Gambero Rosso’s red wine of the year leads a vertical tasting of Argiano’s Vigna del Suolo

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Just up the road endures the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. The eyes can’t help but peer that way, from the red carpet on the Via della Conciliazione sidewalk and out through the windows of the Chorus Cafè inside the Auditorium della Conciliazione. It is the morning of October 15th, 2021, first of a three day festeggiamento for the top wines of Italy, special awards ceremonies, Guida Vini d’Italia 2022, grande degustazione Tre Bicchieri weekend. The first of three intimate vertical tastings takes place as Gambero Rosso welcomes Argiano CEO and Oenologist Bernardino Sani for a rear-view mirror guardare indietro at the Montalcino estate’s optimum soli affectionately referred to as Vigna del Suolo. In the whole of Italy Argiano Brunello di Montalcico DOCG Vigna del Suolo 2016 is the Gambero Rosso Red Wine of the Year for 2022.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Argiano vertical tasting at Chorus Café, Roma – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano 1580

Exactly. A functional wine cellar dating back to the later 1500s. With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The name is thought to derive from the first settlements in Roman times – ‘Ara Janus’, referring to the god Janus. Another potential origin could be ‘the land of the River Orcia’ – known in ancient times as ‘Orgia’ and therefore Argiano. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m.

With Bernardino Sani, CEO and Oenologist, Argiano

In 1992 the estate resettles into the hands of Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and the wines under the peerless oenological tutelage of Giacomo Tachis. Fast forward to the present, a transfer of ownership and also company direction in 2013 into the hands of Bernardino Sani, who from 2015 is also responsible for making the wines. Argiano practices an organic and sustainable method of agriculture. Since 2019 Argiano is the first company in Montalcino to become plastic-free. All single-use plastics have been eliminated. The team consists of CEO & Winemaker Bernardino Sani; Agronomist & COO Francesco Monari; Cellar master Adriano Bambagioni; Winemaking assistant Roberto Caporossi; and Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi.

Marco Sabellico – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community, finding permanence and always seeking to endure. As do their makers and protectors.

Gambero Rosso and Argiano – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The Argiano 1580 vertical tasting includes 1971, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2006, 2015 and the Red Wine of the Year Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016. Gambero Rosso’s tasting lead and renaissance man of three decades Marco Sabellico opens the dialogue. “These are wines that give us special emotion,” he submits and then parleys to Bernardino Sani who declares “we look to make a wine that is terroir-driven, very respectful of the vines, the environment and this amazing, beautiful place.” Vigna del Suolo is the finest parcel, rich in limestone. Though Sani wants to make a wine almost Piedmontese or Bourguignons he ultimately creates one that is local, parochial, Montalcinese.

Gianni Fabrizio – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Gambero Rosso is more than just a leading platform for content, training, promotion and consultancy in the Italian Wine Travel Food sector. It offers a complete range of integrated services to reach potential success in agricultural, agri-food, catering and Italian hospitality sectors, with a significant contribution to the constant growth of the economy. Gambero Rosso organizes international events such as the Tre Bicchieri World Tour, the most prestigious cycle of events dedicated to the excellence of Italian wine in the world, the Top Italian Wines Roadshow or Vini d’Italia Tour.

Lorenzo Ruggeri – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The sentiment can never be overstressed, to bear witness and to participate in exclusive if once in a lifetime vertical sessions. To be gifted not just tasting opportunities but to be privy to ever evolving history, connectivity to tracts of land and to the people who’s hands shape the vines and wines. Grazie tantissimo for this opportunity Luigi (Gigi) Salerno (CEO/GM), Paolo Cuccia (President), Marco Sabellico and Gianni Fabrizio (Authors, Editors and Curators of Vini d’Italia guide), Tiina Eriksson (International Business & Event Manager), Lorenzo Ruggeri (Author and International Editor), Michela Ricotta, Giuseppe Carrus (Author and co-editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide) and Crystel Barkany. My notes cover the seven wines.

Argiano vertical tasting, October 16, 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2016

Immediately showing an increased freshness, purity, lift and while only a year removed from 2015 the change in understanding of how to work with Vigna del Suolo is so readily apparent. Cherry as a solo artist, perfect, ripeness of idealism through phenolic development. Quality like the previous vintage but an easier vintage to manage with ample quantity. Low nighttime temperatures allowed for late October picking because sangiovese can go on forever when the autumn lingers such as it did. The barrels were by now a year (literately) older and (figuratively) later, inserting less oxidation and the freshness is truly a super scintillant matter, perfumed and of utter clarity radiating through. Sapidity, equilibrium and pitch perfect acidity will conspire to take this long and deep. 5,000 bottles produced. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted October 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

It begins with Bernardino Sani. “We wanted to make a wine representative of Argiano, of five centuries, it’s history and this oldest Montalcino vintage.” The clones are now being studied because tells Sani “we want to copyright them.” Not the most powerful Brunello and one to mimic or imaginatively replicate the 1580 castle tower in the emotion of those in Firenze and Roma. Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is helping with the soil analysis, looking to directives for finest parcels and positional planting. This led to splitting Argiano’s terroir into five distinct parcels, with 2014 being the first, even if it was not the finest vintage to do so. And so ’15 marks the true beginning of Vigna del Suolo’s new era. Not the vintage of the century but challenging, dry and warm, resulting in elegance, purity of perfume, complexity of citrus spice and specifically the dried and candied peel of an orange. Salty too, so proper for sangiovese, warming, chocolate shavings on the finish. Aged in newly employed 50 hL Garbellotto casks, albeit relatively neutral.  Last tasted October 2021

The vineyard down below is appositely named in apropos significance because the sentiment is high, lightning struck and quick as a whip. Crunchy and earthy fruit is ripe and near delirious, tripping the lights and adding fantasy to an already heady if effusive substance fantastic. So much going on in complex waves, severities and notions. Will transfer and oscillate, groove and titillate for a decade to come. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2006

The Argiano change in ownership happened in the 1990s and the ’06 was made in the ’90s and early 2000s footsteps ways of winemaker Giacomo Tachis who was chiefly responsible for the change in the making of the wines of the time. The introduction of barriques was the main alteration, looking for concentration, oak flavours and power. Considered a five-star vintage at the time and while others may have been moving away from the style, Argiano was still in the throes. Plenty of fruit here 15 years on, berries, plum and orange but also balsamico and a truly luxe and lush feeling sweeping across the palate. Chewy, like fruit leather, lingering oak flavours in and out of every crevice, crease and corner. A wine as a sign of the times in really fine shape. No Riserva or single vineyard wines were made at this time.  Drink 2021-2023. Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1980

The beginning of shorter maceration times and fruit taken from what is today Vigna del Suolo and its surroundings. Three years in Grandi Botti, the beginning of what would become the modern era of Brunello elévage. More development than 1979, a concentration of fruit in all iterations; mainly bosco but also noci secche (dried nuts). Not so much a fungi vintage but more perhaps a salumi or charcuterie one, with a woolly note of pecorino. This is surely a result of the maceration intendment and style therefore the development on the nose outpaces the palate. Quite tannic, present, a structured wine, still able to age. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979

A cooler vintage, especially as compared to 1978 and truly a Piedmontese style because the cellar workers closed the tanks, went on strike and returned two months later. Resulted in some carbonic maceration and surely an increased amount of vim in freshness. That mixed with true porcini, fungi and fennochiona. The extended maceration makes this act 43 years forward like an older nebbiolo, rich and once demanding tannins now long since melted away, tar and roses still showing with earthly perfume. Fabulous mouthfeel, lingering and lively. Surely the mean steak astringency would have been in control during the first 10 to 15 years but the beast relents and gives way to charm. Patience breeds gentility and the story is now unfolding. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Nosing 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1978

Considered a great vintage, cold winter, wet spring and warm summer. Wine production had recently been updated and modernized for the time and the harvest took place in the second week of October. Thirty days of fermentation in cement tanks. Youthful aromatics, perfumed, definite frutta di bosco, apricot and dried orange. Lovely developed spice in a wine showing as well as it can possibly be. Pitch perfect dual, duelling acidities for your palate and emotion. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1971

The back label sports a phrase from Italian poet Carducci who after having a bad experience at home drank a glass of Argiano to lift his spirits. A warmer, classic Montalcino vintage. From a time when aging would have been done in Grandi Botti (likely 5000L) and even some chestnut oak. Piedmontese style fermentation and set up for long aging. High acidity, elevated volatility and notable rustic. Also some TCA in this bottle but somehow a mouthfeel prevalent with energy and verve. Fun, curious and thankful for the opportunity. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Good to go!

godello

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The republic of Feudo Montoni

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

“The republic of Montoni” as it is called because the wines here come from and represent all the small surrounding villages, where unemployment can be 70-80 per cent. Towns where more and more of the population is aging as all the young go away. Montoni as custodian of heritage, 550 years of grape-growing tradition, located 80 kilometres southeast of Palermo in Contrada Montoni Vecchi, Cammarata, Agrigento.

So good to be back at #feudomontoni with @SicilyMelissaM and @FabioSireci ~ My naive melody ~ feet on the ground, head in the sky, it’s ok I know nothing’s wrong. ~ #thismustbetheplace

Related – Notes from 2019 Sicilia en Primeur

“Today there is nothing you can think of as six centuries ago,” is how Fabio Sireci begins a narration on the history of family and land. After the fall of the local aristocracy is when his grandfather took over this farm. Today the surrounding fields of durum wheat are gone and resemblance is but a thing of mythology and tales set to memory. “If you see some it’s as if they were genetically born in a laboratory.” Though Fabio Sireci has little interest in wheat, he does have a master plan for grapes.

Nero d’Avola vine and propaginato in the Vrucara Vineyard

Vrucara is Fabio’s pre-phylloxera plot perpetuated to nero d’avola vines, some as old as 120 years. There they sit in their sandy soils, fit, stoic and regal. Their youngest children are already mature at 40 years. The babies are not yet plants of true concern, children of propaginato, propogated by the bending down of older canes buried into the sand from parents on either side of a missing vine. They will carry the torch one day and keep this storied vineyard alive. Sicily’s future depends upon it.

The dogs of Montoni

A turning point in the Feudo Montoni timeline involved a meeting with the oenologist Giacomo Tachis. The legend of Italian winemaking was most famous for bringing Bordeaux to Tuscany but he was also instrumental in helping Sireci understand the purest relationship between varietal and place. There was a clear idea of needing to meet him even while affording the consultant costs was still in question. But Montoni’s vines were known going five to six centuries back in time and in fact it was agronomist Andrea Bacci’s 15th century book published in Chianti Classico’s San Casciano in Val di Pesa that mentions the vines of this Sicilian place. “Vines large enough that you could wrap your arms around the trunk,” he wrote. Old vines, noted Tachis, as opposed to those in vineyards where humans do all they can to keep the vines short. “They are almost never trees.” And so he convinced Fabio to do as his father and his grandfather did. Propaginato.

Fabio Sireci in the wild

“The most important thing that makes our wines different or better than others is the richness of heritage,” explains Sireci. Genetics and altitude plus “we have 350 days of light.” It can be extremely hot but with the prevailing winds the days may be warm but the nights are cool, even in August. “Questi elementi,” he continues, “they stop the fermentation process. In Sicily the pH can be as high as 3.8 to 4.0 but in our hills it’s more like 2.8, giving us higher acidity, freshness but also longevity.”

Montoni

Varietally speaking

The grapes catarratto, grillo and inzolia form the basis of the white Montoni masala. They are planted higher and grown with greater fervour. “Our catarratto is greener and fresher. The high acidity and saturation is felt on the palate,” with thanks to that low pH. “We are organic,” he admits but sometimes shies away from the discussion because “it has become a complicated word. I’m afraid of farms that look manicured and perfect.”

A walk through Fabio’s vineyards is all you need to know about organics. Perfectly groomed and tidy rows? Not so much. At Montoni the proper reaction to perfection is wild legumes, grasses, weeds, herbs and all the salad ingredients you could pick growing wild and free. Elegante e selvaggia. Fields blessed by the pazza luna, the crazy moon.

Feudo Montoni Catarratto Masso Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Masso is the cru, “conglomerate stone,” from the soil. Fermented in cement, locked in for and with freshness, sapid and ultra fresh. In 2018 it rained every 10 days, including during harvest so the aromatics are an about face from 2017, a vintage that saw no rain from March to October. What was a relative tropical 2017 is now an herbal, verdant 2018, with aromatics filled by wild finnocchio, fava, honeysuckle, chick pea and lentil. So to speak. Great freshness and so linear, with more age potential. More lime in ’18 and sapidity but only having tasted ’17 will you heed to that belief. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019.

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy (539932, $22.95)

‘Tis a perfumed vintage for inzolia in Montoni’s world and while the length of time for its stay in stainless is not defined, it remains at service, ready when ready and different every year. If it’s floral so be it with thanks to the blooming heather or in this property’s case, the purple honeysuckle. Another indigenous wine extended from the pied de coup, wildly elegant and yet so simple. Will gain some honey and more flinty strike with a few years in bottle. “And we’ll all go together.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

Like the cattaratto and the inzolia the aromatics have turned 180 degrees in ’18 from the wet year, with linearity and direct to the senses notes. Still the fresh squeeze of lemon gets you quick, with smiling spirit. A wholly soulful grillo that will keep you woke and alive. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Di Adele Sicilia DOC 2018, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

“For you Adele I will pull out all the thorns and put in roses.” This from Fabio Sereci’s father to his mother. Also symbolic for bringing a vineyard back to life. The only wine not named after a cru, but after mama, the mama, the only mama. The “roses of Adele.” The most sapid, herbal, linear and did I mention sapid Rosé in the these parts and any nearby and far away. Take nerello mascalese, grow it in the wilds of Feudo Montoni and this is the result, elegant, lengthy and certainly piu sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero D’avola Sicilia DOC Lagnusa 2018, Sicily, Italy (523738, $23.95)

The cru where the nero d’avola grows, the lazy one or better yet the smart one, intelligent one who is a late starter, but when he works he’s very good at what he does. Lagnusa. Also a grape gown in clay soils from which yields are low, once a negative now very positive in terms of quality. Some concrete aging and only a short contact with mostly (approximately 80 per cent) old barrels. Another factor of a vintage, herbal, dusty, so very fennel and aromatic enhancing legumes, non marmalata, far from dense, heavy or over the edge in any possible sense of reality. Just balanced in its slightly wild, feral, cured and elegant way. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2015, Sicily, Italy ($58.00)

The en primeur nero d’avola, finished but so far from even hinting at a readiness. Wild strawberry and the dreams of aromatics to come; carob, liquorice, salumi and all the herbs. Grasses and magical things that grow in a Montoni natural world. Top quality acidity for 2015, reeling, supportive and wild. A truly structured wine and one that will resist growing old despite the passage of time. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2010, IGT Sicilia, Sicily, Italy

From Fabio Sireci’s pre-phylloxera vineyard in which some heritage nero d’avola with unparalleled root structures find water six to eight metres below the sand and clay layers. Some are as old as 120 years and still others have been raised by the Sireci method of propaginato, the bending of a heritage vine cane into the earth and then brought up as a new vine. The savoury here is fed by so many surrounding native plants, aromatic oils and how they share the terroir with the Vrucara vines. It’s a great wine, singular, mature and mellowing but done with such confidence and lessons learned. One of Sicily’s greatest wines of confidence and humility. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara Sicilia DOC 2008, Sicily, Italy

Still just a baby, curative youthful, high acidity very much in charge with an uncanny at present aroma of wild strawberry. Impactful wild fennel and roses still in bloom. Just the first stages of secondary character are upon the aromatics but structure controls the rest, all of whom still lay in wait around the next decade. We visited the queen by pickup at night where she sits on her throne, as she has for 120 years, with her children born by propaginato, over the course of all that time. Like a cavallo indonato or, if you like, non manzito. Untrained, not wanting to be fenced in, needing time to civilize, habituate and domesticate. We’ll all be long gone.  Last tasted May 2019

The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. Ma zitto, a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Feudo Montoni Perricone Sicilia DOC Core 2008, Sicily, Italy ($22.95)

The most interesting of grapes, known as guernaccia in this part of Sicily, “the grape of the farmer,” thick-skinned, disease resistant and perfect for making home made wine. Full phenolic perricone still has a green pit, picked late (in November), so Fabio cuts/crimps the vine very hard, blocking the flow of sap from the rootstock to the clusters, ostensibly creating an appassimento technique but in the vineyard, one week before harvest. Intriguing from bitter cocoa, through tobacco, carob, bokser and liquorice. You absolutely need lignification, brown stems, for whole bunch fermentation and add all this up, the grape, the techniques and the result is almost singular for any red wine in the world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy

From nero d’avola and perricone. Upwards of 200 g/L of RS. That nero liquorice and carob is magnified, hyperbolized and liquified. The acidity brings stability and re-introduces the varietal centrifuge and microcosmic sense of place to the wine. This is like the place itself, centre of some people’s necessary universe, where everything goes on and on.  Drink 2019-2029. Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Bianco IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy
From grillo with some cattaratto to elevate and manage acidity in a passito that is upwards of 136 g/L of RS. So much fruit goings on; gelid orange, caramelized orange, burnt pineapple and apricot. Just faintly nutty, surely unctuous and fine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Good to go!

godello

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

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

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

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

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

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

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

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

Related – Castellina in golden light

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

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

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

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

Querciabella

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

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

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camartina

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

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

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

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

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

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

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

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

Batter

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

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

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

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

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

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

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

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

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

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

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

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

Godello

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