Ten years ago, if you were to ask me my favorite wine style Brunello would have been up there. Ask me what I thought of Chianti Riserva and I would have shrugged my shoulders and given the impression that it was good without being great.
Fast forward ten years and my perception of Brunello has changed quite dramatically. Recently I was asked if had an 2006 Brunello from my import stable and I politely stated that I gave up importing Brunello years ago when I could not justify buying it at double the price of Chianti Riserva.
Don’t get me wrong there is some truly amazing Brunello out there. Brunello that I do consider ‘great’ and ‘world class’. There are dozens of producers that make benchmark Brunello and I would be happy to (and do) have these wines in my cellar.
However, it seems for the rest that using the words ‘Brunello’ on the label regardless of the quality gives them the automatic right to charge top dollar for some seriously average wine. Why is Brunello double the price of most Chianti Riserva? It doesn’t make sense. What makes more sense is having Chianti Riserva in your cellar. It arguably ages for longer than Brunello and for me makes a better example of both the terroir of Tuscany and also Sangiovese as a grape variety.
I have had some great old bottles of Chianti Riserva (none better than this Castello Monsanto Chianti Riserva 1980 which we drank in Italy two years ago) and whilst I have not drunk many bottles of old Brunello, aged Chianti Riserva and Brunello drunk at the same ages has shown to me, that I prefer aged Chianti Riserva.
If your looking for benchmark Chianti Riserva in Australia, make a beeline for the single vineyard Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia.
Expression of a vineyard
If there is exceptional location to gaze out over all of Fèlsina and its surrounding areas, that place is the vineyard on the ancient Rancia estate, at over 410 metres altitude. Its grapes are vinified and bottled separately. The vineyard lies completely within the Chianti Classico zone; its climate and soils are characteristic of the entire valley centred on Siena and bear witness –not only ideally- to its close relationship to the areas of Montalcino, of Montepulciano, and of the Maremma.
From 1983 on, Rancia’ s 100% sangiovese has consistently reflected its own terroir, demonstrating a lengthy progression, a liveliness, and an elegance truly rare and distinctive.
If you looking for good vintages of Chianti Riserva, I would buy 2004, 2006 and 2007. Vintages 2004 and 2007 are classic Tuscan years with perfectly weighted savoury fruits and tannin in perfect balance. Vintage 2006 is a more robust year, with darker, richer fruits and equally sizable tannins. It will be a very long lived vintage.