Category Archives: Chianti

Fibbiano and Sangervasio: Wines from the Hills of Pisa

Fattoria Fibbiano and Azienda Agricola Sangervasio are two wineries from the hills around Pisa. I had the pleasure of hosting a tasting of these wines at a luncheon at Lupa Restaurant in NYC. Matteo Cantoni from Fibbiano and Luca Tommasini from Sangervasio were present and spoke about their wines. They are very good friends and agree on most aspects of wine making but they do have their differences. Though the two wineries are not far from each other, each has its own microclimate.IMG_9314

Fattoria Fibbiano is located in the town of Terriccola in the province of Pisa. Matteo said that the identity of this family-run winery “lies in their land. This is why we respect the local wine growing traditions, using only local grape varieties that we tend meticulously to obtain wines of the highest quality.
We maintain a number of manual processes, and treat our soils only with organic, non-chemical substances. Some of the vines are over 100 years old (2.5 hectares) and others are up to 20 years old (12 hectares).

Matteo

Matteo

Matteo ages all of his red wines in concrete tanks at some point. He believes that the concrete tanks lets the wine breathe and that helps the wines to develop. When I asked him if the tanks were lined with glass or epoxy, both he and Luca answered that the insides of the tanks were painted with a special paint.

Matteo also said that one couldn’t plan for the future unless one understands what was done in the past. This is a theme I have heard recently from a number of producers and Luca agreed.

Matteo said that Fattoria Fibbiano is also an agriturismo, a working farm that hosts guests.

The Wines of Fattoria FibbianoIMG_9317

Chianti Superiore “Casalini” 2011 DOCG made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Ciiliegiolo from the hills around Pisa. The soil is mostly clay. He believes that a “green harvest.” is very important. Harvest is in late September or early October.
The grapes are manually harvested and go through a gentle destemming process. Then they are placed inside specialized stainless steel tanks. In the tanks, the must goes through rotary agitation during the first 7 – 9 days of the fermentation process in order to obtain maximum extraction and separation of seeds to reduce harsher tannins. The must gets fermented by yeast that naturally collects on the grape skins at controlled temperatures and oxygen levels. The wine ages for 8 months in Slavonian oak barrels where malolactic fermentation takes place, and then is placed in bottle for 3 months for refinement. Matteo said that all of his red wines spend time in concrete tanks but he did say for how long. This is an easy drinking wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and blackberry.IMG_9315

Le Pianett 2011 IGT Toscana made from 70% Sangiovese and 30% Colorino. The wine is aged for 6 months in Slavonian oak barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red and black fruit with a hint of spice.IMG_9319

L’Aspetto 2010 IGT made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Canaiolo. The wine ages for 12 months in tonneaux where malolactic fermentation takes place with an additional 6 months in cement tanks and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, spice and a touch of blackberries.IMG_9322

Ceppatella 2009 IGT made from 100% Sangiovese. The harvest is in early October. The wine spends 6 months in tonneaux where malolactic fermentation takes place and 14 months in Salvonian oak barrels and five months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of tobacco, leather, and ripe red fruit.

Some of the vineyards are close to one 100 years old. They have adjusted to the land and have roots that go very deep. New vineyards are planted from the cuttings of the older vineyards. At one time, different varieties were planted in the vineyard so you are not always sure of the blend.

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Luca Tommasini

Azienda Agricola Sangervasio is owned by the Tommasini family and Luca is the wine maker. It is in the ancient village of San Gervasio, in the province of Pisa.

Luca Tommasini said the winery is located in the hills of Pisa 25 Km from the Tyrrhenian sea. They are certified organic and follow the philosophy of biodynamic viniculture. The estate is 400 hectares of which 22 hectares are vineyards, at 160/200 meters. The density of vines are 6,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, there are low yields per plant, organically grown with a technology which respects nature. The wine making process is natural without any chemical additives. Only natural yeast that is on the skins of the grapes is used. Like Matteo, Luca believes that concrete is going to be used by more winemakers in the future.

Luca blends international grapes with native varieties and uses barriques. However, all of the wines show that he knows how to integrate the wine with the barriques so that the aromas and flavors of the grapes dominate. They are also an agriturismo with 12 apartments on the property.

The Wines of Azienda Agricola SangervasioIMG_9320

A Sirio 2011 IGT Tuscany 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon The vineyard is at 200 meters. Alcoholic fermentation is with natural yeasts and malolactic fermentation takes place in the same barriques where the wine is aged. Aging is for 14 months in barriques and at least 18 months in bottle before release. The wine is named after Luca’s grandfather. The wine has hints of red and black berries with a touch of spice.IMG_9324

I Renai 2008 100% Merlot Toscana Rosso IGT  Harvest is by hand the last week of August, and there are 10,000 plants per hectare. Alcoholic fermentation is in concrete tanks with natural yeasts. Malolactic fermentation is in the same barriques where the wine has been aged. The wine ages for 14 months in new 225-liter barriques and spends at least 18 months in barrel before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry with a touch of spice.IMG_9316

Chianti 2014 DOCG 100% Sangiovese There are 6,000/10,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand the 3rd week of September. Fermentation with natural yeasts in temperature controlled concrete tanks. It is aged 6 months in concrete tanks and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has  hints  of wild berries with a touch violets, and good minerality.IMG_9331

Recinaio 2004 DOC Etruria Central, Vin Santo made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% San Colombano and15% Sangiovese from 35 year old vines. There are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of October. The grapes dehydrate naturally until February and are manually pressed, fermentation is in new 112 liter barrels and it is aged for 8 years in the barrel and rests for 12 months in a temperature controlled environment before release. This is a subtle dessert wine with flavors and aromas of figs, almonds and honey. I could not stop drinking the wine with biscotti.

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Chianti: The Best Known Wine and the Least Known Wine

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. They have bright fruit flavors,  hints of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.IMG_7713

For the last four  years I have been attending the annual seminar and tasting presented by the Consorzio Vino Chianti. I enjoy these seminars, the guided tasting, listening to the speakers and catching up on the latest news from one of my favorite wine regions. This year was was no exception.

Ray Isle of Food & Wine Magazine introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Sarah Bray of Town and Country Magazine, Luize Alberto of WineHub, and Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli.IMG_7716

Mr. Busi seemed to set the tone of the seminar when he said that “Chianti is one of the best know wines and one of the least known wines.” This led  to the panelists discussing Chianti in the market place, the beauty of the Tuscan landscape, the confusion with Chianti Classico and what could the Consortium do  to help consumers better understand Chianti and improve its market share.

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The Chianti Lands

The panelists agreed that by having these seminars and tastings the Consortium was doing it best to promote Chianti. The confusion with Chianti Classico may be hard to overcome. Near the end of the seminar the woman next to me whispered, “I have been drinking Chianti all my life and I thought that all Chianti had a  black rooster on the neck of the bottle.”

Mr. Busi discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes. Mr. Busi wanted to change the law so that Chianti to allow that the wine can be made from 100% Sangiovese and this was recently approved.

Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Arentini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-regions of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-regions of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest.  For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina, the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.

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The panel also discussed the Chianti Consortium and the production zones for Chianti. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, MontalbanoRufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.

The Wines

The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us.IMG_7717

Chianti DOCG 2013 San Vito 100 % Sangiovese. The soil is sandy clay and the exposure is southwest/northwest. The training system is spurred cordon, the vines are 20 years old and are at 150 meters.  Organic farming is practiced. Fermentation with 8 to 10 days of maceration on the skins with regular pumping over. The wine matures in steel and g;ass-lined vats and is aged for another 3 months in bottle.  This is an easy drinking wine with hints of cherry, blackberries and a touch of violet. It is a perfect food wine.IMG_7718

Chianti DOCG 2012 Priore 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is rich in organic material. The vineyards are at 300 meters and face south. The vines are 15 years old and are spurred cordon trained. Aging takes place in stainless steel vats for at least 12 months and in second passage  oak barrels for at least 5 months. The wine remains in the bottle for another 6 months before it is released. It has hints of violets, cherries and a touch of prune.IMG_7719

Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2001 Il Castelvecchio 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. The soil is made up of clay, sandstone, gravel and stone. The vineyard is at 250-300 meters, with the Sangiovese  facing west and the Merlot northwest. The vines are 18 years old and the training is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 14 days with a slow maceration. There is a pressing of the grapes and a daily pumping over. The wine spends 12 months in different size oak barrels and second passage barriques. The wines remains in bottle for 3 months before release. It has hints of red berries, with a nice finish and aftertaste.IMG_7720

Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva  “San Camillo”2010 Il  Corno 100% Sangiovese. The vines are 15 to 20 years old, south facing at 350 meters and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation in stainless steel vats and the malolactic fermentation is in concrete tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in large barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. It has hints of spice, pepper and nice mineralityIMG_7721

Chianti DOCG Riserva 2009 Casalbosco 100% Sangiovese. The soil is made up of rocks and clay, the exposure is south/southwest, the age of the vines is 15 years and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in second passage medium toasted barriques for 12 months and spens 6 months in bottle before release. The wine had hints of cherry and plum.IMG_7722

Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2008 DOCG 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino Coppiole. The hillside vineyards have mixed soils with a prevalence of sand. The vines are 25 to 30 years old and are at 300 meters. The exposure is south/southwest and the training system guyot. The wine spends 12 to 15 months in tonneaux (500 liters) and 12 months in cement vats. It remains in the bottle for another 4 to 8 months before it is released. It is a fruity wine with hints of cherry and spice and a nice finish and aftertaste.

I was very pleased with the wines chosen for the seminar because they were a true expression of the Sangiovese grape and of the Tuscan terroir which makes Chianti so unique and a wonderful  food wine.

 

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Chianti Cool

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. The have bright fruit flavors, a hint of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.IMG_5253

“It’s time for wine—Chianti wine,” was the theme of the Consorzio Vino Chianti tasting held on April 28 in New York City for the trade and media. It has become an annual tradition and this year 46 different wineries were present. I could not wait to go.

The daylong event began with a guided tasting and presentation of the Chianti Riserva 2010, which I attended. Six wines were tasted blind.

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Giovanni Busi, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti

Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli, introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Joe Campanale, Beverage Director and owner of  dell’Anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio restaurants; moderator Anthony Giglio, wine authority, journalist and author of the Wine Guides for Food & Wine Magazine, and Costas Mouzouras, wine director of Gotham Wines & Liquor, a retail store. The discussion during the seminar covered various topics such as: Chianti: Tradition and Innovation, Chianti: Identity of Terroir, and  Chianti “Cool.” This was explained by Mr. Gilgio as an innovative process the Consortium has undertaken in the last few years. The idea is that Chianti is a very versatile wine and can appeal to younger and newer generations of wine drinkers, not only the traditional ones.

The panel also discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes.

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Sangiovese

Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Arentini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-regions of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-region of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest.

For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.IMG_5412

The panel also discussed the Chianti Consortium and the production zones for Chianti. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, MontalbanoRufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.IMG_5411

The Wines

The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us. I believe the purpose of the tasting was to show the versatility of styles that Chianti can produce, from traditional to international.

Vino Sorelli made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 10% Trebbiano. Fermentation with maceration on the skins for about ten days in temperature controlled tanks. The wine spends at least 6 months in large barrels and two months is barriques. This is a nice fruity wine with hints of red berries and violets. It is very traditional Chianti.

Chianti Montespertoli “Il Quarto” Tenuta di Morzano made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah. The grapes come from a 2-hectare vineyard, the soil is clay and schist and the vines are at 300 meters. Harvest takes place in September. Traditional 20 days maceration on the skins and subsequent fermentation in glass lined cement tanks. The wine is aged in third passage French barriques. This was the most international in style.

Chianti Rufina “Bellini” Cantine Fratelli Bellini made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino. The vines are cordon spur trained and the harvest is in September. There is a classic vinification with 15 days maceration of the skins at controlled temperatures. The wine spends 24 months in oak barrels of 20 to 40 hl and 6 months in bottle before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting, typical classic Chianti from one of my favorite zones.

Castello di Oliveto made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Merlot. The winery is in the heart of the Florentine hills. Maceration is in steel vats for about 15 days with frequent pumping over and aeration to foster ceding of the color at a controlled temperature. This wine is leaning toward the more international style.

Chianti Montalbano Tenuta Cantagallo made from 100% Sangiovese. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in 60% French barriques and 40% new tonneaux for 12 months in bottle before release. This was very international in style with more then a hint of vanilla 

Colli Florentini “Vigna La Quercia” Castelvecchio made from 90% Sangiovese,and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes come from a single vineyard with a southeast exposure. The wine spends 12 months in barriques and 12 months in bottle before release. This wine was somewhere in between the traditional and the international.

From this blind tasting it seems that there is a style of Chianti for everyone.

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Good Friends, Champagne and Old Wine


My friend Albert and I were planning to have lunch at restaurant SD26 in NYC recently. He told me he wanted to bring a bottle of 1966 Chateau Ausone and said that he also had another ‘66 and a ‘62. When I mentioned this to Irwin, a member of my wine group, he said that Ausone is his favorite wine. Then he said that if I would organize a dinner with Albert and the Ausone, he would bring a 1996 Champagne Krug and a 1931 Chateau Latour. Two other members of the wine group, Travis and Nicole, said they would come and bring some older wines, too. I could not wait to arrange this dinner. SD 26 was closed for an event on the night that we could all get together. However Tony May the owner said we could have one of the small private rooms and it was perfect.

The Wines

Champagne Krug 1996  Made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the percentage of each variety depends on the vintage. The wine is aged in used barriques. Full bodied, complex and dry with a hint of toast. This wine will last for many years. This is a great wine in an excellent vintage. Is there any better way to begin the evening than with Krug Champagne.

Grand Vin Chateau Latour 1931 Pauillac, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdpt.  Made from old vines in the 47 ha of the original Enclos. Today there are 10,000 vines per hectare but I do not know if it was the same 80 years ago. I believe 1931 was not a great year in Bordeaux but Latour is known for making great wines even in off years.  The wine is 81 years old and it was in great condition, good color, no signs of oxidation, elegant and balanced — a classic Pauillac.

My first experience drinking Latour was with the 1963 vintage, a very poor vintage. The year was 1969 and I paid $3.99 a bottle for the wine in a store in Brooklyn. The wine was wonderful and Chateau Latour became my favorite Bordeaux.

Barolo 1931 100% Nebbiolo. Borgogno This was the only disappointment. The wine was starting to come apart with celery aromas and high VA. We could not drink it.

Chianti Vecchio Della Fattoria Santa Christina 1943 Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori
The wine was mostly Sangiovese with some Canaiolo and Colorino, and two white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano.  Most likely the governo method was used. The wine was in perfect condition.  There were hints of fruit and the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines.
On the neck label it reads: “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti”.

Ask any producer of Chianti today and they will tell you that Chianti made with white grapes and using the governo method will not age. In order to make “great Chianti” they must use international grapes and concentrators and put the wine in barriques. Chianti has lost its identity. I guess the present Consortium does not defend the typical wine of Chianti.
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Chateau Ausone Premier Grand Cru, St. Emilion 1962 Made from 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is only 7 hectares and there are 6,500 vines per hectare. This is a wine with great color and body with hints of leather and cherry and a great finish and aftertaste. It was one of the best St. Emilion’s I have ever tasted.  Then I tasted the Ausone 1966 and it was even better.

Fixin Clos Napoleon 1959 Domaine A.Ligeret 100% Pinot Noir.  The label indicated that it was a special bottling for the Chevaliers du Tastevin. The wine was showing very few signs of age and it was a elegant and classic Burgundy.

This was a very special dinner with good friends and great wine.  I cannot wait to do it again. Albert still has some more Ausone and Travis said that he had another Borgogno Barolo 1931.

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Italian Red Wine Under $20 for All Seasons

Over the past few months I have tasted a number of Italian red wines for under $20. The first two, on the list which I tasted last week at an event called Piemonte Land of Perfection’s I have had many times before and have always enjoyed. The last two on the list were a new discovery.

Dolcetto “D’OH”  2011 Piedmont Dolcetto  DOC 100% Dolcetto Clavesana  Fermented is temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of cherry that is to be drunk young. It is traditional Dolcetto.  $11

Barbera d’Asti DOCG “Vespa” 2011 100% Barbara Cascina Castlet  The vineyards are at 300 meters and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The soil composition is clay and limestone. Pruning and harvesting (the middle of October) are done manually. The must is left in contact with the skin at controlled temperatures for 6 to 8 days. There is frequent remortgages and racking is followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is bottled and released after a few months. It is a fresh fruity Barbera with aromas and flavors of cherry and blueberry and good acidity. $14

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is guyot and spurred cord, and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slovenian oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 Poggio Stella made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 24 months. $19.

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT  2006 Domodimonti The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months. There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Ciró Rosso Classic Superiore “Liber Pater” DOC 2009 Ippolito 1845 (Calabria) The wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel. This is a rustic wine with deep red and black fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather. It has a long finish and a distinctive aftertaste. $16

Rosso Piceno Superiore 2007 DOC ”Vigna Montetinello” Montepulciano 70 % Sangiovese 30% Saladini Pilastri
The vineyard is at 200 meters and the exposure is west- east. The cultivation system is vertical shoot positioned trellis and there are 2,000 plants/ha; the average age of the vines is 30 years. Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 18 months in French tonneaux. This is a wine with nice red and black fruit, with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $17.99

Aglianico IGT 100% Aglianico. Donna Chiara. The soil is clay, training system is guyot and there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the second week of November. This wine does not see any wood. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months. This is a very aromatic wine with wild berry aromas and flavors and hints of blueberries and cherries. $18

I could not believe the price of the next two wines after I tasted them. They are true bargains. I believe that both of them were awarded three glasses by Gambero Rosso, their highest award.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Vignafranca DOC 2007 Fratelli Barba100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 70 meters and the soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous. There are 6,000 vines/ha, the training is double guyot and the exposure is southwest. The harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is in wooden conical base vats for 18-20 days.  The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of cherry and spice with a hint of pepper. 14.99

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “I Vasari” Old Vines DOC 2008 Fratelli Barba 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Colle della Corte vineyard is at 70 meters and has a southwest exposure. The soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous and the vines are 30 years old. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, the training system is double guyot and the harvest takes place in the middle of October, fermentation takes place in wooden conical base vats for 18 to 20 days. The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months.
This is an intense wine with flavors and aromas of black cherry blueberry and plum with a hint of spice. $18

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Tasting Chianti’s Past

 

One of the members of my wine group is going on a retreat where he will be spending four months in total silence and will not be able to drink any wine.  Before leaving, he wanted to try some older vintages of Ruffino that he had just purchased so we put together a group of six to have the wines with dinner at The Leopard at Café des Artistes. This group does not taste wine but drinks it with dinner or lunch.

The wines we drank were made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia and Trebbiano and 5% Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Cabernet.  All of the wines included white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, and all of them were made by using the governo method. The governo method, once common in Tuscany, is a secondary fermentation created by the addition of dried grapes 10-15%, or the must of dried or concentrated grapes.  Colorino was usually the grape of choice to be dried.

Ask almost any producer in Chianti today and they will tell you that wines made with white grapes and the governo method and aged in large Slavonia botti will not age! It is more difficult to make wine in this way. It is much easier to add 20% of an international grape variety and age the wine in barriques. But you will not have a better wine, you will have a “baby super Tuscan” and as we all know the only real super Tuscans were Michelangelo and Leonardo Di Vinci.

As far as I know Querciavalli is the only Chianti Classico producer that still uses the governo method for their Chianti.

The best gapes from Ruffino’s vineyard were used for the Riserva Ducale, which spent at least three years in large oak casks. The Riserva Gold Label is a selection of the lots of the best vintages of the Riserva Ducale.

The Riserva Ducale was first produced in 1927.  The first release of the Riserva Ducale Ora was in 1947. They are the only wines that have the word Riserva as part of the wine’s name.

When these wines were produced Ruffino was the largest producer of Chianti “Classico” (the 1958 just has Chianti on the label) and had the greatest holdings in the area –1200 hectares, 230 covered with vineyards.

A few years ago a friend came over for dinner and brought with him a bottle of Riserva Ducale Ora. He wanted us to taste it and guess the vintage. Everyone there was involved with wine and had experience with older Chianti. Someone guessed 1990, another 1982, another 1958 – not because it looked or tasted old but because 1958 was a great year. We were all wrong — the wine was the 1947. The wine was 57 years old at the time.

Wasserman in his classic book “The Noble Red Wines of Italy” wrote of the 1947 Gold Label, which he tasted in 1983, “Brilliant, tawny robe with orange edge, lovely, almost Claretlike bouquet, persistent and expansive, toasty with a touch of blueberry, refined, a mouthful of wine, lots of class, a classic.”  He gave it four stars, his highest rating.

Recently I had the opportunity to drink with lunch the 1947 on two different occasions. The wine on both occasions was showing a bit more age than it did 8 years ago but did not taste like a wine that was 65 years old. It still tasted like a much longer wine.  1947 was a great vintage in Tuscany.

It is interesting to note that none of the wines had the Gallo Nero, the symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium on the neck label. All of these wines and other older wines from Ruffino I have tasted have the “Putto on the neck label”, the symbol of the Chianti Consorzio, or they just had Chianti Classico on the neck label.

I do have a bottle of Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1990 which has the Gallo Nero on the neck label. It seems that Ruffino did not join the Chianti Classico Consorzio until much later.

The Wines at Dinner

Before my friend’s departure dinner, I looked at Wasserman’s book to see what he said about these wines as I respect his opinion and drank some of these same wines with him in the 1980’s.

 Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1958 This was an excellent vintage in Chianti and Wasserman rated it three stars. He  also gave the wine three stars when he tasted it in 1983 and said “needs more time.” He was right as it was still drinking in 2012.

Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1961 Wasserman said that the Consorzio gave two stars to the vintage but he did not rate the vintage having tasted only two wines. This wine was showing very well and was one of my favorites.

Riserva Ducale Beige Label 1964 Wasserman gave this vintage two stars and the Consorzio gave it four.  Wasserman goes on to say “It was the best vintage of the decade for Chianti.” He reviews the Gold Label and gave it two stars but did not  review the Beige Label

Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1967 Wasserman calls it “…one of the best vintages of the 1960’s,” and gave it   two stars. The Consorzio gave it four. In 1980 he tasted the wine and wrote, “Perfumed aroma; full bodied, still has tannin and considerable fruit, surprisingly young, needs more time, though it has a troublesome dryness at the end.”  He rates it two stars with a question mark.  Again he was right, the wine was drinking very well.

Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1970 this was a very good vintage but suffered in comparison to the excellent 1971. Wasserman gave it two stars, as did the Consorzio. He wrote, “For the most part, the 1970’s are wines to drink not to hold.” Wasserman tasted the wine in 1981. “Color beginning to show age; floral bouquet with a raisiny notes; still has tannin to shed but the fruit is there to support it.” He gave the wine one/two plus stars. I do not think Wasserman believed these wines would last so long and enither did I. We tasted this wine together at my home and never imagined it would still be drinking so well today.

Riserva Ducale Gold Label 1971 both Wasserman and the Consorzio give the vintage four stars the highest rating.

 Riserva DucaleGold Label 1978 the Consorzio gave the vintage three stars and Wasserman gave it two. He wrote ”…we find the vintage doesn’t live up to the press it received early on.”  He goes on to say that, ”It has never been one of our favorite vintages.”

All the wines were showing very well. I disagreed with Wasserman on the 1978 vintage.  I have had a number of 1978 Chiantis over the years and have found them to be drinking quite well. In fact the 1978 Riserva Ducale Gold Label was the wine of the night for me.

I am looking forward to my friends return from his retreat and we already have a dinner planned for October to drink the rest if the wines.

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