Chianti Classico’s Canadian dream

Gallo Nero, Castello di Querceto, Greve in Chianti

Il sogno Canadese del Chianti Classico: Embracing the most noble of Italy’s Sangiovese

Related – as seen in Chianti Classico Magazine, translated into Italian – Il sogno Canadese del Chianti Classico abbraccia il più nobile dei Sangiovese Italiani

The year 2018 has come to a close, a new one has begun and we naturally reflect on where we’ve been, what we have done and where we are going. This last vintage was a most significant and rewarding one for me and my relationship with Chianti Classico. For the great Tuscan territory it was marked by a meaningful and historical transition. In 2018 we witnessed the region’s fate and fortune transferred from long-time friend and President Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macie into the hands of Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. For Chianti Classico the future looks bright, sangiovese and now.

One of the best red wines from all over the world, deserving of space in place with the best – Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano in Chianti

In just nine days the world will converge on Stazione Leopolda in Firenze for the two day Chianti Classico Collection 2019. The 2017 Annata will be poured by producers ready to show their newest sangiovese. During a September 2018 visit with the Consorzio’s recently elected President, the proprietor of Fontodi in Panzano referred to his territory as home to “one of the best red wines from all over the world, deserving of space in place with the best. I find great harmony in the wines,” said Manetti, “like I do in Renaissance paintings, vineyards and landscapes modelled by many generations. Harmony is what everyone and every winemaker should and will find. It’s something you feel.”

It is perhaps a recurring question that only happens in dreams but the clarity is quite real. Il Chianti Classico è il centro del mondo del vino italiano? Is Chianti Classico the centre of the Italian wine world? Without needing to offer up a response the query is still both curious and serious. When you pause to consider the 2018 buzz around Chianti Classico wines both at home and abroad, regardless of which is which to you, are you able to stop yourself from at least considering the question?

We are at the new era of the great potential – Paolo de Marchi, Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

It makes for compelling discourse to be sure. The rise of the Gallo Nero is a fascinating one, not merely because sales of Chianti Classico are rising with numbers never seen before. There is the exponential, across the board increase in quality, the ever-evolving multiplicity of the territory’s sangiovese and then there are these continuing controversies. Not exactly controversial issues as much as healthy debates, dialectics about sub-zones, boundaries, crus and designations of origin. We’ll get to that shortly.

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi, Panzano in Chianti

In the past 31 months I have travelled to the land of the Gallo Nero on six occasions and have made a minimum 70 estate visits, 46 of them being unique. I’ve tasted and reviewed no less than 434 wines and written at least 12 articles about the region. In February 2019 I will arrive to report on a third consecutive Chianti Classico Collection. And I’ve just begun this lifelong journey into the highly complex world of sangiovese. In the middle of this odyssey of wanderlust there has already been a very special moment. Every wine region needs ambassadors to educate in the diaspora and in 2018 I was humbled to be chosen as one of Chianti Classico’s first five. This was indeed one of the great honours my life. I’m quite sure Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani and Isao Miyajima felt the same.

The region and its nine communes share a commonality expressed in varietal and landscape but look to the maps, the ridges, hills and individual estates to note that there is more soil diversity than we can possibly wrap our brains around. When I arrive in Chianti Classico I am intrinsically aware that each trip will add a new dimension to the project, legend and story. More to the point I am hyper aware that the best is yet to come. Just two weeks ago I stood on the great Galestro ridge of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa to hear Paolo de Marchi say “we are at the new era of the great potential.”

Simplicity is the best thing in life. Simplicity is freedom – Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa, Castell’inVilla, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Speaking of the number 31, in Dante’s 31st canto of the Inferno the Italian poet writes “on its circular parapets / Montereggione crowns itself with towers”. The poet’s fascination with the famous castle and turrets of Monterrigioni located just outside the Classico zone are used as a simile for his otherworldly journey that brought him to the horrible giants who, sunk into the infernal rock, guarding the ninth and last circle, where traitors are punished. For a moment, that frightening sight looked like high towers, like the ones of the ancient castle. This is not, however, a reference to proponents of 100 per cent sangiovese versus assemblage, nor is it one to the soils of Chianti Classico, but only a coincidental notation with respect to discussing what lays underground.

Sangiovese is the future – Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

In Bourgogne there is one word used to describe the relationship between the weather, the land and the interaction with the people who raise vines on that land. Climat is expressed as a highly complex chain of topographical, elemental and ethnological conditions. There is no such word in Italian, at least none that sum up the notion in una sola parola. We could perhaps take the liberty and make use of two words, acclimazione and sottosuolo to delineate such a meaning. To “acclimatize the underground” is to infer that over time vines tended by humans get used to the subsoils beneath their climate. Just as the Burgundians discuss Climat not as something above in the sky but rather below their feet, so can the Chianti Classico cognoscenti do so with the notion of acclimazione sottosuolo. Last week at Castell’inVilla in Castelnuovo Berardenga Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa told me “simplicity is the best thing in life. simplicity is freedom.” In September Principe Duccio Corsini used the term genius loci, from the Latin, meaning “terroir plus the action of man.” Combine this with the “acclimatization of the underground.” The notions takes a very difficult and complex set of circumstances and distill it down into something simple.

The ideas of acclimazione sottosuolo and genius loci are a matter of agriculturalists interacting with the stratified Chianti Classico layers beneath the vines. Three major types of mineral soils are present, prevalent and essential to how, why and where sangiovese acts and thrives in the territory. The rocks of alberese (calcareous limestone), galestro (schisty marl) and macigno (sandstone) are the three most important sub-soil types but they are not the only significant rocks that contribute to character. River stones and marine fossil shells are also found in various vineyards and bring more than their fair share of personality-gifting traits. Though we would so very much love to draw geological and geographical lines that explain what soils exist and where, it is simply impossible to do so. The complex weave of patterns and designs, not to mention the venn diagram circles of commonalities would make for the most intricate mapping anywhere in Italy. Yet is that not the foundation and the nature of Chianti Classico’s set of exemptions and eccentricities? No two soils are the same and the resulting sangiovese are all different. Yes, they are snowflakes.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The official line tells us that geologically the land is a shield of clayey schists (marl), with layers of scaly clay, alberese and fine limestone sandstone. The dark brown soil tends not to be deep, with structures ranging from clayey-sand to stony with average clay content. Almost all the Chianti Classico production area, though, has soil rich in stony material, especially marl. Two-thirds of the whole area is covered with woods. Oak trees are present everywhere while chestnuts are found mainly in the eastern area, conifers in the higher altitudes and pine woods in the lower hills south of Florence.

The type of land varies considerably from one area to another, making it impossible to make a clear subdivision of the various soil types typical of Chianti. But it can also be said that marl-based soil is widespread in the San Casciano in Val di Pesa, while Greve in Chianti and all the lower altitude areas have typically clayey limestone soil; large sandstone rocks characterize the Monte dei Chianti ridge; alberese is the principal element of the central-southern area, and tuff stone rock is found in most of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area. The area with a marked sandstone presence are severe and steep while the limestone hills are softer and rounder, and the clayey hills are even gentler.

Not all stone in Chianti Classico is created equal – at Pomona, Castellina in Chianti

In 1716 the Grand Duke Cosimo III set the borders of the Gallo Nero production zone, defining it as extraordinary and suitable for the making of high quality wines in what today covers nine municipalities under the provinces of Florence and Siena. In 1984 the adjective “Classico” was added by ministerial decree to distinguish the original Chianti from the wine made outside the territory delimited in 1716. In 2002 the sangiovese number permitted by production regulations was raised from a minimum of 80 per cent with a maximum of 20 red indigenous  (i.e. colorino and canaiolo) or international grapes permitted by production regulations. Since 2005 the Black Rooster trademark has stood for the entire Chianti Classico appellation with a graphic re-styling to make it stand out even more on every bottle of Chianti Classico. Two locations have been permitted, on the neck or on the back label. The year 2010 was the beginning of Chianti Classico truly distancing itself from Chianti through a change to an Italian law banning the production of Chianti wine in Chianti Classico production zone. In 2013 the Gran Selezione was introduced to stand at the top of the quality pyramid. 

évero

We now live in a world where diversity leads to prosperity and though current global political and national climates are pushing back against that truth, success comes from celebrating and embracing differences. A territory that recognizes its individualities, multiplicities and idiosyncrasies is destined for greatness. This is Chianti Classico, a region where the wines have 300 years of recorded history to support its message but also a history that includes evolution and change. You’d better sit down for what’s coming.

In the early 1980s a group of rogue producers reacted to the idea of Chianti Classico not being allowed to be labeled as such if the contents were 100 per cent sangiovese. The IGT Toscana for the region was born out of varietal necessity. No fewer than 12 significant and iconic producers began labelling their best wine as IGT. With the recent advent of Gran Selezione as being the most important wine at the top of the pyramid could we possibly see a backlash 30 years after the last one? Might the 12 producers make a joint announcement that their collective IGT will now be bottled under the label of Gran Selezione or take it to the great extreme and simply label it Chianti Classico? Speculation is the thing but first there is the notion of having the Gran Selezione category as being restricted to 100 per cent sangiovese. Would this decree help to define the category or hinder its progress? Would it shed light and help to educate the consumer?

Pasta is the protagonist of the table – Principe Duccio Corsini, Le Corti – Principe Corsini, San Casciano

Then there is the all important discussion about cru and labelling. Menzioni geografiche are on the way in as a means to identify the communes, villages and cru within the greater territory. We are witnessing the rise of the associazioni, subsets of viticultural associations uniting producers of communes and also villages within the communes. These associations are formed so that the common good is furthered, both in terms of exchanging and promoting like-minded ideas but also to access a potential for commercial and economic gain. The question is who will benefit by way of these detailed additions to Chianti Classico labels. Producer or consumer? Perhaps both?

Fresh harvested truffles at Carpineta Fontalpino, Castelnuovo Berardenga

These are the debates of men and while their meaning and importance should never be discounted, there is another way to look at the territory’s peregrination of significance. Whether or not the wines are made from 100 per cent sangiovese, from an assemblage that includes other endemic as well as international varietals, or from expatriate grape varieties, there is one common kinship that binds them all. They are wines made from grapes grown on Chianti Classico soils. Many would argue to the bitter end that the place is always stronger than the grape. Most important and sometimes forgotten is how they work with the food. How can one be considered without the other? Sit down to dinner with Principe Duccio Corsini and you will learn about the Tuscan symbiosis. “Pasta is the protagonist of the table,” says Corsini. Truth.

Which brings us to some all important numbers. The top export markets in 2015 for Chianti Classico (in volumes) were the US (31 per cent), Italia (20), Germany (12) and Canada (10). In 2016 the numbers were US (32), Italia (22), Germany (13) and Canada (8). In 2017, US (33), Italia (23), Germany (12) and Canada (8). This year is just about complete and already it looks like the unofficial-official statistics are in. In 2018 for Chianti Classico we find the US at 34 per cent, Italia (23) and Canada (11). Export numbers to the US and Italy continue to rise slow but steady but it is Canada’s near 38 per cent increase from 2017 to 2018 that is most significant. Canada’s is a market loyal to repetitive purchasing from wine regions that produce consistent and recognizable wine so what changed to encourage consumers to drink outside the box and to seek out sangiovese? The most obvious answer lies in the work of Chianti Classico producers at the vineyard level but the true catalyst seems to be educational efforts that have awaken the sangiovese wolf of the Canadian consumer.

The author Godello in Radda in Chianti

The Consorzio has travelled tirelessly across Canada, staging events, masterclasses and grandi degustazioni in major Canadian cities. Ambassador competitions have reeled in some of this country’s finest sommelier minds to help spread the great secret of the Gallo Nero’s sangiovese. Michaela Morris and Jason Yamasaki (Vancouver), Steven Robinson (Ottawa) and Kler-Yann Bouteiller (Quebec) are all apart of the revolution. The next and essential step is to win over the hearts and minds of sommeliers and restaurant buyers, especially in urban centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Such a program would surely push Chianti Classico up the precipice where numbers do not lie in a scenario where exports could very likely equal those nationally in the 20-25 per cent range.

Finding ways to increase imports to Canadians is the ultimate goal and in a country where monopolies and one-tier purchasing systems are the norm it is the rise of wine clubs that could very well be the most important next step. Gargoyle out of Alberta and the WineAlign Exchange out of Ontario are poised to become critical avenues for the importation of Chianti Classico wines into Canada. In fact, the WineAlign community wine exchange program will be facilitating upwards of 150 cases of Chianti Classico into Ontario in 2019. Consider that the Consorzio normally calculates export percentages on a total of 35/6 million of sold bottles, which means that in 2018 approximately 3,000 cases (of 12 bottles) were exported to Canada. Even with a highly generous expectation for that number to increase by 38 per cent again from 2018 to 2019, 150 of 4,140 cases would represent 3.6 per cent of the total imports for next year. That is surely a significant contribution to sales.

So what will 2019 bring? Will it usher in a new era of Chianti Classico bottles noted by villages and crus on the labels? Will sangiovese long designated IGT come back to the appellation? Will Gran Selezione gain further ground and find itself endeared by the hearts of more women and men? Will the category seek 100 per cent sangiovese status? One thing is certain and that is Canada’s connection and bond to the territory will only grow stronger. When we convene at this time in 2019 the sales figures will prove that the process is moving in the right direction.

See you at the 2019 Chianti Classico Collection.

Good to go!

Godello

Gallo Nero, Castello di Querceto, Greve in Chianti

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure. This tasting confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

As with the rest of the territory, the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017  coltibuono  noble_estates  @coltibuono  @Noble_Estates  Badia a Coltibuono  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (683474, $38.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fietri Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

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

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

Dinner at Badia a Coltibuono

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

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

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

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (B.C. $63.49, WineAlign)

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

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Godello

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