Category Archives: Italian Wine Masters

Kevin Zraly and “Sangiovese!”

“Sangiovese!” Kevin Zraly shouted, and everyone in the room responded, “Sangiovese! Sangiovese! Sangiovese!” The master class entitled “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy–Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello dI Montalcino” had begun, featuring Mr. Zraly assisted by a panel made up of the presidents of three consortiums:  Ezio Rivella – Brunello di Montalcino (Formerly with Castello Banfi), Marco Pallanti – Chianti Classico (I had lunch with him the next day at Manzo), and Federico Carletti – Vino Noble (The owner of Poliziano).


The Italian Wine Masters was a daylong event in NYC that included master classes given by Kevin Zraly and a grand tasting of the wines of the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Mr. Zraly is the founder of the Windows on the World wine course and author of the book by the same name. I took his course over 30 years ago and it was interesting to see that he had the same energy and style that he had way back then.

Kevin Zraly

  Kevin moved around the room talking, making sure everyone was following his directions and asking questions of the audience and of the panel. At one point he had everyone in the room stand up and look down at the glasses in front of them.  He asked about the color of each wine and said that if you can see through a red wine, it is ready to drink.  He also said that all of the wines had very good acidity and this is what made them good food wines. It is not only the tannins that make a wine age well, but also the acidity.  Kevin added that Italy is the only country were the term Riserva is defined by law.  If it is a riserva, it means the wines have to be aged longer.

 Kevin looked at the panel and said that 2007 was not a just a wonderful vintage, but an exceptional one, and all the panel members nodded in agreement.  He introduced Chianti Classico by first speaking of the flask-shaped bottles covered with straw. He said the wine was popular because everyone wanted to use the empty bottles as candle holders as they had seen it done in Italian restaurants. My wife, Michele, remembers buying candles that dripped in different colors specifically for those Chianti flasks!  We all thought it looked very romantic.

 Mr. Zraly quickly added that we have come a long way since then and spoke about the changes in the laws for Chianti Classico including the elimination of white grapes from the blend.  He asked Marco Pallanti about the grapes used in Chianti Classico today and the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero). Mr. Pallanti replied that Chianto Classico must have a minimum of 80% to 100% Sangiovese and 20% or other recommended red varieties such as Canaiolo, Colorino, and Malvasia Nera which are traditional, and/or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

  Mr. Pallanti added that before 2005, Chianti Classic producers did not have to display the “Black Rooster”, the symbol of the Consortium, on the neck of the bottle. Now the Black Rooster trademark has been added to the Italian government’s bottle seal and is compulsory on all bottles of Chianti Classico. Both Consortium members and non-members have it on every bottle of Chianti Classico.

 The WInes

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2007 La Madonnina  Chiocchio 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Colorino. I liked the aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, good acidity, and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. $20

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo” 2007 Fontodi  Panzano in Chianti 100% Sangiovese. This is a big wine with aromas and flavors of cherry. The wine was very concentrated and the oaky toasty flavor was not my style.  $60

 Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 Castello di Ama Gaiole in Chianti 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero. This one had the most red fruit flavors and aromas and was very well balanced. $45

  Vino Nobile does not get the respect that it deserves in this country. It is caught between the more famous Chianti Classic and Brunello, and does much better in Italy and in other foreign markets than in the U.S.

  Kevin asked Federico Carletti to speak about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. He said the grape used is a local clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile. The wine must be a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and a maximum of 30% of other red grapes such as Canaiolo, Colorino and Merlot, recommended or authorized by the region of Tuscany.

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 Salcheto 100% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) This wine had very good fruit with hints of blueberries and a nice mineral character. It had good acidity and is a very good food wine. All of the Vino Nobile that I tasted this day had an undertone of violets.  $35

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 “La Braccesca” Marchese Antinori  90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot. This is a big wine with red fruit, minerality, tannic with good acidity. This is a wine that will age. $27

 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano DOCG 2007 Poliziano 80% Sangiovese 20% Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot. This is a rich concentrated wine with fruit, more than a hint of violets, leather, and a touch of toasted oak.  It has nice finish and aftertaste. $31

 Ezio Rivella said that they did not want the grape for Brunello to be called Sangiovese Grosso anymore but just Sangiovese. He added that Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Pinino 100% Sangiovese, I felt this wine was a little too oaky in the finish and aftertaste and not my style of wine. Since Brunello should not be drunk in my opinion until at least 10 years after the release date, it may get better with age. $60

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Castelgiocondo 100% Sangiovese, this is a wine  that I have been following for some time and it did not disappoint. $65.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Uccelliera 100% Sangiovese. This is a great Brunello with good red fruit, leather and undertones of eucalyptus. It is powerful and elegant at the same time with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste. $75

 Kevin made a point of saying that there was a noticeable difference in taste between the three types of wine. He said they are all based on the Sangiovese grape but they all have their own charteristics.

 The Older Wines                                                                                                     

 Chianti Classico DOCG 1999 “Riserva Don Tomasso” Principe Corsini-Fattoria Le

Corti 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino and Canaiolo. From Magnum- $150 for the magnum.

 Vino Noble di Montepulciano DOCG 1999 Riserva Dei 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero $145

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1991 Col D’ Orcia 100% Sangiovese. $ 200

 After we finished tasting the older wine, Kevin looked at the audience and said that the three older wines are all drinking very well and the audience and the panel all agreed.

I also agreed, they were drinking very well and not showing their age.

 The title of the Seminar “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy Chianti, Vino Nobile and Brunello” proved its point. Sangiovese can age and the reward is worth the wait.

  There was also a grand tasting of the wines which included the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

 In a room called the “Sommelier Cellar”, there were older vintages of Chianti Classico and Brunello and selected bottles of Vino Noble and Prosecco. The 1990 Chianti Classico from Castello di Ama was drinking very well as was the 1995 Brunello from Barbi and the 2004 Brunello from Banfi.

 The 2008 Tenuta di Lilliano Chianti Classico and the Fattoria Le Corte 2007 Chianti Classico were two wines I enjoyed with lunch at Manzo in Eataly and they are great food wines.

 The Vino Nobile di Montalcino from Crociani, a very traditional producer, was one of my favorites and I liked all their wines. I was also very impressed by the 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano from Cecchi, which is also a great food wine.

Charles Scicolone On Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 Valerie’s

Join Roberto of Keste, Michele and I for a once in a life time pizza tour of Italy


Filed under Brunello, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine Masters, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano