About half way between Castellina in Chianti to the north and Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south, sits the tiny commune of Gaiole. Rich with history, Gaiole was a fierce adversary of Siena during medieval times and this is illustrated by the many formidable castles present in the area. Gaiole is home to Badia a Coltibuono, Castello di Brolio and the subject of today’s article, Riecine.
The tiny Riecine farm was originally owned by a nearby monastery until the 20th century; in fact the church archives from 1112 A.D. provide the earliest known record of the wine farm called Riecine.
The founder of contemporary Riecine was John Dunkley, an Englishman who became one of the most admired producers of the new style Chianti Classico, based solely on Sangiovese. With his Italian wife Palmina Abbagnano, John acquired the original 1.5 hectares of land in 1971 from the nearby monastery of Badia a Coltibuono. They restored the old stone villa on the land and began reviving and replanting the vineyards.
Dunkley was respected as one of Chianti’s most astute interpreters. He always maintained that Cabernet varieties permitted under DOCG rules for Chianti Classico had no place in the vineyards of Riecine. As he once put it: “When Baron Philippe de Rothschild plants Sangiovese, then I’ll switch to Cabernet Sauvignon.” Dunkley enlisted the assistance of Carlo Ferrini to craft his wines. His tenure at Riecine spanned almost 2 decades, culminating with Ferrini’s departure in 1997.
Since 2011, the estate has been owned by the Frank family who, led by Lana and Alessandro, continue the vision set forth by Dunkley.
In 2012, the new owners started major construction work to upgrade the original cantina which was built in 1998. The new, contemporary design is perfectly combined with the use of traditional materials like stone and terracotta. This expansion has enabled Riecine to increase production as well as further improve the quality of their winemaking processes.
With the new construction, 750 square meters have been added to their facilities. With the additional space they now have all activities under one roof – with an expanded space for aging wine and new bottling, labeling, laboratory and office spaces.
The 2016 Riecine Chianti Classico is 100% Sangiovese from vines that are at least 25 years old. The wine is elevated in cement tanks, and then barrel aged in tonneaux and large botte. Organically produced, the wine is a medium ruby. Aromas are expressive on the palate with crushed stones, crushed red fruit and fresh herbs. On the palate, the wine has lovely sapidity. It really brings out the hallmark of Sangiovese’s purity. Crushed cherry fruit is of the wild, tart, sour cherry nature. Mouthwatering with green tobacco leaf and hints of powdered spice. Medium body with balanced acidity, this is attractive but to me falls short of an excellent Classico. Plus, at the average price point, there are better values and much better wines. 87 points. About $26.