Chianti Classico as Far as the Eye Can See

It has been just over 300 years since Cosimo III de’Medici; the grand duke of Tuscany established the boundaries for the production of Chianti. Now known as the only production zone for Chianti Classico, the 70,000 hectares [173,000 acres] consists of 10,000 hectares [25,000 acres] of vineyards located in the center of Tuscany. Only within this area can wines be designated ‘Chianti Classico’.

Courtesy of Chianti Classico Consorzio

The production of Chianti Classico wines are overseen by the Chianti Classico Consorzio. Chianti Classico must be comprised of a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and a maximum of 20% indigenous or international red grapes. The wine has to have a minimum of 12% Alcohol and 12 month minimum of ageing. The trademark black rooster [the historic symbol of the Chianti Military League] is found on every bottle of Chianti Classico. For more details on Chianti Classico, please visit the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico site here.

Organized by the Consorzio Chianti Classico, I was delighted to attend Chianti Classico Collection 2017 held at Stazione Leopoldo in Florence, Italy on February 14th. Held every year in Florence, the ‘antiprima’ tasting featured 2015 [barrel sample], 2014 and 2013 vintages of Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, IGT, Vin Santo and the new premium category Gran Selezione. Presenting 675 wines from 185 different estates in Chianti Classico, it was truly Chianti Classico as far as the eye can see!

A quick note about vintages:
2014 was a challenging year; the growing season was cool and damp, making it stand out from the previous hot seasons. The overriding consensus is that the success of the wine is entirely up to the savvy talent of the producer.
2015 has been hailed as a phenomenal year, so hot and dry, the Sangiovese bunches were smaller then usual, which is actually quite good for the varietal. Ripe and juicy, its predicted these will be spectacular, with long aging potential. All of the 2015 wines presented were barrel samples.

I wish I had the time to taste more, if not all the wines, but I feel that this is a good goal to work towards!

Below are the wines that I feel conveyed the classic, traditional personality, and the ones that expressed a unique, intriguing identity of Chianti Classico.

So happy to be surrounded by Chianti Classico.

 

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico 2015


Sweet aromas of cherry, watermelon and candied flowers. Very fruity and accessible with cherry, white pepper and traces of vanilla bean, culminating in a clean, dry finish.
90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino

Castello di Volpaia ‘Volpaia’ Chianti Classico 2015


Interesting and intriguing, with aromas of cherry, anise and black pepper. Dark fruit and tarry earth wrap around a spicy core. Finishing spicy with a hint of truffle funk.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2015


As I find all Isole e Olena wines to be; well structured and elegant. Subtle cherry, dusty earth and floral aromas introduce cherry, sour cherry herbaceous flavours. Clean minerals highlight the spice driven finish. Balanced, with a good synthesis of flavours already.
80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah

L’Orcio a Ca’ di Pesa Chianti Classico 2015


Great play of fruit and spice with black cherry, black pepper, anise and a lengthy finish of toasty oak and hints of baking chocolate. A bit of complexity to the layers, yet light and easy drinking.
95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino

Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2015


Desert dry, with cherry, fennel and a hint of funk. Minerals and savoury elements on the dry finish. Straightforward and simple, with a bitter edge.
90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino

 

Casaloste Chianti Classico 2014


I find Casaloste wines to be a classical expression of Sangiovese, and this does not disappoint. Soft aromas of leather, pepper and thyme. An herbaceous streak runs thru cherry, wild berry, leather and light spice flavours. The clean, dry finish is accented by earth and espresso elements. Well balanced and accessible.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

Castelvecchi Captondo Chianti Classico 2014


Bold and big with concentrated ripe, sweet fruit, black pepper and savoury elements. Earth and clay minerals are the backbone of the dry fruit finish.
88% Sangiovese, 12% Canaiolo

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2014


Genteel and elegant, with soft layers of cherry, black pepper, wisps of peat and traces of funk, accented by the spice driven, plush finish.
80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah

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Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

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Estate: Founded in 1994, by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi, along with his wife Emilia, Casaloste is located in the Greve region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Casaloste, together with the other Wine producers of Unione Viticoltori di Panzano has strongly supported and financed The Experimental Station for Sustainable Viticulture (Stazione Sperimentale per la Viticoltura Sostenibile- SPEVIS). The institution aims to find environmentally friendly solutions for winemakers. Not only certified organic [since 1994], the estate also operates “off the grid”. They produce all of their energy needs thru its solar photovoltaic system and biothermal renewable plant fuels.

Winemaking: Aged in French oak barrels of 25 and 35 liters and in barriques “for a period of about 12 months”.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth and soft spice. Soft and velvety, with cherry and strawberry over layers of white pepper, leather and earth. Plush tannins, fruit and soft spice linger between each sip. A lovely, classical balance of fruit/spice/earth/leather notes Chianti Classico is renowned for.

90% Sangiovese, 10%Merlot
Chianti Classico DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi
14% Alcohol
$16
Enjoy now thru 2018

Ruffino ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2007

ruffino07

Estate: Cousins and Tuscan natives Illario and Leopoldo Ruffino founded The Ruffino estate in 1877 with a dream to make well-known wines in the heart of Tuscany. In 1913, the winery was sold to the Folonari family, and generations later the estate has established itself as a leader in Chianti, creating modern wines for “the contemporary lifestyle” by using a blend of century-long tradition and current technology. Purchased in 2011 by Constellation Brands, the estate is still headed by the Folinari family; Adolfo Folinari, and are “renowned for consistency and quality”, crafting all of their wines to be enjoyed with food.

Winemaking: Twenty years after the first release of ‘Riserva Ducale’ in 1927, ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ was produced to commemorate an exceptional vintage year. Continuing the tradition today, Riserva Ducale Oro is only produced in the best vintages, “If the grapes don’t meet the winemaker’s exacting standards, the wine will not be made.” The commemorative label celebrates the 60th anniversary of production.

Grapes are sourced from the estate vineyards Gretole and Santedame. The wine is aged for 36 months, part in oak, part in stainless steel and part in concrete vats.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet with brick edges in colour, with aromas of plum, leather, black pepper and a hint of earthy funk. Concentrated cherry, current, and plum flavours harmonize with earthy truffle and wisps of smoky oak. Licorice, black pepper along with a hint of espresso comprise the lengthy finish. Smooth and well balanced, light tannins and acidity make this pleasant on its own, or with a variety of standard, classic dishes [such as tomato based dishes, roasts, risotto].

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Traditional Italian dishes such as pasta Bolognese, wild boar ragù, and eggplant Parmesan. It’s also wonderful with classic American dishes such as grilled ribeye and roasted vegetables.

80% Sangiovese, 20% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Chianti Classico
Italy
Bottled by Ruffino SRL
13.5% Alcohol
$45 [average price]
Enjoy now

Rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rated 91 points by Wine Spectator

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

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Estate: Isole e Olena was established in 1950 when the De Marchi family purchased and combined two adjoining estates, ‘Isole’ and ‘Olena’, each of which dated back hundreds of years. The estate is located in the hills of the western Chianti Classico region, between Siena and Florence. Today, 4th generation winemaker Paolo De Marchi heads the estate. Considered by many to be “the dean of Chianti” Paolo is known for his extensive work with the Sangiovese grape, research on soil mapping and planting density, along with overall improvement and modernization of the Chianti Classico region. A pioneering force of the “pure Sangiovese movement”, the estate’s flagship wine ‘Cepparello’, first produced in 1980, is 100% Sangiovese.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards with limestone, clay slate, and sandstone soil mix. An ideal blend, the soil allows “for sufficient drainage in times of heavy rain and retain moisture during droughts”. Aged 12 months in a combination of oak casks and barriques, with 15% new wood. Aged in the bottle for 4 months before release.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth, woods, cigar box spice and a touch of clove. Wild berry and sour cherry flavours meld with leather, black pepper, sweet and spicy clove and herbaceous traces in the full body. Silky tannins and bright acidity compliment the clean, saline minerality on the dry, fruity finish.

80% Sangiovese, 17% Canaiolo, 3% Syrah
Chianti Classico DOCG
Italy
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Isole e Olena
13% Alcohol
$29 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2023

Rated 90 points by Wine Enthusiast

A Glass of Chianti Classico and a Chat with Orsola Beccari of Vignavecchia

I was delighted to be invited by the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium to attend a Gran Selezione seminar and walk around tasting at the New York Public Library a few months back. Following the excellent ‘An Exploration of the Terroirs of Chianti Classico’ master class*, the afternoon tasting featured Chianti Classico producers and importers/distributers presenting in addition to Gran Selezione wines; both their Chianti Classico and Riserva vintages. It was a fantastic opportunity to taste a wide variety of wines, many of which are still in need of US importers.

*For my impressions on the wines and class please check out Gran Selezione: The New Big Brother in the Chianti Classico Family .

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the time I spent talking with Orsola Beccari, owner of Vignavecchia. Located in the Province of Sienna, the 42 hectare estate was founded in 1876 by her great grandfather, the pioneering and dynamic-spirited Odoardo Beccari.  The land he inherited has winemaking origins dating back to the 17th century. Orsola proudly gave me a few highlights of his remarkable life, from starting out in the world as an orphan in Florence, to his explorations and research into Sarawak, Brunei and other islands off present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. He discovered many new plant and animal species there, and upon his return to Italy in 1878, he briefly became the Director of the Botanic Garden of Florence. His botanical collection garnered thru all of his years of exploring is now part of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze. There is also an archive of his work at the University of Florence and the Museo Galileo. Upon retiring, he became devoted to winemaking, and today Orsola cares for and continues to advance the traditions he founded.

With an emphasis on preserving the land and environment, she leaves nearly half of the land in its natural woodland state, with 19 hectares of vines and 3 given to olive groves. Orsola explained that her Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes are not as deeply coloured as other traditional Chianti grapes can be, however they result in wines that are noted for their deep, intense perfume, along with a bright acidity and relatively moderate alcohol levels. She credits the soils and climate, specifically the low temperatures combined with higher altitudes at which the grapes are grown, for these distinctive characteristics of the estate’s wines.

vignavecchia

Orsola Beccari, with ‘Vigneto Odoardo Beccari’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 and Chianti Classico 2012 on the right.

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
Dark ruby red in colour, with fresh aromas of cherry and peppery spice. Expressing hallmark Chianti Classico characteristics of cherry and bright acidity, the spicy core and clean finish steal the show. Friendly and elegant, much like Orsola herself.
Fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks, no oak ageing.
4000 bottles produced
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot
13% Alcohol
$17 [average price]

Vignavecchia ‘Vigneto Odoardo Beccari’ Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2010
Dark garnet in colour with robust aromas of black cherry, earthy woods and hints of summer flowers. Rich and dense, lush cherry and red berry flavours are balanced by firm tannins, whilst toasted oak, peppery spice and hints of vanilla comprise the velvety finish. Intense but not overpowering, this is a wonderfully balanced glass that keeps you reaching for more.
Fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks, aged in oak barriques for 24 months.
13,300 bottles produced
90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo
13.5% Alcohol
$26 [average price]

Media event hosted by the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium