~ New releases borne from the earth at Castello di Fonterutoli ~

Fonterutoli is the crown jewel of the Mazzei family.  Perched along the Strada Provinciale 222, the estate lies just north west of the sleepy town of Vagliagli.  The family have chiseled their roots into the Tuscan earth for over 6 centuries and the center of that foundation is Castello Fonterutoli.

Castello Fonterutoli is not only a vineyard but an autonomous hamlet unto itself. The estate produces several iconic wines including the Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva and the pioneering Siepi.  While the property spans more than 650 hectares, only 117 are devoted to special vineyards that are organized into five zones ranging between 220 and 550 meters above sea level.  The diverse combination of cultivars, woods, and various soil types combine to create a unique terroir that the Mazzei’s extract into their wines.

Mazzei Cellar

~ This is the ceiling of the new wine cellar. The circular looking “light” is actually a skylight to the outside crushing pad. As the grapes are crushed, hoses are attached to this opening and the juice flows via gravity down into the winery ~

Below the Castello lies a state of the art winery. Buried at a depth of 15 meters, the ideal temperature and humidity levels are naturally maintained by 5 water streams that flow through and over the naked rock walls of the cellar.  Passion runs high at Fonterutoli whether its winemaking, caring for guests, cooking in the Osteria or producing lavender and the other products of the estate. Attention to detail is paramount.

Fonterutoli Cellar

~ This is a shot of the exposed rock wall in the wine cellar. You can see the water cascading down the walls and streaming along the ground at the bottom right. This degree of precision in the architectural design was necessary to prevent the cellar from flooding but it also provides natural humidity ~

~ Another shot of the exposed walls through the open cellar “window”. You can see the striations in the rock. It’s difficult to capture the entire experience without the sound of the water trickling down ~

For this feature, I tasted four of the most recent releases from Mazzei.  Three of them come from the somewhat uneven 2018 vintage.  However, as if often the case, excellent producers find ways to make excellent wine in less than optimal vintages.  The guideline “producer over vintage” is important to remember and Mazzei manages it well.  Although the quantity of wine produced was necessarily less in 2018, the quality doesn’t appear to have suffered.

Fonterutoli Cellars

~ The Mazzei’s cellar holds over 3,000 oak barrels of varying sizes ~

As in most vintages, the 2018 Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese with the balance split evenly between Colorino and Malvasia Nera.  Sourced from seven different vineyard parcels across the Fonterutoli holdings, the wine encompasses the Chianti Classico terroir in varied fashion.  Vineyard elevations range from 200 to 570 meters above sea level.

The Chianti Classico is a vibrant ruby color in the glass with highlights of violet and a copper fade at the rim.  On the nose, the aromas provide classic notes of crushed berry, fresh herbs like thyme and oregano, and new tobacco leaf. On the palate the wine is medium bodied with cherry notes dominating the mid palate. Complexity is added by Christmas cake spices and a cured salume note. Very attractive and balanced well with fresh acidity.  Aged in a combination of 225 and 500 liter barrels.  Fun fact: The first vintage was 900!  90 points. Find this wine.

Fonterutoli wine

~ The Fonterutoli Chianti Classico is a reliable, soulful wine produced in a more modern style but faithfully represents the Castellina terroir. ~

Mazzei Cellar

~ Just outside the barrel aging/cave room lies a vast area filled with stainless steel fermentation tanks. In this shot you can see the metal “hose” that mates with the ceiling “windows”. The hose is on a track, so it can slide to various openings and then fill various tanks ~

I’ve written a lot about the ancestry that is Ser Lapo.  Many vintages of this fine wine have graced my table and I’m never disappointed.  While I have personally added the 2016 vintage of this wine to my cellar in large quantity, although the next wine is nice, I’m not sure it deserves the same accolades.

The 2018 Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva is a deep ruby color that fades to amber at the rim.  First produced in 1983, the wine is typically a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot.   On the nose, the wine exhibits fresh notes of crushed raspberry tinged with hints of rosemary and toasted spices.  The flavors on the palate mirror the nose.  However, on the back end a slight sensation of stemminess presents itself.  A mark of the vintage?  Maybe.  But I’d expect the Merlot component to make this a bit more fleshy.  As the wine airs (1 hour+) it plumps up rather nicely. Still, with the 2015 and 2016 resting comfortably in my cellar, I’m not rushing to add this vintage. Interestingly, the production level on the 2018 has increased 31% over the past five vintages.  I wouldn’t expect to see that given the nature of the vintage so I wonder if that’s a factor in the way the wine is presenting itself.  89 points. Find this wine.

~ Ser Lapo is always reliable and ages well towards it’s 10th birthday. However, drink your 2018s on the younger side and allow better vintages to mature in the cellar ~

The next wine is unique and a super Tuscan that few have heard about.  I last tasted this wine at the Estate in June of 2019 so I was very curious to see how it has evolved since then.  First produced in 1981, Concerto is sourced from two separate vineyards sitting at over 1,110 feet sea level.  Today, the vineyards are 25-35 years old.  Production is artisan and small; only 26,000 bottles are produced annually.

The 2016 Mazzei Concerto is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet and is an impenetrable blackish red in the glass.  Like many wines from the vintage, this displays boisterous aromas of blackberry, sweet pipe tobacco and blue flowers.  Intense!  In the mouth, the wine is very tightly wound with a solid core of fruit surrounded by a wall of tannin. Black fruits, eucalyptus, tobacco and graham cracker add some complexity but the sensation right now is drying (not juicy) and shortened by those tannins. One of the brawniest wines from the vintage I’ve had and this hasn’t budged an inch since I tasted it at the Estate.  Vinified in concrete tanks and then 18 months in 70% new French barrique. Bury this in the cellar until it’s at least 10 years old.  93-95 points but I actually think this has upside. Concerto is only produced in the best vintages.   Fun Fact: Same blend as Tignanello but created 2 years later.  Find this wine.

Concerto and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

~ Concerto requires patience. While the 2016 is openly aromatic, it’s still tightly wound at this stage of evolution ~

The next wine is Fonterutoli’s flagship.  It’s unique as it relates to the Tuscan landscape because to my recollection it’s the only premium wine that blends Sangiovese and Merlot in equal parts.  Siepi was first produced in 1992 and is sourced from an area near Castellina that gives the wine its name.  The vineyards are over 30 years old and sit at approximately 300 meters above sea level.

The 2018 Mazzei Siepi is am inky, deep purple in the glass.  We decanted the wine for 60 minutes and the aromas knock your socks off.  Black fruits meld with licorce, lavender, new leather and dried spices.  It is amazing to smell.  On the palate, this is juicy, fresh, full bodied and round. No hard edges here at all as the blue fruit nature of the Merlot is tinged with a Tuscan accent.  Wild berry, leather, tobacco and mint make appearances as this fresh wine extends its finish for minutes.  An epic wine in a trying vintage that is nothing short of monumental.  Makes me crave the 2019 when it’s released.  96 points. Like its sibling Concerto production is limited to only 37,000 bottles.  Find this wine.


~ Siepi is a luxurious, velvety wine that is 50% Merlot and 50% Sangiovese ~

Finally, I’m going to close with a wine that I tasted at the estate in 2019.  Why is it relevant?  Because it was an example of how Fonterutoli’s basic Chianti Classico is capable of aging.

The 2008 Castello Fonterutoli is 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Colorino.   In the glass, the wine has turned a clear, deep ruby that fades gracefully to burnt sienna at the rim of the glass.  Stately and elegant, the wine is fragrant as many 2008s have been. Dried flowers, burnished leather, cherry and tobacco combine on the nose attractively.  On the palate, this is smooth with fully resolved tannins. The core of cherry is still juicy and lively.  Baking spices and limestone minerality run through the fruit like a laser.  It’s amazing how well this wine is holding up. Granted, this bottle has never left the estate but the pristine nature here is admirable. 90 points.

~ The Castello Fonterutoli 2008 has held up very well for 12 years ~

There will likely be a reprise to this article in the coming months featuring the pure Cabernet Philip, an updated note on Siepi and a detailed review of the 2016 and 2019 Ser Lapo.


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