The Chianti Classico Consorzio has turned 100!  To celebrate this amazing accomplishment, the Consorzio assembled about 50 producers in Manhattan for a Grand Tasting.  As always, Tuscan Vines was on the scene.

The event was relatively short for a walk around tasting.  As a result, I attempted to focus on producers I know my readers are interested in.  However, I also tasted a few lesser known estates because that’s how discoveries are made!  Wineries with the producers present also were favored.  As the pours were (mostly) very small,  I’ve provided only a score range with the notes below.

But before we get to it,  I’d like to use my bully pulpit to address something.  This, far and away, is the best format for a tasting.  While there are always idiots and drunks that get in the way,  it’s worth it to engage with the producers and see the wines before you taste.

This event blew away the recent disaster that was Benvenuto Brunello.  It was put together by the same PR firm but in this case, the venue was better, the format was better, the stems were adequate, the food was better and the organization was better.  Consorzio Brunello, are you watching?

Assaggio di Chianti Classico

My first stop was at an iconic producer.  When I saw Roberto Stucchi Prinetti pouring, I made a beeline.  No one else was there.  We chatted for about 20 minutes.  When I introduced myself, he said oh yes, we’ve met before and Emma speaks highly of you! (blushed)  We discussed the wines but unfortunately he dropped some bad news.  Last week they were hit with a huge thunderstorm with hail.  Coltibuono has lost 45% of their production for 2024.  Roberto told me that the vines were completely stripped bare of leaves.  Such a shame. Especially at this early stage of the season.  He said 2019 was the last “normal” year when they had regular weather and a full size crop.

Badia a Coltibuono   (Certified Organic)

2021 Chianti Classico – This was the first taste of what was to become a theme for the day.  Bright ruby in the glass with a slight, classic fading at the rim. This is a blend of predominantly Sangiovese (95%) with the balance to Canaiolo and Colorino.  Interestingly, the grapes are sourced from Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga.  Incredibly fragrant, with cherry, spice and floral tones that follow through on the palate. Fresh, ripe, juicy and lively with an excellent array of flavors and mouth watering acidity. Fennel and mocha powder on the finish. Delicious.  91-93 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Riserva –  The Riserva is essentially the same blend as the Chianti Classico.  The grapes for this wine are sourced only from Gaiole.  Deep ruby in the glass with a copper rim at the edge of the bowl, this too is very aromatic.  Dark berries, vanilla, baking spices and tobacco aromas really wonderful.  A bit more linear on the palate than the Annata (no CB fruit?) but that doesn’t slow this down at all.  This is juicy, fresh and lively as well.  A wonderful Riserva that is a must in the vintage. 93-95 points.

2018 Chianti Classico Riserva “Cultus” –  This Riserva is crafted in the same manner as the grey label wine except that the sourcing here is again, both from Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga.  A small portion of this wine is also aged in barrique.  This wine is just gorgeous. Classic color, with lots of berry and cherry character that is accented by powdery mineral and toasted spice notes.  Long, juicy and fresh, this shares the vintage character that has led so many 18 Brunello to charm and Roberto agreed.  He said, ” after 2017, everyone was focused on 2019, but the 2018 vintage is gorgeous right now.”  94-96 points.

Chianti Classico

~ This was an amazing lineup of wines. Each different, each excellent. That is the Chianti Classico Riserva in the glass at left ~

Famiglia Cecchi  (Villa Rosa Organic)

I loitered a long while here too as Andrea Cecchi and his daughter were manning the table. At this point, I think you’d have to be some sort of freak not to support this winery.  The wines are good to excellent and the family couldn’t be nicer.  Need more than that?  How about affordability?  One of their wines may not be your style, but you know it will be well made.  To wit, the first two tastings really bore that out.

2020 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva –  This has always been a favorite of mine, but it does require some patience.  Classically made, this is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino in the blend.  I find this wine to be austere and tight, even with decanting, until around the 5th year of its release.  The Villa Cerna wines are more elegant, more graceful and more feminine than the wines from Villa Rosa.  This is no different.  With dried herbs, lots of savory cherry fruit, hints of cedar and tobacco on the nose and palate, this is complex and mouthwatering.  It’s hard to beat for the value.  Plus, I’ve had aged versions many years old that were still enticingly fresh.  92-94 points.

2019 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione –  This has it all.  In contrast to the Villa Cerna, the wines from Villa Rosa are masculine, more full bodied and slightly richer.  Bear in mind, this is an amazing contrast as both wines are from Castellina and hail from estates that are only about 1o kilometers apart.  This is deeper red with bright floral, dark cherry and pipe tobacco notes on the nose and palate.  It is juicy, forward and unctuously delicious already.  But this will only get better up to its 10th birthday.  100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard.   When this is released, find it.  96-98 points.

Next up, was an unbelievable beauty.  To be clear,  what was poured below was a simple Chianti Classico. It’s been stored in cask since release and for this tasting was bottled and shipped to the US about 4 weeks before the event.  1981 was a good, but not great, vintage.   The wine contained white grapes under the old blending laws and it had been opened for a bit more than an hour when I tried it.  The color is uninspiring, but don’t let that fool you.

1981 Cecchi Chianti Classico –  This is a distinct balsamic color in the glass with a Fernet Branca colored rim at the edge of the bowl.  On the nose, there is red and orange fruits,  balsamic, cedar and dried tobacco.  In the mouth, this is incredibly fresh. Juicy, with still a persistent acidity.  Any tannins there have long melted away.  The flavors follow the aromas and although I don’t think I would enjoy a bottle of this with a meal,  as an interesting first glass with 4 or so friends, it would be a great start.  85-87 points.

Chianti Classico

~ This Annata wine from 1981 was incredibly fresh ~

Monteraponi    (Certified Organic)

Next, I went to see friends that I have not been able to connect with in almost 10 years!  Since that time, they’ve gotten married, created a new vineyard and wine, become parents to a brood of English Pointers (9 of them) and created a new Radda Gran Selezione.

Chianti Classico

~ Winemaker Michele Braganti discussing his new Gran Selezione while Alessandra looks on. It was great to see them again and I loitered a while there too – twice in fact! ~

When the Gran Selezione discipline was first created, Michele Braganti was not thrilled.  For a small producer like himself, he lacked cellar space and the economic means to delay shipping for 6 months to a year.  He was already bottling two excellent Riservas and felt that should be the pinnacle of Chianti Classico, unless there was a way to differentiate the wines.  When the UGA laws became effective, he warmed to the idea because he was thrilled to put “Radda” on the label.

To support the Gran Selezione,  Monteraponi planted a new vineyard – at very high altitude across the hill from the famed Baron Ugo vineyard.  The parcel was planted in 2015 and the 2019 GS, was the first produced.

2022 Chianti Classico –   Some wineries craft a Chianti Classico with little effort or thought.  Not Braganti.  He insists that it be of high quality and reflect Radda.  He succeeds.  Years ago, I interviewed Michele and he told me the following:

“Giovannni, my focus is to keep tradition and respect the area and the grapes in order to show their real potential. Chianti Classico cannot be Classico anymore if you blend it with international grapes.”  

The 2022 is juicy, lively and fresh with mouthwatering acidity.  It boasts flavors and aromas of crushed berry, wild flowers and hints of pipe tobacco. It has that high toned aromatic freshness that I love.  I told Michele, for me,  Radda has two producers at the top – Monteraponi and Istine.   87-89 points

2020 Chianti Classico Riserva Il Campitello –  This is still among my favorite Riserva produced. From a single vineyard that is now over 50 years old, the vines produce intensely flavored grapes with an amazing possession of their terroir.   In the glass, this is bright medium ruby with loads of flowers, anise and crushed wild cherry fruit.  On the palate, this is elegant and graceful with lots of wild berry fruit that is juicy and mouthwatering.  Campitello always has a powdery trace minerality  and that is all over this wine.  It makes the tannins elegant and manageable.  Long finish.  Will benefit from some aging up to its 1oth birthday.  Lovely.  95-97 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bragantino –  This is the inaugural release of this wine.  The name is a nod to the nickname Michele bore as a kid.  The label is simply a local painter’s rendition of a jovial man.  You can tell this is a baby.  Frankly, it’s only recently been bottled.  Nevertheless, this is such an elegant, high toned expression of Sangiovese.  Ripe berries, fresh flowers and tobacco mark the nose. On the palate, this was juicy and well rounded with minerality and earth notes.  It has a long way to go to show its best but I think this vineyard has the potential to be exceptional.  94-96 points.

Chianti Classico

~ The tasting lineup for Monteraponi. Bragantino is the new Gran Selezione ~

The next winery needs no introduction – especially with Giovanni Manetti there.

Fontodi  (Certified Organic)

There’s been so much talk about this winery related to their pricing here in the US.  It’s hard to detach oneself from that but despite the reality,  the wines are the pinnacle of quality.  Still, of the 4 main red wines Fontodi produces, three of them are over $110.   Giovanni Manetti was on hand and darting from the Fontodi table to wherever he was needed.

2021 Chianti Classico –  Bright ruby red with violet highlights.  That’s the Classico in the glass pictured below.  Like many other 2021s, this was gorgeous.  Fresh floral notes mingle with aromas of crushed wild berry, new leather and pipe tobacco. Complex and intriguing the flavors marry the nose.  Fresh, juicy and delicious with nicely integrated tannins.  I’m all in on this one.  It can still be found for about $31 give or take.  I’ll buy all I can while I can afford it.  93-96 points.

The next two wines, both from 2020, both Gran Selezione and both 100% Sangiovese were very interesting but not at all similar.

2020 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo –   This is sourced from a single vineyard whose vines are now approaching 60 years of age.  On the nose, there is brooding black cherry fruit with smoke and ash.  On the palate, the wine is large scaled and very masculine. Full bodied with black cherry flavors, dusty ash and a hint of fennel on the finish.  The soils here are mainly clay and the vines struggle to produce.  This is a massive beast that will likely need a decade to round out.  94-96 points.

2020 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Terrazze San Leonino –  To say this is feminine would be incorrect.  It surely is not.  But it is so much more approachable than its sibling.  This is not a single vineyard but there is less produced than Vigna del Sorbo.  The soil here contains a lot of limestone and its evident in the wine.  Fragrant, with flowers and red fruit back by a shaley component. On the palate, much more giving.  Wild berry marked with tobacco and lots of powdery minerality.  If I had to choose a wine now and over the next 5 years, this is the one to drink.  95-97 points.

Chianti Classico

~ Fontodi has become a winery with a sort of love/hate relationship for many people ~

Lamole di Lamole (Certified Organic)

The first thing people ask me is,  why Lamole di Lamole?  Why not just Lamole?   It’s pretty simple actually.  Lamole di Lamole is the original producer on the hill of Lamole.  As more producers arrived, they wanted to keep Lamole in their name and so, the current version.  They are a fixure on the Rustic Tuscany Tour for their unique expressions of Chianti.

2021 Chianti Classico –  Another 2021, another excellent effort.  Winemaker Andrea Daldin is on to something here.  This is deep ruby in the glass that is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot.  That may turn off purists, but for me, it provides just a hint of roundness that is enticing.  Perfumed, lots of flowers, tobacco leaf and bright red fruits on the nose and palate.  The palate echoes the nose.  Beautiful, with racy acidity and bright freshness.  Put this one on the list.  91-93 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Riserva Lareale  – One thing I don’t like about the trend in Chianti Classico is the apparent abandoning of Riserva at the behest of Gran Selezione.  This isn’t the case everywhere, but I can think of enough examples where that’s happened.  Lareale is beautiful wine in 2019.  This 100% Sangiovese is brightly perfumed with violets, wild berries and fresh fennel. Flavors echo the nose. Long, juicy finish has medium weight tannins. Drink now and over the next 5-8 years.  92-95 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Campolungo –  Of the two Gran Selezione, this is the more masculine version.  The contrast reminds me of the two Fontodi examples.  Black cherry flavors with toasted spices and dried tobacco dominate the nose.  On the palate, it’s all fruit and a lot of tannin at the moment.  We tasted the 2018s during the Tour last Fall.  I am eager to see the 2019s which will be paired with our lunch at Dario’s.  There’s nothing not to like here – it just depends upon your style.  93-95 points.

Perhaps an unknown benefit is Lamole’s acquisition by Santa Margarita. The plan is to leave the winemaking team in place and that seems to be bearing fruit. But with greater investment and better US distribution, we should all win as the wines remain values.

Chianti Classico

~ This was a wonderful line of wines. And perhaps their best Gran Selezione wasn’t present ~

I have been impressed with the wines of Il Molino di Grace since I first discovered them at the NYC Public Library.  Yes, you read that right.  Back then,  Tim Grace told me he wanted his wines to always remain affordable.  To him, that meant under $100 on restaurant wine lists.  That was almost 10 years ago, and he’s remained true to his word.  At this tasting I had the pleasure of meeting his brother Dan who echoed his brother’s desire.   I will be visiting them this July and expect to add them to a future itinerary for the Rustic Tuscany Tour.

Il Molino di Grace  (Certified Organic)

Panzano’s best kept secret.   I told Daniel how much I enjoyed his wines and asked them why they are so intermittently found.  He said they have just changed importers so that is one thing they are working on. Hopefully, it means “more for us”.   This winery is the value Fontodi used to be.

2021 Chianti Classico  –  Pretty medium ruby throughout.  This 100% Sangiovese is vinified in stainless steel and then is elevated in Slavonian cask, barrique and tonneaux.  As a result, the balance here is wonderful. Bright red berries throughout on a frame of sandalwood and toasted spice. Hints of fresh herbs and wonderful acidity. A lovely wine.  90-92 points.

2020 Chianti Classico Riserva –  Beautiful, elegant structure in this 100% Sangiovese Riserva.  The aging regimen is the same as the Annata in terms of the wood application.  Vibrant berry, wild herbs and flowers on the nose lead to a round, warm palate of crushed cherry, coffee grind and citrus inspired salinity.  This is gorgeous.  Drinks so well now.  92-95 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone –  100% Sangiovese and for wood aging, sees no cask.  I’ve had this wine in many vintages – Daniel laughed when I told him in Kalamazoo of all places – and it has not only impressed its exceeded the bar.  This is no difference.  This is juicy, lively and fresh with wonderful red cherry and fresh herb notes backed by toasted spices and fennel.  A long life here despite the integrated tannins. Impeccable balance.  95-97 points.

And the final treat….

1999 Chianti Classico Riserva (from Magnum) –   1999 was an excellent vintage although a fairly warm one. I thought this might show that, but no!  Fresh as a daisy.  Ripe black cherry with coffee grind, cake spices and slight balsamic notes on the nose.  Still very juicy on the palate with dark cherry, cocoa, tobacco and leather giving complexity.  Really pretty.  91-94 points.

~ This may be one of Panzano’s best kept secrets ~

One final note here – don’t forget who the winemaker is…… Franco Bernabei.


Ever since the 2016 Bibbiano Gran Selezione landed in my hands, I realized that a renaissance was under way at Bibbiano.  Every time since, when I have had one of their wines, it has been excellent. They are under the radar and the wines are very affordable.

2022 Chianti Classico – Bright ruby in the glass with snappy cherry and berry flavors and aromas.  Hints of spice on the palate back the fruit. This is straightforward but is juicy and fresh.  Not quite at the level of some 2021s I tasted but very nice.  85-87 points.

2020 Chianti Classico Riserva –  100% Sangiovese produced in stainless and cement and then finished in French oak casks.  This is bright ruby with no fade at the rim.  Classic aromas of black cherry, toasted spice, flowers and fennel are complex. On the palate, the cherry is vibrant and savory with herbs and tobacco mixed in.  A wonderful effort and a gem from Castellina.  89-91 points.

2020 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Viga del Capannino –  This is one of two Gran Seleziones produced from a single vineyard.  100% Sangiovese.  This vineyard is 7 hectares and has southerly exposure overlooking the tiny hamlet of Monteriggioni.  The soil here is an interesting mix of blue clay and limestone so you get powdery tannins over a masculine structure.  Deep ruby in color the wine has restrained aromas of black plum and cherry with hints of vanilla.  In the mouth it’s already succulent and juicy.  The core of fruit is largely framed and laced with minerality.  Give this time to round out.  91-94 points.

This trio of wines is not yet released.  In fact, at Gary’s we just only received the 2019 Gran Selezione.

~ Another great overall lineup ~

Finally, an interesting tidbit in the name of education only.  I would not want to drink a full glass of the below with anything.  It was very tired and balsamic driven.  However, oddly on the nose and palate it was a mint bomb!  An absolute bomb.  Kinda crazy.  Montornello is now the other Gran Selezione in the Bibbiano stable so as I say, it was intriguing to taste.

~ Montornello is the name of the other Bibbiano Gran Selezione ~

Another fixture on the Rustic Tuscany Tour is Castello di Monsanto with its glorious castle, cellar, caves and wines.  Laura Bianchi was on hand to pour and discuss the wines.

2020 Chianti Classico Riserva –  Bright medium ruby this is a Riserva that to me, has always presented itself as a solid Classico.  The 2020 is no different.  It is reliable and delicious.  Flavors and aromas of crushed cherry, toasted spices and dried herbs mark the nose and palate.  It’s never too tannic, so it’s drinkable upon release.  88-90 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Il Poggio –  This is an icon of Gran Selezione.  The caves under the Castello are chock full of vintages back to 1966.  I’m sure they’re fresh and drinkable. This vineyard produces age worthy wine, but it also shows well young because of its balance and 2019 is no exception.  Dark ruby with aromas that leap from the small glass.  Violets, cherries, warm stones and toasted spices are wonderful.   Large scale on the palate with dusty red fruits, fresh tobacco and juicy mouthwatering texture. A monumental wine.  98-100 points.

~ These are two of the most consistent wines you’ll find from Chianti Classico ~

~ Winemaker Antonio Zaccheo was on hand to pour his wines. Under his oversight, Antonio makes excellent, affordable wines across Tuscany’s most notable appellations ~


Antonio Zaccheo might be one of the most underrated winemakers in Tuscany.  He shepherds estates in Chianti Classico, Brunello and Vino Nobile.  Like other wineries mentioned above, the wines are always good values.  In fact, I spent quite a bit of time speaking with Antonio.  When I mentioned how fairly priced his wines were he told me:  “I think today Tuscany has gotten too flashy, too trendy.  People are raising prices for no reason at all. I don’t like that.   I don’t think like that.  Maybe I make less money, but it’s the way I want to work.”   Bravissimo!

2021 Chianti Classico – Another vintage winner.  Berries, spices, flowers on the nose with similar flavors on the palate. Fresh, juicy mouthwatering. Exactly what you need in a good Classico.  86-88 points.

2019 Chianti Classico Riserva –   The value here is off the charts.  This medium to full bodied Riserva is juicy and fresh with lots of black cherry, fresh herb and tobacco flavors and aromas.  Lively, with integrated tannins.  This has years of life ahead and should be less than $25.  90-93 points.

The two library wines from Carpineto were among the freshest at the event.

1995 Chianti Classico Riserva –  Deep ruby with a fade to Siena at the rim of the glass. Ripe cherry fruit on the palate is framed by coffee grind, lively balsamic notes and mushroom.  The texture is juicy and fresh. Hard to believe the age on this.  Imagine having a case you bought for about $15?  92-95 points.

1985 Chianti Classico –  Wow!  This is a Classico, with white grapes included in the blend.  It has the stuffing of a Riserva. It has the freshness of at least the 1995 if not younger.  I asked Antonio, where did you get this?  He laughed and said,  “From my Cellar!”    Bright cherry flavors and aromas are backed by Christmas Cake spices, roasted nuts and orange blossom.  Medium bodied and mouthwateringly fresh. Unbelievably good.  89-92 points.

Chianti Classico

~ It was obviously clear from the 1995 and the 1985 that Carpineto’s wines can withstand aging ~

Finally, it was a return to Radda before the end of the event.

Istine  (Certified Organic)

I must admit,  my focus by the time I returned to Istine was a bit off.  And then, when I met the trade rep pouring the wines, someone I had conversed with via email for ages but never met, my train of thought left the station with me on the platform.  At any rate, I did scribble a few impressions, but not putting even a score range here.

2022 Chianti Classico –  Solid, with a medium body and a good persistence. Red fruits and spices but overall, left me wanting a bit more. 2021 vs. 2022?  It’s 2021 in my book.

2020 Chianti Classico Riserva –  This is a single vineyard Riserva that is juicy, crunchy, fresh and delicious.  Sapid herb notes join the berry fruit.  Medium to full body.  Very tasty.  Price??  It’s creeping up.

2021 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Casanova dell’Aia –  This was formerly a Chianti Classico. It has been elevated as of 2021 and is not yet released.  This is going to be a monumental wow wine that people will be drinking 10 years from and still going wow!  Dark cherry, crushed minerals, pipe tobacco and toasted spices are amazing. Utterly amazing.  The price for the Chianti Classico was $54.  If that stays consistent it’s a massive win.  But I have my doubts.   97-100 points.

~ Along with Monteraponi, my two favorite producers in Radda ~

Final Parting Thoughts

At the top of the article, I mentioned the short comings of seated tastings like Benvenuto Brunello; versus an event such as this which features several producers in attendance.  A seated tasting with waiters cannot replicate the passion and information that producers or even importers can provide.

But that’s not all. As I made my way around the room tasting and chatting,  I couldn’t keep from thinking that Brunello producers better be paying close attention.

Chianti Classico producers are on a trajectory that leads to a very high apex.  They are energetic.  They are passionate and they are not resting on their laurels.  They’re sharing knowledge.  They often share consultants. And while Gran Selezione may carry the banner to the future, more and more producers are impressing with their entire lineup.  Giovanni Manetti clearly deserves a lot of credit for this.

Over the years, Brunello has expanded exponentially. And not always for the better.  There are plenty of mediocre Brunello and I warn readers off many wines – especially those from generic bottlers and especially in light of recent price increases.  In contrast, Chianti Classico has several things going for it that Brunello can’t replicate.  Chianti is further North and is generally at a higher altitude.

With the release of the 2019 Brunello, there are many amazing wines.  I’ve been tasting many as I prepare my Annual Coverage.  Yet for the first time, I’m seeing wines with 15% abv. as the norm. The majority of the wines are still fresh and producers have managed the rising alcohol levels well.  But some are overripe and overdone.  I don’t sense that trend at all in Chianti Classico.

The other threat to Brunello is cannibalizing your own.  With each new vintage, there are more and more single vineyard wines being created. There are more Cru wines being released. Is this because these wines are distinctive?  Or is it because, as Antonio Zaccheo surmised, they are simply being trendy?  If the Cru’s or single vineyards water down the quality of the Estate Brunello, who does that serve in the long run?  And these wines are no bargain.  Most, if not all, sit somewhere between $60-$100 – just shy of the Riserva entrance fee.  They are not all worth the higher price.  But it isn’t so much the price of Cru wines that concerns. They say a rising tide lifts all boats.  But in this case, that’s not a good thing.  The local shops I frequent have many 2019 Estate Brunello selling for $75-$90.  Ciacci, Argiano, Gianni Brunelli, Uccelliera and Le Chiuse are a few right off the top of my head.

Finally,  since I mentioned price,  I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention value as it relates to Chianti Classico vs. Rosso di Montalcino.  In my mind, the latter has been surpassed and is choking on the dust of Chianti’s galestro.   So be warned Brunello.  It’s 2021 Chianti Classico that will sit in my cellar.

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.



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