Whenever a vintage that’s as successful across the board as 2015 comes along, there’s always a natural let down toward the vintage that follows. 2016 is no exception.
I have been writing about 2016 since last Autumn and trumpeting the pure, aromatic and refined wines that mark this vintage. Most recently, it was Tignanello that impressed. Yet the high quality of 2016 isn’t relegated to only the premium wines. In this Tasting Report, we’re spotlighting several 2016s from Chianti that are vibrant, fresh and affordable. Keep them on your radar.
Founded in 1977, the Castellare estate is relatively young. However, the estate is fortunate enough to hold some of the highest vineyard parcels in all of Chianti Classico some of which are situated at 1,200 feet above sea level.
The 2016 Castellare Chianti Classico is pure magic. In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby color with a darker core, but some copper lightening at the rim of the bowl. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo and is wildly aromatic. Pure, precise aromas of rosemary, fresh flowers, crushed cherry, soft spice and tobacco notes leap from the glass. One barely needs to swirl the wine to evoke the complexity of the aromas. On the palate, this wine is equally impressive. Medium bodied, with flavors of wild cherry, fennel, Tuscan underbrush, fresh herbs and soft wood notes, this is well balanced, fresh and lively. Although the wine spends 14 months in French tonneaux and barrique, the focus on the palate is pureness and liveliness. A remarkable effort and perhaps the best Chianti Classico from Castellare that I’ve ever tasted. A steal of a buy around $16. 90 points. Find this wine.
“Touching the land, admiring the beauty of a vineyard, experiencing the harvest, recognizing the scent of a grape, tasting its typicality… We want to invite a unique experience from our land.”
The Rocca di Castagnoli farm covers about 850 hectares with elevation profiles ranging from 860 meters to 380 meters. There are 92 hectares of vines, predominantly Sangiovese, while the balance is devoted to Cabernet, Merlot and other native varietals.
The 2016 Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico is a deep ruby color. The vibrancy of the color extends into the aromas of the wine. Fresh, high toned floral notes are pronounced with sage and cypress notes also backing the core of cherry aromas. On the palate, the wine is fresh and approachable. Medium bodied, it’s lithe and juicy. A solid core of cherry flavors is pleasing though not overly complex. This is about freshness and simplicity but that’s not to suggest a negative connotation. This is an every day wine. It’s meant to be an easy foil for many foods and it’s meant to be consumed in quantity. With over 350,000 bottles produced it should be easy to find. Nice value. 87 points. About $15 at most. Find this wine.
While most of the wines in this article hail from Chianti Classico, it would be a mistake to think the wonderful nature of the 2016 vintage was monopolized by that DOCG.
From Tragedy comes Honor
In the 2016 attack in Nice, our friends at Campochiarenti lost a family member named Nicola. In homage to that kind and outgoing soul, winemaker Daniele Rosti has named his Chianti Colli Senesi in Nicola’s honor. It seems only fitting that his 2016 may be the best Chianti he’s ever made.
The 2016 Campochiarenti Chianti Colli Senesi “San Nicola” is absolutely gorgeous. A deep violet to purple color, this predominantly Sangiovese wine is complimented with small percentages of Canaiolo and Colorino. Effusive aromas of blue flowers, crushed cherry, roasted hazelnut, sweet pipe tobacco and Tuscan scrub are absolutely amazing. On the palate, the wine is medium to full bodied with a bright, fresh and juicy core of red fruits that are tinged with brown tobacco, warmed earth and a dusty, powdery minerality that is divine. This is a case purchase and a tremendous value. 93 points. Available directly from the winery.
In early 2015, the Cecchi family completed their acquisition of the Villa Rosa estate in Castellina in Chianti. Although the Cecchi’s already own substantial vineyard holdings in Castellina in Chianti, owner Andrea Cecchi told me that the family was looking for vineyards within the Castellina commune that possessed different terroir from their Villa Cerna estate. The property had been owned by the Bandini family since the 1960s. Immediately the Cecchi’s set about revintalizing the vineyards and have already identified specific plots that will be isolated for certain wines. Ribaldoni is one such vineyard.
The 2016 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico Ribaldoni is a special wine. Deep violet in the glass, the aromas are very expressive upon opening and feature crushed berry, green leaf tobacco, dried flowers and spices. Vibrant and juicy on the palate with wonderful sapidity and freshness, this medium bodied Sangiovese is elegant and almost aristocratic. Slight hint of bitterness on the back end as the tannins fade. 91 points. A great value around $22. Will soon be imported to the US.
Peppers stuffed with arborio rice and leftover ragu bolognese made an incredible foil for the Ribaldoni. That Recipe is here: Nonna’s Stuffed Peppers.
Finally, we conclude with another venerable estate. Reliability and consistency are important and there’s rarely a wine I trust vintage in and vintage out more than Felsina’s Chianti Classico.
The 2016 Felsina Chianti Classico is actually pretty tight at the moment. It’s level of austerity surprised me a bit, both on the nose and palate. Aromatic characters of ripe cherry, dried flowers and dried herbs are notable and interesting. On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively but reticent and less “plump” than I would hope for. With air, the wine blossomed more so I sense that this may be in an evolutionary hiccup at the moment. If that’s not the case, this would be disappointing. I made a note to try again in 6 months. 88 points. About $20. Find this wine.
We’ll have more data points in the coming months as these wines continue to roll into the marketplace. From the broad spectrum of wines I’ve tasted, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab 2016s sight unseen.
Salute e boun fine settimana!