The Sangiovese grape is responsible for two of Italy’s most famous wines, Chianti and Brunello di Montlacino. Largely grown in Central Italy, it is particularly important in Toscana, Emilia-Romagna, the Marche and Umbria. Prized for its high acidity and firm tannins, it has long been one of my favorite grapes. In the hands of master winemakers it is an elegant wine to drink. This past Wednesday evening our wine group met at Scalini Fideli Ristorante in Chatham for our monthly wine dinner. Jim, in the wine queue this month, chose the Sangiovese grape as the theme with wines from Chianti and Montalcino. He did a great job with his selections of vintages with some age on them. Wines labeled Chianti must consist of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, while for Brunello, they must consist of 100% Sangiovese.
We began with a 1997 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia alongside a 1999 Fattoria di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio.
The Felsina, made from 100% Sangiovese, is the estate’s flagship wine. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this bottle was off. It possessed a weak bouquet and seemed very diluted on the palate with no finish to speak of. Possibly due to either a bad bottle or poor storage. $55.
The Monsanto is made from a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3% Colorino and is aged in new and used French oak barrels for 18 months. This was a very good Chianti, with nice fruit, complexity and balance. It evolved nicely in the glass and finished with considerable finesse. $55.
We then moved to Brunello di Montalcino, starting with 1995 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Poggio All'Oro. This bottling is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Aged in barriques for 30 months, plus a minimum of 12-18 months bottle aging before release, it lends itself to a more modern style Brunello that drinks with balance and good focus. The French oak was very well integrated and it finished with nice length. $100
The next Brunello was a superb 1999 Piero Talenti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna del Paretaio. I have been a huge fan of Talenti wines for some time. Traditionally crafted they are an elegant expression of the elegance of the Sangiovese grape and the Montalcino countryside. Among the 20 hectares owned by the winery, the 2 hectares of the vineyard Paretaio have been rendered unique in the last number of years by the wine they produce. During this time, this vineyard has been planted for a large part with a Sangiovese-clone selected personally by Pierluigi Talenti. The excellent exposure as well as the soil characteristics, which together create a unique micro-climate, contribute to the peculiarities of this Riserva, which is made only in exceptionally good years. Made with 100% Sangiovese-grapes, the Riserva is the result of careful selection when the grapes are being gathered and continues in the cellar during vinification process. The wine then matures in large Slovanian oak barrels (botti) for a longer period than the normal Brunello and is then bottled for further aging before being released for sale.
This bottle, my favorite of the evening, exhibited an gorgeous ruby-red color and an enticing earthy and fruity bouquet. On the palate it was smooth, rich, pure and elegant, with a lush finish. This is a beautifully round and delicious wine. A wine with real soul! $75
The final Sangiovese was 1998 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Vino da Tavola. First made in 1981, it is one of the first 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscans. The wine is a cru of grapes from the vineyard of the same name, the "Flaccianello della Pieve." This is a big and lush wine that combines the old-world characteristics of Sangiovese with modern vinification techniques. The wine is aged for 16 months in small oak French barrels (barrique). It drank very well tonight. Tannins were soft, the oak was very well integrated and finished with length. $90
Jim also brought along a bottle of 1998 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, an outstanding dessert wine from one of the top producers in Chianti, Paolo Marchi of Isole e Olena. This bottle had a lovely amber-gold hue and a rich, balanced sweet palate with a never-ending finish and was a joy to drink. The wine is made from a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia di Toscana grapes that are late harvested, then dried on mats throughout the winter to further concentrate the flavors. It's fermented, then matured in barrels, which are not topped during evaporation to purposely allow a slow, oxidative maturation. The 2004 vintage is available at 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ. for $60.
Another month and another great wine dinner with the group. Thanks Jim for bringing such excellent wines and thanks Marc for dinner.