Category Archives: Chianti Classico
The first celebration took place at the Oriental Gardens restaurant in New York Cities China Town
Then a fried sole with scallions.
1979 Chinon excellent
There was more food and wine but I got caught up in the eating and drinking.
A young man waiting for his pizza
Buratta with arugula
Spaghetti with sea urchin (ricci di Mare) was fantastic
Barolo 1989 – barolo at its best 1989 was a great vintage!
A few months ago I was contacted by wellcomonline.com, a PR agency based in Alba, Italy. They wanted to know if I wanted to taste wine samples from Castello di Meleto, a winery in Tuscany. Wellcom handles some of Italy’s top wine clients, so I told them I would except the samples and was very pleased that I did.
The Castello di Meleto estate consists of 2,470 acres of which 300 acres are planted with vines. It is located just over a half mile from the town of Gaiole in Chianti. The castle, the heart of the estate, once belonged to the monks of the Coltibuono Abbey. The name Meleto can be traced back to 1256. Today the vineyards are spread in five different plots that surround the castle, leaving the winery in an ideal central location.
Vermentino 2015 IGT Toscana Bianco made from 100% Vermentino. The vineyard was planted in 2010 and is at 360 to 420 meters. There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. The grapes are handpicked in small containers in order to reduce skin breakage. After being gently destemmed and soft pressed the free run juice is chilled and left on the skins for a few hours. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. During fermentation, a small portion of the wine undergoes a brief aging in second or third passage barriques. The wine in aged in stainless steel for 4 months before release. This is a fresh slightly tangy wine with hints of citrus and nice minerality. $12
Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 made from 100% Sangiovese. The vineyard is at 360 to 450 meters with a south, southeast and south-west exposure and the soil is gravelly, rich in galestro and alberese. There are 3,500/ 5,000 vines per hectare and the vines were planted in 1970-2000. The training system is spurred cordon, guyot and alberello (bush). The grapes are harvested by hand and by machine and then destemmed and lightly pressed. Maceration is on the skins for 15 to 20 days. Spontaneous alcoholic fermentation is in stainless steel tanks, without adding exogenous yeast, for 7-10 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in cement vat. The wine is aged in 54HL Slavonian oak barrels (botti) for 12 months. The wine is aged in the bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, blueberry and a hint of pine. It is a very pleasant wine that is very food friendly. $18
Chianti Classico Riserva “Vigna Casi” DOCG 2012 made from 100% Sangiovese. The vineyard is located in Gaiole in Chianti. The exposure is west, south and southwest at 400 meters. There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon and alberello. The vines were planted in 1990-1995. Harvest and selection is by hand. Maceration and spontaneous fermentation is at a minimum temperature of 78-82F in wooden vats with delestage and pump-over. The wine is kept in contact with the skins for 20 to 25 days before it goes into cement vats for malolactic fermentation. One half of the wine is aged in 52 Slavonian oak barrels, the rest in second or third passage 225-liter barriques for 18 months depending on the vintage. The wine remains in the bottle for 6 months before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of cherries, violets and spice and a long and intense finish. $30
Chianti Classico “Gran Selezione” DOCG 2011 made from 85 % Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is south facing and is at 400 meters and were planted in 2000 and 2003. There are 5,000 vines per hectare; the training system is spurred cordon and the soil is gravelly, rich in galestro and alberese. Great care is taken in thinning shoots, foliage canopy management, and pruning. Harvest is by hand with 10-kilogram bins. In the cellar the grapes are refrigerated to a temperature of 8/10C for at least 24 hours. After the fermentation, which is in oak barrels, there is a long maceration. The Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in second passage French barriques, while the Sangiovese is aged in second and third passage barriques. The wine is aged between 14 to 18 months depending on the vintage. The wine remains in bottle for one year before release. This is an intense complex wine with hints of spice and berries. It will need a few more years to bring out all of its aromas and flavors. $50
Gran Selezione is a new classification at the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid. The grapes for these wines must be estate grown and come from a single vineyard, or selected from the estates best-suited vineyards. Gran Selezione wines can be released on the market 30 months from the grape harvest, including at least 3 months of bottle age. The alcohol must be at least 13%
Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2008 90% Trebbiano, 5% Sangiovese and 5% Malvasia. The vineyard has western exposure and is at 400 meters. The soil is limestone mixed with sandstone. Training system is guyot, there are 3,000 vines per hectare. The vines were planted in 1972 -1974. Manual harvest and the grapes are naturally dried in well-ventilated rooms followed by fermentation and aging is barrels of different woods and sizes, which are sealed and kept in rooms with shifting temperatures. Aging is for 4 to 5 years in mixed wooden casks called caratelli of 60, 100 and 120 liters. The caratelli are filled up to 70%. This is a full dessert wine has hints of dried fruit, honey and apricot with a touch of vanilla. $45 – 375 bottle
Tommaso Marrocchesi Marsi and his brother Federico are the owners of Bibbiano. I have tasted their wines before and really liked them but recently I had the chance to sit down with Tommaso and discuss the wines over lunch.
Tommaso is very passionate about the Sanviovese grape, Tuscany and Chianti Classico.
The winery was founded in 1865 and he and his brother are the fifth generation of the family at the winery. The winery is located in Castellina in Chianti overlooking the Elsa Valley. Tommaso said that there is organic farming and C02 zero emissions. He believes that there should be as little interference by the wine-maker as possible.
There are 25 hectares of vineyards and they are between 270 and 300 meters. The vineyards are on two slopes, which have different characteristics. The winery has the same boundaries that it had in 1865.
He also said that the wines go very well with food because of the good acidity and the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape.
They only make 4 wines, the three Chianti Classico listed below and a Vin Santo.
Chianti Classico Bibbiano DOCG 2013 made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino. The production area is Bibbiano and Castellina in Chianti from all the vineyards of the estate (25 hectares) from both the southwest and northeast slopes. The soil is calcareous-clay mixed with (limestone based) alberese rock. Tommaso said that this wine represents the territorial characteristics of the estate since it is produced from Sangiovese grapes grown on both sides of the estate with the addition of a small amount of Colorino. Havesting of the Sangiovese began on September 20th and Colorino a few days later. The vinification takes place in cement vats and fermentation on the skins lasts for 18 days.
There is a further stage of maturation while the wine is still in the cement vats, followed by a 3 months refining period in the bottle. This is a very well balanced wine with fruity hints of cherry and prune and a touch of violets. $22
Chianti Classico “Montornello” Riserva DOCG 2012 100% Sangiovese. Tommaso said that the grapes are grown in the old vineyards of the northeast side of the estate called Montornello. The soil here is calcareous-clay, loose with basin stone-pills and stones. Harvesting is in late September to the middle of October. Alcoholic fermentation was followed by maceration on the skins for about three weeks. The wine was aged in French oak barriques for 12 months and about 4 months in bottle before release. Tommaso said that about half of the barriques were new and the other half were of different ages. The wine has hints of red fruit, especially cherry, with a touch of spice and tobacco. $24
Chianti Classico “Vigna del Capannino “ Gran Selezione” 2011 (this is a recent classification(2010)-it is a wine made exclusively from a winery’s own grapes grown in its finest vineyards according to strict regulation- it is on the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid) 2011 100% Sangiovese Grosso from the Vigna del Capannino vineyard. Tommaso said that the vineyard is located on the southwest slope of the estate overlooking Monteteriggioni. He feels that this vineyard represents the best expression of what he calls the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. Harvesting is by hand in the middle of October. After the alcoholic fermentation there is long maceration on the skins for 25 days. The wine was aged in barriques, tonneaux and large Sloavonian oak barrels for 24 months. The wine remains in the bottle for about another six months before its release. This is an elegant, balanced wine with hints of cherry, spice, and violet and a touch of sunshine on the Tuscan pines $35.
Tommaso then opened the 1999. At first he said it was not showing well but after about five minutes in the glass it began to open up and it was wonderful. He said that Giulio Gambelli who was the winemaker for more than 60 vintages made the 1999 and 1995. In 2000 Stefano Porcinai became the wine maker. This is a great example of how Chianti Classic can age and still retain all of the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape, sunshine on the Tuscan pines- Siamo in Toscana.
One of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC is Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). Gianfranco Sorrentino is a most gracious host and Chef Vito Gnazzo always prepares a memorable meal. Recently, I met Barone Francesco Ricasoli for lunch there.
The name Ricasoli has been tied to Chianti from the 19th century when Bettino, known as “the Iron Baron,” developed the blend for Chianti . Francesco is the great grandson of the Iron Baron. The family traces its involvement in wine back to 1141 and theirs is one of the oldest wine estates in the world.
250 hectares of vineyards surround the castle of the estate which is the largest in Chianti Classico. The 1,200 hectares between the villages of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga include valleys, oak and chestnut woods, and 26 hectares of olive groves.
Francesco took over the running of the family estate in 1993 when he bought back the Castello di Brolio from the British company that it had been sold to. With the collaboration of universities and a key scientific research center, he began to look more closely at his estate and what he could do to improve it.
Brolio Bianco 2013 Made from Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Cold maceration at 5°C for 6-8 hours without oxygen. Fermentation in stainless steel at extremely low temperature 12/16°C. (53.6°-60.8°F). Trebbiano, Malvasia and part of the Chardonnay ages in 500-litre French barrels (first and second use). Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the Chardonnay are vinified in stainless steel. The bouquet is delicate, fragrant and slightly fruity with floral notes. Dry, smooth taste, pleasantly fruity with an underlying note of almonds. $25
Francesco wanted to find out what the best clones of Sangiovese are, what is the best soil for that specific clone, and what is the best wood for it to be aged in. Beginning in 1995 the ancient Brolio vineyards were gradually being replanted. Francesco started a research project to study and select biotypes of Sangiovese and other typical Chianti varieties. In 2005, 12 were identified, considered to be the best with the most potential for the purpose of selection, and good candidates to become new clones together with those already officially recognized. Three years later, the rootings obtained from these clones were planted. Francesco told me that there was an independent institute working with the clones and trying to have them certified by the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that all the grapes were picked by hand.
Terroir has a most important role to play. They are making a map containing all the data for each vineyard: physical-chemical composition, elevation, sun exposure and micro-climate to select the most suitable rootstock, the appropriate variety to plant, and the best row orientation. This has become known as the Cru project. Three of the wines involved at the moment are Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG, Casalferro IGT and Colledila Chianti Classico DOCG. In 2002 they introduced stainless steel for vinification. Francesco said that because the estate is so large they can have single vineyard cru wines like they do in Piedmont.
Brolio Chianti Classico 2012 Sangiovese and other complementary grapes from the estates, vineyards in Gaiole in Chianti which are at 280 t0 480 meters. Vinified in stainless steel with 16 days of skin contact and 9 months in large barrels and barriques. The wine has fruity black cherry aromas and flavors with hints of spice and violet. $23 Francesco said the 2012 was a poor vintage for Chianti Classico and as a result almost all of the grapes, even those intended for the cru wines, went into this wine. It has floral notes of violets, with hints of black cherry and spice. $24
Colledila Chianti Classico 2010–100% Sangiovese. Francesco said 2010 was a great vintage for the Chianti Classico region. The vineyard is at an elevation of 380 meters and faces southwest. He felt that this was the most beautiful and representative part of the estate. It is a single vineyard which Francesco referred to as a cru because it is the right combination of Sangiovese clone in the right soil which gives you the best grapes. The wine has hints of black cherry and strawberry and a touch of vanilla. N/A
With this we had the pappardella con sugo di lepre
The land is Paleocene-Eocene in origin and forms part of the geological formation “Monte Morello.” The soil is brown with a fine clay structure, very chalky, with subalkaline pH and little organic material. It is well drained and very stony. The grapes are destemmed and fall by gravity into special fermentation vats with a conical shape that are open at the top. During the alcoholic fermentation and the maceration period, a soft pressing is carried out between 2 and 6 times a day as well as the delestage. The maceration on the skins is between 5-9 days in stainless steel vats. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel vats. Francesco went on to say that the wine is aged in new barrels and casks for 18 months.
Francesco made a point of saying that the choice of wood used is the result of experiments using 20 different types of the best French oak from different geographical areas (Vosges, Troncais, Nevers, Allier, and Limousin) with medium and medium-plus toasting levels and standard to tighter grains. He also said that they use many different size barrels.
Because of all of this, he felt that this wine was the top expression of Sangiovese at Brolio and that the aroma is so specific, intense and typical that it could not be confused with any other wine.
Casalferro IGT 2010 100% Merlot. The vineyard is at 400 meters and faces south. Each small plot in the vineyard is vinified separately. The grapes are vinified in open fermentation tanks. Thermo-regulated fermentation takes about 9 days during which soft pressing and the delestage are carried out. The wine in aged in new oak barrels 90% French and 10% American for 18 months. $65
He said that in this particular terroir the Merlot “is “Sangiovized” meaning that in this harsh but generous territory it takes on sangiovese-like qualities. Because of this for the first time the wine is 100% Merlot.
Francesco added that he did not consider this wine a Super Tuscan, in fact he felt the time of the Super Tuscans had passed–it was a wine of the 1990’s. I could not have agreed with him more but for me it did not pass soon enough.
Brunello di Montalcino 2009 ” Torre Della Trappola” 100% Sangiovese The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature with 23 to 30 days skin contact. It is aged for 12 month in French oak and 14 months in Slavonian oak. It rests in the bottle for 6 more months before release. This is a Brunello with hints of cherries and spice and a touch of licorice with a nice finish and long aftertaste. $75
With the wine we had the arista di maiale alla fiorentina con patate al forno
Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2010 Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Grapes come from the best 230 acres of vineyards at 250 to 450 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Vinification in stainless steel tanks with 7-9 days of skin contact and 18 months in barriques and new casks. The wine has aromas and flavors of black cherry, blueberries and a nice finish and long aftertaste. $65
This was served with an assortimento di formaggio con mostarda di frutta.
When I was the Wine Director at I Trulli Restaurant in NYC, we carried a Chianti Classico named for Pope Clement VII. I do not know why the wine is named after him, all I know is I liked the wine. I have not tasted the wine in a number of years and when I was invited to the restaurant Il Gatopardo in NYC for a tasting of wines from the co-op Castelli del Grevepesa, makers of Clement Vll wine, I wanted to go to see if it was as good as I remembered. The event was sponsored by the Italian American Chamber of Commerce and was called The Pride of Tuscany Dinner.
Representing the winery was the general manager, agronomist and enologist Ugo Pagliai. All the stages of production from vineyard to bottling take place under his supervision. Mr. Pagliai said that 18 winemakers founded Castelli del Grevepesa in 1965. Today there are 150 involved. He added that Sangiovese should not be aged only in barriques and the he is moving away from the use of this type of barrel.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano “Bertesca” 2013 DOCG made from 100% Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The grapes are hand selected. Fermentation tales place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a white wine with some body, nice citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity.
Chianti Classico Castelgreve 2011 DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese. The hand-selected grapes are fermented at controlled temperatures with 10 days of skin contact. The wine ages for 12 months in large oak barrels and at least one month in bottle before release. This is an easy to drink, fruity wine.
Chianti Classico Clemente VII 2011 DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months, 85% is in large Slovenian oak casks for 12 months and 15% for 12 months in French barriques. The wine remains in the bottle for at least 3 months before release. The wine was as I remembered it with good fruit, hints of wild berries, violets and very easy to drink. It went very well with he food.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Panzano 2011 made from 100% Sangiovese. This is a 4-hectare vineyard with West/Southwest exposure. It is at 400 mt. The soil is clay and limestone, the vines are 25/30 years old, there are 3,500 plants per hectare and the training system is Guyot. There is a selection of grapes. Fermentation in controlled temperature stainless steel tanks with 10 days of skin contact. The wine is aged for 30 months, 18 in large oak casks and the rest in French barriques and stainless steel. This is a wine with good body and fruit with hints of violets and spice and a touch of vanilla.
The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is a classification above Riserva, which was approved last year, the grapes for the Gran Selezione must be harvested only from the wineries own vineyards, with upgraded requirements for alcohol, extract and aging.
Vinsanto Riserva Clemente VII 1998 made from Trebbiano Tuscano and Malvasia del Chianti. The grapes are hand picked and placed on straw mats to dry. There is a slow fermentation in oak barrels followed by a minimum of 36 months aging in oak. The wine has aromas and flavors of dry fruit with hints of apricot.
Every year, we get together with friends and celebrate Chinese New Year. Since this is the year of the horse, we decided on a theme — wine vintages from past years of the horse. I was told that I was born in the year of the water horse but I could not find a wine from that year.
We chose the Oriental Gardens Restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown for the dinner. The service was excellent and so was the food. Our waiter was the best that I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant and could have qualified as a sommelier at a top restaurant.
2002 Year of the Water Horses
Chablis Domaine Billaud- Simone Cru “Les Preuses” 2002 100% Chardonnay. The exposure is south; southeast and the vines are 65 years old. Harvesting is by hand. Vinification is in stainless steel. Aging is for 8 to 10 years depending on the vintage. This is an elegant complex wine, with aromas of honey, toast and lemon with good minerality, a long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. It was a great way to start the celebration.
1990 Year of the Metal Horse
Regaleali Rosso Sicilia IGT 1990 made from 100% Nero d’Avola. Fermentation is in stainless steel for an average of 10 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel 50% and 50% in oak casks of 30HL and 60HL for 6 months. This was a real surprise. The wine was 24 years old and is the type of wine that one would think is to be drunk young. It was in vey good condition with no signs of oxidation and enough fruit to make it very enjoyable.
1966 Year of the Fire Horse
Chateau Montrose 1966 – Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 30% and Cabernet Franc 5%. Back then, the average age of the vines was 29 years. The wine was aged for 22 to 24 months in barrel. Robert Parker in his book Bordeaux (1985) writes that the anticipated maturity of the wine is between 1986 and 2010. The wine is classic St-Estephe and was drinking like a younger wine.
Chianti Classico Fattoria Di Santa Christina 1966 Fattoria dei Marchesi Lodovico and Piero Antinori. I am not surprised anymore when I drink older Chianti Classico. This wine was made with white grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, and they most likely used the governo method (drying 10% of the grapes). This was the wine of the evening for me.
1978 Year of the Earth Horse
Barolo “Vigneto Rocchette” 1978 Giovanni Accomasso & Figli. I do not believe that I have had any wine from this producer. The location of the winery is La Morra but as far as I know it is not imported into the USA.
Barbaresco Bricco Asili 1978 100% Nebbiolo Ceretto. We had this wine at another New Year celebration a few days later and it was showing so well I just had to include it.
Barolo 1978 Cogno- Marcarini 100% Nebbiolo– This wine was made when Elvio Cogno was the winemaker. Cogno produced some of the best classic traditional wines that it has been my pleasure to drink. This one was no exception and it was the wine of the evening for a number of people. 1978 was a very good vintage for Barolo. Wasserman gave Cogno’s Barolo 4 stars, his highest rating.