Whilst I have always had the belief that 2004 was and will be always a superior vintage than 2006 in Tuscany, sometimes you can drink a wine that tells you that vintage generalisations aren’t always spot on.
Let me make it clear that both these vintages for Chianti Classico and Brunello are in the top few vintages in the last couple of decades. When you have two great vintages so close to each other (like 1989 and 1990 in the Langhe) there are always going to be comparisons made.
Last night, I was in a distinctively Chianti Classico mode and grabbed a bottle of the 2006 Castello Monsanto Il Poggio to drink. Monsanto was the first winery that we represented from Italy in Australia and today, the wines have never been better. It is also a wine that drink better and will age longer than the 2004 Il Poggio.
Monsanto always make restrained and savoury styled wines. A year like 2006 which was warmer than the stellar (and classic Tuscan vintage) 2004, has given the wine more omph and power. It still has at least another twenty years before it starts it’s slow decline.
This wine and the 2010 and 2012 vintage has again showed me why it is so critical to cellar the wines of Italy’s best producers.
ps Don’t always follow or agree with vintage generalisations!
Here it is: I love Chianti Classico. I love it’s honesty. It’s ability to age. It’s expression of Sangiovese. Good Chianti Classico in it’s true unadulterated form is one of the joys of my cellar. I buy Chianti Classico in good years and stick it in the cellar for 6-7 years before bringing it out to drink. For me at the moment, it is the 2004 Chianti Classico that I am drinking on a regular basis.
Whilst we see lots of Chianti Classico in Australia, for me there is nothing like going to Chianti and tasting through dozens of different producers and vintages to get a better picture of both producer and vintage.
This year I left the Chianti Classico region blown away by the quality of the 2009 vintage. It is a year where everything has come together and the wines have lovely red savory fruits, plenty of perfume and fantastic tannin and acid structure. They are drinking beautifully now but will be even better with a few years in the cellar. The best examples have such amazing balance. They are bigger wines than the 2007’s and have more depth of fruit and complexity than the 2008’s. They all hold a fantastic line and in the glass, the quality of these wines is very obvious.
Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico description on the 2009 vintage.
Total production: 295.000 hl (7.793 million gallons)
Strictly from the weather standpoint, seasonal averages were at times exceeded but balanced each other out, making for an optimal year overall.
The mild winter temperatures that have become the norm were followed by an exceptionally rainy spring, whose effect was premature vine reawakening and rather speedy growth.
The summer was hot but coped with well by a terroir that from late August on was able to enjoy big changes in temperature that brought cool nights. In September, with rainy and sunny days alternating, the grapes were able to complete maturation with excellent results. Ripe fruit came to the cellar, with good aromatic complexity.
The results shown by testing the first wines of 2009 are, in fact, more than good: the 2009 Black Rooster has average alcohol content, deep color and net dry extract above average for the past few years, promising fine evolution with aging.
Total acidity was generally low, due in particular to an almost total absence of malic acid and volatile acidity, confirming the excellent fermentation techniques used by Chianti Classico wineries.
In Australia we are lucky to have available many of the best producers of Chianti Classico and I would be making a beeline for Felsina, Castellare di Castellina, Castello Monsanto (which I import), and Badia a Coltibuono. These wineries have delivered fantastic wines in 2009 and I will definitely be putting these producers in my cellar to drink over the next few years.
The first winery I imported to Australia from Italy was Castello Monsanto in Chianti. Not only do they make beautiful and long lived wines, but owner Laura Bianchi is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet. They hold a special place in my heart and every journey must have a beginning: mine was Castello Monsanto. It was fitting that the person I dealt with was Laura, and she has set the precedent for all our business activities in Italy.
It has been at least three years since I have been back to Monsanto so it was a good opportunity to revisit their historic vineyards like Il Poggio and tour the amazing cellars and winery.
Laura has a daughter the same age as my daughter Alessandra, and it seems we almost always talk about our children in every conversation either via email or in person. As is tradition in the Bianchi family, every birth and wedding is celebrated with a cellar full of wine from that vintage year. This is the cellar of Laura’s youngest daughter: Sofia.
We then tasting through the current vintage wines with the 2009 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico and 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva really impressing me. Both amazing wines and highlight the strength of both those two great vintages.
After a five course lunch, it was time to sadly say goodbye. The property of Castello Monsanto is a very special place and even more significant for me on a personal level. We have been importing and representing Castello Monsanto in Australia for the past five years, and I hope this continues for many many years to come.
Sometimes I just crave comfort food and wine. Of course this can mean different things for different people. For some it might be a burger and a beer. For me, it is definately Porcini Risotto (cooked by my wife Kathryn) and a bottle of aged Chianti Classico.
Tonight is the perfect weather for it. Whilst it has been a hot summer so far in Melbourne, today is cooler, and just perfect for some heartier food. I have cellared a lot of Felsina and Isole O Elena Chianti Classico over the last decade. I have also put aside each vintage of Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico which I import and distribute around Australia. These three wineries, make up the bulk of Chianti in my cellar. For me, they are also three of the best producers of the style that are imported here.
In Australia, the current vintage of Castello Monanto Chianti Classico is 2008. However, if you can always try and drink Chianti Classico with a bit of age. Even a year or two makes a big difference. Today at lunch I will go home and decant a bottle of 2006 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classo. This wine was a brute when it was young. A massive wall of tannin’s kept the fruit hidden for days. However like all things, age has mellowed it, with the tannin’s dropping and revealing a beautiful core of dark savory fruits. It is now entering it’s drinking window. I expect it to hold this line and length for many years to come.
Hopefully I will have a little bit of Risotto and Chianti left over for a tasting note tomorrow.
Most of the time we use the Jamie Oliver recipe and subsitute the butter for olive oil.
25 g dried porcini mushrooms
200g Arborio rice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
half an onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp white wine
1 pint chicken stock
30g freshly grated parmesan cheese
2-3 knobs of butter
salt and black pepper
1.Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, drain and squeeze out any excess water. Reserve the drained water.
2.Heat the chicken stock in a pan to a very gentle simmer.
3.Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the garlic and onion over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
4.Add the rice and coat with the olive oil, garlic and onion mix. Cook for 2 minutes.
5.Add the white wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Once absorbed, add a ladle of the simmering stock and cook until absorbed. Continue until all of the stock is absorbed.
6.Cook until the rice is just under âal denteâ, and then add a ladle of the reserved mushroom water, along with the porcini mushrooms, the knobs of butter and half of the parmesan cheese.
7.Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is cooked âal denteâ. Season with salt and pepper.
8.Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.
Unfortunately we live in an a area which is well short of good restaurants and take away places, hopefully they may change in the future. However, in the last few months a fantastic pizza restaurant called Pizza Religion (www.pizzareligion.com.au) has opened it’s doors not too far away from our house. Since opening, it has been packed with good reason.
These Pizza’s are the real deal and whilst not exactly the same as the Pizza’s you get in Italia, they are not lacking in quality and are a great take on high quality Pizza. You know the drill, thin base, quality ingredients and sensational flavours.
We washed these down with a fantastic bottle of Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico 2006. This wine was a brute when it was young, but is now finally mellowing to be a beautiful wine.
Anthony D'Anna: Italian wine importer and merchant in Australia