Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Multiple visits to Tuscany over the past 36 months and more specifically to Chianti Classico have meant that nearly a thousand sangiovese have been opened for tasting opportunities. The tours have also acted to allow for benefactor moments, to present table wines made in part or in whole that either do not or have been chosen to not qualify for DOCG appellative status. These cases are purely opportunistic, in the name of IGT Toscana (and other typical geographical notations) for the purpose of impressing the merits from well-maturing vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, blends with sangiovese and other solo sangiovese wines of Chianti Classico producers.

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

The idea of the IGT practice goes back four-plus decades, to a time when Bordeaux grape varieties began to infiltrate and populate Chianti Classico soils. So much of what was planted through the 90s remains and because only 20 per cent of a Chianti Classico can be filled by grapes other than sangiovese, in many cases it is the “international” varieties that fill in and those grapes still need to go somewhere. It is also a consideration that Chianti Classico aged in new oak barrels is a scarcity these days and so those vessels need to be used for something so ecco, it is IGT, big, small, super or baby that gets the nod.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

In the mid to late 1970s Tuscany there developed a quick ascent of the Super-Tuscan, wines that eventually came to be called “IGT” as a by-product of a perfect bureaucratic storm. The micro-nationalistic wave of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) served Italy’s elite producers both a blessing and a curse because on one hand it afforded wines the highest level of (Italian) classification while on the other it added unbending restrictions on how those wines could be made. The rule breaking table reds thus became symbols of resistance, wines that told governments and consortiums where to go and in effect led to an eventuality of response, of a sweeping, money-grabbing movement across that region’s wine-producing territories.

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

It was nigh twenty years later that authorities got wise to the situation and so Goria’s 1992 Law 164 was created, thus giving birth to the IGT designation. New monies began to line the government’s pockets. So much for rebellion though twenty years was plenty of time to establish and set up a group of famous wines for life.

The main reason for moving away from the appellation was the restrictive law that said you couldn’t make wine labeled as Chianti Classico if it contained 100 per cent sangiovese grapes. Later examples included Monteraponi when Michele Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 because at 12.5 per cent alcohol it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. The great first wave began as Chianti Classico producers began to dismiss appellative laws by de-classifying their 100 per cent sangiovese. Fontodi’s Flaccianello delle Pieve and Isole e Olena’s Cepparello are two of the more famous examples. Outside the Classico territory and in other Tuscan lands there were others many consider to be the most rogue and famous of them all. Tenuta San Guido’s 1968 Sassicaia, Antinori’s 1971 Tignanello, 1986 Masseto and Ornellaia, first produced in 1985. But in 2019 the push for Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category to become a 100 per cent sangiovese appellative wine has sparked not only new debate but also great speculation. Will those once rebellious producers return their top wines and in many cases, single-vineyard sangiovese back to the appellation? Along with Flaccianello delle Pieve and Cepparello, the list of possible returnees might also include the following:

  • Badia a Coltibuono – Sangioveto
  • Carobbio – Leone
  • Castello di Querceto – Le Corte
  • Castello di Rampola – Sangiovese di S. Lucia
  • Fattoria Montecchio – Priscus
  • Il Molino Di Grace Gratius
  • Monteraponi – Baron’Ugo
  • Montevertine – Le Pergola Torte
  • Podere Campriano – 80 (Ottonta)
  • Podere La Cappella – Corbezzolo
  • Principe Corsini Le Corti – ZAC
  • Valdellecorti – Extra
  • Vignavecchia – Raddese

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

In February of 2019 I tasted 21 assorted IGT wines, from Rosato to Bianco to Rosso. I’ve also added three others tasted a year ago that had not yet made it to print. These are my notes on that 24 strong, eclectic and impressive lot.

Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato 2018, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Rosato from sangiovese raised from Chianti Classico galestro soils found in Monti in Chianti and only 30 minutes time through press. A 100 per cent sangiovese stunner with absolutely no excess, no onion skin, no oxidation, from all estate vineyards, including San Marcellino’s grapes that once would have been green harvested. Texture, sapidity and character are written down and expressed as a scientific problem out of which complexity sets all to high. One of Tuscany’s great Rosatos, made with great purpose, structure and food friendly to say the least. So good. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, February and April 2019

Lunch at Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2017, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Antipasti wine, house wine, smells like good salumi. The Lepre tank is all the juice from the vineyard blocks where the ripening isn’t perfect and also some pressed juice not used in Chianti Classico. Theoretically from “de-classifed” grapes but in good vintages it could very well be Chianti Classico from a quality standpoint, though wouldn’t qualify because it’s made with 30 per cent merlot. A top notch vintage for Le Lepre, juicy, somewhat tannic and finishing with seed-noted beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2014, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Three years forward and the (70 per cent) sangiovese aromatics are eerily similar to the fresher and very forward 2017. Perhaps more salumi and certainly finnochio pronounced. Holding well with tannins resolved and this from the challenging 2014 vintage though truth be told it was the right one, of structure to carry a “second wine” like this forward. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Vicky Scmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Merlot 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vineyards planted in 1998 and 2000, this is the second vintage of the varietal hugger, with Le Fonti aromatics stronger than grape. It’s one year in barrel so in the baby Super Tuscan mold, fruity, juicy, lower in acidity and pretty much crushable. Easy and very proper. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Certainly crafted from an easier, less stressful vintage and the blend is about 55-60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 35 merlot and 10-15 sangiovese. Still those Le Fonti aromatics, of salumi and fennel, but here also pepper, graphite, Cassis and chocolate. Very Tuscan so makes sense in such a vintage for the reference to be Toscana as opposed to the frazione within frazioni called Alta Valle della Greve. Very grippy meeting the expected liqueur elixir and black cherry meeting black currant. Acidity is quite fine, purposed and integrated. Impressed by the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2014, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fontissimo is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. A wine made in Chianti Classico to break in new barrels and to express territory through the ulterior processes of grape blending and winemaking. Here is where Guido Vitali and Vicky-Schmitt Vitali can work on their chops and hone their craft. Hello 2014, vintage of stars and bars, vintage of ages and for those who are paying close attention. Also, welcome to the highly specific Alta Valle della Greve. There’s a commonality for sure that is found in this valley but there is also a simplicity and a sense of place within a place within a place. Easy drinking actually. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Gratius is the Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese table wine that resides with a dozen other territorial greats in that existentialist realm outside of the appellation. If and when it will become Chianti Classico DOCG remains to be seen but this 2015 sits on the side of tangy, tart and so bloody structured side and yes, the dominant notes are distinctly blood orange. Elongated and elastic it’s offers up a free and equitable look in the varietal mirror, productive in perfectly perpetual inertia, firm, grippy and motivated. Will come together in a few years time and drift ever so slowly for seven more. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“In my opinion it is young to drink,” shrugs Natascia Rosini. In fact it’s oft considered unusual to hold back white wines to drink, not just here but in Italy as a whole. Then again, who else makes vermentino from estate grapes in Chianti Classico. Salinity and sapidity reign in a shockingly good vermentino. Pear and herbal notes with richness that just put this over the top. Picked late at full maturity and kept in the cellar for two weeks (at four degrees) before pressing. Never failing San Donato vermentino. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 1997, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The last time I was able to taste such a comparison was 2014 versus 1998, two under-appreciated cool and wet vintages. Now we look at warm years, 2015 and 1997, the latter at the time considered the greatest. Many sangiovese have failed and fallen but this vermentino, well, even if the colour and the nose are far evolved, the palate has plenty of life. Salinity and sapidity still rock and stone their way, with that marine wind from the sea rushing through, into the air and the soil of San Donato in Poggio. Hard to decide between this and ’98 because there is more flesh here (bringing a honeyed apricot), but sometimes lean is so nice. Such a special moment. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From sangiovese planted in 1981 and 1982, a vineyard not certified as Chianti Classico so this wine can’t be called Gran Selezione. To say this is young and perhaps even being unaware of what it can be would be an understatement. It’s calm and powerful, elegant and ready to strike with force. Such identifiable, formidable, indestructible and yet malleable tannins. A mimic of the singular Colombino rock found only here in the territory, calcareous white stone both strong to build houses (and cellars) and schisty to break apart between your hands. Imagine how this will drink when it allows itself to break down in just the right way and at just the right time.  Last tasted February 2019

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2012, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

As always 100 per cent merlot with a grafting connection to chardonnay and American rootstock. The vintage is a savoury one for the thirty-plus year-old IGT. It’s a very Mediterranean sensation, of black olive and balsamico, hematic ooze and woodsy floor. It’s actually still quite closed or perhaps it’s entered a dumb or quiet phase but don’t be fooled; there is powerful restraint and it may pounce anytime. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1999, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A beautifully advanced merlot from vines that would have been 17 and 18 years-old at picking time. If you’ve got a truffle dog, take this wine and go truffling because this merlot is at the head of that aromatic game for the territory. Such a creamy merlot, with plenty of necessary acidity and the freshness of truffle. Merlot as tartufo incarnate. Truly. Delicious. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle Mandorle 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) with cabernet sauvignon, all fruit and nothing but the fruit, plummy and with a nutty smokiness, but also manageable with simplicity from and for fruit. What works and gives from the basic and forthright IGT ideal. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle More 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (50 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and merlot (20), from “the hill of the blackberry.” A rich, purple flower aromatic, liquid chalky, deeply rendered red. Done up in a combination of new and pre-used barriques. There’s a salumi feel, a musky pancetta and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Nearing glycerin but staying its clay-mineral coarse. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re 2016, Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From cabernet sauvignon grown on sandy soils in the warmer maritime area near Grossetto. The grapes comes from “the hill of the king,” and the attributes are so bloody varietal obvious. Cassis, ribena, blackberry, savour and spice. Chocolate and rosemary, tarragon and cinnamon. Very expressive and with good elevated acidity. Quite the tannic beast. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio FSM 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From a project that began in 1995, this is 100 per cent merlot of a small, 3,000 bottle lot. It’s hard to decide if it’s more varietal or more Toscana so let’s just say it straddles the two with perfect ease. Youthful, big and warm, very Mediterranean with gariga, black olive, rosemary and dusty notes. Silky smooth however and finishes in balsamic, viscous and reduced. High quality merlot to be sure, with fine tannic structure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Priscus 2015, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The IGT is 100 per cent sangiovese of 1,200 bottles aged in 100 per cent terracotta amphora formed, forged and cured on the Montecchio property. Same must/juice as the Gran Selezione so the side by side comparison is the show. Winemaker Riccardo Nuti is interested in this investigation for family tradition, commercial continuity and passion project affirmation. Quick time on skins, fermented in terracotta tanks and racked into “amphora,” in this case elongated egg-shaped clay vessels for the next two plus years. The texture and the spice are higher, as is the volatility but the threshold is not in any danger of being breached. The tannins are more present, demanding and vivid. And I prefer them because they are just that more interesting. This is in fact a remarkable look at the relationship between grape, vessel, material, approach and place. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Pietracupa 2016, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An IGT blend of sangiovese (60 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon with a percentage coming from San Donato in Poggio vineyards close by. Much deeper, bigger, broader and brooding as a blend with smooth silky consistency and fine silky tannins. Very oaky, completely mature and filled with the flavours that lie on the balsamic-chocolate-blackberry spectrum. Though the sangiovese character is lost it’s a real high-end charmer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio La Papesa 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A varietal merlot of high level ripeness and while it’s a bit overripe and certainly extracted the acidity is supportive, balancing and results in something charming. The tannins are soft and comforting with zero astringency so yes, think of this as a great big San Donato hug. Figs in reduced balsamico are the prevailing flavours, with lots of dark but not bitter chocolate coming through with the finishing next level morbido feelings. As big as it may seem to some palates it’s actually quite easy to drink. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingarella 2017, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend from young vines in frost spots and high humidity places not really suitable for sangiovese. The blend is merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo. So what is it? Well for one thing it’s the “daughter of the gypsy,” and then it’s a high acid, taste of place before anything else red blend. High tonality, ripe purple fruit and and a boatload of currants. No pyrazine, well perhaps just a bit. Low alcohol for such an animal, remarkably so and once again it’s a great matter of sapidity. Just a hit of chocolate late, as per the grapes which needed to have a say. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingana 2015, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “Gypsy,” from the old Greek, or in Italian, gitano or tzigane. This gypsy is the old vine version, of 50 years, top grafted on a sangiovese/malvasia/canaiolo/trebbiano vineyard planted by the previous owner in the late 80s. It’s made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (but no canaiolo) and also no sangiovese because tells Michael Schmelzer, there is no cannibalizing the Chianti Classico. This is deeper, richer, lower in acidity, still sapid but not as pronounced and higher in finishing chocolate. The wood needs a year more of integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Percarlo IGT Toscana 2013 is the current vintage of the 100 per cent sangiovese that began in the 1980s when it was forbidden to label such a beast as Chianti Classico. “Percarlo is his identity so he will not come back,” insists Luca Martini di Cigala. Made from the smallest bunches and a selection of the best fruit, yet still from the same vineyards albeit blessed of more from tufo soil. Percarlo carries the same San Giusto richness and acidity working in silky tandem and the tannins are the most plush, which they’d have to be to match the high level of glycerin. Formidable and exceptionally refined sangiovese. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2005, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Once again you would have no idea that any time may have passed, not just because the hue has yet to morph but because the aromatics and fresh gelée are one in the same, together as they have always been. The purity and exquisite texture also conspire for a sublime intertwine and then out of this comes the acidity, trailing like a comet. The tannins are still so strong and so the smoky spirit and intensity of variegated flavour persists, gets reprimanded and is held out for all to taste. Here the maximum coaxed from the grape is acceded above and exceeded beyond. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 2015, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Carbonaione is from the finest sangiovese on the Ruffoli property, a Chianti Classico vineyard declassified, with vines as old as 90 years but in reality, not exactly 100 per cent sangiovese. Some post-phylloxera ungrafted vines and many co-planted with no record of origin perhaps or likely place mammolo, colorino, canaiolo, malvasia, trebbiano and even occhiorosso in five to ten per cent amongst clones of sangiovese. The nose is like the Chianti Classico magnified, reduced, compressed and elevated. The florals rival the Lamole but they are more into potpourri and the acidity is super, super fine. The only comparison might be in acidity like Luca’s San Giusto a Rentennano, with the sandy soil base and the saltiness but the tannins here are set upon broader shoulders. With much less stone worked in the soil you lose the chalky grain streak but gain this broader complexity. With such beckoning and burgeoning acidity the vinatge is put on a great pedestal and the possibility seriously exists for two decades of aging. Ruffoli’s 400-600m elevation, with a long growing season (sometimes seeing pick times up the second week of October) means the full and complete phenolic ripeness is wholly realized. Not to put too much stock in here but 13.5 per cent alcohol. Just sayin’. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

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San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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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

Badia a Coltibuono

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The most important red wine from Italy

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Chianti Classico

As seen on WineAlign

For three weeks in May my professional life focused entirely on the brave new world of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. It began with a four day gambol through the heart of Toscana between two of the world’s great cities, Siena and Florence. It culminated with a Masterclass on Gran Selezione I guided for the Consorzio of Chianti Classico at Toronto’s Four Season’s Hotel.

The time in Italy brought me to eight estates plus a tasting of Gran Selezione at the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato located in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of Chianti Classico. In Radda I tasted 12 selections with Consorzio president Sergio Zingarelli. The Masterclass in Toronto was organized as part of the region’s 300th anniversary celebration and the producers walked a crowd of 75 guests through eight Gran Selezione.

mondays-presentation-of-chianticlassico-granselezione-fstoronto-c-su-su-han

Monday’s presentation of @chianticlassico #granselezione @FSToronto (c) su su han

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Critics comment and often complain that all Chianti Classico, Riserva and now Gran Selezione adhere to one style. They will say that because of minimum aging requirements that all wines are produced in the same way and towards the same end. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

What Makes it Gran(d)

Gran Selezione must be composed of 80 to 100 per cent sangiovese and may contain up to 20 per cent red grapes (indigenous or international). It is produced from a single-vineyard or from a selection of the estate’s best grapes. The minimum aging requirement is 30 months, including three months in bottle before release. The manifesto portents a wine of new typology “at the summit of a denomination’s quality pyramid.”

“The use of the name ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione’ depends on issue of a suitability certificate based on chemical-physical tests conducted by authorized laboratories and approval of the wine’s organoleptic characteristics by special tasting committees as per Italian Ministerial Decree 16/12/2010 concerning batches of wine destined for bottling.” Some applications were granted retroactively for the 2009 vintage.

So, what is Gran Selezione? In the simplest terms, which means everything and yet nothing at all,  it represents a Chianti Classico producer’s finest Riserva expression at the top of the quality pyramid. Yes, it is aged longer, for an additional six months beyond Chianti Classico Riserva. But Gran Selezione is not simply one thing; it comes as a matter of interpretation. Some producers, like Nicolò Pozzoli and Silvio Campatelli of Lornano see others releasing the same wine already made, from the same vintage, with a new label and of course, a new price. Yet others see it as an opportunity to make a Selezione as a vineyard-designate Riserva, or as cru or climat based. For some it means opportunity, freedom, revelation or, like Pietro and Valeria Losi of Querciavalle, the realization of a dream.

Some quotes from producers:

“It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the larger ones.” – Stefano Capurso, Barone Ricasoli

“It is not a military position.” – Bernardo Bianchi, Colle Bereto

“It is the best block of the estate.”  – Federico Cerelli, Castello di Gabbiano

“It is made in the vineyard,  from the best vines and the best grapes.” – Massimiliano Biagi, Barone Ricasoli

“It is from a mico-territory within a territory, a micro climate and geology, a climat, combined by exposure and soil, together with the work of a man.” – Alessandro Palombo, Luiano

“It is the best selection of barrels. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end.”– Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

“Gran Selezione begins in the vineyard, in the barrels is too late.” – Pietro Losi, Querciavalle

“I already make my top wine so I simply now call it Gran Selezione.” – Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macie

Perhaps you remain skeptical. You may be unclear as to the clarity of the category and perhaps you do not find whole or justifiable insight. I can say this. In Chianti Classico I asked all 10 producers I met with this question. “What is Gran Selezione.” All ten responded immediately, emphatically and with unequivocal determination. All 10 answers were intuitive and no two were exactly the same.

Chianti Classico is not a small wine region by any means. It is home to upwards of 70,000 hectares (177,500 acres), of which a mere 10 per cent are planted to vines. Remarkably, impossibly even, no matter where you are, you can always travel from one estate to another in what seems like 30 minutes or less, using one of multiple routes. On my last day the Consorzio’s Silvia Fiorentini and I left Il Molino di Grace in Panzano and drove southeast to Radda in Chianti. We then travelled from Radda northwest to the Consorzio’s offices in Tavernelle Val di Pesa. Then Christine Lechner drove me north to Castello di Gabbiano in Mercatale Val di Pesa but I swear we passed by Panzano and Greve on route. Chianti Classico has more exposures and angles than any wine region I have been to. It would take many years to understand where you are in relation to where you’ve been and where you are going. The wines share an identical set of diverse parameters. Singularite, diversite, qualite.

A Look to the Past

More time has been spent making dry red wine in Chianti Classico than in Piemonte’s Barolo or Barbaresco, where it was essentially Recioto until the mid 18th century. Thus, more time has been spent understanding the hills and differing terrains of the region than Piedmonte for this purpose. Antinori and Brolio are families that have lived and gained an understanding in the region for centuries. Brunello has figured it out. It can certainly be done in Chianti Classico.

She may be hiding behind the scenes but you all need to know who Christine Lechner is. Christine is events coordinator for the Consorzio and along with Silvia Fiorentini is responsible for bringing Chianti Classico to the world. Silvia’s work with the Consorzio is threaded everywhere throughout the world. It is Giuseppe Liberatore, director of the Chianti Classico Consorzio who directs the troops to showcase the excellence of the region’s wines.

Critics will say that Chianti Classico is living in the past. With three hundred years of beautiful and profound history, from Grand Duke Cosimo Tre de’ Medici to incumbent Consorzio President Sergio Zingarelli, you are damn right they are living in the past. Gran Selezione wines exists in a realm far beyond just a shared fleeting moment with 21 carefully selected Chianti Classico Riservas. If I could name a wine region anywhere in the world with a commensurate kinship of family, lineage, conoscenza, storia and the contiguous passing forward of tradizione I would. But I can’t.

A Look To the Future

Gran Selezione can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on producer. I do not stand alone in my need to ask many questions. Where does one truly understand the region and not just the producer? What ways can the consortium pursue to cherish their name, by not sharing it with many different versions of similar products. Can one of the producers explain the decision to raise the alcohol level requirement of the Gran Selezione? Or is it just a matter of fact, something that happens as part of the winemaking process.

How important is 100 per cent sangiovese to the GS discussion and when other varieties are blended in, does it matter if endemic ones are used, like colorinio and canaiolo, or international ones, like merlot and cabernet sauvignon? What about the decision to grandfather in some approved applications for older vintages to be labeled as Gran Selezione? How has the category progressed from the first vintage to the present one. And has the approach or the style already changed?

Is there any consideration to add subzones to the Gran Selezione label? Either in its simplest form, Siena or Florence, or more parochially, Radda, Gaiole, Castellina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, Greve, Barbaerino or San Casciano.

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

The Unione Viticoltori di Panzano is a recent development in the Chianti Classico region. Like Chianti Classico, they have their own logo that can be printed on labels that indicate the origin of place. The producers under one village have one common idea. To produce organic and/or biodynamic wine in and around the village just south of Greve. All of the vineyards are from 300-500 meters above sea level and represent the microclimate within the area. Whatever you think about organic, the common goal is something to appreciate.

These are all valid and important discussions going forward but the truth and the fact of the matter is simple. Barolo received DOC status in 1966, and Brunello in 1980. Brunello in 1980. Gran Selezione is a very recent development and growing pains will be a necessary part of its development. Patience and perseverance will see to reward. I would be shocked if Gran Selezione is not the most sought after red wine to come out of Italy by the year 2025. You heard me. Not just sangiovese. The most important red wine from Italy.

I tasted 21 Gran Selezione in Chianti Classico between May 11 and May 15. Here are my notes.

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezone Ottontuna 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $72.50, WineAlign)

From Luiano’s premier cru vineyard on white stones from an ancient natural spring that tumbled into a lake. The 85 per cent sangiovese plus (15) merlot are kept separate form the rest of the production. Here berries fold into mineral with wood-delineated spice (truffle, tumeric, saffron, etc.). An amazingly silky wine with that cartology of spice all over its map. The cru is one hectare that executes into 3000-4000 bottles per year. The nomenclature here is not a serious one, the “A” and and the “P” in representation of a signature by Alessandro and his father Antonio that also looks like an “8” and a “1.” It was Alessandro’s grandfather who built Luiano in 1959 and Antonio began working with him 1981. When you dream to make wine, you remember 1981 and when Alessandro was three years old in 1981, he said to his grandfather at lunch, “Ottontuna!” This is an extraordinary Gran Selezione, from a micro-territory within a territory, of a micro-climate and geology, a climat within Luiano. A terroir that combines exposure and soil, together with the work of a man, Antonio, planted in 1999. The merlot was added in 2001. The wine needed to be open for quite some time, to envisage the mineral florals and gain consciousness under the auspices of the spices. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted May 2016

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a matter of interpretation, in this case a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Lornano’s spent 30 months in all new barrels, resulting in the smooth operator that is this Gran Selezione, seductive and inviting within the context of its truth behind a veil of terribilita. This infancy is merely a window into 15 years of what may be, only a split second screen shot of the grand picture. To believe in anything but time would be short-sighted and disrespectful to what this sangiovese is capable of developing towards. Truth from vineyards built on stratified sands, shales, stony alluvials and limestone. History dating back to 1904. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Lornano’s interpretation of Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Thirty months in new barrels takes sangiovese through a fluid and rippleless ride, from the same élevage of 2011, though here showing its tannic teeth with more than just one less year by age. The cherries and the leather are both more extreme but this is a fleeting moment of assessment, from a sangiovese of acute youth, but the tannins are sweet. It is this crux that shows there is genetic lineage to scroll back through Chianti Classico and CC Riserva. More perfume in 2012, of violets and roses, even in the presence of human aromatic intervention. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Single-varietal, single-vineyard, sangiovese-vigna nerento Gran Selezione. From the vantage point of Villa Trasqua’s terrace you can look out and see the demarcation of this special plot, a cru that seems to throw a special light even at dusk and this Gran Selezione offers a changing luminescence as it warms and evolves in the glass. Nerento is a success from the early category days and not all producers were able to find commitment and distinction this early. At six years of age post vintage it drinks as it should, idiomatically fresh and precise in the unequivocal Castellina in Chianti way. Here is post modern Chianti Classico’s preferred exit because Nerento is an example that puts full trust in the grand theory and the ideology of the Selezione. Keep this in the glass for hours and contemplate; the vineyard, the perfectly cooked filet of beef and the quiet Chianti Classico night. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Losi Millenium 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Every great wine dissolves a genre or creates a new one and in the context of Gran Selezione, Pietro Losi and Giorgio Baldi’s Millenium 2010 concludes the latter. In a category where so much changes and yet nothing at all, the choice to pick individual plants, specific vines and particular bunches of grapes as destined for a vision of greatness defines the ideal that wine is indeed made in the vineyard. This Chianti Classico Riserva sees 36 months in 10hL barrels and it is a wine that has essentially been made since since 1997. It went to market again in 1999 and then it was 2000 that prescribed the Millenium, followed by 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. Subsequent top quality vintages are 2011, 2012 and 2015. The selected vines and particular bunches produce on average and approximately 4800 bottles. Take note of the most perfume and yet not the most savour, forest or truffle but there are hints, with some fennochio and the most grip to lead a sangiovese (with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera) structure. The finest tannic grain runs through, lifted by tang meets sour over tart so round and specific to Gran Selezione. This wine is a highly accomplished specimen and a portal in ode to a great grandfather who started his day with wine and cheese, for energy. He imbibed for everyday consumption, just as water would nourish as it should be with this wine for food and contemplation. A wine with a finish minutes long. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (942607, $59.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classcio first borne in 1997 with the plan to create a maximum quality blend as an expression of the estate’s diverse terroir. A meticulous selection is combed from the estate’s vineyards, spread over 230 hectares of land. Though early on the fruit may have emerged out of good but not yet exceptional vineyards, nearly 20 years later the sangiovese (90 per cent) with cabernet Sauvignon and merlot (or perhaps petit verdot) adheres to grand vin excellence. The wood regimen is 18 months in tonneau followed by 18 in bottle. Perhaps you will not find a more accomplished, perfectly judged, matter of factly expressed Gran Selezione. Sangiovese in equality of spicing with fruit, acidity and tannin, perfectly integrated toast, wood impact and textural drive. Stefano Capurso admits this about the transition from Chianti Classico to Gran Selezione.”It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the large ones.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Colledilà is the Ricasoli Chianti Classico “other side of the hill” cru developed and realized from 15 years of estate terroir sangiovese research. This vintage was cropped at less than six tonnes per hectare so no need for green harvest, out of limestone vineyards with southeast and southwest aspects on seven blocks. Only 15,000 bottles were produced from only the best grapes selected (the rest go into the Brolio GS). This 100 per cent sangiovese is the soil king agronomist Massimiliano Biagi’s favourite and it sees 18-20 months in 2nd fill tonneaux. Biagi is the custodian of the fractured mineral, the white rock, catalyst to this off-roading sangiovese of built in natural, shock absorbing structure. Notes of balsamic, baking spice, vanilla and lavender are antithetical to the Brolio GS. The Colledilà’s first vintage was 2007 and the seventh breadth is here remarkable, the acumen inherent, the result timeless. You should never give up on sangiovese and when I tasted this again upon return after the Casalferro I then came to realize and respect its power. But it is never overpowering. It whiffs the most perfume, in the end, in reverse. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

What is Il Margone? “This is the best selection. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end,” explains Iacopo Morganti, director of Il Molino di Grace. The name must also refer to the particular construction of the vineyard at Montefili, on Panzano’s west side, of its altitude, slope and the Galèstro within. Il Margone is a kind of wine for the (Molino) windmill, where the water goes over the stone and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before and after, on the vine and in the barrels. Now it can be called what is has been whereas before it was the second Riserva but the more important one, the best one. It now spends 18 months in barriques, 50 per cent new and 18,000 bottles are made. It runs deeper still, far through the Galèstro and into the pietra forte, for the cementing of strong sangiovese (not just religious buildings). From the hot vintage of 2011 and with the alcohol to prove it (14.5 per cent), there is an inherent sense of yeasty culture, a sheep’s milk pecorino that runs through the warmth. It functions as a cooling centre, then compression, layered spice and tannin. That late attack co-conspires with acidity to freeze the mouthfeel and seek years of patient desire. Really energetic Sangiovese, iron-fisted and demanding but with so much seeping cherry fruit. Wait four years minimum. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2016

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

A single-vineyard Gran Selezione, as per the house interpretation of the category, from “la vigna del Convento” situated on the slope beneath il convento di Radda in Chianti. So very concentrated, modern, plush but unshaken, of no compression. Noses all the flowers and herbs of Radda in this glass; lavender, rosemary and many varieties of sage. “This is not a military position,” notes Bernardo Bianchi. The block is always in the sun over fully-occupied Galestro soil, 490m above sea level. All together making for a new Riserva of restrained power and elegance. Wow. Such mouthfeel and structure many Gran Selezione would kill for. The single monastery vineyard is very special at 20 years-old and has just entered its prime. Finishes with more mineral in what seems like Amaro bitters, but it’s mineral, all mineral and nothing but mineral. And it’s just a baby, at this time in bottle five months.  This is a very, very grown up wine. It solicits the requiem to be stashed away for future re-connection. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted May 2016

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Gran Selezione Bellezza Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Castelli Del Grevepesa Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12626764, $38.00, WineAlign)

Fom San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a cooperative-produced Gran Selezione from vineyards all around the area. Quite barrel-influenced adding extracted layers around steroidal cherries, with aromas recalling shoe leather and polish. A rich and broad mouthfeel of elasticity like a stick of chewing gum with alkalescent flavours of lavender and vanilla. A highly oaked, cakey, middle of the road GS. Dusty as if surely some merlot would be the filler in here but it’s 100 per cent sangiovese. Well made coop Chianti Classico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016  @Grevepesa  @SelectFrechette

Mangiacane Z District Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

The big, heavy bottle, echoed in the wine’s tones, from wood and with extract. Very Igt in temper, with international varieties in here for sure, seemingly designed with cabernet sauvignon but perhaps also merlot (it’s actually the opposite). The intent here is a full expression of fruit, wood, acidity and tannin. A beast that requires years to integrate and settle. There is liquorice and fennel pollen in the later stages. It’s very chewy and certainly all in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @VillaMangiacane  @loyalimportsltd

Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

The plot specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo is from organic vineyards in Panzano, now in its third year for re-branding the single-vineyard Riserva. Remarkably aromatic and in hyper reality of its unique and very own red fruit, high-toned, full bodied and certainly elevated of alcohol. A sangiovese of massive tannins and acidity but the fruit is equal to the task. This leans more to the modern wave of extraction and sun-drenching than any other Gran Selezione I have tasted recently, like 100 per cent grenache of say Chateau Rayas. A Chianti Classico tall, big, muscular and strong, of ample tannins, proportionate acidity, body, structure, all in and all together. A bit more elegance than Châteauneuf-du-Pape but along very similar lines. Also a product of the 2012 vintage. Drink 2018-2036.  Tasted May 2016  @rogcowines  #fontodi

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Vincenzo 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gionanni Battista D’orsi, also from Panzano so organic. The vintner hails from Naples (note the tiny Vesuvius on the label), this is the first to show real acetone but it’s beneath the threshold. There is also wood in droves, woods and thickets with dark blackberry fruit to extreme ripe red plum. This needs years to settle down and play nice. It’s a very formidable GS, not so surprising considering the vintage as it is imagined. A bit less grit, girth and astringency will travel though future vintages although with Casaloste it’s certainly a stylistic choice. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  @Casaloste

Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Solatio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent)

From Radda in Chianti and owned by Zonin, this is typically lighter in body for the area. Composed of 100 per cent sangiovese, very much in red fruit and old-school Brunello-ish liqueur. Cherries macerating and gaining acidity in its pool, flavour is a ringer for Japanese omeboshi plum, and then fruit leather/roll-up made with strawberry. Liquid chalky and lactic. Great intensity. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016

Premiata Fattoria di Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Madonnino della Pieve” 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Radda in Chianti, rich red to darkening fruit and some acetic dealings,. There is more than just a simple breadth of likeability in the layering and variegation of the red fruits in here.  Plenty of herbiage and more tonality on the second half of the ride. Somewhat old school and very taut, tight, vigorous and vital. Classic, traditional, ripe and attentive sangiovese. This will live quite long,  somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016    @BarrelSelect

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (699454, $32.95, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti, another singular, unique and specifically to itself Gran Selezione, with dark red fruit and tones set above though there is nothing remotely acetic about the play. Purity from the Fizzano vineyard is apparent with much mineral (seems to be albarese) throughout. The mid-palate here is full and this strikes as both elegant and traditional. Great length, longer than many or even most. A very accomplished yet classico Classico. Re-branded and worth every bit of that advantage. Perfect transfer from single-vineyard Sangiovese (95 per cent) plus (5) merlot, to SV-GS. Even if you notice the wood in the mid-palate and through the structure, you do not finish with it. There are 26,000 bottles made for a wine first produced in 1986. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti by the Mazzei family, fashioned from 92 per cent sangiovese. There is so much wisdom in here, out of grace and for elegance with wood rounding out all the angles. Very much a particular and painstakingly precise selective Gran Selezione, from wide and far. Though curious to note that within the pantheon of the genre the Fonterutoli is almost middle of the road in style. This comes as a result of where is lies in the range occupied by the multifarious interpretations. This 2012 is demonstratively integrated with a high level of acidity spurring and embracing generational connectivity. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @MarchesiMazzei  @TrialtoON

Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Millenium 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gaiole in Chianti and one of the first to jump headfirst into the new category. Showing a bit of age, from a very warm vintage, this has the humid funk (and is consistent with the 2007 tasted earlier in the week). Rich, a bit caky, chalky and yet the acidity winds its way around with room-tying, rug-hooking ability. Older in schooling and traditionally-styled to be sure. Drink 2016-2019  Tasted May 2016

Rocca Di Castagnoli Stielle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12489114, $47.00, WineAlign)

From Gaiole, with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon, this is modish-modern, high-toned, rich and spicy, very wood apparent Gran Selezione. A bit splintered and flinty this early in toddler years but the mineral and high altitude vineyard impart is and will become gainfully employed as a major plus. Long finish. Strikes like a very modern Brunello in style and increasingly international with time in the glass. In some respects it may as well be Igt. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

Supported by nine per cent pugnitello to accentuate hue, aroma and structure, this is organic sangiovese from Gaiole. Produced using the finest grapes from the San Marcellino vineyard that surrounds the namesake Church in Monti in Chianti. Saw 27 months in medium-toast Allier forest French barriques and tonneaux plus an additional 18 months in bottle before release. Yet another rich and high-toned example (pushing 15 per cent alcohol), with lots of liquorice and corporeal feel on the nose. A child of modern and rich styling with good animale tension, as well as ferric and hematic accents to the dark fruit. Very Tuscan Igt mixed with Classico ideals to speak for Gran Selezione through the voice of traditional varieties. Only 7,400 (plus 300 magnum) bottles were produced. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  

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