The Mazzei family roots have chiseled their way deep into the Tuscan earth for over 6 centuries. The center of that foundation resides at Castello di Fonterutoli in Castellina in Chianti. Not only a vineyard property, Fonterutoli is an autonomous hamlet unto itself and features a wonderfully restored Borgo. In Italian, a Borgo is a small rural settlement. The ancient Florentine stronghold of Castello di Fonterutoli is a typical example. A cluster of simple but lovingly crafted stone houses, the Borgo was built to provide accommodation for the estate’s farm workers and their families. That’s still true today, except now the Borgo can also be enjoyed by tourists.
The estate produces several iconic wines including a wonderful Gran Selezione and a pure Cabernet devoted to Filippo Mazzei, a personal friend of Thomas Jefferson. While the hamlet covers more than 650 hectares, only 117 are devoted to vineyards organized into five zones ranging between 220 to 550 meters above sea level. The diverse combination of cultivars, woods, and various soil types combine to create a unique terroir.
Fonterutoli, like much of Tuscany, is steeped in ancient history. The area was known to both the Romans and the Etruscans who called it “Fons Rutolae”, meaning “clear spring”; a place to obtain wonderful water laced with nutrient rich limestone deposits. Today, that limestone imparts itself into the estate’s wines.
An icon of the property, Ser Lapo Mazzei was one of the earliest people to record the name “Chianti” in writing. Here, in the year 1398, he mentions in his manuscripts: “On this 16th day of December 1398, 3 floria, 26 soldi and 8 denari shall be given to Piero di Tino di Riccio for 6 barrels of Chianti wine, the aforementioned we pay by written letter from the hand of Ser Lapo Mazzei.” It’s in his honor that today’s subject wine has been created.
The 2013 Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva is a deep garnet color with soft violet reflections. Like it’s 2009 sibling, the 2013 is a blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Merlot (10%). The wine needed about 30 minutes of air to begin to express itself vibrantly. Freshly crushed cherry, bright Tuscan herbs, leather and toasted spice notes mark the nose.
On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively. The medium bodied cherry flavors are accented with warmed dust and baking spices while tobacco leaf simmers in the background. The Merlot does not appear to assert itself in terms of flavor, but I do think it adds a sense of plushness to the texture of the wine. Powdery, dusty, mineral driven tannins provide balanced structure. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine ages for 12 months in barriques (50% new) before release.
In terms of 2013, this is another example of a wine that is beginning to show well from what has thus far been a slightly awkward vintage. 92 points. Always a good value and not difficult to locate given most vintages produce 100,000 bottles. Find this wine
Stay tuned for more coverage of Mazzei and Castello di Fonterutoli as I will be updating my tastings from this iconic family.