A week of Sangiovese: Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, Super Tuscans & Brunello di Montalcino

Well sometimes you just have those weeks when you have back to back dinners and because of this, you get to look at some amazing wines. Last week was the case and two of those dinners featured Sangiovese and the best of the best of all styles being made in Tuscany at the moment.

On Monday night, my Italian wine group headed to Mister Bianco to look at Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, so called ‘Super Tuscans’ and Vin Santo. On Thursday, a group of Italian wine lovers went to Scopri with the focus of the dinner being Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Two great dinners, 32 Sangiovese from Tuscany and some pretty amazing food all matched to the wines.

One of the key lessons I learnt from this two dinners is that Sangiovese can be so different depending on the age you drink them and the context as well. Some of the 2010 Chianti Classico’s and 2007 Chianti Riserva’s that I loved at Vinitaly looked all over the shop on Monday night with the biggest crime being way too much oak. As much as I love Chianti Riserva, it almost seems that the person selling oak barrels to Montalcino in the ’90’s has left and moved to Chianti Riserva.

Too many wines showed extreme levels of oak without the fruit intensity to match the oak levels. I must admit to preferring Chianti Classico over Chianti Riserva on the night and those that know my tastes, know how much I love Chianti Riserva. To say I was disappointed is a big understatement and I can’t wait to revisit these wines in five years time to see if the oak has fallen into balance with the fruit. For me, the best wine in this bracket was the 2007 Poggerino Chianti Riserva.

On Monday night, we also looked at some fantastic 100% Sangiovese (but not classified as Chianti Riserva) and also Super Tuscans. These wines looked good with the 2001 Isole e Olena Cepparello and 2001 Percarlo delivering complex wines without the excessive oak of so many Tuscan reds.

It wasn’t the greatest bottle of Cepparello I have had and I think the best Cepparello is still the 1997 or 1999 vintages. Time will tell and to me Cepparello has moved to a slightly more modern style in recent years. I will be interested to see what the 2009 and 2010 Cepparello is like when they land in Australia to see if things are back on top.

Finally on Thursday night we looked at 16 Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Overall the wines showed so well with one of my favourite producers in the world, Fuligni again showing the way with a classical standard 2004 Brunello and an amazing 2004 Riserva. It was a bottle of ’90 Fuligni which made me consider Brunello as one of Italy’s ‘greatest wine styles’ and this dinner again showed why I am now back in love with Brunello.

For me the best Brunello reminds me of Burgundy. They are fragrant, medium red in colour with depth of fruit and velvety tannins that make these wines live for years. It was a stunning dinner with food and wine delivering to the highest standard.

The only disappointment was a slightly corked bottle of 1971 Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino that still had some fantastic fruit lurking below that cork taint.

It will be a quiet week this week and over the next month whilst the craziness that is Christmas descends on everyone.  I can’t wait to jump back into these dinners that highlight certain styles or varieties in early next year.

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