~ The Siena Campanile ~

Although it may not be the most notable or sought after wine in Tuscany,  there is little debate that Chianti is the backbone of Italian wine production.  In the 6 separate sub-zones of Chianti located in central Tuscany, Sangiovese finds its natural habitat and achieves its greatest pinnacle of quality. With the establishment of the new Gran Selezione classification, many argue that an absolute pinnacle has yet to be reached.  One thing is plainly clear; Chianti is in the midst of a string of very good to excellent vintages and it should not be difficult to find an excellent wine. 
Producers of Chianti age and release their wines at many different times.  Most Chianti are available in the market two years after the harvest but many producers age their wines longer than required so vintage availability varies.  The majority of the wines covered in this report are from 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Many of the 2011 wines are Riservas that must be aged an additional year before release.  Additionally, a few of the wines reviewed now bear the new Gran Selezione designation.

Basic Requirements for Chianti Classico

1) Wines must be made from at least 80% Sangiovese and up to 20% of other approved grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Canaiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera etc.

2) Wines must be aged for a minimum of 1 year;  2 years for Riserva plus 3 months in bottle, and 30 months for Gran Selezione including 3 months in bottle.

3) Gran Selezione must only be produced from estate grown grapes.  

~  Azienda Tolaini in Castelnuovo Berardenga ~
General Vintage Overviews

2010:  An excellent vintage for Chianti and Tuscany in general.  Wines are ripe with good structure and balance and lots of freshness.  Many of these wines, especially the Riservas,  will age well for 10-15 years.


2011:  Although the vintage was slightly warmer than its predecessor, I think overall it is the equal of 2010.  Most of these wines show wonderfully vibrant, rich fruit with lots of floral aromatics and wonderful balance.

2012:   A  good vintage but not at the level of 2010 or 2011.  Still, many of these wines are vibrant and bright with pronounced aromatics and elegant frames.  That said, many producers made less wine or declassified wine into lesser estate bottlings. In fact, some of the wines covered in last years report, are absent this year because they were not produced.

2013:  The wines from 2013 are not yet fully released as of this writing.  Overall the vintage was very good, but some variability has been observed.



I Vini dei Chianti 


We’ll begin with a producer that is venerable to say the least;  Felsina.
 
The 2013 Felsina Chianti Classico (Castelnuovo Berardenga) is a classic, deep ruby color with some bright violet reflections.  On the nose, the sensory profile is classic Sangiovese.  Fresh flowers, dried herbs, tobacco, bright wild berry and earthen notes are all present.  On the palate, this 100% Sangiovese is lively and medium bodied. With flavors of tobacco, anise, cherry and dried mushroom, this is juicy and delicious. 92 points and an outstanding value around $19.  
~ Arguably the most consistent Chianti Classico Produced ~
Located in Panzano, the Montebernardi Estate extends over 53 hectares, approximately 10 of which are devoted to vines.  Although the estate has documented roots as far back as 1085,  wine production didn’t take place until 1992.  Prior to that time, the grapes were sold off in bulk locally. In 2003, the Schmelzer family purchased the estate and set about revitalizing it.  Investments were made in the winery, cellars, vineyards and the villa on the property and in the exceedingly short span of 10-13 years, these investments have yielded astounding dividends.  

The 2013 Montebernardi Chianti Classico Retromarcia (Panzano) is a medium ruby with light violet accents.  Classic aromas of berries, flowers and earth notes are very pleasing.  Retromarcia is meant to be accessible early and this version fits that mold.  Fermented in a combination of cement and stainless steel, the wine is aged in 2nd and 3rd passage barrique and tonneaux for 18 months prior to release

On the palate, the wine is fresh, with light to medium body and a pretty core of berry fruit backed by hints of anise, orange peel and spice notes.  Not a lot of depth or complexity here, but this is fresh, honest Chianti Classico that delivers exactly what it advertises.  Better with food than without.  87 points, about $20. 

~ Retromarcia is also 100% Sangiovese ~

We’ve covered Campochiarenti and Daniele Rosti’s excellent portfolio of wines extensively here on Tuscan Vines, so naturally, we are including his latest release.

Daniele is very happy with his 2013s, though he told me the weather did create some difficulties for the vintage and yields overall were reduced.  The remaining grapes were excellent in quality and that bears out in the wine.


The 2013 Campochiarenti Chianti  (Colli Senesi) is comprised of 85% Sangiovese with the balance to other red grapes such as Colorino and Canaiolo.  The 2013 exhibits a pretty, deep ruby color with violet inflections.  This is a baby,  but it is already delicious and displays incredible aromatic purity.  Crushed berry, intense floral perfumes, spices and fresh Tuscan brush leap from the glass.  This is one of the more floral wines I’ve smelled in a long time and it’s lovely.

On the palate, the wine is juicy and fresh with lively berry flavors.  Medium bodied, with a moderate tannic backbone,  this wine is delicious right now and pairs well with a variety of food. Sweet tobacco and light earth flavors join the bright berry core and fade on a soft finish.  Excellent value.  About $8-10 Euro.   89 points.


~ Wonderful depth of color in this Sangiovese blend ~
When I visited Monteraponi in July of 2014, the subject of today’s article was still resting in barrel.  I looked back on my notes and enjoyed the wine then and it’s interesting to note that it appears a carbon copy of that experience.  

The 2013 Chianti Classico (Radda) is the most recent release from the estate.   The wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo.  International grapes aren’t seen at Monteraponi and as Michele is quick to remind; “Classcio” cannot be Classico, if it includes foreign grapes.  

In the glass, this medium ruby wine has violet reflections.  Aromatically,  traditional all the way – and it smells like the air at Monteraponi.  Soft pine, leaf tobacco and soft cherry fruit round out the aromas.  On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with a soft, elegant feel to the flavors of red berry, tobacco leaf, and autumn leaves.  A dusty, mineral note laces the finish which has come to be the hallmark of Braganti’s wines.   Not a bruiser and not a wine that needs any length of time in the cellar, but it’s bright and pleasant to drink right now.  88 points.   About $23-$25

~ I love Michele Braganti’s wines and this classic blend has all his hallmarks ~
Nestled in the beautiful Tuscan Hills north of Siena is the small, quaint town of Vagliagli,  home to the Dievole estate which sits mere minutes from the center of town.  Dievole has been undergoing a gradual renewal that is aimed at increasing the estate’s quality while enhancing the identity of the territory.

The 2013 Dievole Chianti Classico  (Castelnuovo Berardenga) is exactly what it was intended to be.  In the glass, the classic color of the wine is evident.  It’s a deep ruby with violet reflections but even a slight brick to orange hue to the rim.

On the nose, the wine speaks of the territory.  Cypress needles fill the glass with dusty white road stones, crushed berry and fennel notes.  It brings me back to my time in Vagliagli.  On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively,  with a restrained core of cherry fruit supported by ample acidity, soft tannins and secondary nuances of chestnut, fennel and powdery minerals.  It’s pure and delicious. 

We enjoyed this wine and it represents a marked difference from the quality I formally associated with this estate.  It paired perfectly with rustic bronze extruded Fusilli alla Bolognese.   87 points, and a solid value around $15.

~ The new label Dievole is 100% Sangiovese ~
Famiglia is important to the Cecchi’s and that spirit is embodied no more vibrantly than in their Famiglia Riserva bottling.  If the vintage and the fruit are not ideal,  you won’t see this wine produced.  It’s as simple as that. 

The 2012 Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva(Castellina) is special indeed.  Deeply colored, almost violet throughout the glass,  the wine displays everything I love about Sangiovese from Castellina.  It exudes crushed berry and floral notes with hints of roasted espresso bean,  dried herbs and tobacco.  


After vinification in stainless steel, the wine is barrel aged for 15 months in a combination of barrique and large cask and then held 3 months in the bottle prior to release.  A blend of 90% Sangiovese, the balance is comprised of various other grapes.

On the palate, the wine expresses itself with vibrant red fruits that bear mouth watering acidity and vibrancy on the palate.  A laser like streak of fennel sits on a frame of pipe tobacco and dusty notes of red Tuscan clay.  This is a polished, delicious Riserva that drinks well now but will easily cellar up to 10 years.  A wonderful bargain around $25-$27.   93 points.

~ 90% Sangiovese and 10% various other red grapes ~
At only 750 hectares, the entire area of Chianti Rufina is smaller than many of the estates in Chianti Classico.  Yet within that small area lies one of the best producers in all of the Chianti zones.

The 2013 Selvapiana Chianti (Rufina) is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Malvasia and Colorino.  In the glass, the wine is a bright medium ruby with a lots of violet color.  This is incredibly aromatic;  redolent of flowers, mineral, fresh red plums and spices.  Very attractive.

On the palate the wine displays a medium body but is very fresh and vibrant.  Flavors of berry, mineral and hints of mocha laced tobacco deliver everything the aromas promised.  Bright and lively, this will drink well for the next 5-7 years and is a tremendous value around $14.  90 points.

~ Selvapiana’s Chianti Rufina is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Malvasia & Colorino ~

Like its sibling, the 2013 Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva (Castellina) displays the best of the terroir in that part of Chianti Classico. 

The deep ruby wine looks almost identical to the 2012 at this point and while tight on the palate – this wine is not yet released – the wine displays notable aromas of crushed cherry, anise, and fresh leather.  Ripe and juicy flavors on the palate aren’t easy to delineate at this stage, but all seems to be in place.  Full body with medium weight tannins suggests the wait shouldn’t be long.  92 points, about $28.  

~  Like the 2012, this is 90% Sangiovese with the balance to various other grapes ~

The next wine is a recently released Riserva from another estate outside the Classico zone.   The estate of Pietro Beconcini lies in the hamlet of San Miniato in the Province of Pisa.  While their 100% Sangiovese Reciso is their flagship Sangiovese, their Chianti Riserva should not be overlooked. 

~ Campanile a San Miniato ~

The 2011 Pietro Beconcini Chianti Riserva (San Miniato)  is a traditional blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Canaiolo that is aged for 18 months in Slavonian oak botte and then 12 months in bottle prior to release.

From the glass, this medium ruby colored wine emits incredible aromas of cured meat, salume, leather, cherry and spice notes. Complex and different.  On the palate the wine is more “mainstream” with pretty notes of cherry, spices, minerals and mushroom.  This is juicy, elegant and delicious.  Beconcini wines have scattered importation to the United States but that is improving. However, they are easily available in the EU and should cost about $15 Euro.  89 points. 

~ Named for the Proprietor’s Father, the 2011 is 85% Sangiovese & 15% Canaiolo ~

I’ve written many times about Paolo di Marchi and his fabulous wines including Cepparello and his Chianti Classico.  This next wine illustrates to me that “simple farmers” are just that; farmers. And sometimes Mother Nature wins.

The 2013 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico (Barberino Val d’Elsa) is a light colored violet wine.  Aromas of red cherry and soft spice are pleasing but simple.  On the palate, the wine is light to medium bodied with cranberry and tart cherry flavors that are lean and diluted.  This appears to represent the worst aspects of a vintage that did exhibit some variable weather.  If you click on the link above, you’ll notice a substantial difference in the color of the wines. At the current price, this is poor QPR at best, not recommended at worst.  83 points.  About $23-$25.

~ A disappointing effort ~

There are few names as well known or revered as Castello di Ama and for this report, the estate submitted it’s trio of exceptional Gran Selezione wines from the current vintage, 2011.  Castello di Ama has been leaning toward a more plush, modern style of Gran Selezione and along those lines, these three wines are slightly different in composition and highlight the single vineyards from where they’re sourced. 

First up was the 2011 Castello di Ama Bellavista Gran Selezione (Gaiole) which is the oldest single vineyard produced by Ama and also the most classic wine of the three.  This deep garnet red wine is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia Nera.  

The aromas from the glass are classic, with flowers, spicy ripe berries and turned earth.  On the palate, the wine is a bit leaner than I would have expected.  Red fruit flavors are joined by worn leather and dusty earth. If you’re a purist, this is your wine, but at this insane price point, I expect more of everything.  91 points. About $165-$200 per bottle.   

~ Bellavista was first produced in 1978 and is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia ~

The Querciabella estate was founded in 1974 and today is run by Sebastiano Castiglioni.   Sebastiano is vegan and treasures sustainable and natural practices in all he does.  To that aim, winemaking at Querciabella is completely natural.  Since 1988, the estate has been certified organic and since 2000, biodynamic.  The estate owns 74 hectares of vineyards throughout the prime communes of Chianti Classico including Greve, Gaiole, Radda and Panzano and as a result, their wine is a blended harmony of the vintage.  

For this report, we’re looking at the 2013 Chianti Classico, which has not yet been completely released.   This deep ruby wine is 100% Sangiovese, hand harvested and then vinified in stainless steel vats. Once complete, the wine is transferred to French barrique for the requisite aging, only 5% of which are new.  The remainder are 2nd and 3rd passage barrels. 

The wine is effusive on the nose with berries, flowers, baking spices, porcini and tobacco.  On the palate, this is juicy and fresh with lots of crushed red fruit, sweet fennel and spice.  Very enjoyable and a good value around $22.  90 points. 

~ This is one of the better 2013 Chianti Classicos that we tried for this report ~


I tasted the 2012 version of the next wine for last year’s report and it was impressive. The 2013 is a nice successor and is a stylish Sangiovese from Castellina in Chianti. 

The estate of Fonte Alla Selva lies in the heart of  Castellina in Chianti just down the road from Villa Cerna and Rocca della Macie. Castello Banfi acquired the sole rights to the property  a few years ago and has signed a 30 year lease to manage the estate.  

The 2013 Fonte Alla Selva Chianti Classico (Castellina in Chianti) doesn’t rise to the heights of its 2012 sibling, but it’s an excellent Sangiovese.   In the glass this predominantly Sangiovese is a deep ruby color with violet highlights.  Freshly crushed berry, dried herbs and tobacco mark the nose.  On the palate the wine is medium bodied with a moderate tannic structure that is appealing for it’s soft, powdery texture.  Cherries, turned earth and terra cotta mark the flavors of this attractive wine.  An estate to watch.  90 points, about $22.



The Villa Cerna estate can trace its roots back to 1000 AD – an astounding thing to think about even as I write the words.  The modern day Villa Cerna has been owned by the Cecchi family since the 1960’s and routinely produces a solid Chianti Classico but an even better Riserva from estate vineyards in Castellina in Chianti.  For this report, we’re looking at a side by side comparison of the 2010 and 2011.  

~ Villa Cerna sits behind the copse of trees.  It’s vineyards sloping down in the foreground ~

The 2010 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva  (Castellina in Chianti)  is a gorgeous wine.  A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino, Andrea Cecchi is very cautious with the wood aging regimen for this wine and it shows as the wine retains amazing purity of flavors.

Deep ruby in the glass, the wine is redolent of crushed berries, tobacco, and flowers.  Hint of dried sopresatta.  On the palate, the wine is so typical of the Castellina terroir.  Mineral notes and dusty tannins back the core of bright, juicy cherry fruit that is laced with anise, tobacco leaf and herbs.  Backed by silky tannins typical of the vintage, this is drinking really well now and has plenty of life left.   Gorgeous.  93 points and a great value around $25.

~ The Villa Cerna Riserva is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino ~

The 2011 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva  (Castellina in Chianti)  is also gorgeous.  Deep violet to ruby in the glass, the nose is warm and inviting with loads of cherry, flowers, eucalyptus and tobacco. Flavors follow the aromas with clean, precise delineations. Very well made and a bit more forward in a playful manner. More evocative now than the slightly more structured 2010. I love this. 93 points.

~ The 2011 is the same blend as the 2010 ~

The next wine in this report is fast becoming one of my favorite Tuscan wines, period.  

The 2011 Monteraponi “Il Campitello” Chianti Classico Riserva(Radda in Chianti)  is simply spectacular.   In the glass the wine is a deep ruby with lovely violet reflections.  The aromas are captivating.  Fresh flowers, spices, crushed wild cherry, tobacco and herb notes fill the room.  I love smelling this almost as much as drinking it.

On the palate, the wine is pristine and pure.  Ripe wild cherry and berry notes fill the mouth with dusty minerals, spice, leather and sweet tobacco notes that are harmonic.  The soil in Il Campitello is galestro,  so the vineyard takes on a marked powdery, shaley mineral note that I love.  Wonderful freshness and balance round this wine out.

Il Campitello is 90% Sangiovese 8% Canaiolo and 2% Colorino.  It’s classic in every sense and will be a staple in my cellar.  It’s not always easy to find, but when you do, I would not hesitate to grab it.  It’s not inexpensive, but it delivers.  95 points, about $45 in the current market.  Bravissimo!

~ Single Vineyard Riserva from Monteraponi ~

The next Riserva in this tasting report opened my eyes. I’ve been reporting on Carpineto for a while now, but holy hell, this wine was utterly captivating.

The 2011 Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva is a delicious blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo.  It’s a deep ruby in the glass with violet hues and is compelling to taste. Intense aromas of crushed cherry, fresh herbs, spice, mocha and leather are gorgeous. Flavors follow with depth and finesse adding cocoa and pipe tobacco. This is really delicious and was great with broccoli rabe and grilled sausages but equally as delicious without the food. Bravo!  93 points.

Just 20 minutes from the center of Florence, among the hills of the Val di Pesa sits Fattoria Le Calvane a wine producing resort destination.  Crafting an array of pretty wines, Le Calvane farms their 600 year old estate in the traditional manner.  For this report, we’re including the 2013 Le Calvane Trecione Riserva.  This ruby red (Colli Fiorentini) is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet and the inclusion of the latter grapes bolsters the wine nicely.  Fermented in stainless steel, the wine is aged in French barrique for 10 months and then in bottle for 10 months prior to release.

Clean flavors of ripe berry, spices, cypress herbs and dust dominate the palate which is medium bodied and nicely packaged. A wonderful every day wine, it paired perfectly with pan seared chicken breast with brown rice and mushrooms. The picture below speaks volumes.

~ The Trecione was also a great match with this Caprese salad.  Everything here was straight from the garden.  ~
The next wine to represent Castello di Ama was the absolutely outstanding 2011 Gran Selezione Vigneto La Casuccia. (Gaiole)  The La Casuccia is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot which adds, to be honest, a dripping sex appeal to this wine.  The deep ruby to purple colored wine is ripe and fresh with loads of red berry, toast, sweet pipe tobacco, and licorice notes on both the nose and palate. Aristocratic and elegant, this coats the palate with smoothly integrated tannins and a long, fruit driven finish.  First tasted with wedge salads with blue cheese and bacon, we finished it with grilled NY Strips and it sang with both.  Stunning, but very costly. 95 points, about $175. 

~ The quality is here in spades, no question, but the price gives me pause ~

The final wine from the trio of Castello di Ama is the complete opposite of the first two in one major way, pricing. First, the similarities.  The wine is a Gran Selezione from a single vineyard. It’s 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot/Canaiolo and it is absolutely lovely.  The 2011 Gran Selezione Vigneto San Lorenzo (Gaiole) is a deep ruby color with medium violet reflections.  The striking aromas are filled with crushed berry, mocha, leather and tobacco that are pronounced. On the palate, the fleshiness from the Merlot is noticeable but the wild berry, spice, caramel/mocha and herb notes are just lovely.  More tannic than expected, this could settle for a year or two in bottle.  I love this and have equally loved the 2010 version.  93 points and a steal under $40. 

~ Clearly the best value of the three Gran Selezione from Castello di Ama ~

After the last few years gaining an increasing familiarity with Andrea Cecchi’s wines,  I shouldn’t be surprised when I find a wine of high quality; but the next wine in this report really opened my eyes. 

The 2013 Cecchi Chianti Classico (Castellina in Chianti) is sourced from fruit grown on the Villa Cerna estate and other family owned vineyards in Castellina.  The last time I was in Tuscany, I tasted the 2013 Sangiovese for this wine from barrel and I was impressed with the vibrancy and freshness then. It has clearly translated in the finished wine.  This deep garnet red wine with purple highlights is 90% Sangiovese and 10% other approved varieties.  The aromas are wonderfully classic with cypress needles, crushed wild berry, sweet tobacco and newly turned earth. Vibrant and fresh on the palate, it’s medium bodied core of fruit is impressive and echoes the nose.  Well balanced. An amazing value that is worth a case purchase.  90 points.  About $12-$14.

~ One of the better 2013s tasted in this report ~

Finally,  we’re closing with another lovely entry from Radda.  The Monte Maggio estate, (larger Mountain) sits on 70 hectares and includes olive groves, woods, the villa and about 9 hectares of vines.  The winemaking process is completed by hand and the estate is fully organic. 

The 2009 Monte Maggio Chianti Classico Riserva (Radda) is delicious.  In the glass, the wine displays high toned floral aromas, ripe crushed cherry and dried herbs.  It’s noticeably fresh given the somewhat warmer vintage.  On the palate, the flavors follow the nose with lovely texture to this Riserva. A nice soft salume note coats the finish.  Harvested from Monte Maggio’s oldest vineyards, this 100% Sangiovese is aged exclusively in grande botti. An impressive effort.  92 points, about $20 Euro. 

~ This is the 2009 Riserva in the glass. Pictured at left is a 2010 Classico which was sadly corked, but will be re-tasted at a later time ~

Closing Thoughts

There was a time not that long ago when a weaker vintage spelled doom for wines from the Chianti region.  It’s clear to me that with the improvements made in the vineyards and cellars over the last 20 years, that’s no longer a major concern. 

The wines above, as a group, are all excellent and span 5 vintages of differing characteristics.  Clearly 2010 and  2011 are the top years to focus on, but there are excellent examples from the weaker years as well.  2013 seems to be the most variable of the group, so keep this report handy as a reference, continue to watch for more reviews at TuscanVines and stick with the best producers.  

Thanks to all the importers and producers that made this report possible.  

Salute!

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