When I first began writing about the 2019 harvest in Tuscany, it was shaping up to be rather challenging. After a cool and mostly wet May, the weather in June turned markedly hotter. As the growing season progressed, despite additional hot stretches, the meticulous vineyard management that Italian winemakers have implemented over the past 10 years paid dividends. The beneficial weather extended into Autumn and grapes were generally harvested across Tuscany in excellent condition.
Chianti Classico was no exception. This article is the first installment in a series of pieces focusing on the current vintages available from producers and in the marketplace. The release times for Chianti Classico (and Riserva) vary greatly so although this initial part is devoted to 2019 Chianti Classico, that will not be the case for subsequent installments.
Riecine is direct in their mission. “We grow wine” is emblazoned on the front page of their website. What was originally part of a nearby monastery until the 20th century, the estate is now owned by Lana Frank. Since 2015 Alessandro Campatelli has been the general manager and winemaker. He employs an interesting technique in the cellar. Once the wines are transferred to stainless tanks, Campatelli runs off 10-20% of the juice. In Italian, this is called a “salasso”. This increases the ratio of must to juice and increases the concentration in the wine.
The 2019 Riecine Chianti Classico, Gaiole is a bright ruby to violet color. Flowers, perfume and crushed cherry notes on the nose are really pretty. Ripe concentrated cherry fruit sits center stage on the palate. Lively, juicy and fresh with tobacco leaf and toasted spices that frame this dynamite Chianti Classico. Very impressed with this. Aged for 14 months in a combination of Tonneaux and grandi botte. 100% Sangiovese. 92 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
The Castello di Bossi estate lies in the southern commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga. I’ve always been impressed by their wines and their consistency and have written about them often. The estate has it’s roots in the year 1099; when the first tower of what is now the Castello was built. Today, the sprawling 650 hectares features accomodations, olives, woods and other crops. Only 125 hectares are devoted to Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot vines.
The 2019 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico, Castelnuovo is a medium ruby with violet highlights. Like Riecine, they are also fully organic. This is a bit shy on the nose at first but increased air and swirling reveals fresh flowers, dried herbs and bright cherry fruit. Medium to full bodied in the mouth with ample cherry, leaf tobacco and dried herb notes. A solid Classico that will drink well over the next 2-4 years. 87 points. Find this wine and Support Tuscan Vines.
In a land as ancient as Tuscany family lineage runs deep. This likely won’t and shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, what is slightly unusual is for properties to be owned continuously by one family. Tenuta di Bibbiano is one such estate.
Founded in 1865, the Marrochesi Marzi family has farmed Bibbiano without interruption and today, brothers Federico and Tomasso helm the estate. The family philosophy is simple. As Federico put it succinctly, “we respect the laws of nature.” As a result, today they are fully organic.
The 2019 Bibbiano Chianti Classico, Castellina is a medium ruby. Dusty cherry dominates the nose with hints of fresh flowers. Bright on the palate with juicy acidity that is mouthwatering. Raspberry, vanilla, and tweaks of oregano and tarragon offer more complexity than you might expect. Picks up plumper fruit with extended air. Delicious with pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage. Also a nice value. Bibbiano is on it. 89 points. 100% Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel and aged in cement vats. Find this wine.
Barone Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy. As a family owned business, it can claim to be the 4th oldest business in the world. Bettino Ricasoli is credited with creating and promoting the original formula for Chianti wine. He proved to be remarkably prescient even as he was refining the formula for what would ultimately become Chianti. His early writings from 1872 provide insight to his thinking. Specifically, even at that nascent moment, he realized the inferior result obtained by including white grapes in the blend. However, his desire for an accessible wine was clearly demonstrated. It would be almost 105 years later that Marchese Antinori would validate Bettino’s early thinking.
” …I verified the results of the early experiments, that is, that the wine receives most of its aroma from the Sangioveto (which is my particular aim) as well as a certain vigour in taste; the Canaiuolo gives it a sweetness which tempers the harshness of the former without taking away any of its aroma, though it has an aroma all of its own; the Malvagia, which could probably be omitted for wines for laying down, tends to dilute the wine made from the first two grapes, but increases the taste and makes the wine lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption…”
The 2019 Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico, Gaiole, is a medium ruby color clear to the rim. Dried herb, Genoa salame, crushed berry and sandalwood aromas mark the expressive nose. Medium bodied with juicy wild berry fruit that is accented with toasted spices. Sapid, with savory mouth watering herbs. Finish could be longer and richer; it’s a bit hollow on the back end. Fermented in stainless & aged in a variety of barrels. 87 points. Find this wine.
Ever since Nicolo Uzzano planted vines around what would become Castello di Uzzano in the 13th century, wine growing has been synonymous with this family. The estate spans approximately 33 hectares from which 4 wines are produced but Chianti Classico and Riserva are the main focus. Traditional methods are employed in the winemaking and today the estate is practicing organic.
The 2019 Castello di Uzzano Chianti Classico, Greve is a bright right violet to purple in color. Blue and purple flowers on the nose are so pretty and lead to clean, precise, crushed berry aromas. Bright and juicy on the palate. Medium bodied cherry fruit is ripe, round and fresh. Soft tannic structure leads to a finish with a tinge of dried herb. This is like Dolcetto meeting Chianti Classico and having a child! It’s a great value at $15. 88 points and picked up some weight with air. Find this wine and Support Tuscan Vines.
Gagliole is special. I’ve written lots about this gorgeous estate with properties in both Castellina and Panzano. To me, that’s a match made in heaven. The vineyards are impeccable and the talents of winemaker Giulio Carmassi are defining the house style.
The 2019 Gagliole Rubiolo Chianti Classico, Castellina/Panzano is a bright ruby red. Fresh cherries appear on the nose with fennel, new suede and toasted spices. Pretty crushed red berry on the palate with cracked black pepper, fennel liquor and hints of baking spices. This is very fresh and vibrant. Duck liver paté brings out loads of fruit. 88 points. 100% Sangiovese. Impressive value at $16 and Gagliole should be commended for holding the line on pricing. Another practicing organic winery. Find this wine.
A Day at Fontodi is like, well….. really nice 🙂 Assuming you can find your way. Courtesy of the British Wench © I finally did, but I recount the hilarity in this narrative.
The 2019 Fontodi Chianti Classico, Panzano is a medium violet color. Crushed berry and cured meat aromas on the nose are enticing. With some air, flowers and clay/earth emerge. Loads of black cherry fruit on the palate are ripe, fresh, sapid and mouth watering. Black pepper spice and trace minerality round out the package. This is so delicious. 90 points. 100% Organic Sangiovese. The price is higher than many Chianti Classico but this punches at a different level too. Still, I cringe every year when this wine is released and I watch it carefully. Find this wine.
The next wine is a bit of a mystery to me. Back in late 2021, I and a few of my Followers had the wine on several occasions at a restaurant in NYC. I thought it was wonderful. In fact, it was the first 2019 Classico I had. When I got the samples for this report I was curious to see how it had evolved. Now, I don’t know if this has shut down a bit, or if there is some variation in the lots. I almost suspect the latter. While this was good, it did not carry the weight or freshness of the first few tastings.
The 2019 Castellare Chianti Classico, Castellina is a bright medium ruby with violet highlights. All about freshness and fruit in the nose. Crushed cherry, floral tones and hints of vanilla mark the aromas. On the palate, slightly tart wild cherry is sapid with rosemary and dried herb notes. However, the body is somewhat lighter than I recall from earlier tastings. Still a solid Classico at a wonderful price. With over 200,000 bottles made, it’s widely available. 86 points. Find this wine.
By Tuscan standards, Istine is relatively young for a winery having only been founded in 1959. Today, the Fronti family still farm their estate which extends over 20 hectares in Radda and Gaiole. From 1959 until 2008. the family sold their wine off in bulk. Then in 2009 they decided to bottle under their own label. Istine was born! Since 2016 they are certified organic.
The 2019 Istine Chianti Classico, Radda is a fully Organic, 100% Sangiovese wine. In the glass, it’s a medium ruby that progresses to sunburst at the rim of the bowl. Dusty minerals, dried herbs, floral perfume and crushed cherry comprise the attractive nose. Medium bodied with fresh wild cherry and berries on the palate that is joined by a hint of spice and a lively, juicy, sweet fruit finish. Really pretty wine. Sourced mostly from Radda and a small amount from Gaiole. Istine is vinified in a combination stainless steel and cement and then aged in concrete and Slavonian oak. 88 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
Podere Poggio Scalette came to be in 1991 when noted wine consultant Vittorio Fiore and his wife Adriana acquired several plots of land in Ruffoli, part of the commune of Greve. The vineyards lie on terraced slopes, called “Il Carbonaione” by the local peasants, and were among the first vineyards planted immediately after World War I.
I love their eponymous Carbonaione Sangiovese. However, the Chianti Classico has never inspired me and the 2019 is no different. I’m not sure what the issue is – maybe it needs aging. But in a vintage when so many wines are charming early, and I don’t generally intend to age Chianti Classico, I’m not sure I get the point.
The 2019 Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico, Greve – is a brilliant ruby with violet highlights. Attractive nose of cured meats, cherries and leather. In the mouth, the wine is very viscous, but oddly without much flavor. It’s a strange sensation. Moderate flavors of cherry, soft oak and spices are nice enough but trail off indiscriminately. Nothing special here. Tasted two bottles with consistent impressions. Maybe it’ll evolve with time but I won’t be eager to see it. 85 points. Find this wine.
That brings Part 1 here to a close. I’ve got 20+ more wines coming from several current vintages on the market including 2016 and 2017 Riserva, 2018 and 2019 Classicos and even a few 2020’s. So stay tuned!