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!
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.
The first of the 2010 vintage Chianti Classico’s are arriving in Australia and they are looking good. I tried the Catellare wine at Vinitaly in March and it looked really good. Last night at home it looked amazing. Exactly how I would want Chianti Classico to look like at a young age.
In good years I always put a few bottles of the Castellare away to drink with a bit of age. At the moment I am drinking 2001 and they are looking good. This I think will develop beautifully over the next ten years and it is the exact reason why I love Chianti Classico so much.
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.
Today was one of the reasons why Vinitaly is so important for wine importers from places so far away like Australia: to be able to go from Calabria to Campania and finally Tuscany (Chianti Classico) all in one day was worth the 30 hours on a plane just for that.
In Campania I visited our new producer for Mondo Imports, Salvatore Molettieri and tried through three vintages of each wine.
I also had time to visit our Calabrian producer ‘Le Moire’ who makes a small of amount of wine with passion and dedication that I find quite inspiring. His 2011 vintages reds look fantastic and I can’t wait to show these wines in Australia.
From their I moved to Tuscany and tried three a number of different Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva’s from all the benchmark producers that find their way to Australia. I loved the standard 2009 Chianti Classico and 2007 Chianti Riserva’s. These are stunning vintages for these two wines.
Tonight I am looking forward to a hearty meal and finish (or maybe start) the night with a Spritz in Piazza Erbe which is exactly what I did last night…
Tomorrow I will do Franciacorta and Brunello di Montalcino.
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.
Anthony D'Anna: Italian wine importer and merchant in Australia