Chianti Classico’s future is a three-letter word: UGA

Chianti Classico Collection 2023 – Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

 

Deconstructing Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive, getting around with Masnaghetti, what about 2021? and 245 tasting notes from the 2023 Chianti Classico Collection

When the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico officially announced the launch of their UGA project in June of 2021 a profound new journey had begun. Making that right choice at the right time has paid quick and decisive dividends because the producers, media and yes, consumer have all been quick to embrace these 11 precisely defined sectors. History will show how original and profound an idea this really was. Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive offers an opportunity to officially tell the world about location, sense of place and how estates fit into the complex puzzle of the greater territory. In Chianti Classico this fundamental approach looks at sangiovese and its Gallo Nero progenitor as fastened individuals in a community, no two exactly the same and consumers deserve to know what separates but also unites one to another. The insistence that a general public does not care is both a disservice and an insult to their ever increasing wine intelligence. Each of the 11 Chianti Classico UGAs is possessive of a set of defining characteristics and though opinion is surely varied on pinning down those exact annotations, it gives us something to work towards. What is the defining feature of Castelnuovo Berardenga? Why does Castellina express the most classic red fruit? From where does Gaiole get those specific savoury notes? Who are the sangiovese of Greve? How do we describe the perfume of Lamole? Where do the specificities of Montefioralle originate? What is the impetus for Panzano’s silky textures? What makes Radda so fresh? Why is San Casciano so unique? How is it the wines of San Donato in Poggio so often remind of red citrus? What is the definition of a Vagliagli sangiovese? The answers to these questions are as complex as the whole of Chianti Classico is beautifully mysterious. Chianti Classico’s future is a three-letter word: UGA.

Related – Chianti Classico goes to eleven

On the surface UGA as a concept or construct may not seem an original idea but consider the other famous instigators. In Bourgogne the wines are organized by burg with every Premier and Grand Cru connected by association to their Villages. In recent times additional geographical mentions have been conceived though they too fall under the auspices of the distinction. In Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero the single most important identifiable feature of those wines are what the Langhe regions refer to as MGA (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntive). The key initial is the first, that being menzione, translated to English as “mention,” a word that refers to adjunctive label notations and by extension how wines are deliberated in conversation. Cru is the real operative and in numerous cases upwards of 10 or more producers will make nebbiolo indicated by a single menzione. The UGA system is dramatically different because it is neither restricted to cru or to village. While it may incorporate aspects of both what it really does is draw geographical lines, 11 of them to be precise, that delineate and organize sets of wines that share a studied, consciously calculated and common connective tissue or traits. For the first time in the history of Chianti Classico there is now a system to charter wines produced from out of a specific geographical area to now be appraised in similar light. Looking at it deeper there can also be groupings imagined, of like-minded producers and in turn shared viticultural plus winemaking practices, in other words, wines that have something in common by virtue of extension from their pinpointed places of origin. In the beginning the aggiuntive was “Classico” and now that the next Chiantishire box has officially been opened – there is no turning back.

Chianti Classico UGA

As a reminder, the recent (June, 2021) sub-dividing of the territory will allow producers to list their sub-zone of origin on the front label of their Chianti Classico wines. In addition to the UGA, going forward the new regulations for the Gran Selezione category at the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid will be (a minimum) 90 per cent sangiovese with support by only native grapes. Current rules for Chianti Classico in all three appellative levels; Vintage (Annata), Riserva and Gran Selezione draw on the same ampelographic base: 80-100 per cent sangiovese and up to a maximum of 20 per cent of authorized native and/or international red grapes. According to the Consorzio “the exclusive use of native local grape varieties has been approved as complementary to sangiovese, since they are more expressive and representative of the production zone and of traditional Chianti wine-growing. The decisions are based on such criteria as oenological recognizability, historical authenticity, renown and significance in terms of volumes produced. The intent of the UGA to represent the excellence of the territory, thus competing, in a more incisive way, with the greatest wines in the world.”

With Alessandro Masnaghetti

Related – Forever in Chianti Classico

Much of the UGA studies and findings were completed with the priceless help of cartographer and Chianti Classico scholar Alessandro Masnaghetti. Masnagthetti’s recent publication of his volume titled  L’Atlante dei Vigneti e delle UGA (The Complete Atlas of the UGA Vineyards) is the first true opus dedicated to the Chianti Classico. His dedication to the territory is felt in the most palpable of ways, in fact he begins by dedicating the volume in a most philanhropic way. A chi ha sempre ceduto nel Chianti Classico e a chi in futuro ci crederà. “To those who have always believed in Chianti Classico and to those who will believe in it in the future.” I have written and spoke this many times before, that Chianti Classico is the future and what this region, its people and their wines have instilled in me is a passion for study, education and forward thinking not committed to any other Italian denomination, nor anywhere outside of Italy for that matter. Like Masnaghetti I always look and think ahead, to what is coming next and Chianti Classico always abides. No other place in Italy continues to grow, expand its horizons and evolve like this territory.

‘Cuz he’s the Map Man, yeah, he’s the Mapman

Related – When frost strikes, Chianti Classico responds

What about 2021?

Telling it like it is, 2021 is a vintage for the ages when we speak of Chianti Classico wines. There have been terrific years in the last 10 or so and each for different reasons but I for one have never witnessed these kind of tannins, this peculiar excitement of tension, the clarity of vernacular of post-modern structure.  As a community the wines are suggestive of culture, natural selection and suitability, sustainability and the cumulative movement towards organics. The ’21 Chianti Classico Annata make use of traditional materials and resources and more than any recent vintage open a window into what kind of Riserva and Gran Selezione will arrive when the Chianti Classico Collection 2024 is shown. It just feels like we know how special those wines will be. It is true that a good deal of Classico level 2021s will be released to the markets this year but it has been a while since the adage “sangiovese needs time in bottle” has been as more important as it is from this particular vintage. On the surface these sangiovese can be understood by anyone but there are layers to peel away, nuances and graces to uncover, but most of all they are the sort to seek secondary character and will amaze when that stage is reached. At the collection and in the weeks since I have spoken with many producers and asked for their vintage assessment.

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi – Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Alessandra Casini Bindi Sergardi – Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli: “A colder than normal Spring quarter, characterized by late April frosts, was followed by a hot summer and autumn, with the exception of October, which had typical temperatures. The most significant anomaly was observed in February, with a deviation of +2.1 °C compared to the average climate. Precipitation patterns also deviated from the norm: January and December were unusually rainy, while March, the summer quarter, and the September-October period experienced dryness. In 2021, the climate pattern was more consistent, with slightly lower temperatures and a bit more rainfall during the spring. This allowed for a longer and extended growing season. As a result, the grapes had more time to fully ripen, leading to wines with greater complexity and improved preservation of freshness. These wines exhibit a balanced acidity and, at the same time, a pronounced structure and a complex, well-defined fruit profile.

Principe Duccio Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano

Duccio Corsini – Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti, San Casciano: “Just drank some Le Corti Chianti Classico 2021. The wine is very good, may be the best made at Le Corti in the Annata category. Very much terroir of San Casciano. In one word Goloso or “digest.”

With Federica Mascheroni

Federica Mascheroni – Volpaia, Radda: “The winter was not too cold and without much rain. In April we had a very cold few days and a small frost hit us. As you know usually the frost hit more of the lower altitude vineyards, but in that moment the much higher vineyards, because of the high temperature of the previous weeks, and the plants were much farther in growing compared to the one on the bottom of the hill. Anyhow the damage was not to high maybe around a two percent. In the last few years the season are quite dry and the rain come down in a crazy way :-(, because of this (and the high temperature) we keep the vineyard with grass: Cover crop (erba medica, inerbimenti vari) and we try to don’t take out the leaf from the plant and we do smaller number of cimature. We had very strong and extreme temperature, we reached 38° C.”

Volpaia Precipitation 2021

 

Chianti Classico Rainfall 2021

Chianti Classico Harvests 2018-2021

“Luckily we were able to have a long harvest to reach a good level of sugar and acidity, it was a little bit longer compared to the normality around 10 days, a nice rain helped us to have a good product in the cellar :-). The last vintage has been quite different compared to the others. It is difficult to make a comparison with a past vintage.”

Giovanni Manetti – Fontodi, Panzano

Giovanni Manetti – Fontodi, Panzano: “2021 was amazing in Panzano – a really great vintage. A good amount of rain between the winter and the Spring perfect to build a reserve of water in the soil. Quite cold in the week after Easter after the budding out that caused a delay in the growing the vegetation. Beautiful weather in June and July with mild temperatures and very sunny and warm in August but never too hot. A thunderstorm on August 28 provided a good rehydration and cooler temperatures during the night after that. Zero pressure of fungus during the growing and ripening season. The harvest for sangiovese started after Sept. 20th starting from younger vines and the best grapes have been picked between Sept. 25th and Oct. 10th. The wines are rich, complex , well structured with high quality tannins and a good acidity. All my wines are still maturing in oak and they taste wonderful.

With Iacopo Morganti – Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Iacopo Morganti – Il Molino di Grace, Panzano: “I have my note about the climate and from this you can understand the vintage (I think) ! The winter 2021 was not too cold, but rainy until the end of March. Regular budding perhaps a little anticipated, the vines then slowed down the vegetative cycle due to a rather dry and cold April. In fact, on April 13th and 14th the temperatures dropped drastically, after an Easter with mild temperatures of 22/25 gradi celsius, and winter temperatures of -4 to -6 gradi celsius with difficult consequences for those who do our job, losing 50% of the production annual! Cazzo! (call it natural selection). The months of May and June were regular and not too hot or too cold with some rains which allowed good flowering. The summer as always very hot and dry especially July and August, but this is normal, Excellent ripening of the grapes in September and October thanks to some rains at the end of August beginning of September and also to an ideal climate with cooler temperatures at night, ventilation and sunshine during the day. All this has allowed an excellent harvest which for us began in early October, all very nice except for the quantity and for the Covid season.  From my phone I would like to send you some fire made at 4 AM from my self and the pictures of the consequence of the frost after two days. Believe me it was hard but the result is incredibly elegant quasi signorile I can’t translate. We still have all wines in oak, small production means incredible quality different from 2020 specially from the color (less) and the elegance and finesse. 2020 is more fruity and fresh more dark colour my be more easy to drink young.2021 will be a great vintage, again for me.”

Laura Bianchi – Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio

Laura Bianchi – Castello di Monsanto, San Donato in Poggio: “The summer was dry with only some sporadic rain in August, but the water reserves accumulated in the spring made it possible to avoid the stress of the plant. As for temperatures, the trend of the summer months was fairly regular without excessive heat waves. Furthermore, starting from the end of August the temperatures, while remaining quite high during the day, dropped considerably at night. This important thermal excursion has, in general, allowed an optimal completion of the ripening of the grapes. The harvest ended late on Oct. 18th.  Wines with very important structure and complex aromas, rich tannins and evident acidity, another vintage that will be able to age very well. Similar to 2019.”

Winemaker Manfred Ing – Querciabella, Greve

Manfred Ing – Querciabella, Greve: “2021 was a game of two halves. Abundant rainfall in winter was followed by ridiculously “unseasonably” warm weather in February and March, which got the vines excited and woke them up a little bit earlier than “normal”… whatever “normal” means ;). I remember clearly our first post Covid trade visitors were Canadians who came over for the early date of Chianti Classico Collection (which was moved to a later one) and they were nearly all in short sleeves after leaving Canada at minus 15C or whatever and coming over to 15C+ of gorgeous sunshine at Ruffoli. This warmth was followed by an icy cold week in April where temperatures dropped to well below zero in some parts of the valley below us. This all at a time when unfortunately some of the early ripening varieties had already burst. At the time it looked like the Chardonnay may have received a “tickle up” but it recovered well. Our reds were saved due to their higher altitudes but we did have significant losses on the coast in the Maremma. Spring was then followed by a warm, dry summer and this warmth resulted in smaller bunches and lower yields, something we have all come to get used to in these parts. Over the years of experience with these conditions we have learnt to manage our canopies and soils well to achieve perfect ripening. A small blessing from the season was the fact the vines were a little bit behind in development so there was no rush to start picking… A trap many fall into in a warm vintage! We were very fortunate as we were able to wait and wait and be patient and start to pick the Chardonnay only on the 13th of September, the latest we have ever started picking the Chardonnay at Querciabella! We got all the whites in within a week but again patience and experience told us to wait for the reds. We were then blessed with amazing rainfall at the end of September. Again, we still we waited for the Sangiovese! The biggest indicator for me was on the first of October there was still no water in the rivers and still nobody was out in the forests picking mushrooms, so we knew there was zero disease pressure and our Sangiovese would be perfectly healthy out there. So we continued to wait further, tasting regularly to get the picking dates just perfect. We started picking Sangiovese in that first week of October! It was incredible! With precision picking we made our way through the different villages from Greve, Radda, back to Greve, then back to Radda, then over to Gaiole, finishing off in our high altitude Casole terraces in Lamole on the 20th of October- so again incredibly late but with exceptional quality.”

Michael Schmelzer – Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Michael Schmelzer – Monte Bernardi, Panzano: “It was a great vintage, love the fruit aromas and the quality of the tannins plus the overall balance. I also think 2021 was also a perfect illustration of a vintage of the difference between perceived climate change problems versus poor choices in viticulture. In Panzano we had 800-plus mm of rain from January to May, nearly twice our annual rainfall (~450mm). After May, very to little rain until harvest.  If it wasn’t for a frost in five of our hectares we would have had a near record crop in 2021. We still had an abundant crop despite these five hectares bringing our average down. We had beautiful fresh aromas and quality tannins because our vines did not go under extreme stress, our viticultural choices made the difference, keeping the important leaves over our bunches, preventing them from being over exposed or burned, preserving important acidity.”

Monia Piccini – Il Palagio di Panzano

Monia Piccini – Il Palagio di Panzano, Panzano: “In winter it rained a lot, almost double the average. In terms of temperatures, the winter was slightly warmer than average. Spring 2021 as a whole recorded thermal values below average and rainfall 20 percent below average. There were extraordinarily high temperatures such as on March 31st with values close to 30°C and at the same time very low temperatures around March 20th and April 6th-10th with a strong frost. In the low hills below 250m there was severe frost damage, while in Panzano the damage was very much less than in the valley floor. Temperatures continued throughout April and May below the average by about 2°C, causing a strong delay in the vegetative restart after the frosts. At the beginning of June the vineyards had a strong vegetative delay, with flowering starting about 10-12 days later than usual. In June, temperatures recovered immediately with two small heat waves while July was only slightly warmer than average. The real heat wave of the summer occurred between 10 and 16 August, with temperatures close to 40° with sporadic burns on the leaves and uncovered bunches. The summer continued very dry, the third driest since 1955 with a rainfall deficit of over 60%. Under these conditions, the plants soon made up for most of the initial delay, but soon went into water stress as early as mid-August. The maturation went very slowly due to the lack of rain and only towards the end of September some storms allowed the plants to reach an acceptable maturity. The climatic trend favoured the production of healthy grapes. The production in our case was lower than the average for the years by a good 20 percent, in any case higher than in 2020, but in the lower hilly areas there were drops of 60-70 percent. The harvest was delayed compared to previous years in the hope to have a better maturation while waiting for rains, but the lowering of temperatures and the state of the plants prompted us not to postpone the harvest too much to avoid drying of the grapes and sugar levels that were too high. At the harvest the grapes were perfectly healthy, with high sugar values, higher acidity than usual but with good skin ripening thanks to the lower grape load compared to previous years. The new wines have very clean aromas, very ripe fruit, very high colour intensity, remarkable almost concentrated structures, dense but not dry tannins (thanks to a different vinification protocol) and marked acidity, high alcohol content.”

Sebastiano Capponi – Villa Calcinaia, Montefioralle

Sebastiano Capponi – Villa Calcinaia, Montefioralle: “The weather pattern in Chianti for 2021 was characterized by a rather cold and rainy January and February but at the same time by a very dry March with temperatures decidedly above the seasonal average, especially in the last decade, which favoured the start of budding of the vines. Unfortunately, this early spring was followed by a very cold beginning of April characterized by two-night frosts, on 7 and 8 April, which drastically reduced the number of productive buds on the plant. The thermal shock suffered by the vines and the climatic trend of the months of April and May, particularly cold and rainy, led to a delay in flowering which took place after the first ten days of June. The vegetative explosion due to the sudden increase in temperatures in June caused many difficulties in the management of the canopy but the rather dry climate in the summer months and the timeliness of the interventions did not allow the downy mildew to develop. On the other hand, the fight against powdery mildew was more problematic, also due to rather frequent ventilation which, in addition to conveying the spores of the fungus, contributed together with the absence of rain to dry out the soil. Temperatures in the summer months have always remained average with a good excursion between day and night until the days around August 15th when the African subtropical anticyclone, called Lucifer, arrived and caused severe damage to the grapes of the younger vines, which normally have a less developed canopy and a root system more sensitive to drought, especially those planted on plots with western and southern exposure where the afternoon sun has hit the most. Due to the combination of the frost in April, the sunstroke in August and the summer drought, the production was very small in quantity and the harvesting time went back to ancient times when Sangiovese was rarely picked before the month of October.  The lack of water in the soil, which certainly led to a physiological slowdown of the vine, in certain vineyards the veraison of Sangiovese was completed in early September, and the persistent absence of rain in September and October in the Val di Greve combined though with an optimal thermal excursion between day and night favored a rather balanced maturation even if slowed down by the drought. Our harvest began on 23 August with the harvest of Sangiovese grapes to produce our sparkling Mauvais Chapon and ended for the red grapes on 6 October with the last Sangiovese vineyard and on 26 October for the white grapes with the Tor Solis vineyard located at 720 meters above sea level. Thanks to a meticulous and painstaking selection in the vineyard we were able to eliminate almost all the grapes dried out by the August sun. Musts, in fact, are generally characterized by a fairly high sugar content, but lower than those of 2017, and by a nice freshness, a non-trivial element to obtain and maintain in a vintage like this.”

Related – Chianti Classico is the future

The highlight of the Chianti Classico Collection took place at the for the premier screening of La Leggenda del Gallo Nero, “The legend of the Black Rooster.” Al canto del gallo, corri veloce cavaliere. Domani la guerra sarà finita e il vino abbonderà nei calici. Avete già visto il nostro film sulla storia del Gallo Nero? Vi sveliamo la leggenda! “At the crowing of the rooster, run fast knight. Tomorrow the war will be over and the wine will abound in the glasses” Have you already seen our film on the history of the Black Rooster? We reveal the legend to you!”

Click on the link to watch the film “La Leggenda del Gallo Nero” then scroll down for 245 tasting notes for wines tasted in February 2023 at the Chianti Classico Collection and visits with estates.

Godello’s 25 top wines from the Chianti Classico Collection

Annata

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Leave to Castell’in Villa to do not just the right thing but carry the weight of necessity and hold back Annata to a point where it can be tasted and assessed with the respect it so richly deserves. Though this Castelnuovo Berardenga estate and their historic vineyards are equipped to create magic in the most challenging of vintages, well when a season like 2019 is gifted then the magic turns to the supernatural. Fruit is everything, as it must be and the aspects of climate, fermentation, maturation and all the accruements of seasoning add up to a speciality as no other Chianti Classico will create. This is a very special vintage of Castell’in Villa and one to rival any Riserva or Gran Selezione made in this vintage. Will live in infamy. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2019, Radda

The single vineyard sangiovese never touches wood, only concrete, in fermentation and also aging. It is the highest expression of Monterinaldi and so it will always be a cru Classico. If a Gran Selezione were to be made in the future it would be a different or rather a new label. This is not yet in bottle though it is a finished wine, so despite its anteprima positioning the wine can be assessed, for the most part at least. Thirty-one year old block at this stage, heavy in Alberese, 3.5 tonnes per hectare in yield, intensity and tension at the fore of what this wine just is. That said the 40 days of skin contact makes for beauty up front no matter the structure afforded. “Cimento” aging means captured freshness and there is truly no thought of either tannin or spice not arriving to set this sangiovese up for a long life ahead. This will be special. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Casciano

Behold yet another precocious and shockingly generous Annata from the team of Matteo and Maddalena at Cigliano di Sopra. That and an intensity of things intangible despite the very tangible, credible and knowable parts of this wine. So very singular and stand alone for San Casciano and yet a style but more so a way of being that just feels like the future. Too young to really know but it seems like this duo has learned how to keep their ferments from flying away and also from getting away. The professionals are in the house. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2020, Lamole

Filetta di Lamole does not hold back or skimp on the perfume and is at once a consistent wine connected to the vintages that have come before. Would not express 2020 as a sangiovese that stands up too be counted but more so one that speaks in calmer, gentler and more hushed tones. Yet the fine swarthiness is always present and it works to characterize Filetta in ways that Panzano from Fontodi does not seem to do. More low and slow personality from 2020 and longevity will likely become its middle name. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Donato In Poggio

All the schist-bled, favourable exposure gratified and experiential positioning has conspired to raise spirits for the season from Isole e Olena’s standard bearing and load carrying Annata. Hard to find a more exacting example for the cuvée style in which a few varieties in higher percentages than the increasing norm are gathered for what a Chianti Classico can and to be frank, should be. The most sapidity is expressed by way of a Paolo de Marchi Classico and few roll off the tongue like an Isole. As good as it gets for 2020. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2021, Panzano

Retromarcia from Michael Schmelzer is as pure and unadulterated a sangiovese as he has ever made, in fact it resides at the top of the heap in terms of such clarity for any in the territory. That includes his smack dab in the middle of Panzano location and my if he did not figure it all out with this 2021. Well, relatively speaking of course as compared to what came before and things surely changed again the next time he laid his winemaking hands on that recent 2022 fruit. This sheds the trials and tribulations of statism, but more importantly the experiments and errors of stalky, chalky and swarthy. Avoids the potential for cumbersome 2021 by expressing the simplicity of beautifully clean and stay at home fruit. Drink away. Grande Michele! Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Greve

It takes but a second to recognize the Chianti Classico excellence in this 2021 from Jurji Fiore and his Poggio Scalette from Greve’s Ruffoli hill. The levels are all high, mighty and intense in a wine with acids and fruit so inclining but you will not find a finer example of white limestone soil scintillant than what is wildly expressed from this wine. An Annata of major importance, educational and something from which to understand what happens in specific places of this complex territory. My, oh my. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted February 2023

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

Extreme youth for a Fattoria San Giusto a Rentennano Annata and while this is a barrel sample truth is Luca Martini di Cigala’s offers up more fodder for assessment than many. This will be a most important vintage for two reasons. The first is quality and the second a matter of education, a view to master interpreter taking water (of Gaiole) and transforming it into wine. Not just Gaiole but a little peninsula between the arms of Vagiagli and Castelnuovo Berardenga on a promontory specific to San Giusto. Fine lines, angles and waves continually sweeping make this a most impressive Annata and one to savour for the next 15 years. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2023

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Geggiano must have time in a bottle, “ticking the moments that make up a dull day,” to come away later on, expressive of the Alberese soil (mainly) and deliver what has to be this place. Castelnuovo Berardenga that is and yet this valley with its ridges to the east and west is like no other place because winds, rain, sun and air flow differently, acting upon pure sangiovese to create wines like this. What this is exactly can’t be precisely said but this 2019 is the irrepressible essence indivisible to the history of the past. Also the present, right here in this glass, prescient, pure, persistent and built to last. Sangiovese from Geggiano is the future. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Mocenni, Bindi Sergardi, Vagliagli

Riserva

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia DOCG 2019, Vagliagli

Calidonia, Calidnoia, my what a beautiful wine you have become, with three-plus years got behind your acids are softening and tannins fleshing, above and beyond their original anhydrous moments. Calidonia from the Casini/Bindi-Sergardi clan is purely Vagliagli and a 100 per cent sangiovese expressive of vineyards where Galestro and Alberese each impact upon vines. This is Riserva my dear readers. This is Riserva, from Vagliagli’s Craigie Dhu, a.k.a. Mocenni. “Oh, but let me tell you that I love you. That I think about you all the time, (Caledonia) you’re calling me and now I’m going home.” Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Radda

Here the textbook is written on producing Riserva from 100 per cent sangiovese out of vintage as humid as they will come. Done so by making the most of vineyards at elevation in a cool location, that being Radda and selecting top level phenolic berries worthy of this place on the Chianti Classic pyramid. A sangiovese that slides and glides both across the palate and through the stages of its presentation. Seamless and teachable. Learn Riserva 101 right here. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Gagliole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

Like the Classico this is all sangiovese but in Riserva the fruit is only Panzano and the selection is the second choice of the ripest and tops of the harvest, but also the quality of tannins involved. Mainly from the vineyard beyond the terraces and a couple of blocks purchased from Le Cincole. This is pietraforte territory along the ridge above the Conca d’Oro that falls to the southeast, finishing at the vineyard where Fontodi’s Flaccianello is made. Harvested late, into October and the soil makes a requiem for Riserva quite square in style, with high acidity and lower pH. Savoury as well but in an herbal liqueur way, like a steep of sage, fennel and rosemary, anti-amaro if you will and structured though not the kind of sangiovese that jolts or rocks your palate. The sub-structure, positioning and stature are all impressive.  Last tasted February 2023

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

I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Lamole

Riserva from Susanna Grassi’s I Fabbri reaches the phenolic height of heights from a vintage of few peers. While 2015 and 2016 were surely apex seasons there may be an argument made in seeing 2019 as exceeding the ripeness of those very good years. The Lamole herbology in perfume will not be denied and yet there are berries and red stone fruit not nosed before, to mix with the citrus and sweet roasted nightshades. This is next level Riserva, all senses piqued and finding moments from which sweet, sour, salty and umami all manage to coalesce. Will be somewhat past prime and yet I am looking forward to tasting this is 2035. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2019

Levigne is Angela Fronti’s way of conjoining Radda and Gaiole, of stacking the variegate fruit of Istine, Casanova dell’Aia and Cavarchione, to create a Riserva layering, circuitous and in beautiful swirl. Swagger too, some attitude and grip that speaks to Alberese, Raddese acidity, Gaiole savour and the exuberance of La Fronti. How can you know, intuit and also feel the emotion of the vineyards, the passion of the maker and the near perfect pitch off the various gatherings of fruit? You can because they are as one. Not Gran Selezione because it’s a selection from several places but for all intents and purposes, not to mention quality, it may as well be. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2023

La Montanina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Gaiole

My what a lovely Riserva! Fruit succulent and sweet and swirled so effortlessly into equally mouthwatering acidity of pitch perfect tone. Yes there is Gaiole savour and it’s presence is as a seasoning, with chef’s ability, emotion and touch. As for 2020 well this from La Montanina delves into passion and the aforementioned emozione as well and as much as any Riserva in the Classico area. Brava, Oretta Leonini. Grande Gaiole! Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bandini 2019, Castellina

Bandini are bandits and yet some might define the Italian word as “the quality of being impenetrable, maculation or imperviousness.” Monica Raspi’s 2019 is anything but and its tannins do nothing of the sort but they are proper. Riserva is possessive of the most clarity and precision, not to mention grace in the cleanest sangiovese of them all, reeling in and through the years. Lovely swirl of berries and essential oils, elements and vitamins, bled from stone, beauty everywhere. “People can you feel it, love is everywhere.” Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Gran Selezione

Carpineta Fontalpino is located in Castelnuovo Berardenga but their Dofana cru is a matter of Vagliagli, sibling UGA within the two-winged commune. Vigna Dofana, special place for the Cresti family, deliverer of Vagliagli as only this place can within the most complex and also yet fully understood UGA. Dofana now graduated or better said migrated to Gran Selezione as a subtle, shadowy sangiovese, like chiaroscuro where fruit and acid are light and also dark, yet with time one will become the other. The constant is Dofana and yet now the label speaks in territorial terms, appellative as Gran Selezione, something new and accepted by Cresti siblings Gioia and Filippo. Benvenuto ragazzi. We look forward to discussing this 10-15 years down the road. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Il Poggio 2018, San Donato in Poggio

There can be little doubt that Gran Selezione is the wine to explain style from a place within a place, that being Monsanto’s Il Poggio Vineyard inside the UGA of San Donato In Poggio. Il Poggio is four things; famous, respected, stunning and structured to design formidably age-worthy sangiovese. Stylistically speaking this Gran Selezione is so very different than Riserva because older-school austerity and unrelenting tannic structure keep fruit locked in tight while also interpreting place with pinpoint precision. But 2018 is a warm and accumulating vintage and so all things being equal there are strong determining factors for the fate of this place. Highly aromatic, tripping with light, energy and the science of the soils, of Galestro and schisty fragments that must be a part of the make up, from stones through vines and vines to fruit. This Monsanto Selezione smells like the place’s dust kicked up by heels and hands dragged through the dirt. With 2018 in bottle there could be an argument that San Donato in Poggio’s are some of the richest of all the UGAs, but this is Monsanto where destiny is all. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2023

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2019, Montefioralle

Incredibly youthful for a Gran Selezione and “the furnace” will surely always ensure to wrap a sangiovese tight, keep it from gregariously expressing itself when this young. The tannins are lined up in a long and unbreakable chain, the fruit set in a well below, textural juice not yet scooped and heaped upon the palate. This structure like karst from bedrock plus acids in skein formation hold flesh not yet put meat on these bones. These parts are all there above sangiovese lying patiently and resting in waiting. La Fornace is recited in refrain after verse after refrain with so many stanzas to come, chanted in canto over time and across decades ahead. Drink 2026-2037.  Tasted February 2023

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2019, Panzano

Comparisons and contrast are considered side by side with 2020 and so as with Riserva there is a marked difference with 2019 Il Margone. That said I find more consistency with the following 2020 then was noted between the two vintages at both the Classico and Riserva levels. Here a darker and more concentrated fruit set stays true to the Gran Selezione appellation but also with respect to elevated acidity and fineness of tannin. Yes 2019 is a more “elegant” vintage but at this level the intensity, polish and game are all set to impressive levels. The structure is finer and less rustic in 2020 and so one vintage’s loss is another’s gain, and vice versa. Choosing one over the other is splitting hairs, like picking a favourite child. Can’t go there. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Le Balze 2019, San Donato In Poggio

Le Balze (formerly Toscana IGT) is a finely composed and structured Gran Selezione from San Donato in Poggio yet is apposite to so many from the UGA, stylistically speaking. More of a blue to even purple fruit profile, nearly blueberry and what strikes so poignant about this 100 percent sangiovese is its level of calm, poise and even restraint. It never crashes in waves, nor makes any threatening tannic demands, but does its work in subtleties, through seamless transitions and ultimately with precision and focus. Very impressive. Drink 2025-2036.  Tasted February 2023

Isole Delle Falcole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2019, Panzano

The project of Emanuele Greatz, exporter of Roberto Voerzio, Il Molino di Grace, San Fillipo (Roberto Gianelli) and Barbaresco’s Russo. This is the early fruition of Emanuele’s dream, renting Panzano land in 2016 to eventually purchase and a first vintage in 2017. The land is officially Emanuele’s now. The name of the Conca or amphitheatre actually shares an affinity with the Conca d’oro, in shape, orientation and yet there is much more forest and also higher elevation. Total of four hectares planted, 1.2 up on the hill facing south at 420m and roughly two below the house, both set in Montefioralle. The final 0.8 for the Gran Selezione is in Panzano right next to Montefili and so Graetz calls it Montefili – internally.” It will be called Il Falcole. Gran Selezione 2019 is solo sangiovese sent to 30 months in big barrel combination of French and Slavonian. Purely Panzano through a Selezione of a pinpointed place and to be honest the fruit is a bit deeper and darker than many Panzano ‘19s. That said there are layers and layers to unfold, unfurl and open with high acidity from the high elevation vineyard up at 520m. Where else is Panzano (other than Montefili and Cenattoio) will express this elevation in this wild-eyed and excitable way? A harbinger of the future and initialization of the realization of Emanuele’s dream is in this glass, from this bottle. Wait three years to understand just a bit more and figure things out for 10 more thereafter. Drink 2026-2034.  Tasted February 2023

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2019, Panzano

As always at this appellative level Le Fonti’s is 100 percent sangioivese and as with Annata but also Riserva the house style chooses fruit over wood and seasoning over toast. The warm vintage finished with late season daytime highs juxtaposed against nighttime lows and this Gran Selezione emerged with glaring clarity, instrumental precision and parts on point. From fruit through structure round fits into round and square into square, nothing awkward, sharp or out of place. An aromatic sangiovese while the palate is an experience and a half. Selezione ’18 is a prepared one, to withstand oxidation and develop supplementary character so that it may age well into the next decade. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto San Marcellino 2018, Gaiole

The next San Marcellino Gran Selezione is a big one, strong willed and big-boned, laced with trace schisty-marl-Galestro elements and minerals from a vineyard capable of structuring wines like no other. This is Monti in Chianti, of all the red, blue and black fruits, coming away violet purple and speaking about a season. A warm one, all the way through to October and the phenolic ripeness here is off the proverbial charts. Wow. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2023

The AIS Sommeliers of the Chianti Classico Collection

Acquadiaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

A blend of 90 percent sangiovese and (10) canaiolo of a purity that is Panzano incarnate, straight away. Glycerin in stride, chalky tannin liquified and just the faintest hit of green astringency. So close to acceding the beauty of idealism yet still a really lovely wine in almost all regards. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Antinori Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Badia A Passignano 2020, San Donato in Poggio

Classic dried herbs and brushy Badia a Paassignano style, here with the accessibility of 2020 though the fruit is pure red cherry with almost no darkening moments. Cool, almost minted with a creosote and cooling coals warmth through the chill of the air. This Gran Selezione is imagined as a perfect meditation in late fall, in a cabin in the woods, by a fire, dimly lit room and silence. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Marchese Antinori 2020, San Donato In Poggio

Precisely what must be expected and frankly demanded from Antinori’s San Donato in Poggio Riserva and that would be a perfectly executed cuvée of sangiovese complimented by varieties that speak to exactly that. Glycerol and viscosity in a silken thread sewing fruit with the kind of acidity and tannin of the utmost professional kind. Nothing out of place and the window has officially opened. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Arillo In Terrabianca Chianti Classico DOCG Sacello 2021, Radda

Intense sangiovese while also drying and tannic with potential to travel far and yet this is certainly not the early beauty of what came from 2020. More so a sangiovese of classicism that must have some time in the bottle before we know what will come. Great length here so there will be a future, that much is guaranteed. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Gaiole

As per the Stucchi-Prinetti plan (which arguably dates back to 1846), the Classico is consistent through the vintages and what feels like epochs as well. There is this swell of sangiovese fruit made complex and curious by what Badia a Coltibuono marks as 10 percent other grape varieties, each making a statement in multifarious manifesto. Searing Annata, part strike and part pierce through the red chalky-cherry originality of these Gaiole hills. There is more going on here than most and year after year this represents benchmark material for the UGA. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Gaiole

A Riserva from Badia a Colibuono is pretty much a Selezione matter and yet, not so much. The emotion is there if not the pack mentality and so Riserva is just Coltibuono. Almost startling to begin with but that is simply the acidity of place talking, distracting and exacting its power over a field blend-like gathering of varieties led by sangiovese. Riserva acts on behalf of and in the ways of the abbey and surrounding vineyards, were they personified would surely speak. Like the paintings along the cloister corridors and the ocupants whose truths, history and tradition are what you need to hear. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Bertinga Chianti Classico DOCG La Porta Di Vertine 2020, Gaiole

As expected, lithe and here from Gaiole also verdant, influenced by UGA, commune and forest. A tart and also taut while pure sangiovese with some Alberese chalkiness in the tannins. Quite well made and supremely indicative of where it comes from. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

Still firm, grippy and liquid peppery, not in a reductive sense but the tannins (while sweet) are dusty as well. Classic Bibbiano, of two sides by soil and micro-climate, layered continuously upon and with one another, to create an always stylish and focused Annata. Really pure Sangiovese, as always, clean as it gets, tidy, orderly and succinct. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

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

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2020, Vagliagli

Everything about La Ghirlanda is Bindi Sergardi in Vagliagli as it always must be, natural fruit red and pure, transparent and through the looking glass of precision for family and location. Curious how there is some tannin here, fine grained structure and while the wine is very accessible there is no doubt it will live longer than many of its ilk. This is a very, very good Annata, luck and fortune all in. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Vagliagli

Basic and vintage relatable as 100 per cent sangiovese in rustic Vagliagli style. Not the most freshness in fruit, some salumi and certainly a way that is older schooled and recognizable. Tradition dies hard. Truly. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

Fine example of combining place (Radda) with vintage and appellative level. This is an exacting 2020 as Annata with fine acidity and food-matching capability. Grippy as needs though never vivid, herbal yet not herbaceous. Well-balanced and ideal for three-plus years ahead. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

Quite cool, minty, brushy and herbal to represent Radda in the most clear and knowable way. The level of tannin here is notable, markedly elevated for 2020 Chianti Classico and it is apparent that Radda at heights did not ripen at a level much above seven or 7.5 on the scale of these things. Quite a searing example for the season. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Vagliagli

Perfectly round and normal, dictionary entry sangiovese with softness and intensity of hue, by colouring and merlot as a friend of sangiovese. Tart and just tight enough to hold on for a few years but for the most part this is meant to be consumed in the first two. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Brancaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2020, Radda

The Brancaia from Radda is expressly three things. First and foremost a matter of 2020, secondly Radda of temperament and more than anything a Gran Selezione to speak of the current epoch of Brancaia. As far as vintages are concerned these 2020s are a thing of great beauty and accessibility, with respect to UGA the acidity and cool mentality are at the height of heights and finally, the transparency and see through honesty is exemplary of the current Brancaia world order. Fine, fine Selezione, drinkable and cellar-able. Do as you please. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

A Riserva from Brancaia is Riserva in a nutshell, of startling professionalism and also emotion. The acidity of place begins in dissertation, leading sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot in the ways of vineyards translated through high execution to personify just what it means to be, act like and exist as Brancaia. Silky smooth, liquid chalky, finely chiseled and structured, able to age long. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2021, Castellina

High glycerin, notable alcohol and structure as well. A big wine as always for Gabriele Buondonno for several reasons, namely elevation and solar radiation but also the intangible of conversion rates and things just being natural, the way they simply have to be. Some vintages are bigger and greater than others and for sangiovese in varietal purity this out of 2021 will equivocate with superior strength, balance and trenchant intensity. Count on it. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2020, Castellina

To taste and think upon Buondonno as Riserva from as recent a vintage as 2020 is to engage in an almost fruitless exercise. This because the level of fruit, acid and tannin in cohorts is so immovable that without time in the bottle it’s hard to gain any real traction. This from 2020 carries more weight and energy than so many, especially from this triad of a location where Castellina, Panzano and San Donato in Poggio nearly converge. Gabriele Buondonno’s is like a stacked ferment of grapes, place and vintage needing three years to flesh and release some charm. Three more to be in the zone. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

Always important for a sangiovese to act and project as Riserva when choices are made for fruit to be this way. Cafaggio’s is exactly that and this 2019 resides at the top of the echelon for Riserva made by this Panzano producer. The fruit is exceptional and the structure a fine matter of acid and tannin intertwine. Still some grippy matter to resolve so expect this to drink at peak in another 12-18 months. Aerate now for positive results. Drink 2025-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2020, Gaiole

A surprisingly tannic and overtly structured Annata from Cantalici out of 2020. From Gaiole and seems to bring more grip and drying herbal feels than most UGAs from this vintage. Not the quietest or most amenable sangiovese but one needing time and that speaks for place more anything else. Barrel as well which also needs more time in bottle to melt and settle. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Cantina Tuscania Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Effige Nera 2018, San Donato In Poggio

Unequivocal and unmistakable as being a sangiovese from San Donato in Poggio for one reason alone and that is the blood orange perfume so bloody (pun intended) typical of this westerly UGA. Here as Riserva and from 2018 with its purity of red fruit so citrus is origin, fine grained though now liquefying tannin and from a vintage picked in late September yet balanced in alcohol, and ripeness ahead of a strange 48-hour spell cast by temperatures running daytime high and nighttime low. Really fine Riserva in the window at this very moment but will stay this way for three to four years easy. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

At Caparsa with Paolo Cianferone, John Szabo MS and Mona Haugen-Kind

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Radda

Different fermentations are involved, tank and especially concrete, very much a matter of Raddese acidity, fruit sharp and über cherry in linear sangiovese. Needs another year to soften just that much more though these are quite nurturing tannins and the wine does really choose to please. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2019, Radda

Aged in the big barrels, determined by a selection of higher quality berries and the cask size. How does Paolo know which are the best bunches? “I just know,” he says. “For more than 20 years I know where the best grapes live.” Might be where the cinghiale eat, where the clay is wet or not, in dry weather. More of a Riserva vintage for Caparso, added richness a bonus and without any wood distraction this glides and glistens, slices and dices across the palate. Solid sangiovese with a cerebral twist. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2018, Radda

Mature aromatics, chewy red fruit, all the leathery plum and liquorice that can be packed into a Chianti Classico Riserva. Developed to the drinking stage, earlier as a vintage than many, hot one mind you and showing that right now, and more. Some mineral and chalk to the structure but pretty much good to go. Drink 2023-2026.   Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2017, Radda

A vintage with no Doccio Matteo made because the grape quality and also quantity was not up to Radda par. “The wine is a mirror of the land, the people and the weather, like a dog.” The grapes here are from both Riserva selections and so quality reaches above par as only one of two, our two in one were produced. Severe at its moments and yet there is much concentration and compact elements, especially chalk and tension in this grippy 2017. Wait on it – the acids are also there to act as the fruition reaching catalyst. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2010, Radda

Just 2,600 bottles were produced and only eight, well now seven remain of the vintage. “Some wines get you down, some make you talk a lot and some make you drunk. I want a wine that will make you think,“ explains Paolo Cianferoni. “In 2010 I lost 75 per cent of my production and I don’t know why but when I have a glass it makes me think. Maybe what was left on the vine received the love that was left.” A sip and left to think about things because not only is this sangiovese perfectly aged but it is right in the balanced zone. Also the mystery zone and places we’ve never been. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2019, Radda

Single vineyard sangiovese with just two percent of colorino raised in 1000L botti, 12-14 months, just like the Classico. Doccio Matteo is the name of an old spring in one of the oldest vineyards, highest in elevation (450m) where the winds blow hardest. “Doccio” is a shower in Italian and Matteo refers to San Matteo. More tannin and tension here, especially as compared to Riserva (Caparsino) and needing an extra year to integrate. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2018, Radda

Single vineyard sangiovese with just two percent of colorino raised in 1000L botti, 12-14 months, just like the Classico. Doccio Matteo is the name of an old spring in one of the oldest vineyards, highest in elevation (450m) where the winds blow hardest. “Doccio” is a shower in Italian and Matteo refers to San Matteo. Just as tannic and full of tension as per 2019 Doccio Matteo but also Chianti Classics Riserva and yet the ’18 Caparsino DOCG is beginning to fade. Not this former IGT with the potential to become Gran Selezione and which rages with energy plus drive. Let it ride. Come back in two years. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2016, Radda

The 2016 Doccio a Matteo is the first sangiovese (in this line-up) from Paolo Cianferoni that’s actually ready to drink, in fact it’s very much there with some drying tannin mixed with dried fruit happening. Full and caky wine, rich and substantial. Must have salty protein to show best and for the win.  Last tasted February 2023

A single-vineyard Riserva from the plot above the smaller second house called Caparsino and filled with all the soils; argile, Galestro and Alberese. Surely an absolute about face expression with higher volatility and a high, near and nigh potential for advancing porcini notes. A deeper and darker black cherry. Characterful and mature in such a different way, The acidity is uncompromising even while the wine acts oxidative with more wood than the other Riserva. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2015, Radda

A fresher and more spirited sangiovese as compared to 2016, energy still running full and yet you can drink this with the right amount of air. Chewy liquorice, some tar, iodine and soy. Chocolate, lots of the dark stuff. The wines showed more wood back in these vintages. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2012, Radda

Eleven years old, a vintage of high quantity which also means that the wine is a fatter and softer one. Fully resolved now and drinking with lovely grace and elegance.  Last tasted February 2023

Lovely bit of development from a vintage of great fortitude and possibility though seemingly only recently softened. Now smooth tannin and yet so, so very sangiovese. The red fruit carries a liquorice note not noted in later wines and here the complexities are blooming, changing and renewing their vows. Lovely look back and easy on the volatility scale. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2020

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Wow the energy from 2021 Carpineta Fontalpino is off the charts, ergo there is this wide open sensation from Castelnuovo Berardenga that will not be denied. Fruit swells and impresses with its gingered-crimson beauty and the advances of egress by structural demand. While too youthful and awkward for all parts to hook up they will, in time, for all the right reasons and with zero regret. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Carpineta Fontalpino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Montaperto 2018, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Apposite to Dofana for Vagliagli is Montaperto of Castelnuovo Berardenga, the grippy, forceful and tannic one. The immovable and unbreakable sangiovese so very linear, gripped by strength, of skeletal structure and needing time. Give it. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Greve

Perfectly reasoned, seasoned and fine dusted Annata here from Carpineto, consistently contrived from year to year with 2021 being no exception to the rule. Good fruit and loins, strong bones, robust and trim. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2020, Greve

There is nothing about this Gran Selezione that is not Carpineto and so kudos to the Greve estate for unyielding consistency, no matter the time or place. In fact this also represents a look through the mirror of a vintage, never overbearing or overpowering and just a snapshot of cool, herbal and brushy, like taking a long walk though a dry forest, air crisp with fresh air. The 2020 GS has matured some already so drink this while some others work through their issues. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico DOCG Le Capitozze 2019, San Casciano

There will never be denying the savoury elements and earthy nature of a sangiovese from San Casciano and Le Capitozze by Casa di Monte is not the exception. The acids in this 2019 Annata are quite incredible and there is plenty of fruit, red and ropey fruit to stand with the tart and tight wind that constitutes true style. Crunchy Annata with spirit and energy, a charcoal, tar and candied rose compliment, seasoning and all that can make a Chianti Classico thrive. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Casa Di Monte Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Capitozze 2017, San Casciano

A few years have seen this Riserva travel forward and the source is a hot, dry and exceptional vintage. And still a great freshness persists even if the sangiovese is ready to be enjoyed. The tannins are more than half resolved and their work in progress is just what the fruit requests but also deserves. This is nothing if not a lovely and joyous swell of Riserva, aged with ideal practice and wood execution, nearly come to fruition, always in maintenance of balance. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Casa Emma Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Donato In Poggio

The 2021s are being shown because many will indeed soon be released yet examples like this from Casa Emma are way too young and unresolved to really speak the language of its ancestry. But my what hides behind the curtain is so real, vivid to the point of acting out a passion play of psychological sangiovese thriller. An Annata with canaiolo and malvasia that twists and winds, sidles and turns through the sangiovese to aerate and intensify. All this said there are years needed to coordinate and allow Casa Emma to become the wine it wants to be. Even at Annata level. Always at Annata level. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vignalparco 2019, San Donato In Poggio

Great depth noted straight away but then back to reality because perfume rising draws the aromatics and extends them stratospheric. This is exceptionally gifted as it pertains to perfume, violets nearly and most certainly roses. A sangiovese that might make a sort of taster to think nebbiolo were this tasted blind, though one so modern as to make a heart ache. Then a natural sweetness, wood abided and elasticized with texture and then spice. Much gastronomy here and with a few years melt the ooze will become amenable to match with complex preparations. Seeing this on a restaurant list. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Chianti Classico Collection Design

Casale Dello Sparviero Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

One of the few (of maybe a dozen) producers using pugnitello to augment sangiovese and here the five percent matters for the Annata from Casale dello Sparviero. Helps to distract from the barrel but then it seems the overall sentiment is wood and seasoning because the aridity is truly felt at all points on the palate. Needs time and yet the fruit will struggle to survive. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

A little bit (10 per cent) of merlot goes along way to soften and textualize sangiovese with 2019 as the main catalyst for a high quality Annata by Casaloste. Big wine to be sure, fruit driven, structured with great demand and acids sweeter than many. There is quite a wealth of character happening in this wine just getting started on its long journey ahead. Has markedly improved in the past year.  Last tasted February 2023

Notable ripe fruit and also a verdant austerity makes for a wine of two positions, angles and disparate emotions. A sangiovese of floral and also avian display while in delivery of liquorice and bitter herbs. Almost Riserva in style, glycerol and concentration at the fore, the rest waiting in the wings. Needs time. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Casina di Cornia Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Castellina

Plain and simple this is Castellina in Chianti yet one climbing the tight and structured hill though not the ripest of sangiovese ever developed. That said this is 2019 fruit and it’s about as phenolic driven as there has ever been. Really drying, brushy and most intense. Glaring and demanding. Drink 2023-2025.   Tasted February 2023

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castellina

High octane red fruit with a decidedly higher acid drive puts this sangiovese in fine speed with trailing vaporous emission. Very young and this vintage of 2021 seems to need more time than most any looking back just about a decade of time. Yes a good deal will be released to the markets this year but it has been a while since needing time in bottle is more important than this particular vintage. Great length here on Castagnoli’s 2021 to speak of greater things yet to come. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castellina

A wealth of cherry red fruit in the classic idiom and quite frankly a Chianti Classico 2021 Annata more forward than most from the structured vintage. Solid bones though fruit is most up front and herbals season the wine with sweetness, Different set of circumstances for the wood in how it’s noted to be drying out at the finish. Solid effort for this Castellina house. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Castelli Del Grevepesa Castelgreve Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Casciano

Clearly too young to fully know the ultimate direction but there is some blood orange set against a dried herb backdrop in an Annata of clear and present San Casciano character. This is in fact the cooperative of Castelli del Grevepesa’s less sizeable cuvée and one with more singular character and sense of place. Very well made that shows the potential of 2021. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Clemente VII 2019, San Casciano

Firm and grippy Riserva for 2019 and a Clemente VII speciality from sources drawn, blended and made whole. Professional sangiovese to a great degree, silky smooth and ready for food. Acids are just as sweet and tannins just a bit brittle. Ever so slightly and yet the wine finishes with an upwards lilt and twirl. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Lamole

A firm and herbal sangiovese with splashes of canaiolo and malvasia nera for extra seasoning, texture and most of all sapidity. This is Lamole in a nutshell, of those herbs with cereals, nuts and a textural feeling in lieu of acidity or rather in compliment to what structure demands. Lovely 2020, accessible yet grippy enough to mean business.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Castellinuzza E Piuca Di Coccia Giuliano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Lamole

At five per cent it is canaiolo that lowers the Lamole acidity just enough to introduce sapidity and make this 2020 Annata drink with some proper scorrevole. Challenging vintage for this label, tight and racy even, definitely Lamole of origin and heeded in design. Will develop porcini and tartufo when it hits next age business three or four years on. Drink 2024-2027. Tasted February 2023

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Donato In Poggio

How could we not intuit this as being a sangiovese from San Donato in Poggio? The signs are obvious from the start, blood orange and tart acidity but also a canaiolo influenced sapidity that aids in weights and balances for a 2020 Annata that benefits from such cuvée styling. The colouring too, for tradition and classicism. A touch of weight at the finish and a slight botanical tonic to add complexity if also minute astringency. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2021, Radda

Quite a pure red cherry fruit and simply structured Albola with early accessibility from a vintage much restricted in such matters. This is clearly designed to be purchased and cracked with haste to seek immediate gratification. Simple and proud. Well made. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Ama Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

Ama by (Castello di) Ama is a richly textured and high glycerol Annata with all the wealth and generosity from the vintage captured, pressed and patented for a stamp of quality and guarantee of success. Crunchy red fruit and limestone strike, not quite high-toned but rising and ethereal as far as Classico is concerned. So well made and a harbinger for Gaiole within the greater territory for 2021. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Montebuoni 2019, Gaiole

Quite the aromatic lift and high-toned entry for a 2019 Riserva that must be pushing generosity of ripeness and also alcohol. Warm and floral, viscous and layered. High octane flavour profile, generous of juicy red berry fruit and also barrel. Quite classic in a modern vernacular for a sangiovese (with five per cent merlot) that has come to pass and be recognized for more than two-plus decades now.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto San Lorenzo 1990, Gaiole

A grand old sangiovese from Ama, likely made by Lorenza Sebasti’s father and predating the winemaking work of Marco Pallanti. A wine twenty years before it would become one of the territory’s first Gran Selezione and an original Chianti Classico cru. Feels like some merlot mixed into this 33 year-old, or not but softness is a virtue. More truffle than porcini, creamy and holding well. Acids are indelibly stamped while tannins have all but disappeared. Beautiful old soul with a chocolate finish to reminisce about the wood involved. Good showing. Drink 2023-2024.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2020, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Amazing purity of naturally sweet fruit and surely the priority in Bossi’s Annata 2020. If beautiful and amenable sangiovese straight out of the shoot is what you wish to drink then Bossi’s of clear and present Castelnuovo Berardenga account is just perfect. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Pure, clear and transparent purity of sangiovese, exquisite by fruit and in construction, well structured to hold back the years and make us understand the best is yet to come. Crisp, fresh and crunchy now, surely to become chewy later, with braised fennel and liquorice, tar and roses. The professionalism and intent are noted with palpable concern, the wine clearly destined to show well five-plus years down the line. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Gaiole

Castello di Cacchiano’s wines are made by Federico Cerelli, he of Gabbiano and Poggio di Guardia (of amongst other estates of reputation) and this Riserva speaks to a Monti in Chianti (within Gaiole) location. A pure example indeed, viscous and high in acid retention but also a blue to grey Galestro soil. A tad dusty yet plenty juicy and very much a traditional style of Riserva in stylishly retro clothing. Not old school, just classic. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2020, Castellina

Castello di Fonterutoli’s 2020 is Gran Selezione like looking in the Castellina mirror because the purity of red, red, red fruit is the crux and at the core of what this wine wants to say. Hyper indicative of the vintage, clear and transparent, never too weighty or adamant and Fonterutoli puts everything in its rightful place. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2020, San Casciano

Big production and from 2020 a sizeable wine for Gabbiano’s San Casciano Annata though do not be afraid to aerate and get at it in this calendar year. The fruit is up front even while some wood seasoning persists and assists in creating a classic sangiovese effect. Concrete helps to keep the freshness. Good linger so this 2020 will drink well for a few years to come. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, San Casciano

High glycerol, as per the vintage no doubt and a bleed from chalky Galestro with a nod to Pietraforte for Riserva of suave style and chic demeanour. The professionalism and faux fructose-pectin texture is like pure berry cream, without lactic or milky feels. Modern and so stylish. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

Very curious 2021 from Castello di Meleto, almost a sticky effect, like a savoury hard candy dissolving on the palate to reveal new character with each melting moment. Textural sangiovese with five percent merlot, one that works through aeration and on the palate then instigates the mind to imagine many developing possibilities. Sweet acids and tannins too, wanting to integrate but the wine is far too young to involve such foolery. Be patient, it’s sangiovese. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, San Donato In Poggio

One of the more famous, unwaveringly consistent and highest of quality to quantity ratios just has to be this from Monsanto in San Donato in Poggio. Five per cent each canaiolo and colorino complete the endemic local blend, in sapid swings and also hue, also in good humour with just enough tension involved to keep things so very real. Despite the generosity this is a pretty tightly wound Riserva from Laura Bianchi and one to cellar with the best of a long, winding and storied history of producing some of the territory’s most structured wines. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio DOCG 1970, San Donato In Poggio

Talk about an OG. One of the few Classico (Riserva) truly deserving of a place in that category as it pertains to cru identified vineyards. From 1970 there is perhaps less lingering fantasy and age-worthy decades long penetration but truth is only Monsanto and a handful of others can make a wine drink with status (and also grace) 52 years into its tenure. The ’68 and ’69 tasted in 2018 and 2022 respectively were better representations of the storied block and this ’70 emits a nutty and sharp pecorino cheese note, but also fennel and caramel for an overall umami arrangement. San Donato in Poggio umami of another era, sweetly savoury, inviting and subtly sour. Truly fascinating sangiogsee.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

The 2020 Classico is currently on the market while the soon to be bottled ’21 shows as an anteprima though that vintage, as firm and grippy as it may be will entice and delight sooner than most. In fact the 2020 is in nearly the same kind of place and so this tells us that. Monterinaldi’s position in Radda and microclimate produce wines like no other. Their wines move like the turtle, aging low and slow, even if they showed up ready and willing from the start. For Monterinaldi there was no hydric stress and the growing season delivered a consistent and constant five month phenolic development. This was a 35-40 day skin-contract maturation without worrying about extracting green tannins. Only six to seven months of aging in wood and this all adds up to doing things differently than many neighbours and other UGA positioned estates.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2019, Radda

The single vineyard sangiovese never touches wood, only concrete, in fermentation and also aging. It is the highest expression of Monterinaldi and so it will always be a cru Classico. If a Gran Selezione were to be made in the future it would be a different or rather a new label. This is not yet in bottle though it is a finished wine, so despite its anteprima positioning the wine can be assessed, for the most part at least. Thirty-one year old block at this stage, heavy in Alberese, 3.5 tonnes per hectare in yield, intensity and tension at the fore of what this wine just is. That said the 40 days of skin contact makes for beauty up front no matter the structure afforded. Cimento aging means captured freshness and there is truly no thought of either tannin or spice not arriving to set this sangiovese up for a long life ahead. This will be special. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2018, Radda

The 1988 planted vineyard at more than 450m on most excellent Alberese soils is the signature, Classico or whatever other appellate label you would wish to put upon it. Boscone knows what it must be and a long maceration (40 some odd days) plus only cement fermentation/aging makes sure to create a sangiovese of finesse and zero distraction. Nothing external, no wood to cake on any make-up, a wine as naked as the grapes were hanging on the vines. Higher acidity, yet another apposite occurrence in spite of the hot vintage because this place cools when necessary to gift saltiness and also sapidity, equal and opposite, also with thanks to the age of the vines. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Radda

For Monterinaldi Riserva resides between Classico and Classico Vigneto Boscone and picking happens between the two, though Boscone is an entity all on its own. This fruit usually comes from middle elevation. Riserva sees Botti and it’s just so obvious because there is more texture and compaction, not necessarily concentration but certainly tight grained layering because of the use of wood. So curious that even with wood this feels less barrel affected than most so Riserva. Monterinaldi’s is still a fresh and sapid sangioivese. Crunchiest Riserva in the territory, bar none. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Radda

The time in 30 hL French cask is approximately 30 months and it must be said again that Riserva by Monterinaldi is the crunchiest of the area, far and wide, crisp and fresh, so clear and finessed. There is more concentration form 2019 to be sure and also fair because the purity but also longevity is just a perfect guarantee. As good as 2020 is as Riserva there can be no denying the next level success that this prime vintage brings to the table. And yet cooler vintages are usually long-lived ones – but at Monterinaldi they all are. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

As far as 2021s are concerned there is great youth and an unrelenting wall of structure in this sangiovse (with eight percent canaiolo) from Dudda Valley in northeast Greve. Too much wood noticed at this early stage and so the tart, tight and sapid red fruit is held in tight, closed and yet to sweeten, flesh out or fatten for that matter. Wait at least 18 months more. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Greve

Mainly sangiovese with eight per cent canaiolo to keep a proper level of pH and therefore sapidity with no rapid or hasteful maturation from 2020 Dudda Valley. Moderate alcohol, scents of salumi skin and roasted nightshades, viscous mouthfeel in a generous wine from Greve without gratuity and surely never taken for granted. Quantity is high for the vintage and appellation for a very promising wine. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Corno DOCG 2017, Radda

Though six years old there is still a wall of structure for Castello di Radda and a single vineyard Gran Selezione that’s far from showing its best and releasing the charm. Dries at the finish but when the wood and tannin subside that sensation should release. Two more years it would seem. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Selvole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Vagliagli

Quite resinous, herbal, tart, tannic and full of tension. A challenging wine that should have softened by now. Wait another year and see what happens. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

At Castello di Verrazzano, Greve with Maria-Sole and Luigi Cappellini, Michaela Morris and Caterina Mori

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Greve

Oh, ah, the perfume of Verrazzano. Not just aromas from a wine producing estate but the complex aromatic weave of a veritable and traditional fattoria, of olive trees, gardens and forest. Not an Annata of structural potency but more so one of evident spezzatura, of superior phenolics and balance. The first half of the wine is sapid, the second turns and finishes salty. In that sense indicative of bordering Montefioralle and yet the mix of strong red fruit plus savour is purely Verrazzano. Returns full circle to strength of perfume. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017, Greve

Tasted from a gravity-filled system without pumping by machine to see what then effect on the wine might have, if any. Well if the exercise has any real consequence it would be on the energy and vitality of this Annata. The wine is full of pulse and life while structurally immovable and in no rush to mature. There is more precision on the nose and the palate as well. I’d say a good choice for bottling if not the most efficient way to produce your wines.  Last tasted February 2023

Such a unique aromatic expression here from Castello di Verrazzano and the pattern is becoming a thing of great consistent beauty. The judgement is sound if nearly spot on from a challenge and so the structure supporting makes for a resounding drink of sangiovese speciality. Very impressive for the year. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

View of the Greve Valley from Verrazzano

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Greve

For Luigi Cappellini some similarities are noted with what will come forward from 2020 (Annata) in that the fruit is of a similar ilk if also a compatible level of spezzatura. The ’18 Riserva used this warm vintage with mitigated assistance from the elevation of this northwestern part of Greve. Vineyards ranging from 250 to 480m quantify a keen effect on slower phenolic development. There is fruit maturity here and this won’t live as long as some other top structured vintages but as Riserva the savoury elements are heightened, the Grandi Botti effect on texture guaranteed and the Verrazzano perfume pops with every swirl. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2004, Greve

There is much power and strength to 2004 in a Riserva more than holding the fort and the castle without showing any kinks in the armour or signs of decline. Even after 18 or 19 years there is very little development in this ’04 and I for one must applaud not just how slow it has evolved but also how little the Botti show up on the palate. A wine of fruit, spezzatura and savour more than chocolate or balsamic, start to finish. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2017, Greve

Sassello comes from the vineyard on the hill behind the Borgo at the highest elevation and while ripeness development will be slower there can be no doubt that 2017 was better here than most warmer and lower locations in Chianti Classico. The Sassello of this vintage is still stuck in first stage youth, quiet, dense and volumetric. The wine has moved but barely an inch, it speaks in fulsome texture and while yet to flesh out there is a roundness that will see it drink so well for years to come. The best of which will be two looking ahead and ten after that. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2013, Greve

The nose on 2013 is remarkably fresh but also open and generous, as fruity as it is filled with knowable Verrazzano perfume. There is a sanguine aspect to this ’13 but also a tar and roses section to put it in a place of its very own. Maybe even a sweetly herbal moment, middle plane minty with more than average structure still very much in charge. One of the bigger 2013s in the region, holding strong and going everywhere with all the time in the world. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Valdonica 2017, Greve

Valdonica is both lighter and more linear as compared to Sassello with more classic speazztura and Verrazzano aromatics. Also a chalkiness and barrel induced texture but without the volume in Sassello. Valdonica is more straightforward, not as intense in terms of substantial fruit and also more available at this early stage. Saltier finish as well, more in line with Annata while Sassello seems akin to Riserva. Notable balsamico in Valdonica. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Bartolo 2017, Greve

A single block Gran Selezione with the idea to make a more precise sangiovese (with some merlot) that expresses itself with great tension. Well first and foremost San Bartolo is a wine of fruit, big fruit and very generously so. The tension arrives halfway through the tasting experience as you realize a vice grip of tannin of intense expression has taken hold of the senses. The nervous nature of sangiovese combined with a single vineyard of elevation near 480m puts this Gran Selezione is a very specific place. These things supersede the dry and hot vintage in fact they lead at every stage. More chocolate by the Botti on the finish here than the other two Gran Selezione. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Radda

Of all the 2021s to taste and assess there is no shock that Volpaia’s is just about as young and immovable as any. This is not major news for a vintage of great structure matched by upbringing for classic Classico. These are children of manners and respect, knowing their place in history, they being sangiovese, reticently expressive, necessary patient, with this Volpaia as experienced and abiding as any. The substance is that of a layered and complex weave with five per cent merlot involved to soften but also pull verdancy from a very tannic example. Bigger than recent vintages, weightier and potentially far more profound. Time will tell. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltassala 2019, Radda

Full and expressive Coltassala with smoulder and sneaky tannins behind a wealth of dark cherry red fruit. Seasoned yet the wood is gentle, beautifully integrated and while this is not the biggest, boldest or baddest of the Gran Selezione, by Volapia’s standards it is a munificent one. Shows off Radda’s acidity, especially at elevation and coupled with high level ripeness the chance to enjoy a bottle will come sooner than the average. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2021, Greve

Guado Alto is the name assigned to Castello Vicchiomaggio’s Annata and solo sangiovese is the game. The fruit is about as honest and also forthright as it gets for the vintage and yet this smaller production (just 20,000 bottles) is the more focused of the estate’s wine at this appellative level. Really getable and manageable at this time which is something so many 2021s are yet to do. At the price this usually comes in at there can be only a few wines from this vintage offering equal and rarely better early drinking value. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2020, Greve

Talk about the passion, and the classics, in Riserva from Castello Vicchiomaggio the wonder is always present, accounted for and delivered through the name of Agostino Petri. No absence of these ideals from 2020, despite the challenge and the idea that this vintage is a Riserva vintage continues to be conceived. These things take time, wines especially built on sangiovese while here softened and made fruitier by ripe cabernet sauvignon. Spot on, generous and giving. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Cecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Valore di Famiglia 2018, Castellina

Solid, weighty, tense and taut sangiovese here from Cecchi in the highest level on the appellative pyramid. Wound tight and will take five years to unwind, just as it has already been nearly five to wind up into this intense present character. Might dry out a bit and the seasoning will be peppery strong as the fruit subsides. The next few years will see the best moments for this Gran Selezioine. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Donato In Poggio

Lovely 2020 from Cinciano, to no surprise with fruit and more fruit at the fore while support is effortlessly provided by both acid and tannin, equally, unequivocally and with hand held outstretched. Some more tension than quite a lot of 2020s but again the fruit does well to stay in line and for the ultimate purpose of balance. Another year will improve the situation. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

The most exotic perfume emits from Colle Bereto’s Annata in 2020 and there are none like it. Like cinnamon and coriander, pine and cedar, the forest and the spice cupboard fully involved. A truly structured and formidable wine, especially for 2020 and needing several years to resolve. That said the purity and quality are unwavering. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Radda

Big and brawny wine from Colle Bereto for Riserva and 2019 though of a concern with fruit cast in balance against structure lined up for low, slow and carefully curated development. And maturity with pure sangiovese raised and never braised, surely to be exulted and ultimately praised. Loving the acids within that structure and the chalkiness in smart ratio these vineyards seem to procure. Bravo Bernardo. Certamente. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Colombaio Di Cencio Chianti Classico DOCG Monticello 2020

The fruit is quite dark here and this has occurred in isolated frazione but more so pinpointed vineyard locations here and there from 2020 in the territory. Parts of Panzano and Radda but also here from Gaiole and yet the wine is soft, mature and accessible. More about sweet acids in structural terms so don’t think too much nor wait too long to drink this palatable wine.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2019, Montefioralle

More than promising vintage for this single vineyard Gran Selezione from Sebastiano Capponi and that is the operative word because Vigna Bastignano is beholden to time. From 2019 the one that suffices is such a structured sangiovese with broad shoulders with most substantial Montefioralle fruit to go the distance. More than suffices. Basti dire che. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG Petrignano 2020, Vagliagli

Petrignano is a newer label for Dievole and in Annata form it’s a most forward thinking and drinking example from the Vagliagli estate. This from 2020 doubles down on the ideal with fruit sweet like candy, naturally and without any undue stress or tension in the glass. Easy, clean and getable. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Dievole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Vagliagli

Here comes yet another bit of professional brilliance from Dievole at the Riserva appellative level, mainly with sangiovese plus two or three points of supportive and original territory DNA by canaiolo and colorino. Fruit swells straight away, up front and centre, equidistant from all parts connectable, structural and conceptual. Fruit is an apex predator that feeds on acid and tannin for survival. Dievole owns all the tools and gets it correct. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Della Aiola Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Vagliagli

Aiola’s 2020 Annata is place and vintage driven raised in big casks and on promises, ready and willing to please when spring arrives, just around the corner. It’s really that close to having settled in and deliver the grace and charm expected. Quite a lovely, lithe and red citrus vintage right here of great specificity. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Di Lamole Paolo Socci Chianti Classico DOCG Castello Di Lamole 2016, Lamole

Tart and volatile, a truly swarthy and natural sangiovese from Lamole. Both chewy and with some formaggi, a wine so very Lamole but more so this label within the UGA. Extremely parochial and idiosyncratic behaviour. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Vagliagli

Sizeable case production and a sangiovese with some softening merlot out of the southerly Vagliagli UGA. Straightforward, of peppery plum and red citrus, currants and a dustiness about the overall feel. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, San Donato In Poggio

Juicy, fruity, glycerin, simple and needing to be consumed. Drink 2023. Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, San Donato In Poggio

Pure and ready, amenable and readable Annata here from Le Masse’s San Donato in Poggio vines, treated with utmost respect and for all the right reasons. This is textural sangiovese and quantities are so low you should count yourself lucky to secure just a bottle or two. Grace, understatement and charm are what this feels like are the things that comprise its beauty.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Fattoria Di Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, San Donato In Poggio

Purely San Donato in Poggio, red fruit of red citrus as gelid texture with a coolness and a fineness that speaks directly to 2019. The tannins are quite resolved and yet the wine has much to give and life yet to live. Look ahead five plus years and imagine the changes to come, but best to drink in the freshness for now.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG Primum 2018, San Donato In Poggio

From Montecchio’s Premium Line in the squat half magnum bottle and from warm 2018 a mainly sangiovese with five percent cabernet sauvignon that smooths the angles and curves all the lines. Rounded, well-rounded at that, with really mature fruit, as if in a slow-cooked stew, braising liquid fine and viscous. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Felciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

Dusty and herbal, quite the savoury expression, especially for Panzano and a wine of place above all else. Full and not lacking for fruit from a palate that does so much more in terms of impression and what this wine is capable of becoming. Still quite youthful so return in two years to see what will become.  Last tasted February 2023

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castelnuovo Berardenga

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

Firm yet fair Annata from Fèlsina and one off the harbingers not only for Castelnuovo Berardenga but surely Chianti Classico as a whole. The 2021s are a formidable group, like 2019 Barolo in certain structural and yet immovable respect. Though this entry is but an indicator, instigator and liquidator it does so with all possibilities and probabilities intact. Classic Fèlsina of a broad spectrum to speak on behalf of a wide breadth of fruit sourced out their many vineyard blocks. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Fèlsina Berardenga Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Castelnuovo Berardenga

There is a perfume, a scent of the earth and also Castelnuovo sky that creates au aura about Rancia for Riserva. The vineyard looms over the land and the fruit always marries with the earth to give away its character as it defies logic and does just this for the vintage. Each and every one actually, yet 2020 is warm and full, with pine and spice at the apex of Fèlsina’s usually aromatic display. A liqueur of macerating cherries season while more spice wakes and covers the palate, lingering and leaving memories behind. I will remember this Rancia, forever and always. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Fietri Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Gaiole

Express Gaiole savour, a verdancy unlike any other Chianti Classico commune or UGA. Crunchy red fruit like crusted cherries and of an intensity that has yet to dissipate, nor has this pure sangiovese softened in any way. There are layers to peel away and although the ripeness is not like 2019 it really doesn’t need to be. Speaks for the vintage and for Gaiole in correct ways, without apology and for longevity. Upper echelon 2020 Classico. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Panzano

Definitely richer and also more overt structure from Panzano when you look at Fontodi’s Annata side by side with (Filetta di Lamole) and yet the vintage kinship is organized like cousins with familial ties. Finding high acid from 2020 and so all together there are many parts to put this vintage in the arena of long age-ability. Apt and ample viscosity makes for a mouthful of sangiovese and the variety always remains at the heart of a Classico by Fontodi. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2021

Rubiolo is 100 per cent Sangiovese and Panzano fruit from 400-plus meters of elevation above and to the west side of the Conca d’Oro. Expressive of the two factions of Panzano character, texture and savour. Silky smooth liquidity and more accessible than what might have been pre-conceived though there is surely no lack of grip emanating through the cool ooze of this wine. Really quite fine. Drink 2024-2028.   Tasted February 2023

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2020

All sangiovese from Castellina (40 per cent), Panzano (45) and a small amount from Badia a Passignano (in San Casciano). “A regular season, warm but not like 2022,” explains agronomist Giulio Carmassi and so ”maturation was corchato (shorter)” and harvest was compressed in to five or six days. Rains came late in September, causing a nervous and quick pick. A good vintage though not considered top and yet the purity of red fruit is present. Saw a 20-22 day maceration time in stainless with aging for eight months, half in old barriques. Sent to concrete and blended. A firmness and still some moments of tension about this Classico with a push-pull posit tug between freshness and maturity expressed as salumi, skins too and two-toned fruit; dried currants and fresh pomegranate. For early drinking in any case, starting six months from now. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Gagliole, Panzano

Gagliole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Panzano

Fulsome and chewy Riserva for Gagliole with 100 percent Panzano sangiovese part beautiful and part structured, by Galestro and Pietraforte soils. This fruit comes from the heart and epicentre of Chianti Classico Pietraforte with a warm 2020 delivering waves of fruit and mineral, alternating, integrating and soon to be evolving. This 2020 feels like a Riserva quite close to reaching its peak, likely in two years but the wealth of fruit means the door will open sooner rather than later. Drink 2024-2028. Tasted February 2023.

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2020, Lamole

A fine and lithe Annata from Susanna Grassi out of 2020 and yet without a doubt equipped with the fineness and beauty of eternal Lamole perfume. In a wonderful place right now, ease of fruit sliding on a corrente e snello scale, fine liquidity with a streak Of salinity. So apropos for Lamole and the varietal sangiovese it breathes. Spot on and restrained. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Panzano

“I don’t know why, but you will never see wines as dark as the 2020s,” tells Iacopo Morganti. Though truth is Il Molino Di Grace has never made less quantity and so concentration is as high as ever. Aside for hue this is “a nice Chianti Classico to drink now – my prelim is I don’t have enough,” says Morganti. Indelibly floral and stamped with quality approval, heady and yet elegant, forceful and elastic. Fine Galestro chalk of tannin and grip by Pietraforte. A different vintage and why shouldn’t it be? Happened during a pandemic and did its very own thing, without interruption and for all the right reasons. Magdalena Vineyard plays a big part in this level of appellative wine. These are simply grapes made into wine after all. Pure and real IMDG though with lower acidity and though big it’s easy to drink. Hyper real. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Molino Riserva

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Panzano

In line with the Classico yet with better quality material chosen there is higher acidity and that matters greatly. Tannins are finer as well, yet that same darkness of pitchy and perfumed fruit is consistent with tighter and stronger grip. Must be granted another year in bottle to settle the strongholds and the score. The barrel has much to say right how, noted in grains running through the veins of the sangiovese. Older vines including Il Bosco are Riserva bound. The linger and length on this is infinite, at least in Riserva terms. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

Not just because of the extra year in bottle but also the kind of year, fruit more in red tones, effusive spoken language and elegance are what 2019 surely is. Acidity runs higher than 2020 and the wine while settling is still working through youthful energy. Still there are some bursts, fits and spurts from such a wine of vitality. Linear, less elastic but neither stringent nor too intense. Never vivid or glaring because it knows itself and what it wants to be. This will live long, that much is clear. Well, everything is very clear. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Il Molino

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2020, Panzano

Fine tannic presence from Gran Selezione for 2020, several steps up from Riserva with less pitch and grab but still overt dark fruit. More diversity and complexity in perfume, notable violets and rose but really what stands out here is how the tannins allow the fruit to stay up front. There are no perceived grains or sand-papery textures involved, neither is Il Margone soft or fluffy. There may only be 8,000 or so bottles available at this quality and so a rare and must have wine it most certainly will be. Iacopo Morganti explains it well. “It’s not easy too make three different levels of Chianti Classico. You need to understand the vintage and the differences, especially when you have less quantity.” Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Panzano

As far as 2020 and Panzano are concerned there is a great deal of concentration and substance coming three ways from Il Palagio di Panzano’s Annata. Fruit, acid and tannin, all set to high intensity, each sucked and layered upon one another. A Classico in the great sense of the word and the appellation, pure and remarkable, not a sangiovese of any stringent notes despite how much has been pulled from these grapes. Juicy, no dustiness whatsoever and liquid running in soft waves. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

Panzano Riserva in glycerin and unction, substantial fruit and long cask aging, macerate juices swirling and compounding in complex flavours. Some verdant notes that are earthy-savoury driven, pine tree and needle, fern and allium. Complex weave of saline and sapid elements with a toasty oak component yet having fully settled in. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Isole Delle Falcole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2018, Panzano

Only sangiovese and from a vintage where the final days of September saw crazy spikes in heat with nights at freezing. So the fruit was picked on the 28th and here the first Gran Selezione of Emanuele Graetz’s young tenure. Chewy sangiovese with so much palate feel, mouthfeel and texture. Again a Chianti Classico that you will not have ever tasted before. Leathery and fruit-centric with fine tannins though not the kind that will see this age the way the 2019 surely will. The flavours here however are complex and their linger is seemingly never-ending. A remarkable wealth of precociousness and purity, almost as innocent as a wine can be, lucky and wholly professional all at once. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Radda and Gaiole

Angela Fronti’s Annata is an expression of several vineyards, where rocks are such an important matter, in soils of Galestro plus Alberese, but also elevation and slope. The Classico’s grapes come mostly from Radda vineyards (Istine and Casanova dell’Aia) but also Gaiole (Cavarchione, Tibuca and Le Noci). Though a child of cool, calculated and mysterious ’21 there is quite a rouse of joy and untamed energy coming straight out of this pure sangiovese. Fronti has done well to coax pleasure with little tension or pain and as such you could very much have a glass as soon as you wish. Barrel sample or not and so when it does find its wine into bottle this 2021 will drink well from the start.  Tasted February 2023

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Casciano

With the oenological help of Stefano di Blasi it is this sangiovese from La Sala del Torriano that speaks in clear tones and terms. In San Casciano vernacular that translates as herbals and savour of the silkiest and sweetest kind. Like a dry Amaro, a chew of Australian liquorice and a lick of fine Maldon salt. Maybe some chocolate by the barrel at the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

La Vigna Di San Martino Ad Argiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, San Casciano

Tiny production of Riserva here from La Vigna di San Martino ad Argiano in San Casciano and a curious example at that. Good ripeness and glycerol yet spiced, capsicum spicy and chalky within the context of pretty darn chewy fruit. All sangiovese and a wine certainly worth investigating to potentially really getting to know. Would like to put a few aside and see where they go. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Panzano

Spiced aromatics, biscotti to ginger cookies, an eastern Panzano original, fresh and dusky, like the Frazione’s evening air. Tight and focused sangiovese, even more so Panzano on the palate, lightly glycerol and just so perfectly tart. Though a two-plus year old Annata this is really just about as fresh as it gets. Elevation contributes to the ideal, at 450m and near to the wines from Casole. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

Aromas will remain consistent in 2020, first of a baked amaretti or ginger cookie, a lovely toasted cereal but with an extra year in bottle this Annata expresses more brushy savour, a dried fennel character and yet plenty of freshness persists. The dusty quality is consistent from vintage to vintage and speaks to sangiovese needing time in the bottle to unwind and express its true to Panzano fruit. This is sangiovese of silky tannin but the same thing cannot be said of the mouthfeel. There is more savoury grip involved. Time will continue to help. Track record shows this possibility will become probability.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Aluigi Campo Ai Peri 2018, Panzano

Aluigi’s fruit is darker than the Annata, its tannins are just as silky and as for mouthfeel there is more smooth consistency and character than in the other Le Cinciole wines. A much bigger wine from a bigger vintage in part because it was hot and also when the last two days of September produced high level degrees of temperature by day but also low to near zero by night. This means a big Aluigi with high level acidity captured and kept to be a catalyst for dark fruit to shine and age. Age well this will though it will always be a wine of depth and heft. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Vicky Schmitt Vitali – Le Fonti di Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

Classic Le Fonti and I mean what else but classic, as expected from fruit and producer so intrinsically connected it’s as though there is no separation between people and land. At this stage a maturity post reduction and locked in full freshness without steps taken towards the secondary. Spot on salt and pepper seasoning and a truly gastronomical sangiovese with soft merlot roundness plus hue-instigative colorino. Well blended and enjoyable in every respect. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

From 2018 there is the most crystalline clarity, purity and natural fruit sweetness from Le Fonti’s Riserva, this in spite of high level accumulated warmth and alcohol conversion rates. The merlot helps to smooth and silken the texture so that a seamless transition confirms the goal of invitation, to ideal phenolics and maximum pleasure. What this means for Vicky Schmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali is a Riserva that speaks in their particular heart of Panzano language with a sangiovese so honest and direct, in every respect. Beautiful wine. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Panzano

Bigger wine in 2018, even more so than ’19, not because of stylistic choice or bigger dreams but simply because this part of Panzano experienced late season heat. Also cold nights and so Riserva’s acidity drives stride for stride with fruit, alcohol and tannin. Picking late ensured multi-toned ripeness and fully realized sangiovese dreams. An extreme vintage but one so well managed at Le Fonti because these custodians of Panzano are pragmatic survivors who can do nothing but fashion the most hospitable and nurturing Chianti Classico. It is the proprietors’ heritage, imperative and humanity. This is a wine of intensity and concentration, perhaps less fresh than 2019 but one that just may outlast that vintage in its own special way. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Le Miccine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Gaiole

Barrel sample. Very taut, acids still running amok and wood very much in control. Blue to black fruit with a stop at purple, Gaiole savour and a whole mess of everything happening at once. Needs a minimum two years to settle in but there is plenty of stuffing to see brightness ahead. More than a bit early to make any lasting assessment.  Tasted February 2023

Le Palaie Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Montefioralle

A new look at Montefioralle and a tiny production for Chianti Classico of perfectly timed maturity. Though there is a simplicity about the character of this 2019 it is nothing if not a lovely glass of wine. The 20 percent mixing in of merlot and cabernet sauvignon just pushes the point further to understand that this is about here and now. Drink up CC lovers. This is a basic gateway drug. Drink 2023-2024.   Tasted February 2023

Diego Finnochi and Elisa Arretini – L’Erta di Radda

L’Erta Di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Radda

Barrel sample. Only Diego Finocchi presents sangiovese in Riserva this way. With grace and fluidity, liquid sapidity and Raddese acidity. No canaiolo in 2020, solo sangiovese and the balance shows, the major grape able to create the push-pull of posit salty to mineral tug without problem. There is tension mind you, but no issues to report on. There never are. Still it’s simply too early for full disclosure or assessment.  Tasted February 2023

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

Tasting and assessing Lornano from 2020 at such an early stage feels unprecedented yet here we are and try we will to see the forest for the trees. Some tart angles and more than ample tannin yet clear and sweet they are in surround of fruit we just know will become fleshy and expansive. Again, this is sangiovese and time is of the matter. Patience for Lornano and their corner of Castellina. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

As with some other well known Chianti Classico producers that hold back Annata longer than most this feels strange to be tasting a 2020 from la Famiglia Losi. A most glycerol Castelnuovo Berardenga and one of impressive fruit though wood is very much a factor, imparting a floral and vanilla waft through the bones of the wine. That and what Alberese will instigate makes us understand that this sangiovese with sapidity catalyst canaiolo is not yet done what maturing it needs to do. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Casciano

More than markedly youthful Annata by Alessandro Palombo from a 2021 vintage we are still years away from figuring out. Reductive and coiled tight with acids proper wrapped around substantial fruit. Neither pepper nor rubber but simply fruit, structure and youth. Need to revisit a year from now to see what it’s all about. Judgement is a tad reserved. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Ottontuno 2019, San Casciano

Not simply stuck in a black hole of structure but this 2019 San Casciano Gran Selezione is of an immovable infrastructure that defines positioning and appellate category. Big boned and more of an impression left as opposed to expressiveness, at least now and likely for five more years. Needing the toasty wood and dense tannins to dissipate, things that will take quite a bit of time. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Marchesi Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Gaiole

You can always feel the white soil of Tenuta Perano and nowhere more so than from Annata level Chianti Classico. More than sangiovese with 10 percent merlot and (5) cabernet sauvignon for a silky smooth 2020 that wants to share its impression as early as it can. Cool and sappy, easy to understand and professional as they come. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Marchesi Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Gaiole

Perano glides as Riserva, smooth and suave, sangiovese ripe as necessary and just a few splashes of merlot tossed in for the good measure of sweet seasoning. Quite an easy drinking Riserva of 2019 generosity, the least amount of savoury elements possible as it pertains to Gaiole and these white calcareous soils of the Tenuta. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Maurizio Brogioni Chianti Classico DOCG H’Amorosa 2021, Montefioralle

Barrel sample. A smallest of small production for Annata determines the effort and fate of this Montefioralle 2021. Just a touch of verdant behaviour touches the back end but this is poignant and proper for 2021 of classic and traditional Annata style.  Tasted February 2023

Maurizio Brogioni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Montefioralle

A small lot and still peppery reductive sangiovese as Riserva from 2020. Quite toasty, smoky even and lots of green running around. Needs time and yet it will be hard to imagine these roasted and smouldering notes ever fully falling away, or melting in. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Sangió 2021, Panzano

From a property purchased in September 2018 above the village of Panzano, direction Volpaia. One of 10 hectares planted to the MB33 clone with this being the third vintage and first time shown at an Anteprima. There was 800mm of rain ahead of the growing season and the vineyard’s elevation attracts high solar radiation juxtaposed against cooler night time temperatures. Also less rot than at Monte Bernardi with similar soils of Galestro and Pietraforte. Michael Schmelzer refers to hedge trimming as the way to maintain composure. From a viticultural standpoint 2018 is a vintage that separates the wheat from the chaff, with no rain during the season. “If you have different clones, say 420A and/or do not hedge trim, you can’t complain about irrigation,” says Schmelzer. “You’re throwing away water.” Not Michael and the early results of his new frontier vineyard determine a sangiovese bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, enthusiastic, happy and full of energy. What else can you say? MB33 is part of the fabric of Chianti Classico’s future. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted February 2023

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Panzano

Unexpectedly tannic vintage and also for what it means to be a Monte Bernardi Riserva. Less showy and forward than 2018 though the immediacy gained is again from a long 45 day post-fermentative maceration with higher than many stem inclusion. Higher than 2019 and 2021 in that regard. “I’ve reasons for what I do,” explains Michael Schmelzer. “My decisions are like my cooking instinct. I don’t follow the hard rules of a laboratory. I work on fundamentals, not relying on numbers.” Riserva is a matter of knack and intuition, salt and pepper seasoning, a Monte Bernardi style and best case scenario. Though grippy as a vintage there is haute and high caste toothsome piquancy in this 2020 and it may just fool us all by outliving the rest. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Greve from Montefioralle

Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Greve

Barrel sample. Showing every minute not yet gained as a sangiovese with a few percentage points of various complimentary grapes (3) canaiolo plus (2) altri vitigni creating a push pull of saline-sapid notations. A bit swarthy and volatility needs to settle but a little bit of sulphur at bottling will do the trick.  Tasted February 2023

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Montefioralle

Lorenzo Sieni’s 2020 Annata is just perfectly Montefioralle, succulent through savoury and back again, acidity running up the sides of the palate and fruit round throughout. Never tries too hard nor demands too much, of itself or us, the willing and abiding tasters. Lovely Annata and perfectly expressive of time and place. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Alessandra Deiana and Michele Braganti, Monteraponi, Radda

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Radda

Ripe red fruit to the nth degree and a most natural feeling emitting from Michele Braganti’s 2021 Annata with a readiness ahead of many. A sweetness in the plums and citrus expressed as pure sapid tang with perfect help made to slide across the palate. This is a restrained and fine acid example with sneaky structure laying low, much like Beaune pinot noir, albeit in Chianti Classico. “You just have to wait,” shrugs Braganti. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2020, Gaiole

Good and plenty fruit with a twist in that additions of canaiolo and malvasia nera bring seasoning and spice. Travels well beyond salinity into aromatics and flavours from the spice rack and sapid sensations accrued. A crisp and crunchy Annata for 2020, spoken as Gaiole through the name Vaggliolata. Settling in nicely at this point and drinking really well. Savoury without overt greenness or toast. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico DOCG Morino 2021, San Casciano

Quite a compliment of other endemic grapes not only aid and abet but work so properly too create cohesion and define this special Classico from San Casciano. The breakdown of 80 percent sangiovese, (10) canaiolo, (5 each) pugnitello and colorino is essential and creates a balanced 2021, of less tension than some but also pure without greens or greys mired in the void. A very successful and textured wine of silk and chalkiness for seven to ten years ahead. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico DOCG Morino 2020, San Casciano

A singular Chianti Classico and also San Casciano expression with an almost San Donato in Poggio-like blood orange of red citrus expressiveness. Also textural, of glycerol and the savoury elements that while present are less what we think of when we consider San Casciano. Plenty of machinations in this 2020, of 80 per cent sangiovese, (10) canaiolo, plus (5 each) pugnitello and colorino. Stands apart from the pack. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Nardi Viticoltori Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

Traditional in so many respects and also a sangiovese plus five percent each endemic canaiolo and colorino for a doubling down of abiding respect to Castellina and all of Chianti Classico. Expertly tart and liquid chalky, a year away from integrating structure through the wine, to be followed by three to five years of fine drinking. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Piemaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Le Fioraie 2019, Castellina

Most curious aromatic 2019 from Piemaggio with Chinese five spice all over the waft. That and preserved strawberry, tar and roses. Quite nebbiolo like in some respects with different tannins of course. Cool and savoury, notable evergreen and mint, finely designed and amply structured. Good example of red Castellina while setting its own course of style. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

The fineness of red fruit in layers and made to express breathes of fresh air in fine sprit by elevation in Radda sets this Podere Capaccia up for great success. Charming, graceful and yet grippy enough to stand up, defend its territory and survive for quite a stretch of time. Fine work from Alyson Morgan and team. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Donato In Poggio

Graceful and charming sangiovese with smoothness and texture added poignancy by 10 per cent merlot puts this 2020 in great vintage standing. Yes it is so very San Donato in Poggio but it’s also Podere La Cappella in a nutshell. The Rossini wines always express and taste this way, like bleeds from white limestone and a ripeness befitting this place. Also freshness by winds from the sea running through as a relish and a vim that keeps your hold of the palate. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Querciolo 2018, San Donato In Poggio

Very pretty 2018 Riserva, reddest of red fruit with that omnipresent streak of white Colombino limestone running through. Great and substantial fruit, high level acidity and my what fine tannins. A perfectly reasoned and seasoned Riserva for drinking 10 years. Easy. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

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

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2021, Radda

One thing you can count on is for Piero Lanza’s sangiovese to come out ripe as any in the territory and 2021 would surely not be an exception to the rule. The fruit is remarkable and the structural parts equally formative and formidable so I’m not sure Lanza has made such a wine in quite some time. Years are needed to settle the pieces, parts and puzzles of this magnanimous affair. Don’t care that Annata is the appellation. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG Nuovo 2020, Radda

Once again why should there be any surprise to find Piero Lanza’s sangiovese from Radda in this state of heightened grace and exactly and correctly what it’s interpreted to be?Where else would a wine so big seem so balanced? How else to explain conversion rates at this level so ideally suited to vineyards that ripen to a point and then begin again? It’s a matter of listening to wind, grains of wood and sand, essence of minerals and elements, spoken through stone. This is Poggerino, anew and reborn, year after year. Nuovo.  Last tasted February 2023

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

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, San Donato In Poggio

Lovely 2020 Annata from San Donato in Poggio though quite mature and resolved at this early juncture. Acids are still hopping and popping while the wood has done little melting into the overall feel of the wine. Seems like two parts are involved and integration may never fully happen. Drink 2024-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Castellina

Monica Raspi’s Pomona Annata is simply a beautiful expression of 2020 Castellina. Spiced and seasoned, just such correct tart and tang, crisp and pure with a swath of beautiful and natural swarthiness through the finish. When this finishes its journey the pieces will all have fallen into place and nothing will distract from pleasure. Kudos to Raspi for exulting the vintage to rise above the rest. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Principe Corsini Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Casciano

Firm and apropos of maker and location, reddest of red San Casciano fruit developed with purpose in vineyards graced by river stones of vines in the path of beneficial marine winds. You can feel the breathability and even a shade of saltiness streaking through the red berry aromas. Crisp, crunchy and then chewy as the wine fleshes across the palate. Duccio Corisini gets better and better at making wines of clarity and profundity. Grande Principe! Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG L’Aura 2021, Castellina

Proper and well raised sangiovese but also conceived as Annata with trenchant purpose is the state of Jacopo di Battista’s most correct L’Aura. There is a sweetness of fruit and acidity rolling as one without much structural distraction though there is some underlying strength in subtlety to see this open with furthered aromatic style. A direction is taken and these are wines to try. If you have not yet joined the watch the time is now. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, San Donato In Poggio

Purely, allegedly and unequivocally San Donato in Poggio here from Quercia al Poggio and an estate that writes the book on frazione definition. Sweetly natural red fruit from plum and citrus, tight and tart acidity but also warmth if kept fresh by breezes blown through. Another quality sangiovese from Vittorio and Paola with spicy bits and accents contributed by four supporting indigenous varieties. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Greve

New directions, adjustments and mediations take Querciabella’s Annata into ever developing progressions and investigative accessing of new territory. Here from 2020 winemaker Manfred Ing finds new texture or next level mouthfeel for an Annata increasingly becoming and speaking on behalf of Greve and especially the Ruffoli hill. This vintage is not asked to over deliver and the statement made is one of drink-ability but also impression over expression. Top examples don’t try to impress – they simply do what’s necessary and so a deep impression is ultimately made. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

Just a beautifully silky, suave and smooth Annata from Renzo Marinai in 2019, expertly blended and having now matured into a great place at this stage of its evolution. Red fruit captured to what just has to be the most ripeness in phenolic terms, with tannins so sweet they melt at first contact with the palate. Gentle in every respect including woolliness, liquid pepper and verdant finishing notes. That’s where the 10 percent cabernet sauvignon makes its appearance. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

A fine and suave Riserva from the Panzano selection of Renzo Marinai, as much a Gran Selezione as many peers, open and fragrant, liquid swirl of sangiovese liqueur but also Cassis by 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. Amenable and beautiful, handsome and sleek. Fine, fine wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

A clear and purposed Ricasoli Annata, standing on edge, pointed and direct to tell a story of tradition and five soils across many hectares of expertly managed vineyards. Grippy and firm, needing six months to a year in bottle, fine and expressive being the actions of the future. Hoping to see this released in the fall of 2023 in Ontario. That would be the right time to begin enjoying this wine. Impressive interpretation of Gaiole considering 600,000 bottles are made. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2020, Castellina

Dark fruit as per very specific locations in Chianti Classico and a Riserva of depth to be sure. The well is full of macerating cherries, fresh leather and wood spice for tradition kept but modernity acceded to install confidence in what today’s Riserva in many instances has become. Fulsome wine from Rocca delle Macìe, to no surprise. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG Tenuta Di Fizzano 2020, Castellina

The classicism of a Famiglia Zingarelli Gran Selezione from a single estate and a much smaller sku than most would expect. Just 26,000 bottles made and a top pyramid expression at a most affordable price for very specific markets, including Ontario which should be thankful for the gift. Crunchy and conversely chewy, wood a factor in vanilla plus chocolate, acids sharp and on point. Will live gracefully for a few years yet. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2019, Castellina

It just feels as though a Famiglia Zingarelli sangiovese will always act, emit and taste this way, that were this wine poured blind we would know the origin and the appellation. That being Gran Selezione and with 2019 the glare and obvious beautiful red mess of Castellina fruit is right there. The tops for substantial fruit as far as this GS is concerned and possessive an aging potential long and great. Should become one of Zingarelli’s finest. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

It seems that only Rocca di Castagnoli unearths this very specific kind of red fruit in Gaiole and it must be attributed to location but also elevation. Less herbal and savoury than almost all the rest of Gaiole but surely startling and vital in its very own way. This from 2021 is firm yet fair, chalky tannic but seemingly not a fortress unbreakable or formidable to gain access. A well characterized and nurtured Chianti Classico that will give back. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Gaiole

Surprising grip and structure here from Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2021 Annata, well not exactly shocking but this is a vintage wine quite far from readying towards release. Tannins are fine chained, grained, unbreakable and of a saltiness really connecting the mineral dots of this wine. Some canaiolo and colorino bring added seasoning and so sapidity is a thing. Crunchy for Gaiole and less herbaceous than most. Should begin to open in 18 months or so. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Ruffino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Riserva Ducale Oro 2018, Castellina

Suave and smooth, nary a tannic moment, easy drinking Gran Selezione. Not the most structured 2018 and very little tension but you can enjoy the wealth of fruit, wood and savour for three to four years while you wait for others vintages to settle in and open their doors. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castellina

Sangiovese with 10 percent canaiolo and colorino from the warm vintage down in quantity due to the April frosts, a year-plus spent in tonneaux followed by six months in bottle before release. That quantity was two-thirds of a normal production and concentration is surely above the norm in this 2021. Great acidity, highest level of the stuff and the fruit is ever-bearing ripe on the nose while tannins are overtly grippy and the wine needs another year in bottle to truly show its stuff. That said this will surely be the finest Annata from San Fabiano Calcinaia. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Cellole 2019, Castellina

Mainly Sangiovese with some colorino and a few splashes of merlot “that speaks Chiantigiana.” Also a 500m elevation for most of these grapes, the sangiovese planted in the 80s and converted to organic in the 90s. A stony Galestro soil opposite to the sandy clay and calcari, i.e Calcinaia around the borgo and winery. Only Cellole delivers this cool, liquid peppery swarthiness that the Classico does not show and also a combination of verdant but also distinct minerals notes. Tannins are exceptionally taut with at least two to three years remaining before they begin to truly integrate. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Cellole 2015, Castellina

Unequivocal Cellole profile, woollen and natural, earthen and full-bodied. The more this 2015 ages the more it smells and tastes like Cellole, the place. It simply exaggerates and hyperbolizes with each drop in tannin, each integrate connection between maturing fruit and those once über grippy tannins. Classic Calcinaia acidity bar none.  Last tasted February 2023

Cellole is San Fabiano Calcinaia’s top tier Chianti Classico from Guido Serio out of Castellina in Chianti. There is always a curious and distinguishable aromatic profile in all their sangiovese but especially from the Gran Selezione. Part hematic and part natural in origin that is split between land and cellar. As for the vintage the sweetness of fruit and the thick texture it bleeds is the plasma and the oxygen that gives it breath. Expressly Castellina in deep red fruit and with a particular San Fabiano chalky twist. Opens and breathes some more with air and time. Well-framed and positioned at the price point for a good seven or eight year run. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2020

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Cellole 2010, Castellina

The third to last bottle of said vintage is opened for this tasting and what a treat to have a moment with this inaugural vintage of the Cellole as Gran Selezione. Showing its age in aromas to be sure and yet the palate is vibrant while oak flavours and spice are intrinsically pronounced. The swell is filled with soya, iodine, black cherry and a sanguine flood throughout. Tannins persist in a chalkiness as well but what is most fascinating is this gastronomy of a Gran Selezione. It just tastes like Tuscan cuisine and though a finger can’t be put on exactly what that is, well there is a gaminess, from dry-aged bistecca to picciona that makes this wine taste like it does. Then arrives the porcini, tartufo and orange zest. Complexities abound and all are pleased.  Last tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico DOCG 2006, Castellina

A small amount of sangiovese joins trebbiano and malvasia bianco for Vin Santo from what is considered a top appellative vintage. Clocks in at 15 per cent after more than 10 years in caratelli, emerging as nutty and finely golden toasty as any in the biz. Hazelnut namely but also this gelid lemon and gingered orange crème brûlée flavour that lingers forever. As savoury as it is sweet so don’t confine this to dessert wine times. Begin the night with an ounce or two alongside the antipasti, preferably of a pâté, parfait or rillettes kind. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2023

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Annata or anything else by San Felice can only act like a child and a rebellious one at that when tasted so early in its tenure. Barrel and tannin are far from ready to relent and allow their wine its due. There is a fortress door to open and the substance behind the gates lies in waiting to be free. Two years methinks before that becomes reality. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Baròncole 2020, Gaiole

Barrel sample and the youth of this San Giusto wine is something too behold. A fortification equal to both Siena and Firenze combined. Le Baròncole is serious, stone-faced and impressive. My goodness. Score and full assessment reserved to a much later date.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Panzano

Then comes along Carobbio with a wine older than almost any other Annata in the collection and yet even from 2018 this sangiovese has yet to hit its stride. Dark fruit of baritone voice and depth puts this in unique territory and it would seem the grapes were mainly picked later, after the two day heat spike at September’s culmination. That said low nighttime temps kept the acidity and so 2018 from Carobbio should age as well as any Riserva and many Gran Selezione from the vintage. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Panzano

Fruit quite mature of 90 percent sangiovese with five each merlot and cabernet sauvignon, a focused expression and very much the warmest of (western) Panzano style. You can taste the Bordeaux grapes in here, with a Cassis for sure but also some desiccation of small berries. Minty and a cherry stone bitterness on the palate with drying tannins. Give an hour of air and drink over the next three years. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Panzano

Fruit quite fresh for 2018 and in a way more so than the following 2019, here again from a consistent blend of 90 percent sangiovese with five each merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Juicy Panzano expression, ready and willing to please, tannins softening now and acidity captured with truth. Raspberry and blueberry, fruit captured at peak and here an Annata with silky tannins, everything in line and ready to roll.  Last tasted February 2023

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

From the southwest corner of Greve in Chianti, southwest of Montefioralle and close to Panzano. Modish and modern for 21st century sangiovese is just this, stylish, chic and highly motivated. Quite fully developed and felt red fruit of glycerin, pectin and mouthfeel but you want more and more. Impressive magnitude in bringing so much fruit into the mix. Not overtly high in acid or tannin so use this early and often. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted twice, February 2020

Purple shales where the three UGAs of Montefioralle, Panzano and Greveconverge

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2019, Panzano

Riserva is 100 per cent sangiovese, a bit dusty and reserved, acids and tannins very much in charge. Crisp and crunchy for Riserva with notable fennel and balsamic notes with a nuttiness that is a palate extension from palate sweetness. A factor of new and used barriques with baking spice that in conjunction with full on ripeness to the edge creates a feeling of sleepiness. Enervating sangiovese. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Panzano

A Riserva quite consistent with the ’18 Annata, than the 19s, fruit captured at a more harmonious induced state and ultimately juicier as a result. Tannins silky with plenty of glycerol in a Riserva of dark western Panzano caramelization. Would not wait to drink this 100 percent sangiovese because maturity is fully happening already. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Di Arceno Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castelnuovo Berardenga

A vintage for which merlot at 15 per cent does wonders to install calm and roundness into San Gusmé sangiovese of dusty, drifty and instigative tannin. There is a swirl of red to purple berry liqueur in this high glycerol content of an Annata to take Castelnuovo Berardenga into another stylistic and one not often reached. Modernized, renovated and refurbished. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Di Carleone Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Radda

All in with sangiovese from Radda and the term in purezza rings true on so many levels. First by grape variety, second by commune/UGA from which acidity is expressly Raddese and finally for an Annata of superior clarity. Quality too, guaranteed and obvious as witnessed by a wine both getable now yet structured for longer than most would postulate and mistakenly choose the under to pontificate. The lines and ascension are perfectly incremental and Tenuta di Carleone will rise with the finest of the 2020s. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta Di Lilliano Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Castellina

There are many, not all mind you but a great number of 2021 Chianti Classico in delivery of this silken, glycerol and so very modern character. That and a firm grip with high level acidity captured. A big wine this time from Lilliano, stylish, chic and strutting. Fruit set and connectivity are well aggregated though this won’t be one to age indefinitely. Drink in the near term. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Tenuta San Vincenti Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Gaiole

Soft, getable, smooth and silken sangiovese, made more so in this way by 20 percent merlot for a drink as soon as possible example for the vintage. A 2020 of fine style, simple, functional and professional. Relatively speaking this is a small lot Annata (at 20,000 bottles) and worthy of your attention. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Massimo and Cosimo Bojola – Squarcialupi, Castellina

Tenute Squarcialupi La Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Cosimo Bojola 2021, Castellina

Squarcialupi farms 33 Castellina hectares plus 10 in Maremma. Massimo Bojola’s is the only cellar in the village of Castellina. His father in law purchased the land, building, enoteca, restaurant and aging cellar in 1980. From 2020 all the wines are organic. Aged in amphora for 11 months, all sangiovese on skins, the label hand drawn by Cosimo himself. The only Chianti Classico DOCG for which 100 percent comes out of amphora and Cosimo’s is anything but light and yes it’s a different style but there is nothing idiosyncratic about this wine whatsoever. Blood orange, tar and roses, just sticky enough to solicit palate attention and really just a pure expression of sangiovese. A melt of sweet clay, very Galestro mineral. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Tenute Squarcialupi La Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG Squarcialupi 2020, Castellina

The label is a of a painter in the Squarcialupi Palace, drawn by Cosimo Bojola. Just over a year in medium sized cask, same vintage as the Amphora Chianti Classico yet darker of fruit which seems counterintuitive to this not remaining on skins for 11 months – as with the Cosimo Bojola. It’s the colorino, even at five percent doing the hue-mans work. Rich and unctuous, high acid tang, intense and a bit vivid. Stays its course all the way through, never wavering or being led to distraction, neither by overly aggressive tannins or astringencies. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Tenute Squarcialupi La Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Castellina

All sangiovese, subjected to a prolonged capello sommerso maceration for up to two months. Spends two years in smaller wood, 10 and 14 hL sizes and going forward there will be at least some amphora aging for this wine. Much meatier and marbled than both Annata with Cinta Senese muskiness and peppery finocchiona spice. Complex Riserva in so many respects, plenty of fruit substance with minerals popping in and out at every turn. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Tenute Squarcialupi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016, Castellina

A 100 percent sangiovese made from the sace vineyard as Riserva, of same prolonged maceration a la Capello sommerso. Aging in small Tuscan barrels made near Rufina, barriques and tonneaux of size. Adds a tougher and grippier feel to sangiovese, unlike the softness of French barriques. This Selezione has settled well and the fruit is remarkably fresh. All parts of this ’16 are in order, in symbiosis repeated and layered, folding back upon itself again and again. Ready to drink, wholly enjoyable, now and for a few more winters. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2021, Vagliagli

Dense and fulsome, as always with generous barrels exaggerating the macerate pool in which thick and viscous sangiovese with five percent cabernet sauvignon swims. An intense example, especially at Annata level and though the tannins are a bit hard and drying there is ample to substantial fruit to handle the realities of this wine. Wait two years. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Greve

Mainly stainless steel fermentation plus some open top fermenters, followed by 16 months in large (30 hL) botti. A mix of the younger plantings from all three vineyard sites; Terreno, Montefioralle and in some vintages also Sillano across the valley from Terreno up against the Monti del Chianti. Makes up approximately 35-40 percent of the total (80,000 bottle) production. The 2019 is the Annata on the market and this will likely be released later in the Spring. Approachable like many 2020s of darker fruit and a roundness making this ready as soon as anyone would wish to drink it. Already at this stage the freshness and generosity meet at a point of open amenability. Good flesh on the bone and also like biting into red stone fruit. Clarity and purity. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018, Greve

Sangiovese plus 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, (5) colorino and mainly Bonnille Vineyard across the valley from Terreno, of eight hectares on Alberese soil purchased in the 90s to add to the existing seven at Terreno. Similar altitude upwards of 350m and a warm vintage leading to 14.5 percent alcohol. Open top fermenters called Mastella are used for the fermentation, introducing oxygen and yet keeping a cap above for a wet journey through to the transfer for aging in big barrels. A Riserva of sanguinity and also animale, a lovely salumi and also raw meat muskiness that speaks to making an appellative wine from a very specific place. Good structure here as well, showing signs of life to live until the end of the decade. Really good work here from the vintage. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno, Greve

Terreno Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Asofia 2019, Greve

Asofia is only from the oldest vines planted in 1980 and 2019 i the first vintage labeled as Gran Selezione. Previous it was a single-vineyard slash cru-designate, 100 percent Chianti Classico. A much more pinpointed and focused wine as compared to the Classico, aromatically charged with Alberese and clay as the soil source abutting the Chianti Mountains. A maturity and concentration of fruit as per the old vines that lend experience and fullness. Picked on the 4th of October and it shows in the phenolic quality, upwards of let’s say 8.5, pushing nine out of 10 on that hypothetic scale. Brush and cooler climate from the surrounding woods lends a savoury element to this wine and in Greve terms there is an almost Lamole at elevation and perfumed aspect of this hyper specific sangiovese. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sillano 2019, Montefioralle

One of two Gran Selezione and harvested almost a week later on October 10th, referring to the place and little church near the village of Montefioralle. From 500m on calcareous soils (Essentially Alberese), not Formazione di Sillano as might have once been supposed because of the name of the place. No barriques or tonneaux, aged 24 months in 12 and 24 hL oak, finishing at 13.5 percent, much apposite to 2018 that finished at 15 percent. This is purely Montefioralle, exquisitely so, cool and fresh, elegant and if this isn’t an ideal vintage for the UGA then I for one will have no idea what is. Purity of parochial red fruit and a temperate state of being, calm and relaxed. The tension lies hidden in the shadows of this wine, non-explicit and as a result the sangiovese seems non-plussed. The tannins are upright, timely yet taut. All this to say that Sillano will be ready just a bit later than Asofia and will also live just that much longer. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2021, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Lovely aromatic swirl emanates from the Vallenuova 2021 and the capture is pure Castelnuovo Berardenga, regardless of how ubiquitous that may sound, or seem. This is the sangiovese of great and wide open space, of crisp air and therefore freshness but also dusty qualities that speak to grape and place. Wait a year and drink for three to four thereafter. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Tolaini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Montebello Sette 2019, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Hard to pick a better vintage from which to create a Montebello for the ages. Here a pure Castelnuovo sangiovese that sings, in warm weather and were it to rain, happily anyway, structured and built to last a lifetime. This is Tolaini’s success, their benchmark at the top appellative level, so right, correct and true. Bravo. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Panzano

It just feels like a wine from Vallone di Cecione and the amazing thing is you only need to taste one or two wines, three or four years running to recognize the gentle breeze of sapidity running through the subtle swarthiness of their sangiovese. With canaiolo too, for that sapid streak cutting into acidity, extending the character of complexity and yet the unction of Panzano is the final call. This 2020 is exacting for VdeC. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2019, Castellina

Classic Trasqua lightning, purity of red fruit for Castellina incarnate, well matured being from the ideal 2019 vintage. Yet as with the tradition of Trasqua time is the essence to define how this sangiovese (with four other grapes mixed in), they being five percent each merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and (3) alicante bouschet. Together all will travel, take it easy and in another year culminate at peak. Not sure this producer has crafted a better Annata in recent times, or ever for that matter. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2020, Montefioralle

Well matured and by now ready to rock and roll sangiovese with just a few splashes of merlot to deliver an herbal dissolve through black cherry fruit and high acidity. A fine vintage for the Montefioralle estate, silken and cool, almost tarragon-minty and as stylish as it comes for the UGA. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Pruning at Il Molino di Grace, Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2019, IGT Toscana

Choosing not to compare Gratius to Chianti Classico at any level, let alone Gran Selezione, is wise and for several reasons. For one thing the blending in of canaiolo and colorino changes dynamics by setting and settling acidity, elevating pH and stabilizing colour. For more reasons check out the manual but here are the Coles notes. Gratius delivers two-toned liquorice, more direct solar radiated brightness, finer and yet less immediately understood structure and a chewiness that sets it apart. What matters is here is that Gratius is the representative for the single San Francesco vineyard and so it is a profound IGT ready, willing and able to become a wine graced with the Gallo Nero and labeled as Panzano. Two new Austrian casks will conceive 3,900 bottles going forward and the future is all about DOCG quality at the highest appellative level. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2018, IGT Toscana

Feels like 2018 Gratius is in a bit of a dumb phase, like what can happen with pinot noir, especially from Bourgogne. This is not Iacopo Morganti’s favourite vintage of Il Gratius but this is the misunderstood child and it will bloom late, or again. While it feels a bit sleepy now (some would say old) it should be looked at in the light of mature and experienced. A prime sample of a single vineyard made in low quantities for what the land needs to say.  Last tasted February 2023

Bottled just before the Chianti Classico 2019, so just three weeks ago. A blend of sangiovese with canaiolo and colorino, as it’s its nature and privilege. The sangiovese is taken from the vineyard on top of San Francesco’s hill, adjacent the canaiolo and colorino vineyards. A limited (3-5,000 bottle) production, a wine that’s all about selection (from two vineyards) and elevating craft to the highest of Il Molino di Grace levels. Still sees some barriques but going forward the plan should be to age only in large casks. The chewiest and most textural of the wines, with sapidity and colour matching salinity, acidity and savour. Drama but one in complete control, that is Gratius. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2022

With Giulio Carmassi and Cosimo Soderi at Gagliole, Panzano

Gagliole 2019, IGT Colli Della Toscana Centrale

Could be labeled as a Gran Selezione but it began in 1993 as a Vino da Tavola with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon mixed into the Castellina sangiovese, changing in 2013 to only Panzano and as of 2018 it has been 100 per cent sangiovese. Comes from the Pietraforte soils but also some Galestro involved and in turn the balance comes about in a sangiovese round and at other moments squared. Accessible and conversely agreeable, more well rounded ultimately speaking and less about tension or grip. The kind of structure that is both sneaky and stretched so that time can only improve the experience. Two more years will really see it all come together. Drink 2025-2032.  Tasted February 2023

Gagliole Pecchia 2016, IGT Colli Della Toscana Centrale

Called Pecchia since 1999, from a Castellina vineyard of the same name and a second block (closer to Fonterutoli’s Siepi). The name remains the same and yet since 2013 the sourcing is all estate grown Panzano, from a block at the top of the property on pure Pietraforte soil. Here from a most beneficial 2016 for a sangiovese that has matured quite a bit and yet the acidity is intense, the tannins solid as the hard rock of the vineyard and the ability to keep changing will surely be a thing of many more years to come. The mix of tension and resolution is quite there. An IGT of wisdom and also potential, stiff and solid yet singing with feeling based on experience and years under oath. Most intriguing wine that will become a Gran Selezione as of 2018. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Isole Delle Falcole Vecchia Vigna 2020, Toscana IGT

An apposite vintage to 2018 for this unparalleled field blend of sangiovese, colorino, canaiolo, ciliegiolo, malvasia bianca and trebbiano though since 1948 much has changed and more sangiovese planted means less interruption or intrusion from the gaggle of other grapes. Just as juicy and gregarious while also vertical and filled with old school tension but also charm. Mid-weight and also alcohol, approximately 14 percent but this is a valley of elevation and woods so freshness just fills the air. This is very special. The 2018 was just a bit loose by comparison. Tannin on the back end suggest waiting two years. Drink 2026-2033.  Tasted February 2023

Isole Delle Falcole Vecchia Vigna 2018, Toscana IGT

The plot was originally planted in 1948 to sangiovese, colorino, canaiolo, ciliegiolo, malvasia bianca and trebbiano. Hard to find a field blend like this anywhere. Twenty plus percent is original vines and the rest planted, but also restored in 1982. Emanuele Graetz re-planted 1,000 (sangiovese) plants in 2022. Spends 18 months in older wood and yes, this is what you would expect, though how could you possibly know what to expect? Produces only 6,000 bottles from nearly two hectares and the purity is so real, with verticality, some leathery maturity but much more so a juiciness that determines the true spirit of the wine. Is this ready? No, not quite but man you want to drink it. Clean, honesty and remarkably focused despite the potential for tohu vavohu. Picked on the 24th of September. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Isole delle Falcole Merlot 2020, Toscana IGT

Will be called Auré which stands For Maurizio and Loretta, owners of the property who have sold to Emanuele and are responsible for planting the merlot in 1978. Just six rows making 1,200 bottles maximum and one of the few old vines examples gone solo in the Classico area. I mean you have to taste this merlot to believe. Plenty of fruit but red with no tar, char or smokiness. Instead all perfume, picked a week ahead of sangiovese, nothing drying or leathery but just the sweetest textures, aromas and tannins. A great site and yes merlot is special for where it comes. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monsanto Sangioveto 2017, Toscana IGT

As a reminder Sangioveto’s vineyard is called Scanni, sangiovese planted in 1968 by Laura Bianchi’s father Fabrizio and first harvested in 1974. Not sure these adept and adroit grapes have ever experienced a vintage like 2017 and yet Sangioveto defies the vintage’s absurd levels of aridity and heat by expressing freshness and exceptional acidity. Hard to believe how the essence of Monsanto’s San Donato in Poggio could be secured but ’17 succeeds with core clarity and tolerance. There is some caramel in the flavours but that’s only after the uncanny scent of prosciutto, salty and sweet, peppery and herbal. The vintage delivers purity and layers of fascination for the palate to absorb. High gastronomy Sangioveto indeed. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Monsanto Sangioveto 1990, Toscana IGT

When you reflect upon Sangioveto 1990 as a sangiovese 22 years post original planting and 16 after first vintage then you understand it was already an experienced sku. Consider 1990 as a great vintage in the Chianti Classico territory and now this original standard bearer of San Donato in Poggio quality becomes something deserving of your highest attention. Laura Bianchi’s father Fabrizio foresaw the best of the best from this block and to follow both 1988 and 1989 meant serious business. This particular bottle is nominally advanced, with earthy tones while affirmed of Sangioveto’s haute acidity and formidable structure. Tart fruit, citrus included, persistent intensity and salumi musk are all there. Though this bottle is not fully indicative of 1990’s quality it’s parts are brilliant, even if they don’t add up to the expected whole.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo 2020, Toscana Bianco IGT

A blend of 50-50 chardonnay and trebbiano, honeyed in hue both by some days of skin contact and some advanced maturation at nearly three years of age. Only sees stainless steel. Can’t miss the terpenes and orange pekoe tea while acidity is quite prominent in delivery of lemon and orange through promiscuous flavours. An absolutely unique take on Toscano Bianco that startles with its freshness and how expectation turns to incredulousness. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo 2019, Toscana IGT

Cerviolo Rosso is composed from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot, an ironic name for a wine considering how many grapes these little deer will consume in any given given vintage. Raised only in tonneaux and one of the few IGTs with no sangiovese though before 2012 there was some in the mix. The idea was to separate from Gran Selezione when that appellate category became part of the portfolio. This dates back to 1986 and here from 2019 the tannins are fierce, the fruit black and the connection thick as thieves. Man does this need years to resolve though the ripeness is light years ahead of the recent past and the style is all Calcinaia. Drink 2025-2031.  Tasted February 2023

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo 2014, Toscana IGT

Same blend (as seen going forward to 2019) of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot just a few years after sangiovese was removed from the mix. This from what was seen at the time as a disastrous vintage and yet time has been kind because first the lowest of low quantities due to stringent selection meant that only top berries were used. Second, time has helped in ways it just can’t effect after the warmest of seasons. This is settling in nicely with a recent relent of tannin but the swarthiness is purely Calcinaia and so with age there is a most obvious connection noted between this Bordeaux blend and the Cellole Gran Selezione. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Tentute Squarcialupi Galaverna Metodo Classico Dosaggio Zero

The name refers to the ice that forms on the leaves of trees in winter. First sparkling wine for Squarcialupi made from malvasia bianca, two months on the fine lees in tank followed by 18 more in bottle. No dosage ”an experiment 100 percent because you don’t find sparkling wine made from malvasia in Chianti,” says Cosimo. Dry and delicious, of great fruit matched by equal and opposing acidity. Picked a month ahead of when it would be were it used in table wine with a potential alcohol of 10.5, translating to approximately 12 percent (minimum) at the end. Straight citrus, linear and richer than might be imagined. Impressive first effort leaving lime and tonic at the finish. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Tenute Squarcialupi Chardonnay Rugiada 2021, Toscana Bianco IGT

From a vineyard at 600m, the highest of Squarcialupi’s 33 hectares, made with two different selected yeasts. First a non-Saccharomyces strain, then after there days a Saccharomyces is added. Goes through malolactic and then stays on lees for three months, in tank. Snappy, green apple style chardonnay, grippy, linear and of a fine citrus line, namely lime. You really feel the calcari at the finish. A difficult place to cultivate because of the Alberese but more so the Colombino, less yellow and much harder ock predominating a limestone soil. Fantastic length. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted February 2023

Tenute Squarcialupi Dama d’Ambra Vinificazione in Amphora 2021, Toscana Bianco IGT

A varietal malvasia aged in amphora, normally picked in the second half of October, less fresh and spirited as compared to chardonnay. Fermentation happens after de-stemming and crushing, in amphora with skins for six months. White balsamic, lemon curd and “for us it’s a white wine not just for fish but antipasti and pasta with white ragù,” tells Cosimo. “It’s a light red wine.” This is the third vintage, no longer just an experiment but now a going concern. Fine bitters, savoury botanicals, dry tonic, fino, green olives and a perfectly pleasant balance. Very well made. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Rosato Di Caparso 2020, Toscana IGT

A selection of 100 per cent sangiovese, 48 hours on skins, no saignée, only run-off juice. Feels so pure and natural, sour tart, candied rose to sweet basil with a pause at pink grapefruit. Far from your dry and pale Provençal style but arid and intense in its own special way. Drink 2023-2024.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Rosato Di Caparso NV, Toscana IGT

The most basic of Paolo’s sangiovese, non-vintage here but in reality it is mostly 2019. Some years there is more blending involved, especially if a cold vintage is at the centre. Seasoned and a little bit spicy, simpler drinkable and finishing at herbs, both fresh and dried. Drink 2023-2024.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Amphora Di Caparsa 2022, Toscana Bianco IGT

Direct from amphora, trebbiano and malvasia, fermented and rested together for five month to six months, unfiltered, bottled with sediment. A tisane of lemon grapefruit and pekoe, so very tannic and of a salve texture though slippery, sliding away and not leaving its paste trailing and sticky behind. Still so young and not really in any real charming stage. Promising. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Amphora Di Caparsa 2021, Toscana Bianco IGT

A Bianco from amphora, made with trebbiano and malvasia, fermented, aged together for up to six months, unfiltered, bottled with sediment. Always a tisane, now a year in bottle showing as a honeyed lemon and orange lozenge, decreasingly tannic, settled and ready. A finer vintage as compared to 2022, seamless, graceful, silkier and alluring. There is fantasy and emotion in 2021. Perhaps 2022 will develop a similar personality with a year in bottle. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Caparsa Bianco Di Caparsa 2019, Toscana IGT

A mix of trebbiano and malvasia but just fermented on skins for a few hours, pre-dating the amphora methodology. Apple and lemon jelly, simple, fresh somehow still and far less interesting than the amphora whites that will follow. Drink 2023.  Tasted February 2023

Mimma 2019, Toscana IGT

Mimma could have been Chianti Classico, it could be Gran Selezione, dedicated to “all the girls of the area,” says Paolo in all earnest seriousness, hand-picked grapes by Paolo’s wife Gianna and daughter Fiamma. This is the flagship, small production less than 2,000 bottles, grapes from all over the vineyards, picked in the middle of harvest, during the second pass. There is a restrained intensity in this sangiovese and it does indeed make you think. That’s important, It means Gianna and Fiamma get it. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Filippo Bianco Frizzante Metodo Classico

Made by Paolo Cianfiero’s son Filippo of 100 percent sangiovese, oxidative, energetic, citrusy and pretty fucking delicious. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2023

Castello Di Verrazzano Sassello 2000, Toscana IGT

Like the 2004 Riserva there has been less evolution in 2000 Sassello, the sangiovese that will eventually become the first of two Gran Selezione for Verrazzano. There is certainly more concentration and compaction but the freshness is astounding and the generosity so appreciated 22-plus years forward from vintage. Top quality acidity season bar none. How can we not envision up to five more similar and ten full years of good drinking from this Sassello? Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno Professore (Screw Cap) 2020, Toscana Bianca IGT

Made with petit manseng and roussanne (90 percent), plus (10) malvasia bianca and trebbiano, harvested mid-September and aged in wood for 11 months. An experiment to look at screw cap versus cork that Sofia and Giacomo are hoping will answers some questions. Well – what can you say because the wine under screw cap is tainted while the wine under cork is singing. Filtration issue? Cap liner problems? Bottled at the same time however so it’s a mystery.  Tasted February 2023

Terreno Professore (Cork) 2020, Toscana Bianca IGT

Made with petit manseng and roussanne (90 percent), plus (10) malvasia bianca and trebbiano, harvested mid-September and aged in wood for 11 months. An experiment to look at screw cap versus cork that Sofia and Giacomo are hoping will answers questions. Well – what can you say because the wine under screw cap is corked while the wine under cork is singing. Filtration issue? Cap problems? Bottled at the same time however so the issue must be with the cap somehow. In any case this is a most curious and frankly delicious white blend, rich and viscous with just a hint of barrel induced flintiness. White flowers and honeysuckle with a glycerol aspect to make it seem richer than it is in terms of residual sugar, so let’s say 2.5-3 g\L. Lovely mineral-metallic finish with lime and tonic. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted February 2023

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Seeing Western Cape stars: A guide to Cape Wine 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Regenerative and creative farming, old vines, new frontiers, 80 recommended current releases and braai brekkies

The phenomenon known as “seeing stars” is a common description for disturbances of vision, in seeing bands of light, prisms, sparks or flashing lights. The scientific name is photopsia, a fleeting state most often caused when temporary pressure is placed on the eye, like what happens when you sneeze or bump your head. Seeing stars has also become a symbol of positivity, happiness or renewal. A recent trip to South Africa’s Cape Wine 2022 brought about the literal meaning of the saying as it pertains to celebrity. Wine celebrity that is — and while most Cape personalities carry themselves in complete opposite character to that of an Afrikaans bekende persoon (famous person), their wines on the other hand might bring on that condition called photopsiaThe individual flashes of light called phosphenes may cause dreaminess, giddiness and being weak in the knees. Spend nearly two weeks in South Africa for the Cape Wine fair and you are more than likely to find yourself seeing Western Cape stars.

Related – What comes next for the wines of South Africa?

Old Vines FMC Vineyard, Stellenbosch

The Old Vine Project

In today’s Western Cape, discussions must begin with the entity known as The Old Vine Project. Over the past 20 years viticulturalist Rosa Kruger has focused on discovering, classifying, cataloguing and certifying heritage vineyards. It was a great pleasure to chat with Kruger at a Wines of South Africa ceremony and tasting at Cape Wine 2022, which celebrated her 2022 Decanter Hall of Fame Award. And also with the legend André Morgenthal, orchestrator of the tasting of old vines wines. It is remarkable to see how many estates and producers have come on board — to celebrate and show off the wines they are making from 35-year-old (and older) dry-farmed bush vines. Many vines are even pushing or exceeding the century mark.

He is in fact larger than life – André Morgenthal, The Old Vines Project

“The old method is always the best, because…how did it get so old?” The words of La Motte’s Edmund Terblanche — and yet South Africa is really all about balancing the past with the present. This is why the PIWOSA group — Premium Independent Wines of South Africa — chose the thematic “something old and something new” for their event at Klein Constantia. Old will always be new again, reiterates Andrea Mullineux when she describes the Leeu Passant Old Vine Cinsault Lötter as “a national monument — that must be ripened. Either that or it’s sauvignon blanc and apricots.” Or worse — just apricots.

Preservation is key to the South African wine industry and heritage sites are the assets and the advantage. Chris Alheit is adamant about protecting heritage sites. “I mean, how can you not see this as a Cape treasure? As an ancestral site?” Thus, Alheit’s sémillon, once called La Colline, is also worthy of “monument” status — and though it may not seem to represent the literal definition of a “memorial stone or a building erected,” it does pay homage “in remembrance of a person or event.” In this case, the farmer — and every season of sémillon attempting to seek its fruition for the past 85 or more. Francois Haasbroek of Blackwater uses the term zeitgeist and, yes, the definition is equivocated through the idea of Western Cape single-vineyard wines from off the beaten path, small-parcel sites.

John Szabo MS, Roas Kruger, Godello and the photo bomber

So why are old vines important? Simply put, they are valued for acumen and complexity. They have moved past the imbalance and gawky stage, having achieved life experience, and now possessing profound things to say. Ten years ago, the Old Vine Project considered one per cent of planted vineyards as old, but the truth is 50 percent of old vineyards can be rejuvenated. Most are set into decomposed granite soils, in some instances colluvial as well. These tracts are really old and weathered, predating microbial life. The vineyards dot a landscape occupied by granite plumes exposed above the surface; where below the surface magma cooled ever so slowly and so there is now much more diversity in the life and texture of the rock. Some will wonder how the wines grow on the granite. Physically, the decomposed granite is very friable, and the soils are sandy, two to three meters deep. Roots can dig down, resulting in a bigger canopy — and under that dappled light (as opposed to daytime/nighttime sun), the grapes are able to retain acidity.

Related – Searching for great heart in South Africa

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc and decomposed granite soils

The artist formerly known as Steen, now simply “chenin,” is as complex as chardonnay, with acidity like sauvignon blanc but never searing. For a passionate winemaker like Andrea Mullineux, the grape holds nostalgic qualities. In the Western Cape there are 17,000 hectares planted, more than double that of the Loire. From the 1960s to the ’80s, Lieberstein (a mass market, kitsch wine that launched a sort of South African renaissance) was the most successful wine brand. So much so the government put out a call to plant more chenin in the 1990s.

“When you have old bush vines, you’re going to get chenin blanc that harnesses sunlight, a thickening of the skins and an accumulation of full phenolic character — a taste of sunshine,” says Mullineux with that wry and sly smile. “Granite is the only soil that can give you this super reductive style with great energy,” explains Donovan Rall, who picks his chenin blanc early. “What we learned through the drought years is you don’t have to pick things as you were traditionally taught.”

Andrea and Chris Mullineux

As for recent vintages, 2019 had warm days and cool nights, allowing vines to relax and recover acidity. Then 2020 was very temperate with little diurnal temperature fluctuation, leading to quick yet relatively even ripening. In 2021 the season was cool but dry, though not with drought-like conditions seen in 2018. Veraison only finished in the second week of — quite opposed to previous years when picking was completed by the second or third weekend of that month. Yet 2021 allowed for more precision picking and quite a relaxed harvest.

In 2021 and 2022, vineyards in the Swartland achieved that elusive ideal of full phenolic ripeness. “We say phenolic ripeness, but we call it psychological ripeness,” notes Mullineux. “At least with respect to basing on numbers.” The ripening schedule follows a path starting in Roberston (which is inland), followed by Paarl, Franschhoek and the Swartland, then the coastal regions with Stellenbosch being one of the last, just ahead of Elgin, Wellington, Hermanus and Hemel-en-Aarde.

As for the Hemel-en-Aarde and chardonnay, Chris Albrecht from Bouchard Finlayson indicates that elevation on their side of the valley where fog and humidity settle at the lower levels play a direct role in viticulture and especially the ripening seasoning. Shallow shale soils overlaid with heavy clay is also a factor in determining grape maturity. The Valley has a plateau with an underbelly delivering unique sets of tannin, structure and acidity that, when mixed with sandstone and clay soils, makes for this aspect of how chardonnay sets up for individualistic display.

Related – Memories of South Africa in 60 notes

Fynbos, Vergelegen, Stellenbosch

The venn diagram of organic, biodynamic, sustainable and regenerative farming

Soils in South Africa are ancient and varied. There are three main types along with derivatives:

  • Decomposed granites (oakleaf, tukulu, hutton and clovelly)
  • Malmesbury, bokkeveld or witteberg shale (glenrosa, swartland, klapmuts and estcourt)
  • Table Mountain sandstone (fernwood, longlands, westleigh and dundee)

Still other soils are major contributors to farming styles and the wines they beget. Alluvial, koffieklip, silica quartz, kaolinite clay, river gravels, klipheuwel conglomerates and shales, limestone and malmesbury clay are but a few. Then there are the plutons, dome-like intrusions of igneous magma into the earth’s crust which occurred at great depths and consequently cooled slowly, resulting in a coarse crystalline (granitoid) texture. These plutons have subsequently been exposed by erosion, resulting in mountains or hills such as those in Paarl and Perdeberg and the hills in Darling. In some cases, the exposed domes have been flat-topped by erosion and then covered with sandstone deposits, and have then again been eroded, resulting in sandstone on a granitic base, such as can be found in the Table and Simonsberg mountains. We must also point out the incredible Breede River Region’s characteristic calcareous loam soils and their association with bokkeveld and witteberg shales, dwyka tillite and enon conglomerate. In this part of the Cape it is Malgas that is the only South African wine area with significant alkaline soils.

Johan Reyneke, Stellenbosch

Between the 1970s and ’90s, many of the old vineyards in the fancy regions like Stellenbosch and Costantia were ripped out to plant cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. This was not the case in the “sleepy” Swartland where many old vines, especially of the bush variety, remained untouched. Today a less obtrusive pruning method is employed on “goblet,” which means smaller canopies, lower yields and less water requirements. This method reduces susceptibility to wood rot and also Esca, one of the complex of “trunk diseases” (along with Botryosphaeria dieback, Eutypa dieback, and Phomopsis dieback) caused by wood-infecting fungi.

Between the 1970s and ’90s, many of the old vineyards in the fancy regions like Stellenbosch and Costantia were ripped out to plant cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. This was not the case in the “sleepy” Swartland where many old vines, especially of the bush variety, remained untouched. Today a less obtrusive pruning method is employed on “goblet,” which means smaller canopies, lower yields and less water requirements. This method reduces susceptibility to wood rot and also Esca, one of the complex of “trunk diseases” (along with Botryosphaeria dieback, Eutypa dieback, and Phomopsis dieback) caused by wood-infecting fungi.

“We’re figuring this out and it’s getting fun now,” says Callie Louw. But Louw is the anti-hero, the man who focuses on one large entity. “Working with all these little bits of grapes here and there is not sustainable,” he says, and so 90 hectares produces 850 tonnes of grapes with 85 per cent going into (Boekenhoutskloof) Chocolate Block. “We don’t need to offset climate change with varietal adaptation. We just need to farm better. The problem doesn’t go away. Cover cropping, activate your place, get things growing, the whole profile is run in the top four inches. Below is the bank, the reservoir, the thing that makes the money is on top. Stop tilling! Leave that stuff on the top of soil. It just burns. Keep the active things alive. Increase the carbon in your soil by one per cent and the water will increase by 50.”

With Callie Louw, Porseleinberg

At Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West it is environmental manager Eben Olderwagen who shows how abrasive yellow vine trunk wraps are employed to repel geckos and slugs in lieu of spaying. This sustainability action is part of Vergelegen’s track record as a wine estate renowned for its biodiversity and commitment to environmental sustainability. (Vergelegen is owned by mining company Anglo American.) The recent completion of an extensive programme to rehabilitate eroded watercourses is now the stuff of Western Cape legend. Five sites saw the removal of invasive alien species like Blue Gum trees (between 2004 and 2018) and the replanting of some 15,000 indigenous plants that were housed temporarily while the programme was underway. The 12 million Rand project has saved rehabilitated wetlands and Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos vegetation, which could have been badly affected by sediment washing onto the area. In addition, it has halted sediment contamination of the Lourens River, part of which runs through the estate. Rare vegetation discovered by botanists on the property thought to be extinct has been preserved within the hills and valleys of the 2,000-hectare nature preserve. In 2009 a major fore swept through and burned much of the vegetation, but this is actually beneficial to the fynbos which needs a good burn every 12-15 years for proper rejuvenation. No municipal water is used on the property as water from the Helderberg Mountain is captured in two damns. Vergelegen lays claim to now being the most leaf-roll virus free in the Western Cape.

Johan Reyneke

At Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West it is environmental manager Eben Olderwagen who shows how abrasive yellow vine trunk wraps are employed to repel geckos and slugs in lieu of spaying. This sustainability action is part of Vergelegen’s track record as a wine estate renowned for its biodiversity and commitment to environmental sustainability. (Vergelegen is owned by mining company Anglo American.) The recent completion of an extensive programme to rehabilitate eroded watercourses is now the stuff of Western Cape legend. Five sites saw the removal of invasive alien species like Blue Gum trees (between 2004 and 2018) and the replanting of some 15,000 indigenous plants that were housed temporarily while the programme was underway. The 12 million Rand project has saved rehabilitated wetlands and Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos vegetation, which could have been badly affected by sediment washing onto the area. In addition, it has halted sediment contamination of the Lourens River, part of which runs through the estate. Rare vegetation discovered by botanists on the property thought to be extinct has been preserved within the hills and valleys of the 2,000-hectare nature preserve. In 2009 a major fore swept through and burned much of the vegetation, but this is actually beneficial to the fynbos which needs a good burn every 12-15 years for proper rejuvenation. No municipal water is used on the property as water from the Helderberg Mountain is captured in two damns. Vergelegen lays claim to now being the most leaf-roll virus free in the Western Cape.

Chenin Blanc, Reyneke

“Land caring, land sharing and making quality wine” is Reyneke’s tripartite platform and both story and also that of the cows is like a tree with different branches. The animals graze in high density, moving throughout the year from block to block. They graze and return microbes back into the soil, through their waste and create humus. Vines are fed by this regenerative activity. Dandelions are planted to attract pests so they will leave the vines and roots alone. Downy mold is managed with metabolic enzymes of copper, not always successful on its own but fighting alongside the humus offers a much better chance of control. Not to mention brix levels are raised because of this type of farming. Land sparing essentially means that if you have ecologically endangered endemic plant species you must leave them to live in conjunction with your vines. Don’t reduce them. And for goodness sakes don’t till.

Thankfully by this point roughly 90 percent of farmers in the Western Cape have converted to no-tillage systems to improve the efficiency of crop production. Reyneke also plants new vineyards on contoured angles to control winter water flow but also erosion so that the flow will reach the property’s two dams. There are the fynbos “corridors,” between the blocks to allow wild animals a chance to remain in nature. This all adds up to creative farming mixed with regeneration and sustainability. The first seven years of this policy have all been about renewing the soils and each year the goal is to plant between five and seven new hectares, with 30 on schedule to go in over the next five years. “It begins with organics (which is sustainable), then graduate to biodynamics (which is self-sufficiency) but there is a constant struggle between caring and common sense.”

In other words decisions have to be made, economic ones, to support family, workers and the farm. “People have different tools during different epochs to deal with reality. Science is not about being certain and sometimes it’s about being doubtful. I’m never sure 100 per cent.”

These are the words of Jolandie Fouché of Wolf and Woman Wines: “As shared custodians of the lands that house these vineyards, we also ensure that we partner with growers who farm sustainably in order to produce top-quality grapes without compromising the environment, and the vineyards themselves, in the long run.” And there is Marlise Niemann who recreates the taciturn through gestures so befitting her Momento wines. They like so many of the Western Cape endure for their balance between place and adventure, as well as remaining grounded through their maker’s independence and relationship with the tracts they choose to interpret.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

Agulhas

Appellative blends in red and white

There are reasons why many Western Cape winemakers increasingly turn to accounts spoken in stacked varieties through appellative blends. Not because it can be a French thing to do in the ways of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe but because it makes for wines possessive of immense character.

“We need these wines and to pay a lip service to them is essential,” says Adi Badenhorst. “As a winemaker or in any homestead job you are always influenced by where you grew up and who you worked with. In the Swartland these are the varieties that were there.” Badenhorst’s ideas are echoed and expanded upon by Duncan Savage. “All the wines are directly connected to their sites,” he says. “That shouldn’t change too often. The farms are big here so you can’t afford to own 50 hectares.” Thus, a winemaker and producer like Savage picks their plots and develops their relationships with their fruit over long periods of time.

After the Cape Wine trade fair, we rode over dirt and dust to what felt like The Western Cape’s version of the outback, to arrive near Malgas up above the Breede River just 15 kilometres in from the Indian Ocean at South Africa’s most southern tip. This is the remote and “insane” home of Sijnn Wines (pronounced “sane”) where visionary David Trafford saw the future a few hours away from Arniston and Cape Agulhas. The beautifully shaped and hued river stones (aka, puddings) and Bokkeveld Shale are perhaps the world’s greatest impetus for developing Rhône varieties à la Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe.

Yet this is South Africa and so chenin blanc, verdelho, touriga nacional, trincadeira and cabernet sauvignon also thrive despite the poorest of soils. Winemaking in the hands of Charla Bosman sees a prodigy and savant at one with the land so that the progression from 2015 vintage through wines resting in barrel today may as well be a decades long discovery.

Related – Welcome to South Africa’s Capelands

With Charla Bosman

Why South African producers must sell their wines abroad

There can be no begrudging people who might imagine South Africa as a growing area of sunshine, heat, and potentially high-alcohol red wines. That is why they must be shows how so many phenolically ripe red wines lock in at a low, low 11.5 to 12.5 percent alcohol that seemingly only the Western Cape can affect for grape varieties like cinsault and grenache.

“I’ve never worked with conversion rates this low,” says Donovan Rall, and his cinsault is a testament to the excellence and magic of vintage. “With no compromise to flavour, tannin, acidity and length.” The low alcohol at 11.8 is brilliant, as no push to ripeness was needed to achieve these heights. Mick and Jeanine Craven manage to create this impossibility with cabernet sauvignon, while still delivering ripeness, generosity, and peace of mind. Another bit of voodoo magic from a place and a maker that knows what’s what.

Cape Town

The need to export, to reach as many new customers in as many countries as possible is the challenge for South Africa’s producers. The Cape Winelands are oceans and continents away from most markets and that remains a serious obstacle, not to mention being situated at the southern-most tip of Africa. The isolation was devastating during Covid, compounded by governmental decisions rooted in prohibition, isolationism, and fear. But the world has re-opened to South Africa and seeking representation beyond Europe is necessary, including finding markets in Canada.

Says Eben Sadie: “There is now a healthy competition between producers. There are vineyards that I planted 10 and 15 years ago that I can now say great things about. It’s in the glass. It’s kind of our time now. We have 3,000 people in this country buying fine wine. Guys who are willing to pay $50 to $60 a bottle for wine. We are all selling locally to the same group of guys. The local market is brutal.”

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

How the Western Cape was won

Cape Wine 2022 was my third trip to South Africa’s winelands between 2015 and 2022. That first congress in 2015 opened my eyes to the possibilities of a wild west experience where the planet’s most ancient soils and geography were able to host grape varieties from all over the world. It seemed like anything could ripen anywhere agriculturalists chose and winemakers wished for. Three years later it was understood that what and where you plant was the key to producing great wines of a sort being made nowhere else in this world. This last journey changed everything again and now it is the coalescence of heritage vineyards, magical conversion rates, sustainable and regenerative agriculture that separates South Africa from all the rest. The Western Cape may be an isolated wine industry and exporting the most challenging of any wine producing nation, but these wines must make it onto our shores. They are too good to miss, not just a handful but hundreds of outstanding examples. Quality has risen exponentially, virtually across all places of origin, including new frontiers. The stars are out, and they are aligned.

Braai Brekkies, Franschhoek

Godello’s 80 recommended current releases

Cap Classique

Anthonij Rupert L’Ormarins Cap Classique Blanc De Blancs 2017, WO Western Cape

Drought vintage no matter nor adversity for this 100 per cent chardonnay aged four and a half years on the lees. Palate presence and texture synthesis but also a really sharp bubble of aromatics in lemon zest, ginger and spice. Elegant and sensory, of sips drift worthy for daydreaming and calm. A blanc de blancs of sanguine personality, extroverted, social and active so that you don’t have to be. Good times when a Cap Classique can do it all, leaving you to enjoy, relieve stress and relax. Seventh iteration heaven from a program that began back in 2017. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Johnathan Grieve, Avondale Wines

Avondale Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2015, WO Paarl

From the tradition of Méthode Cap Classique Armilla is a Blanc de Blancs in 100 percent chardonnay, seven years total on the lees, 90 percent in stainless steel, (10) in big French for one year in barrel. Two of the years on the coarse lees were in tank and all is natural. First vintage was 2003. The only thing that has really changed is the extended lees aging but not the moorish acidity extending the freshness and eliciting a keen sense of brioche. The 3 g/L dosage is negligible and so from start to finish Armilla retains its aridity, is never stark but always balanced. More sugar would make it big and fat and see it lacking brightness which frankly is this B de B’s calling card. Resides at the upper echelon for Cap Classique. Cracker stuff. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Jordan Wines Blanc De Blancs Special Cuvée 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A brilliant all in chardonnay Cap Classique from 22 year-old vines growing on Glenrosa and Hutton soils abutting the Stellenbosch Kloof. A Mediterranean climate here, only 24 kms from the ocean at False Bay. Breezes channel in from the West Coast’s Benguela current and it’s not just a repeated adage to say that the Atlantic winds translate into crazy open-air freshness in Jordan’s scintillant of a white sparkling wine. Spends a nurturing 54 months on lees and this bottle is from the second disgorgement, just now in October of this year. First vintage was 2015 and this is just the second for a B de B bubble that will join the ranks from MCC through to CC’s finest. Sharp yet delicate, intensely focused, precise, with citrus squalls and in the end a treat and a dream. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Le Lude Brut Reserve Cap Classique NV, WO Franschhoek

I mean, just classic. Citrus juiced and a ripeness in this particular cuvée, always ahead of the curve and also the Rosé. Nothing taking for granted, sharp and superlative acids causing the chardonnay to flourish, intensity heightened as far as one could wish. Even keeled, never expressing highs to high or lows to low.  Last tasted October 2022

The blend is with pinot noir but in this sister cuvée to the Brut Rosé it’s really about what chardonnay is going to bring to the MCC table. The dosage is just slightly higher than the Rosé, here at 6.5 g/L and 24 months on its lees. Here the shift is towards more richness, almost counterintuitive when you think about blanc vs. rose but Paul Gerber is on to something big. There is a plum compote luxe note stirred into the citrus and so both ends of the fruit spectrum are involved and incredible. “You must taste the sun in the fruit,” insists Gerber, sparkling wine or not and so with verve, intensity and balance this travels to terrific and back. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

The Drift Estate Penelope Cap Classique 2017, WO Overberg Highlands

Penelope by Bruce Jack is 100 percent touriga nacional, first ever in existence as sparkling wine, likely not just in South Africa but anywhere in the world. Also a single vineyard Cap Classique and as crazy a perfect storm of variety and methodology as there has ever been, almost outdone by Jack’s ice bucket and Penelope story when the earth stopped. Go to the website for more details. This CC is raging though the specs are not exceptional and so some sort of Cape voodoo is happening here. The farm is too cold to really get a ripeness converting above 11.5 percent alcohol so sparkling it is and the 20 year-old vines deliver the necessary fodder for top notch sparkling Rosé. Goes all currants and ginger, rooibos and fynbos. As it must. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Old Vines

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon Monument 2021, WO Franschhoek

The artist formerly known as “La Colline” received a name re-branding in the previous vintage yet the source and the song remain the same. That being the 1936 planted (and registered) heritage sémillion vineyard but the farmer passed away in 1938 so the block could actually be as much as two decades older. “Diversity is a matter of having the genetic material to do it,” explains Chris Alheit “and though there may be drifts away from the original DNA, there will always be that connection.” Oldest indeed within the quadrangle composed of Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. “I mean how can you not see this as a Cape treasure? As an ancestral site?” Thus the new moniker and though it may not seem to represent the true definition of a “memorial stone or a building erected” it does in fact pay homage “in remembrance of a person or event.” They being the farmer and every season of sémillon attempting to seek its fruition for the past 85+ seasons. As for 2021 the imprint just feels like a culmination, of fruit speaking in historical terms and bound to structure, of acid, tannin and extract all constructed as confidentially as ever there has been afforded the opportunity. The 2021 Monument is a rock as profound and important as any sémillon anywhere. “Yeah, people don’t you listen now? Sing along, Oh. You don’t know what you’re missing, now.” Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted October 2022

Bellevue Estate 1953 Pinotage 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A remarkable wine to have the opportunity to taste from vines aged 64 at the time of this vintage and interpreted by winemaker Wilhelm Kritzinger. Bush vines, their yields less than one tonne per hectare (in drought years, of which there are many), upwards of 1.75 in the best of times. The location is Bottelary in Stellenbosch and Bellevue seeks gradual extraction, not quite a full on délestage but the whole lot is transferred from vessel to vessel. The normal press time is seven days and this rare pinotage is always fermented fully dry. Sees 23 months in well versed and rehearsed wood for what is tops in terms of experienced and developed pinotage. Secure in character, prepped and purposed in personality, in delivery of the bloody and the iodide, part soil and part ocean water. A metabolic wonder, converter of energy, meticulously made. Total pro with a whole lotta good dark salted chocolate upon the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Penny Noire, Cape Town

Boekenhoutskloof Sémillon 2019, WO Franschhoek

Tasted with Lynton Kaiser of Boekenhoutskloof and this three vineyard sémillon blend out of this vintage elicits the kind of looks and gestures requiring no words. The 1936 Franschhoek planted La Colline provides half the fruit (with a good portion having mutated into sémillon gris) and the other 50 percent coming from a 1942 site set into the ancient Franschhoek Riverbed, but also including a few points of muscat out of a block planted in 1902. Concrete eggs house 30 per cent of the ferment and neutral barrels do the yeoman work to keep this cuvée in a primary state for what will likely be a minimum eight to 10 years. The bones are hard and unbreakable to indicate structural propriety and so seeing a decade pass is a near guarantee before next level complexities and brilliant complications will appear. For now there is intrigue, the promise of lemon curd, beeswax, toasted lemongrass and the sort of exotic herbs you’d tear into a bowl of aromatically charged southeast Asian broth. Top and benchmark in so many ways, easily deserving of its reputation. Drink 2026-2035.  Tasted October 2022

  

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2021, WO Swartland

Hoë-Steen is one of four single vineyard chenin blanc from a terroir in the “which one of these things is not like the rest” set of propositions. Planted in 1968 to see it recently cross the half century mark and soils are unique, especially as it pertains to chenin blanc. They are red iron oxide clay, rich and deep, location west of Malmesbury direction Darling. The label reads chenin but truth is a few other surviving vines here and there are in the yard, including discoveries of riesling (crouchen blanc), false pedro, palomino, sémillon and clairette blanche. And who does not appreciate the heritage and concept of a field blend? They’ll call them zinfandel in Sonoma but many are layered of a similar ilk, with the likes of grenache, alicante bouschet, petite sirah, mataro and others playing in the band. Hoë-Steen’s adept water retention and cool temps below the surface put this dry-farmed SV in a place of slower phenolic development and longer growing seasons. The effect on chenin is enchanting, divinatory even and never what you fully expect. Round is not the thought because the trinity of fruit, acid and tannin touch all points, in sequence and exact intervals. The wine can keep time and also plays in fills between the lines. It is symphonic, the whole package, in synch. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted October 2022

Nicole Kilian, Keermont Wines

Nicole Kilian, Keermont Wines

Keermont Chenin Blanc Riverside 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Keermont is the Stellenbosch farm of Mark and Monica Wraith with their four children. Alex Starey takes care of the vineyards and is the winemaker. This 2019 Riverside was tasted at the Old Vines Project evening with Nicole Kilian who happens to be an American married to a Canadian and their work is purely South African. The 1971 planted single vineyard is the third oldest chenin plot in Stellenbosch. The ’19 was barrel fermented and spent a year in well seasoned oak. The result is purity incarnate, from old vine chenin that has endured nearly 50 years and it just seems like this is the kind of wine that makes itself. The barrels add subtle smoulder and bright luminescence but nothing in terms of density or maturity. A beautiful thing when chenin glides like this and one that will surely sail slowly towards the sunset. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Ken Forrester

Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Really different vintage as compared to 2019, here the FMC is a matter of something definably sapid which would indicate the pH being slightly higher while the acidity is just a bit levelled. The wood elicits density and as a result there is a depth to 2021 that stands apart. Fruit concentration while special is not the solo driver because pH, natural fruit sweetness and texture are what make ’21 shine. The youthfulness will confuse the situation and it would seem that eight to 10 years will be needed to settle this score, like Kabinett riesling, Hunter Valley sémillon or any number of Cape old vines chenin blanc. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted October 2022

Cinsault is the grape planted after phylloxera, which started its devastation around 1900. The idea was essentially to replant all that was lost. The Franschhoek vineyard went in back in 1932, placed upon the mid-slopes, close to but not quite on the valley floor. The Mullineuxs started leasing the block in 2014 and are committed through 2034. This is higher up in these foothills facing west and produces some of the darker cinsaults in the Western Cape, relatively speaking, but especially in contrast to the Wellington (Basson) vineyard. Ethereal and elegant in spite of the shade, more fruit substance and also textural elements. Lötter is the one in this regard, effusive and generous, a wine of soul, soil, history and heritage. A cinsault in the prime time of its epic journey as Andrea Mullineux describes its host as “a national monument that must be ripened. Either that or it’s sauvignon blanc and apricots.” There are two hectares of really healthy and hardy plants, once nearly lost to the sands of time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Old Road Wine Company Sémillon Grand Mère 2020, WO Franschhoek

From the vineyard known as La Colline, a high density Franschhoek plot planted back in 1936. Chis Alheit also uses some of this sémillon and now calls his old vines “Monument.” The Old Road Company chooses the name “Grand Mère” which is precisely what the incredible heritage block is for vineyards that have stood the test of time. Crops at a mere three tones per hectare and delivers the most steely and flinty sémillon on the planet. La Colline is southeast facing at 350m, housing unirrigated bush vines and experienced to the effect that a winemaker must not try to dictate its direction. Grapes are left on the skins overnight and 30 percent are allowed to run through a wild ferment. Barrel maturation in mostly older French oak on the primary lees with regular stirring induces a coagulation of creamy texture to offset the striking metal sensation in the wine. On the boozy side but the vintage and the vineyard truly dictate the course. Will age really well, likely well into the next decade. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Ferdie and Elizma Visser

Olifantsberg Chenin Blanc Old Vine 2022, WO Breedekloof

From Ferdie and (winemaker) Elizma Visser in the Western Cape Breedlekloof (part of the Breede River Valley) at 450m above sea level. The soils are sansdstone and shale with rich alluvials and river rocks for a complex earth from which 1982 planted (certified) old bush vines deliver this exceptional chenin blanc. Olifantsberg was established in 2003 and in just two short decades this producer has connected with their surroundings so tactfully as witnessed in this varietal wine. Now here is something you need to know about, of purity by chenin and a s much rich texture you will ever encounter. Comes equipped with all the minerals and elements of this diverse terroir darting and dodging flesh to preserve and heighten freshness. So Chablisienne in chenin blanc terms, at Premier Cru level and rising. Wow. Drink 2023-2029. Tasted October 2022

Roodekrantz Chenin Blanc Old Bush Vine 2021, WO Paarl

The 1974 vineyard is dry-land, bush vine on deep decomposed Malmesbury shale with more rocky parts than clay-based underlay. “One of the more sought after blocks,” says Marius Burger. “A fight for just a few rows.” He and winemaker Danie Morkel have been interpreting this chenin blanc fruit since 2017, to make this 2021 number five. The vineyard inclines with quite the ungraded slope so it’s hard to pick it right. “Parts of the vineyard have creaky bones in the mornings but we’ve man aged to get it right by now.” This is chenin of a brilliant tenor, bass note placed just below the treble, finding equalization. The fruit shows tempo, mixing with texture to share likeminded frequencies with rhythm and pitch. Just a focused chenin blanc handled by the drogaman wholly respectful of a vineyard’s 47 years of experience. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Mev. Kirsten Wyn Van Oorsprong Stellenbosch Die Sadie Familie Wyne 2021, WO Swartland

The vines that supply Mev. Kirsten Wyn are the oldest chenin blanc in the country, out of Stellenbosch and planted in 1905. In 1947 every second row was pulled out to make room for tractors and the configuration still exists this way. “If South Africa has a true apex white Grand Cru vineyard then this is it” insists Eben Sadie. Facts are facts are you just can’t accede these levels of power, concentration, extract and tannin anywhere else. The nose communicates as an intoxicant of sublime forces and these grapes bestow chenin blanc 2021 are those that transcend fruit, deliver ethereality and a heightened sense of awareness. An awakening from necessary tension, crisis and personal freedoms, existential off the charts, poetic and epic. One hundred and sixteen stanzas recorded, in the books and the finest verse written right here in the most recent vintage. If enlightenment is to be gained from chenin blanc in the Western Cape, Mev. Kirsten would provide the fodder. “The grail. End of fucking story” concludes Sadie. All hail. Long live the queen. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted October 2022

Chenin Blanc

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland

At a tasting where everything is Old Vines Project certified there must be something extraordinary about a wine to stand out from a crowd of greats. David and Nadia Sadie are in fact turning heritage vines chenin blanc (amongst other varietal explorations) into content born of context harboured though never paraded. They are rhythmic and scientific with just enough fantasy and romanticism, but never too much. Plat’Bos stands above Skaliekop and Hoë Steen because 2021 asks it to do so, not because it is better or more important, but it is surely chenin blanc profound. The 1981 Swartland planting is in the steady zone, shed of the mercurial and in ’21 so very linear yet salty of the earth in its sombre-sepulchral tone. There is reduction here because the poor soil nutrients demand that this chenin begins this way. The levels of tension and intensity are most elevated, sufficing to say as high as any from the Western Cape. Attention is paid unwavering to detail, sequencing is in order, purity incarnate, grape and place together pristinely kept. In Plat’Bos 2021 the palate is taken down to the whipping post by a wine built to endure. Given time there will be calm, healing and reward in the end. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2022

Rascallion The Devonian 2021, WO Swartland

A small production of 100 percent Swartland chenin blanc from old vines planted between 1968 and 1982 and at this price ($32 CDN) it solicits an “are you kidding me?” reaction. Bloody rich and concentrated yet so balanced without any slide into metallic or boozy character. Expertly managed with all connective tissue tied to the decomposed granites of the Swartland, blessed of true expressive nature, pulsating and alive. The energy is buzzing and its impressive in the way it grabs, demands and keeps attention. So hard to turn away or think about anything else. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Theunis Kruger

Fram Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Piekenierskloof

Theunis Kruger’s natural chenin blanc from a 1987 or 1988 planted vineyard comes away in one pick and is put to large (15 year) old foudres of 300-400L. He and we agree that this represents the most important grape (Theunis uses the word “best”) and yet they are not all created equal, including this coming from Citrusdal Mountain. Cracks the whip and works the palate like it means business, knows what wants and also what needs. The race of acidity will carry forward for quite some time. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Holden Manz Chenin Blanc Reserve 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Spent nine months on lees, fruit from 43 year-old vineyard on the Simonsberg side of the Helderberg Mountain. A bit further up the valley en route to Franschhoek. Made since 2010 (by Gerard Manz) with a rich and viscous meets metallic chenin. High level of concentration in a high-caste style. No lack of barrel accentuation and well made. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch

Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc Vineyard Selection 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Wouldn’t call this ulterior but there is something curiously upticking, visceral and unique as it pertains to Stellenbosch chenin blanc. Not simply a matter of richness but a varietal wine that elicits a rise of emotion, especially out of flavours and textures with barrel fermentation acting as the catalyst. Buzz of energy yes but also a buttery syrup sensation derived and you could just pour this over your morning pancakes. Not because of sweetness but instead complexity, stylish personality and as they say, deliciousness. Also looking for some fatty protein so pulled duck leg and blueberry on those flapjacks and a glass of chenin blanc will do nicely thank you very much. If you want a chardonnay alternative with less apples and brioche this is the way to go. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

L’Avenir Estate Chenin Blanc Single Block 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Notably concentrated by naturally sweet chenin blanc fruit inclusive of the 1971 planted Stellenbosch vineyard. As a comparison to the Far and Near chenin it’s as if everything accentuates and comes into clearer view. Feels a touch advanced and mature beyond its short time after harvest and my if this just speaks the varietal language of Stellenbosch. If you like the normal then you will come to appreciate the reserve, aka the Single Block. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Miles Mossop

Miles Mossop Wines Chenin Blanc Chapter Two 2021, WO Swartland

From deep Paardeberg granite soils and a series of wines from Miles Mossop predicated as chapters; three being chenin blanc and four with sauvignon blanc, both out of Stellenbosch. This Swartland chenin is the signature for Mossop, from a 1971 planted vineyard, top section of the block, bordering and abutting the fynbos. A chenin of outspoken freshness, high yet taciturn acidity, old vine intensity, concentration and know-how. Experience quantified generates specificities quantized to beget excitement. Chapter Two is an experiential success simply because it is based on top chenin fruit from heritage vines done right. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Schist Roundstone 2021, WO Swartland

Roundstone, aka “ronde steen or rondklip” in Afrikaans but the farm is known by its English name. Another Western Cape account for struggling grapes while here the matter involves smaller canopies, clusters and grapes. The vineyard begets and raises a child of the land’s stony “dakteëls,” roof tiles where everything slides and so the tannins accentuate to procure wines of a certain toughness. This child is street smart and battle ready, got into a few fights in the early days, now able stand up for itself no matter the attack or the scene. Aromatically speaking there is a cheese rind scent in the dry comports of extreme aridity, resulting in intensity and directivity. A slightly higher pH makes this the sapid one, sliding across the palate with its über fresh scathe. This will age with the best of them, more like structured reds but so very capable as chenin blanc. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted October 2022

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines Noa 2021, WO Swartland

The first, named after Donovan Rall’s daughter born during the pandemic. From 2.1 hectares of chenin blanc planted in the Paardeberg in the 1960s on the finest decomposed sandy granite soil. “Granite is the only soil that can give you this super reductive style with great energy,” tells Rall and he cropped to yield at three tonnes per hectare. Picked super early at high acid and low pH (3.28 in 2021, after malo) at the high point of the vitality vortex. Moving away from texture and into the business of lightning and mouth-watering succulence from a chenin so electrically plugged in. All this for only 12.0 per cent. “What we learned through the drought years is you don’t have to pick things as you were traditionally taught.” The decision made was at least two weeks as compared to 15 years ago, climate change aside. Truth. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Reyneke Chenin Blanc Biodymnamic 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Biodynamic, estate farmed, from vines planted in 1974 and 1976, part of the certified Old Vines Project. Surely it is old vines at the source coupled with the principled biodynamic exercises to make for an enlightened and heightened precision in a chenin blanc of purity and trenchant estate desire. Concentration, varietal hyperbole and a reflection of what the farm wants to share are the drivers and we the passengers abide. There is no doubt that this Reyneke exists (with distinction) within the vacuum of what is working and creating haute quality chenin blanc. Success is measured by dint of hard work and respect for all things natural, including humans, animals and plants. This paints a picture and sculpts a figure of fine granite. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2022

With Adi Badenhorst

White Blends

A.A. Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein White Blend 2021, WO Swartland

There are reasons why many Western Cape winemakers increasingly turn to accounts spoken in stacked varieties through appellative white blends. Not because it can be a French thing to do in the ways of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe but because it makes for wines possessive of immense character. Adi Badenhorst makes use of at least 10 different grapes and you’ll need to read the bottle to know what they are. But seriously chenin blanc is joined by grenache gris, grenache blanc, marsanne, clairette, verdelho, roussanne, sémillon, viognier and palomino, Stacked, layered, integrated and in a vintage as rich as ’21 also acidified just ever so slightly. Says Adi. “We need this wine and to pay a lip service to them is essential.” White Blends they are the walrus. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Sees one year in foudres and one in concrete. Only in South Africa and as here so very noteworthy from the Kalmoesfontein Farm at the base of the Paardeberg do these extract and alcohol conversion rates create magic. Decomposed stone infused, citrus and DNA of granite manifested as a swirl of orange, lemon and lime, tea and cordial fulfillment. Swartland grape varieties combining for brilliance in genius, epically so. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2021, WO Western Cape

The question is posed to Chris Alheit but he says the lighter and lighter (including alcohol) wines are not a matter of intentional design nor aesthetic choice. Farming and the use of grand-sized blending tanks in the mid four to six months increases stability, mobility and consistency well ahead of bottling. Clarity is ensured, true clarity and more purity plus “the guarantee to present the best version of that vintage.” In the end the chenin blanc plus (20 per cent sémillon) Cartology 2021 seems to be the most effusive, sharp and translucent to date, this despite a group of on repeat parcels varying in output from vintage to vintage and quite significantly so. This is primed and ready if perhaps ready to begin peaking as early as next Spring. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

B Vintners Vine Exploration Company “B” Haarlem To Hope 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Cousins Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert created Bruwer Vintners Vine Exploration Company in 2014 to celebrate family and Cape heritage through a joint venture. Haarlem To Hope 2021, from the motherland to the Cape of Good Hope, a blend of nearly 70 per cent chenin blanc with just about (30) sémillon plus bits of muscat blanc and muscat d’Alexandrie. All from Polkadraai Hills where Raats’ extraordinary Eden chenin is from. All four blocks of vines are old and Bruwer had to convince a neighbour not to rip them out. The chenin is barrel fermented, the sémillon harvested early and the blend is laden with this amazing glück, a textural component indescribable using any other word. “B” is for everyone involved; Bruwer, Gavin’s mother’s maiden name and the history of the Bruwer Huguenots. Impressed by how this never drifts into oiliness or liquid metals but finds balance between all parts. The texture could be called sumptuous but in any case the two plus two varietal get together walks up and down both sides of a two-way street. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Sebastian Beaumont

Beaumont Wines New Baby 2019, WO Bot Rivier

New Baby was released in June of this year and 2015 was the first vintage of a truly Cape conceptual wine. It was launched as a way to combine the idiosyncrasies and potentially complimentary personalities of different white grape varieties on the farm. In 2019 the lead is chenin blanc at 40 per cent with (30) sauvignon blanc plus smaller amounts of chardonnay, sémillon and colombard. They were all planted by Sebastian Beaumont’s father from 1974 onwards. The style and notion follow the line established by Hope Marguerite. “My mother said every vintage was like giving birth to a new child,” explains Beaumont. “Once you do something it’s hard to shake.” Yet another brilliant white appellative blend to define the Cape’s idiomatic meets wild west psyche and only in South Africa do the interpretations emerge like this. All in barrel and the vapour trail is palpable, especially in the flint and smoulder that come from the Bordeaux grapes. New Baby pops, piques, kindles and snaps, raises the senses and is just a perfect conceptual creation. Hard not to love this bloody wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Christa Von La Chevallerie

Huis Van Chevallerie Springhaas Vin Blanc 2019, WO Coastal Region

Springhaas is the South African hare, a medium-sized terrestrial and burrowing rodent. Despite the name, it is not a hare. Springhaas the white appellative blend is from Voor-Paardeberg, of 40 percent chenin blanc, (33) viura and (27) verdelho. Many winemakers get their “specs” from these vineyards, including Thorne & Daughters. This is Christa Von La Chevallerie’s concept wine but also a signature of who she is. The viura is also used for her Hummingbird sparkling. “It’s from the mountain and people know it,” she says and what she means is this is bloody good juice. “It’s my six dollar version of something fun. Others can play on top of it.” Well it jumps and hops so there’s that, also fine bitters, lime, a fino moment and a sweet brininess that makes you want more. What a fantastic finish, drink enough of it and it goes all refreshing and satisfying. But you’re upset when it’s gone and it makes you realize that you’re also hungry. The chenin from decomposed granite releases the acidity and is the impetus for excitement. Just enough takes the lead to establish balance. Springhaas will have you realize with relief that this is not an invitation to small Pedetidae murder but an alliterative description of an appellative deliveroo. “Here, hare, here.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Franco Lourens

Lourens Family Wines Lindi Carien 2021, WO Western Cape

The influence on and reasons are numerous for Franco Lourens to make this white appellative blend. It begins working alongside Chris Alheit and a little wine called Cartology, develops out of a need to pay for an engagement ring, solicits the assistance of old vine chenin, old for South Africa verdelho plus wisened teens named colombard, grenache blanc and palomino. Finally, it’s success and payout get the ring, marries the girl and the wine remembers it all, named after Franco’s bride, Lindi Carien Lourens. The Stellenbosch verdelho (35 per cent), Swartland chenin blanc (21) and colombard (19), Piekenierskloof grenache blanc (18) and 1972 planted palomino (7) are all expertly judged and delineated in 2021. Five days of skin-contact on the GB does just enough to solidify and texturize the entirety but otherwise it’s “lazy winemaking” says Franco for a wine first made in 2016. Oak is old while the package is just as tight and seamless as a WAB can be, especially in the WC. The layers of components really do like one another, that much is obvious and yes, “all my wines have come a long way,” says Lourens. “I try to tighten the bolts and the screws every year.” These are snug in 2021. Indeed. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

With André Morgenthal and Charla Bosman

Sijnn White 2020, WO Malgas

This 2020 is the first vintage to bring verdelho into the mix with chenin blanc (the OG variety planting in 2004) and roussanne. The Iberian grape takes this intrepid White to a side-stepping, new era level. The first of its ilk and a bit clumsy whilst this young and impressionable but my how this will change perception and forward thinking with respect to Malgas blending. The White iterations from 2017-2019 are stellar wines and represent peak performance for their time. But change and growth are good and necessary, otherwise things get stale, even in this crazy outpost of a wine-growing place. There is much to learn from the 2020 first kick at this new can and there can be no doubt winemaker Charla Bosman will take little time to morph this new identity into something mind-blowing. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Vergelegen G.V.B. White 2021, WO Stellenbosch

A Bordeaux blend of 78 percent sémillon with (22) sauvignon blanc and likely the most dominant blend in this regard anywhere in the Western Cape. The sém portion is usually 50-60 and here from 2021 the standing firm, upright and out is on fully skeletal display. There can be no mistaking the fynbos and on a grander scale the estate farm in this wine. Peaches and cream dictate the fruit aromatics before the sémillon kicks into pedal to metal overdrive, ushering in resins, essential plant oils and strength of character acidity. This was bottled at the end of 2021 and just recently released. Subsequent vintages will be under the reigns of new winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain whose track record includes stints at Château Fieuzal, Cave Dietrich, Château Angelus, Screaming Eagle, Rustenberg and Glenelly. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Red Blends

A.A. Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Red Blend 2021, WO Swartland

Five grape varieties and as Badenhorst is wont to do they are all co-fermented. As a winemaker or in any homestead job you are always influenced by where you grew up and who you worked with. Tells Adi, “in the Swartland these are the varieties that were there.” And so this is Saint-Éstephe meets Cornas, rustic yet pure, ripe and ripped. No make up and it preaches the Badenhorst philosophy. The elévage is 80 percent in concrete with (20) new casks. Turned out to be a pretty tannic vintage, maybe even as a surprise to Adi. “There’s oxygen here.” The most structured of all these wines and clearly one that can age, with thanks to amazing vineyards. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Glenelly Estate Reserve Red Blend 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Based on Bordeaux varieties and the fruit is almost second wine styled as if Lady May the Glenelly grand vin is Paulliac and this Reserve Red is La Croix Ducru Beaucaillou. Or something along those lines. Here we receive top ecehlon Cape cabernet sauvignon with merlot and petit verdot but the side-swiping catalyst is the generous and liquid peppery splash of syrah, the energizer and impetus to really make this Meritage go. Rich and chocolaty, financed and very clever, warm and woollen. Yes it reminds of Bordeaux in Western Cape earth but that syrah changes everything. Or adds actually, activates notions and sentiments only Stellenbosch and environs are want to do. Creates a new yet old-hearted heritage. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Abrie Beeslaar is the winemaker of this Cape icon of a Bordeaux blend in 2019 composed of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, (14) cabernet franc and (11) merlot. Beeslaar notes that the carry over of drought is still felt through this ’19 pulled from dryland vines aged 30 years on average and growing in decomposed granite, Hutton and Clovelly. Obviously youthful as to the point of immovable but in a modern world Paul Sauer speaks clearly and the vernacular is as understood as it has likely ever been. Tasted alongside the ’91, ’97, ’09 and ’14 you can see a shift in style over the course of nearly three decades or rather an adjustment to keep up with wants and needs. Change does indeed match the times and while this blend is about as structured as any in the Western Cape there are more handsome qualities and even a moment or two of immediacy. Not exactly gratification because the tannins are a force but things seem measurable. The middle palate is full and flavourful, giving off this cool sensation. Many years of excellence lay ahead. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted October 2022

Meerlust Rubicon 2017, WO Stellenbosch

From a drought vintage yet there can be little doubt that in farming these Bordeaux varietal vineyards almost every bunch, however small they may have been, came out fresh and healthy. Rubicon 2017 is all perfume, of violets and berries, currants and Cassis as a by-product of distilling these varieties down. Still youthful and feeling a bit boozy though the complexities and acidities have yet to arrange, layer and align. The intensities are a bit haphazard and there are so many programming features running on overdrive. A look deep back for a comparison might be 1991 and if there is truly a connection then the future for this vintage is so very bright. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted October 2022

Duncan Savage

Savage Wines Red 2020, WO Stellenbosch

Still called “Red” but since 2017 this artist formerly known to blend with grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional no longer seeks that meritage effect. For good reason because the syrah fruit is tops and under this command it transforms into magic. The idea of cuvée persists but the concept is that of mono-layering, single varietal stacking, syrah on syrah upon syrah. The progression come to this makes perfect sense for a signature wine to define what Savage wines is and needs to explain. This wine is unreal, fully formed and seamless, of a structural indemnity that shifts risk from one party to another, from one layer of syrah to another so that the whole is always protected. Might seem or feel like an impossibility but when one part has the back of the rest and the engineering covers the whole, then the architecture is solid. A beautifully tough and grippy syrah is the result, never gritty or swarthy but so very fine-tuned. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Springfield Estate The Work Of Time 2016, WO Robertson

Based on the concept that “time is the lost element in today’s winemaking, can be so precious – yet it is free.” Time for a 1992 planted vineyard to reach a level of maturity to make a great wine and so the first vintage is 2001. Time in barrel and bottle, two plus four, then released with the work having already been done. Ready to drink? Not so fast. Time is not of the essence but for the patient. The grapes are cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and merlot for a truth be told in woollen, swarthy and sauvage personality, needing two more years to begin breathing and exhaling the true character of their gathering. Bonded together they will be one flesh and fleshy they will be, fruit and animal, of a vibrancy to speak of cape heritage through red blends. Chalky tannins and high acidity also need to cooperate but in the end this will surely become something really special. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

With Eben Sadie and John Szabo MS

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Columella Liberatus In Castro Bonae Spei Vindemia 2020, WO Swartland

Less syrah (40 per cent as opposed to what used to be 80), with grenache and mourvèdre plus more tinta barocca now in Columella. Results in an even firmer, linear, direct in your face and on the palate kind of red blend. Tannic to the bone, a karst now painted on, slowly to weather and be stripped away, eventually to dry as a charcuterie board of salumi, savoury jam and tart pickle. Eben Sadie feels this stylistic cuvée in his bones, down to his core and know this. Big extraction and heavy oak treatment is not part of the program. For the highest degree of complexity accumulated it would be best to hide this ’20 away and return in 10 years. At the very least. Check in after four or five and there will be great reward if not the kind of next level, millennia or epoch. Drink 2026-2037.  Tasted October 2022

Agulhas

Varietal Whites

Ataraxia Chardonnay Earthborn 2020, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

Snap, crackle, dried green apple skin dusted and pop with white pepper bite. Savoury-herbal by a typically endemic site where terroir is clearly the driver for this particular chardonnay. Vineyards of fruit counteracted by salinity. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Persistently reductive, brown butter nutty and softly aromatic. The notable (13.9 per cent) alcohol accentuates the 15 per cent settled juice aged in Burgundy barrels for six months to make this feel generously wooded. Richer palate and furthered intensity. Tasted as part of a 15 chardonnay flight in perspective at L’Avenir. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Bouchard Finlayson Chardonnay Missionvale 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Pure citrus entry, all parts involved, juice, zest and pith. Well lees aged during its tenure with sweet fruit scents, flavours and naturally occurring caramelization. Old school, less cool and yet herbal minty through the mid stage, then ranging quite long and far. One of the more complex chards with depth and warmth provided by the valley floor. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Braai Brekkies in Arniston

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2020, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Cap Maritime is the Upper Hemel En Aarde chardonnay work of Boekenhoutskloof’s Marc Kent. A classic cool climate chardonnay, whether by place or vintage, or perhaps a combination of the two. This jumps out as one made in the most wholesome and also dedicated way, smooth and consistent, surely a factor of an estate’s terroir. Perfectly seasoned and reasoned for great effect. Cool all the way. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Creation Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Quite buttery and rich, fully formed, styled and developed as chardonnay in a cool yet at times foggy and humid climate. A fine mix of toast and texture, energy and appeal. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Zoo Crü – Cape Wine 2022

Crystallum Chardonnay Clay Shales 2021, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

Clay Shales is what Bourgogne not called Grand Cru strives for. That would be stage presence, which is a character trait that less than one per cent of the world’s chardonnay can say it displays. Andrew and Peter Allan Finlayson have mined platinum with this 2021 of a what’s in a name codex for Bokkeveld Shale meets clay soil. Single vineyard chardonnay of one hectare producing only 2,000 bottles is deserved of cru status when it takes a producer’s profound to an entirely new level. Hilltop site, windy as fuck and you can sense the breeze blowing through to mitigate and balance an unreal level of richness and concentration. Not just this but an equality by a tautness that commands respect but also relaxes to let the fruit exhale and express. Clay Shales is an important matter of a single Hemel-en-Aarde ward, a ridge supreme upwards and its makers standing two metres tall, upright and looking over the pack. Chardonnay at the pinnacle for Crystallum’s studio work, conveying much without overstatement. It is almost impossible to imagine any Western Cape chardonnay discussion without it. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Megan Mullis and Sharon Parnell, Domaine des Dieux

Domaine Des Dieux Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

The mansion of the gods and can’t help but think of a childhood cartoon memory (Asterix) but there is nothing childish or cartoonish about this splendid chardonnay. By a long shot the most reductive of the 12 thus far in this blind tasting flight. Holding back the years and tears, a chardonnay of deem, deed and demand, explaining little, not interested in giving in, clearly designed for longevity. Impressive and of secrets we wish to know. “Hoping for the arms of mater, get to me the sooner or later, oh.” Drink 2023-2027.   Tasted October 2022

Godello in Hemel-en-Aarde

Hasher Family Wines Chardonnay Marimist 2020, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Richly aromatic, emitting the perfume of fresh yellow flowers like few in a 15 strong chardonnay flight from the Hemel-en-Aarde. No let down on the palate in fact texturally this lays it all out, with more fruit and wood interaction than most in an evolved, developed and symbiotic way. Fulsome wine, ready, willing and able. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Braai at La Motte

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc Pierneef 2021, WO South Coast

Pierneef, a reference to the well-known painter. Includes 10 per cent sémillon and the earliest vineyards were planted in the 90s. Pinpointed sharpness in sauvignon blanc and although there is a sense of pungency the urgency of freshness and spirit are the shit. Comes from Agulhas in the Cape’s South Coast which is the most southern vineyard in Africa, perhaps the coolest there is in the Western Cape. There is indeed a Sancerre sentiment here but stands apart, alone, of its own accord. From a growing contract of 25 years, rented, a management contract paid and grapes taken. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Christo Kotzé, L’Apogée

La Vierge Chardonnay Apogée 2018, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Though a 2018 the primary notes prevail in this chardonnay from a cool marine climate. Young vines (eight years of age) on the plateau’s argillaceous Bokkeveld Shale and sea breezes are at the tops of influence. Closed, taut, yes reductive but more so a case of youth, unforgiving and ungiving while in that state. A mildly warming and nutty white caramel indicate change is coming as they carry on and over into a chardonnay expressive of great length. High caste and style though the climax or pinnacle of potential is far from realized. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Natasha Williams, Bosman and Lelie Von Saron

Lelie Van Saron Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Exceptional and artistically precocious work here at the hands of Natasha Williams, cool and linear, of less barrel than most. A bit taut and tightly wound. Piqued, liquid white peppery, no caramelization, brown butter nuttiness or toast in any shape, style or form. Not the longest finish though also never sharp – nor abrupt neither. Solid construction, plenty of citrus, proper and distinct. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Lomond Wines Sémillon Seven Rows 2019, WO Cap Agulhas

Must be nice to farm and produce in a climate where you can consistently grow and then gift straight sémillon and this from Lomond is about as credible as they come. Obvious richness mixes with herbology in sweetness but most of all the effect comes from barrel fermentation in 500L tonneaux. Lean is not the operative though mineral and elemental surely are, not merely salty but marine influenced at the southern most point on the African continent. It’s something so much more, notorious even, unique, curious and all in. Intensely woven as sémillon will ever get and the real interest is to see how this ages. Great intrigue. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Newton Johnson’s is self-professed vibrant chardonnay to rival Bourgogne as well as anywhere in South Africa. Their 2021 raised in the ward of the Upper Hemel-En-Aarde shows so much more than taut mineral activity and is yet so far from anything remotely tropical. Rather it resides on the barrel fermented side of things where fruit richesse and oak fuelled beauty get together in a whirl and swirl of lees and acid, forming a cone of chardonnay in centrifuge, oily and silky at the same time. There are some juicy terpene moments upon tasting and so a disparate moment or two will happen before the warmth of this chardonnay nurtures as it trickles down upon the finish. Feels preserved in great balance and of citrus in oxygenated motion. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Craig Wessels

Restless River Chardonnay Ava Marie 2020, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

To meet and taste with Craig Wessels is to know him because he wears his wines on his sleeve and allows them to do the talking. They in turn speak on behalf of a breeze swept place aboard the plateau of the Upper Hemel-En-Aarde. There is a wee bit of (Tuscan) amphora addition and yet its effect is only sensed in the shadows of this understated chardonnay. Named for Wessels’ daughter with fruit hermetically contained and protected the minute it left the small, profound and single two hectare vineyard. A bit demure, pretty and classic, less ambition and need for immediate recognition but clearly confident without attitude or overt display. Almost convinces of the simple, amenable and how remarkably easy it is to get with, but that is indeed the beauty and subtlety of this wine. Fine wine. Made that much more indelible after tasting a 2015 from Magnum with Wessels over lunch at Hamilton Russell. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Jessica Saurwein

Saurwein Riesling Chi 2022, WO Elgin

CHI is the riesling work of Jessica Saurwein, German-South African, naturalist and champion of both riesling (Elgin) and pinot noir (Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge). The word carries two meanings, translated as “life force” and also the first three letters of CHIUTA, an African rain god. These are spiritual connections that reflect the individualism of the producer and also her wines in the how, where and why they are of a magic produced by the garden. Saurwein’s 2022 is a beautifully balanced riesling of invisible pulse that feels akin to how mushrooms might communicate with one another using electrical impulses. You could imagine attaching a soundboard and speaker through electrodes to the vines to measure spikes in signal activity. Just as a scientist would connect to hyphae and hear them talk. But I digress and in this glass this mix of 11.5 per cent alcohol, 11.5 g/L RS, 7.5 g\L TA and less than 3.0 PH equates to a rich yet linear riesling of full flesh and healthy bones. A riesling aching to explain itself, how it is grounded while also soulful, hovering in weightlessness and ethereal. This may seem like a quiet, standalone organism of a wine but is in fact a complex weave of language transmitting soil, geology and place. It’s really quite special and Jessica Saurwein seems poised to be the Cape winemaker who will translate substrate behaviour with clarity through the language of wine. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2022, WO Cape Coast

The fruit origins are threefold, as are the soil types. Walker Bay (47 percent), Hemel-en-Aarde (43) and Elgin (10) and a sauvignon blanc layering by way of clay-rich shale, decomposed granite and Table Mountain sandstone. Dry, medium to elevated acidity, low pH and moderate alcohol adds up to marine air freshness and what proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell will say is “tensile character and a marked, saline minerality.” The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley contributes as much as any fruit source in terms of having a say, not dominant per se but leading in its confident way. A track record as solid as any of its ilk to deliver an intensity of flavour and that freshness overload, together thick as thieves, drinking at peak, right now. With four-plus years in bottle a next level flinty magic and fruiting genius will occur, like tooth fungi from mycelium when conditions run ideal. The vintage guarantees such a transition into secondary character will happen. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Storm Wines Chardonnay Storm Vrede 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Vrede is literally “peace,” as chardonnay so named and raised on clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil in the valley where fog and humidity settle at the lower levels to play a direct role in viticulture and especially the ripening seasoning. The soils are shallow overlaid heavy clay and who could dispute this geology acting vehemently as a factor? Rich and golden, reductive yet apple fleshy yellow and cream textured. Protected beneath a savoury-candied shell then later accented by herbaceous rhizome spice. Continues with ever consistent persistence, unrelenting, direct, linear and perhaps while this youthful also just a bit woolly and wild. Must check this out on repeat for the first three-plus years. Tiny production of just 125 cases (of 12). Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

The juice is up front, the wine opening for immediate gratification, ready and willing to please. Charged though here in a first dimension without any knowable access to further ones available. Quite tart and spirited though on a one way street with a finite finish. Super high acid, early picked and a touch green. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Whalehaven Chardonnay Conservation Coast 2020, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Slow to reveal, unwind and prepare itself for the great revelation, in tact and a chardonnay of firmness and useful tactility. The kind of tact is so apposite to wines that tack or are in fact tacky as this is anything but. The lees are a bit sticky and so there are some thicker glück moments. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Varietal Reds

Beeslaar Wines Pinotage 2020, WO Stellenbosch

Abrie Beeslaar came from Kanonkop so the acumen with respect to pinotage is more than obvious. Beeslaar works with vines planted at the grape’s origins on the north side of Stellenbosch. There are few if any with this type of natural sweetness in the fruit, with thanks to the pinpointed location on the line of decomposed shale that runs up to Stellenbosch mountain. Passes through this pinotage with peaking fruit power and stone intensity. Despite 40 per cent new oak (and you feel the wood) there is a lovely peeking swarthiness about this pretty wine. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Blackwater Wines Cinsault Zeitgeist 2019, WO Darling

Francois Haasbroek makes use of the same Darling block of fruit as Duncan Savage in his cinsault called “Follow the Line.” This used to be called “Hinterland” but Haasbroek has changed the name to “Zeitgeist” and yes, the definition is equivocated through the idea of Western Cape single-vineyard wines from off the beaten path, small-parcel sites. Recall that “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time” is exactly what winemakers consider and exact from these varietal blocks. Francois goes at it with 60 per cent whole cluster and 100 percent concrete fermentation. Results in notable up front fruit with age-prepared softness and a marbling nearly unrivalled in Cape cinsault. Like protein of perfect ratio turning to butter the moment it hits the heat of the pan, this is the effect that transpires when the wine slides across the palate. Cinsualt of bandwidth from dry-farmed bush vines growing on Table Mountain sandstone for indelible grace. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Boschendal Pinot Noir Appellation Series 2020, WO Elgin

Taken from vines growing at 500m on a what’s what of soil types; Heavy red clays, Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld shale, Tukulu and Silica quartz with underlying Kaoline clay. An extreme slope and a place where baboons take what they want and wine is made from the remainder. Serious solar radiation juxtaposed against the coolness of what lays beneath the surface to result in dichotomous pinot noir, blessed of purely Elgin-styled red fruit, richness and tension fighting for supremacy. Earthy enough, element driven, aged in mostly 500L wood, to augment and not infiltrate. Could benefit from another six months of settling. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Jeanine and Mick Craven

Craven Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Mick and Jeanine Craven’s cabernet sauvignon grows right next to the chenin blanc site on mainly granite with some clay underneath. Fermentation includes 70 per cent whole cluster; why…why not…wait…with cabernet sauvignon? Mick shoots that mischievous look and that explains the choice because he gets it. He understands his fruit from Karibib Vineyard site planted in 1999 on these Polkadraai decomposed granites. The whole bunch number was far less in 2020 so maybe if he knew then what he knows now it would have been higher. Maybe not. Notable stem savour but one so piquant, toothsome and then a woolliness but one subtle enough to speak in just a whisper. There feels a syrah comparison but deliciousness in this cabernet comes without iron and closed fisted punches. Kind of Loire franc in its verdant character but again, there really is no reference, nor sauvignon connections neither. Clocks in at a low, low 12.5 per cent alcohol that only the Western Cape can effect for this grape variety while still delivering ripeness, generosity and peace of mind. Another bit of voodoo magic from a place and a maker that knows what’s what. The conclusion? Finesse. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Gabriëlskloof Syrah Whole Bunch 2021, WO Bot Rivier

Now in the hands of Hemel-en-Aarde’s Peter Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and the third vintage of treating Bot Rivier syrah to all in, whole bunch fermentation. All the perfumes that can be pulled might just fill up a small room to do for syrah what only this place can in fact do. The carbonic maceration lasted for ten days before being pressed, taken off the lees and aged in steel tanks for eight months. Clarity, purity and aromatics flown off the charts. You can decide what they are to you but know their omnipotence will draw full attention. Creates a magically sweet, succulent and serious elixir, pretty and poetry in motion, serving up the Bot with sultry sensations. Quite something really. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Anthony Hamilton Russell and Johan Reyneke

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2021, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Valley

It has come to the point where we want to distinguish stylistic differences between Ridge, Valley and Upper in the Hemel-en-Aarde and if any pinot noir is capable of creating some kind of definition than Hamilton Russell’s would be the one. From 2021 this feels like a light and ethereal kind, tight and restrained but not backward, which can always be a possibility. Valley pinot is less obvious, slower to reveal, incrementally opposite to the Ridge and apposite to the Upper, both of which are showier, less complex and quick to speak. Anthony talks about less solids being left in the tank (since the mid to late 2000s) to result in a greater ability to diversify in barrel. The great solids epiphany came in 2020, 10 years after the “malo epiphany.” When the Ridge pinots show more persistent tannic structure it can create wines of disparate character while the Upper will usually offer the most perfumed intensity. This is more aromatic than most from HR, gorgeous even, as “Burgundian” as ever there has been. Yet Hamilton Russell from the Valley seeks equanimity and slow maturation, never peaking too early or looking to deliver immediate gratification. Patience is the request, even in a “lighter” vintage. This from ’21 is no exception. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

 

Iona Pinot Noir Kloof Monopole 2019, WO Elgin

Andrew Gunn’s Kloof single-vineyard is the only one on the mountain and he alone makes this Elgin pinot noir from that fruit, thus the Burgundian monopole terminology. There are 12 blocks planted in 1998 and 2010 overlooking the Atlantic Ocean so the wind effect is more than imagined to create the taut tightest, finessed and saltiest on the local (and very parochial) scene. When pinot acts this alive it opens your eyes, nose and palate to a vitality capable of inducing invigoration. A fine example at elevation no doubt with great promise and eventually elegance with thanks to Iona’s focused attention and listening to the winds. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Niels Verburg

Niels Verburg

Luddite Shiraz 2019, WO Bot Rivier

This is the 20th vintage for Niels Verburg’s Luddite shiraz and what he calls “a survivor.” Each time it arrives there is this newfound, newly generated freshness in revival, no matter the season. The 2019 is the last of the drought vintages from which only 5,800 bottles were made for a sku that can be as high as 30,000. Garrigue aka Fynbos, iodine, Velddrif salts, Imphepho and Nasturtium. Lively and jumps right out of the glass. “Quintessential vintage,” smiles Verburg, released a bit early “but this ’19 is really good.” Producers who do it right work this way and this one reels you in though is surely also age worthy. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Kaapzicht Pinotage 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Known for a more traditional style, heavy and round, self-professed by winemaker Danie Steytler. Jokes aside this from Bottelary Road is indeed a dense and thickly consummate pinotage, liquid chalky and structured for a long, slow-cooked and extended warranty. Not that Steytler is trying to coax, extract and demand too much but place and climate do conspire anyway. The endgame is far away, for now embittered in black liquorice and taut intensity. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Restaurant at Kleine Zalze

L’Avenir Wine Estate Pinotage Single Block 2020, WO Stellenbosch

From winemaker Dirk Coetzee, from a registered single vineyard planted in 1994. Smooth, refined and swelling with ample tannin. The more “Bordeaux” within the pinotage pantheon, of graphite and Ribena, a righteous greenness, modern perhaps yet earthy, already showing some soy, balsamic, fungi and truffle. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

With Marlise Niemann

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2020 WO Swartland

This grenache noir is Momento’s OG because Marlise Niemann worked in Spain and in 2010 decided to put her faith in this grape. As always low yielding bush-vines in the Swartland grown on its ancient decomposed granite soil are the source and there are few Western Cape examples as beautiful as this. Any origin for that matter because Niemann and the Paardeberg have become soulmates and her choice of one-third whole bunch pressing is spot on. Creates a crust or barque on top of the ferment that carries through to the wine. Cold soak of four days and punchdowns exaggerate the sweetest fruit of sing-song temperament, a varietal Carole King, woven tapestry of longing and love. If you need a restart of your joie de vivre than this is the wine to pour. Aside from its undeniable winemaking genius, the grenache noir endures for its balance between place and adventure, as well as remaining grounded through its maker’s independence and relationship with the Swartland. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Mullineux Syrah Granite Jakkalsfontein 2020, WO Swartland

Jakkalsfontein, “where the dogs spring,” perhaps eternal because granite soils are a gazillion years old and the Mullineuxs have been working with the vineyard since 2014. Whole cluster to the max, open top large vats allowing release and punchdowns keeping that elusive concept of stems working in the success side of trial and error. After that it’s all about tannin polymerization and then refinement. Grandstanding tannins indeed, a vintage of manyfold layers, of warm days and cool nights especially towards harvest, where acid will improve upon tannin . Will be most interesting to watch this one age. Should be a grand granite year. These are true Swartland tannins. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted October 2022

With Alex Milner

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2021, WO Stellenbosch

In 2018 I tasted four different cinsault from Alex Milner and at the time the Darling stood apart. Feels like four years later he has grown to fully appreciate this 1972 Stellenbosch vineyard with deeper understanding and cinsault intuition. This site with its views of Table Mountain and False Bay is picked the latest and in 2021 finished at a mere 11.5 percent alcohol. It is the litheness of glycerol and grace in texture over the palate that makes this far from conventional cinsault tick. That is where the magic happens with thanks to concrete “barrel” aging and guaranteed freshness captured. Tannins are whispers, sweet nothings that melt in the mouth upon contact though they will linger for a few years yet. As soft spoken a cinsault as there is, even by Western Cape standards. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin

Increasingly considered a great vintage in Elgin, backed up by this showing at seven years of age. The 115 grows on shale with Koffieklip and in ’15 the whole bunch number was 50 percent. Settled now and in a most ideal drinking way, with nearly five years remaining for more expressive things to say.  Last tasted October 2022

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Porseleinberg Syrah 2020, WO Swartland

It begins with a right proper rant from farmer, BBQ smoker and winemaker Callie Louw. “We don’t need to offset climate change with varietal adaptation. We just need to farm better. The problem doesn’t go away. Cover cropping, activate your place, get things growing, the whole profile is run in the top four inches. Below is the bank, the reservoir. The thing that makes the money is on top. Stop tilling. Leave that stuff on the top of soil. it just burns. Keep the active things alive. Increase the carbon in your soil by one per cent and the water will increase by 50.” Then to the current release at hand. Porseleinberg syrah 2020 is aged in 90 percent foudre and (10) concrete egg. “A nice vintage,” says Louw, “still stuck in a drought but the first year with average rainfall, just about 400mm.” Healthy canopies, just right there, picking without stress. From 2020 about 70 per cent is from one site and while the soils are consistent, the aspects, gradients and all else bring minor variegation, seasoning and spice.“The success of this is a complete fluke. I literally do nothing with the grapes. I realize I do fuck all.” And yet the consistency of the process prevails; of working with syrah like this, whole bunch, no pump-overs and just a belief in the farming. Not sure many 2020s are the shit but this folks and my friends is. South African wine is not all the same. Drink 2020 sooner, the delicious factor will ride. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Bruwer Raats

Raats Family Wines Pinotage Liberte 2020, WO Stellenbosch

From Polkadraai, picked early to help establish a deeply South African sentiment or even manifesto that allows pinotage to separate itself and announce its uniqueness as a wine unlike anywhere else in the world. These are the thoughts of Gavin Bruwer Slabbert. If you attempt to compare this to a Raats cabernet franc there are so few similarities and in fact here pinotage gains stature, swagger and momentum in ways the Bordeaux family of varieties can only wish for. At what cost you ask and that is a worthy query. Traditional beauty perhaps but even pinotage’s lies in the eyes of the beholder. Thick skins and fleshiness abound to announce their estimable arrival. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2021, WO Elgin

Proprietor Alex Dale takes inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s memoir “A Long Walk to Freedom” as he sees his adopted South Africa as the place where agriculture and winemaking have given him his. The first organic pinot noir from this Elgin outpost for Stellenbosch producer Radford Dale and what winemaker Jacques de Klerk calls “a transitory vintage.” Meaning Elgin Ridge was the original owner and the farming is now fully under RD’s command. This ’21 is glaring and striking in primary freshness, so youthful it feels like bottling happened only yesterday. Chalky tannic, of a formidable density but stone cold salty, like Sonoma Coast and a wedge of Délice de Bourgogne. This is, in the parlance of our times endearingly referred to as “C’est bon, fuck!” Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Testalonga El Bandito Mourvedre Monkey Gone To Heaven 2021, WO Swartland

Craig and Carla Hawkins make many skus, almost all small lot from the Swartland and it feels like there is no true rhyme or reason to the portfolio. That is why Monkey Gone to Heaven is the poster for their work, a Pixies song reference Black Francis (Frank Black) has said was named because it “just sounds neat” and also “it wasn’t like we thought we’d get played on the radio.” Perhaps Craig (aka El Bandito) approaches his work in a similar way. Hawkins goes at is as natural as anyone out there but believe it when he insists he’s simply making wine from grapes. What do people think? Whatever. Are the wines niche, raw or mainstream? Don’t really know. Making a statement on environmental concerns? Probably not. We do know this varietal mourvèdre is 100 per cent whole bunch fermented for nine days in open tanks, pressed and aged in 500L foudres. Wild and full on ambient malolactic fermentation. The winking winemaking equivalent of “If man is five…Then the devil is six…Then God is seven.” Actually less intense and grippy than the Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela and also surprisingly perfumed. Even a bit pretty, of different aromatic and volatile lift, apposite in structure, soliciting an arousal of trenchant imagination. What is this? Sarcasm, Kaballah and good grapes. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Waterkloof Wine Estate Pinotage Last Of The First 2021, WO Stellenbosch

“We like to make wine we like to drink,” tells Nadia Barnard-Langenegger, based in Somerset West. The block for this wine is part of the first commercial one planted in South Africa, on a cool, east-facing bush vine block planted in 1994 to clay and some decomposed granite. In conversion to organic. “I want to taste what I taste in the vineyard, stones and freshness.” The name is Last of the First because there are no others planted on the Skurfberg. Another terrific example of the new pinotage of flesh, savour, lithely bitter liquorice and high acidity. Definite quality once again. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Wolf And Woman Wines Pinotage 2021, WO Swartland

From Jolandie Fouché and old vines planted in 1973 on truly sandy (meaning zero clay) Paardeberg soils. Fouché’s journey has run the gamut, from matriculating to earning her stripes in the South African industry. And one of her dogs is named cinsault. “Sometimes I’m more wolf than woman and I need to stop apologizing for my ways.” Hers is a most perfumed pinotage, thanks to bush vines with big canopies whereby the vine is mostly in the shade, that and more than ample whole bunch fermentation in a carbonic vein. Less oxygen and no new wood lengthen, extend and create a drift that so few wines of this idiom are able to achieve. WAWW is pinotage of elegance incarnate, not without inherent tannin, yet silken no doubt. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Good to go!

godello

Hemel-en-Aarde

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Twenty-two Canadian wines that rocked in 2022

Godello taking in the spirit of Grimsby Hillside Vineyard

I am a forager. I forage in the natural world, for plants in their season, pulled from the soil, from earth to pan, for medicinal teas, to preserve by drying or pickling, whatever the most appropriate case may be. Wild herbs, allium and beneficial greens are prized but mostly I use my mycological senses by looking for signs beneath my feet as to where the mycelium below will choose to fruit as fungi above. I look for the saprobic and the decomposer but also the mushroom that works through symbiosis, to aid and abet other species while receiving something beneficial in return.

Laetiporus Sulphureus, aka Chicken of the Woods

I am a forager of wines as well, perhaps not in the same spiritual or personal way, but as I do with the forest I try my best to listen and become one with the vine, to imagine what it will beget, that being quality grapes and eventually honest wine. Vinifera success in Canadian vineyards is a recent phenomenon and there are plants more suited and native to our land but we should and will continue to pursue both realities.  This is not a manifesto about natural wine, no far from it, but it is a confession. I love great wine, well made wine, wine in balance. I am open to all wines and like the fungi I choose to eat or to ignore, I can’t be sickened by something I choose not to taste. I taste what I trust and drink what I must. Most often it take years of research and seeing the same fruiting body appear in the same location with consistent markings to make the decision to eat that mushroom. That is why wines of history, pedigree and consistency are the greatest and most exciting. They have earned the recognition. Others gain reputation much quicker and they too deserve the kudos but the choice comes down to the individual. I just want the wines I choose to rock. Canadian wines, yeah they rock.

Hypomyces Lactifluorum, the Lobster Mushroom

Nova Scotia wines at Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax

Related – Twenty-one Canadian wines that rocked in 2021

The full scale return to not only tasting but rallying around Canadian wine began in earnest back in June of 2022. In a span of less than 30 days there were judges’ panel assessments and events during the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, To July and 10 days spent in Nova Scotia wine country followed by a glorious weekend in Niagara for the i4c Canadian Cool Climate Celebration. Get back to Cool Chardonnay was the impetus and the reminder how much we Canadian wine folk respect one another and truly enjoy each other’s company. How great was it to interact once again, to taste with and experience the verities of vignerons and winemakers? To gather Insights, illuminations and incidentals from illustrious voices. To enter discourse with thought provocateurs who question sense of place, who consider vines and their relationship with the land. To reconnect with old friends forging new directions, seek flights of fancy and return to places always familiar, like coming home. The road ahead may still be uncertain but onward we will go.

Godello and Pender

Related – Twenty Canadian wines that rocked in 2020

Devastating news and especially the loss of a friend takes time to process. At the time I did not know what to do but suddenly the words poured forth, in one take and so in February I penned The Walrus is Paul. I miss Paul Pender. He was not my closest bud nor was I his but there will always be a hole in our lives without him. The thing about sadness is that it never goes away, but the trick is to remember the people we loved in a way that helps us through another day. “Paul Pender humanized everything in his life and all that he touched. He never expressed any dismay at comments I may have made about wines not being perfect, nor did he exalt in high scores or praise for wines about which I may have gushed or waxed rhapsodic. He was always zen, even-keeled, grounded and humble. Paul was the personification of gravitational constant, THE universal gravitational constant, a constant of gravitation. His presence and being related force to mass and distance, and he lived his life within the law of gravitation. I hope he taught everyone to be this way and that we can all go forward with his wise, sage and calm demeanour, safely tucked into our own lives. Thank you Paul. I love you, man. You are the walrus.”

Seafood by Godello, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

Related – Nineteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2019

This might just be the 10th annual list and another spot is in fact added each year but the process just keeps getting tougher to complete. According to WineAlign I reviewed more than 3,000 wines in 2022, which means I tasted at least 3,500, if not more. The number of Canadian wines is likely one third, say 1,500 examples tasted this past year, in great part because at least one-third of that number is tasted at the Nationals. The process of nailing down this summary comes out of a shortlist of 100-plus that were what would be considered exciting. The exercise must be one that filters, fines and refines again and again so that every wine is reviewed and re-considered on repeat. I find it near impossible to make final decisions these days and yet somehow feel compelled to continue the discipline.  Thank you to all; associates, colleagues, wine professionals and especially friends who poured, for every sip and taste, with heartfelt thanks. Especially to the WineAlign Crü; David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato, Steve Thurlow, Megha Jandhyala, Bryan McCaw, Sarah Goddard, Miho Yamamoto, Carol-Ann Jessiman and Heather Riley. Godello gives you 22 Canadian wines that rocked in 2022.

With The Thinker, Jean-Benoit Déslauriers, Benjamin Bridge Vineyards

Benjamin Bridge Glooscap First Nation X Rosé 2021, Nova Scotia

Benjamin Bridge Glooscap First Nation X Rosé is first a wine. A lithe, 10 percent alcohol and bone-dry vision in pale pink hue, described by thinker Jean-Benoit Déslauriers as blessed “with a softness from within.” My family and I taste along and become privy to why this project means so much more. The Rosé marks a turning point for Benjamin Bridge and is crafted neither for reconciliation nor to undue the past. Instead the path leads forward, for mutualism, cooperation and respect. A harbinger towards a more balanced future. Meaning is gleaned for the team after a decade-plus of grape growing now widened to include 13,000 years of sustainable and synergetic preservation of an ecosystem. Twenty years ago the BB understanding was of vineyards producing grapes exclusively focused on the sensory profile of wines, how they reflected the terroir and stacked up against Europe. Yet the Mi’kmaq have lived in balance within this unique ecosystem for millennium and the goal is to return to this symbiosis. It may take another 13,000 years and while subsequent generations will not be obligated to complete the work, neither are they free to desist from it. This Rosé establishes a “Ni’tap,” a relationship as ally-ship and friendship between Benjamin Bridge’s McConnell-Gordon family and Glooscap First Nation; Elder Lorraine Whitman, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Advocate for the rights of Indigenous women, girls & gender-diverse people; her daughter Zabrina Whitman and Chief Sidney Peters. Glooscap First Nation X Rosé is a direct product of climate change with no need to soften the sear of acidity by backsliding into residual sugar. Do not forget the effect created by the air pump that is the Bay of Fundy that allows the vines to always take their time and manage a slowly gained phenolic development. The Bay means Rosé can indeed be forged this way. Dry and bright, aligning ortega, gamay and riesling in such a pointed and profound aromatic Sikunme’katik (Gaspereau) Valley way. The connection to Nova Scotia is real but very much a singular notion. The fact that modern agriculture has erased what really happened in this valley, as it pertains to vines and this terroir it is the kind of commentary that is “by definition profoundly inaccurate.” This is the charge of Déslauriers and all who take this path forward. Indigenous plants were in fact replaced with European plants so BB makes a clear point. How can it be said that these wines capture the essence of this terroir? The argument is compelling and will eventually change again, after 13 or 13,000 more years, or perhaps somewhere in between. In any case the wine is grand and the prospects even greater. Bravo all around. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted July 2022

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate

Trail Estate ‘Oh Julius’ Skin Fermented White 2021, VQA Ontario

A plus or minus 10 days skin contact for 59 per cent riesling, (35) gewürztraminer and (5) muscat that drinks with full submission, symbiotically speaking. The wine gives and our palates lay down, receive this effortless elixir and allow it to pass on through, no questions asked, no wondering why. Something like 550 cases are made of this wild-fermented, Benchlands (Wismer) fruit-sourced quencher, aka refreshing drink. Easy enough in the tart citrus vein, no lacking for energy and in turn, our interest. Weird? No not really. Cool? Ticks all the boxes for what the kids are all making these days, but this is more a case of being made by and for kids at heart who are adults with kids of their own. At 10.4 per cent alcohol, no acetic meanderings nor cider-y complications neither. Well that just about wraps it up in a big natural bow and guarantees a good time. Drink 2022-2023.  Tasted June 2022

Canoe Trip cooking

Blue Mountain Blanc De Blancs R.D. 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The research tells us chardonnay and time conspire for beauty while development reminds how years upon years upon lees directs a Blue Mountain R.D. into sublimity and profundity. A vintage to recall, reflect upon and surely celebrate, to mull over its integrated and subtle spices, controlled energy and slow time release of responsibility. A sparkling wine of nature that has become one of nurture, now a perfectly posit tug between edginess and oxidation, tension and generosity. They call this the sweet spot. Raise a glass to recently disgorged. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2022

WineAlign judges at Stratus Vineyards

Stratus X Trials Blanc De Blancs 2012, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Looking back two years the bar was set so very high as noted when we first began tasting the culmination of years put in towards this Sparkling program. Far be it for Stratus to regress or work in reverse but they are now grooving further back in lees cumulative time and out there comes a chardonnay spent what must be nearly 10 years on those lovely yeasts. Trials they were and fruition they have become. It’s not so much the toasty and beautifully oxidative-fino nutty character. The impression digs deeper than green olives in brine and sweet pear compote, it grabs us by the emotive heartstrings and holds us close. In fact it’s not unusual for B de Bs ’12 X Trials to be loved by anyone. There’s just something about the subtleties and the open invitation, to love and be loved. “Whoa oh, oh whoa, oh oh, oh oh!” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2022

Sunset over The Twenty Mile and Beamsville Bench

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Distinct mineral and petrol aromatic riesling rising, up into the stratosphere. in no hurry to come back down. Cracker citrus and acidity, tart and fuelled by intensity with no boundaries nor atmospheric pressures or deadlines neither. Sugars and structure are one in the same, seamlessness is the result and everything falls into its right place. The poster child, educator and pioneer. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022

Felseck Vineyard

Hidden Bench Riesling Felseck Vineyard 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench

Not quite but just about 20 year-old vines as of this stellar 2017 vintage and a benchmark Bench riesling of all that has been developed, given, remains and jazz. A stoic propellant and scintillant of fineness, fruit in ample preserve, acids convergent and power releasing ever so slowly in perfect pace. Pitch is spot on, balance ideal and direction effortlessly forward. The Mario Lemieux of riesling. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2022

The family with Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Small Lots Oak Knoll Vineyard Stainless Steel 2020, Nova Scotia, Canada

“People have always said we need to make a stainless steel version,” says winemaker Josh Horton, to lighten the room and the mood. This being the first go at it, protocol kept very similar to the oaked (Ancienne), by wild ferment, aka “brown” maceration. Gone to bottle quicker (eight months after pick) and this will be slowed down in the future. Absolute tightness and freshness, purity of chardonnay as expressed in a juiced lemon and almost no reduction. A chardonnay of isolated terroir, specificity and one helluva beautiful experiment. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted July 2022

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Really quite primary, an undisclosed while pleasingly reticent chardonnay from Emma Garner of gratitude and grace. The first because it thanks the Beamsville terroir and the second because it does so with soft spoken respect. A mélange of different fermentation batches, each small and precise come together for the final sumptuous and restrained blend. The tenets of fruit, acid and what ties them together is just about as seamless and easily layered as any of a Bench ilk and idiom. Not a chardonnay of style but instead stylish, not chic but surely sung with notes held, seemingly forever. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted July 2022

Grimsby Hillside Vineyard

Ilya and Nadia Senchuk, Leaning Post Wines

Leaning Post Chardonnay Grimsby Hillside Vineyard 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Delicate, bright and efficacious wine from a north facing nook of the Escarpment vineyard in the narrowest spit of land between the rock face and the lake. Once the viticultural labrusca home of Parkdale Wines and now owned by the Franciosa family. A special wine occupying a place in my family’s history and heart. Apposite to Wismer in that there are more piques and peaks in and out, up and down, hither and thither in this singularly focused chardonnay. Pay attention to nuance, to barrel as well as it speaks in extra density because the terroir encourages the ambition. Remarkable structure despite how short a relationship there has been between maker and farm. The instant brilliance creates an effective and then profound buzz, a desired effect and the future is WIDE open. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, winemaker Adam Pearce and Angela Marotta

Two Sisters Chardonnay 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

With part in part thanks and a nod to the experimental minds and vineyard management acumen at (then) Parkdale Wines, back in 1959 Bill Lenko took a flyer on vinifera in the form of chardonnay. Today Two Sisters is the primary beneficiary of Niagara’s oldest chardonnay vines and this primo vintage extolls the virtues of those wise plants and their concentrated fruit. Still showing balance and tenderness, never mind the barrel beauty, bullocks or beast, in fact it all comes together in seamless fashion because the fruit is indefatigably remarkable. Winemaker Adam Pearce heeds the directive, does nothing to get in the way and what is delivered comes away with such a sheen and energetic burst it just may blow your mind. This is the finest result to date, a lightly reductive, subtly lees inflected, full fruit captured chardonnay. All of its lines run parallel, incline up the same slope, coextend in collateral company and with time will eventually relent for the great transversal. The fruit will cross over both acidity and backbone, resulting in the ultimate complex equation. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted August 2022

The fishy work of Ryan Crawford (Ruffino’s and Bar Bea), Raoul Duke of Chefs

 

Bachelder Hill Of Wingfield Chardonnay 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hill of Wingfield, as opposed to the flatter portions of the large chardonnay expanse and one can’t help but conjure up vineyard monikers like “Hill of” Corton, or even Grace. Ancient and modern tracts can be descried by farmers and writers so with Thomas Bachelder as the guide we too can play this game, by extension and in a most semi-serious way. Everything is derivative and by association anyway so Hill of Wingfield it is. Same lush, luxe and top of the pops richness as Wismer-Wingfield yet here with some reduction and an almost candied shell of protection. Nearly impossible and yet every reason to believe that vintage, grape, block and maker can combine to execute such a phenomenon of chardonnay. No understatement or restraint here, nor were any grapes harmed in the due process. My goodness what gumption, ambition and monkified execution. You gotta believe in the truth! Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted December 2022

With Shiraz Mottiar and the uni, I mean photo bomber Anthony Gismondi

Malivoire Gamay Courtney 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Youthful is the understatement when coming at this 2020 Courtney but my how juicy, meaty and pinpointed a gamay it truly is. There have been serious and fully formed Courtneys before but never have the assets in fruit, mouthfeel and acid-tannin structural interplay grabbed attention like this young and in charge ’20. Adds up to big, boisterous, ripe to the hilt, of zero austerity and so much possibility. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Meyer Pinot Noir McLean Creek Road Vineyard Old Block 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Falls, British Columbia

Plenty of substance fills the aromatic glass in this immortality jam of substance, acid and textural intensity. Good red fruit if turning to act youthfully grainy in its unresolved structural demand, especially as it lands on and then scrapes over the palate. Dutifully solid wine, nothing to some and to others a pearl needing time. High arcing, a factor of indefinite continuation for pinot noir existence and “he who forgets will be destined to remember.” For such a delicate (aromatic) and working (palate) pinot noir it carries more than ample finishing strength, energy and power. “And I wish to hold on, too, but saw the trapdoor in the sun.” Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022

Closson Chase Pinot Noir South Clos 2020, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario

As a reminder the South Clos Vineyard is six hectares of Prince Edward County Hillier clay loam and shallow crumbled limestone overlying fractured limestone. A top site (within the limit of vinifera capability) where chardonnay and pinot noir present as viable as any combo in Canada. Bring on a warm gift of a vintage like 2020 and the possibilities suddenly become endless. The site is always a place of high pH and allowable root penetration but 2020 just tops the show. The intensities are boundless in a most youthful and exuberant South Clos pinot noir that clearly act as the embodiment of one for the ages. Never before have acids tasted so sweet and tannins wept such tears of joy. South Clos is the culmination of decades put in, torches passed, hard work and experimentation. A victory for the 2020 season and perhaps the beginning of a Keith Tyers’ led dynasty. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2022

With Chef Michael Olson

Bachelder Pinot Noir Wismer Parke “Wild West End” 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Wismer-Parke’s western section on Victoria Avenue just up from Highway 8 is planted to what Thomas Bachelder refers to as a mystery clone of pinot noir “whose identity is lost to the mists of time.” Twenty-one years to be exact at the meter of this vintage yet in nostalgic ways that kind of statement feels like something dating back to the 1950s or ’60s. Either way it’s long enough to make one wonder and wonder why. There’s a whole lot of “duh duh dun dun dun dah,” and “bah ah bah ah dun dun dun bah” then “beh do beh do,” followed by “bah doo doo bah,” and finally “wop, wop, wop, wop, wop” in this pinot noir. Why? Because this beast of the east is so strong-willed, immoveable and timeless with unparalleled layering and nuance. Doo Wop tannins in total control, winning out over dark fruit in black olive, fennel and tarry tones playing second fiddle. Why is there more oomph and grip to this savoury flavoured pinot noir of scrub and scorrevole across the palate?” The answer my friend is blowing in those mists and in the time you must give to see this wine come to its fruition. Wismer-Parke Wild West End may not necessarily save your soul, but it will make your soul worth saving! Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted December 2022

PEC wines

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir St. Cindy Unfiltered 2020, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario

In 2004 and 2005 the first County Rosehall Run vineyards pinot noir fruit were given the name Cindy but between ’06 and ’19 the name JCR defined the estate’s best fruit. With a vintage as great as 2020 in vessel Cindy was anointed once again as saint of the top pinot noir. The ripeness and extract here are in fact the finest ever from these PEC lands so the choice was and remains perfectly clear. What the JCR misses in terms of tension is here fully trenchant and oblique, angles run in slants, musculature neither parallel nor perpendicular to the long axis of structure or bones. This is fascinating wine geometry and anatomy, clearly regimented yet offset and in the end, simply wondrous. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley

Five years after first tasting Cuvée Violette blind the opportunity arises for an up front and centre moment with bottle, label and glass. Though this syrah would have been more than satisfying before it must be said that its peak performance is in fact NOW. Takes an aromatic leap of faith and suspends at that Black Sage Bench/Dead Man Lake syrah apex where violets and pepper drip their eau de parfum down upon dark varietal fruit. There are many a more expensive Okanagan syrah but there are none as benchmark to combine age-worthiness with price as this Severine Pinte stunner. I for one am thankful to taste this vintage again and at its best.  Last tasted December 2022

Let’s put up our hands so we know who we are, we who expect three P’s in syrah; perfume, pepper and pulchritude. This syrah is possessive of all three. It’s quite the dark purple beauty but also savoury, reeking of black olive and brushy garrigue. The wood is exercised with admirable restraint and then there is this fineness of tannin. A very pretty, seamless and structured syrah of great length. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017

Creekside Broken Press Syrah Reserve Queenston Road Vineyard 2016, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Good years have got behind this syrah with a touch of viognier so that five-plus in there’s an open window through which to find the heart of this wine. A democratic vintage, fruit at peak, elongated and built to last, last longer than anyone who knows not what capability is in store for this wine. The tannins are just beginning to wane and with great acumen they have melted into the karst of what is truly a special BP vintage. A minimum five years remains and quite possibly 10. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted April 2022

CedarCreek Winemaker Taylor Whelan

CedarCreek Syrah Platinum Jagged Rock 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Inky and cimmerian, full syrah extraction, maceration, skin contact fermentation and finally, thankfully and for the win, concentration. All adds up to as big as it gets, with iodine, soy and yet this amazing floral indemnity that tells the whole story, but also one that celebrates a truly special site. Yes the tannins are omnipresent but they are reasonable, metered, mattering and real. So very polished. Drink 2025-2029.  Tasted blind at NWAC2022, June 2022

Vines in the Similkameen

Corcelettes Talus 2020, BC VQA Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

Talus makes balanced work of all fine main Bordeaux varieties, led by merlot (40 per cent) and cabernet franc (35), with (20) cabernet sauvignon, (3) malbec and (2) petit verdot. The names refers to the Talus “slides” that accentuate each mountainous side of the Similkameen Valley and the wine slides across the palate in equal, opposing and proportionate waves. Mostly a precise ripeness of fruit but also some passionate acids and truly purposed tannins. The merlot does seem to stand out with its verdant, creamy and downy character as it pertains to soaking up some barrel. There is a notable amount of quality dark chocolate here and still all parts just seem to synch up. Proper Meritage indeed. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted September 2022

Black Hills Nota Bene 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The blend for the Black Hills flagship red in 2020 is 42 percent cabernet franc, (33) cabernet sauvignon, 24 (merlot) and (1) petit verdot. Merlot fared very well in 2020 and yet the team chose franc as the anchor, why, well it seems for structure over beauty and longevity over immediacy. This vintage is quite a remarkable example because all of these aspects show up, repeat, shuffle, reorganize and collectively speak a Black Sage Bench truth. Hard to imagine a more seamless set of red blend circumstances or astrological linearity. The stars do in fact align for this bright constellation of an Okanagan wine. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted November 2022

Phantom Creek Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée #24 2019, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

At the top of the heap and pops for Phantom Creek is the red blend cuvée from the homestead vineyard and a wine denied absolutely nothing. The finest of the best is grown, nurtured and gathered with equally prized vessels providing the nurturing environment. There are some silky, suave and stylish red wines in this portfolio but nothing compares to the desire in Cuvée #24. These are the richest fruit sets, sweetest acids and silkiest tannins, none more important than the other and all working towards a common goal. That being beauty and longevity which the wine surely boasts. The only question is cost and a decision to be made to decide if the extra $60-100 dollars buys more wine and age-ability. The answer is yes, it surely does but is this “perfect” style the kind you like, want, need or deserve. Only you can be the judge of these things. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted November 2022

Good to go!

godello

Godello surveys Grimsby Hillside Vineyard

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Twenty-two mind-blowing wines of 2022

Godello in the Stellenbosch heather, Reyneke Wine Estate

We are who we are and we choose to live in a world according to wine. Within its walls are endless permutations and revelations, of the dark moments and the light, the romantic entanglements and the failures. We witness cycles of passion, highs and lows, endless accounts of quirky little episodes that reveal how grapes really live under the circumstances of a vintage. How they survive and thrive, eventually turning into the wine they become. A wine’s history is a lovely aside accompanied by a recorded and constructed account through the lens of someone who observes its transformations. We are messengers who take the land, plant and maker into consideration and always abide, recounting the story to those who would choose to listen. According to WineAlign I reviewed more than 3,000 wines in 2022, which means I tasted at least 3,500, if not more. In order to surmise this final list from a shortlist of more than 100 mind-blowing wines it meant another 2,900 are not even in the running and yet surely no less than a quarter are exceptional wines in their own right. That is how difficult, personal and stringent an exercise this annual choosing has become. I find it near impossible these days and yet somehow feel compelled to continue the drill. 

Godello in Chianti Classico

Related – Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

The year 2022 afforded multiple opportunities to get back on the road in search of great wines in places across the ponds and beyond. To Tuscany in both February and March, for the for the Chianti Classico Collection and also as chaperone to La Squadra Canadese for a week of exploration throughout the 11 UGAs of the territory. Forever in Chianti Classico included a masterclass presented by Italian wine expert Filippo Bartolotta and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti titled Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi. This year-end summary includes one of those Chianti Classico wines dating back to 1949 but a few more could been here as well, including the fascinating Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 1958. At Laura Bianchi’s estate the Castello Di Monsanto Sangioveto 1986 was one to blow my mind, as did Luca Martini di Cigala’s San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 2018 and VinSanto del Chianti Classico 1998. As a proud, card-carrying Ambasciatore there are dozens upon dozens of Classico and affiliate sangiovese that move me each and every calendar year. Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2018 is an example and just one of many.

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

After that Tuscan adventure I moved on to Sicily for a five day exploration of The five estates of Planeta earth and my stay turned into two weeks. Covid-19 had caught me and yet the humanity of Alessio Planeta, Patricia Tòth and several winemakers aboard L’Etna turned a challenging test result into many days of discovery and deeper volcanic understanding. In fact L’Etna and Parco Statella saved my Sicilian quarantine. So many producers’ wines could and should be on this list: Azienda Agricola Sofia, Calcagno, Donnafugata, Eduardo Torres, Feudo Pignatone, Girolamo Russo, Graci, Scirto, Tascante, and Vigneti Vecchio. Oddly this was not a year for nebbiolo with likely the least amount of opportunities made available and yet a month from now I will spend 10 days in Piemonte to make up for the absence in 2022. That said there can be no forgetting Réva Barolo Cannubi 2018, from which impartiality is off the table because if you do not fall in love with this Barolo then you are not setting your palate free.

Travels in June and Abruzzo in four-part harmony included a bucket list visit with Emidio Pepe where I found that an unwavering commitment to land is everything that matters in making exceptional and memorable wine. It’s not only what you do but also who you are. Ahead of that trip I had tasted La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Bellovedere Riserva Terre Dei Vestini 2017, and there can be little doubt that it is a wine that resides at the top of the montepulciano food chain because this Riserva hails from a most specific and important terroir. After Abruzzo and then Rome I moved on to attend the first ever Anteprima for Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino where the Brunello were set aside for one day only and the 2020 vintage of Rosso got directly under my skin, including Lorenzo Magnelli’s mind bending Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020. Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino (Ten Years of Rosso di Montalcino) and Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection) showed wines of age-ability and purpose; my if Alessandro Mori’s Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019 did not blow my mind. A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini meant a pour of Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Io Sono Donatella 2015 for the most profound barrel expression of Le Donne’s Brunelli. 

Menfi

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

In October the Cape Wine congress resumed after a four year absence and now more than ever this is what I have to say. South Africa is the most exciting and mind-expanding wine universe alive today. There are no less than 40 Western Cape wines from two dozen or so producers tasted in 2022 that could have made this list: A.A. Badenhorst, Alheit, Beaumont, Boekenhoutskloof, Crystallum, David and Nadia Sadie, Hamiilton Russell, Huis van Chevallerie, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, La Motte, Leeu Passant, Klein Contsantia, Meerlust, Momento, Mullineux, Old Road Wine Company, Porseleinberg, Raal, Raats, Radford Dale, Restless River, Reyneke, Savage, Sijnn, Storm and The Sadie Family. To name but a few. Other southern hemisphere wines were killer in 2022, namely Torbreck Grenache Hillside Vineyard 2019, a special Barossa block to be sure.

With John Szabo MS and Rosa Kruger at the Old Vines Project tasting

In November a return to Montalcino for Benvenuto Brunello 2022 meant a look at the 2018 vintage but also the Riserva of 2017. At Col d’Orcia the Conte Francesco Cinzano Marone and his son Santiago led yet another vertical tasting, this time on the 8s and it was Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 1988 that stood both out and also the test of time. From Montalcino it was on to Vienna and then a Wagram-Traisental discovery tour that was both too short and mind-expanding – A return must and will happen soon. Meanwhile a tasting at home in the WineAlign office showed this Rheingau gem to the crü. Leitz Berg Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2019 is grand Rüdesheim indeed. 

These are the wines that blew my mind in 2022

Most of all 2022 was a year when associates, colleagues, wine professionals and especially friends reunited to break bread and taste great wines together. At a birthday party I had the opportunity to taste the following in one evening; Château Lafitte 1986, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1986, Chave Hermitage 2010, Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 1999, Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1990, Dom Perignon 2000, Veuve Cliquot La Grand Dame 1995 to name just seven of 20-plus icons. Bordeaux made several prominent appearances in ’22; Château Margaux 1989 (and 2004), Château Haut-Brion 2012 and Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2012. More importantly in 2022 we shared bottles of all ilk, pedigree and origin, not only the expensive and famous labels but all the great wines, big and small. Thank you to every person who poured, for every sip and taste, with heartfelt thanks. These are Godello’s 22 mind-blowing wines of 2022.

Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Berg 1ÖTW 2021, Traisental, Austria

Highest and coolest vineyard of the Traisental Erste Lage because by three or four pm the forest casts shade over the vineyard. Limestone based soil as well, upwards of 380m and the only portion that has iron rich red elements in the earth. Actually finding a richness in this, surely vintage related and that is unexpected but it’s also the most savoury, minty cool, eucalyptus accented, or the like. Curious by comparison to Alte Zetsen and Zwirch, in what is assessed as almost dark, smoky, spicy volcanic-simulate stuff. Brings whole and utter meaning to grüner veltliner at the Grand Cru level. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2022

Godello with Charla Bosman

Sijnn White 2019, WO Malgas, South Africa

Up above the Breede River there are vines of chenin blanc, viognier, roussanne and verdelho, varieties that have been working towards a common goal, to eventuate at something great. Then 2019 comes along and the world changes. This is the vintage from which David Trafford, Sijnn and winemaker Charla (Hassbroek) Bosman take full reign of their collective charge. To be truthful the agriculture, winemaking and face of the brand is Bosman and were I in the market to hire someone of her passion, ability and professionalism I could not help but remunerate her like a top European footballer. But lucky we all are that she and Sijnn are together because she is at one with this impossible yet absurdly beautiful environment where wines like this White Blend are made and will blow your proverbial mind. They attach themselves and get so close to that personal part of you. Imagine Châteauneuf though I’d much rather consider Malgas because that is what this is. Rich and perfectly viscous, spicy, structured and fine. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC San Lorenzo 2020, Sicily, Italy

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

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, South Africa

At a tasting where everything is Old Vines Project certified there must be something extraordinary about a wine to stand out from a crowd of greats. David and Nadia Sadie are in fact turning heritage vines chenin blanc (amongst other varietal explorations) into content born of context harboured though never paraded. They are rhythmic and scientific with just enough fantasy and romanticism, but never too much. Plat’Bos stands above Skaliekop and Hoë Steen because 2021 asks it to do so, not because it is better or more important, but it is surely chenin blanc profound. The 1981 Swartland planting is in the steady zone, shed of the mercurial and in ’21 so very linear yet salty of the earth in its sombre-sepulchral tone. There is reduction here because the poor soil nutrients demand that this chenin begins this way. The levels of tension and intensity are most elevated, sufficing to say as high as any from the Western Cape. Attention is paid unwavering to detail, sequencing is in order, purity incarnate, grape and place together pristinely kept. In Plat’Bos 2021 the palate is taken down to the whipping post by a wine built to endure. Given time there will be calm, healing and reward in the end. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2022

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Mev. Kirsten Wyn Van Oorsprong Stellenbosch Die Sadie Familie Wyne 2021, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The vines that supply Mev. Kirsten Wyn are the oldest chenin blanc in the country, out of Stellenbosch and planted in 1905. In 1947 every second row was pulled out to make room for tractors and the configuration still exists this way. “If South Africa has a true apex white Grand Cru vineyard then this is it” insists Eben Sadie. Facts are facts are you just can’t accede these levels of power, concentration, extract and tannin anywhere else. The nose communicates as an intoxicant of sublime forces and these grapes bestow chenin blanc 2021 are those that transcend fruit, deliver ethereality and a heightened sense of awareness. An awakening from necessary tension, crisis and personal freedoms, existential off the charts, poetic and epic. One hundred and sixteen stanzas recorded, in the books and the finest verse written right here in the most recent vintage. If enlightenment is to be gained from chenin blanc in the Western Cape, Mev. Kirsten would provide the fodder. “The grail. End of fucking story” concludes Sadie. All hail. Long live the queen. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted October 2022

Iconic Bourgogne

Domaine De Bellene Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Les Suchots 2020, AC Bourgogne, France

“Suchots” originates from “souches,” the name given to the woods before the land was prepared to house these vines. Les Suchots is but a small 13 hectare part of the larger 220 in total for Vosne Romanée and was first planted in 1937. La Romanée and Saint Vivant are the closest plots, south of Echezeaux, north or Richebourg and though just six per cent of the appellation it is actually the largest Premier Cru Climat therein. The vineyard is divided in two by a road. The eastern part below lays just above the cemetery and the village terroir called Hautes Maizieres. The top part is located below Les Beaux-Monts. The 2019 was a dream, crème de la crème and yet 2020 seems to embrace the powerful vintage with a most extraordinary level of perfume. That and fruit concentrated to a maximum degree without falling into any of the trappings associated with hyperbole. The concept of pinot noir reaching regional levels like this seems counterintuitive to the variety-appellation contract but the balance and harmony at the top is something the likes almost never seen. This will surely be one of the wines that explain with hyper clarity what 2020 is as a vintage. Drink 2026-2040.  Tasted May 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa Sopra Il Pozzo 2017, Sicily, Italy

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

Elisabetta Foradori

Foradori Granato Teroldego 2019, IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Granato from Elisabetta Foradori resides at or near the peak of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine chain, a Dolomite force of varietal nature, richness incarnate and cragged to gain your full attention. Fruit comes at a great premium, not by absence of the heart but because so much site, land and space speak louder than words. A static red stuck in a state of cryogenic freeze, immovable and surely able to handle immobility and also time. Will drink beautifully for a decade and a half, or possibly more. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2022

Garage Wine Co. Truquilemu Vineyard Lot 97 Dry Farmed Old Vines Field Blend Carignan 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile

The eastern facing side of the Coastal Range where the old vines grow, in places where you had to make wines for the Catholic Church, “to save souls.” The most aromatic of Derek’s wines, a true field blend with a je ne sais quoi of varieties bursting off of dry farmed bush vines. Showy with that combination of outright juiciness juxtaposed against iron-fisted structure. A wine that comes from a place where the farmer worked to break up the “los camellones”, strange diagonal lines drawn and a framer who shows how to separate the land so that making great wine is easier. This is a remarkable example of old, bush and real. Drink 2024-2030. Tasted July 2022

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico 1949, Tuscany, Italy

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

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

“I did not like Gran Selezione, I did not have anything against Gran Selezione but the discussion about UGA (sub-zones) was already underway so why not wait for this next change to the appellation?” The thinking for Paolo de Marchi was more about the wines that did not qualify for the appellation becoming wines that now qualified, the issue being a new rule could not apply to only 30 or so producers. So what is needed for that to happen? “All grapes born here should be able to travel with a passport.” If it is more complicated than that then there is much more to discuss. A Chianti Classico from a long, linear and fortifying vintage delivers equally appropriate and extending tannins, gripping the composition while proposing to become elegant and fine. The seamlessness and never wavering focus keeps on keeping on, in the ways of emotion in motion. Will remain in bottle one year more before being released to the market. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Great anticipation to taste La Casaccia and Montosoli side by each from a vintage carrying no option but to act out the passion play through the glaring clarity of a sense of place. There are facts involved and there is no hiding the truth formed by these plots of sangiovese in this vintage. By now it is understood how 2018 exists on its own accord at one with nature though Francesco Ripaccioli will tell you there are similarities with 2013, if only because that vintage was greatly ignored and is drinking well at this time. La Casaccia in the località of Canalicchio is the wildcard of Montalcino and tasting several wines from the frazione reveals a collective affinity supplied by the year’s gifts. Nothing was portioned or taken away from the ’18 Annata and yet this Vigna sings with even more range and depth than that wine. The acids are simply out of this proverbial world, the linear aspects drawn with precise architectural or even, in Old English speak, a Cutter’s line. Remarkable reserve in concentration and forward slicing finesse. Forever long. Forever young. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2022

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

Riserva 2016 is the 42nd such vintage since 1888 from estate vineyards and the oldest parcels therein. Meanwhile olive trees and other compatible local species grow in those places and there always seems to be lower pH and higher bright acidity coming off the grapes. The Federico Radi team seeks to broaden biodiversity with unlimited scope and more vineyards would benefit by following such a plan. When Biondi-Santi gets to their next position we can expect even more refined and higher quality wines. Meanwhile the harmony and extant abilities in this ’16 Riserva are almost impossible to believe. A Riserva of fruit termed as the locus of the points drawn at an equidistant from the centre. Sangiovese of no stops and starts existing on a special kind of ellipse in which the eccentricity is zero and the two foci are coincident. Simple descriptors like crunch, chew or crust are not in the lexicon nor do service to speak about the texture of this remarkable sangiovese. Subtlety and strength, a dappling of early morning light, patterning and shimmering as if on water. The phenolics are spot on, coherent and the connection with both palate and tannins perform as an unbreakable bond. A canvas flooded with colour and while there is a level of transparency there are no white spots. Everything is filled in. Clocks in at 14 per cent abv. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted November 2022

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2001, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy

Youthful is the proverbial understatement, zesty and full of Panzano life the other. A sangiovese in strike of ideal accord, freshness captured in bottle and development low, easy and slow accrued. Just like the season, stress-free, never too hot, never too wet. Stellar autumn of warm days and retentive cool nights. A late harvest and full phenolic character. It all shows in this 20-plus year-old Flaccianello, singing a ballad, verse after verse, refrain post refrain. After 20 minutes a sweet porcini perfume emits and one wishes for a 50 day dry-aged Chianina Fiorentina. What fortune! Along with the special effects of smoky rosmarino and wild fennochio. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Sassicaia 2019, DOC Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

Priscilla Incisa’s Tenuta San Guido is located one hour south of Pisa, going back many generations. The surface area covers 2,500 hectares in a “classic Tuscan agricultural estate, of vines, olive oil, cereals including wheat and feed for thoroughbred horses. There are 500 hectares towards the seashore dedicated to a wild life refuge “paradise” free from hunting and for migrating birds coming from northern Europe and heading to Africa, especially because a good part of the land is covered by water during the winter. Before 1994 the appellation was Vino da Tavola. The grand vin Sassicaia is always a minimum 80 per cent cabernet sauvignon (as per the appellation) with cabernet franc. The youthful perfume of Sassicaia is really something other, an invitation to the plume of a great and mighty bird that will soon migrate or not be seen or heard from until another season. The fruit is both wound taut and also layered, a mix of liquids, gasses and decomposed mineral, turning on its axes, literally the earth itself. The effort put in speaks volumes about the quality and yet the seamless transitions are as if there are no transitions at all, only one contiguous entity. Will release in Ontario as an Online Exclusive by lottery on October 20th. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted September 2022

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2002, Abruzzo, Italy

The subtle and gentle elegance of 2002 is almost mystifying, if at least a surprise that kinda hypnotizes. Memory serves up a case of conflict and adversity, if also vintage envy for the bookends of 2001 and 2003. And yet the cool of the night prevails to elongate a montepulciano for our pleasure and make it sing 20 years later. It was also decanted to reduce the lees sediment and then re-corked for our benefit. Words cannot express what a beautiful place this 2002 EP is found to be. It is a treat to taste and also behold, exactly as of right now. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005, DOC Noto, Sicily, Italy

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

Château Cheval Blanc 1998, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France

The 24 year-old 1998 has been argued and predominantly defended as a Right Bank vintage, especially for merlot based wines, which the 1998 Cheval Blanc happens to be. Clocks in at 65 percent plus (35) cabernet franc and the two combine for hypnotic aromatics to put mind and palate in an immediately dizzying and gratifying tizzy. Dark, dark fruit of the “cimmérienne” kind yet of a grace and genteel manner shared by other profoundly distinguished red wines. Thoughts can wander and wonder as a result of tasting this blind and considering the depth it is nebbiolo that is imagined. Only for a moment because the numerous dual-toned vibrations direct towards knowing this to be a blend and so Right Bank combinations lead by their impression. Both of ’98 Cheval Blanc’s are blessed of ripenesses, acids and structural bones all having peaked at a shared summit. The conclusion can only be a two-part perception, of balance and beauty. Drink 2022-2042.  Tasted November 2022

Mullineux Schist Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, South Africa

Vines planted in 1999, mature if still 12 years away from being classified as “Old Vines.” Schist is the home Brownstone Vineyard, shallow and rocky of less than 20 cm of soil. An extreme site in which vines attempt to grow, but so much comes down to the where and how. Rows are close together and planted in an almost race track configuration within an amphitheatre. The roots spread and dig deep within the stripes of schist interspersed with iron and the grapes are harvested plant by plant to create two apposite cuvées. Visually these are small vines with smaller leaves and an airiness – physically speaking. The skeletal backbone here is upright, towering and commanding, the juiciest of varietal fruit hanging as flesh, taut and muscular upon these bones. Unyielding yet never brooding nor astringent, but bountiful and beautiful. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted July 2022

Penfolds Grange 1981, South Australia

Poured blind and easily recognized as a wine of great depth with at least two decades of maturity. Either older or hastily advanced but there are indicators to the former, namely high tones, substantial crunchy acids and full on perfume. There is a touch of Brettanomyces but only a feathery tickle and the wine still has something left to give and also to prove. Great depth is provided by wood notes, of soy, balsamic, wild fennel and all together now a reduction keeping its form, a foxy liqueur, once Cassis but now Amaro, finishing with flavours bloody and gamy. The reveal as Grange 1981 explains that while shiraz is always the game and king it had been a season for which the cabernet sauvignon portion exceeded 10 percent. Winemaker John Duval felt that ’81 was a tannic one but they left the building long ago. Both Barossa and McLaren Vale were involved and so this look back at blending expertise matters in the context of all Aussie blends being tasted today. Being present to be poured a taste of Grange represents good fortune and from 1981 there abides a full and fair suck of the sauce bottle.  Drink 2022-2025. Tasted November 2022

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2019, Passito Di Pantelleria DOC, Sicily, Italy

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

Vintage Port (c) Sarah Goddard/WineAlign

Niepoort Vintage Port 2019, DOP Douro, Portugal

Expect top concentration in Vintage Port from what Niepoort calls a “return to balance in the vineyard” type of season. Summer was unseasonably cool and the timely rainfall on the 26/27th of August was invaluable, allowing fruit maturity to go to completion. A recall to 2008, of natural, acid driven, balanced musts. Foot trodden in circular granite lagares with 100 per cent stems, racked soon after harvest, aged in “tonéis” (large oak vats) in the Douro over the winter, and then moved to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia in the Spring of 2020. Acid vintage indeed, fruit caught by circumfuse so as to be surrounded, ignited and eventually dispersed for decades of slow release power. The liquid chalkiness of tannin is so fine-grained you swirl and mull over just how hypnotizing it is. Truly great Vintage Port will act out this passion play. Drink 2025-2048.  Tasted October 2022

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

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

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

Godello and Violante

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

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

Heart marks the barrel

Sustainability and the Casato Prime Donne Awards

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

Nature and nurture of Casato Prime Donne

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

Theatre in the cellar

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

Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

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

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Leone Rosso 2019, DOC Orcia

A wine dedicated to the Socini family in a blend of 60 per cent sangiovese and 40 merlot, fermented in stainless steel, aged just a few months i