clay but not much fruit. Really solid texture and structure to the palate though again not a Chianti Classico of fruit sort vintage. Austere and demanding though pleasure surely lies ahead. Not absent minded of a fruit deprived style but just that it’s too young. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2017    @CollazziVini  collazzivini

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

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

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

The Castelnuovo Berardenga fruit beyond the tart generalities of red cherry delves into something a bit deeper, of that next level from extraction. With this in mind there might be some expectation of tannin onto which fine bitters latch below but this ’15 takes the vintage’s best offerings and travels up the high road. High acidity is both the magnifier and the qualifier so this has to wait, at least a year plus before the mineral-chalk and sustainable grip begin to integrate. Look at this Dievole as existing in the modern Chianti Classico realm that will be at its best in the near but over the dale future.  Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2017  @Dievole  @dievole  dievole

Fattoria Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Another sangiovese in the slightly calm, quiet and demurred realm where some seem shy and not quite ready to speak. Though that being said the red fruit is gorgeous, alive, with great balancing acidity and tannin. This really works, strikes, reels, lashes again, reveals earth and fruit intertwined. A refined and actually quite modern CC from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. There is a very smart winemaker working this room. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @famiglianunzicont  Antonio Nunzi Conti  #nunziconti

Fattoria Di Ruppiano Astorre Noti Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Quite tart to nose with funky meanderings and some microbial activity. Palate is better but the grainy, chalky, bitter and astringent tannin brings out the fruit, which happens to be green. From Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @fattoriadiruppianoastorrenoti  #ruppiano

Pasolini dall’Onda Chianti Classico Sicelle 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

One of the freshest sangiovese, pure of red fruit, essence of ripe berries and a natural feel that is too often rarely there. This strikes as wild yeast organic, perfectly tart, thirst quenching and second, third and fourth sip inducing. No funk, so clean, precise and pleasing. Takes its Barberino Val d’Elsa hilly clay sloped with gravelly-ciotoloso streaks and runs like a river right through it. Ease of ability, confidence and just fruit to enjoy for the first two years of utmost most enjoyment. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  Fattoria Pasolini dall’Onda Borghese  #FattoriaPasolinidallOnda

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Every Chianti Classico tasting should begin with a 2015 and Podere La Cappella’s is the ideal portal. Breaks it consistently down with 90 sangiovese and 10 merlot because, as we are informed by Natascia Rossini, “if you want to make Chianti Classico and drink it (relatively) young, you need to blend in a little bit of merlot or cabernet.” This is the wise sangiovese, from vines seven to 10 years old and still the mineral gives, even from young vines. Important in that it is raised with no new oak and in which richness is balanced by the sort of acidity that tries to remain out of focus, out of the spotlight. The fruit is dark and broods in youth, so a comparison to ’14 will be smart. The contrast reminds us of a more getable, dare it be said commercial vintage in this two sides of the moon sangiovese. Robust, consolidated, sober and gorgeous. Still, a year will make a difference. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The seventh vintage for the cement-aged Annata is a firm one, especially for 2015, of quick aromatic demand, already thinking ahead, not necessarily for the here and now. The sangiovese di Lamole from decent Greve in Chianti altitude (450m) delivers some hillside (mountain-isn) herbs and fennel with chicory too. To the palate comes a char on cinghiale roasting over the fire. Top quality acidity rounds out this traditional, fiery red sangiovese with grip and persistence.  Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @ProfileWineGrp    Podere Poggio Scalette  Podere Poggio Scalette

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

You can take the boy out of the vintage but you can’t take the vintage out of the boy. It may very well be 2015 but the estate style is clear and vivid, wild and intense. This is a massive Panzano-fortified CC in relation to most others. Deep, dark fruit, wild acidity and crazy tannins. Not typically 2015, full of structure and quite the lion. Now is way too early to enjoy and if this is not the CC you want for the here and now so be it. Find another. This is the way of Marinai. This is built for a long journey ahead. But there is no worrying over the rise and fall of the cake. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

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

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Terre di Prenzano 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The single-vineyard Greve in Chianti Prenzano is quite traditional sangiovese from vines are 15-20 years old. As with so many 2015’s the youth is glaring and in Vignamaggio coupled with elevated tones. The flowers are in bloom big time, the dark fruit just picked. The settling required here is more pressing so imagine this shed of its current stark realities softening in two years and gifting the warmth and balance of the vintage. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Chianti Classico DOCG 2014

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

Taken out of both the north and south vineyards (the estate sits on the ridge of Bibbiano at 310m) from the difficult, rainy vintage. Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi notes that “being organic you have to be very careful with your farming” but despite the adversity the fruit came clean. You get freshness, acidity, florals of a wide range, fennel-liquorice, mint and savour, taut sapidity, but not wound so tight you can’t gain access. The vintage solicited a careful selection, more so than usual but not so out of the ordinary. Yields were low as result. This is very sturdy, essential sangiovese of tradition, proper description of its dual terroir and what it means to be in this wine. From calcareous pebbles in variegated clay and sharp schist in red clay. Smells like the slopes and its natural growth, with just a touch of colorino, raised all in concrete and no wood. Is what it is, perfect and imperfect. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  @bibbianowines  bibbianowines

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Castelnuovo Berardenga Ghirlanda vineyard is found on the Mocenni estate, near Vagliagli. The modern palate in search of Riserva in Chianti Classico will want this, of extraction and compression, not to mention density and a sweeping vat of deep black cherry liqueur. A nice mineral streak comes from soil rich in galestro and alberese at 450 meters. in the shadow of Monteriggioni. It’s tart and tannic but of tannins that are already fully engaged, chalky and established in their grip. It’s all in there now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017   @BindiSergardi  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi  @bindisergardi  bindisergardi

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

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

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2014 is a Panzano in Chianti, Conca d’Oro sangiovese with five per cent merlot that takes just one whiff to gain an understanding of what’s going on with wine director Dario Faccin, Carobbio and where these wines are heading. From the start I would ask to leave vintage concern or controversy out of the equation and simply concentrate on the purity from a variegated sangiovese that is entirely specific to the vineyards here. The red to purple sangiovese, transversing a line from a classic to ultra modern without ever veering from what sangiovese must have been and quintessentially is, off of vines tendered into Carobbio’s soils. The only comparison thus far is the Radda in Chianti Colle Bereto from Bernardo Bianchi, here of course so different, but with perfect hue, avoidance of massive structure and bullish tannin, in a word or two, “molto elegante.” Precise. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @tenutacarobbio  carobbio_wine

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

In terms of Vendemmia 2014, Aria from Gaiole In Chianti is a wilder expression, more da capo than di sorbetto, with cherries so bright to the point of vivid and a deep exhaling, high-toned and rising still. There is a dusty fennel note as well mixed into the faint but frank acetone. This improves dramatically on the palate and with oak more presence than you would think would or could transmute. Quite fine for a 2014 and looking back on it, pressed deftly for success. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Monsanto’s sangiovese (with 10 per cent canaiolo and colorino) comes from Barberino Val D’Elsa and the line here is walked by the darker fruit, albeit dusty with a shade of new leather, richness and depth. You can sense the low-yielding, classic savour of the 2014 vintage. Chianti Classico possessive of such fruit, spice, bite and chew. Feels a touch warm at present so needs some settling, but this is quite structured juice. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @castelmonsanto  castellomonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (383604, $19.95, WineAlign)

The producer notes that the Annata “is both field blend and a cellar cuvée into a worth greater than the sum of Monterinaldi’s single vineyards.” The Castle of Monte Rinaldi is situated in the commune of Radda in Chianti and this sangiovese helps to amagine the air inside, closed and somewhat musty. This Chianti Classico is reserved, not giving too much away at such a young stage. What speaks now is more earth than fruit, with quite a clay grain running through and a hollowness to the mid-palate. Indeed “the Annata usually starts life in a secretive way before conceding herself.” Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2017  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi  #monterinaldi

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

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

Fattoria Di Corsignano Chianti Classico La Coppia 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From Castelnuovo Berardenga and quite the aromatic exotica, of cinnamon, a touch of clove but not too much, nearly and veering volatile but not in a breezy way. It’s an intense potpourri and a very sour-tart palate but the fruit is sound and clear. More old-school than at first thought of and quite tannic but the hue, texture, structure and potential are all pure sangiovese the way it’s supposed to be. Nothing modern, fetischistic or ambitious about it. Will live a decade or more, but it has to be your cup of sangiovese style. Regardless it’s just the vintage done right. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017   @corsignano  @tenutadicorsignano  Don Ackerman’s Wines & Spirits  fattoriadicorsignano

Fattoria Terreno Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The typically stony and gravelly galestro south by southwest terraced vineyard at 350m sits in the heart of the Greve Valley. Its sangiovese (with 10 pert cent merlot) resides on the extracted, modern and expressive shore, of black cherry and cabernet sauvignon-esque Cassis meets Ribena. A deep inhalant with mint, clove and menthol repetition. Some pleasantries and expressiveness exist gainfully  on the palate. Quite bright and full of flavour, savour and grip. Really ripe and get me sangiovese.  Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017   @terrenovino  #fattoriaterreno

 

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. iI’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

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

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

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (282848, $26.95, WineAlign)

From organic sangiovese from Vicky Schmitt-Vitali in Panzano this Annata caries a most unique sweet, candied nose, part cotton and part hard shell on red delicious apple. Also turkish delight, unusually so, especially for 2014 Chianti Classico. Very ripe fruit with what noses as perhaps a few botrytis berries in the mix. That said it drinks really well with solid acid levels and firm but immediately gratifying engaged tannins. Le Fonti’s is the deepest well of ripe sangiovese offering exceptional consumer appeal for the here and now. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

No shrinker this L’Erta Di Radda, the deep clay and what smells perhaps like galestro and certainly an affinity with the Colle Bereto style, if here more of a pressed brooder. Convincing and precise of Radda soils rich in both galestro and alberese, a depth of everything is counted quickly and then countered with grip in tannic structure. This is serious sangiovese, a deep inhalant, welling with aromatic texture and the avidity of layered ripe fruit. I find it exceptional for the vintage. Everything about this is place, terroir, territory, tradition and ambition. Wow. This may be one of the best ’14’s period. Great structure-acidity to tannin continuum. A vacuum of moving parts all in unison and seamless despite the rage inside its machine. Plums and pepper on the finish with great grains of chalky-pebbles, fine, pearly, pomegranate/sour cherry, tapioca like. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @lerta.diradda 

Machiavelli Solatio Del Tani Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Grupo Italiano Vini and located in San Casciano Val di Pesa. With s distant connection to exiled Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli on the  of the ancient Fontalle estate the Solatio Del Tani is a bit dark and brooding, “solace for now” in sangiovese pressed for impression. Then the geosmin factor steps up as it goes sweaty and confined, musty and reductive. The reduction is more than the idea of the bacterial but at the end of the solstice there is some not so clean fruit in here. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017      @VillaMachiavelli  #villamachiavelli

Montefioralle Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An ambitous ’14 Greve in Chianti Classico of a welling pool filled with cherries steeping in strong herbal, mint and potpourri, aromaticized and certainly romanticized as a sangiovese dream. This has Riserva aspirations and modern Brunello styling. Very commercial, quite delicious and ready to please. Sweetness on the palate confirms it all. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017     Montefioralle Winery  Castello Di Montefioralle  montefioralle

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Not to be confused with the Sting-Toscana IGT-Message in a Bottle thing, this is from the truly Chianti Classico-sangiovese- Conca d’Oro-Monia Piccini and Franco Guarducci Il Palagio di Panzano. Quite pretty and pitch vintage perfect for 2014, accomplished with step-back care and respect. Reeks well and fine of the land, dusty, soil savoury and sweet herbal garnish fancy. Quite simply what the vintage wanted, requested and in this balanced CC, to with has been complied. There is a proper sense of tension and fine-grained tannin to bring it all together. Drink 2018-2021.   Tasted February 2017 @palagiodipanzano  palagiopanzano

Piegaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

If the 2014 Chianti Classico vintage was a summons to contest then it was winemaker Sebastiano Capponi that met it head on. Challenging weather and low yields tested mettle and solicited acumen so just as the Villa Calcinaia won the battle, so does the Piegaia. My rudimentary understanding would take this to mean “pious earth,” and it is the clay, silt and mineral Greve in Chianti soil that helps to define this wine. Here is inter-personal sangiovese, umami-aromatic, salato e piccante. There may be less refinement (and maturity) than the older sibling but it does not lack for varietal purity or classic character. Piegaia also confirms if perhaps expands on the tart flavours that define sangiovese, with natural acidity and non-combative tannins. I can’t think of a wine list that wouldn’t benefit from this juicy, organic and time-honoured Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.   Tasted May 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

As with the coming unrestricted vintage, the 2014 get together is 90 per cent sangiovese and (10) merlot but such a different animal. The acidity needed to be stronger for deferential (but classic) fruit squeezed from minuscule yields after so much rain. It all called for the requiem of very strict selection and there is this rusticity in ’14 along with so much more herbology and perfume. Roses and fennel, less fruit, more perfume. There is structure in 2014 and it is a wine that will develop secondary character because of the umami that is necessary without as much fruit due to sun deprivation. Frutti di bosco sharing equal aromatic time with frutti di conifere. Walks a more traditional, taut, direct and unconsolidated sedimentary line for Chianti Classico, with time travel ability to a future blooming with Angiosperms. It’s simple really. The sangiovese usually reserved for Corbezzolo went to Riserva and for Riserva relegated to Chianti Classico. Structure is not compromised. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

In the Greve in Chianti Scalette way this takes traditional methodology and strides confidently into the CC future. Shows what a year can effect on this fruit, with deeper richness than ’15 despite the vintages purporting the opposite. The palate tells the real story here with great acids and fine tannin enveloping, protecting and sealing in the purity of the fruit. This has depth and structure. It’s quite the mouthful, brings history into the present and services Chianti Classico with classicism and possibility. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ProfileWineGrp    Podere Poggio Scalette  #poderepoggioscalette

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (728816, $37.95, WineAlign)

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

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Renzo Marinai’s Chianti Classico comes from down in the colata of the Conca d’Oro, across the valley from Carobbio. I tasted the 90 per cent sangiovese plus 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon with Managing Director Janmario Hero Reina who tells me that the vintage dictated production of only Annata, so no Riserva and No Gran Selezione, In this fact of matter way Marinai separates itself from other estates but the decisions are also driven by location. After all, Panzano is the organic centre of the Chianti Classico universe. Few CC’s carry this kind of weight, structure and depth of liqueur steeping fruit. There is a touch of pretty volatility so the traditional weight presses upon this sangiovese but it’s a smooth running operator. Needs a year to settle and integrate. Drink 2018-2024.  Drink February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

A year in bottle has been kind to what Sergio Zingarelli refers to as “our most important wine,” a VINTAGES essential that despite the low yields, still kept up the quantity in 2014. This was made possible by fruit gathered from near and far by growers engaged in the Rocca delle Macie quality ideal. Quite firm and still some tannins run through like fine grains of sand. Tart in just the right balance and a touch of refining sweetness on the finish. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Even at three years the Rocca di Montegrossi Annata ’14 is too young so with a wink and a nod it is understood why the powers that be should hold back their wines longer for best commercial benefit. The classic Rocca amalgamation of sangiovese with equal (five per cent) addendum by colorino and canaiolo is both traditional and necessary. In Gaiole there is this unwritten mythical and antediluvian law that dictates such practice. Though too much stock should not be placed on which varietals, international or otherwise should support sangiovese, this is Monti in Chianti. Enough said. Big (500L) barrels administer the low-yielding, meticulously selected, certified organic grapes with the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico maturation. Copacetic feelings are provided by dehydrated and consequently ripe rehydrated fruit that turns dark and rich. The firm grip at the back end tells us that two more years of development is needed. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Devon Masciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi

Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This sings of of so many Chianti Classico sweet aromatics, ripe red strawberry and raspberry, more palate sweetness and so very easy on the tension. One of the easier, simpler and quietly pleasurable ‘14s, not just from Greve in Chianti but the whole of the territory. Tartness and sour-edged acidity are complimentary if far from elevating. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    Savignola Paolina  savignolapaolina

Vallone de Cecione Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

In Panzano, this organic and biodynamic Chianti Classico is the old, wise and profoundly aromatic sangiovese. It’s also built with tidy structure, due in part no doubt to the canaiolo inclusion from a producer that treats the ancient variety with great respect. Their varietal canaiolo is a bright, elegant and architectural wine. Even 10 per cent canaiolo inclusion here lends credible accent and catalyst support. This CC strands ripeness on account of proportion with beneficial elevated acidity melting into richness. It offers the whole package in 2014. Drink 2018-2024.   Tasted February 2017    #vallonedicecione  @vallonedicecione

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

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

Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

A rich liquere, weight and warmth define this sangiovese from Castellina in Chianti by Tomasso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi. While the old school leather, cherries and steeping liquor are in line with many Brunello this is pure Chianti Classico and not Riserva. The clarity and purity of fruit make that determination even if the wine is warm to mulled in feeling. Will settle a bit and develop its mushroom, truffle and forest floor nuances sooner rather than later. For fans of bold CC and the way it can be thought as has to be. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2017  @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  @tenutacarobbio  bibbianowines

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Nine months later so provocative and round, still imbued of the deep pulpier purple Il Molino di Grace hue with ruby tinges. Floral but not bursting, warm, in control and easy. Manages fruit purity and then by extension, the grip from 100 per cent sangiovese. Now gelling into a liqueur typical of ’13, smooth and rapidly developing into a multi-faceted sip. A drink earlier in full enjoyment vintage.  Last tasted February 2017

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016  @Ilmolinodigrace   Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Fattoria La Presura Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Presura’s Greve in Chianti is indeed under pressure sangiovese with volatility and orange zest all over the nose. This is microbial big time, with nothing left to show on the palate, save perhaps some old raspberry and a bite into a brick wall. Drink 2017.   Tasted February 2017  @www.lapresura.it  #fattorialapresura

Ormanni Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Ormanni’s is Castellina in Chianti sangiovese of such a beautiful beginning, a demurred, soft and kind-hearted one. Pure red berry fruit and a downy disposition. The palate is less so, with some deep liqueur lost to the drift. Good acidity and grip though in the end a bit commercial and simple so like the Riserva ’10 from a similar vintage, not the finest value around. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    Rogers & Company  #ormanni

Calcinaia 1959

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2013 is a Greve in Chianti by-product of what winemaker Conte Sebastiano Capponi will refer to as a cooler vintage. Elongated ripening was trespassed by early September rain so harvest was delayed. Capponi’s tredici Annata is a demurred and soft one, as if the low-lying cloud-cover created a protective environmental layer to keep the perfume of sangiovese perfectly intact and now omnipresent on the aromatics. This is textured CC of a gentle touch and round acidity, pretty, feminine and downy. Fans of the scuola femminile style will live and breathe this in for its first few years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

Villa di Geggiano’s 2013 Annata had only been in bottle one week at the time of tasting so kudos to its confidence, stage presence and all around acumen to show this well. The richness of fruit in this Siena and proximate Castelnuovo Berardenga (Vignone di Geggiano) sangiovese is ushered forth by 18 months in (500L plus 10 per cent new 225L) French barrels. A minor (three to five) per cent augment of cabernet sauvignon distills lush rounding though aromatically speaking this still sits in a state of quiet demure. Geggiano has come a long way since I first visited the estate in 1995. Brothers Alessandro and Andrea Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli, his son Gregorio and partner Malcolm Caplan have led the 16th century estate from a time when wine production was mostly personal and parochial to fashioning Chianti Classico and IGT of international ability. Certified organic and fast forward thinking practices such as the use of dry ice during pressing brings cold temperature freshness to CC, less oxidation and as a result, lower sulphur usage too. This is really grippy sangiovese, fine spun, pure and full bodied-wood spice structured. It’s also gentle and very representative of the Ponte e Bozzone terroir. Geology, earth, time and place. Lovely. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Trasqua’s from the Hulsbergen brothers (Alan and Sven) out of an idyllic, naturally rippling and undulating Castellina in Chianti bowl is 100 per cent sangiovese. I have to admit to fully agreeing with Sven when he tells me “you can drink this with red sauce.” I did in fact follow him up on this and tasted it alongside one prepared by him at the estate. The round, soft yet structured CC was, for the vintage and the pasta a perfect match. It’s that simple and you should try it, on a Monday night, as we did, in Chianti Classico, or anywhere else. This is traditional with its tart and edgy red fruit and some tannin. More than that is its smoke and smoulder, coming as it has from eight months in big barrels, eight more in concrete and finally, steel. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017      @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

Chianti Classico DOCG 2012

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 908228, $21.80, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent  Castelnuovo Berardenga sangiovese with floral entry that waltzes in with really pretty albeit traditional red sour fruit aromatics and then stops for all the room to stare. The palate tells me this is no lightweight as it is the terroir and the soil herein that really speaks. It’s a calcareous clay, a red clay perhaps with some variegation. This is old school, firm and decisive CC. It is ready and will drink well for another year or two, not beyond mind you so go, now. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Il Barlettaio Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Radda in Chianti, 100 per cent sangiovese and help back like a student a grade behind to get it just right. Sees 24 months in barriques followed by a further 12 bottle, there is nothing about this I would not refer to as old-school, traditional, classic or otherwise. It’s quite firm and internalized, antithetical to the modern concept of Annata Chianti Classico, layered aromatically upon itself with a distinct note of raspberry, sandalwood and the humidity of the earth. So confident, set to purpose and rich without lingering wood or pressed for impressive impression. There is some natural fruit, soil sweetness and the wood melted, integrated, dissolved and nearly disappeared. The evolutionary process has brought about the right time to be with the sangiovese you love. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @barlettaio    ilbarlettaio

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

The vintage and five years have seen to some evolution but the tannins remain and persist, firm, grippy and intense. The personality celebrates many generations of winemaking from the family’s south-facing “Leccino” vineyard, a place of high ground sandstone, plus Galestro and Albarese lower down. Sangiovese and canaiolo see 18 months in 50 hL barrels and in concrete. This is very traditional Chianti Classico of rational barrel influence, natural and poetic, both polemical and persuasive. Incarnadine fruit polished and clashing with mixed soil minerality adds up to a wealth of Chianti Classico riches. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo  valerialosi  @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Rocca di Cispiano Chianti Classico La Rocca 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Located in Castellina in Chianti. Bright and shower curtain volatile and severely old school. One hand will ask for more time but the other will tell you this will all magnify and increase. Extracted but hollow, alora, something went missing here. Drink 2017.  Tasted February 2017  @roccadicispiano  roccadicispiano

Villa Montepaldi Chianti Classico Tagliafune 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vines in San Casciano Val Di Pesa this is a lovely demurred and ultra-ripe Chianti Classico with now perhaps the exact amount of optimum time slid beneath its belt. Joins the dark side of the fruit spectrum with some fig, a layer of caramelization, chocolate, balsamic and the beginning soft soy and five-spice. Has seen its fair share of affectation characterized by wood in a big way (barriques it would seem) so you must decide which camp you are from. This is classic sangiovese but recent classic, like 1995-2005 with real citrus pith and bitters on the finish. It’s highly complex but not the cleanest CC in camp. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017   @VillaMontepaldi    villamontepaldi

Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

Sottol’aia Chianti Classico La Lama 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Castelnuovo Berardenga. Really pretty inhalant, deep but fresh and certainly with thanks to humidity, balance and delineation in the soil. A combinative excellence met for fruit through earth and into sapidity. There is some older barrel chocolate and a whiff of vanilla in this grown-up juice but all is well where balance is concerned. This comes from winemaking with many tears of expertise, an understanding of the world, trends, reality and what type of CC must be made from this terroir.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  #SottoLAia  #sottolaia

Solatione Chianti Classico 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

San Casciano Val di Pesa. Firm, perfectly evolved from really pure fruit and lovely texture. acidity continues to manage the striking raspberry resemblance in a dry, really fine-lined, direct and just ever so slightly microbial CC. This is right in that Rioja-CC aged and will continue to age beautifully wheelhouse. Expert classic winemaking. Speaks a true vernacular. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #solatione

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (508507, $29.95, WineAlign)

Castellina in Chianti. If you could imagine sangiovese inside a vacuum or whirling with intense speed lost inside a void you might just get a picture of Castellare’s 2014 CCR. Well what you really find is the vintage itself in Riserva form this early in life. To make Riserva from the mountain scaling challenge you had to be more selective with grapes and barrels than almost ever but with so few Riserva quality grapes and certainly no visions of Gran Selezione the Riserva is king. This is buzzing, percolating, spinning in centrifuge. The fruit is markedly intense and the acidity reeling. A piercing Riserva wound with extreme tightness and if overly sour just blame it on the youth. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2017  @CastellareWines  @CastellarediCastellina  @DionysusWines  @DionysusWinesTO  #castellaredicastellina

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

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

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva Novecento 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

So not surprising considering the ripe and rich house style but do not be fooled. The vintage rules and youth is a rebellious and renegade thing. Dievole’s is a meeting of the extracted and the terse but it’s also graced by really sweet and tight, tight-grained tannins. This needs years to unwind and meld its mineral-chalky spice into its formidable structure. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted February 2017  @Dievole  @dievole  dievole

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

Riserva 2014 is certainly positioned further down that democratic line from the Chianti Classico, its hue more variegated with three to four variations of shade and fruit still popping fresh. These two pronto pieces of personality are the hallmarks of the Il Molino di Grace style and singularity. To employ such darker fruit without any compromise to freshness, this is the magic of this place. Iacopo Morganti says there is no magic. “I like to see the colour of the vintage.” It is true, 2014 is one of purple violet fruit so it speaks of a time. As a Riserva it demonstrates guts and creates a shell of protection for itself, sufferable to whoever thinks it may fail to validate the idea of a classic vintage, which it most certainly will turn out to be. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace  ilmolinodigrace

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The most recent release of Podere La Cappella’s “small oak tree” is a vintage success, as always a sangiovese (90 per cent) and merlot configuration and no other Riserva will ever give such defined perfume and richesse. In this smaller than small crop of a vintage the under-rock current is the galestro and the savoury, here with some spice from increased barrel, though of course no new oak. There is some fine chocolate and there is this sweet defined acidity and tannin. When you taste this side by side by each with the 2012 and the 2013 you begin to note these recurrent themes. The smell of orange skin (and in 2013 it was persimmon) is specific to Querciolo. In the pantheon of CCR this is very refined. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017      #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva Famiglia Zingarelli 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

It takes little time to find more ease, balance and immediately agreeable notions from the Zingarelli Castellina in Chianti CCR ’14. This is a wine that belies the vintage and the early to market release. The fruit is very ripe and supported by relatively copacetic acidity and tannin. The intention here is surely geared towards early gratification to imbibe while so many others gather their collective 2014, Chianti Classico Riserva thoughts. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

In the low-yielding vintage like 2014 the current state of Villa Calcinaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the signs of a growth stock as opposed to one that is generating lots of cash. This sangiovese is obviously young and not yet telling its Riserva tale, nevertheless I find it quite soothing and cool but really without any herbs or savour (to speak of). Tannins are fine but not so sweet (like ’13) so this wine begs for more time. Its length and it’s quietude will confirm such a request. The return will be generous and a just reward for those who have exercised patience. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Highlights from #cc17 #chianticlassicoriserva 2013

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Montornello is 100 per cent sangiovese grown on the eponymous northern slope, the one with the variegated soil. Montornello is the (five million years) younger of Bibbiano’s two geologies, a platform of several types of partly calcareous, loose clay; red, yellow, amber and white. As floral as the ’14 annata but more mellow, serious and of a noted confidence. Some barriques are employed but the fruit is not shrouded in any way. Scents of liquorice again, plus graphite, a toasty char, warm tar and some beneficial bitters. Finishes strong, seamless and cool. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017   @bibbianowines  VineWhys Wine Experts  bibbianowines  @bibbianowines

A river of adroit style runs through it @bibbianowines #ingenuity #uncluttered #succession #precision #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #bibbianaccio #tomassomarocc

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Burrone 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Despite reservations or perhaps with great hope from the simplest of labels, like looking for the grail and choosing the least adorned chalice, this is a revelatory 2013 Riserva. So simple, bright and honest. It may have spent Riserva time in barrel but they were certainly large ones and old as the winemakers’s grandparents. What is so special however is the purity and prurient clarity of fruit and even more the way the fruit plays so nicely in the sandbox with the gentle infiltration of Greve in Chianti soil. This has acidity and mild tannin, will age for years without knowledge of its own passage in time or any one knowing any change has taken place, then fade gracefully into the sunset. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @cadipesa  cadipesa

Capanelle Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy

Reductive, hard and fast Gaiole in Chianti winemaking have shocked the fruit’s system and rendered this nearly paralyzed in its youth. Chalky, tart, grainy and lacking acidity. Will peak and then fade quickly Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Peaceful afternoon in February light at #carrobio #chianticlassico #panzano

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.95, WineAlign)

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA  @tenutacarobbio  carobbio_wine

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Riserva Foho 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Foho is the “fire” in Tuscany, an organic Chianti Classico Riserva from Gaiole in Chianti and like the ’14 Annata it’s similarly striking, bright, vivid and for 2013, vintage driven. There is a slight musty note to dredge the earth a bit and put this in a dry, simply stated realm. A small percentage of merlot and 18 months in barrel rounds out the edges. A demurred Riserva to be sure. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

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

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. From San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016 and February 2017  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)

Castello Di Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

As sweet, floral and fine on the aromatic scale as there is likely to be found from CCR 2013 and that says something. Raspberry purée spreads all over the nose and continues onto the palate with more sweetness and dusty notes. I sense a higher percentage of canaiolo in this CCR. Likely 10 per cent at least and there’s certainly not anything wrong with that. It’s quite delicious in a savoury dessert kind of way. Very commercial friendly and eminently drinkable CCR from Barberino Val d’Elsa. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted February 2017  @panerettavino  @HalpernWine  agriturismo Castello della Paneretta  @halpernwine  Castello Della Paneretta  halpernwine  #castellodipaneretta

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Monsanto’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the Barberino Val D’Elsa house is clearly fluent in vintage speak because as much as the annata ’14 is deep, savoury and serious, this ’13 is proportionally and deferentially brighter, richly reasoned and chock full of 13’s amenable energy. The strawberry to raspberry realm is covered and though the architectural design is classic, it’s an ornate style (a.k.a. Baroque). This strutting peacock of a Riserva solicits earlier requests for the proverbial dive in, to be poured early and to be enjoyed. Drink 2018-2022.   Tasted February 2017  @castelmonsanto  castellomonsanto  @castello.dimonsanto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Colle Bereto’s is just one of those Chianti Classico Riservas that seem caught in the nether land between shy reservation and greatness. The nose speaks but not yet with what it really wants to say. I’d call it serious but what it really is seems so much more than that. The Radda terroir and the great curving amphitheatre of slopes is what matters, not the barrel or just the talents of a great winemaker, though both offer up respectfully obvious interference. The travel from aromatics to palate with texture and into the stabilizing and configuring components of acidity and tannin are all perfectly aligned. The melting pastille texture and effortless lingering of fruit tells me the stars are aligned, not quite in single-vineyard beneath the ancient monastery of perfect exposure way but a really close and respectful second. I imagine this is about as perfect a vintage for Bernardo Bianchi’s  CCR as there ever has or will be. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  #colleberetowinery

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

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

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

A better vintage for Riserva (as it is in Chianti Classico for merlot) because of the warmth and highest available poly-phenolic qualities. A return here to deep purple, Il Molino di Grace’s ’13 Riserva is akin to 2009 (though seemingly more in control of its fruit) and also with thanks somewhat like ’14 Chianti Classico, popping, fresh and with its stark moments. It is necessary to stick around, keep checking the glass and it too will lead you down a sexy, sultry, sumptuous road. Shows signs of 2010 in these flaunting ways, with a forward and upwards trajectory through the notions drawn from its very specific Panzano territory. There is chocolatey richness mixed with driving acidity, because “this is the vintage.” Will live long enough, perhaps developing some exoticism and balsamic and/or mushroom notes after seven or eight years time. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

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

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $33.75, WineAlign)

More special organic Panzano sangiovese here from Vicky Schmitt-Vitali for Riserva this time, surely floral and beautiful but also with some vintage heat on the nose. More than brevity; essence or essential oils of and also smoky, charred meat and forest floor in warm sunlight. Big bright, naturally curated red, chewy, extremely chewy, some chalky substance but nearly liquified, plenty of acidity and so very Panzano. The Galestro runs through this like a beam of laser light. Really airtight example of modern CCR without resorting to the barrel’s swath or crème. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

Melini Chianti Classico Riserva Vigneti La Selvanella 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From southwest facing,  mainly alberese soils on estate vineyards in the commune of Radda in Chianti, this is a youthful, full-mouthful of rich and barrel-influenced sangiovese, but the fruit is decidedly red and chewy, not soft and chocolate creamy.  This has plenty of monolith coating tannin and needs two years to integrate, including the beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017

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

The Brett monster has come to play. The nose is all volatility mixed with deep red fruit and variegated clay. The palate is swathed in texture, some bitter chocolate and intensity, merging to join the volatile acidity. Time may take both by the horns and settle the merging beast. Character abounds but just how much can you take? From Greve in Chianti.  Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    Montefioralle Winery  Castello Di Montefioralle

Fattoria Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Chianti Classico from San Casciano in Val di Pesa tasted before, the Fattoria Nunzi Conti CCR is a just, beautifully floral and gingerly aromatic sangiovese with the faintest whiff of toast and smoulder. A sumptuously textured red berry sangiovese with great acidity, bright and zinging, followed by the kind of calcareous-chalky texture that recalls red citrus fruits and a red bleed of rock from clay. This will last a long time. It has both the fruit and the stuffing. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted February 2017    @famiglianunzicont  Antonio Nunzi Conti

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva Borro Del Diavolo 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435149, $42.95, WineAlign)

Borro Del Diavolo, “The Devil’s Gully” is a stunner in 2013, of very ripe and bright red fruit, some tart to note on the nose intertwined with tang. As before it’s a Riserva of really persistent ambition and large-scale balance, not to mention massive tannic structure. It succeeds in carrying all of its massive moving parts together, thanks in large part to the generosity and in turn, the mimic of the vintage. Not a CCR for the immediate gratification seeker nor the faint of sangiovese heart. Let it rest.  Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2017    Rogers & Company

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

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

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A high-toned Panzano 2013 and very Riserva, of deep strawberry and raspberry fruit, intense and variegated tart palate structure and then a very long finish. The tannic structure is grainy and a bit wild. Expect two years minimum to tame these wild moving parts. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The Greve in Chianti Savignola Paolina comes with a pretty nose, classic, elongated and slightly upturned. Still a bit of reductive winemaking at play but it’s almost ready to open up. Aeration helps and releases the endorphins. It’s one of those wines that softens the grip on the palate and goes all soft, silky and downy. May as well drink up. Pleasant and correct in a 2004 sort of way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    Savignola Paolina

Torcibrencoli Chianti Classico Riserva Mariagiaconda 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Greve in Chianti, the Mariagiaconda, loosely translated as “the lies of Maria,” but in all seriousness is actually named for founders Marcello Pini and Maria Gioconda Bucciolini. A Riserva made by children and grandchildren that is quite bright and somewhat volatile but give it time. Great red citrus joins that old-school aromatic sour-edged and tart winemaking style, with more canaiolo (eight per cent) addition than most. Still it is the sangiovese palate that shows some raisin and evolution though the acidity and tannin are fully engaged. Chocolate and espresso are all over the finish. A wild ride, mostly in a conventional sense but with an unconventional result. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017   @torcibrencoli

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

The complexity of character in this Chianti Classico Riserva extends straight from the name and throughout its being. More than just the “little one,” the Vallepicciola is like the Wormwood, the holy grass of aromatic plants, assenzio magiorir, dry, without sweetness and sometimes without petioles. The irony is not lost here for the name can also translate to petiole. Certainly an off the charts pH and dry extract sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot, from the south facing Val di Picciola vineyard, left of the Arbia River in Castelnuovo Berardenga. The immediate impression given by this exceptional CCR is one of understanding and balance, with aromatics in the ripe berry and plum spectrum. Plenty of earth on the nose, mostly dry and cool forest floor but also some aromatic leaves, herbs and fronds. Like a fennel, porcini and fiddlehead smoothie, with parsley and basil for savoury measure. Remarkable smooth and silky palate, mouthful and viscous nature, followed by plenty of round acidity and forward tannin. Not quite powerfully tonic, febrifuge or anthelmintic but it needs three years to integrate, settle and tell a tale. I will personally really want to know more about this pure and complex specimen. It just tastes expensive. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @Vallepicciola  @vallepicciola  @vallepicciola

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

So very diffident to that annata Chianti Classico, Villa Calcinaia’s Greve in Chianti Riserva 2013 changes a gear (or three), as it should, into a more reductive and yes, reserved sangiovese. The perfume is deeper clay resolved, texture is amplified and the tannins are not only sweeter than the CC but more toothsome than many Riserva. The acidity is very in line with the annata but perhaps also on the sweeter, even a bit more delicate side. This Capponi walks a very balanced, forward, slow gaining of elevation line, like the vineyards themselves the way they rise with facile incline away from the villa and winery. The peaceful easy feeling gifted by this Riserva impresses the estate’s inclinations, something that is reproduced through a miniature architectural rendering of Calcinaia’s property and vineyards. If you ever pay a visit, don’t miss this fascinating model. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (47118, $29.95, WineAlign)

Really expressive, extremely tonal sangiovese, inching ever so close to that microbial slash volatility threshold, with red citrus lactic notes dominant early and staying persistent. Turns to tapestry texture on the palate with continued earthy-Bretty character. Sweet fruit is certainly well-extracted and an integral part of that impression. Very long finish, certain as a representative of the vintage and its Greve in Chianti sangiovese roots. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva Aluigi 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Yet another most excellent Panzano in Chianti sangiovese, from galestro clay/limestone schist and sandstone soils in a southwest facing vineyard. Only 3,000 bottles are made of what is quite a pretty and pulchritudinous nose with bright, puréed red berry fruit. It’s a warm inhalant to be sure and a fine gain is found running in criss-crossing acidity to match tannin on the palate. The variegation of tang and sour is quite something and will need two years to weave, layer and integrate. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2017    Podere Le Cinciole  “Le Cinciole”

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Bandite 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

By Ontario standards Chianti Classico Riserva value does not come better than Le Bandite, “the bandits,” a sangiovese drawn like a fine line into white sand. Twenty months in “the big barrels” perpetuates the Silvio Campatelli and Nicolò Pozzoli approach to expose the purity of this 100 per cent varietal expression. The vintage gets its say with firm grip and formidable structure so perhaps the fruit is considered the hunted from these grounds where such activity is prohibited. This ’12 is as big as a Lornano ever really gets, possessive of a Castellina in Chianti meets Montereggioni Tuscan reality, positioned somewhere between the bright and the impossible. Its youth mixed into deep clay settles rigid and full on the palate, like ’09 once did and so a year will be needed to open things up. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LornanoWines  Frontier Wine Merchants  loran  @lornanochianticlassico

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From Barberino Val D’Elsa, this aromatically speaking has it all going on. High tones of some markedly round volatility, extreme brightness of cinnamon heart, tart red fruit and cool, savoury, mint-influenced herbology. Quite the toast, roast and over the top carrying notes. There is just too much of too many good and exaggerated things. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @quercialpoggio  The Small Winemakers Collection  @Smallwinemakers  Quercia al Poggio in Toscana  @smallwinemakerscollection  quercia_al_poggio  

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Not unusual for 2011 Riserva, this is still a bit reductive and along with the loaded combination of galestro and heavy clay there is an impressive level of concentration and compression. My how this settles into its profound acceptance of geological contention to express sangiovese with as much sense of place as any with a Castelnuovo Berardenga address. Aromatics are also unique to the Pontignanello terroir, with notes of lemon and pith, orange, pomegranate and some spicy barrel accenting exotica. Not quite incense but not far from it either. The liqueur is simultaneously bright and deep. The sense of setting the compass right to Querciavalle makes this a soulful and poignant CCR to make grandparents proud. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo  valerialosi  @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Machiavelli Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Di Fontalle 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Machiavelli is located at Sant’ Andrea in Percussina (San Casciano Val di Pesa) and yes, the it is place where the Italian Renaissance historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer was exiled. This single-vineyard Riserva Vigna Di Fontalle is jammy, slightly raisined and coming into an oxidative period. It’s a bit past its prime which is too bad because there was at some point some really ripe and expressive,  if now just a bit baked fruit.  Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017    @VillaMachiavelli  #villamachiavelli

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

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

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

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

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Older vines are employed for the Riserva (between 25 and 40 years old) from Geggiano’s southern (Castelnuovo Berardenga) Chianti Classico vineyards northeast of Siena and Ponte e Bozzone. Like the Annata the use of carbon dioxide in the vat followed by autochthonous yeasts in steel tanks delivers the first layer of locked in freshness. The next lengthy step sees 18 months in (12 year-old) 500L casks with 15 per cent augment by new 225L barriques. Another year in larger casks (including 2,000L big boys) sets this CCR up for time-delayed/lapse character release and to this day has retained its freshness. So what’s the secret? “It’s not anything we do,” admits Andrea Boscu Bandinelli Bianchi, “it’s our soil.” An aggregate of clay, river silt and Galestro keeps humidity stable and balanced, when the vintage is warm (or not) and for 2011 this is remarkable. It is admittedly calm, gentle and settled but the brightness carries on. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva Fanatico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Though not declared on the label Fanatico is 100 per cent sangiovese in 2011 and very much in line, vein and style to the Annata Chianti Classico. The Bernabei entusiasta/amatore/appassionato for Trasqua’s exceptional Castellina in Chianti terroir comes across with CC amplifications so this does by its nomenclature in attitude, acidity and big red fruit. To stay clear of hyperbole balance was key to the vintage and here struck with firm, grippy and almost gritty amplitude. As a result it’s nearly atypical to traditional but it speaks to the specificity of Trasqua grown sangiovese. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010

Casuccio Tarletti Chianti Classico Riserva Campoalto 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From the sandy/clay Ponte a Bozzone section of Castelnuovo Berardenga. A bit warm to be sure and on the coulis to jammy side with plenty of aromatic personality. Has hit its secondary stride and the greenery is coming into view; nettles, herbs and ferns. A full-fledged forest floor in late spring or early summer. Some toast and even a flinty note. Mineralogist of sorts from Campoalto and though the tart, slightly reasoned and raisining fruit is leaning to wax, this is the wise old Chianti Classico speaking. Loving the traditional and the classic in full-bodied form is nothing to be ashamed about.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Fattoria La Ripa Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (984401, $26.95, WineAlign)

In Castellina in Chianti Ripa ripeness is a virtue and the road is full of clay. This must be pulled from vines reaching deep into the caked and the crusted because the level of density through structure is felt with palpable concentration. It’s a bit stinky and minutely Bretty but well within acceptable reason. Plenty of black cherry blossom and chocolate on the nose in a semi-confected way. Large specimen of CCR, full on, in and with the big barrel inside. Acidity still rages and tannin coats with gamey and hematic brush. Huge wine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    Nicolas Caramelli  nicolascaramelli  #fattorialaripa

Piemaggio Chianti Classico Riserva Le Fioraie 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Le Fioraie is a flower garden indeed, filled with the love, demure and the grace in its aromatics; fresh and dried flowers, gardenia of lavender and rosemary, plus roses and even violets. Really ripe and tender fruit remains in great shape though not ushered along by any true sense of acidity or furthering structure. This represents Castellina in Chianti with the sort of exemplary CCR for current contemplative sipping. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @Piemaggio  piemaggio

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2009

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico Riserva Le Capitozze 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Le Capitozze is a Riserva captured from the estate’s best grape selection out of the Chiesanuova Vineyard in San Casciano Val di Pesa. Here some age and extract signals a return to aromatic raspberry purée though curiously without the dusty, jammy Bordeaux stylistic so sangiovese is categorically preserved in the varietal display. Secondary life has come to this ’09 CCR, with a roasted meat note and sweet tannic interplay. There still persists a red citrus acidity on the finish so three of four more years will find “The Captains” drinking well. “Elegante e leggermente?” É vero. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  Azienda agricola Casa di Monte  #capitozze

A taste of @VilladiGeggiano poured from a fountain of @chianticlassico youth #bianchibandinelli #villadigeggiano #castelnuovoberardenga #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #cc17 #ga

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007

Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A warm and balanced vintage, older vines (between 20 and 35 years old) speak straight to me though proprietor Andrea Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli prefers his 2006. Geggiano’s Castelnuovo Berardenga Chianti Classico vineyards are located northeast of Siena and Ponte e Bozzone, a terroir composed of clay, river silt and galestro. Clean, pure and bright, this could easily pass for 2011, or even 2013. The aromatic brightness eases the mind and prepares the palate for the 10 year development of grit and power so in the end there is equity that leads to elegance. Chianti Classico Riserva as a gift of experience. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2014

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Even with the benevolent San Lorenzo as the sample size, going at 2014 Gran Selezione is like trying to crack a walnut shell with your teeth, the husk so tough you might break two or more trying. What is noted in the single-vineyard San Lorenzo is a hyperbole of 2014’s general characteristics; firm grip, savour, herbology and liqueur. There is extreme Gran Selezione personality humming in San Lorenzo and help me if two years are needed simply for assessment and five for the drinking window to open. The attention to soil and Ama’s prized Gaiole in Chianti climat is duly noted, as is the careful selection from the vintage. I will say this. No amount of selection, barrel or time can allow Gran Selezione to escape from 2014. In the short term it will be a downfall, in the long, long, long run a blessing. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @CastellodiAma  @castellodiama  @HalpernWine  castellodiama  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Only 7,000 bottles (as opposed to 30,000 in 2013) were produced and I think I can say with utmost certainly that this single-vineyard Fizzano is and will be the most approachable Gran Selezione out of 2014. The vineyard demands ripe and bright fruit, not too much coveting and even less wood. There is no heat and little to less herbs and savour on the nose. The palate is all smoky raspberry, smouldering rich and very near to coming into present and accounted for balance. Sweetness follows, mostly from fine, resolving tannin and then a return engagement with the perfumed, coulis fruit. Sergio Zingarelli tells me the harvest said great things to his winemaking team so the vintage’s already earned reputation is not what is deserved. The Fizzano is unctuous and savoury but pure and structured and blessed with such chewy, crunchy red fruit. It carries that no lo so liqueur of fruit that will survive and seek a truffled addendum in its tertiary future. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, at Anteprima Chianti Classico, February 2017 and ProWein, March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Fornace 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

La Fornace was planted in 1975 in close proximity to the Greve River and its sandier soils bring a contradistinct voice to Chianti Classico produced off of other vineyards on the estate. “The Furnace” is so aptly named because of its solar exposure and how the wine takes it in, bathes in it and extricates it to texture. The plot is not denied some of the typical brick-gray Calcinaia clay and the variegation leads to a beautiful exaggeration of the Capponi sangiovese stylistic. Compared to and in conjunction of what I tasted out of barrel for ’15 this completes the Fornace picture, in line with the texture but leaning away from those sweet accents and returning back to more pure and distinct sangiovese roots. Much time will be needed to elongate those angles. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Bastignano 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

I’m not certain whether La Bastignano should translate to “good fortune or “good luck,” (buona fortuna or in bocca al lupo) but regardless of the nomenclature this Chianti Classico Gran Selezione will bring great happiness at some point halfway through the next decade. It is actually called Bastignano after the name of the holding on which the vineyards grow and the name refers to one of the four originally poderi of 1524. Bastignano is to me the most poignant and specific gaze into the mirror rendering of sangiovese, the Villa Calcinaia estate and the maker, a.k.a. Conte Sebastiano Capponi. This Greve in Chianti GS is such an ulterior varietal expression from less clay, more silt, less texture and more elastic structure as a result. There is less density in Bastignano, it’s more elegant and in single-vineyard Gran Selezione, reaching for the ethereal, especially out of 2014, because it has been handled with delicate hands. You get the grilling meats, herbs and an impression that is all location. The wine of place more than any in the Calcinaia line-up, with just a hint of concentrated earth on the finish. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013

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

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

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

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

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From Vicky Schmitt-Vitali in Panzano, the ’13 Gran Selezione is already showing some lovely evolution. There is a sumptuousness and sweet culminating vintage victory in this fruit with certain deep clay mineral undertones. This really delves down and mines for Galestro and as a result is somewhat mysterious mineral stuff. Acidity is beautifully integrated though not quite of the magical layering that can be displayed by the greats in the greatest vintages. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LeFontiPanzano  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  @thevineto  poderelefonti

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sorleone 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.95, WineAlign)

The sangiovese means of communication comes in many types, some old and some new, like Villa A Sesta, the sixth estate, from the Siena hills in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Sorleone, the lion’s lion, for the lion, a sangiovese of great presence, of fruit over matter, mineral over mind and acidity in every facet of being. While it’s certainly striking and leaves the deepest of impression, in one respect this is quintessential Gran Selezione because it’s so perfectly Chianti Classico and on the other hand it’s a raging machine. So the question begs how long it will take to simmer, integrate and roar down. How much time does the pride of the Gallo Nero need to find its new age, reggae rastafari, Judah zion beat? It will, but that’s in upwards of 10 more years time. Fantastic display of alpha male GS. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @villa_a_sesta  @StemWineGroup  #villaasesta  stemwinegroup  @villaasesta  @stemwine

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Prima 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $60.00, WineAlign)

Vicchiomaggio’s ’13 was released just two months ago from the single vineyard La Prima, named for the first vineyard planted by British-Italian winemaker John Matta. On a hill built upon Galestro soil, of rock and clay facing south towards Greve in Chianti. A warm and very heartening Chianti Classico this is, deeply rich in fruit but with both feet deeply planted in that mixed earth. It’s herbaceous in its sweet coulis and lingers long. It’s the structure upon this length that brings perpetual strength. This Gran Selezione would help to push that boulder up the hill. You can count on it. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  castellovicchiomaggio  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2012

Concadoro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Concadoro, from Castellina in Chianti, as opposed to the Conca d’Oro, in Panzano. A slightly musty and even a touch more soil funky for Gran Selezione so aeration is an absolute must. Don’t be afraid to splash this one around and get your hands wet. It needs the air, the multi-decant and the love. It is so much better off for the attention. What you are gifted is great clay with minerals lying in soak at the water table’s basin. You get unnamed fruit, red and rusty, rosy and ruby, ropey and wildly pure. You have curative and restorative power from the sort of GS (that’s just got to be 100 per cent sangiovese) that was always this way and will go forward the same. The fruity roll up flavour is no child’s play candy. It is marbled and textured. Very fibrous sangiovese with tremendous upside, given the shake up and four more years of patience. The old happen upon Gran Reserva Rioja parallel is drawn upon once again. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Concadoro  #concadoro

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino Di Grace  Frontier Wine Merchants  ilmolinodigrace

Melini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Terrarossa 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Melini is found in Radda in Chianti and their Gran Selezione clearly ear marks from terra rossa soil, a red clay soil variegate found in Radda and other Chianti Classico locales, like Carrobbio in Panzano. A musty note but once again it’s aeration and agitation that opens the gates to charm and appreciation. I don’t get 100 per cent sangiovese here, more like merlot and cabernet mixed in with the dusty, currant, Cassis, tomato leaf and peppery jolts accenting and sidling alongside the sangiovese. The mineral-saline aroma sears ahead of the fruit which is also bright of light cherry. There is some microbial activity noted and the palate falls a bit flat so this is surely not the most sound example. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $122.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship wine from the famed estate, a Gran Selezione that bears the patriarchal Sergio Zingarelli name. As expected it is a richer, deeper and depth welling GS, clearly aimed towards the crowning achievement of place, more hedonism, but of course, seeking purity and elegance. The extra year or two in bottle means integration and wood having subsided a bit. “We decided to change the vineyard in 1974 in front of Rocca to be the best vineyard with the best grapes and we will produce our best wine,” I am told by Zingarelli as we taste at ProWein. What was 90 per cent sangiovese (planted in 1999-2000) this 2012 is accented by colorino but in 2014 it will be 100 per cent sangiovese. Elegant as much as sangiovese and Gran Selezione will likely ever strive to be. It is hard not to be impressed with this wine. It bursts with the essence of plums and richest of red cherries, but it’s not without it’s requisite crunch and chew. The absence of astringency is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the fruit and the gentle touch while working with such phenolic ability. Start drinking this anytime. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Marcellino 2012, DOCG Tuscany Italy (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

When the names San Marcellino and Monti in Chianti are invoked for Chianti Classico it evokes a singular sort of tradition and understanding. Stir in the grapes of a vineyard raised in the shadow of the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino, 20-25 per cent of which are pulled from vines 50-plus years old and some ghosts will be summoned. Historians will recall that in 1039 Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli gave his brother all the rights he had on the district and many territorial disputes were to follow. Now in 2017 this 2012 top quality Gran Selezione is the current embodiment of all that tortuous history with welling tension of its own. Two years in barriques plus two more in bottle should be plenty to sooth a savage beast but this ’12 is not there yet. Thankfully a five per cent inclusion (since 2006) of local, endemic Pugnitello raises the complexity, complexion and complimentary game, lifting the sangiovese to bright heights. Red to black fruits on the nose give way to a mouthfeel that is surprisingly unshackling for top-tier Chianti Classico, in fact it’s soothing and comfortable. This is a tale of two Gran Selezione in one glass so leave it be for two years. Seamlessness awaits. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Devon Masciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Di Monna Lisa 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vignamaggio’s Monna Lisa is blessed of demurred and beautifully hazy spirit, like a painting imbued of an artist’s ability to render a spiritual glow. Aromatics are delicate and lifted, certainly ripe berry and rendered by south exposure sunshine. This Gran Selezione is classic Greve in Chianti in every way, riper than many other Chianti Classico because of hill orientation, exposition and location. As always, when such a wine delivers more on the palate than it had in its shy way on the nose, success is immediately qualified. This carries that necessary but never overbearing acidity. Ingenuity and genuine honesty collide in a perfect world from what has to be the Monna Lisa’s great GS vintage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Two soils of Bibbiano

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2011

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

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

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione Le Capitozze 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From San Casciano Val di Pesa, Casa Di Monte’s Le Capitozze, perhaps meaning “the spires.” This is the outlier, deeply perfumed and full of mentholated deep rub that wafts with reckless abandon from the glass. The volatility is part Brett and part over indulgence in minty-herbaceous behaviour. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2017  Azienda agricola Casa di Monte  #capitozze

Passolini Dall’onda Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione Sicelle 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From Barberino Val d’Elsa Sicelle is a fine Gran Selezione is a fine example here of how rich, ripe and strident fruit walks side by side with ripping acidity, never quite forming a perfect unison of cells, yet finding a way to coexist parallel to one another. This is a strong and red liquid ruby, tart and powerful example that certainly needs time to settle. Drink 2019-2023 Tasted February 2017  Fattoria Pasolini dall’Onda Borghese  #FattoriaPasolinidallOnda

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Marinai’s Panzano Gran Selezione 2011 is 100 per cent pulled from the lower slope beginning at 450m and up to 550 called I Cappano, adjacent to La Massa, facing southeast (and also towards Carobbio). At this apropos time it is showing some lessening and integrating volatility along with some drying red fruit, that GS liqueur and plenty of barrique. It’s real time barrel stay is nine months in big barrel plus 18 in barrique. The vines are still quite young (in and around 15 years-old) but the galestro here is a mineral of will and strength. The style is so very 1990’s but one that has been accomplished with great acumen and skill. It’s the style, loyal to the estate and with the accompaniment of great structure. Like 1997 in so many ways. If you want to know something about the house philosophy, the words of the poet Iori Marinai may shed some light. “Come si fa a morire senza aver mai baciato un fiore? Or… “How do you die without ever kissing a flower?” Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017    #renzomarinai  Renzo Marinai Panzano

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459685, $39.95, WineAlign)

Nerento lies at the heart of the Trasqua Vineyards and the vines take root in the deep red soil. The name might be mythical, a tree of life reference or from the Latin “nerent,” meaning courting. This is Gran Selezione that courts like a suitor, charming and suave but built on power and a deep liqueur, like at the bottom of a pure well. The sangiovese is still very kissed by wood and locked shut. The first bottle (over dinner) needed more than one hour to open, eventually releasing fresh florals (violets especially), herbs, savour and forest floor. The second bottle next day was not so eager to do the same. This is compact, woven, textured and refined sangiovese with forceful (and the promise of) delicate tannins. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

The Villa Calcinaia estate dates back to 1524 and its gaining on 600 years of Greve in Chianti history is filled with tales of counts, vines and Chianti Classico lore. Today it is the larger than life presence of Conte Sebastiano Capponi that leads the winemaking charge. Capponi wears the family escutcheon on his heart and carries the torch in his mind. Sebastiano is a critical-mathematical thinker but also a wine producer of existential and linguistic intelligence. In fact, his talents also branch out into the realms of the inter-personal and intra-personal. He is by all accounts, Chianti Classico’s renaissance man.

The Count Sebastiano Capponi of @villacalcinaia in his element #greveinchianti #ilconte #conticapponi #chianticlassico

The estate was first owned by the Florentines Sebastiano del Caccia and Niccola di Andrea Capponi, then sold by the former to the latter and it has been used as a countryside retreat for the family ever since. It was in the second-half of the eighteenth century when Count Ferdinando Carlo Capponi decided to reorganise his property in the Greve valley and begin producing wine. The front had already been refurbished some fifty years before, thanks to Count Ferrante Capponi who also added the chapel. The estate comprises a little over 200 hectares of woodland, pastureland, vineyards and olive groves.

On a more than crisp and impossibly beautiful February morning, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Sebastiano and Godello take a walk around the estate, away from the Greve River and onto the fanned amphitheatre of a hill that encompasses the Villa Calcinaia holdings. To the left there are the old plots; a sangiovese vineyard planted in 1959, merlot in 1967 and the multi-varietal plantings in varied blocks. There were post-phylloxera vines of many varieties re-located; trebbiano, malvasia nero, mammolo, gewürztraminer, teredelgo, etc. Also some 1960s nursery plantings from Florence where a flood wiped out all the markings so strange varieties ended up in the vineyard. Roberto Bandinelli helped to identify and separate what from what though some unmarked field blends still exist.

In addition to the classico four tiers of Annata, Riserva, Gran Selezione and Vin Santo, Sebastiano also makes IGT Toscana in Rosato, Vermentino, white and red blends. There too is a second line called Piegaia, also organic and produced from younger vines at a slightly more attractive price point. I just tasted the Annata.

Piegaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

If the 2014 Chianti Classico vintage was a summons to contest then it was winemaker Sebastiano Capponi that met it head on. Challenging weather and low yields tested mettle and solicited acumen so just as the Villa Calcinaia won the battle, so does the Piegaia. My rudimentary understanding would take this to mean “pious earth,” and it is the clay, silt and mineral Greve in Chianti soil that helps to define this wine. Here is inter-personal sangiovese, umami-aromatic, salato e piccante. There may be less refinement (and maturity) than the older sibling but it does not lack for varietal purity or classic character. Piegaia also confirms if perhaps expands on the tart flavours that define sangiovese, with natural acidity and non-combative tannins. I can’t think of a wine list that wouldn’t benefit from this juicy, organic and time-honoured Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Back to February at Villa Calcinaia. A tour through the inner workings of the winery takes us through some barrel samples, including the yet released Annata Chianti Classico, Riserva and two Gran Selezione, La Fornace and La Bastignano. We also taste varietal Mammolo which is Capponi’s version of back up the truck and gulpable gamay or cinsault, Tuscan style. The tour culminates in a tiny room that houses a relief sculpture of the entire estate. It’s a miniature, naturalistic and realistic dollhouse-like rendering of the plots and vineyards of Villa Calcinaia. It’s so cool. Then we sat down to taste the following 10 wines.

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2013 is a Greve in Chianti by-product of what winemaker Conte Sebastiano Capponi will refer to as a cooler vintage. Elongated ripening was trespassed by early September rain so harvest was delayed. Capponi’s tredici Annata is a demurred and soft one, as if the low-lying cloud-cover created a protective environmental layer to keep the perfume of sangiovese perfectly intact and now omnipresent on the aromatics. This is textured CC of a gentle touch and round acidity, pretty, feminine and downy. Fans of the scuola femminile style will live and breathe this in for its first few years. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

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

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

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

So very diffident to that annata Chianti Classico, Villa Calcinaia’s Greve in Chianti Riserva 2013 changes a gear (or three), as it should, into a more reductive and yes, reserved sangiovese. The perfume is deeper clay resolved, texture is amplified and the tannins are not only sweeter than the CC but more toothsome than many Riserva. The acidity is very in line with the annata but perhaps also on the sweeter, even a bit more delicate side. This Capponi walks a very balanced, forward, slow gaining of elevation line, like the vineyards themselves the way they rise with facile incline away from the villa and winery. The peaceful easy feeling gifted by this Riserva impresses the estate’s inclinations, something that is reproduced through a miniature architectural rendering of Calcinaia’s property and vineyards. If you ever pay a visit, don’t miss this fascinating model. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

In the low-yielding vintage like 2014 the current state of Villa Calcinaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva shows the signs of a growth stock as opposed to one that is generating lots of cash. This sangiovese is obviously young and not yet telling its Riserva tale, nevertheless I find it quite soothing and cool but really without any herbs or savour (to speak of). Tannins are fine but not so sweet (like ’13) so this wine begs for more time. Its length and it’s quietude will confirm such a request. The return will be generous and a just reward for those who have exercised patience. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Fornace 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

La Fornace was planted in 1975 in close proximity to the Greve River and its sandier soils bring a contradistinct voice to Chianti Classico produced off of other vineyards on the estate. “The Furnace” is so aptly named because of its solar exposure and how the wine takes it in, bathes in it and extricates it to texture. The plot is not denied some of the typical brick-gray Calcinaia clay and the variegation leads to a beautiful exaggeration of the Capponi sangiovese stylistic. Compared to and in conjunction of what I tasted out of barrel for ’15 this completes the Fornace picture, in line with the texture but leaning away from those sweet accents and returning back to more pure and distinct sangiovese roots. Much time will be needed to elongate those angles. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Bastignano 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.95, WineAlign)

I’m not certain whether La Bastignano should translate to “good fortune or “good luck,” (buona fortuna or in bocca al lupo) but regardless of the nomenclature this Chianti Classico Gran Selezione will bring great happiness at some point halfway through the next decade. It is actually called Bastignano after the name of the holding on which the vineyards grow and the name refers to one of the four originally poderi of 1524. Bastignano is to me the most poignant and specific gaze into the mirror rendering of sangiovese, the Villa Calcinaia estate and the maker, a.k.a. Conte Sebastiano Capponi. This Greve in Chianti GS is such an ulterior varietal expression from less clay, more silt, less texture and more elastic structure as a result. There is less density in Bastignano, it’s more elegant and in single-vineyard Gran Selezione, reaching for the ethereal, especially out of 2014, because it has been handled with delicate hands. You get the grilling meats, herbs and an impression that is all location. The wine of place more than any in the Calcinaia line-up, with just a hint of concentrated earth on the finish. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Casarsa 2013 is 100 per cent merlot, from the 1967 planted vineyard, meaning “burnt house,” or if you like “masion brûlée.” Vine age wisdom, an eastern slope and attention to historical detail define this IGT. It is a wine in which all is forgiven, for those who might have been upset these vines planted 50 years ago were not malvasia nero, but in fact, merlot. Casarsa is the Van Gogh “Red Vineyard” Chianteggaia, of discreet super Tuscan spirit, soothing, etched in international stone, rock-solid, spicy, not-leafy and rich without the confectionary aspects of merlot. I can’t taste wood but I can taste Toscana. Great fineness in acidity and plenty of tannin. I am confident to repeat that 2013 was a merlot year, like 1998. So every 25 years certainly (save perhaps for a stopover in 2004 but even more so, 2008). Villa Calcinaia’s is merlot with “Chianteggaia,” of adult molars or animale chops, as costoletta or braciola and indeed would pair perfectly with tender medium-rare roasted veal or beef tomahawk racks. For twenty years, easy. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Ocolos 2015 (Barrel Sample), IGT Toscana, Italy

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

Villa Calcinaia Le Refie 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $57.95, WineAlign)

Le Refie, “the refit” is not what anyone would expect, a 90 per cent petit manseng and 10 gewürztraminer blend, actually somewhat of a field blend. This harkens back to Villa Calcinaia’s weird, wacky and wonderful mixed varietal history, first from some post-phylloxera plantings and then 1960s Florentine nursery plantings where a flood wiped out all the markings so strange varieties ended up in the vineyards, co-habitating like cats, dogs, rabbits and pigs. Le Refie certainly gives a sweeter impression and plenty of waxy citrus, with beesawax all over the palate. This is a very pretty white, mellow and melting, that really dissolves in the mouth like a soft pastille. In that sense its tonic ability is like a cure, as befits another name for refit. Leaves a tannic impression with thanks to the dry extract separating itself from that delicious melt. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Villa Calcinaia Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

Villa Calcinaia’s Vin Santo 2008 is dried naturally after harvest in the estate’s drying room to produce an ultra-über traditional Tuscan dessert wine. By February the grapes reach 350-400 grams of sugar content and are then pressed and racked to tiny (55 litre) oak barrels (caratelli). The sweet must ferments on the spontaneous yeasts for approximately seven years with only the occasional refilling before bottling. The 2008 is composed of trebbiano (70 per cent), malvasia bianco (15) and canaiolo (15), the latter giving glycerin but not acidity so it is kept to a minimum. The trebbiano is the backbone and source of its nutty spine. The malvasia adds creamy texture and smooth operating consistency. This is closer (at least on the silken palate) to Montilla-Moriles, in a Tuscan parallel universe way, with very aromatic fruits, great acidity and fleshy rehydrated plum, peach, apricot and nectarine. There is a sense of fennel seed on the back palate and then it’s all marzipan at the end. Quite long and unrelenting. Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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A Chianti Classico return to Villa Trasqua

I had been to Villa Trasqua once before, in May of 2016. Proprietor Sven Hulsbergen was more than kind and generous to say I would always be welcome back, so I took him up on that offer and returned in February 2017. I joined Sven and Villa Trasqua’s Export Manager Giorgia Casadio for dinner and to taste through the estate’s current releases, not to mention some spirited conversation and debate.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

The following day in Florence inside Stazione Leopolda at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection 2017 Sven and I run through the wines again with two Villa Trasqua associates, Francesca and Guilia. It is nearly impossible to gain a true sense of an estate’s Chianti Classico through the nadir scope of a single 12-hour window, even by tasting each bottle twice, yet such an ascent towards conceptualization and visualization leads to a higher probability of ken. I could not do this with just any Chianti Classico but Villa Trasqua’s wines are both encouraging and enabling. When sangiovese opportunity knocks, Godello walks through the varietal door.

A restful return and new visit with the #chianticlassico of #villatrasqua #castellinainchianti Thank you Sven. Thank you Giorgia. #graziemille

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Located north of Siena in Castellina in Chianti with Monteriggioni rising majestically above the estate, Villa Trasqua is built around the ancient and exceptional vineyard known as Nerento. The estate dates back to 1965 and cultivates its 120 hectares and 10 vineyards in the oldest part of Castellina in Chianti. Trasqua is owned by Swiss brothers Sven and Alan Hulsbergen. Organically farmed vines and the gravity fed winery built on several levels are overseen by oenologist Franco Bernabei and Director Armand Metalla. The estate is represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

I tasted four new releases from Villa Trasqua, all from earlier vintages than the norm shown at the Chianti Classico Collection and held back because time in bottle is your ally and your friend. This is one of the ways that Bernabei refuses to let the estate’s wines melt into a puddle of conformity. The wines are not merely executed on behalf of comfort’s sake or stylized to emulate wherever the sangiovese grass is greener. They are specific to the soils with Nerento at the epicentre of it all.

The team at Trasqua takes what the land gives and allows each vintage to speak on its behalf. There are no forcing square pegs into round holes or the stealing of phrasing from other regional, or even more parochially, Castellina in Chianti micro-locales. Like love, sangiovese from Chianti Classico can’t be owned because no two are the same and Villa Trasqua’s are no exception but, they are becoming increasingly exceptional and each are their own emotive exemption. Here are the notes.

Annata, Fanatico, Nerento and Trasgaia

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Trasqua’s from the Hulsbergen brothers (Alan and Sven) out of an idyllic, naturally rippling and undulating Castellina in Chianti bowl is 100 per cent sangiovese. I have to admit to fully agreeing with Sven when he tells me “you can drink this with red sauce.” I did in fact retroactively follow-up on this and tasted it alongside one prepared by him at the estate. The round, soft yet structured CC was, for the vintage and the pasta a perfect match. It’s that simple and you should try it, on a Monday night, as we did, in Chianti Classico, or anywhere else. This is traditional (perhaps even more so that their 2012) with its tart and edgy red fruit and some tannin. More than that is its smoke and smoulder, coming as it has from eight months in big barrels, eight more in concrete and finally, steel. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, February 2017     Villa Trasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva Fanatico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Though not declared on the label Fanatico is 100 per cent sangiovese in 2011 and very much in line, vein and style to the Annata Chianti Classico. The Bernabei entusiasta/amatore/appassionato for Trasqua’s exceptional Castellina in Chianti terroir comes across with CC amplifications so this does by its nomenclature in attitude, acidity and big red fruit. To stay clear of hyperbole balance was key to the vintage and here struck with firm, grippy and almost gritty amplitude. As a result it’s nearly atypical to traditional but it speaks to the specificity of Trasqua grown sangiovese. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted twice, February 2017

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459685, $39.95, WineAlign)

Nerento lies at the heart of the Trasqua Vineyards and the vines take root in the deep red soil. The name might be mythical, a tree of life reference or from the Latin “nerent,” meaning courting. This is Gran Selezione that courts like a suitor, charming and suave but built on power and a deep liqueur, like at the bottom of a pure well. The sangiovese is still very kissed by wood and locked shut. The first bottle (over dinner) needed more than one hour to open, eventually releasing fresh florals (violets especially), herbs, savour and forest floor. The second bottle next day was not so eager to do the same. This is compact, woven, textured and refined sangiovese with forceful (and the promise of) delicate tannins. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2017

Villa Trasqua IGT Toscana Trasgaia 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The IGT foray takes half sangiovese to mingle with two cabernets (35-40 per cent sauvignon and 10-15 franc) from the sandy Trasqua soils abutting Nerento. The name also combines and returns the estate to the earth. The conscious life of this blend centres around a currant crunch and a current of simplicity to solicit early and repetitive consumption with meals. This was bottled in May of 2016 so is now just coming into its window. There is a peaty, smoky note from the oak and this is one instance where sangiovese does not dominate, control or reign. It’s both rich and firm, typically Bernabei in style and with a tannic, beneficially bitter finish. IGT of a democratic and discreet kind. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Caro Carobbio

Peaceful afternoon in February light at #carrobio #chianticlassico #panzano

Few wanderlust statements sound better than “I returned to Tuscany” and with the greatest of fortune smiling upon me I am able to utter the phrase again. Not just Toscana mind you, but Chianti Classico, in and out of February Anteprime tastings, to a pin on the map south from Firenze along the Chiantigiana, sidestepping for the Florentine view from Impruneta, then through Greve and into Panzano. The reason for my return begins as it always does, to adduce a lifelong pursuit deep into the meaning of sangiovese. It also fosters a fixation dug into the variegated soils of Chianti Classico and even further still, to the nurturing, sub-appellative specificity of sangiovese’s intaglio secrets. With each return it also ingrains a feeling of coming home.

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

The most recent visit brought me back to Panzano, first to Il Molino di Grace and then to Tenuta Carobbio. Panzano in Chianti lies at the heart of Chianti Classico and below the hilltop town sits the “golden basin” of the Conca d’Oro, once a prized wheat producing area interspersed with grape vineyards and olive groves. Carobbio is not so easy to find. The tight twisting road from Panzano climbs and descends before turning off-road for the descent into the valley where tucked away and recondite Carobbio lies. It is no stretch to call Carobbio a hidden gem.

Conca d’Oro

Forza e Passione

E la sua passione describes the vision of Carlo Novarese’s decision to create Tenuta Carobbio. The Como silk king was born into a family from Monferrato and the childhood memories of wine production at Sannazaro Castle conspired to transfer passion into the estate’s Panzano ways. At 60, Novarese handed over the family textile company to his son and returned to Tuscany. “A spontaneous return, perhaps atavistic, which marked a new beginning.” With a “desire was to return to his roots and begin living close to the soil.” During a magical evening in June 1986, in a moment frozen in time, Carlo Novarese felt the certainty of having found “un angolo di paradiso in Toscana, “a little corner of paradise.”

Capiteto

A little slice of Eden in Tuscany

The southern facing Carobbio set between 350 and 400 metres of elevation stretches over 50 hectares, mostly forested, 10 of which are specialized vineyards and two are dedicated to olive cultivation. The Panzano hill and its houses protect the southern Conca d’Oro valley from the cold Apennine winds. The peaks of Monte Domini, Poggio Convento, Monte San Michele and Monte Querciabella in the east shelter the vineyards of Carobbio from the winds and damp air from the Arno.

The soils are characterized by a significant proportion of deep clay, sandstone, siltstone strata, marl and Alberese, the latter two most typical of Chianti Classico. The land is simply and emphatically “un territorio che vive graze alla forza e passione delle persone,” a land that lives through the strength and passion of its people. The 150 year-old farmhouse, ‘Capiteto’ is a great symbol of the estate’s history, a home at the edge of the Conca d’Oro, with views stretching from Rignana in San Donato to Tavarnelle.

Silvia Fiorentini and Dario Faccin

After walking the estate I sat down with Carobbio’s Director of Winemaking Dario Faccin and the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini for a tasting of current vintages and indelible memory etching bottles from the past. Dear Carobbio, thank you for taking me in, for sustaining me and for introducing me to the mysteries of the Conca d’Oro. Here are my notes on the nine wines tasted, with thanks to Dario, including selections from 1997, 1995 and 1991.

Single-vineyard, 100 per cent sangiovese, so mineral-spiced you would think it came from barrel #notachance #carrobio #toscana #panzano #terrarossa #rosato #rosé

Tenuta Carobbio Rosato Terrarossa 2015, Igt Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

Carobbio’s is different, a rosato of its own accord from a hasty (24-28 hours) fermentation descried of 100 per cent sangiovese. After four to five months in stainless steel it asks to show the world what it has to offer from a specific, steep-terraced red clay soil vineyard, thus the moniker and only used for this wine. A mineral-saline aroma sears ahead of the fruit which is bright of light cherry and convincingly of an intent to celebrate sangiovese in a form not so often noted. Like a cross between Coonawarra of terra rossa for cabernet sauvignon and Swartland of schist for syrah but here with sangioivese, for Rosé. Much more fruit on the palate but still the light and lithe cherry. There is more colour from sangiovese, naturally, but not from pressing. A very distinguished and elegant Rosato. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @Tenuta_Carobbio  @apparitionwines  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2014 is a Panzano in Chianti, Conca d’Oro sangiovese with five per cent merlot that takes just one whiff to gain an understanding of what’s going on with wine director Dario Faccin, Carobbio and where these wines are heading. From the start I would ask to leave vintage concern or controversy out of the equation and simply concentrate on the purity from a variegated sangiovese that is entirely specific to the vineyards here. The red to purple sangiovese, transversing a line from a classic to ultra modern without ever veering from what sangiovese must have been and quintessentially is, off of vines tendered into Carobbio’s soils. The only comparison thus far is the Radda in Chianti Colle Bereto from Bernardo Bianchi, here of course so different, but with perfect hue, avoidance of massive structure and bullish tannin, in a word or two, “molto elegante.” Precise. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.95, WineAlign)

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017.

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Pietraforte 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017

What are you tasting right now? #carrobio @chianticlassico #1991 #1997

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 1997, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Chianti Classico 1997 was made by then oenologist Gabriella Tani, the first pupil of Vittorio Fiore. With 20 beautiful years of slow development now in the past this has drifted into the smoky, opaque and cloudy future, elegant and elongated though its best days have only recently receded out of view. Plums mingle with raisins while the original cherries are now dehydrating sweet and turning to leather. There is this delicate acidity and silky mouthfeel that reminds you of what Chianti Classico once was (and for some continue to make), that curative, always knew what it was going to be in disposition for two years even before it has taken its first steps. In glass 15 minutes it now changes and becomes even more like its original self, minus the tannin. The old funk is in, quietly slipping into the room, lingering and taking a seat at the table. It is most welcome. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 1991, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ranging back further to 1991, now this is something else, 26 year-old Chianti Classico (Riserva), but surely so like the normale, alive, singing and oh I bet it can tell some stories. From a Carobbio golden age, at a time when the wines were at one with grandfather’s pipe, when I and so many other children would sit on his lap and as the pipe-cleaner came out, we would take in a deep breath and this was the smell. He wasn’t Tuscan, never walked the Conca d’Oro, knew nothing of Panzano, but does it matter? Chianti Classico of no guru, no method, no teacher. Now the wine morphs into delicate, fine-spice, a moment’s travel on a magic carpet to somewhere exotic. Than back to sangiovese reality, with lavender, rosemary and wild cherry. The acidity in 1991 is kept, preserved alive so there will easily be five years left to repeatedly find this in a sound and gifting place. “We’ve got to go back. For the healing. Go on with the dreamers.” Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 1995, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $119.95, WineAlign)

Leone 1995 was made under the auspices of the Vittorio Fiore-Gabriella Tani oenology stylistic for Carlo Novarese. To say that this single-vineyard sangiovese is youthful would be the biggest IGT understatement of the century. From vines that at the time were 25 years-old, Leone is not just a survivor of a universally-declared incredible vintage, it is a singular expression from 1990’s Tuscany, in Chianti Classico and for Panzano. The violets, dried espresso and plum-amaretti semifreddo (savoury, not sweet) mixes with fennel frond, fresh rosemary and the 20-plus years lingering Carobbio tobacco. The acidity is fully intact, still travelling up and down the sides of the tongue, repeatedly and soliciting so much savour, sapidity, a desire for a mouthful of hematic, rare sear of Claudia’s beef filet and then more and more sipping. After 20 minutes the aromatics deliver a raspberry purée and even a black olive and mineral-saline, short of briny caper into the fray by stroke of some aromatic brush and bush in the light afternoon wind. That’s enough. I’m not sure my heart can take any more. Time for Vin Santo. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted February 2017

A great honour to taste this 1995 #carobbio #leone and in memory of #carlonovarese Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years #toscana #sangiovese

Tenuta Carobbio Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice, “The eyes of the partridge,” called as such because it adheres to the credo of Vin Santo, made from at least 80 per cent sangiovese. Here the number is 90, with (five) trebbiano and (five) malvasia bianca, a completely different take, with so much more fruit, red fruit, away from the stone-peach/apricot vein and grounded, back down to the earth. Long, created by time in barrel spice, with the accent in cinnamon and there is this lemon peel and ripe crabapple aroma too. The palate is all cherry blossom liqueur, soft, creamy, downy, silky and nearly gelid. But it’s warm and comfortable. The gentlest and most ethereal Vin Santo in which acidity tempers sweetness, connecting with each other and neither bleeding ego or control. Drink 2017-2035.  Tasted February 2017

#vinsantophilia #carobbio #pannacotta

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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VINTAGES preview April 1st

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein

Globe-trekking critics, be a fool for value, plug in to musical Ontario and align with new world pioneers

as seen on WineAlign

Last Thursday I flew home from Germany after attending Prowein 2017, a massive wine fair in Düsseldorf that has to be seen to be believed. Picture nine immense convention halls each the size, depth and breadth of a Canadian football field, connected to one another and circling a courtyard like hangars in surround of incoming and outgoing flights at a major airport. The sheer quantity of human power and logistical planning required to facilitate and execute such a congress is in fact not unlike what happens every day at Frankfurt International. There may not be 100,000 employed to run Prowein, but at least that many wine stems are engaged.

It’s also hard to believe that this time yesterday I was standing on the crest of the red sandstone Grand Cru Neirstein vineyards overlooking the Rhein River. In advance of my trip to Germany I had the chance to taste through next weekend’s VINTAGES April 1st release and you will be pleased to find no shortage of quality wines under $20, many of which will solve your in advance of Easter needs. A token pinot noir with an anything but token twist and two hopping chardonnays are included for classic holiday food and wine association but I dig deeper into soils, varietal diversification and terroir for holiday pairing perfection.

There is no secret that Spain and Portugal sit at or near the pinnacle of Ontario consumer go to picks in the genre occupied by bargain reds. While the two recommendations below will certainly pair well with a feast of festive proportions, they also resurrect some grape varieties you might not automatically consider. Alentejo in Portugal and Castilla Y Léon in Spain offer great opportunities to discover local, endemic, world-class red wines. This early spring Ontario cold snap will soon be a thing of 2017’s winter past so I would suggest to get that BBQ tune-up completed because these wines are perfect foils for anything you can throw on the grill.

Travelling brings us together with the leaders and pioneers of fast-tracking and emerging wine regions and it is the global nature of this industry that through their own travels, they are brought to us. In September of 2015 I had the great fortune to spend a night and better part of a day with South Africa’s Ken Forrester. You will have noticed that Western Cape chenin blanc has taken the world by value storm over the last three to four years. There are several reasons for the varietal explosion, two of which are geology and climate. The third worth mentioning is Ken Forrester himself. When I tasted with Ken in Stellenbosch we travelled through half a dozen or more blocks, plots, vineyards and stylistically framed steen. Each and every year his Old Vines Reserve passes through VINTAGES. It is perfectly consistent and sets the benchmark for inexpensive and excellent South African chenin blanc genius.

Nicolás Zapata Catena and his daughter Dr. Laura Catena have pioneered similar if even deeper industry-leading work in Mendoza, Argentina. The father-daughter dream team have crafted terroir-focused Malbec and other well suited to time and place varietal wines. Over the past few years the Catena brand has expanded their portfolio by narrowing their focus into micro-terroirs in highly specific spots all over Mendoza. It’s not just Catena that has taken this brilliant South American approach to branding and this April 1st VINTAGES release is chock full of such precise varietal wines. Though I of course would be thrilled to offer up credit to the power brokers and buyers that be I’m not sure I’d give in to the idea that the grouping was executed with any preconceived plan. The patterning, by coincidence or not is nevertheless highly welcomed and I’m pleased to share these wines with you.

The Ontario presence is strong, as it should be, on the heels of a terrific Taste Ontario that was as promising as it was not surprisingly expected. Stratus hits the riesling mark with Wildass abandon, Flat Rock plays its annual MTV chardonnay tune and Thirty Bench does a varietal two-step that may just blow your mind. We should all be thankful for our local talent and in constant awe of Ontario’s wine ability to step out of its comfort zone, consistently improve on what it already does best and find ways to re-invent the wheel.

With the incantevole @chianticlassico hills fading from view, thank you #toscana #anteprime2017 #anteprimeditoscana #chianticlassico #vinonobiledimontepulciano #brunellodimontalcino

Speaking of Ontario, David Lawrason and I are still reeling from three days spent with an impressive Canadian ambassadorship contingent stationed in Düsseldorf’s Messe Prowein centre, sent there to spread the cool climate wine gospel to the world. The enthusiastic demands on our collective time were great. We will expand on the success of Canada’s presence on this important world stage in the coming weeks. John and Sara have also been on the road, globetrotting to the far reaches of the wine diaspora. It’s getting hard to track who might be where at any given time but in the first three months of 2017 we’ve had at least California, Oregon, Uruguay, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Lazio, The Ahr Valley, The Rheinhessen and every corner of New Zealand covered.

Through the course of our travels we are granted the opportunity to meet producers and winemakers, taste their wines and we often come across exciting products not seen before in Ontario. These discoveries are becoming increasingly important because the agents in Ontario receive an assisted head start on finding new wines. With the WineAlign Exchange inching closer and closer to bringing the reality of expert curation to wine buying and purchasing in Ontario, the connections we forge to these values and gems may soon see to finding their way into your cellars and your glass.

Godello’s Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES April 1st:

Musical Ontario

Stratus Vineyards Riesling Wildass 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (129700, $16.95, WineAlign)

It’s really hard to say whether Stratus Vineyards’ J.L Groux is more adept as a varietal impresario or as a master of assemblage so we’ll just call it a tie. Here into the riesling game he goes in the mere mortal affordable Wildass range and in 2015 he plays a smart varietal tune. You’ve just got to get some Wildass.  @StratusWines

Flat Rock Chardonnay Unplugged 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68015, $16.95, WineAlign)

The record keeps playing in rotation and the string remains unbroken with yet another quality vintage for the unoaked from Flat Rock. The crunchy apple and righteous waves of pertinence make this perennial best buy a required spin without any wonder why.  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd  @wine_gems

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (493973, $18.95, WineAlign)

The nomenclature is just so perfectly chosen and as you will find, this is a seamless joint between pinot and gamay noir. Double Noir performs the passe tout grains oeuvre from Ontario in combining two expatriate Burgundy grapes. I’ve long ago agreed these two make anything but strange bedfellows and the two grapes work seamlessly in Emma Garner’s new and idealistic red. Well done Thirty Bench. Pass the two grapes over, SVP.  @ThirtyBench

Align with new world pioneers

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (231282, $17.95, WineAlign)

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside fore further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester.  @KFwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA  @Noble_Estates

In Situ Reserva Carmenère 2015, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (37952, $16.95, WineAlign)

In case you were wondering too, “In Situ is crafted from grapes that ripen on steep slopes alongside mysterious rock drawings from ages past.” The only expansion on that bit of ambiguity I can share is the purity and clarity levels of carmenère are fully explained in this Reserva. Another fine BBQ wine for April flowers and showers.  @InSituWine  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2011, Central Valley, Chile (389221, $24.95, WineAlign)

Though labeled as cabernet sauvignon the Limited Edition is generously supported by syrah and carmenère, resulting in a layered and grossly rich red blend. The individual varieties don’t really stake any obvious claim and while their integration is not exactly seamless, the layering back and forth over one another does work some Central Valley magic. Complexity wins points.  @VinaEcheverria  @LiffordON  @WinesOfChile_CA  @WinesofChile

Catena Malbec Appellation Paraje 2014, Mendoza, Argentina (492413, $22.95, WineAlign)

Last November Dr. Laura Catena told a small Ontario press audience “it’s a fact. Different soils give different flavours.” The WineAlign team had previously sat down with winemaker Ernesto Badja for a full-on, wide-scale investigation into a climat-precise and compendious look at the proselytism of Catena culture. Paraje Altamira was one of these such looks into single-vineyard terroir.  @CatenaMalbec  @LauraCatena  @Noble_Estates  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

Trapiche Malbec Perfiles Calcareous 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (482083, $18.95, WineAlign)

The savvy marketed Trapiche foray into soil matters with malbec divines the intention that calcaire (calcareo) brings speciality to these Uco Valley vines. It’s not a huge stretch to sense some limestone in this malbec’s make-up and I am wholly impressed by its countenance, its continuity from nose to tail and yes, its mineral feeling. So glad Trapiche is onside. @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

The best of the rest

Paulo Laureano Reserve Tinto 2014, Vidigueira, DOC Alentejo, Portugal (488775, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the still somewhat unheralded and rising to stardom Alentejo the grape expectation here from vidigueira is no shrinking Reserve. This would make for a curious consumer side step into something different but at the same time so obvious and comfortable. At this price you can’t afford to do neither.    @winesportugalCA  @wines_portugal  @Nicholaspearce_

Senorio de la Antigua Mencía 2012, IGP Castilla y Léon, Spain (481549, $13.95, WineAlign)

Some solid and in some circles, very old estate vines (30-50 years) in Villafranca del Bierzo gift mencia for a pittance. Rarely does a $14 old world red give so much for so little. Great round acidity and length off the cuff of a vibrant tune. Simply great value. One of the best you will find all year.  @WinesofSpainSL  @Wines_fromSpain

Groth Chardonnay Hillview Vineyard 2014, Napa Valley, California (225672, $57.95, WineAlign)

From a 44-acre Yountville vineyard founded in 1982 and (mostly) re-planted in 1996. This is a perfect and prime example of all the right directions Napa Chardonnay has taken in the last 10 years, with kudos to Suzanne Groth for embracing the ideal, from restraint, for elegance and in balance.  @GrothWines  @suzgroth  @CalifWines_CA  @CalifWines_US  @NapaVintners  @TheVine_RobGroh

Dutschke Shiraz GHR Neigbours 2013, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia (247296, $26.95, WineAlign)

You just have to let go and find the fun in this Gods Hill Road shiraz, a wine of deep-rooted flavour. The utter deliciousness and unctuousness of Barossa is capitulated and catapulted into Lyndoch space. To say that charred meats hot of the grill would work perfectly right now would be utterly correct. To see this age for up to 10 years and eke out more elegance is also true. I would suggest endeavouring in both.  @DutschkeWines  @Wine_Australia

Glaetzer Shiraz Bishop 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia (627869, $39.95, WineAlign)

Ben Glaetzer’s incredible value Heartland cabernet sauvignon from this same release is not to be missed but I’ve chosen to focus on his flagship shiraz. From son Ben in ode to mother Judith, Bishop the maternal maiden name is the rock of the estate’s Barossa Valley reds. Bishop is a serious wine to be sure and this really leaves so much behind in the mouth long after it’s been sipped.  @GlaetzerWines  @Wine_Australia  @TheVine_RobGroh

Louis Moreau Chablis Domaine de Biéville 2015, Burgundy, France (106161, $27.95, WineAlign)

Just last week I stood in Moreau’s booth at Prowein and I talked with Frédérique Chamoy. She noted how excited buyers are about the 2015 Chablis. If you were ever to take the kimmeridgian plunge this quintessential Moreau and this vintage are the place to start, Pure, classic mineral Chablis with more fruit than I’ve ever seen.  @MoreauLouis1  @vinsdechablis  

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

Brancaia goes all in to exploit sangiovese and the for broke style solicits some patience to wait out in extra time. Though 16 months in barrel is nothing to call nothing it is not the wood that dominates these gregarious 2013 grapes. With time this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style but not of the recent past, more like the older ways but translated to modern times.  @CasaBrancaia  @chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassUSA  @Noble_Estates

La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (241307, $69.95, WineAlign)

From the giving 2010 vintage and so beautifully so gifted here with La Lecciaia’s 2010 Riserva. Sangiovese that rests in such an ethereal nether-land will evolve with decades long grace. Classic would be one way of looking at it, heart-warming another and it’s remarkably ready to drink.      

It’s been a whirlwind of a start to 2017 and I am personally glad to be home, for now, even if it’s only for a short time. After all, there are too many wine discoveries out there and if were to let them pass me by I would not be Godello. So before too long I will head back out on the road, join the fairs, searches, digs and bring some love back home. As for now it is the April 1st release that deserves our full attention. Sara will bring best buys and new finds next week. Looking forward to April 15th David and John will return with your first in line VINTAGES picks. Until then, good luck with the hunt, have a Happy Easter and an equally happy Passover.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Quick link to Michael’s WineAlign Mix

The heart and the hearth of Podere La Cappella

La Cappella S. Maria a Cerbaia circa 11th century

Two weeks ago I stepped back into Chianti Classico time for an all in, taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible two-day inculcation at Anteprima 2017. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

You will have noted my penchant for lengthy tasting notes and excessive use of adjectives. You’re likely privy to a certain infatuation with obscure and insignificant pop culture references and music lyrics. Have you paid attention to my running obsession with geology, climat and terroir? In Chianti Classico there is this ridge, an escarpment really that works its way from Tavernelle and across to San Donato in Poggio. The intendment of this geology and geography and its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex sangiovese. The significance is not lost on my mission.

To a world who considers all sangiovese to be cut from the same cloth, from a fichu always woven of volatile acidity, fresh cherry and old leather, there are some things worth knowing. Like for instance did you know that both the Ricasoli and Carobbio estates are variegated with five unique and distinct soil types? Did you know that in Chianti Classico marl and limestone come in many variations, three of which are called Galèstro, Albarese and Colombino? Soil matters for what differentiates hundreds of contrastive sangiovese.

Which brings me to this very special visit I made to see Bruno and Natascia Rossini at Podere La Cappella. You do your best to breathe in and with eyes wide open examine to commit to memory the simple and extraordinary truths that you see around a property such as this. You see it as beatific, elysian, baronial and devout, as a small piece of paradise in a sea of paradisical estates in Chianti Classico, but here unequivocal to San Donato in Poggio.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini with Godello

The estate has been in the possession of the Rossini family since 1979, when Mr. Rossini, a native of Veneto, integrated the growing of vines and olives with the cultivation of apple and pear trees. In the early days Rossini sold off his grapes but in the subsequent years he was drawn to the temptation of self-guided expression and became a producer of Chianti Classico. A re-planting (and re-grafting) scheme took place between 1981 and 1985 and again in the 1990’s. Some varieties were removed and others moved in to take their place. Sangiovese was elevated to top-tier status and merlot was planted, grafted to chardonnay and vermentino rootstock.

Beginning with the 1995 vintage Podere la Cappella started producing its own wines, of Chianti Classico and Corbezzolo, a sangiovese IGT Toscana. Then in 1996 the company released their first merlot called Cantico and it was at this time that Bruno’s daughter Natascia joined in the family’s organically farmed and produced vinous endeavours.

Just across from the house and adjacent the winery in the park of the estate you can visit the small church of S. Maria a Cerbaia, mentioned for the first time in 1043. The church hosts some very precious artistic works, like a painting of a Madonna with the infant Jesus on her lap, which experts date back to the end of the 13th century. Also inside the tiny chapel you will note high relief works representing the stations of the cross.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini are what you might refer to as the most gracious of hosts. From the extraordinary hearth in the kitchen to their sublime and highly personal wines, my visit with them and the Consorzio del Chianti Classico’s Christine Lechner was not so much memorable as it was like going home. At Podere La Cappella, home is where the hearth and the heart can be found. The Rossini’s poured 12 wines for me to taste, before and with a Tuscan lunch for the ages. Here are the notes.

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, Winery, WineAlign)

There were very early plantings of vermentino on the property but a decision was made to graft those vines and re-plant them between 2010 and 2012. Oriana is the modern day estate’s 100 per cent varietal white, named after Bruno Rossini’s wife. The grapes are harvested when their colour turns to a mature gold, then left to sit in the cold cellar for 20 days so the perfume concentrates straight to the core. A very mineral vermentino, telescoped, structured, with spice but there is no oak. Non-filtered, precise, unctuous and incomparable. Needs time, but there is no frame of reference here, not for Tuscany, not for the verdant hills of Chianti Classico. Doesn’t make it unusual but makes it extraordinary. The specific galestro marl and columbino here is influenced by the sea, more than in Panzano and that mineral runs through, with the fantasy of fossilized shells, like Chablis. There was a sea here at one time after all. What else should it be compared to? Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Vermentino Tancredi di Rossini 1998, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineryWineAlign)

Bruno Rossini’s vermentino 1998 is still very much alive, with some must on the nose, running along a parallel line to TCA but it’s really just a matter of age and the cellar. Acidity is very much intact, the aromas are notable in lemon purée and gelée, some orange peel and to the palate with great viscosity. Really quite amazing when you think about it, 19 year-old Tuscan vermentino, of salinity and shells. Bring on the oysters. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Every Chianti Classico tasting should begin with a 2015 and Podere La Cappella’s is the ideal portal. Breaks it consistently down with 90 sangiovese and 10 merlot because, as we are informed by Natascia Rossini, “if you want to make Chianti Classico and drink it (relatively) young, you need to blend in a little bit of merlot or cabernet.” This is the wise sangiovese, from vines seven to 10 years old and still the mineral gives, even from young vines. Important in that it is raised with no new oak and in which richness is balanced by the sort of acidity that tries to remain out of focus, out of the spotlight. The fruit is dark and broods in youth, so a comparison to ’14 will be smart. The contrast reminds us of a more getable, dare it be said commercial vintage in this two sides of the moon sangiovese. Robust, consolidated, sober and gorgeous. Still, a year will make a difference. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

As with the coming unrestricted vintage, the 2014 get together is 90 per cent sangiovese and (10) merlot but such a different animal. The acidity needed to be stronger for deferential (but classic) fruit squeezed from minuscule yields after so much rain. It all called for the requiem of very strict selection and there is this rusticity in ’14 along with so much more herbology and perfume. Roses and fennel, less fruit, more perfume. There is structure in 2014 and it is a wine that will develop secondary character because of the umami that is necessary without as much fruit due to sun deprivation. Frutti di bosco sharing equal aromatic time with frutti di conifere. Walks a more traditional, taut, direct and unconsolidated sedimentary line for Chianti Classico, with time travel ability to a future blooming with Angiosperms. It’s simple really. The sangiovese usually reserved for Corbezzolo went to Riserva and for Riserva relegated to Chianti Classico. Structure is not compromised. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The most recent release of Podere La Cappella’s “small oak tree” is a vintage success, as always a sangiovese (90 per cent) and merlot configuration and no other Riserva will ever give such defined perfume and richesse. In this smaller than small crop of a vintage the under-rock current is the galestro and the savoury, here with some spice from increased barrel, though of course no new oak. There is some fine chocolate and there is this sweet defined acidity and tannin. When you taste this side by side by each with the 2012 and the 2013 you begin to note these recurrent themes. The smell of orange skin (and in 2013 it was persimmon) is specific to Querciolo. In the pantheon of CCR this is very refined. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The 100 per cent, “small oak tree” sangiovese is showing some reductive funk in ’13 though purely and surely reasoned of a sangiovese seasoning, melted into liquid, like fennel simple syrup. From what is generally considered a high quality vintage, confirmed by Bruno and Natascia, warm, balanced, not too hot, with some rain in the middle of harvest. Picking and selection required greater focus than 2012 though not as serious as 2014 so there is so much more terroir (than ’12) in here and tannic structure similar, though a step down from 2014. Not quite ready, actually, not even close, but gains potential complexity because it is youthful and spirited. Then a different note makes an appearance, one that is hard to define, a red or orange citrus. Wait for it…persimmon! What a finish this stretches towards, forever and intense to Riserva. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Querciolo is 100 sangiovese (as always for the Riserva),”the small oak tree.” Time is of course the catalyst but who would deny for whatever reasons chosen that it is the most beautiful of the (2012-2014) vertical’s three, the only one with the first stages of its developmental life already complete. Come away with its pure fruit aromas and still the structure dominates the mathematical mind, demanding attention. What makes the difference I ask Natascha Rossini? “The extra year,” she shrugs and adds, philosophically, “for my father each wine is a son, or a daughter.” There is a liqueur in here that reminds of what happens with structured sangiovese, regardless of clone and irregardless to place, be it Brunello, Gran Selezione or Riserva. What defines this ’12 is inherent to the specifics of galestro marl from the hallowed grounds of San Donato in Poggio. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

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

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

Corbezzolo in 2012 comes by way of 22 year-old vines and it carries a similar quality in deep, exotic and mysterious fruit. The rich get richer in such a very tannic vintage, taking this top-tier, 100 per cent sangiovese to a place up on a pedestal where it can be really heard. There is a chew to this 2012 and a meaty grip but always ushered along by the spirit guide of sangiovese. There seems to be this relationship between Querciolo and Corbezzolo whereby the current vintage of the former shares a kinship with the subsequent vintage of the former. Though Natascia Rossini will remind me that one extra year in bottle for her sangiovese will both trick and explain, I’m still convinced there is something to the counterintuitive duality. Only retrospective tastings like can reveal the truth. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

The Corbezzolo in 2011 is another matter altogether as compared to what comes after, beginning with the 2012 vintage. The fruit is from 1981-1984 planted vineyards and if 2012 in (Querciolo) Riserva showed the most terroir it is the 2011 that does so for Corbezzolo. The older vines do just the opposite of what the 90’s planted vines do for Corbezzolo going forward. Here there is less exoticism and more mineral meets local terroir and with some time there emits this great ulterior perfume. But it’s a sangiovese perfume you can recognize, a fennel-liquorice aroma noted in other parts of Chianti Classico. What separates this ’11 from the rest is that Cappella acidity that is second to none. It’s also chewy, then crunchy with just a side note of chocolate, something that clearly dissipates with time. The structure in 2011 is also remarkable, but singular and with such fine pearls and grains of acidity, leading to the conclusion this will be so long lived. Drink 2018-2034.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2009, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

Cantico is hard to define, laying decanted tracks somewhere between a poem and a song, as in the form created by Dante. This is 100 per cent merlot from the oldest vineyard planted between 1981-1985 and grafted on the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock. Rich in pure fruit and exoticism, steeped, of black cherry, graphite and more cherries, vivid and wild. This is very grown-up, mature IGT but still that Cappella acidity keeps it round and alive. The intensity and wisdom in this merlot is of its own accord but if you want to make comparisons to the likes of Galatrona, Masseto or Ricasoli’s Casalferro, be my guest. You won’t have much to say after you’re done. There is some still nearly hidden, secondary activity here that hints to truffle, porcini and balsamic but these are mere aromatic accents in a centrifuge of veal demi-glacé that has been simmering for days. Remarkable merlot. Wait two more years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

“The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem,” and yet this 1998 has yet to sub-divide. The nearly 20 year-old Cantico is not as hard to figure as a precocious 2009 but a dante refrain is still the reference, at least with respect to nomenclature. The vines for Podere La Cappella’s 100 per cent merlot were but a mere but established 18-22 years old at the time and I truly believe the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock had more effect on this particular wine. You can feel it in the Cappella acidity and this is what has kept it sailing along virtually unchanged and certainly unfazed. Few Toscana IGT tasted in 2017 could possibly show such youthful aromatics, barley perceivable yet replete with must be said are loyal and allegiant secondary mineral notes. Seek the mushroom and the truffle and they are not yet there. Wonder aloud that you feel a deep sense of the marl and you will still just be convincing yourself because you happen to know what lays under foot and under vine. The gioventù of the 1998 Canto is extraordinary and tells us so much about what to expect from not only 2009 but the Cantos to come. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Soulful family wines of territory from #poderelacappella @chianticlassico #sandonatoinpoggio #chianticlassico #querciolo #chianticlassicoriserva #corbezzolo #cantico #brunorossini #natas

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Outward and inward nines for November 12th

Can somebody get the pin? The ninth green at Summit Golf & Country Club

Can somebody get the pin? The ninth green at Summit Golf & Country Club

This will be the last weekend of play for most southern Ontario golf courses, or at least the ones who are smart enough to lock down and protect their precious 7,000 yards of turf from irreparable 2017 damage. For many players there are two seasons, golf and wine buying. Now that the exceptional 2016 year of 50-plus, sunshine-blessed rounds of 18 are done, the time has flipped over to loading up for the holidays and stocking the cellar.

My outward and inward nine recommendations from the VINTAGES November 12th release cover one and then the other. The front is marked by balance relative to par; wines of value, amiability, varietal purity and regional respectability. Just have a look at some of these iconic names: Delas, Catena, Trimbach, Gabbiano, Hedges and Cave Spring. The back takes swings into under and over par territory. Some are choices that polarize with buyers, critics and geeks. Are they worth the cash? Only you can be the judge. Along with some of Niagara’s greats are selections that include Chablis, Gran Selezione, Veneto and Napa Valley.

So put away the sticks and hit the stores. Here are my top 18 recommendations coming to VINTAGES this weekend.

Front Nine

delas

Delas Viognier 2015, Vins De Pays D’oc Rhone, France (462465, $13.95, WineAlign)

Pretty darn textbook viognier in the broadest sense of the varietal word, aromatically waxy, tropical and medicinal. The low alcohol, high flavour and commercially managed acidity is balanced by cream and citrus. No more, no less, precise and managed with utmost professionalism. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted October 2016    @VINSRHONE  @UNIVINS

karavitakis

Karavitakis Winery The Little Prince White 2015, Crete, Greece (465930, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here an interesting bit of local vernacular, Cretan style, with vilana (65 per cent) and vidiano (35) dishing up a distinctly and singularly endemic mineral impression by way of subtle hints from tropical fruit. The palate is rich, broad and marzipan creamy. The acidity is round and rambling, tying the whole kit and Crete kaboodle together. A worthy side venture into the Greek Aegean hinterland. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted October 2016   @karavitakiswine  @VictoryWine  @winesofcrete  @DrinkGreekWine

thym

Thymiopoulos Vineyards Young Vines Xinomavro 2013, Naoussa, Greece (466474, $17.95, WineAlign)

The Young Vines is an orange to the Earth and Sky’s apple, of a change of fruit and a pace that is hot off the press. Yet it is not without some ancient wisdom. In some new world sites vines up to 15 years of age would be considered old growth adults. In a Greek vineyard like that of a Naoussan like Thymiopoulos, they are babies of the sun. The Xinomavro here is fresh, momentarily acts strikingly brazen, bracing and ultimately, blatantly beatific. With a glass of the young vines in hand to it I say, “it’s not the pale moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” Like Norah Jones in a glass, sultry, contemporary, lightly smoky, of a jazz aesthetic and a pop sensibility. And wild berries. So fresh, so good. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted May 2015

parker

Parker Coonawarra Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coonawarra, Limestone Coast, South Australia, Australia (467571, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Coonawarra Series cabernet sauvignon is predominantly sourced from the Williams family vineyard (like that of the chardonnay) in Southern Coonawarra. There can be no separating Terra Rossa soil from what happens with (especially) cabernet sauvignon anywhere in the Coonawarra. Very cool and savoury cabernet with tart cranberry, currant and black raspberry aromas. Really crunchy, chewy and gritty wine with focus and grip. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @parkerwine  @CoonawarraWine  @Select_Wines  @Wine_Australia

catena

Catena Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina (468066, 1500ml – $39.95, WineAlign)

High mountain vines bring more than altitude to Catena’s most commercially visible and successful malbec. In magnum format it accentuates the herbs and the dry, dusty qualities. In here there is sweetness but from tannin and extract. Acidity is the catalyst to make this sing a mountain hymn. Such proper winemaking brings rain. Love the format. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @LauraCatena  @CatenaWines  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg  @Noble_Estates

gabbiano

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

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

trimbach

Trimbach Riesling 2013, Ac Alsace, France (734517, $23.95, WineAlign)

What pray tell might you ask more than this from Alsace riesling? Could you, would you demand more immediate gratification? Might you request more purity and clarity of soil, rock and regional understanding? Is there a need to better define citrus and dry extract in any finer way? Trimbach has it down and few can pinpoint with fewer words and more direct impression. How things ought to be. A tight vintage though, so wait 18 months before embarking on chapter one. Imagine the Cuvée Frédéric Emile possibilities. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted October 2016  @trimbach  @annetrimbach  @WoodmanWS  @AlsaceWines  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace  @drinkAlsace

hedges

Hedges C.M.S. Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Syrah 2014, Columbia Valley, Washington (948992, $23.95, WineAlign)

Copacetic and well-amalgamated vintage here for the Hedges CMS, a wine of deep singer-songwriter meets jazzy flavour and sensible grip. Though there are bitters and a display of fine if sweet tannic structure, this CMS hits not over the head or below the belt. Just a few jabs and a loving embrace. A blackstar Columbia Valley blend that flies past, like “seven tracks in 40 minutes and it’s musically distinct.” In this way it reminds me of Ben Greenman’s New Yorker piece, “The Beautiful Meaninglessness of David Bowie.” Or it makes me think of Bowie as so many Hedges wines do. It’s not that this wine offers no clear meaning but it dishes ambiguity in ways only it can do. Like the late glam star, it “can’t give everything. Away.” Or, as Greenman concludes, “unless, of course, that isn’t what it means at all.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @hedgeswine  @Noble_Estates  @WINESofWA

csv

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2014, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vintage brings a concentration and a compression and the most fruit imaginable for the Beamsville bench and the CSV. How this iconic riesling solicits immediate attention and fruit-juicy love is really something and hasn’t been seen in a few years. The citrus is all flesh and juice, the mineral aspect full of tang. Unction and viscosity define the texture and the palate. Drink early and enjoy the hell out of this forward CSV riesling. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted October 2016  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Back Nine

baker

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

There was this intuitive moment with Picone 2013 as if it was waiting on me. Not doting or soliciting, but waiting. I will admit to have been wondering, reeling and speculating. To peer or peek into what Mark Picone’s Vinemount Ridge vineyard would adjudge and then bestow Charles Baker’s riesling in 2013? Would it be a case of weight, hyperbole, a hang in the balance out of misjudged necessity? Nah. Picone is no longer a mature 20 year-old vineyard but now a wise old thirty year-old one. Picone 2013 is in fact a fun park mirrored image of itself, with haughty, aerified aromas and variegated, leaning to tropical fruit flavours, taut like a flock in line with the vintage. The riesling berries just seem to have imploded and the results that have followed are nothing if not intense. Imagine a Yogyakarta market and a two-wheeled, glass-cased push cart stacked with a pyramid of tart mangoes. The fruit had been picked just as the sugars had begun to run like sap and bleed sticky on the cracking skin. A mango is sliced and doused with the intensity of Java lime juice and then sprinkled with Laut Jawa salt. The flavours are searing, sweetly saline and quenching. Only this tart is this, where tart and acidity meet, intertwine and connect on an emotional level. Picone 2013. The first non-inoculated riesling at first and then touched up near the end. “The best vintage you could ask for in riesling,” notes Baker, “cloud-covered, a meeting of the minds, vibrant.” The arid, cranky one will live without fret for 15 years. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted twice, October 2016  @cbriesling  @StratusWines

moreau

Louis Moreau Chablis Vaulignot Premier Cru 2014, Burgundy, France (525386, $36.95, WineAlign)

Vaulignot was created in 1976, one of the last Premier Crus to gain such status within the association. Note that Moreau’s nomenclature is Vaulignot instead of Vau Ligneau, but the meaning is exactly the same. Really round and rich Chablis with a relative and realistic purity specific to place. This alights as a sun-drenched and lemon waxy chardonnay with enough (thank you very much 2014) tension to keep it rolling right along. What Vaulignot brings to the Chablis table is stick to your tongue, mouth and ribs persistence and vitamin water mineral enhancement. In a way it is caught in the Chablis netherland between up front gregariously fruity and strikingly mineral/acidity piercing. Great length in this vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @MoreauLouis1  @vinsdechablis  @purechablis  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

hb

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (505610, $38.00, WineAlign)

I would not have thought it possible but the ’12 TC Meritage is open for business. The fruit is near-perfect for what these parts of the Beamsville Bench can offer and the normal gnashing is frozen as if suspended, which it likely is. In its current state it is all berries and dusty tannins, ripe, ripe acidity and plenty of outright happiness. A wisely structured Terroir Caché from Marlize Byers as only she could coax and extend. Drink now (not) or wait five years. Points in between may be confounding. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted October 2016  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron  @MarkAnthonyON

coyote

Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296863, $39.95, WineAlign)

A tart and robust vintage for the rare pinot noir, deeply ingrained into earth, sun and savour. This is distinctly varietal to Four Mile Creek with haute sapidity and exceptional length. The rusty accents inject piercing citric life into strawberry rhubarb pie. The tannins gnash their terrible teeth and the fruit hides for dear life. I’m not sure any Rare Vintage David Sheppard-ed pinot noir has ever delivered such mean structure. The next Niagara growing season should contribute to an ever more impressive showing because the fruit will almost certainly be up to the tyrannical task. Not to mention the coincidental crossroads 30th Sheppard vintage of making wines in Ontario. Meanwhile, from the cloudy, windy 2013 vintage his pinot noir will live long and prosper. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted October 2016  @coyotesrun

pelham

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2011, Méthode Traditionelle, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (315200, $44.95, WineAlign)

t’s always a highly anticipated taste when a vintage dated Cuvée Catherine is on the table sidled and promoted with the bar raised to epic heights from a striking chardonnay vintage like 2011. With acidity a given as the elephant in the room the formidably elegant Blanc de Blanc glides ethereally to press upon the olfactory nerve major and then grace the palate with fine mousse, citrus and biscuits. This is a benchmark for Ontario and Canada with only Benjamin Bridge’s B de B styled Gaspereau Valley gemstone sparkler in the same elite league. Enjoy this now and for 15-20 blissful, fizz-friendly years. Drink 2016-2032.  Tasted October 2016  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

brolio

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (942607, $59.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classcio first borne in 1997 with the plan to create a maximum quality blend as an expression of the estate’s diverse terroir. A meticulous selection is combed from the estate’s vineyards, spread over 230 hectares of land. Though early on the fruit may have emerged out of good but not yet exceptional vineyards, nearly 20 years later the sangiovese (90 per cent) with cabernet Sauvignon and merlot (or perhaps petit verdot) adheres to grand vin excellence. The wood regimen is 18 months in tonneau followed by 18 in bottle. Perhaps you will not find a more accomplished, perfectly judged, matter of factly expressed Gran Selezione. Sangiovese in equality of spicing with fruit, acidity and tannin, perfectly integrated toast, wood impact and textural drive. Stefano Capurso admits this about the transition from Chianti Classico to Gran Selezione.”It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the large ones.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  @chianticlassico

quintarelli

Quintarelli Primofiore 2012, Igt Veneto, Italy (20867, $66.95, WineAlign)

Only and distinctly Quintarelli, of that Negrar perfume and the kind of salumi cure no other producer can seem to procure. Though an infant and a baby to more mature vineyard selection Quintarelli adult bottlings, the Primofiore is full of exotics, of clove, cardamom, liquorice and meaty char. There is a sweetness to Quintarelli fruit and a remarkable resistance to astringency. This particular 2012 IGT is smooth and soothing. It is dangerously easy to consume. Drink 2017-2027. Tasted October 2016    @LiffordON

stag

Stags’ Leap The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142844, $89.95, WineAlign)

Signature cabernet sauvignon from Stag’s Leap from the first of the dry Napa vintages is dusty and high-toned to a high degree. Pure berry distillate and a savoury linger lead off and yet the closemindedness is still a youthful issue. There is a beautiful sense of florality behind the veil of aridity and big room tannin and yet the fruit is so very ethereal when it comes to tasting. Yes the dinging acidity and dastardly tannin will be a constant reminder of structure but without over compensation from the barrel the DJ Kylo driving beat will always be helpful. Gorgeous wine from Christophe Paubert. Put it in the time machine. I’ll take that leap in the dark. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted October 2016  @stagsleapwines  @SLDistrict  

forman

Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign)

Forman’s 2012 is a big, vibrant, robust and dusty expression, full of fruit, more fruit and nothing but fruit. Though the price is exceptional, the combined stylistic and level of honesty is formidably forman-ible. It is a rare opportunity and execution indeed when sweetness is culled from extract without the necessities of manipulated winemaking, oak usage included. The naked purity of this wine from an exceptionally dry, ripe and efficiently evolved vintage leads this cabernet sauvignon down a long, purposed and grandiloquent road. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted October 2016  @rogcowines  @NapaVintners  

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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