During the final days of September 2019 we Canadians made our way to Toscana for a week of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico business. While a group of road hardy cicliste e ciclisti were racing their team bikes up, down and around the Granfondo del Chianti Classico winding roads of the territory and others were taking in the sights of Firenze, I was strolling through the Sunday market, visiting with friends and pre-tasting some sangiovese di Panzano. Every time I go I find myself feeling Panzano’s pull.
Panzano’s central Chianti Classico location is crucial in so many ways. Its two most famous inhabitants and native sons are the Consorzio’s incumbent President and proprietor of arguably the territory’s most well-known and respected family-run, not too large, not too small sized estate. That would be Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. The second is the village’s figlio nativo and world famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Cecchini’s Dario Cecchini. Panzano is also home to the Conca d’Oro and few vineyard enclaves are as prolific, scenic and fertile as this wide swath of sangiovese heaven. The frazione within Greve commune is also invisibly set upon the Greve River flood plane, positioned with stead grace and soil exceptionality.
Within Greve it occupies a centrality bordered by commune neighbours Castellina, Barberino Tavarnelle and Radda. You might actually imagine Panzano as the exact middle inside a circle drawn clockwise from Greve in Chianti (12 o’clock), to Volpaia (three o’clock), through Castellina in Chianti (six o’clock), past San Donato (nine o’clock) and back to Greve. Heart of the matter.
Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti
Two years ago I wrote about Panzano and its pioneering association of producers, the Unione Viticoltori Panzano. Please click on the link above to get the full story on Panzano and its raison d’être. The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level.
Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese
Consider Panzano as a wild unknown country where nothing could go wrong, as a dividing line running through the centre of town, as a ridge slicing on a diagonal axis from Volpaia in Radda to Mercatale in San Casciano, direction Casanuove. All part of the same hill. The ridge’s particular geological composition is consistent and these atmosphera sottosuolo soils that run through Panzano are the epicentral factor in determining the type of physiology common to the sangiovese. Somewhere, somehow, that means something, to someone. It’s a savoury-sapid-saltiness equipped with acidity that makes Panzano’s a freshness not really like any other. This is especially true in Riserva and even in Gran Selezione examples.
These words about Panzano are part of a contiguous acceleration to investigate inward, to focus on the visceral isolations within Chianti Classico. This third such essay published since that September trip means there may be five or more to come in advance of the coming Anteprima and Chianti Classico Collection 2020 taking place in Firenze two weeks from today. Panzano’s story writes itself because the thread of sangiovese consistency has few if any cleaved rivals in the greater territory. Panzano’s wines stand apart with their attention to textured detail, in their ability to shine even in their youth and finally, their acumen to intuit a very straightforward and knowable set of structural values. These are sangiovese of great upbringing, etiquette and most importantly possessive of a great respect for their origins. Panzano is spoken for with great clarity by these producers and their wines.
Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio
The following are 34 Panzano sangiovese tasted at Le Fonti, Il Molino di Grace, Fontodi and then followed by dinner at Cecchini. Many are wines I had previously tasted and some of the notes have been updated to reflect new observations. If you ever find yourself in Chianti Classico, I would imagine you’ll not be immune to feeling Panzano’s pull.
Ca’ di Pesa is 95 per cent sangiovese, raised in second passage barriques (80 per cent) and 20 per cent grandi botti, on average. Dark and rich, black cherry ambitious and really, really modern. A high quality vintage and goes for it, no holds barred. Lots of wood. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted September 2019
Riserva is 100 per cent fermented in amphora and then moved into barriques, much of it new. Again the ambition is clear. Vanilla, graphite and everything spice. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted September 2019
Dario Faccin’s is 100 per cent sangiovese as it will always be going forward and with an amazing acidity of 6.4 (tA). Wow is this still so youthful, even just a touch reductive, from an alcoholic fermentation at a very low temperature. Very low. Oxygen is only introduced at that very low temperature, to preserve not only colour but also aromatics. So be patient because time is its and your friend. The palate is so broad and generous but this is not a barrel tasting. This is real life. Such structure should be illegal. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2019
From a vintage that was made for the intensity and manic work of Dario Faccin. You need to investigate so very deep to desalinate and to feel the layers peel away before getting to the crux of Carrobio’s Panzano Galestro and Alberese. Magnificent and large, balanced and massive ’14 oh my. Drink 2023-2032. Tasted September 2019
The amalgamation of ripest, richly purposed fruit and high toned meatiness brings the great divide together between levels of the appellative period. This is what you want from a well-developed and purposed Riserva, in structure, out of passion and back into reality. Most excellent and rigorous work from Gionanni Battista d’Orsi out of Panzano. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted September 2019
An equal representation of selections from vineyards east and west, harvested and fermented separately and then brought together. Once again there is ambition and heft but balance is brought on by ripe acidities and everything resisting going to the breaches of edges. Such a fine liqueur for Gran Selezione and one to age for decades. A captured snapshot of 2015 with great structure as a frame to the picture. Drink 2021-2032. Tasted September 2019
The first vintage, 80 sangiovese with 15 merlot and 5 cabernet sauvignon. The sangiovese was raised in 25hL botti and the inernational grapes in tonneaux. Darker and deeper than the ’16 to come. Good acidity keeps it moving through the waves of vanilla and graphite. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted September 2019
Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something. Drink 2022-2033. Tasted March 2019
From a more northerly vineyard with later ripening and the cool savour is readily apparent. Very expressive, chalky tannic and not yet resolved. Will turn and fire into a terrific expression of Panzano albeit in a highly singular, off the noted grid sort of way. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted September 2019
Vigna del Sorbo sits in the Conca d’Oro at the southeastern end of the vineyards in clay soils dominated by Galestro and away from the Alberese of the Flaccianello sites. It’s always a refreshing meeting meaty wine but then along comes 2016. The satiating and pleasing factor is there from the start, not wanting for wondering if indeed the possibilities are there. They are in waves with bigger bones, more flesh hanging on though teasing to fall off at the slightest touch of the hand. They will not because structure keeps the meat secure even though it is so bloody tender. With acidity nearing eight on the tA scale there is every reason to believe 2016 Vigna del Sorbo will go 25 years easy, with or without the shedding on tears. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019
Tasted from magnum at Cecchini with fruit wholly, ostensibly intact from a warm and grip-inciting vintage when these Vigna del Sorbo vines would have been in the 35-40 year-old range. Also from a transitional period in the climate change pantheon so therefore a time when climate was more unusual and not yet the new norm. A fruit bomb this sangiovese, juicy and bursting from a blue to black fruit year. Almost Cassis in orientation, cool truth spoken and acidity in the premium value category that lifts the wine with ease. Sip it with grilled beef and the picture is complete. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted September 2019
Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2016, IGT Toscana Centrale ($147.95)
“For me this is a Chianti Classico. I’m waiting for others to cross the river together,” says Giovanni Manetti. It tastes of Chianti Classico, albeit with an ulterior profile to Vigna del Sorbo. There is a variegation of Galestro in the soil, along with Alberese, Calcium Carbonate and Pietraforte. The vineyards come down from Panzano and face an opposite direction. Flaccianello is strong and structured, meaty, floral, a compound composition of elements, minerals and the flesh of animale. It’s a big boned boy with acids and structure as a full throttle experience. Drink 2022-2037. Tasted September 2019
Drawn from Botti now at 18 months and the new plan is to extend that even further so 30 months after harvest will become 33-36 when the bulk of the wine goes to bottle. If anything is going to teach the world about the aging needs and worthiness of Panzano sangiovese and Chianti Classico, well the gentle suggestion and confident persuasion starts right here. Dusty and conversely soft, then grippy and elegant too. Drink 2021-2027. Last tasted September 2019
Very little has changed in fact ’16 has moved almost nowhere in the best possible way. Sneaky structure is there, in movements of Bach tones and the usual sangiovese brilliance, especially from these multifarious soils. Galestro, Alberese, Pietraforte, calcium carbonate. All in. Last tasted September 2019
”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2019
Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2019
Incredible depth and richness in Riserva out of ’16, with layers of variegated red fruit not seen in these parts or this appellative wine in quite some time. The linger and the effect is all encompassing and timeless. There will be very little movement in the next three years and perhaps longer. This came to know the who, what and why from the genesis. Last tasted September 2019
Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019
Poured from magnum at Cecchini in Panzano. It had been nearly five years since last tasted and the large format has suspended time. Still a matter of all constituent parts lifted, elevated and residing where things are haughty and high. Nigh time to drink up certainly but there is a freshness and an accumulated presence of acidity that speaks of the southeast Panzano site. If land could talk it would utter these sangiovese words. If vineyards could sing these would be the notes. Last tasted September 2019
An ’06 Chianti Classico Riserva you say, pre-aged, delivered to the Ontario market and presented here in 2014, all in for $24? You can’t fool us. We’ve been duped too many times before. This must fall into the “too good to be true” category. The answer depends on which style of Chianti Classico you prefer. This walks all the halls, plies the trades and hits the marks of the CCR ancients. Comes from a remarkable vintage, holding on but in true advanced, oxidizing and fruit diminishing character. Mushrooms and truffles abound, as does game in the early roasting stage. A note of Brett is here too, not over the top but its presence can’t be denied. Acidity speaks, as does bitter chocolate. This is not for all but all should have a go. Tasted November 2014
No change in ’17 “but of course we made less.” Only 15,000 will come of it and don’t expect to see this hit the market for at least two more years. Don’t expect to drink it for three to five beyond that. The concentration multiplied by the concentration multiplied by the barriques makes for an eight digit factor. Yes this is very different than the others and the acidity too but its a magnificent specimen. Massive tannic attack. Just massive. Wait for the elegance to emerge in 2030. Drink 2025-2038. Tasted September 2019
Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2017, IGT Toscana
Gratius expresses the vineyard in ways the Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione appellative sangiovese do not. This 100 per cent sangiovese reeks of the vineyard; fennel. rosemary and gariga. From the part of the vineyard at the peak of the hill where San Francesco’s hulking sculpture towers and watches over the sangiovese. Grip, intensity, signs, wealth of fruit, knowledge and portents. So fine. Drink 2025-2038. Last tasted September 2019
Only sangiovese as is the plan for the entire estate. That Panzano perfume and glycerin though there is some more weight and bones than others. Reminds of the style that’s constant from Fontodi to be honest. These are some of Chianti Classico’s finest acids, sweet and refined, They compliment and support. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted September 2019
Le Bambole is the place, the first selection of one piece of land, to have a Chianti Classico that expresses Il Palagio within the territory but more so within Panzano. Richer than some but balanced and sumptuous, big again but you wouldn’t really know it. Definite connection to Annata 2016 even if the vintage is different. And it needs time. No shocker there. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted September 2019
Particular, personal, vintage related, so Panzano. So consistent with the wines to come. Last tasted September 2019
This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2017
Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (207795, $19.95)
A floral, bright as a clear blue sky day sangiovese, 100 per cent as such and meaningful. There can be no better compliment that a Chianti Classico can pay then this. It tells you it is happy to see the warmth in your smile and the contentment in your face. That’s because it has charmed you and helped you through. It’s really that simple. Wonderful vintage and the best in modern times for Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2019
A rich and luxurious ’14 from a vintage out of which austerity might be expected. Instead there is sapidity and structure, glycerin and silken textures. Really good work, surprising or not from Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted September 2019
Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February and September 2019
Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019
Of 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. From 8.2 hectares in the Conca d’Oro. 35,000 bottles produced, maximum to 40 in the next few years. Organic since the beginning, in the 90s. Same beauty on display as noted back in February 2019. Last tasted September 2019
One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2019
Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted September 2019
Sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo, eight months élevage. A slight wet wool note though just slight and blended delightfully into the glycerin fruit and high reaching acidity. Just what Annata from Panzano needs to express, light, bright and naturally curated. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019
A completely new floral approach to Annata, of flowers and herbs specific to the place though not necessarily a stretch to imagine the aromas like Balinese or Vietnamese exoticism. Last tasted September 2019
Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted February 2019
A vineyard planted in 1982 and a matter of big barrel élevage. Lovely savoury and brushy perfume again, hyperbolized and extended to extenuating GS style. Lovely texture and mouthfeel. This is the way of connectivity to the land and the place. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted September 2019
Good to go!