Few estates are as well respected and consistently outstanding as Felsina. It’s an estate I typically recommend without a second’s hesitation when responding to requests for excellent Sangiovese. Simply put, they make some of Tuscany’s best. But perhaps what’s more significant, is that they do at all price points that remain highly affordable. Fontalloro is an excellent case in point.
Organically farmed, Felsina’s wines are produced from estate grown grapes from some of the zone’s oldest vineyards. Today, we’re discussing the newest release of Fontalloro. I’m asked often why this wine isn’t re-labeled as a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. The answer is simple. Despite its excellence across vintages, the vineyard sources for this wine straddle the border between Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senese. As a result, the designation is not permitted. It matters little, since those in the know, know.
The man behind Fontalloro is Franco Bernabei. As an unruly teenage sporting long hair, longer sideburns and a tendency to rebel, he toured the bars of his native Veneto wailing Jimi Hendrix inspired guitar riffs with a band called The Icemen. That wandering trail blazing nature would eventually lead Bernabei to Tuscany. As the chain smoking, blazer wearing winemaker says: “Tuscany offered immense possibilities for an adventurous young winemaker and fertile terrain for testing new concepts.” Terrain figures high in Bernabei’s winemaking philospohy. “If I don’t find the right terrain,” he says, “I can’t embrace a cause.”
The terrain around Felsina is impressive for sure. Comprised of 100% Sangiovese, Fontalloro is vinified in stainless steel tanks and then aged in a combination of new and used French Barrique for 18-22 months depending upon the vintage. After bottling, the wine is held up to an additional year prior to release.
The 2016 Felsina Fontalloro lives up to its reputation and to the hype. Tasted from a 375ml this is a deep crimson color with a sunburst ring around the edge of the bowl reminiscent of a fine Brunello. The aromas blossom with little effort on the part of the taster. Roses, lavender, crushed cherry and cured meat complete the package. Tight at first on the palate, with air this became less reticent – although the backdrop of the aged gouda may have helped. Full bodied, the crushed red fruits present elegantly on a soft chestnut/wood frame. Cypress and other dried herbs are attractive and the cured meat notes appear on the finish as well. Throughout all, this remains bright and fresh. The future here is compelling. 94 points. Find this wine.
Later this month, I’ll be tasting this wine with a group wine afficionados from a large format bottle that I will decant well in advance. I’ll revisit this article after that data point.