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

WineAlign

Gaiole’s great nuance

Gaiole Sangiovese

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

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

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

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

Badia a Coltibuono’s Roberto Stucchi

Related – They say all roads lead through Greve

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

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

Related – San Casciano’s nascent time in Chianti Classico

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

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

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

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

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

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($27.99)

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

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

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

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

Ancient Fluvial Terrace of the Ricasoli Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

Casa Al Vento Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG FOHO 2015

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

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

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

Fietri Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

Fietri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

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

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

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

I Sodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($29.95)

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

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2016

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

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Seretina 2015

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

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($29.85)

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

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

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

Riecine winemaker Alessandro Campatelli

Rietine Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

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

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Rietine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

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

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

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

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

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

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

San Vincenti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($35.00)

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

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

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Rialzi 2015

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

Good to go!

godello

Gaiole Sangiovese

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign