What is I profumi di Lamole? Why is it the wines produced from Lamole’s hills are so particular and distinct? What gives them their singular perfume? For starters the sangiovese initiated, cultivated and habituated in these Greve in Chianti hills is unlike any other in the Chianti Classico territory. As a sub-zone or frazione it lies and breathes in spirit beyond compare and in today’s Lamole landscape no one knows, intuits and understands the reasons more than Susanna Grassi of I Fabbri.
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The valley is not a common thoroughfare or often transversed en route from greater territorial points A to B, so to arrive in Lamole you climb with gradual ascendance from way down along the Greve River and up through an amphitheatre that graces the horseshoe ringing hills of its unique viticultural landscape. As evidenced by ancient documents preserved by Susanna’s father Giuliano, the family history in this place dates back to 1600. By age 37 (and I would suggest much earlier) Grassi knew that both her fate and her destiny were to be winemaker, in this place and with her family’s tradition held close.
Susanna farms organically with the credo to “give equal dignity to that place, producing typical high-quality wines in a traditional way and sell bottles with our brand.” When you read my tasting notes below you will find that experience is not everything, but intuition, humility, beauty and grace are. Every wine that Susanna Grassi has made has stood the test of time, going back to her very beginning in 2000. They are some of Chianti Classico’s most elegant sangiovese from which structure has emerged and been preserved, in remarkable harmony.
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Lamole is a Chianti Classico hidden secret, home to Castello di Lamole, one of Tuscany’s oldest castle properties going back one thousand years and where historically it connects Macigno del Chianti (sandstone) soil terraces to carcere delle Stinche, the prison on Via Ghibellina in Florence. The magical acclimazione del sottosuolo has attracted many, including Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, producer of Fontodi’s Filetta Di Lamole off of fruit grown at his cousin’s farm. Jurji Fiore of Podere Poggio Scalette makes Lamole Nonloso out of a special vineyard. Over the past few years I’ve tasted Lamole sangiovese from Le Masse Di Lamole, Castello Di Lamole, Fattoria Di Lamole Vigna Grospoli Antico Lamole by Paolo Socci, Lamole Di Lamole, Podere Castellinuzza and Castellinuzza E Piuca.
What you need to know about I Fabbri and Lamole is found in the territory of Casole (surrounding the village of the name), above Castello di Lamole and below the high Ruffoli hill. Casole is a wide, sunny valley catheterized by the diversities in its range of altitudes, from 450 to 650m. Macigno (sandstone) predominates in loose soils, permeable and poor in organic substances. This is the crux and the origin of the Lamole perfume. Diurnal temperature fluctuations and high solar radiation are also important, resulting in wines that are lithe, crunchy and ethereal.
Susanna Grassi is a member of the Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (Toscani), an organization of like-minded wine producers scattered about in Italy. The Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers is all about the concept of quality and authenticity of Italian wines. If you have ever had the great fortune to taste with Matilde Poggi, Monica Raspi, Angela Fronti or Elisabetta Foradori then you will have a good idea of what it is like to taste with Susanna Grassi. Along with Michaela Morris and John Szabo M.S., these are the 12 wines tasted with her in February 2019.
From sangiovese (80 per cent) plus merlot, named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, nonno, patriarch and pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. A very different wine because of the merlot, more of a big hug, with sweeter and less tart acids, not the same caress in the mouth, but surely silky and easy. Get into the glass and note the orange, blood or just simply orange. Fresh and spirited regardless of merlot or not. Pair with Pino Daniele, the Italian Van Morrison. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2019
Named after great-grandfather Olinto Grassi, pioneer in Lamole. From vineyards at 500m and aged part in concrete plus part in barrels. Once again an old vintage from Susanna Grassi is slightly backwards, reductive peppery and confounding in how it’s so very stuck, or gone back in to youth. Again the 80-20 split between sangiovese and merlot, with a real porcini nose but then the palate is so fresh and almost bouncing around in the mouth. You can chew this, or at least the merlot which is or was so ripe. And it was a cool vintage. So great. Pair with Pino Daniele, a.k.a. the Italian Joe Jackson. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2019
“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019
From a normal vintage really, warm in Spring, hot in summer and back down to pleasant in the fall. A phenolic journey just right for Lamole, More savour, in fennel and gariga than ‘17, surely not as juicy sweet. Still so mouth watering in a way that most sangiovese doesn’t normally accede. This really sparks the taste buds and livens up the energy required to come back again and again. Succulence through acidity assured. Really proper. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019
The vinification was the name. “The big change was the vintage. We remember 2011 as a very good vintage, with a balance between quantity and quality.” So says Susanaa Grassi and her sangiovese is still so very young, reductive even. There’s a pepperiness bordering on band-aid but it blows away with air. A whiff of pancetta or bacon fat and a note of banana. All locked up in the youth of this sangiovese, a wine suspended in time, from an average vintage turned around and stood upon a head. At once young and then to look at quite advanced, then so young again. A dichotomy stuck inside an enigma, wrapped in a Lamole mystery. Feels so good in the mouth. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2019
Take the Lamole terroir and taste it again and again. Though it may be confounding the first 10 or 12 tries it continues to educate and with time you are unable to avoid the understanding and the temptation. There is a layer beneath the Greve level, of altitude and aspect but also a variability that deems sangiovese impermeable within a context of repeatable. Hard to explain, really. Sweet as original fruit, a genesis of Chianti Classico and a fineness that slides and grooves effortless and with succulence. Drink 2021-2027. Last tasted February 2019
Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018
A blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, circa 10 per cent, including the vines planted in 1964 (by Susanna’s father Guiliano), plus 1989 and 2002. This is a whole ‘nother matter of fruit sumptuousness and exquisite tannin. There’s a fine bitters note and fruit that enters into an area where it’s almost a middle-aged, mature version of the Lamole sangiovese. The tannic structure is so very different than the “Lamole” surely because of the altitude 200m lower down the slope. There’s a bass note here apposite to the higher Lamole horns, but also something umami and salty. Wow did this need a year to open up. Last tasted February 2019
Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018
From the first passage through the vineyard, when all the fruit is ripe and ready to go. Now Riserva gets serious, or not really at all, but the table is set anew with an entirely new look at the category. Chew on this fresh and leathery wine for awhile. Take your time, feel the heights and the aspects. The acidity is incredibly fine and the effect like a blood red sunset to the west of the Lamole valley. There may be five per cent canaiolo in here, hard to say because of the way and the timing of the picking. Sapidity and salinity are perfect streaks through the sunken, drunken, oxygenated red fruit. Length all the way up to Terrata and La Sala at 100m and back. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted February 2019
From the first selection through the just ripened vineyard, the first vintage from the artist formerly known as Chianti Classico. Un annata molto buona, smiles Susanna Grassi, here with 15 per cent merlot. A 12 year-old Riserva that has not lost a beat of sapidity, salinity or acidity. That said ripeness is the virtue and the operative, markedly so, looking ahead very different than that ’15. Moving away from red fruit and into blue, perhaps even into the black. Also a spice not noted later on. Lovely Riserva. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019
At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019
A choice selection of sangiovese only from the oldest vineyards (1969 and 1984, planted by Susanna Grassi’s father Guiliano). The fine, fine lines, streaks and sets are all a matter of taking the best of the best. The two wines made before this were 2011 Gran Selezione and 2007 (special) Riserva. Texture is drawn from altitude, climate and states of grace. Susanna believes that a special bottle should be made in only the most special vintages. A pretty good argument for commerce in terms of the category, if not everyone were to make it every year. A serious argument. No make-up, no overblowing of extraction, wood or horns. Know this wine. It’s from Lamole. Drink 2021-2034. Tasted February 2019
From back a decade when it was simply called Riserva and in this case the best wine of the estate, only made in special vintages. From the first pass at harvest time and is indeed the artist that starting with the 2011 vintage will become known as Gran Selezione. This is different altogether; sumptuous, sensual, exotic, so perfumed. A warm vintage, a sexy vintage and one that could have gone south pretty fast. But not Lamole, not I Fabbri, not Susanna Grassi. A true team effort for 2007 to stay so vibrant, with sapidity, salinity and energy. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2019
Good to go!