More Tuscan Wines
- Years ago
we had some wonderful wines from this estate in Tuscany. They're
located a few kilometers from Certaldo and about 20 minutes' drive from
The wines were especially good and well-priced. The estate is owned
by an American fellow who loves Tuscany and has this place as a
They've been out of the market for a number of years, having been overly
aggressive in expecting importers to sell more wine than is actually
possible. I think most Italian wineries look at the California
market and think they ought to be selling boat-loads of wine here.
But with so few wine shops specializing in good Italian wines and fewer
restaurants willing to educate consumers (most just want wine with the
label "Chianti" or "Pinot Grigio" and they are not
fussy about wine quality, only "low price"), the California
market is rather limited.
In the Spring of 2008 I dragged a local importer, an Italian gentleman, to
taste the wines from Villa Pillo. I had tasted the wines and
inquired about their interest in re-establishing ties to the California
Signor Importatore was stunned by the good quality of the wines and
the sensible pricing. Even with the dollar being weak, these wines
are outstanding values. He's been importing their wines ever since
and is delighted to have such good values in his portfolio.
The estate has about 22 hectares of olives and 42 hectares of
vineyards. That's a lot of wine and in recent years they've actually sold
grapes. It seems they make more wine than they can sell. And they
can't drink it all themselves, either.
Sangiovese does well here. So does Merlot and Syrah.
flagship wine carries the name of a nearby locality, Borgoforte.
This is a medium-full bodied red wine. Sangiovese is blended with Cabernet
and Merlot. Some wineries in the area call this sort of wine a "Super
Tuscan" and they expect consumers to take out a second mortgage to buy a
Villa Pillo's current release comes from the 2014 vintage and it will set you
back all of $11.99 (less if you're buying a case). While many Super
Tuscans are so "internationally-styled" that you can't really 'taste'
if the wine is from California, Argentina, France or Tuscany, this wine has a
Tuscan soul. It's made to drink in the near term, so try a bottle and see
how it strikes your palate.
Seeing all those new French oak barrels, you might expect the
wines from Villa Pillo to taste oaky. Happily, they do not.
Winemaker Marco Chellini and estate manager Pamela Trassinelli use wood to
mature and 'season' the wines, but you won't be picking splinters out of your
Also impressive here are Syrah and Merlot wines. Tuscany
actually has a rather long history with Syrah and Merlot has made some
impressive wines for a decade, or so.
Villa Pillo's Merlot comes from a trio of vineyard sites which have clay soils,
ideal for this variety. Their 2009 vintage is dark in color and shows a
wonderfully plummy, dark fruit note. Despite all those oak barrels in the
photo, wood is in the background here. I poured this wine recently for a
Napa winery rep whose wine costs $40 and while she didn't commit suicide, she
was impressed by the quality (and the price) of this Merlot.
Syrah is a deep, dark red. I've tasted numerous vintages over the
years. Sometimes it shows a bit of the bacony, hickory smoke and on
other occasions it shows dark fruit notes and a bit of spice. I
think you'll find this variation dependant upon what wine or wines precede
it...Anyway, for less than the price of a good St. Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage
(never mind some of the silly priced California Syrahs!), you're drinking well
Currently in stock: 2014 BORGOFORTE $11.99
2010 VILLA PILLO SYRAH Sold Out
2012 VILLA PILLO MERLOT Sale $14.99
Winemaker Marco Chellini and Villa Pillo Manager Pamela Trassinelli
The Wine Spectator has often affixed a score in the high 80s to
Villa Pillo's "Borgoforte." It routinely fares well in
tastings, but in 2008 the stars and planets aligned and someone 'tagged'
the wine with a 92 point score.
We think these scores are misleading and meaningless, so you won't find
them posted on our web site. Bob describes the whole endeavor of
rating wines using the 100 system as "a stupid rating system for
stupid people to buy stupid wines."
Well, if you don't have a wine merchant who can guide you to a good
bottle of wine, perhaps relying on some sort of rating system might make
a bit of sense.
Competing wineries took offense, however, at Villa Pillo's
How can a $12 bottle merit a 92 point score, when so many wines hoping
to sell for $50-100 (or more) can muster, say, 90 or 91???
So, now the folks at The Wine Spectator have, apparently, seen the error
of their ways. The new vintage, though it is virtually identical in
quality, intensity, complexity, etc., to the previous vintage, merits a
mere 86 points.
We can't say if the critics over-estimated the quality of the 2006, but
if that vintage was worthy of that lofty score, then so is the current
What it does illustrate, however is the absurdity of rating wines on a
precise scale. It also demonstrates that many supposedly impartial
critics do not taste "blind," something we've suspected for a
And we pity those who slavishly follow these ratings to determine
whether or not they enjoy a particular wine.
- SIRO PACENTI
- Today Brunello di Montalcino is a hugely prestigious appellation
and its wines carry price tags from "deluxe" to
stratospheric. It wasn't always this way, though bottles of Brunello
from the Biondi-Santi winery (credited with creating "Brunello")
have long been an extravagant purchase.
- In terms of Italian cellars, Siro Pacenti's is a relatively new property
(planted in 1971, or so, and making its first vintage in 1988).
There isn't a long history of numerous generations of the Pacenti family
growing grapes and making wine.
Giancarlo Pacenti, son of Siro, runs the show. They have about 22+
hectares of vineyards in two prime locations.
The winery is located in the northern part of the Montalcino appellation
and this is also the home of the wine cellar. It's called Pelagrilli
and you'll see this name on bottles of their entry-level Brunello.
Pacenti now uses fruit from his grandfather's estate which is located in
the southwestern area of the appellation in an area called
Giancarlo had gone off to France to study winemaking and his experience in
Bordeaux helped shape his cellar protocols.
Brunello wines had been required to spend four years in wood, so large botte
grande were typically found in every cellar in Montalcino.
Over the years the regulations have changed as some winemakers felt the
laws were detrimental to wine quality in many vintages.
Brunello di Montalcino wines had often been a bit rustic and often with
remarkably high levels of acidity which preserved the wines for several
These days the requirement is for a two year minimum on wood and using
small barrels instead of large wood tanks can yield wines of radically
different style from those made in the mid to late 1900s.
Some people find the Pacenti style to be "too modern" and
Others find the wines to be polished and handsome.
When the wines are young, they certainly stand apart from most other
With cellaring, Pacenti's wines age magnificently, though and they are
rather showy and harmonious in their youth.
During a visit in 2019 they were planting a site close to the Pellagrilli
The cellar at Pacenti is spotless.
Giancarlo Pacenti (in the early 2000s).
The Brunello is matured in 70 to 80% new oak, while Pacenti typically
devotes about 20% new cooperage for the Rosso di Montalcino.
Giancarlo told us he buys oak
from four or five favorite coopers, saying "They work well for
"Our biggest worry is to maintain a high standard of quality."
Giancarlo shows off his wine collection, stashed amongst the barrels of
Brunello in the winery.
We have found the Pacenti wines to be consistently good. Our
enologist pal Giampaolo Chiettini was most impressed by this cellar.
"They have 22 hectares and produce only 50,000 bottles. That's
someone who is very serious about making top quality wines." he said.
The 2012 Brunello di Montalcino is a rather elegant rendition and it seems
as though the wines, over the years, have become a bit less oaky, though
they still employ a high percentage of new barrels. The basic
bottling is now called Pelagrilli.
The vineyards are about 25 years old. Hand harvested, of course and
Pacenti employs a sorting table to further select the best fruit and toss
out anything that's not perfect.
The wine goes into French oak barriques but they're not all brand new so
you'll have to search to find much in the way of wood.
This is a very good bottle, but it really needs a bit of time in a wide
decanter (maybe 1 or 2 hours) to breathe and open up.
We think you can hold this through 2025+.
- There's the "old vines" bottling, called Vecchie
These vineyards are 35+ years.
I think it's a crime to call people 62+ years of age "seniors"
and I see this at the movie theater all the time, so I'm not sure that 35
is really an "old vine."
You'll find the Vecchie Vigne bottling to be a somewhat more
concentrated and slightly full-bodied Brunello.
It's the wine on which Pacenti made his name.
The vineyards are in two decidedly different microclimates...this is part
of his secret.
It's aged in small French oak for about two years, but there's a more
marked oakiness to the wine at this stage. With time that ought to
integrate with the fruit and become less noticeable.
The Rosso di Montalcino has routinely been a feature in our
Pacenti makes a beautifully balanced wine that you can enjoy in its youth.
The wine features Sangiovese from both the north and south and it's from
their younger vineyards.
These are approximately 15 years old.
The 2016 is a wonderful vintage and we can highly recommend this.
Some call it a "baby Brunello." We find it to be a bit
more polished and complex than the typical "Rosso di
It's more refined and elegant than a "spaghetti red," so pairing
it with an upscale burger or red meat will make for a fine
- Currently available:
2012 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO "PELAGRILLI" SALE $49.99
2012 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO "Vecchie Vigne" SALE $89.99
2016 ROSSO DI MONTALCINO $33.99
Giancarlo Pacenti...April 2019
you're driving from Castellina in Chianti towards Poggibonsi, you'll
probably pass the little hamlet of Fioraie if you take the really winding
road out of town heading west.
The name, Piemaggio, is thought to derive from "Pieve" (church)
and "Maggiore" (the highest hill in the region where a chapel
had been situated).
The notion of "Fioraie" stems from a legend about a an old friar
who was traversing hill and dale under the hot Tuscan sun. He ran
out of steam, the story goes, and three young sisters, flower sellers it's
said, came to his rescue. They brought him a glass of wine which
aided in his revival. He thanked these women and resumed his
hike. But he never forgot their kindness and it's said he returned
to this remote location and built a small church. Of course, he had
to plant some vines, too. It is, after all, wine country!
And so the design of the three flower gals is the logo associated with
Piemaggio's "Le Fioraie" winery.
The property was purchased by a Milanese family in the 1950s. These
days its run by winemaker Michele Neri and owned since 2013 by
Larissa Karaban who founded some sort of chain of perfume & cosmetic
stores in her native Russia. We understand the Piemaggio property is
a getaway destination and she's relatively hands off in her ownership.
The estate is of modest size and they cultivate about 12 hectares of
vineyards, mostly Sangiovese with some Canaiolo and Colorino for the
Chianti Classico. There's a tiny bit of Cabernet and Merlot, as
well, along with maybe 600 olive trees for oil production.
The site is in a bit of a wind tunnel which helps moderate the ripening of
the grapes, but when there's rain during the growing season, the breezes
mitigate the spread of molds.
We discovered the Piemaggio wines by accident in 2018. At a wine
fair in Germany we had stopped to taste the wines of a particular producer
only to arrive earlier than had they. Across the aisle was this
curious Chianti producer, so we ventured over to taste their wines.
And we were pleasantly surprised to discover some really good,
old-fashioned Chianti Classico.
A while later one of our friends who imports some interesting vini
Italiani mentioned he was hoping to finally discover a good Chianti
winery. One of the items on his checklist is they have to lean in
the direction of organic viticulture. We passed along the contact at
Piemaggio and he went to taste their wines and compare them to some other
Shortly thereafter he brought in his first shipment of Piemaggio wines.
The 2013 Chianti Classico is 90% Sangiovese with the balance being not
Cabernet or Merlot, but traditional Tuscan varieties such as Ciliegiolo,
Colorino and Canaiolo. The wine goes into stainless
steel tanks for its fermentation and then some of it sees wood aging while
some goes into cement tanks.
It's a nicely intense Sangiovese with some dark berry fruit and a mildly
earthy quality. The tannin level is moderate so decanting it might
be a good idea and give it an hour to breathe.
Pairing it with something like a Bistecca Fiorentina or a grilled
rib-eye makes for a good match.
We have their 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva, as well. We really like
the mildly woodsy fragrances of this wine. It's developing
beautifully since we tasted it a year earlier. The wine is quite
elegant and a shade more polished than the 2013 normale.
Winemaker Michele Neri
Currently in stock: 2013 LE FIORAIE CHIANTI
2012 LE FIORAIE CHIANTI CLASSICO Riserva $49.99
There are some old "ruins" on the property.
The vineyard crew was busy in late March.
- This estate has been around since the mid-1970s when it was founded north
of Montalcino by Giulio Consonno. His son took
over the estate and I recall him telling me he was intent on making Altesino
one of the leading Brunello producers. But dad died and the son, it
turns out, didn't want to continue, so the property was put up for sale in
In their early years the wines
were good, but didn't strike me as particularly special.
Somewhere around the late 1980s, things seemed to start improving and into
the 1990s there was a more noticeable change.
The current owner is Elisabetta Gnudi
Angelini whose late husband's family had been in the pharmaceutical business. She
bought the famous Caparzo estate (next door) in 1998. The Angelini family owns the Val di
Suga property, another Montalcino estate, amongst other Tuscan holdings.
Elisabetta leaves the operations at Altesino to Claudio Basla, who has been
the general manager since the 1970s. She does, however, run things at
Altesino farms less than half the 140-something acres. About 47 acres
are in the appellation qualifying as "Brunello." Three
distinct vineyard sites or "crus" comprise this property.
One is called Altesino, another is La Velona while the third is their famed
"Montosoli," who name appears on their top Brunello in selected
They strive to make traditionally-styled Brunello at Altesino, trying to
capture the results of careful cultivation in the vineyards. No famous
consulting winemakers will be found visiting Altesino, either. In
fact, I think Caparzo, at one time, did have a celebrity consultant, but no
longer. These enologists tend to leave their fingerprints all over the
wines they touch and Ms. Elisabetta seems to prefer to make unique wines
which reflect the estates, not the winemaker.
- Quite a range of wines is made here.
A Rosso di Altesino is their current "entry level" wine, a
berryish red that's 80% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and
Merlot...and yet the Sangiovese is highlighted, for the most part.
There's a Rosso di Montalcino which spends about 8 months in Slavonian
oak...perfectly standard quality, well-made and correct, but not especially
The red called Palazzo Altesi is a wine made entirely of Sangiovese.
I was told this is intended to be some sort of "homage" to the
French, as there's some whole-berry fermentation here as well as
maturation in small French oak barrels. I wouldn't mistake it for a
French wine, however...I find some resiny notes with a hint of eucalyptus.
The basic Brunello di Montalcino from 2011 basic Brunello is a very nice
bottle. You can easily drink it tonight and we've found the wine
does well with an hour in the decanter.
It's a medium-bodied Brunello...the tannin level is modest, so it's
showing nicely now and ought to do well through 2020-2025+.
- Then, the star of the cellar, is the single vineyard Brunello called
Montosoli. The 2004 was very fine and more complex than the
others...the tannins seem a bit rounder and the overall impression is of a
fine, elegant, classic Brunello. It is drinkable now, but holding it
for 10+ years is probably ideal.
- Currently available:
2011 ALTESINO Brunello di Montalcino Sale $49.99
- PIEVE di SANTA RESTITUTA
40 hectare property was purchased by Piemontese wine mogul Angelo
Gaja. It had been owned by a fellow from Brescia and Gaja came along
as a shareholder in 1994, with Gaja owning the whole place, lock, stock and
barrels by 1997.
One change instituted by the new regime was the removal of all the Malvasia
and Trebbiano vines. There would be no watering down the red wines and
no Vin Santo produced here.
Nor does this winery produce "Rosso di Montalcino." At one
point they did make an "IGT" wine here called "Promis,"
but now that wine is produced at Gaja's other Tuscan property.
"Promis," in case you're wondering, is about 90% Sangiovese and
- Two bottlings of single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino are made here. One is called
Rennina, a wine from sandier soils. It comes from three different
vineyard plots. The Sugarille bottling comes from one site and the
soils feature more rock and clay.
In a blind-tasting we conducted of famous and highly rated Brunello di
Montalcino wines from the 1997 vintage, the Gaja Sugarille bottling won by a
While visiting the estate, we tasted a few vintages and I am delighted to
report there is quite a good "learning curve" in evidence
here. The older vintages are okay, but it's the 1997 and 1998 that
over-shadowed the highly-rated 1995 vintage and the pretty fair 1996 vintage.
The single vineyard wines have escalated dramatically in price to Gaja-esque
levels of grandiosity.
These should sell for $100 to $125.
We've seen some 10 to 12 year old vintages of the single vineyards and these
retail for $275 to $350. It's nice to be able to buy well-cellared
wines, but we can't say the wines justify their prices.
The entry-level Brunello is a recent addition to the roster and this wine
has been somewhat sensibly-priced and it's good quality. We have the
2011 in stock presently...medium-bodied, mildly woodsy and very good
- Currently in stock: 2011 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO Sale $79.99
CLICK HERE TO
SEE MORE PHOTOS OF GAJA'S MONTALCINO WINERY
- One of the top names of Montepulciano, Federico Carletti bottles some terrific
wines under the Poliziano flag. He's been an outspoken advocate of changing the
rules of Vino Nobile to improve the wines. A stickler for quality, his attention to detail
in the vineyard and cellar shows up in the bottle. Carletti makes a couple of
vineyard-designated Vino Nobile wines and we have a lovely, sturdy wine with the
"Vigna Asinone" designation. This has been called a "premier grand
cru" of Montepulciano by one Italian wine guide.
The wines are quite good these days. At one point in time, they were a
bit less "Tuscan" and more internationally-styled. Carletti
now admits this, saying "In the 1990s we made international
wines. Since 2000, we're back on track making Montepulciano."
The "simple" or "regular" bottling of 2012 Vino Nobile
is neither simple, nor regular. This is a modern wine which retains its nod towards
tradition and typicity. I think Carletti has been a fan of Colorino
and Canaiolo as blending varieties with the Prugnolo Gentile (that's a Montepulciano name for Sangiovese). Even
if you're not familiar with traditional Tuscan red wines, you will most likely find this
to be a wine with plenty of "class." It is a vino which is truly nobile.
The 2012 Vino Nobile is, we are told, 85% Sangiovese and spent 14-16
months in wood, less than many previous vintages.. Two-thirds of the wine was matured in
barriques and puncheons, while the rest sees large, very neutral wood
tanks. The trend at Poliziano has been to use less wood, but we still
find a nicely cedary, woodsy tone at this early stage. Mildly tannic,
this doesn't require much cellaring as it's delicious now, especially with
They make a special bottling called Asinone. Some vintages are
exceptional and worthy of their lofty price tag. We do not have
one in the shop presently...
They're also making a Merlot...nice wine, but we're swimming in Merlot here
in California and view Tuscany more as a source of reference point
In the Poliziano cellars...
Large "botte" to ensure the wines don't taste over-wooded.
Poliziano is using some American oak, too!
Wood wine boxes.
The tasting line-up.
- Currently available:
2012 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (List $32)
- In the
1960s, a Florentine jeweler bought this property, situated in San Donato in
Poggio (just north of Isole e Olena and south of Badia di Passignano.
As he set about restoring this fixer-upper, he took ill during a period of
inclement weather and Carlo Cassetti Burchi found himself in the
He'll tell you not to have pity, for it ended up being a fortuitous
situation...the patient in the next bed was an old fellow who mentioned to Carlo
that his son was a winemaker. And when the son came to visit, he
promised Carlo he'd some to the estate and have a look to see if it was worth
It turns out the son was none other than Giacomo Tachis, a Piemontese fellow who
worked for a little winery called Antinori (where he helped make the first
"Super Tuscan" wines, Antinori's Tignanello and Antinori's cousin's
Tachis paid the Le Filigare estate a visit and, as we understand it, made some
viticultural suggestions. The property is mostly devoted to Sangiovese
(we're told it's the Brunello clone), with Canaiolo, Colorino and tiny amounts
of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot.
The estate comprises something like 60 hectares. There's a ten hectare
planting of well-manicured vineyards, but they have another parcel that's mixed
plantings of olive trees and vineyards.
We've tasted several vintages of Chianti Classico from this
estate and have found them to be really "fine" expressions of
Sangiovese. I think the 2013 is perhaps the seventh or eighth vintage
we've had from this estate.
2013 vintage is currently in stock. They'll tell you it's about 90%
Sangiovese with equal parts of Colorino and Canaiolo. The wine spend a few months in both
large wooden tanks and small barrels. We like that it's not an oaky, woody
wine, but features the fruit on the nose and palate. This is certainly
drinkable now and we suspect it will age well for another 5-10
A side note: When tasting this, think about how costly
so many California Sangiovese wines are...how much this costs/how good it
tastes. (For this we also thank the importer who doesn't jack up the
The Le Filigare estate, by the way, has more than a handful of
apartments for rent...their
website has info on these.
Currently in stock: 2013 LE FILIGARE Chianti
Alessandro Cassetti-Burchi in the cellar at Le Filigare.
One of the winery dogs checking out the barrique cellar.
Tasting the impressive line-up at Le Filigare.
Father & Son...Carlo & Alessandro
many Italian winemaking families have histories going back hundreds of
years, the Casaloste estate's story goes back only into the 20th
Century...and not very far, at that.
The property is situated in Panzano in Chianti and within this vaunted
locale, there's a site known as the Conca d'Oro. One Italian wine
guide terms this a little corner of Paradise. Fontodi is a famous
estate in the Conca d'Oro, along with La Massa, Rampolla, Villa Cafaggio
and several others.
If the Conca d'Oro is a grand cru site, then the wine of Casaloste and
some of its neighbors (Panzanello, Le Cinciole, Le Fonti and a couple of
others) comes from what we might consider a Premier Cru
exposure. This estate is, then, from the Conca d'Argento!
This little zone is a bit cooler than the Conca d'Oro, so with climate
change, they may be in just the right place at the right time.
Casaloste has been on our list of estates to watch for perhaps a decade
now. The estate used to be part of the vast Montagliari property and
the owner sold off a little piece in the early 1990s. It's owned by Giovanni Battista d'Orsi,
an agronomist from Napoli, and he employs organic
farming practices as he's long thought this was "the right thing to
do." These days, many wineries make a big fuss over organic
farming, but more for marketing than for actual agriculture.
In fact, virtually all the vintners and growers in Panzano are considering
an initiative whereby they will all farm organically...stay tuned on that!
The consulting winemaker is Gabriella Tani and we've been a fan of some of
her wines for quite a while. Unlike some of the most famous
celebrity winemaking consultants, her wines seem to retain the character
of where they come from.
The Casaloste estate comprises about 10.5 hectares of vineyards,
though the property covers perhaps 19 hectares in total.
The 2012 vintage is showing handsomely and we were surprised to learn they often
blend Merlot into the wine. They have a nice little trick in making this,
however...the Merlot is picked earlier than the Sangiovese and it starts its
fermentation. During its fermentation, the Sangiovese is harvested and
added to the fermentation tank and as there's an active yeast population, it
begins to ferment immediately. This seems to suppress the character of the
Merlot, or, at least, it allows the Sangiovese to shine.
Given the mildly tannic bite of this wine, pairing it with something such as
lamb or beef will confer a softer quality to this Chianti.
Currently in stock: 2012 CASALOSTE Chianti Classico
Vineyards are adjacent to the winery...
Yes, that's famous "food personality" Anthony Bourdain ( a few
years ago ) sipping some Chianti in the Casaloste cellar while filming his No
Castiglioni came from Milan to Tuscany via a rather circuitous
route...Mexico was in the middle, somehow, as he was in the steel
He invested some of his earnings in a little piece of property just
outside Greve in Chianti. Of course, one has to plant a few vines if
no vines are planted. So he did and he made a little wine. Not
So he planted a few more vines. One thing led to another and soon it
appeared that this vineyard site might really be "something."
The winemaker is Guido de Santi and he's had counsel and advice from the
famed winemaker, Giacomo Tachis who used to work for Antinori where he
helped create wines such as Solaia and Tignanello. De Santi had
also worked at Isole e Olena before moving to Querciabella.
Winemaker Guido De Santi.
The wines of Querciabella are very well known in the European connoisseur
market, but they had been rather a mystery to many American wine
drinkers. The U.S. importer did not do a lot to bring this estate to
the attention of wine drinkers, as you had to know the secret handshake to
even be able to buy wines from that particular firm.
Querciabella recently changed importers. It seems Signor Castiglioni
is a fan of Roederer Champagnes and it just so happens that Roederer has
its own import company in the United States. The wines today are
brought in by a company which does, for example, print a list of the wines
they import along with the prices of these wines. What a concept!
(The previous importer, did not even print a list of even the wineries
they represent...customers must guess what's available!)
A couple of summers ago we bought numerous bottles of Chianti wines while there
on a research mission. One of the very best Chianti Classico wines
we scoped out was Querciabella's. There's lots of dark fruit
notes to this wine, partly because they have blended in a tiny amount of Merlot,
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with their Sangiovese "base"
wine. The Sangiovese is matured in French oak, about 30% of
the wood being new. The "international" varieties are
vinified separately and each is matured in about 80% new wood. The
best barrels are selected and the Chianti Classico is then blended.
They're typically 95% Sangiovese and with 5% Cabernet
Sauvignon. The wine is more refined
and elegant than "simple" Chianti, but less oaky and less
"internationally-styled" than most so-called Super-Tuscans.
I often find a rather floral tone to the fragrance of Querciabella
Chianti. It's a good deal more exotic in terms of aromatics than
most other Chianti wines. The winery does not produce a
"Riserva" Chianti, as says winery rep Paola Bianchi, "Our
intention is to produce a 'super-Chianti Classico.' There is never
enough real Chianti Classico." It's also more graceful and elegant.
We have skipped a couple of vintages...maybe we caught the wines on a day
when they were not showing their best...
A white wine is called
"BatÓr" as is "Batard-Montrachet." At the
start, BatÓr was Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Today it's 50%
Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Blanc. Barrel fermented. A fair bit
of new wood. Full malolactic. It has been one of the great
white wines of Italy...but our last taste of BatÓr, from the 2013
vintage, was "good," but not striking or compelling.
The Pinot Bianco was planted in 1982 and it was cultivated merely to make
a bit of white wine for the estate's owner. Guido De Santi had the
idea of experimenting with a barrel-fermented white wine. A
winemaker friend told us he had tasted the Pinot Bianco on its own...phenomenal!
The cooperage is set on these new racks which have rollers holding each
barrel in place. This allows them to very easily rotate the barrels
once the fermentations have finished, allowing for a simple
"battonage." This puts the spent yeast sediment back into
the wine and contributes a toasty quality.
The wine shows a lot of wood when it's young and first released.
Given some time in the bottle, the wood integrates into the wine and you
wouldn't recognize it from its youth! Two to five years is about
Guido shows how easy it is to stir the spent yeast with the new barrel
One of the impressive "galleries" of barrel
cellars at Querciabella.
- Camartina is
Querciabella's "Super-Tuscan." It is super and it's priced
like super. The wine is about 70% Sangiovese with about 30%
Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of Merlot and a drop of Syrah. Lots of
French oak. The estate does not always produce this
wine. They've skipped a few vintages when they felt like they did
not have the quality of wine to justify asking their lofty price.
(We wish many other wineries, in Italy and elsewhere, would take note of
this system and consider having higher standards, too!) Here's
a wine of grace, elegance, finesse and underlying power. Perfect for
Currently in stock: 2009 Chianti Classico Sold
2006 Chianti Classico Sold Out
2004 Camartina (list $120) Sold Out
2013 BatÓr Sold
- TENUTA FONTODI
- The winery at Fontodi resembles more a Bordeaux cellar in its
appearance, with small oak barrels all over the place. Owned by Giovanni
Manetti, the estate is located in Panzano in Chianti. The regular Chianti here is
usually quite good, while the Riserva wines, a simple Riserva and the "Vigna del
Sorbo," rise to even greater heights.
They're also cultivating Syrah, Pinot
Nero and Pinot Bianco.
A Super-Tuscan called "Flaccianello" is made
entirely of Sangiovese matured in French oak. It is usually a remarkable wine.
We have not been buying recent vintages of Fontodi. The American
importer asks a ridiculously high price for these wines and we prefer to
show customers wines which provide some measure of good value. If you
are in Italy, by all means, buy a bottle of Fontodi when dining out.
It costs about 14 Euros in an honest wine shop and about 24 Euros in a
restaurant. A friend's restaurant in Tuscany has it for 24 on
the wine list, meaning he paid about 8 Euros.
The US importer pays less due to the quantity they buy and they avoid the
VAT tax levied on goods sold for use in Europe.
Meanwhile this import company asks nearly $25 wholesale! Please!
We are perplexed as to why Signor Manetti tolerates this
If you survey top shops around the U.S. market, you will find current
vintages of Fontodi Chianti to be "missing." Too
bad for Fontodi, but having a license to import is not a license to
- Currently available: 1999 Chianti Classico Sold Out
- 1998 Chianti Classico Riserva "Vigna del Sorbo" Sold
1997 Flaccianello Sold Out
believe this estate is one of those little "hobby" wineries,
owned by someone who's spent his youth and most of his adult life in some
The Marinai family, we understand, bought this little azienda in
the early 1960s. The estate has a long history and was a farm
featuring grapes, olives, grain and cattle.
The actual name of the property is the "Podere di Cecione."
Since the mid-1990s, the estate has been operated by Renzo Marinai, who's
implemented a new regimen of organic or biodynamic farming
And it's only under his stewardship that the place even bottles its own
wines and olive oil. Not only that, they have their wheat milled and
turned into pasta by an old pastificio (Fabbri) in nearby
Under his father's ownership, the winery sold fruit to the large Chianti
giants. Grapes or wine was purchased by the likes of Brolio or
Antinori. Renzo took over in 1996 and I gather it's a retreat for
him from his normal digs in Fiesole. Apparently his main work has
been in the world of real estate and the world of agriculture and
viticulture provides a nice escape.
The estate comprises something like 27 hectares. Presently about 5.5
to 6 hectares are devoted to vineyards. They've been farming
biodynamically since 1995, or so, according to Marinai.
Giovanni Cappelli is the winemaker and he's, as we understand it, involved
in a number of other Tuscan wine estates. The vineyards are managed
by Fabrizio Bal˛.
I happened to taste a remarkably good "Riserva" from this estate
some years ago and made a point of visiting the winery in
At the winery, I tasted a good little dry white...made, it seems, more for
their own amusement than for commercial sale.
The 2008 Chianti
Classico was very good...dark cherry fruit and a faintly spicy element.
The 2006 Riserva reminded me of the 2004--dark fruit notes and good
wood...full and deep with good cellaring potential. We have
this in stock presently and it's a really nice bottle...
The actually make a Cabernet Sauvignon named in honor of Marinai's
father...While many Cabernets from the area take on Tuscan terroir,
I found this wine to be a really nice example of Cabernet
A Vin Santo from the 1999 vintage was a pleasant surprise...more fruit
than nutty, oxidized notes!
Currently in stock: 2006 RENZO MARINAI CHIANTI
CLASSICO RISERVA (list $45) Sold Out...no California Importer
I was invited to join in for lunch with Marinai, his brother and a bunch
of their old cronies.
Prosciutto, Bruschetta and Crostini
A simple pasta with pumpkin and tomatoes.
This nice young lady took good care of this bunch of old fogies...
Here she is offering a plate of beautifully stewed chicken.
And since the chicken probably isn't sufficient for these guys, how about
some roast beef?
One of the group needed to step outside for a smoke...
And the various fellows made some purchases before departing
This guy enjoyed the olive oil...
A bit of local "art" displayed near the parking lot a few blocks
from the main shopping area of Greve in Chianti.
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