~ Beauties in the tasting room at Azienda Fontodi ~

1997 was an interesting vintage in many aspects. Even though it was separated from the legendary 1990 by a mere 7 years, as the wines were still being bottled I remember all the talk about it being the “modern vintage of the century”. That talk always stirs the grains of salt that reside in my soul because it seems to me vintages of the century occur 101 times for every 100 years!

I know, I know…too much the curmudgeon am I.

That said, 1997 was the birth year of my oldest son and it was a ripe, forward, warm year that produced wines with generally good structure even though it may have been slightly too warm in some areas. As some of the early Super Tuscans were being released, I recall tasting wines that were “hot” with alcohol and others that were so charming upon release, but seemingly devoid of the acidic structure needed for long aging. Nevertheless, I was a determined buyer and as I searched for wines from that vintage, I knew I’d be saving some for when boy #1 turned 21 years old and I just hoped they’d still be interesting wines. That day has come and I’m pleased to say that by and large the 1997s I’ve enjoyed recently have been exciting and most have life left to give.

~ The view from Fontodi evokes every aspect of Tuscany ~

The 1997 Fontodi Flaccianello, simply put, is a superlative wine. It leaves very little doubt as to the excellence of Sangiovese and the territory around Panzano. It screams Tuscany! The wine is a deep ruby red in the glass and there are still some violet reflections that slowly fade to brick at the edge of the bowl.

We decanted the wine for almost an hour and removed a substantial coffee grind like sediment. Do take note and plan accordingly. On the nose, the aromas of the wine are spellbinding. Loads of crushed wild cherry, worn leather, fennel seed, espresso coffee, cypress needle and warmed Tuscan earth are wonderfully and intricately intertwined. Intense, bottle sweet flavors echo the aromas and are amazingly fresh in this 21 year old Sangiovese. Plump and juicy wild red fruits dominate the mid-palate and add porcini, cured meats, roasted coffee and sweet fennel notes that echo for minutes on the finish. Wonderfully balanced, though the tannins have mostly melted away. Smooth and silky from fore to aft. Simply a monumental effort.

As good as this is, I do believe it’s entering that slow glide down the back side on the hill of maturity. Drink now. 97 points. About $70 upon release. Current vintages are about $110 and yes, I believe this wine is worth it.  Find this wine.

~ The label has remained largely unchanged over the years, but you can see where the proprietor name does not yet reflect the current, Giovanni Manetti ~

Salute!   Set aside some of the 2015 when it’s released and then re-visit it in 2035.  I certainly hope to!

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