Monthly Archives: February 2023

Chianti Classico UGA’s

Banville Wine Merchants organized a tasting recently featuring the relatively new Chianti Classico UGA (Additional Geographic Units) classifications.   I was very happy to attend since Chianti Classico has always been one of my favorite wines and I am interested in the ways in which the producers are trying to improve these wines.

IMG_9012The speaker was the renowned Italian cartographer, Alessandro Masnaghetti. I had heard him speak on the same topic last spring along with Giovanni Manetti, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and owner of Fontodi. What follows is a composite of the two events.


The “old” Classification

Masnaghetti explained how the project developed and how the UGAs reflect defined expressions of the Chianti Classico territory. The UGA classification system differentiates and highlights the differences in climate and soil type of 11 villages of the Chianti Classico region.


The “new” classification system, approved in June 2021, for now applies only to the Gran Selezione (GS) category of wines which are the only ones allowed to add the specific UGA mention on the label. The 11 villages were identified based on specific criteria such as oenological recognizability, historical authenticity, renown, and significance in terms of volumes produced: San Casciano, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina, San Donato in Poggio. 

Masnaghetti said variations in soil composition, elevation exposure, and slope steepness can result in distinctive wines even within a small geographical boundary and Chianti Classico’s new UGA’s are a way for wine makers to express this.

In Barolo they passed a similar measure resulting in 181 new MGA’s (Mention Geografica Aggiuntive) in a region only 5 percent of Chianti Classico’s size.

IMG_9009 2Masnaghetti said that the phrase, “the territory makes the difference”, has always been a favorite motto. Chianti Classico is a truly unique territory covered two-thirds by woodland and only one-tenth is devoted to wine growing, with more than 50% dedicated to organic farming (52.5% of the area under vine). The wines with UGA names will be limited to Gran Selezione, one of the three types of Chianti Classico: the other two being annata (vintage) and riserva. Any Gran Selezione that will include a UGA on the label must contain a minimum of 90 percent Sangiovese (currently, that minimum is 80 percent); international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot will not be permitted in these Gran Selezione wines, as only indigenous varieties including CanaioloColorino and Mammolo will be allowed as a maximum of 10 percent of the blend.

The introduction of the UGA’s represents an epochal turning point for the denomination, a change of perspective that leads producers and their wines to be no longer single actors, but expressions of a territory in relation to each other.

These changes will enhance the understanding of Chianti Classico wines and the terroir from which it is derived. I personally applaud the elimination of international grape varieties in Gran Selezione Chianti Classico and the exclusive use of indigenous grapes.

Masnaghetti presented 5 wines and discussed  the difference between them to show that the new classification was justified.

IMG_9004Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra 2020 San Casciano made from 100% Sangiovese from the 0.3 hectare vineyard planted in 1982. The exposure is south-east and elevation is 250 meters. Vallone vineyard planted in 2004 with a western exposure at 260 meters. The soil composition is a mix of clay and sand rich in limestone and alberese rocks. There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training system is headed-spur cordon. Grapes are picked by hand and de-stemmed gently, fermentation happens with wild yeasts naturally present on the berry skins in open top steel tanks. During the fermentation long pump overs are done twice a day in the first half and reduced in duration and frequency going towards the end. At the end of the fermentation and during the maceration, punch downs are done to extract gently phenolic and aromatic compounds from the grape skins. Fermentation and maceration process  lasted for  about 25 days. The free run  juice and a small part of the press wine is  transferred into large French oak barrels, 20% new, where the malolactic fermentation take place naturally. The aging lasts for 14 months, racking is done just when necessary to let the lees present at the bottom of the barrels continue to nourish the wine during the aging process. After aging the wine is racked gently taking care to remove all the lees and transferred for a brief period into steel tanks before bottling. No filtration or fining is done before bottling and the usage of sulphur during the whole process is kept to a strict minimum. The wine has hints of pomegranate, cherry, with a touch of black cherry and a note of violets.  The winery is located in the northern most part of the Chianti Classico area.   $35

IMG_9005I Fabbri “Lamole”  2020 Lamole made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso di Lamole with vineyards at 630 meters which are organic. Wild yeast is used. The wine is not filtered or fined.  Aging is in cement tanks for 12 months and then for 3 months in bottle. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and pomegranate.

IMG_9006Fattoria Le Masse 2020 San Donato in Poggio made from 100% Sangiovese. Manual harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts is between 35 and 45 days of maceration on the skins in small steel tanks without temperature control, manual stirring and without the use of pumps and sulfites. Aging is for one year in 2,25 hL and 5hl barrels where spontaneous malolactic fermentation takes place.  The wine matures on the lees which are in suspension by batonnage for the first 5 months. The wine remains in bottle for a minimum of 8 months before release.

IMG_9007Tolaini “Mello”  2020 Gaile made from 100% Sangiovese single vineyard at 700 meters. Soil is Macigno del Chianti non- calcareous sandstone. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and they were planted in 2001. Manual harvest takes place the second half of October.  The grapes are stemmed and the best are selected by an optical sorting. Whole berries are put in bronco-conic Austrian oak tanks and terracotta Amphorae. Fermentation is with natural yeasts and the musts are kept in contact with the skins for 45 days. Gentle punch downs are done in the first 10 days of skin contact. Aging is in 25HL Austrian oak casks for 18 months of which 6 months are on the lees. The wine remains in bottle for 8 months before release. This is a medium bodied wine with hints of raspberries, red cherry and violets.

Francesco Rosi the enologist of Tolaini spoke about the winery.  I was very impressed by the wines

IMG_9008Tolaini Vallenuova 2020 Cantelnuovo Berardenga made from 95%Sanviovese and 5% Canaiolo. The soil is silty clay, rich in limestone with a high percentage of stones. There are 7,350 plants per hectare planted in 2000. Grapes are first selected during harvest in the vineyard and then by an optical sorter when they arrive at the winery; they are destemmed and the whole berries are immediately placed in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation is temperature controlled, and the must is kept in contact with the skins for 20 days. The wine matures for 10 months in a mix of Tuscan, Slavonian, and Austrian oak casks. The wine has hints of black cherry, tobacco, a touch of licorice and a note of spice.

IMG_9017We also received a copy of Masnaghetti’s  book CHIANTI CLASSICO: The Atlas of the Vineyards and the UGA’s.

I do not know when all of this will go into effect for the Gran Selezione, or when and if it will include the other Chianti Classico wines.

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Vinitaly Road Show 2023

Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International, was hosting a number of events in different cities around the world promoting Vinitaly  2023 which takes place in Verona April 2-5. This will be the 55th version of Vinitaly. I have attended over 15 of them over the years.

IMG_8997The event in NYC was a walk around tasting of 61 wines from all over Italy and it was held at Di Palo Wine Bar in Little Italy. Di Palo is the best store in NYC for Italian food products, especially salumi and cheeses.  Around one corner they have a wine store and around the other corner is the Wine Bar. Before I left for the event, Michele made me promise to bring home a pound of their excellent mortadella.  It’s the best you will taste outside of Bologna, Italy and I placed my order before went into the wine bar for the tasting.

IMG_8957When I entered the Wine Bar I was greeted by Stevie Kim and Lou Di Palo

Lined up on the bar were 61 wines from all over Italy. Here are just a few of them:

IMG_8955Soave Classico DOC 2021 Pieropan made from 70% Garganega and 30%Trebbiano di Soave and the vines range in age from 6 to 60 years. Soil is limestone and volcanic and the training system is guyot and pergola Veronese. The vineyards are at 100/300 meters. The grapes are destemmed and crushed in a protective environment. The free run juice is fermented at a low temperature in glass-lined cement tanks. The wine remains on the lees for 3 to 8 months. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime, green apple and a note of almonds.   Organically grown grapes.

IMG_8956IGP Campania Falanghina 2021 Azienda Agricola San Salvatore from 100% Falanghina planted in 2008 with a south-southwest exposure.  Grapes for this wine are carefully selected by hand in the Cannito vineyard. Soft pressing and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks on the lees for 6 months before release.  The wine has hints of citrus fruit, mint, sage, lemon and green apples.  

IMG_8951Fiano Di Avellino “Montelapio” Villa Matilde made from 100% Fiano Di Avellino from vineyards at the Tenute d’Altavilla estate in Campania. The vines were planted 1968-1995. Soil composition is tuffaceous and marly clay. There are 2,500-3,000 vines per hectare. Training system is guyot and the vineyard is at 500-600 meters. Harvest is in the middle of October. Grapes are soft pressed and fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with selected yeast. The maceration technique is cryomaceration. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 4 months before it is bottled. This is a well-balanced wine with hints of citrus fruit, apricots, peaches and almonds.

IMG_8960Franciacorta “Alma” Brut NV Bellavista.  Alma means soul in Latin and this wine reflects the soul of Franciacorta and Bellavista. The symbol of this wine is the butterfly because, according to the producer, “it represents harmony and balance, nature at its purest, and transformation and rebirth.” Made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Bianco. The balance comes from 30 different selections from over 100 vineyards. Most of the wine is fermented and matures in 228 liter oak barrels for 7 months. The wine consists of at least 6 to 9 older vintages. This is a wine with a depth of flavor and hints of apples, pears and white flowers.

IMG_8950Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta La Fuga (Folonari) made from100% Sangiovese grosso from vineyards southwest of Montalcino, on the historical side of Camigliano at 350 meters. The soil is rich in fossils. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. Maceration takes place in steel vats for 15 days followed by malolactic fermentation in oak barrels. The wine is aged in large Slovenian oak casks of 25 HL  for 3 years and then in bottle for one year before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of mushrooms, berries, spice, orange peel, a touch of walnuts, and a note of violets.

IMG_8953Brunello di Montalcino 2017 “Castel Giocondo” Frescobaldi. Made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is galestro, clay and Pleocene sands. Manual harvest takes place with a careful selection of the grapes in the cellar. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with frequent pump-overs, during the early stages. The wine was aged in wood containers and is released after five years, which includes some time in the bottle. The wine has hints of ripe red berries and floral notes with spice and balsamic undertones.

IMG_8961Etna Rosso “Tornatore” Azienda Agricola F. Tornatore Made from 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Cappuccio. The soil is volcanic and the vineyards are located at 1,000 meters on the north side of Etna, an active volcano. Growing system is counter espalier and the vines are cordon pruned and tied up. Harvest is between the second and third week of October by hand. In the cellar there is a manual selection of the grapes on a conveyor belt. Grapes are destemmed and not completely crushed and are put in concrete tanks where they macerate for about 10/12 days. After fermentation the grapes are left to macerate for a few days more. The wine is then separated from the grape skins which are pressed with a traditional vertical press. The wine is aged for about 6 months in big wooden barrels and for 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red berries, cherry, a note of white pepper, and  a touch of  herbs with fresh acidity.

IMG_8946Taurasi “Pietrafusa” Villa Matilde  made from 100% Aglianico. The vineyard is at 350 meters and the training system is simple guyot with about 6 buds per plant. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the soil is tufaceous with a good percentage of clay. Harvest is the third week of October. The grape bunches are destemmed  and pressed and the must is given a cold maceration on the skins. (Selected yeast is used). The must ferments slowly at 70F. The wine macerates on the skins for over 20 days, with daily pumpovers and délestages followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in tonneau and large oak barrels for 18 months and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a fully bodied wine with hints of cherries, blackberries, spice and a hint of tobacco. I have been lucky to have visited the estate a few times and always enjoy their wines.

IMG_8954Montepulciano d’Abruzzo  Marina Cvetic made from100% Montepulciano di Abruzzo from vineyards at 400 meters. The training system is guyot. The eight different “crus” are vinified separately with delicate fermentation and maceration. Aged in barriques for 12/18 months. The “crus” are then blended and aged in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of black cherry, blackberry, spice, tobacco and a note of vanilla.

IMG_8952Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018 Allegrini made from 45% Corvina Veronese, 45% Corvinone, 5% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta. Grapes are hand harvested in September. The grapes are naturally dried for 3 to 4 months in the drying facility. The grapes lose 40% to 50% of their original weight. Destemming and soft pressing takes place in January and fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at 46 to 72 degrees F. Fermentation lasts for 25 days with periodic pumping over. The wine is aged in oak for 18 months, and then blended together for 7 months. The wine has hints of cherry, plum, and black fig, with a touch of chocolate.

I really enjoyed these wines and tasted them with samples of the cheese and salumi that were available throughout the tasting. My favorite was the mortadella and I was very happy to remember to pick up my order to bring home for Michele to enjoy, too.  I know I will be going back again soon.

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