The confidence of Romagna Albana and Sangiovese

Afford me the opportunity to explain something about Romagna albana and sangiovese. The endemic white and widely planted red are ready to be heard from out of Italy’s Emila-Romagna region, a northerly Italian province extending from the Apennine Mountains to the Po River. Together they form a brave little raft in a sea of vinous confusion and do so differently, with a confident and self-assured tone. Listen up. As long as grapes and wines exist there will be a few dissadatti who will cavort them in a spirit of affronto, that is to put them deep into the clay. Faenza is the historical centre and the surrounding hills are filled with a set of clays so impressive it simply is the local terroir. While more famously Tuscan, it is the sangiovese that come off vines emerging from these variegated clays speak that speak a vernacular of high tonality and power. There may be a tendency to make Romagna sangiovese an appanage of the Tuscan but truth be told it must be considered a varietal world unto itself. 

Tasting at Vini ad Arte, Faenza

The world was poised to change, forever to exist in a bubble unlike any time before and yet there we were, a gaggle of wine journos who had just completed eight days of Anteprime di Toscana. With a calming mid-afternoon February 22nd sun overhead we were gathered at 3:00 pm in Montalcino’s Piazza Cavour, awaiting the transfer by bus to Faenza. “Train wheels (were) runnin’ through the back of my memory,” and next stop on this Italian tour was Anteprima Romagna Sangiovese, the 15th edition of Vini ad Arte held at Casa Spadoni. My headphones continued to sound out, “someday, everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece.” Quando Il Sangiovese é un capolavoro indeed.

Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni

While on the bus we broke down on the highway just outside of Florence. Dramatic foreshadowing perhaps because two days later our erudite and expert chaperone Paola Chiapasco announced that the tour would have to be halted due to the spread of Covid-19 in northern Italy. What happened in between was magical, dramatic and vivid, a confluence of wine, art and gastronomy unequalled. 

Museo delle Ceramiche, Hotel Vittoria, Faenza

Speaking of masterpieces, the Hotel Vittoria is one such edifice with a lobby to send you back in time and the Ceramics Hall a.k.a. Museo delle Ceramiche adjacent my hotel room is filled with some of the world’s greatest collection of majolica pieces. The hotel is intrinsically connected to the late great Faenza artist Carlo Zauli who died in 2002, one of the most important and infleuntial ceramist sculptors of the 20th century. Just a few blocks away is the Museo Carlo Zauli, located in the historical workshop of the artist with the permanent collection displayed in the very rooms where the artist used to work. With Matteo Zauli we paid a visit to the clay cellar, enamel room, kiln room and the high and low relief room where large pieces of earth would become sculptures. Finally we forged our own clay vessels under the tutelage of artist Monica Zauli. Next time in Faenza I hope to see my finished work.

The distorted, broken, profound and revolutionary work of Carlo Zauli ~ Holy Moses, let us live in peace. #museocarlozauli #carlozauli #ceramica #artecontemporanea #faenza

The welcome dinner with the CdA of Consorzio Vini di Romagna was held at the Pizzeria O’ Fiore Mio, yeast museum in its own right, fermentative and leavening temple of Chef Davide Fiorentini. The next night in Sala Griglia – Sala Italia with Romagna producers at Casa Spadoni we were treated to 3 Chef Dinner: Cavallucci, Cammerucci e Mascia, Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. The next morning a seminar: “Romagna Sangiovese: Climate change and territorial markers.” Data and main characteristics of Sangiovese from each sub-zone were presented with an introduction by President of the Consorzio Vini di Romagna Giordano Zinzani (who since July 2020 is now the President of the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna). The Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna is an association that has been in place since 1970 to promote and improve the regional wine production. This purpose was officially acknowledged in 1978 by the Emilia Romagna Region through a specific law, defining Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna as “the most suitable means of promoting regional wines in Italy and abroad.” Enoteca Regionale is located inside the Sforza Castle of Dozza, a little hilly village right on the “border” between Emilia and Romagna.

Chef Davide Fiorentini and his yeast

Romagna holds one DOCG; Romagna Albana and five DOCs; Romagna Sangiovese DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Sottozone DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC and Romagna Sangiovese Riserva Sottozone DOC. Other DOCs Romagna Albana Spumante DOC, Romagna Trebbiano DOC, Romagna Pagadebit DOC, Colli d’Imola DOC, Colli di Faenza DOC and Colli di Rimini DOC. Within the Consorzio Vini di Romagna there are seven cooperative wineries, 103 wine producers, six bottlers and 5,200 wine farms with vineyards registered in the DOC/DOCG register.

Jounalists at Casa Spadoni, Faenza

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 

There are 12 sub-zone (sottozone) areas, noted as menzione geographica, or MGA and also MGA Riserva. The pyramid runs down from Romagna Sangiovese MGA DOC through Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC and to Romagna Sangiovese DOC. Yield are set to nine and eight tonnes respectively and wines need be a minimum of 95 per cent pure. Release dates are the first and third year after harvest, aging at least 6 months in bottle. The 2017 vintage was defined by a hot spring with later cold and some frosts, scorching in late summer with storms post “great drought.” The ten days early budding and frosts meant up to and exceeding 40 per cent loss of fruit, with health due to lack of disease (as opposed to 2018). As for ’18, there were lots of cases of shedding, some September botrytis, with a delayed harvest to the last week of September through to mid-October. Forget the consideration of ”normal,” from ’17 to ’18 the difference is a 30 day swing, Then there is 2019 with a wet spring, late blooming, rise in June temperatures and a similar harvest times to 2018.

The 12 Sub-Zones (Sottozone) for Romagna Sangiovese DOC

  • Serra, 50-250m, clay and sandstone higher up (more spice)
  • Brisighella, 100-400m, to the west of Faenza, old pliocene soils, clay and limestone, mineral wines, harvest began late August (balsamica)
  • Marzeno, as per Cristina Geminiani, 100-200m, village of Sarna, clay-calcari, tannic and austere
  • Oriolo, Andrea Balducci, 60-200, Pleistocene yellow sands and Marzana clay, harvest last 10 days of August
  • Modigliana, Claudio Fiore, 180-570m, lots of forest, low humidity, marly-sandstone Arenaria, salinity, day night fluctuations, citrus
  • Castrocaro, Fiorino Fiorentini, 100-350m, clay and calcareous, Spungone, cliff of the Rio Cozzi, soft tannins, herbaceous
  • Predappio, Stefano Berti, 120-400m, calcareous clays, Pliocene, sand in the heart of the Rabbi valley, spungone, silky tannins, low yields
  • Bertinoro, Mauro Sirri, 100-350m, light clay-loam soils with limestone and spungone, harvest 20 days early, salinity
  • Cesena, proximate to the Adriatic, less continental climate, clayey, more fertile
  • San Vicinio, Silva Casali, 160-400m, calcareous clays and alluvial, especially near the riverbed, freshness, smaller growth in 2017
  • Longiano, Roberto Ronchi, 60-200m, yellow ochre clay, some calcari, erosion with sandstone
  • Meldola, vinous sangiovese, intense, dry, full-bodied, harmonious and tannic

The following are 51 reviews, 14 for Romagna Albana DOCG and 37 For Romagna Sangiovese DOC out of 118 wines tasted in total (108 of them tasted blind). If you would like to see all the reviews please click on the following link.

Godello’s 2020 Romangna Albana and Sangovese

Guarda! Let’s taste 100 #sangiovesediromagna @vinidiromagna #consorziovinidiromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

***** denotes wines of the vintage

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2019 (10 reviews)

Branchini Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Dutia 2019

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. Fresh, herbal and metals. Lime and good persistence. A salty finish with ripe melon sweetness. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Merlotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Fondatori GP 2019

In 1962, Paolo Minzolini and Giovanna Mimmi, the founders of the winery, started to work as sharecroppers at the Merlotta estate. On 28th November 1983, after twenty years of hard labour, they fulfilled their dream and purchased Tenuta Merlotta. Today the winemaker is Fabio Minzolini. Skin-contact, orange style, of mouthfeel by salve, light, breezy and easy. Good tang, much interest. A touch of beneficial botrytis. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With Chef Davide Fiorentini and Fosca Tortorelli

Tenuta Masselina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albana Masselina 2019

Tenuta Masselina is located in Serra on a hilly ridge extending over the plain between Imola and Faenza, upstream of Castelbolognese. It is the westernmost sub-area of Romagna Sangiovese, characterized by soils composed of red, fertile and deep clays. Here fermentation is in stainless steel and a small portion in French oak barriques. Maturation also in stainless steel for 10 months and for a small portion, in French oak barriques for four months. More extract, development and texture. Lemon and lime forever. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tre Monti Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Vitalba 2019

From oenologists Nicola Tucci, Vittorio Navacchia and the Navacchia family, the grapes come from the Bacchilega vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards on the Tre Monti estate. Vitalba is albana of maceration on skins between 80 and 120 days, spontaneous fermentation and aging in Georgian amphorae for 10 months. Good consistency, lots of flavour, lemon, lime and orange. Rich, satisfying and benchmark. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

3 Chef Dinner, Casa Spadoni

Quadalti Davide E Marco Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Giada 2019

The Quadalti farm was founded in the 1970s by the brothers Bruno and Luciano. Grown in the Forli Hills within the Serrra sub-zone. Fresh, a bit salty, crackers, biscuity, lean and fine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Arlus 2019

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023. From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With the Sommeliers of Anteprima Romagna

Bulzaga Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Coronilla 2019

Located in the hills of Brisighella, on the border between Romagna and Tuscany, a (commercial since 2009) farm of six hectares of vineyards at about two hundred meters above sea level. Curious nose for albana but then herbal, brushy, again curious. Look, sniff and taste again, on repeat. Unrelenting in how it keeps drawing you back. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Celli Romagna Albana Secco DOCG I Croppi 2019 (893288, $22.85, The Small Winemakers Collection)

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lovely albana with developed lemon preserve, almost marmalada but dry and energetic. Fleshy too. The saltiness works well to foil the healthy alcohol spirit. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Pizzeria @ofioremio Faenza

La Grotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Damadora 2019

From the zone of Cesena, 230m off of sandy, soft and draining soils, rich in minerals and with good organic content. Lime cordial, developed as if into second season fleshiness and yet still energetic. Reminiscent of verdicchio. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta Casali Romagna Albana Secco DOCG 2019

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce albana in the zone of San Vicino. Valleripa is from a 30-plus year old vineyard trained to single Guyot pruning, aged for six months in stainless steel on the lees. Blessed of a recognizable and natural scent, skin-contact feel, delivering a mild salve, textural, acidity all in. A benchmark for varietal and region. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2018 (4 reviews)

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Bianco Di Ceparano 2018

The company credo reads, “the knowledge of tradition, the strength to dare the new. Thus the land becomes wine.” Lovely. From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Wild nose and finally something to sink your olfactory straight down into. Transfers well onto the palate. Scrapes of citrus and crunchy fruit. Guava and mango but dry, salty and tart. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta Il Plino Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albadiplino 2018

Tenuta Il Plino lies in the hills between S. Carlo and Bertinoro, named by the Plino della Taverna which flows inside the property at the bottom of a small valley fed by a rich spring. Some fun and joy on the nose out of this albana grown in the zone of Cesena, citrus, then brightness meets tannin to taste. Maybe a touch of wood, with a nuttiness and faint caramel, acting as alvarinho would in the northern parts of Vinho Verde. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Frangipane 2018 ($23.00 – Estimate)

Frangipane is Tenuta La Viola’s blast and ode to the past “when the albana was the main grape variety vinified in our Estate. Frangipane is the name of the Countess of Bertinoro Aldruda Frangipane, famous for her heroic participation in the defence of Ancona under siege by German imperial troops. As for its work as albana the almond cream delivers just that, fresh, spirited and texturally creamy, thanks to six months of stirring some quality lees. Has a saltines that owes to this small portion the 14 farmed San Martino estate vineyards. Reminds of alvarinho made in a gilded, salted white caramel style. Drink 2020-2023.   Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco Docg In Terra Bianco 2018 ($50.00 – Estimate)

Interra is albana raised in amphorae from 1.27 hectares of estate owned vineyards in San Martino, vines at 250m and averaging 17 years-old. An “ancestral wine,” alcoholic fermentation completed with indigenous yeasts and maceration on the skins for six months in 400 and 300L Georgian amphorae. Tenuta La Viola was the first to do so with albana in Romagna and to be honest and pardon my Emilian, this is fucking delicious. A little bit of whole bunch goes all the way to direct traffic and steer this albana in a straight direction. Vibrant and floral. In a dogma eat dogma world we need wines like this, clean and funky, texturally edacious and eliciting a soupçon of mainstreaming commercial amusement. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2019 (3 reviews)

***** Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Tre Rocche 2019 (SAQ 14248437, $27.05)

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Making wine is kept simple for land and the purity of sangiovese to be coaxed and kept through a short maturation in wooden casks, followed by the same refinement in bottle. The relationship makes this special, complex and if perhaps misunderstood, so be it. Tannins are fine. Yes, a fine example of land-driven, precise and hands-off, well-made sangiovese. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2019 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

From Marco Cirese, grandson to Noelia Ricci, whose mother took over in 2008 and he joined in 2010. Cirese’s goal is “to valourize sangiovese,” with seven hectares farmed organically for the past two years and will be certified in 2021. The Pandolfo is from the zone of Predappio, a blend of fruit off of three terraces between 250 and 400m and of only wild yeast catalytic spontaneity. The fermentation lasts approximately 20 days and the wine stays for six months in Grandi Botti. The mostly clay soil at 200m leads to “sweet and sticky tannins,” tells Marco, so a bigger wine with solid structure is almost always a possibility. So recognizable as sangiovese, surely at its source and then a matter of selection. As for Romagna, Pandolfo is truly Predappio and markedly Cirese. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Il Sangiovese 2019 ($28.95, The Vine Agency)

Yes, perhaps more serious sangiovese right here. Argiloso chalky and peak plum fruity with a light dusting of pepper. You need to return again and again to understand the charm and the grace in the steps and advances. The structure is born of demure and builds with sneaky, creeping stealth. Later on I tasted ’18s with Marco Cirese and Alice Gargiullo and only then did the epiphanies come clear in understanding some profound truths about the secrets bound within the youth of Noelia Ricci’s sangiovese 2019s. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2018 (17 reviews)

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2018 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

Marco Cirese’s follow-up to his benchmark Romagna Superiore 2018 shows how the structure off of Predappio’s clays can mute, demure and even muddle up this sangiovese so early in its tasting life. More than just a matter of existing in a primary vacuum, even the tannins seem confused, acting milder and middling in a medium bitter pith state. But tasting the 2018 one hour later reveals an explosion of fruit and complexity that this ’19 is surely hiding. Behind the wall there is a brave set of sangiovese expressions drifting overs waves in a sea of youthful confusion. Also a tang and a spirit underestimated and yet they are sensations zen-like in their current inaction. I would surely wait 18 months or more to let this sangiovese stretch its Predappio legs. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018 (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Branchini Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Contragrande 2018

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. His Superiore carries a tang held securely out of a strong entry and though it’s a touch pressed and astringent the origins are clearly from a good fruit source. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Delle Rocche Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Canovaio 2018

From Imola zone and land cultivated since 1995 between Dozza, Linaro and Montecatone, from three friends Ettore, Paolo and Roberto. Fine sangiovese nose right here. Takes the clay and the calcaire, runs up and down slopes, flaunts blood orange. Straightforward, correct and simple for every occasion. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Ballardini Riccardo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Vigna Le Case 2018

Ballardini dates back to 1980 and their sangiovese grapes are from Brisighella’s first hill at 150m facing southwest and argiloso soils. Solid sangiovese, if dark fruit and blessed by full sun. Yet no roast, toast or bake, just good quality wine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Podere La Berta Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC 2018

Podere La Berta overlooks the hillsides just a few kilometers from Faenza, amidst the erosion furrows and the Olmatello woods. This Brisighella raised sangiovese on argiloso soils is a cracker one of freshness protecting reduction. Armed with quality fruit and plenty of tannin though ripe (acids too) and there is true potential, both from a clarity of learned wisdom and Romagna sangiovese with the ability to age. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Sperone 2018

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella. Fruit is top notch. Fresh, youthful, spirited. Piqued! Yes, like mencía from Bierzo. Juicy, drinkable and really quite beautiful. An edacious sangiovese if ever there was from Romagna. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Torre San Martino Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC Gemme 2018

From the Costa family and 10 hectares of vines at 300m found in Monte Loc Casone Modigliana, including a lost vineyard unearthed in 2000 that dates to 1922. This part of Modigliana is located above a sandstone bubble, “the prized yellow sands.” A bit reductive but the guarding and protecting works to preserve a peppery and peppy freshness. Chalky, structured, tannins are persistent. Good fruit and a bit extra wood though it should integrate. Solid wine, salty and sapid, while in the end still reductive. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo DOC Morale 2018

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Deep red fruit with fully ripened sugars and phenolics, good for drinking early and beautifully without a care in the world. Not a structured Oriolo but a proper one. That’s for certain. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese DOC Al Caleri 2018 ($25.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Sangiovese di Predappio by Chiara Condello who in 2015 took over the reigns from her father Francesco. The intent is freshness, effusive red fruit behaviour and unencumbered beauty. All the parcels are checked and the most youthful, freshest and brightest fruit is selected. Herbal, mineral, tart, tight and bracing. Smells like all the cover crops that grow in between and in support of the vines, not to mention crushed ripe grapes on your skin. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese DOC Il Conte Pietro 2018

Sangiovese from Predappio, from 10 million year old soils at 350-450m of altitude. Vineyards facing north west, “towards the future.” The estate thinking is in limiting the impact of sunlight because of the ever-warming vintages. This frim 2018 shows off bright, high toned acids and volatility. Sour and really up there. A wild fermentative style that many will appreciate. Lightning red fruit, highly mineral, very natural. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Cesco 1938 2018

Records show the estate dates back to the 14th centrury and in 1936 was purchased by Dante Fiorentini. Then in 1945 gets passed on to his son in law Pietro Piccolo Brunelli. Finally, in 1945, Pietro Piccolo Brunelli, Dante’s Great grandson, becomes the manager. Shifts organic in 2019. As with Il Conte Pietro, the Cesco 1939 is also a wild-eyed, volatile sangiovese though with more fruit substance. Tart and so much tang. Calcaire and lightning. The natural, unaffected and unadulterated one, so clean and gulpable. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2018

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. Raffaela’s agglomerates as an effusive efficacy of aromatics. If at first the palate seems not quite in line, pause, breathe and take it in again. As with the first wave, the perfume dances the second time around but this time the palate catches up. As such and with some structural caveats I imagine this will need at minimum a year to flesh up and tie it all together. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Casali Romagna Sangiovese San Vicino DOC Vigna Baruccia 2018

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce sangiovese in the zone of San Vicino. This Vigna Baruccia is nice sangiovese. Good red sour cherry fruit and proper tannins. Mid term ager and proper. Honest wine. Like the persistence and the succulence, then the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Oddone 2018

Oddone, borrowed from an 11th century character from Bertinoro, who loved wine and fun. The label bears the “colonna Delle anella” (the column of rings), ancient symbol of Bertinoro’s hospitality. Early September harvested from estate vineyards at 100-200m, averaging 12 years-old. A new type of sangiovese and quite frankly this is how it should be. Back up the truck for the purity, freshness, energy and honesty. There were 32,000 bottles made.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Nonà 2018

Nonà is Stefano Berti’s sangiovese “sensa sulfiti” which means neither dirty nor volatile, a testament to the winemaker’s confidence, ability and just dumb luck. Berti’s recognizes this work as an ideal, not an ordeal and sangiovese this clean could not be happier. If you didn’t know you wouldn’t know, just red fruit shining bright and as naked as the varietal play can be. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Ravaldo 2018

Ravaldo is Predappio sangiovese chosen as a selection at harvest because quite frankly, the cru way of separating his wines is just not Stefano Berti’s thing. He’s a harvest director and a reaping separator from fruit bursting of full-fledged, journey complete phenolics at September’s end off of spritely vines 12 to 15 years of age. That youthful exuberance bursts from these sangiovese aromatics and that is pretty much all you need to know. A little tonneaux time adds texture, spice and a construct that will see this drink just like this, as a perfect window into Predappio for five solid years. First vintage was 2000 for this “Ravaldino in Monte.” Grande Stefano. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. 3 Chef opera; Cavallucci, Cammerucci, Mascia. #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #emiliaromagna #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2017 (11 reviews)

Villa Papiano Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana Riserva DOC I Probi Di Papiano 2017 ($34.95, The Vine Agency)

Organically farmed from the vineyard “above the clouds,” on poor soils of Marnosa-Arenacea, marl and sandstone. No issues here whatsoever, holding its line and showing little advancement, which so many warm vintage 17s are already doing. Perfumed, clean and serviceable, honest and proper if stretched and in Riserva terms, a bit thin. Tannins strong for the concentration of fruit though at least through now is holding its own. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Calonga Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Leggiolo 2017

From Oriolo zone in in the province of Forlì-Cesena, from vines located in Castiglione, facing west and at a height of 100m. Leggiolo, which literally translates to “read it,” and a sangiovese with a percentage of cabernet sauvignon depending on the vintage, to a maximum 12 per cent. Aged in stainless steel tanks and casks. Liking the perfume and the nose as a whole. There is true promise. Proper tang in red fruit. Follows a proper line. Again gritty tannin but this should morph into charm. Truth be told it is reductive in the cracker peppery way that sangiovese can be and the wood is a bit tough, leading to some drying tannin. Otherwise would be one of the best 17s. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Villa Bagnolo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Sassetto 2017

Founded in 1997, located in Castrocaro Terme. The Riserva is from vineyards in the Castrocaro zone and something really proper here brings a sense of place with fortifying Riserva tones. Lots of wood but structured, presence and well made. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poggio Della Dogana Ottoviti Romagna Sangiovese Castrocaro E Terra Del Sole DOC Santa Reparata 2017

From two brothers and their friend, Aldo and Paolo Rametta and Cristiano Vitali on 20 hectares, nine in Castrocaro and 11 in Brisighella. Santa Reparata sangioivese comes from the former. Juicy wine here, plum fruit, good acidity and tannic. A bit overripe and so three years forward it is beginning to lose some grip but now and for another year it is a lovely drink of Riserva. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

 

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Chiara Condello 2017 (SAQ, 14215141, $24.65 and BCLDB, 7664, $27.99)

Chiara Condello is the winemaker for a special sangiovese di Predappio in just her third vintage since taking over from her father Francesco in 2015. The nose on her ’17 is very pretty. Palate strong and grippy. Has potential. Tannins are fine. Yes this is really honest and proper, vibrant, succulent acids and so much forward drive. Five years easy and ten to enjoy. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC “Preddapio Di Predappio” Vigna Del Generale 2017

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Good juice. Not too much extract so no bitter phenols or tannic edginess. Honest and forthright. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva Doc Le Lucciole 2017 (Estimate – $75.00, Sélections Frechette)

“The fireflies,” one of two Conde’ labels made specifically by winemaker Chiara Condello in just her third vintage since taking over the work with some of the estate’s prized vineyards, a Predappio torch passed on in 2015 from her father Francesco. Le Lucciole is sangiovese off of clay soils, treated to wild fermentation, long (up to 40 days) maceration and proper time spent in large-ish Slavonion oak casks. Good tension straight up on red citrus fruit. Admiration afforded the strength, confidence and the restraint. Edgy acidity and fine tannins. Really good wine. A lighter and brighter touch than the Condello with an effusive, elegant and lightning reflex ability. What I and you should want to drink. New benchmark for not only Riserva, but all of Romagna sangiovese. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Pandolfo Riserva 2017 (The Vine Agency)

From winemaker Marco Cirese and while his Riserva is earthy and juicy sangiovese, there seems to be more energy, punch and high tones, surprising considering the appellative level. Chalk that up to Predappio soils and fruit concentration bleeding a sense of place and sprinkling cracked pepper in what is ostensibly so perfectly reductive sangiovese. Plums and fragola, frutti di bosco and a subtle sidle through its stages of perfume, palate, acidity and structure. A touch cracker boxy and closed with thanks to that reductive attitude, for freshness preservation and ultimately, longevity. Sees 12 months in botti and 12 in bottle before release. Very, very good wine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2017 ($21.95, Violet Hill Imports)

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. The 2017 sangiovese Girapoggio grown on Bertinor’s sand and clay at 150m is so very interesting. Sweetly herbaceous, like Chinon cabernet franc. So good. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Celli Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Bron & Ruseval 2017

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lots of wood but also substance. Ripeness and plums, namely Damson. Peppery, ambitious, structured. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Carlo Zauli

Giovanna Madonia Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Ombroso 2017

On 35 acres across a ridge on the hill of Montemaggio in Bertinoro. Giovanna’s grandfather used to cultivate a few acres and her father was elected as the first President of the Consorzio Tutela dei Vini Romagnoli. Ombroso is alberello bush -trained sangiovese from six hectares planted in 1993/94, on calcareous-clay at an altitude of 250-300 m. The Riserva ’17 is blessed of a clean, red fruit perfumed nose. Chalky, tannic, in your face direct. No bones about the direction, intent and purpose of this tell it like it is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2016 (6 reviews)

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC Raggio Brusa 2016 ($75.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Raggio Brusa, or ”Burning Ray,” a Predappio signature sangiovese from Condé’s winemaker Chiara Condello. From a cru, registered, the name of the vineyard, only three hectares and for Romagna this is more than new, exciting, forward thinking and still tied to family, history and tradition. Vibrant, as silky as a kimono, chanting with intellectual rigour. Like a charred cherry atop a sangioivese sundae, with the splendour or smoulder drifting through sneaky, sultry and splendid structure. Benchmark Riserva. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Sangiovese Marzeno Riserva DOC Pietramora 2016

From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Pietramora 2017 sangiovese worked to show promise but this 2016 is something other, something more than correct. Dark fruit, ripe, in balance with its parts, all three, acids, tannins and before that, the wood. Very polished and accomplished wine. Lush. All in and all together. One of the best in show. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo Riserva Doc Nonno Rico 2016

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Nonno Rico is solid wood aged wine with a bit of make up and extra work. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Predappio 2016 ($25 – Estimate, Sélections Frechette)

Going back to 2016 the Conde’ is a most concentrated sangiovese from Predappio zone and it seems that the style of their Annata is converse or antithetical to Riserva, or at least what we think of in terms of what sangiovese should be. A vanilla wave and titanic tannins untamed. Wow spice everywhere, hot, beautiful and bothered. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva DOC Calisto 2016

Stefano Berti is located in Ravaldino in Monte, Forlì and his first wines were produced in 2000. He’s not so much a cru guy as one who prefers fruit selection. This Calisto could refer to “a nymph loved by Zeus, changed into a she-bear by Hera, and subsequently changed into the Great Bear constellation,” minus one “L.” Or perhaps “the second-largest moon of Jupiter,” also missing an L. It certainly isn’t Italian for “it sucks” because this sangiovese is fresh and tart, a bit lean but who could not appreciate the restraint and very little (apparent) wood. A good drink and fresh enough still. The barrel shows up as the wine airs and the length is quite good. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro DOC P. Honorii 2016 ($23.00 – Estimate)

From the Gabellini family in Bertinioro, organic and biodynamic. Like fresh squeezed blood orange juice. A proper freshness just now heading over to the other side. Good acidity, fading tannin. More elegant and less humid than the 2015 tasted table-side later that day. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

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WineAlign

Four questions to Chianti Classico

The Gallo Nero, Chianti Classico

Timely questions to 17 Chianti Classico producers about their appellative wines, how and why they do what they do, plus their reflections on the state of Italy’s battle with Covid-19 and projections for the 2020 harvest

by Michael Godel

Over the past four and a half years I have written about, extrapolated upon, waxed rhapsodic over and flat-out smothered Chianti Classico with hundred’s of thousands of words, reviews and tasting notes. It’s time for Godello to take a break and switch the focus on current events, what’s happening now and to hear about Chiantishire dirt from the mouths of the producers themselves. In 2020, the $64,000 dollar question is “why is this vintage different than any other?” As we fall back into impending autumn and perhaps another great global unknown, when pressed with four poignant questions, 17 Chianti Classico producers are all the youngest child at the table. They ruminate over their cultural past, viticultural present and perchance, express some postulations about the future. 

Chianti Classico Collection 2020, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Passport to Chianti Classico: The Sequel

But first some exciting news. Fresh on the heels of the WineAlign Exchange’s successful inaugural partnership with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and two sold-out international Passport case offers, this next collaboration stands to further cement our collective relationship with Tuscany’s famous wine region. Twelve more indispensable sangiovese in one mixed case. The territory’s sangiovese of exceptional quality is not limited to a mere 12 producers and so this next wave of Passport cases is poised to pack eight more prime examples in a mixed 12-pack. The WineAlign critic’s fortuitous summer of 2020 continued as they once again were given the opportunity to taste though many examples of wines stamped with the iconic symbol of the Gallo Nero. The June Chianti Classico boxes were the first of their kind for WineAlign and these new wines chosen are foremost a decision made collectively after the critics each sat down to taste many examples. They are indeed an extension of what new facets and nuances about Chianti Classico’s sangiovese the writers have learned over the past weeks.

This Passport to Chianti Classico mixed case celebrates the three levels of the region’s appellations. Passport to Chianti Classico: The Sequel explores the youthful freshness of sangiovese and the subtle differences found in the eight communes and their soils. It also brings together bolder, fuller-bodied, more structured and cellar worthy Chianti Classico.

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

And so this latest article is an exposé of interpretation as I ask 17 iconic producers four timely questions regarding Chianti Classico’s appellative wines, how and why they do what they do and a request for their reflections on both the state of Italy’s battle with Covid-19 and projections for the 2020 harvest. Their answers further the confirmation of the territory’s ability to consistently achieve another level of quality. Sometimes sequels match or even exceed the original.

Panzano, Chianti Classico

 

I love the smaller vintages like 2014 and in my opinion both of them (with 2016) were able to reflect the Panzano characters

  Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

 

Estate identity (terroir or better said, “genius loci”) is a very delicate concept, easy to ruin if you go by the book

  Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti

 

There’s no strict or clear rules to follow, because the climate affects each decision, and month after month you may need to chance or revise the decisions that were taken earlier

  Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi

 

Sixteen producers, four questions

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Chianti Classico? What or why is the reason?

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano-Greve: “It is always a work in progress, every vintage is a challenge and my efforts, like everyone in the Chianti Classico region, are concentrated in trying to improve as much as possible the quality. Quality that means more and more terroir expression and identity. The recent vintage that excited me much was 2016 because almost perfect but I love also the smaller vintages like 2014 and in my opinion both of them were able to reflect the Panzano characters.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio-Barberino Tavarnelle: “I can say that at Monsanto since the beginning we have always tried to respect the terroir and the vintage characteristics in all our wines. In the almost 60 years of our history there have been several changes in the winemaking processes and also the viticultural ones but I can say that they have always been marginal towards the imperative dictated that all our wines needs and needed to show the peculiarities of our piece of land together with the respect of the indigenous varietals. We have never changed the blend of our Chianti Classico wines – even in the 90’s “Super Tuscans” period… when it was really difficult to sell sangiovese wines.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano in Val di Pesa: “As you know when I started managing Villa Le Corti I had no viticultural background or specific family tradition, even though my family has owned Le Corti since 1363. So I would set the first pin in 1997 after five years of observing and learning. What I understood was the wines needed not only to be good because there was a good amount of good wine in Chianti Classico; they needed to be different in the sense of unique. So I abandoned the market trend, “the Parker style” and started searching for a Ville Le Corti natural style and identity in wine. I introduced a punchdown system and open vats vinification. I also understood that estate identity (terroir or better said, “genius loci”) is a very delicate concept, easy to ruin if you go by the book so there comes the second pin date 2005. This is the year I introduced after five years of experimentation, our unique selection of yeasts. Expensive but very important to emphasize terroir. 2010 was the vintage when I discovered the extensive use of cement vats to age Le Corti vintage (Annata). This is also the year I decided to reduce dramatically the use of new barriques and introduced 500 and 700L barrels for Don Tommaso Gran Selezione. 2014 like all hard years allowed me to understand how important is the quality of the fruit and how much added value you get in wine when you preserve the berry and you don’t crush it before putting it in the fermentation tank. That is the year when I changed the de-stemming machine, (instead) introducing a selecting machine. But the major change came in 2015 with my son Flippo starting the Fico Wine project. Perfection and integrity of fruit produced in my opinion is the most transparent representation of our terroir. In addition of no added sulfites and no filtration. Fermentation happened in barrels and ageing in the same barrels. In 2019 the main fermentation cellar was equipped with conveyor belts that brought the berry to the vats without ruining the skin; fermentation did the rest in a very natural timing and no hurry.”

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi, Monti-Gaiole: “I can’t say that a particular vintage has marked the turning point for me as a winemaker. I believe that each vintage, year after year has added a new chapter to the winemaking history, giving me a deeper understanding on the choices to make in the vineyards. Sadly, there’s no strict or clear rules to follow, because the climate affects each decision, and month after month you may need to chance or revise the decisions that were taken earlier. But, after more than 25 vintages I feel I now have some understanding of viticulture. Additionally, since 2015 I also have two consulting agronomists that help me to make the best decisions.”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole: “I started managing Badia a C in 1985 and I always tried to allow the wines to express the place so I have a hard time finding a turning point because I always maintained the course. However in the last few decades the challenge has been adapting to the dramatic variations in climate. From this point of view a turning point was 2011, one of the hottest and driest vintages (until then…  we break records frequently nowadays).  In 2011 we had a record sized crop and one the most outstanding vintages and realized that in today’s climate it actually helps to have a larger crop that will delay maturation a bit.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe, Castellina in Chianti: “I would say that vintage 2010 was the result of our company’s major investments, renovation of the vineyards and of the cellars, as well as the ageing procedures and containers, which began at the end of the 1990s with the aim of obtaining excellent grapes. That one was also the year in which Lorenzo Landi started his consulting activity with our winemaking team and the first vintage of the Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli. This I would say was really the harvest and the year of the turning point!”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia, Montefioralle-Greve: “I think 2014 was a recent vintage that really set a watershed for the whole appellation as it showed to the wine world that in Chianti Classico even in small vintages producers were able to make not only delicious wine but age worthy ones. If you think of the last rainy vintage in Chianti Classico which was 2002, I have to admit that it was a worse harvest than 2014, and you look at which important wines each winery decided to make that year and you compare it with the 2014 winemaking decisions, it feels like a century has gone by not just a little over a decade. I think that winemakers in Chianti Classico now have the ability, like Roberto Conterno had in 2002 when he made Monfortino, to interpret every single vintage without distorting what nature bestows to them.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace, Panzano-Greve: “Vintage 2016 is the turning point in the cellar, by taking up the Grand Selection and trying to bring freshness, cleanliness and fruit – all characteristics for making a wine that I like.”

With Federica Mascheroni

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia, Radda: “I think it’s not a vintage but luckily it is a team :-). I have the same team In the vineyards and the cellars, working for Volpaia since a long time. The experience collected in these years and in the different vintages help us to make the right choices; but at the same the particular microclimate of Volpaia, terroir, exposition and soil are making the difference. As you know, we are over 600meters above sea level in the Radda district where we have a nice quantity of surface cover by forest and this changes very much the clime of the area and makes hot summers much “fresher.”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi, Castelnuovo Berardenga: “2016. It is a great vintage for Tuscany, for Chianti Classico generally speaking; it is a “must have in my cellar vintage”. 2016 allowed our Chianti Classico Pyramid to express itself at its best. The season was perfect and our vineyards had the possibility of expressing their personality, style and authenticity without having to compromise with frost, drought, excessive heat etc. The vineyards of Tenuta Mocenni, in the Vagliagli area, face south, are at 1600 feet (500 meters) and are surrounded by woods; they need time to reach maturation. The weather of 2016 allowed us to harvest after the first week of October reaching the peak of maturation and quality of their terroir.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli, Gaiole: “I would say that there have been several “turning points” because the wish is always improve and getting “ahead” with experience and learning from mistakes. If I have to mention a vintage I would say 2015 or when we decided to release this vintage as the first one of our single vineyard pure sangiovese, Colledilà, Roncicone and CeniPrimo. These three wines are the result of many years of researches in trying to find the different “expression” of sangiovese planted on different soils (limestone, marine deposit and fluvial terraces). This work has been done in a very meticulous way, year after year, without being impatient or finding the shortest cut to prove something. It gave us the satisfaction of something done properly and the work is still ongoing.”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri, Lamole-Greve: “The vintage is 2015: This has been generally a warm vintage, which at the highest elevation of Lamole is the best. In this year we had the chance to produce all our range, even Gran Selezione I Fabbri (100 per cent sangiovese) and Il Doccio (100 per cent merlot) that we produce in rare vintages and that are able to show the best of our quality. In 2015 every variety we cultivated in all the vineyards showed an incredible quality which allowed us to vinify them separately and bottle them with different labels. Each, in my opinion, was able to show its unique terroir: Acidity and freshness for Lamole (100 per cent sangiovese); acidity and velvet for Olinto (sangiovese/merlot); incredible and surprising minerality for Lamole origin (100 per cent sangiovese) and Il Doccio (100 per cent merlot); Terra di Lamole:  structure in unison with acidity (sangiovese/canaiolo); I Fabbri Riserva:Elegance and depth, best selection (sangiovese/canaiolo); I Fabbri Gran Selezione – embroidery of authentic finesse.”

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti, Panzano-Greve: “Starting with 2006 and 2007 for us – first top years in our making without my dad. Perfect vineyard conditions, great growing conditions & weather. Then later on with the constant weather changes and ever hotter summer 2015 and 2016 taught us a lot about managing the dry heat better, leaving the “green harvest” for much later in the season to even out the sugars and not over burden the single grape bunches. So many seasonal works had to be adapted due to the extreme weather conditions.”

Michael Schmelzer, Monte Bernardi, Panzano: “I can’t say there was a recent vintage that marked a turning point in my style per se, as our philosophy has been pretty much the same since the beginning. Evolving with experience but always with the same goals and philosophy. That being said, the 2005 vintage was the most important vintage experience of my career beacuse it shaped the way I think as grower and as a winemaker. It was my third vintage at Monte Bernardi and it was a difficult one. It rained five out of seven days for weeks on end as we approached harvest. I was practicing organic farming from day one at our farm but not with a whole lot of experience. This finish to season was truly challenging my notions of whether we could farm organically. Every time a new storm approached at night I’d look out the window, worried about how much rain was on its way with this new storm. Would it be too much for our berries to handle? Would the berries split or would grey mold start and ruin our whole crop before it had a chance to fully ripen, before we had a chance to harvest? It was so stressful. In the end we did have mold, a significant percentage, but we hand sorted every bunch and made our wines. The resulting crop was smaller, however the wines ended up being a wonderful reflection of a difficult vintage. I came away from that experience with more confidence in organic farming because neighbouring Panzano farms who did not farm organically lost a lot more crop to mold than we did and we were able to keep our fruit on the vine longer which gave us a better quality wine. We fermented that harvest with native yeasts, like the previous years, even though with so much mold I had my doubts there too, doubts seeded from my university degree in enology. I am so glad I didn’t succumb, as I would have convinced myself it wasn’t possible to ferment with native yeasts in such a difficult year. I have never had another doubt about farming organically or fermenting with native yeasts after that early challenging vintage at Monte Bernardi. It was the most formative experience and has influenced how I think about everything we do both in the fields and in the winery.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti, Radda: “It is a progression/combination of experiences and of constantly changing – and challenging – vintages, that made us and our wines what they are, more than a specific point in the recent history of Val delle Corti. There are nevertheless three ‘turning points’ along it that may well represent this evolution. In 1999 my father Giorgio died quite unexpectedly and the sky – and Val delle Corti – fell on my head. No idea how to run a winery nor how to make a great wine. I just continued what I thought my father would do and added a lot of intuition of my own. But I was immensely scared. Later on I could realize that the millenium switch had exactly corresponded with the true beginning of a steady climate change. To the advantage of Radda and Val delle Corti. 2005 was the “2TP,” a difficult, rather hot but then dominantly cool year. The wine was for the first three years after picking quite undrinkable, hard, acidic, really grumpy. Desperate. And then sudden epiphany : A subtleness, an elegance, an unexpected finesse. Val delle Corti could bring out fine but complex, delicate wines. And especially on cooler, difficult, Bourgogne-reminding vintages. The proof of this came then in 2014, a cold, dark, humid, mould-haunted, devilly difficult year. We lost about 40 per cent of the crop. But what was left gave us some of the most delicate and moving wines we have ever produced. Indeed Val delle Corti identity is to be searched in the vertical dimension, must express the Radda-sangiovese straightness, vertical intensity and ‘droiture’. This is the mission we are committed to.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena, Barberino-Tavarnelle: “Michael, very difficult to give short answers to your questions, building a wine estate after the collapse of sharecropping in the late sixties has been a lifetime project where decisions taken many years ago have determined what we are today. Living on a vineyard I had to understand what the difference between animals (i.e. humans) and plants: we react and make quick decisions, changing our lives for the best (or worse…), plants (vines) cannot move and tend to adapt themselves to ever changing conditions. I think a successful vintner has to understand the needs of his vines and help them in the effort of adapting. As a result, no quick events, no life changing revelations but a vision and lots of small decision tending to make the vision become real…What Isole e Olena is now, is the result of a path I briefly resume here: 1977: In my second vintage I started to tag all sangiovese vines showing above average quality. I bought the first small new oak barrels and I started to use less white grapes in the Chianti blend. 1980: First vintage of Cepparello, pure sangiovese issued from the tagged vines (= massal selection).1982: A huge hail storm in May ended in a very limited but really excellent quality: Mother Nature was showing me that we were producing too high yields. 1986: After the Italian wines “methanol scandal”, a five days meeting with a group of young new vintners discussing how to overcome the crisis and invest in territorial vines, this was really a mind opening experience. 1987: Planted my first new vineyard, higher density of plantation, an in depth study of the soils of the estate (what today is called “zoning”). Rootstock were field grafted with all the best vines tagged in the ten years period. This has really been the foundation vineyard of Isole e Olena of the future. 1990s: Micro-vinifications of single vines grapes in order to select the best individuals among the previously tagged vines. 2001:Fiirst new vineyard planted entirely with our own selections. 2011: The research on local strains of yeasts and the importance of social insects in preserving them from year to year: defining how the origin is a much deeper concept involving all the life around our vineyard. 2010/2020: Working on canaiolo the same path of research done with sangiovese, more and more convinced how important canaiolo is to give the real Chianti Classico expression.”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella, Greve: “Since joining Querciabella in 2010, the turning point for me was around the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Thanks to our hard work with our plant based biodynamics, I feel we reached a great understanding of the minute details of our vineyard sites and consequently we started to truly express their uniqueness. This particularly applies to our Sangiovese which we grow in the 3 different sub zones in the three communes. In the cantina, with the same meticulous attention to details we fine-tuned our winemaking to really bring to life these unique characteristics in our wines. For the first time in 2016 our blend of 60+ single vineyard micro-fermentions from Greve, Radda and Gaiole were aged predominately in larger oak vessels (500L and 3000L) as opposed to smaller barrels (225L). These finer details, such as this gradual transition of the oak vessels sizes, are all just some of the small steps we continually take to optimise our expression of Sangiovese moving forward.”

 

The tendency of over-extracting during the maceration process and the fixation on the amount of polyphenols in the wine, the more the better, were as we say in Italy, “peccati di gioventù.”

  Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia

 

Rushing belongs to humans and not to nature, always respect conditions and the needs of nature, never force time and wait patiently

  Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri

 

I’ve made a lot of mistakes – I’ve been in wine for 30 years now, but what I remember was bottling a white wine that’s not ready yet, very good to drink but ugly to look at

  Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

 

Quality could be defined in different ways. In my way complexity with balance became the absolute priority, well above power

   Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

 

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi introduces the Mocceni Estate

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make form your property?

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “We have learned to trust the vine, the specific vineyard, more than anything else. Years ago, when we did not produce cru wines, if the wine form a very good vineyard did not taste as we expected, we would blend it. Through time we have learned to believe in the vineyard and even if it may be disappointing in a specific moment, it will eventually show its personality. It is a matter of time. Of course every vintage is different but the essence does not change. We have learned to trust sangiovese 100 per cent; Mocenni has a soil and a microclimate that produces outstanding sangiovese, the essence of the Chianti Classico tradition. We have learned not to generalize. Attention to details can make a huge difference – giving specific attention to each vineyard; they need to be treated differently even if a few meters apart.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “The market is always asking for “news” and the pressure is always on our neck for “new” things to bring on the market but when you learn to take the time you need to reach your goals you feel better and your products are of much higher quality and integrity.”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “Mistakes? Well, I have always made them in every aspect of my life! Yet, I’m an optimist and I’m always ready to accept and to learn from them…! The major mistakes I have done are related to timing. Each time I tried to force nature and its course because I was in a hurry, it always created problems for me and I needed to wait double the initial time to resolve it! In particular I have one memory. Once I had to bottle for one of my customers who was in a hurry but conditions were not right. It was a cold winter, early January, our basic cellar has no heating system, as a consequence the temperature was too cold! When the wine left its warm concrete tank the thermic shock was so important that the wine needed double the normal amount of time to refine before it could reach its perfect balance! Rushing belongs to humans and not to nature, always respect conditions and the needs of nature, never force time and wait patiently. In Lamole,  more than in other areas, temperature is an important factor, especially if cold! ( this for sure was a simple mistake. At the time I was a beginner wine producer and was afraid to loose an important order. However, what an important lesson for was it for me!)

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Quite a few and one constantly learns. Adapting to making a 100 per cent sangiovese compared to always having our five to 10 per cent merlot and cabernet added changed the oak ageing quite a bit. Wine making is constantly evolving, better methods, less intervention.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “I make mistakes every day. Luckily they haven’t been too relevant – until now … In 2014 I had a stainless steel vat which was refusing to start fermenting. I introduced a long infrared heating lamp from above, wanting to pierce the one-meter thick skin layer in order to reach the liquid most underneath. But the skins where so thick and solid, that the lamp didn’t make it through and turned up again, unseen in the skins. I lit the lamp and went out or dinner with my wife. When we came back some 3 hours later, we so already by parking the car thick smoke coming slowly out of the outdoor part of the cellar. The vat was slowly burning, the skins, dried out by the overheating of the big lamp, caramelized and finally took fire. I had invented a new way to give premium wine a ‘toast’ scent without investing fortunes in useless and redundant new french barriques …Only old wood should come in touch with our sangiovese.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “Most times, even mistakes become clear time after they have been made when you realize the vines have taken a different direction from the one you wanted…When my genetical work started to show huge improvements, I got very excited with the the results and planted some vineyard with very limited genetical richness. The consequence: The wines from those vineyards showed high quality but lack of complexity. The lesson: Quality could be defined in different ways. In my way complexity with balance became the absolute priority, well above power and in the more recent vineyards I planted good material but as diverse and rich as possible.”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “Probably underestimating our vines ability to handle the vintage extremities. In the last decade that I have been here in the valley, I have witnessed diverse climate changes and challenges that Mother Nature has thrown at us, forcing us to pay even more attention in the vineyards. Thanks to our plant based approach to biodynamics, we have become more knowledgeable and responsive. For example, the lessons we learned by handing the warmth of the ’11 and ’12 vintages, which produced some spectacular wines, allowed us to make even better wines in ’15 and ’17 which had similar conditions. The cooler ’14 vintage with its challenges resulted in us deciding not to release our Camartina, Palafreno and Turpino. But out of it came our Chianti Classico and Riserva which were produced in smaller quantities but still of the highest quality as expected at Querciabella.”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “Mistakes are useful to improve and to learn that working hard is a must. When I was young sometimes in the winemaking I was looking more for extreme limits than harmony and balance but getting older with maturity I realized that it was a mistake.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “At the end of the 90s and beginning in 2000 we started to use barriques on Il Poggio. I remember in particular the vintage 2001 when we decided to age the wine entirely in new oak barriques. The wine was overpowered by the oak. It took almost 10 years to rebalance the oak. Now it is a beautiful wine, the wine won over the oak, but for sure was a winemaking mistake that made us learn how careful we need to be in picking the right type of oak for sangiovese. It also taught to us that sangiovese needs its time, we can not force it, we need to wait and the bottle aging is so important. This is way we do not release Il Poggio before five years from the harvest, with a minimum of two years in bottle.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “I cannot count the mistakes made in these 28 years. I am considered a hands on education program. Only curious people make mistakes and learn from them.”

Marco Firidolfi-Ricasoli, Rocca di Montegrossi

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “To be wrong and admit your own errors is a big help to improvement. Certainly, in agriculture the climate/weather has a big influence on the final results, so if it difficult to rate this single variable. You can make predictions, but at the end some choices based on the weather trend are all very similar to “small bets.” What I’ve learned in all those past years is trying to listen to the people and professionals that are your consultants but at the end taking the final decision for yourself. But in the end, those who come with the smallest mistakes have the best results! I don’t think I’ve done any big or unfixable mistakes in my winemaking history. But I can recall the last one, last year, when I have left a little too much grape on few vineyards. The fortunate thing is that the weather in September was so favourable that nonetheless the grapes managed to ripen very well and given an excellent result. I still need to get the hang of the guyot, which is more productive than the cordone. This year, I  have certainly learnt a lesson …”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “In 1997 when we moved production to the new winery we also started using commercial yeast and for a few vintages we had serious problems of reductions, stuck fermentations and Brettanomyces.  Going back to biodiverse fermentations with a starter of grapes from our vineyards turned out to be all that was needed to solve these problems. Also, with Sangiovese the wines fermented with their own yeast tend to be more complex.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “In 1980 my father planted many hectares of vineyards, with the aim of obtaining quality grapes, but with an obsolete technique and agricultural vision. With the new vinicultural knowledge and from the observation of our vineyards we decided to renew most of those vineyards with the new goal of “excellence” so more plants per hectare, extremely careful attention and parcel control of the individual vineyards to let every single soil express at its best. Actually I do not feel like to say that we made mistakes, surely we were and are in continuous growth and every day we work hard to be better than the day before using all the experience collected in these almost 50 years of Rocca delle Macìe.”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The mistakes I have made are the typical mistakes of youth when you are trying hard to leave your own imprint in your management and make things in the different way than before. Mind you some of the innovations, like the organic farming or preserving the estate genome by planting all the different varietals found in the old share cropping vine lanes, were good decisions. Others like the tendency of over-extracting during the maceration process and the fixation on the amount of polyphenols in the wine, the more the better, were as we say in Italy, “peccati di gioventù.” In time you come to understand that in order for a wine to be great, and I am quoting Paul Trimbach here, it needs only three main features; balance, balance, balance.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes – I’ve been in wine for 30 years now, but what I remember was bottling a white wine that’s not ready yet, very good to drink but ugly to look at.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “Every day we have to work with nature and every day we can try to predict the future, but each moment it is the nature, clime, etc. that make the change and the more we grow the more we have to listen to them. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important to be organic, fill the nature and follow it instead of “acting and trying to contrast them.”

 

I do believe that Gran Selezione must be a single vineyard

  Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto

 

It is again the nature that make the first difference. The second important moment is the work in the cellar where we wish to find in our wines the terroir and the vintage

  Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia

 

The quality and style of the wine, at the end, is more important than the classification!

  Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli

 

So you see Michele, we have been producing a ‘Gran Selezione’ already for 45 years now…”

   Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti

 

The endless complexities that come from the different villages is a very unique situation for us in the Chianti Classico

   Manfred Ing, Querciabella

 

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono

What defines your reasoning in how you produce Riserva and other then aging time, what truly differentiates it from your Annata? 

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “We make Riserva selecting each year the best vineyards or part of vineyards for that vintage. We do a partial early harvest in those vineyards and pick the grapes for Riserva last, usually in early October at the end of harvest. The next step is after a first year of aging when we do the final selection (…la vera grande selezione ) of the lots that will be part of the blend. Usually at that point we finalize the Annata blend and reincorporate some of the Riserva lots in it. Compared to the Annata the Riserva has more stamina, more body, denser tannins. With Annata we want a fresher expression, with Riserva a much deeper one.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “Obviously our Gran Selezione wines refine more in wood than the Riservas, but the important thing is that for us, in addition to being produced with proprietary grapes, they are also derived from selections of individual vineyards. Our Riserva black label is the result of all our terroirs as a selection of the best grapes from our vineyards as well as the Chianti Classico Annata, but obviously we use grapes from younger vineyards, with the aim of obtaining fresher wines with great fruit, but also more adaptable to every palate and meal.”

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The three wines have different purposes in my opinion. When we make the blending for the Annata the main feature we think the wine should have is “serbevolezza,” which is a similar concept to one expressed by the French word “digestible,” often used by Eric Asimov to describe wines which are easy to drink without being simple. A Chianti Classico Annata should be first and foremost “serbevole,” allowing the wine to be paired with many different dishes without smothering them. It’s like those great Hollywood actors who were often used in supporting roles because they could play different parts in such an amazing way and without overshadowing the main star of the movie. I have a soft spot for these wines and they are probably the ones I drink most. When you make the blending for the Riserva instead your are trying to make a wine that will not be ready to drink right away but which will disclose its qualities slowly over time. It will not have the same versatility of the Annata therefore it should be paired with more structured dishes which one does not usually eat everyday. If I can make a whisky comparison our Riserva is our best “blended,” even if it is made nine times out of 10 with only Sangiovese from a selection of grapes coming from multiple vineyards. If the Riserva is the winery’s best “blended” then our Gran Selezione are the winery’s Single Malts. In this case it’s not the winemaker showing his blending skills by mixing the different vineyards together but the single vineyard expressing herself in a more natural and distinctive way. The only evaluation the winemaker needs to make before bottling is if the vineyard has expressed her character distinctively enough in that specific vintage in order to be allowed to be bottled by herself. Certain single vineyards may have a character which reminds more of the Annata, others more of the Riserva, but the important thing for me is that they should be distinctive and recognizable throughout the different vintages.”

With Iacopo Morganti of Il Molino di Grace at Castellana, Montefioralle

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “La Riserva is always an important historical wine even if when the Grand Selection arrived I would have liked not to do it again. Then I changed my idea also because the market always required that type. For me the Riserva must have the characteristics of the vintage but with a different body, greater concentration and elegance.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “One of the first differences starts since the beginning, during the picking of the grapes. The Riserva and the Annata come from the same vineyards but for the Riserva we select the best grapes. It is again the nature that make the first difference. The second important moment is the work in the cellar where we wish to find in our wines the terroir and the vintage.”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico come from two different vineyards and although both are 100 per cent Sangiovese, they reflect two different concepts and styles of wine. The soils, the specific vineyards give birth to wines with specific taste and characteristics that correspond to what we have grown to believe a Riserva and a Chianti Classico are. Calidonia, our Riserva coming from the Vineyard Signora Chiara, is a tremendously elegant wine, you can lose yourself in the glass finding the different nuances that change continuously. It is a wine that is more apt to age, a wine that you can enjoy through its evolution with continuous surprises. The Riserva is intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable. You have to discover her sip after sip. La Ghirlanda, Chianti Classico Annata, is a bit easier to understand, more fruit forward, you can drink it young and yet you can keep it for some years in your cellar and enjoy its elegant evolution. La Ghirlanda is like a book that you read to relax, it gives you the joy to travel with your imagination through the Chianti Classico region; its sunny climate, its hills, its landscape.”

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “I have been among those producers of Chianti Classico favouring for the introduction of Gran Selezione because Riserva was not representing anymore the peak of excellence in our appellation. Chianti Classico has been going through a “revolution” in the last 25 years or more, re-inventing itself, producing among the most interesting and elegant sangiovese around the world. Having said the above you know that our grand vin Castello di Brolio is now Gran Selezione, but until 2009 it was just labelled Chianti Classico (Not Riserva) although from a production and quality point of view nothing has changed from before or after 2010 in the way we produce it. The quality and style of the wine, at the end, is more important than the classification!”

Deep into Greve there is Lamole ~ Tasting at Casole with Susanna Grassi and 17 years of @ifabbriclassico ~ what a great night in Chianti Classico

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “At I Fabbri, Riserva is produced using grapes cultivated in specific vineyards, our old vines that are located in lower altitude (450- 550m). In those vineyards (Pianaccio, Pian del Doccio, Terrazze), the first day of harvest is dedicated to the harvest of the best grapes which will be vinified separately to be bottled as Riserva. A longer ageing in French oak tonneaux of 12 months completes the process. Our recipe? Specific vineyards, selected grapes and longer ageing. On the other hand, our Chianti Classico Annata from the same vineyards is produced with the rest of the grapes and the wine has a different ageing: French oak tonneaux for 50 per cent of the wine and traditional concrete tanks for the other 50. Other Chianti Classico (Lamole and Olinto) are produced with different vines, the one located in highest elevations (630-680m) and the wine produced is aged just in traditional concrete tanks.”

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Each vineyard parcel is picked on its own and fermented on its own. We have a lot of small fermentation vats to enable these selections. Generally we already have an idea before harvest which parcels will make it for Riserva or Annata or Gran Selezione, but only after the fermentation has finished do we confirm or change it. So for Riserva only the best selections of sangiovese together with a tiny bit of merlot and cabernet sauvignon are added. The Riserva then stays 24 months in barrels, about 20 per cent new oak, mostly French but usually also one 500 litre Hungarian oak tonneaux, before being bottled and then resting in bottle for another nine to 12 months.”

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “Easy answer: Single vineyard. Ever since my father’s time the higher located, wood-surrounded vineyard north of the house is the very best cru in Val delle in Corti. The Riserva selection has always come from there: 100 per cent sangiovese old clones, separately picked, fermented and aged in very old barriques and tonneaux. If we are not satisfied with the result, this selection may be downgraded back to the Chianti Classico Annata. So you see Michele, we have been producing a ‘Gran Selezione’ already for 45 years now…”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “I do not produce an official “Riserva,” not since the mid 80s, when Cepparello got well established on the market, but I think we could say that in my mind sangiovese in Chianti Classico has a great flexibility expressed in two different styles, both great. It delivers wines which are a joy as medium bodied, fresh and enjoyable in their youth, with lively acidity, easy to match with an ample array of food, even drunk slightly cool: A perfect “table wine” to be enjoyed on the table with friends, the Italian way. On the other side, wines with much more structure, which have the potential to age for a long time and gain complexity. It depends on the vineyards, the vintage, the Winemaker but both expression are as noble and great, I refuse the concept of first and second wine but rather like the idea of two different expressions. With the recent introduction of Gran Selezione I was hoping to see a home back in the Appellation for many so called “super Tuscan” whose compositions could now fit in the new appellation rules, wines where small additions of other varietals could tame sangiovese when it becomes too angular… But this is a different story and it seems it is not going to happen…”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “Starting in 2010 we introduced a new vineyard by vineyard, site by site approach to picking the grapes, micro-fermentation in 3 and 5 ton oak and cement tanks of each site, followed by separate ageing in oak barrels and tonneaux of the various lots right up until blending. What distinguishes the Riserva from the Annata is that the grape picking decisions and selections of the parcels of fruit for the Riserva not only depend on the vineyard/village as a whole, but can sometimes be the first 3 rows of vines or up until the 5th pole in the vineyard. With this more specific approach and thanks to the symbiosis of the vineyard and winemaking team, we decided to release a 100% Sangiovese Riserva from a small selection of the 2011 vintage. A special moment for us considering we stopped releasing our Riserva back in 1999. The intensity of our Riserva I think is down to a combination of parcels for fruit from the 3 different sub zones where we grow our Sangiovese. The endless complexities that come from the different villages is a very unique situation for us in the Chianti Classico where producers generally make wines from one village or hillside where their winery is situated. The ageing of the Riserva is similar to the Annata in the sense that they both age for 14-16 months in oak with just the new oak percentage being slightly higher for the Riserva (always less than 20%).”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “I don’t produce any Riserva but only Fontodi CC and Vigna del Sorbo CC Gran Selezione. The main difference is that VdS is a single vineyard, one of the most beautiful of Fontodi estate with very old vines capable to make a superior quality with more finesse and depth every year.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “Since 20 years we have vinified all our Chianti Classico parcels separately. This method (more than 50 parcels) allows us to know exactly what is going on in each single parcels vintage after vintage. Then we start to taste them blind (so not to be influenced by knowing the origin) and after several tastings we define which parcel is going into Annata and which one into Riserva. Gran Selezione is always produced in the single vineyard Il Poggio. I do believe that GS must be a single vineyard.”

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “Today i don’t think that Riserva is qualifying; Gran Selezione is the great challenge for the future, At  Le Corti we decide what is fit to age in bottle with added value at the end of vinification.

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “I do not produce Riserva. I only produce Gran Selezione. Compared with the Chianti Classico Annata (that I like to call battleship), the Gran Selezione is a single-vineyard wine from partly 50 and partly 26 year-old plants. It comes from a very strict selection, with a two to three weeks maceration at the end of the alcoholic fermentation, which is carried out in conic shaped barrels. Our Gran Selezione has the contribution of a small percentage of pugnitello which gives its special touch to the final result.”

 

However Canada has held up very well and we are very proud of this, sign of the great branding work done in the past

 Sergio Zingarelli – Rocca delle Macìe

 

Covid has confirmed our values and human relationships are fundamental in our ethos

  Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi

 

The virus, crossing fingers, is under control and sales are going back to pre-Covid

  Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

 

The situation could become very critical for many producers

  Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono

 

Vintage 2020 has been a challenge in part, many more beasts around. With the pandemic and no traffic on the main roads for nearly three months I ended up having three mamas with more than 20 little ones

  Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti

 

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia

How are things going in Chianti Classico, both from the perspective of the vintage and from the pandemic?

Sebastiano Capponi, Villa Calcinaia: “The 2020 vintage is looking good but the grape quantities will be less in Chianti Classico than last year. It will not be an early harvest, the grapes are slowly going through veraison as we speak, but if the weather holds it will be another year like 2016 or 2010. About the pandemic things are tough especially for wineries, like mine, which dealt mainly or exclusively with the HO.RE.CA. sector but the Capponi have survived the black plague of 1348 and the plague of 1630 and I am sure that we will manage to recover from the COVID of 2020.”

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace: “At the moment the vintage 2020 is good. We decided to reduce the quantity and make probably 40 per cent less like the turnover so far. In Chianti area we are probably one week in advance for the maturation but all can change in the last mount. For the pandemic we have to see what happens in September and October otherwise the problem became very big. Speriamo bene.”

Federica Mascheroni, Volpaia: “For the vintage I can give you a personal perspective. I didn’t call my winemaker who is finally taking some holiday after the difficult period we are living. The next weeks we will start with the picking of the grapes in Maremma. It looks a very nice vintage, with a nice rainfall during spring and now the good clime for the growing. In Maremma we are already planning the picking of the grapes but in Volpaia we still have in the front several weeks and you know better than me, everything is still possible. Anyhow for the moment I’m thinking it could be a good vintage, but I will talk more later. :-)”

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi, Bindi Sergardi: “The 2020 vintage started off with challenges: we faced two frosts in March that luckily did not hit us too hard (approximately five per cent production loss). Up to now Summer has not been too hot and the vines did not suffer drought due to rainfalls during Spring. The vineyards are enjoying a big difference between day and night temperatures. Quality is looking good but as always we need to wait until we harvest in October. The pandemic has hit our territory. Chianti Classico is a wine that is distributed mainly through restaurants and hotels which have been closed for some time all over the world. In Chianti Classico we all suffered the absence of foreign wine lovers and tourists. At the same time Italians started travelling again in Italy and it is great to have people from other regions coming and ‘rediscovering’ Chianti Classico. Generally speaking we faced a reduction of turnover, but if we all have a positive attitude we can overcome the difficulties. It is crucial that we all concentrate on what can be done instead of complaining about what we have lost. Covid is a challenge and a source of deep reflection. As Bindi Sergardi we focused on people. People – our team: all of us attended online courses for professional growth, we made our team feel protected and aware that we are behind them and not planning to downsize them; – People – our partners: trying to help where and when possible, listening to their difficulties and thinking of different ways to stay close to the sales team; — People – our consumers: maintained the contact as much as possible, we have opened a Wine Club with a shop on-line in order to keep them close while in safety. Covid has confirmed our values and human relationships are fundamental in our ethos.”

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

Francesco Ricasoli, Ricasoli 1141 – Barone Ricasoli: “We are close from harvest and right now (August 20th) we would need some healthy rainfall. This vintage could turn out such as a 2017 or also another excellent vintage (if it rains). COVID-19: Still too early to say but for the majority of quality wine producers it has been (and still is) a big problem because of the shut down of HORECA. For the lucky few that sell to supermarkets it has been a double digit growth. Let’s see what happens in autumn…”

Susanna Grassi, I Fabbri: “The vintage in Lamole seems very nice, however we have to wait until the grapes are in the cellar. We had a nice spring, good water in late spring and now there is an alternation of hot and rainy days. Finger crossed, we will see! Pandemic has affected the Chianti Classico wine and zone. The area is empty, no tourism, which is an important factor for our economy; sales have been affected due to the lockdown of restaurants, especially for small “niche” wineries that don’t have any access to the supermarkets. I personally think e-commerce can be a good opportunity…but…this is another skill to add!”

Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, Le Fonti: “Generally it is going ok-ish here. We continued working in the vineyards and cellars throughout the whole time and got lots of things done in the vineyard and olive groves due to the good weather and no outside distraction as visitors or wine fairs… since mid-July there has been quite a busy European and domestic tourism for wine tastings and tours. Vintage 2020 has been a challenge in part, many more beasts around. We normally have about three to four wild boars coming around all year around, with the pandemic and no traffic on the main roads for nearly three months I ended up having three mamas with more than 20 little ones (who are now not so little anymore and starting to eat). Adding to that a bit of mildew (oidium) which luckily we managed to control. If all goes well we should have quite a fine 2020 harvest by end of September. fingers crossed.”

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

Roberto Bianchi, Val delle Corti: “Difficult situation. We have lost some 6 months of sales and we are all concerned about the risk of speculation on the wine price in hls. Cellars are still full and picking is approaching. Bottling wolves are already howling in the distance …We are lucky, ’cause we produce wines which get excellent while aging, so a longer bottle aging period can only be positive. Will all the small producers be able to resist or will they have to sell under price because they need cash ? This is the main question now, which the Consorzio has to manage now. The market will hopefully recover next year. Beside this, vintage 2020 is looking great: The big starting drought has been defeated just yesterday by long-lasting generous rain. The wished end-of-August weather break has not deceived us. Let us see and think positive.”

Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena: “2020 is not in yet, but it seems it is going to be a good vintage, regardless the fact that the climate has been challenging. Covid-19 is certainly charging a huge toll on the estates, sales are down and it will take time to recover. We are on the good side though as at least we have a product which in fact improves in quality if it stays a little longer in the cellars. It is for me very difficult to imagine the long term effect of this disaster, but I think I’m not alone. We will need patience, time and lot of fantasy…”

Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi: “Things are going much better. The virus, crossing fingers, is under control and sales are going back to pre-Covid. At the end of July sales of CC appellation is -10 per cent in comparison with 2019. Regarding the vintage, we have great expectations. The grapes are healthy and ripening well, one week in advance than last year. The vineyards benefit of the extra time that all the vintners dedicated them because the lack of wine fairs and promotional trips.”

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto: “The 2020 vintage started with a mild winter, the spring was mild in March, cooler in April but without frost problem in our area. May was beautiful and fresh, June with several days of rain which helped the vines. July has been warm but without extreme temperatures. First two weeks of August very hot (35-38°) …grapes look great … but for my superstitious attitude I am not adding anything else ’till all the grapes are in the cellar :-). The markets situation due to Covid : April and May have been really difficult months … most of the markets (with the exception of Northern Europe , like Denmark, Norway, Germany and Belgium ) slowed down dramatically. In June we started to see a reaction, also in Italy. July closed with the same income of last year and August started with a great increase in orders. Of course we are suffering in the on-premise business worldwide but most of our importers react to the situation addressing their sales to different channels. In Italy, where we lost 90 per cent of the on-premise business in April, May and until the beginning of June, we see in the last two months an encouraging recovery of restaurants business. Of course we all are praying that there will not be a second wave…”

Manfred Ing, Querciabella: “After a typical warm Tuscan summer, in the last week of August we received some welcome rain which is setting us up for a pretty special vintage after optimal spring conditions. I’m incredibly happy with our first few barrels of Chardonnay and Pinot bianco for Batar 2020 that are fermenting away… so fingers crossed for the rest of season. It’s the best we can hope for after what has been a challenging year for everyone with this pandemic. At Querciabella were are always concerned about the wellbeing of those around us and we took the whole situation very seriously.  We implemented all measures suggested to contain the spreading of the virus, some of our colleagues were granted parental leave to look after their children and families, and we had to adopt different schedules and spilt shifts in the cellar to guarantee the basic operations. Of course, all trips and events have being cancelled or postponed until further notice, so we are starting to evaluate new strategies and diverse business opportunities. We are confident that we’ll come back with a strong proposition once the situation improves. Personally, I got to spend more time with my kids and wife which was quite special looking back on it.. And after all, if you had to be under lockdown, may as well be in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world ;)”

With @principecorsini at Le Corti and the many varied shades of his sangiovese. The genesis of San Casciano, right here, as always, right now.

Duccio Corsini, Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti: “2020 vintage looks good; the colouring of the grapes started some 10 days ahead of normal (17th of July). All can still happen but I feel it will be a good year with some 20% less production due to a front in the beginning of April. The Covid ’19 is hitting very bad. Chianti Classico system showed clearly the week points; Mostly exported. Mostly sold to restaurants. Very long and expensive sales system where were most of the margin is left to middle people. At villa Le Corti we were already organized with a good shop online for consumers and a new b2b online platform for the Italian restaurant that reopened. That said we lost only 40% of sales.”

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, Rocca di Montegrossi: “In Chianti Classico region I can’t say, but for Rocca di Montegrossi things are going well. The first semester of sales have even registered a slight increase than in 2019. During the first three months of 2020 and in the month of June we have sold very well and this allowed us to make up for the -50 per cent of April and -33 per cent of May. So I can’t really complain! So far, the vintage is very promising, but anything can still happen. However, May, June and July had quite cool night average temperatures and moderately warm days, so this has kept the grape in perfect condition. Now it is very warm and we would need some rains … let’s hope to get some rain because a few vineyards are starting their suffering, and I suffer with them …”

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, Badia a Coltibuono: “The vintage is very promising, and conditions are ideal. The rest is very problematic. Even though Italy did a good job of controlling the pandemic the effects of the lockdown on restaurants and the reduced tourism are having a major impact on sales in Italy. Export markets are also affected by the pandemic again because the closure of restaurants. The situation could become very critical for many producers.”

Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macìe: “The 2020 vintage is anticipated in all phases, and we are not experiencing any phyto-sanitary issues. Certainly the production this year will not be huge, but for the moment there are all the conditions for a hot but very high quality harvest. As about Covid ,Italy is in great recovery since June, unfortunately there is not the same scenario in the US, one of our main markets. However Canada has held up very well and we are very proud of this, sign of the great branding work done in the past.”

Good to go!

godello

The Gallo Nero of Luiano

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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