Since 1846 Badia a Coltibuono has belonged to the Stucchi Prinetti family. Since that time, six generations have continued its extraordinary legacy. In 1846, Florentine banker Michele Giuntini bought the beautiful property and quickly realized its amazing potential for agriculture.
During the 1930’s the estate was passed to Maria Giuntini, who managed the property until the late 1950’s, when her son, Piero Stucchi Prinetti took charge of the property. He became the first to bottle vintages of the estate’s Chianti Classico Riserva, selling them both on the local Italian and international markets.
Today, Emanuela, Paolo and Roberto Stucchi Prinetti are the owners and guardians of the property. Over the course of tasting a few recent releases from Coltibuono, I briefly sat down with proprietor Ema Stucchi Prinetti to discuss recent developments in Chianti Classico.
I wrote an article recently discussing the Direction of Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico’s apex. This provided a spring board to start my discussion with Ema.
Tuscan Vines: Primo, grazie Ema for your time and attention.
Ema: Grazie a te Giovanni!
TV: It’s been several years now since the Gran Selezione designation has been legal. What does this mean for Badia a Coltibuono and what do you think of the designation?
Ema: It is a very complicated matter, a difficult matter. It’s generally unfair, especially to the smaller producers. In fact, only the larger producers are seeing a benefit from this. For example, the Consorzio took the lead on this issue. They were the ones who created the designation along with producer input. But who sits on the Board of the Consorzio? Producers! And when the Consorzio puts something to a vote for a decision, it isn’t that every producer gets a single vote. Votes are weighted based upon how much you bottle and this includes anyone who bottles Chianti Classico. If you can legally bottle wine with the Gallo Nero on the label, you have voting rights. Therefore, this includes large, anonymous bottlers that produce millions of gallons of wine.
TV: So has there been discussion at Coltibuono about bottling a Gran Selezione?
Ema: Not really. In the beginning yes, but I think we realized very quickly that it would not be a desirable category for us. You have to realize too, that probably 3 or 4 wineries produce over 80% of all Gran Selezione; Ruffino Ducale, Ricasoli-Brolio and Rocca delle Macie. And of course, Sergio Zingarelli (Owner Rocca delle Macie, emphasis TV) was the past President of the Consorzio.
TV: Ahhh, well I guess the Consorzio President must produce what they advocate too.
Ema: Exactly. Which is why Castello di Volpaia decided to produce “Il Puro” as a Gran Selezione – because the owner is on the Consorzio board. It probably sounds more dire than it is, but we will see. Right now Giovanni Manetti is the President of the Consorzio and I have great confidence in him.
TV: Yes, you are not the first person to tell me that so I hope that he can move things forward in a positive way. One thing I know he plans on discussing is the move to further designate zoning among the Chianti Classico Communes. What about that?
Ema: Yes, and this I think is a valuable idea and one that I would promote. For example, a larger bottler can buy grapes from all throughout Chianti Classico and label the wine as such. But it really lacks any sort of personality and who knows what grapes will be in the bottle. With the idea of Commune labeling, the wine in the bottle would have to come from wineries located in and from grapes grown in the Commune. The percentage is being debated but it would likely be around 80% or more from within the Commune. This would give identity to the wines and draw attention to the benefits and styles of the individual Communes. I support this, but again there are issues being discussed. It’s all political.
TV: Like what?
Ema: The Consorzio is discussing letting only wines that bear the Gran Selezione designation be allowed to list a Commune on the label. That would be a shame and would be very unfair.
TV: I agree. That sort of large producer influence can’t really advance the overall prestige of the region. Well, what do you think needs to be done then?
Ema: I think it’s a two step process. First, I think local associations are very important. San Donato in Poggio is one of them. They serve a great purpose because it is the producers banding together within that commune to better promote and explain the character of the commune and its wines.
TV: I know! I was just chatting with Paolo Paffi from Casa Emma about this very topic. So what is the next step then?
Ema: The next step I think is to convince people – both within the Consorzio and outside – that the wines are less valuable without the Commune name on the label. The tipicity of the wines has to be better explained.
TV: Ok, so in your case, your Commune obviously is Gaiole. What makes that Commune special? How does it stand out from the other communes?
Ema: First of all, I think it’s the history. Coltibuono has been around since the 1800s but the Commune is even older than that. There is rich history here. Gaiole is very mountainous too, compared to some other regions in Chianti Classico. The elevation of the vineyards are generally higher which allows for large day/night temperature swings which greatly influences the freshness and aromatics of the wines. Plus, the vineyards here are much less concentrated than in other areas – they are spread out because there are lots of areas where the forestry is large. That protects the vineyards from harsh winter weather but also does a lot to hold water which benefits the soil and ultimately the grapes; especially in hot, dry years which we seem to experience more often now with climate change.
TV: OK, so tell me then, what is new with Coltibuono? I noticed the other day your somewhat new wine “Montebello”. Tell me about that?
Ema: Well, it isn’t exactly new but it’s a very small production so there isn’t much of it around to find. Montebello is one of our flagship wines. It’s only been produced three times. First in 2011, 2013 and now 2015 which is not yet released. It is made of several grapes; all of which are indigenous varieties. In fact, nine historical varieties are included: Mammolo, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello, Colorino, Sanforte, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, Foglia Tonda and Sangiovese. Each varietal is aged separately in barrique before being blended. Plus, like all our wines, it is Certified Organic.
TV: Thank you so much Ema. Now, let’s taste.
Ema: Avanti Giovanni!
2016 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico: I’ve attended a lot of trade tastings and winemaker dinners lately and each time I come across a 2016 I am greatly impressed. This one is no exception. Classic medium ruby in the glass, this Classico represents the name in spades. Bright aromas of fresh flowers, crushed cherry and baking spices are focused and attractive. On the palate, the crushed cherry flavors are fresh and inviting and supported by fresh tobacco and soft mineral notes. Elegant, fresh and lively this is all you could want in an entry level classico. $15-$20, 90 points. Find this wine.
2015 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva: I don’t think there’s anyone that would expect the ball to be dropped in a vintage as fine as this and it certainly wasn’t. From the moment you uncork this gorgeous rosso, it’s nothing but classic aromas and flavors. Modern, fresh, yet with a certain rusticity that is historic. The color is gorgeous as it expands from bright violet at the core to sunburst orange at the rim. On the nose, the taster is greeted with aromas of crushed wild berry, pipe tobacco, new leather and mulch and hints of porcini. The complexity on the palate echoes the nose and is very expressive. Leather, sweet pipe tobacco and crushed cherry are focused and concentrated. More masculine than its 2016 sibling – which is an overall mark of the differences between the two vintages – this lacks nothing in elegance and is balanced so well that it should age gracefully for 15-20 years. $28-$32, 93 points and a very good value. Find this wine.
Thanks to Ema for stopping by and taking the time to chat with us and there will be more coming from this estate in the near future. Salute!