“Chianti Classico”: finesse & longevity

Filippo Bartolotta&Emanuele Alessandro Gobbi

Of the hundreds of grape varietals native to Italy, there is one that is the most widely grown variety. Not by accident, the most planted varietal is also one with few rivals when it comes to complexity of floral and fruity characteristics combined with striking acidity and depth. A grape that is capable of volume and intriguing nuances, vigorous in structure and vibrant in detail. A grape whose long and fascinating history makes it one of the most important vinis vinifera of our peninsula – yes, the beloved Sangiovese is what we speak of. 

Very subject to clonal variations the “Blood of Jupiter” is not a single vine, but a large and bizarre, extremely diversified family. For the case of the Sangiovese found in the scenic Chianti Classico, the berries will typically be both the large and small clones, called Sangioveto. 

Twenty years ago it would not have been easy to distinguish a proper theme related to the indigenous grape variety: imported grape varieties were much more present and mixed with the heritage of traditional grapes, often overwhelming what Sangiovese could express. 

Today we were just beginning to see the purest, enchanting versions of the beloved Sangiovese.
Now, however, there is a new challenge for the winemakers: climate change. Effectively, winemakers are battling the issue that not only impacts when they harvest, but also, their own skill level; Who will manage the fruit of a poor harvest the best? How will the fruit that they received ultimately manifest in the future?

This has rolled over into the general trend of the last decades to baptize vintages that are just sufficient, praise those that are good and applaud all the others. In fact, it becomes difficult to understand what the true value of a season is, unless it is notably bad. The shining light throughout fearing difficult and complicated harvests is the fact that, thanks to the talent of producers, we can always depend on miracles happening and great wine still being produced. 

That said, the last two vintages at the center of attention, namely 2018 and 2017 are undoubtedly conflicting. Fresh red fruit and floral character and smooth touch the first; black driven fruit, high alcohol and some dryer tannins the latter. Without going too far into the individual atmospheric peculiarities of the vintages, the feeling of finding the proverbial and harmonious  heart seems to manifest itself above all for the first round in the 2018s

2018 vintage. We liked the consistency of the 2018 vintage despite some very different interpretations that can go from the light and juicy style to the bolder and more structure approach.

Juicy and crunchy. In the first lot -the crunchiest and more refreshing styles with relatively smooth tannins-: Badia a Coltibuono, Monte Bernardi, Castello di Monsanto, Bibbiano, Castellinuzza and Piuca, Dievole, Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra, Le Miccine, Le Filigare, I Fabbri, Luiano, OlivieraCampo di Mansueto, Ottomani (thanks to the tip of a colleague, Giampaolo Gravina), Riecine, Val delle Corti. Mind you these are fake simple wines. They taste ready now but they will also have some pretty good agin potential.

Austerity and structure. Then there’s some more structured and austere wines worth waiting a few more months such as Buondonno, Castellare, Castello di Volpaia, Collebereto, Isole e Olena, Monteraponi, Rocca di Castagnoli, Querceto di Castellina, Rocca di Montegrossi, Felsina or Fattoria San Giusto a Rentennano.

For 2017,  great success was to be found by Val delle Corti, Bindi Sergardi, Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia, Querciabella, Pomona, Poggerino, the Vigna Poggiarso Riserva in Castello di Meleto, the Riserva Marchese Antinori, Riserva Le Vigne Istine, Terreno. The Gran Selezione San Lorenzo di Castello di Ama and Miccine once again shined through the tasting! And a wonderful come back in the top league of elegance and longevity is Fonterutoli with there Gran Selezione in fantastic shape: Castello di Fonterutoli, Vicoreggio 36 (my favourite), Badiola. 

Vintage 2016. There were also some brilliant 2016 which are really worth mentioning.  Starting with a pretty big and historical brands which as far as we are concerned has definitely moved away from a modern oak&vanilla driven style wines into some spectacular bright examples of Sangiovese. 

I am talking about the Ricasoli Gran Selezione 2016 with an en plein result for the three different crus: Colledilà, Roncicione e Ceniprimo. In the 2016 podium is also Castello di Albola with Selezione Santa Caterina, Castello della Paneretta, Cecchi Villa Rosa, Bindi Sergardi Mocenni 89, Vigna Elisa Nunzi Conti, Gagliole Riserva Gallule, Fontodi Filetta di Lamole, Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Vigneto di Campolungo, Bibbiano Vigna del Capannino 

All the above wine estate bring up the human -fundamental- factor: this appellation is packed with  some of the most skillful wine-makers and entrepreneurs in the world. So it comes as no surprise to discover these wines as top notch items to make sure every has in the cellar.

A major aspect to keep in mind with Chianti Classico, which unfortunately isn’t discussed as often as it should. Most of these wines have got a really important aging potential, both the Riserva and Gran Selezione but in some cases also the “annata”. The grape variety and the soil DNA allows this to be a major asset for this appellation which I hope more collectors were to tap into it! The more tuned in collectors and wine critics have been fully aware about this, tasting the old 1950s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s of the most famous and older wineries. But the difference today is that there’s not sit a bunch of them, but rather a good portion of the appellation! 

Not to go unmentioned, there are other extremely bright stars shining in the Chianti Classico region. The stars that create warmth, health, and memorable moments of the magic of a Chianti Classico wine paired with food…The Florentine restaurants.  Acting as a kaleidoscope, hopefully passing these moments on to you, we specifically recall the memory of the inspiration of Emanuela Stucchi Prineti (Badia a Coltibuono) with her impeccable Riserva 2010, the sweetness of Federica Mascheroni Stiani (Castello di Volpaia) combined with a balsamic Coltissala 1991, the elegance of Laura Bianchi (Castello of Monsanto) granted to an immense Il Poggio 1969 Riserva. Wines in dazzling form (from the youngest to the oldest), which, in our opinion, must absolutely be part of the Anteprima, simply as an evolutionary memory of this beautiful terroir.

Another aspect which we discussed amongst producers at the Anteprima after the tasting: the greater awareness of the territorial micro identity, which certainly gives further strength to such a wide and varied denomination. This project of the producers shared by the Consorzio del Chianti Classico is not the usual banality of quality in a broad sense, but the understanding that large wine-growing areas are based exclusively on the diversity of the land within the same area, and this is what needs to be highlighted.

Can’t wait to ride our bicycle again in the beautiful Chianti Classico roads!