Chianti Classico Collection 2019 Report

John Szabo’s Buyer’s Guide: 50 Best Chianti Classico

Photos and text by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Welcome to my annual Chianti Classico report, fruit of the tastings that take place every February in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. The Collection is a stop along the week-long Anteprime Toscane series of tastings, the wine trade’s yearly opportunity to check in on the latest releases from all corners of the storied and wine-soaked region of Tuscany.

The Chianti Classico Collection this year featured the 2017, 2016 and 2015 vintages in annata, riserva and gran riserva bottlings. I share some thoughts on these three vintages below, as well as some recent developments in the industry. I briefly profile two wineries, I Fabbri in Lamole, and Monte Bernardi in Panzano, which I discovered on the latest visit and found especially praiseworthy – click on the links below for details and reviews. Finally, you’ll find my 50 best wines of the 2019 Collection, culled from about 150 reviewed. It’s a long but not fully comprehensive list – there were 731 labels at the 2019 collection – so apologies to producers whose excellent wines I didn’t get around to tasting.

Note that, for the most part, these particular vintages aren’t available yet – it’s a preview tasting, and any pricing shown is approximate, based on previous releases – so you can make up your future shopping lists, or plan your next trip to Tuscany. For more immediate gratification, the WineAlign team has pulled together our very own collection of the best Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino available in Ontario right now in this week’s buyer’s guide. Remember you can always use the WineAlign Find Wine function to see the top Tuscan wines currently in stores near you.

Quick Links:

Buyer’s Guide: Chianti Classico Annata 2017
Buyers’ Guide: Chianti Classico Annata 2016
Buyer’s Guide: Chianti Classico Riserva & Gran Selezione 2016
Buyer’s Guide: 20 Top Chianti Classico Riserva & Gran Selezione 2015
New Winery Discoveries: Monte Bernardi, Panzano
Buyer’s Guide: Best Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino Currently Available in Ontario

Related – Anteprime di Toscana 2019 report: Chianti Classico by Michael Godel

In Chianti Classico They’re Talking About…Value

The main story at the 2019 Collection was the continued increase in value of Chianti Classico at all levels. Even the price of bulk wine rose 37%, though not enough of a gain to convince producers to stay in the game; the volume of bulk wine sold last year is less than half of what is was just a few years ago. The Consorzio Chianti Classico now counts 351 members presenting their own labels on the market, making it the largest producers consortium in Italy.

At the high end, sales of Riserva and Gran Selezione have to grown to represent 52% of the appellation in terms of value, while accounting for only 37% of production by volume, indicating that buyers are willing to pay more for premium Chianti Classico than ever before. The Consorzio Chianti Classico estimates global annual turnover at over 800 million euros.  If the appellation were a corporation, it would be a heavyweight, with happy shareholders. Canada is doing its part, now the third most important market for Chianti Classico, absorbing over 11% of the production that leaves the country.

Yet despite price increases, Chianti Classico remains an exceptional value on the Tuscan scene, especially when compared to high-priced Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino.

The Siena Skyline from Bindi-Sergardi

The Siena Skyline from Bindi-Sergardi

More Sangiovese, More Definition, MGAs

Another trend is the greater reliance on Tuscany’s central variety, sangiovese. Although the DOCG regulations for Chianti Classico allow up to 20% of other varieties, the vast majority of the latest releases are pure, or very nearly pure, sangiovese, and there is growing talk of amending the regulations to make Gran Selezione wines 100% sangiovese by law. “The character of sangiovese is more and more prominent [in our wines]” says Consorzio president Giovanni Manetti. “It’s a transparent variety that respects its specific conditions”.

And speaking of nuance and transparency, a technical committee has re-started the research on contentious subject of “menzioni geographiche aggiuntivi”, or MGAs, complementary geographical designations, which will one day appear on wine labels of Chianti Classico. These MGAs will allow the very keen to begin to distinguish the wines from, say, Greve or Radda, from the classicos of Gaiole of Castelnuovo Berardenga, as connoisseurs debate the merits of Pauillac and St. Estèphe in Bordeaux, or Volnay and Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy.

It’s contentious not because there aren’t significant differences between the communes and sub-regions of the Chianti Classico appellation, which counts fully 7,200 hectares of vineyards. On the contrary, not a single producer I have visited has failed to point out the particular nuances of his or her particular parcel of vines. Differences in soil, elevation and aspect have a dramatic effect on the expression of a sensitive variety like sangiovese. The contention surrounds, of course, the actual drawing of the lines. Some factions want to parse the region down to the microzone, while others would be content to start with larger, communal designations. Alas, not everyone agrees.

But Manetti is not daunted. “I’m very optimistic that we’ll arrive at results soon”, he says. “2019 will be the year. There’s a strong desire from not only critics but also consumers for vino di territorio [“terroir wines”]. Everyone wants details on the terroir. No one asks any more how long the wine spent in wood…”. Truer words.

I’m personally strongly in favour of MGAs, and have never understood the argument that they will only confuse consumers. As long as the MGAs are conjuctive, that is to say, additional mentions appended to the Chianti Classico designation, I can’t see any drawback. For most consumers currently, Chianti Classico alone may sufficient to inspire enough confidence to purchase. But I don’t see why Chianti Classico-Radda, for example, will confuse or appeal less.

Even if you don’t know anything about Radda, most wine consumers know that more specificity of origin generally indicates better, or at least more distinctive wines. And for those who do know something about Radda, the extra mention on the label is a very useful piece of information, and encourages greater interest in understanding the various sub-regions of the appellation. Consider restaurant wine lists as well. There may be little sense in compiling a long list of Chianti Classicos, which would raise more questions than answers, namely, what the differences are. More specific designations would allow the sommelier to frame wines in a logical fashion and begin to share the intra-regional differences with customers. Or am I trapped in a bubble? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Vineyards in Radda

Vineyards in Radda

Tuscany vintage 2017: Caution Recommended

2017 was by all accounts a challenging vintage, one in which growers faced not the old tribulations of rain and low temperatures, but the very 21st century problems of excessive heat and drought. A spring frost, and very hot and dry summer reduced production significantly; the Consorzio Chianti Classico reported a 27% reduction in quantity compared to average annual production in the DOCG.

As such, vines had less fruit to bring to maturity, which in many cases led to over-maturity, with plenty of raisined and dried out fruit flavours from literally dessicated or sunburned berries. Tannins, too, were in many cases hard and underripe, with vines lacking sufficient water to move the ripening cycle forward. Guido Vitali of Le Fonti describes the results as “vini altretanto interressanti”, or, “rather interesting wines”, mild praise by any standards.

This said, there are successes. Radda in Chianti, for example, as well as Ruffoli and Lamole (Greve), which boast some of the highest vineyards in the Classico zone, weathered the heat better and showed quality above the mean for the vintage. Lamole in particular received critical rains during the summer when many other areas were suffering from drought and heat spikes, resulting in some excellent wines with mature tannins and freshness.

Michael Godel is also upbeat: “In spite of the very hot growing season yet another successful vintage was noted from the small number of 2017 sangiovese poured, in particular those showing great freshness with help from higher altitudes.”

But all in all, quality in my view is patchy – it’s a vintage to carefully pick and choose your wines.

Vicky and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti

Vicky and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti

Tuscany vintage 2016: Buy With Wild Abandon

On the flip side, and as reported last year based on early releases, 2016 has proven to be a spectacular vintage across the board, one of the best years in long-term memory. Consorzio president Giovanni Manetti, also proprietor of Fontodi, is unambiguous in his praise, describing 2016 as “una grandissima annata classica”, a superlative, classic vintage. I find the wines offer brilliant freshness, balance and vibrancy, with beautifully detailed acids and ultra fine-grained, ripe tannins – absolute classic sangiovese.

The Consorzio describes the 2016 vintage as “standard”, with no extremes: “this is a vintage that highlights the features of Sangiovese: extract values, anthocyanins, polyphenols and unique and concentrated varietal aromas”. That’s just a long and complicated way of saying “normal”, which in the world of wine is a very good thing. Godel agrees: “The real focus at #CCC2019 was on the 2016 Annata, a vintage both normal and exceptionally generous to show the exponential, across the board increase in quality and ever-evolving multiplicity of the territory’s sangiovese.”

2016 is a vintage to buy with wild abandon.

Tuscany vintage 2015: Wildly Appealing

After a difficult, cloudy-rainy-cool 2014, producers welcomed the hot and sunny 2015 vintage. But unlike 2017, timely rains at the end of August accompanied by cooler conditions slowed sugar accumulations and encouraged grapes to fully ripen and thicken their skins and seeds, in turn leading to more refined tannins. Then, ideal warm and dry September and October – the average temperatures across Tuscany were the highest seen in decades – finished the job. Chianti Classico wines are ripe and sumptuous, broad and impressive almost across the board, and will please widely to be sure.

Brunello has of course not yet been released, but excitement is high. I can reveal that one very early preview, the not-yet-released Costanti 2015 Brunello di Montalcino tasted at the winery, is quite possible the most magnificent mouthful of sangiovese I have ever had, a virtually perfect wine. Andrea Costanti even goes so far as to describe it as “a wonderful vintage, maybe the best I have ever harvested”. So stay tuned for the Benvenuto Brunello 2020 Report.

Topping up large old casks of sangiovese

Topping up large old casks of sangiovese

John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: Chianti Classico Annata 2017

92 2017 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico
Clean, pure, red fruit-scented and savoury in the classic sangiovese style. The palate has a touch of reduction which needs to blow off, but the sapidity and concentration are impressive, and the succulent, salty acids and the refined, fine-grained tannins are immediately appealing. Excellent length. Fine wine. Tasted February 2019.

91 2017 I Fabbri Chianti Classico Lamole Olinto Grassie e Figlio Tuscany
I fabbri farms nine hectares, all in Lamole and some of the highest elevation vineyards in the Classico district. The oldest vines were planted in 1969, with parcels from 1984, 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2014. This is pure sangiovese, from the highest elevation vines, up to 680m in Lamole, vinified and aged in cement. Bottled in November. Certified organic (conversion began in 2008, first vintage 2011). Fine and open, one of the freshest ’17s I’ve tasted, this excellent Annata is pale garnet in the traditional sangiovese range, and offers lovely perfume, open and oxidative, offering faded flowers, resinous herbs, lively acids, and crunchy red fruit. I love the sapidity here; the palate is deceptively powerful and concentrated – one would never have imagined from the pale appearance, succulence, with genuine salinity, and excellent length. All class, best after 2020, lightly chilled. A great terroir to be sure, gently handled. Tasted February 2019.

91 2017 Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico
Reserved, holding back much it seems for now, though the palate reveals a wine of significant depth, structure, freshness and balance. This should evolve very favorably into the savoury spectrum, already showing touchs of forest floor, dried mushroom and freshly snapped twigs. Length and depth are quite excellent; best after 2021. Tasted February 2019.

91 2017 Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico
Clean, open and fruity, ripe but fresh, pleasantly herbal-resinous-savoury in the sangiovese idiom. The palate is mid-weight, firm, juicy, succulent, with fine but tight tannins and salty acids. Very good length. Fine, best after 2021. Tasted February 2019.

91 2017 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico*
Tank sample, ready to bottle. Pure red, tight and lean in the Coltibuono style, sapid and succulent. Terrific fruit purity on offer, loaded with red cherry. Incisive acids and very good length. Ultra fine grained tannins. This is excellent, and will evolve beautifully over the next decade, a real success for this hot often slightly raisiny vintage – the high elevation of Coltibuono’s vineyards in Gaiole really made the difference.  Tasted February 2019.

90 2017 Cigliano Chianti Classico*
Cigliano in San Casciano delivers a ripe and modern, impressive Chianti Classico annata here in 2017, fleshy, fullish, juicy and succulent. Tannins are ripe, and length is excellent. I look forward to the final version of this tank sample, tasted February 2019.

90 2017 Bibbiano Chianti Classico
Bibbiano has produced a string of successful vintages, with strong showings in 2015, 2016 and here again in 2017, on an upward qualitative trajectory it appears. The latest annata is resinous, firm and still lightly astringent, several years away from prime enjoyment but with very good length and concentration overall. It smells of pine forest and warm earth in the attractive sangiovese style, and displays savoury, old wood character. A structured, powerful wine all in all. Best after 2021. Tasted February 2019.

90 2017 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico
Polished, modern, forward and ripe, still in the red fruit spectrum and fresh, but on the edge. The palate is full and concentrated, powerful, with marked alcohol, yet all in equal proportion. A pleasing, bold style. Tasted February 2019.

90 2017 Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Primum Line
Primum is the smaller production, top end range from Montecchio, in the distinctive squat “half magnum”-shaped bottles. The 2017 annata is produced from is sangiovese and 5% alicante bouschet from the vineyard in front of the house in Son Donato planted in 2010, with “high quality clones, and perfect exposition” explains winemaker Riccardo Nuti, and given 18 months in botti grandi. Aromatics soar from the glass, complex, spicy, herbal, and peppery, with ripe red and black fruit, sweet, lightly candied, but not as raisined and jammy as many ’17s. Very good length. A very successful ’17, retaining vibrancy and energy. Tasted February 2019.

89 2017 Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico
I appreciate Castagnoli’s style here in 2017, a wine at the leaner end of the spectrum, crunchy, food friendly. It’s slightly smoky, earthy, and savoury, already shifting into the appealing underbrush range of flavours, with excellent sapidity, light, very fine tannins, and good length. Very well handled all in all considering the heat of the vintage. Serve with a light chill for maximum enjoyment. Tasted February 2019.

* Tank or barrel sample, not yet bottled.

Sunset from Lamole

Sunset from Lamole

John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: Chianti Classico Annata 2016

94 2016 Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta di Lamole
It’s hard not to be beguiled by the breathtaking, high-toned, cool perfume of Fontodi’s newish Lamole project, a cracking wine from the first vintage that carries on the quality here in 2016. A saturated but pale red colour leads into a brilliantly composed, delicate, refined, perfumed, pomegranate and red cherry flavoured palate, with powdery, ultra-fine tannins and succulent, salty acids. This is such brilliant wine. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Fontodi Chianti Classico
A terrific nose shows ripeness and freshness at once; quite ripe in fact, dense and saturated red cherry perfume, herbal-savoury. The palate is an essence of sangiovese, so concentrated but light and crunchy, with excellent  structure, balanced but ample in all facets, and very good length, exceptional in fact. Top notch. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico
Clearly serious wine here, with an appealing mix of  ripe red fruit and herbal spice, minimal wood influence other than dried herbs (old wood) and the lightly open/oxidative nature, pretty much perfectly dialed. The palate offers a lovely amalgam of ripe-firm-crunchy acids and fine-firm tannins, as well as excellent length. Top kit, best after 2021. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 I Fabbri Chianti Classico Docg Terra Di Lamole
This excellent 2017 Annata is pale garnet in the traditional sangiovese range, and offers lovely perfume, open and oxidative. Pot pourri and dried flowers lead with cranberry and cherry. The palate is deceptively powerful and concentrated – one would never have imagined from the pale appearance. There’s plenty of sapidity and succulence, genuine salinity, and excellent length. All class, best after 2020. A great terroir to be sure, gently handled. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 L’Erta di Radda Chianti Classico
L’Erta di Radda is a relatively recent operation in Radda in Chianti acquired in 2006, with 2009 the first bottled vintage, from a small but well-sited parcel of 5ha of vines. The 2016 has 5% cannaiolo, and aged 12 months in large cask with 1/4 in barriques. An appealing mix of red fruit, dried herbs, fresh earth, orange peel and other botanical notes make this a rather beguiling wine. The palate is raw and honest, with those lovely wooly tannins and crunchy, saliva-inducing acids, and excellent length. This is an exciting discovery. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 Montefioralle Chianti Classico
Such lovely perfume here: bright and fresh red fruit, floral, light, very old wood spice – essentially how sangiovese should smell. The palate is succulent and juicy, sapid, savoury, salty. Ahh, really lovely stuff. Delicate but powerful, full and balanced, terrific length. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico
Earthy and saturated with dark cherry fruit, and a proper amount of resinous herbs, this is impressive wine from Panzano. Density is high, as is concentration, and length is excellent. Solid, structured, deep. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 Villa Geggiano Chianti Classico
Reserved nose, but supple, succulent, juicy, complete palate, with excellent depth and density, salinity, and excellent length. Serious, top kit. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 Le Fonti Chianti Classico*
Le Fonti is an impeccably managed, organic, 15ha estate in Panzano, run by partners Vicky Schmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali. There’s no wood evident here on this firm and bright, red cherry flavoured Classico. I appreciate the energy and liveliness, the tension, superior to the ’15, also with better fruit definition and depth overall. Appealingly juicy and lively, infinitely drinkable, well crafted, the way sangiovese was meant to be. Tasted February 2019.

91 Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico “Retromarcia”
Meaning “in reverse”, Retromarcia is intended to be a return to the past, that is, wine the way it used to be. It represents three-quarters of Monte Bernardi’s production, sourced from all of the estate’s vineyards under 50 years old (average age of about a dozens years), multiple exposures and a mix of galestro, shale, and macigno soils. All destemmed, but stems are added back (not looking for carbonic), during spontaneous fermentation. The only addition the wine sees is sulphur dioxide, but nothing before a year. Stems add natural tannins and deacidify (more stems used in cool years). c. 25 days fermentation, then extended maceration on the skins. Basket press to three bars; press juice is always blended back in. The wine is appealingly resinous, open and oxidative, showing pot pourri perfume, dried flowers. Fresh, lean tightly wound palate, classic, traditional styling. Very fine and firm – will love to see this in another 3-5 years – has the stuffing and structure to age.  Tasted February 2019.

91 2016 Fattoria della Aiola Chianti Classico
A change in ownership in 2012, and the subsequent influx of cash from a group of Russian investors has lifted the historic property of Aiola into the top echelon of Chianti Classico producers. 36 hectares of vineyards lie in the northern part of Castelnuovo, heading up towards Radda just over a dozen kilometers from Siena. Intriguing orange peel and botanical notes put this 2016 Annata in a different category off the top, while the palate offers ripe, reductive character, but with genuine sapidity, furry tannins, a mid-way refined-rustic wine. Length is excellent. There’s some fantasy here. I like the honest profile and the succulence on offer. Tasted February 2019.

91 2016 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese
Fine purity here, a very refined nose, on lifted cherry and resinous herbs, pot pourri and the like, while the palate delivers a wash of firm and fresh acids, and very fine tannins – this is pure sangiovese on fine display, as it should be. Tasted February 2019.

91 2016 Poggerino Chianti Classico
A bit wound up on the nose and reticent, but the palate is quite explosive, saturated with flavour, on the darker side of the cherry spectrum, with fullish body, dense-balanced acids, highly sapid. Excellent length. Quality wine. Tasted February 2019.

San Franceso in the Vineyards of Molino di Grace

San Franceso in the Vineyards of Molino di Grace

John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: Chianti Classico Riserva & Gran Selezione 2016

96 2016 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo steals the show at Castello di Ama in 2016, a brilliant vintage across the board, but particularly special for this multi-vineyard blend Gran Selezione, incorporating fruit from Bellavista and La Casuccia to amplify the complexity and harmonize balance. Really perfect perfume here, so ethereal and elegant, a perfect mix of fresh-reductive and savoury-evolving elements, with such elegant, polished tannins and ripe, lively acids, a mouthfilling amalgam of savoury and fruit. Length and depth are truly excellent. One of the wines of the year no question. Tasted February 2019.

94 2016 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva
Terracotta rim. Pure, high quality nose, ample, complex, complete. Deep, mouth filling, balanced and pure, with driving, intense ripe red fruit flavours, and very polished but abundant and grippy tannins. Full bodied, sleek and elegant. Excellent length. Very classy. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva
This is fine and pure, fruity and savoury, in an open phase right now, complex and inviting. Fresh, firm, lively acids, balanced and complete. Long finish. A huge success from Bibbiano. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva
Still on the reductive and peppery side, Volpaia’s 2016 Riserva promises a long life. It has a pure saturated red colour, and fresh, lively acids allied to abundant but fine grained tannins. Deep and juicy, long finish. Lovely stuff, a top reference for the vintage. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Gagliole Chianti Classico Riserva Gallùle
From pure, organically-farmed sangiovese grown on the ancient terraces of Gallùle (the old name of the property) in Castellina, Gagliole’s 2016 Riserva is quiet on the nose but ripe and spicy, with full and saturated palate, deeply concentrated but not heavy. Tannins are polished and ripe, giving impressive structure, and length is excellent. What an impressively broad range of spicy red fruit flavours. Quality wine. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva Bugialla
Lovely, complex nose, rich and spicy, fruity but more savoury, highly inviting. The palate is limpid and pure, sapid and succulent, with elegant, fine-grained tannins and excellent length. Fine stuff. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto Bellavista
Shows a little more ripeness and wood than the San Lorenzo as is usually the case, less refined and perfumed overall, but still of course excellent. The palate is big and chewy, more extracted, and with firmer tannins. While the extraordinary San Lorenzo is drinking now, this will need another 3-5 years minimum to enter its window. Structured and angular for now. Tasted February 2019.

93 2016 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione La Casuccia
20% merlot. A ripe and intense wine to be sure, polished and stylish, less refined I find than the San Lorenzo and Bellavista, with high alcohol. Still excellent, in a bold and powerful style. Tasted February 2019.

92 2016 Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Bastignano
Bastignano has the most interesting perfume in the trilogy of gran selezioni from Sebastiano Capponi in 2016 I find, showing fruit, freshness and vibrancy, along with ample structure and depth. Length and concentration are also impressive. Tasted February 2019.

91 2016 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva
Deep, saturated red, with driving and pure aromas in the red fruit spectrum. The palate shows a touch of dried/raisined fruit, resinous old oak, and high acids in a light and elegant style. Very good length. Tasted February 2019.

Felsina Berardenga's superb Rancia vineyard

Felsina Berardenga’s superb Rancia vineyard

John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide: Chianti Classico Riserva & Gran Selezione 2015

95 2015 I Fabbri Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
From the 1969 and a part of the 1984 plantings, the first and best pick of each harvest deemed worthy to produce the Gran Selezione, made for the fist time in 2011. 2015 is only the second edition, and it is excellent, delivering superlative depth and presence on the palate, mouth filling and mouth-coating. It has that raw energy of genuine and authentic wine, unfettered by wood – a very minor component – nor over or under extraction. Acids tingle with succulence and sapidity, so very juicy, while fruit is likewise ripe but not overripe, perfectly pitched in the refreshingly tart sangiovese idiom, lingering impressively on the finish. Really excellent wine, enjoyable now, but destined for a savoury end towards the latter half of the ’20s Tasted February 2019.

95 2015 Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Mocenni 89
From what is considered the top parcel of Bindi Sergardi’s impeccably managed and particularly limestone rich Mocenni Estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, ’89’ was planted in 1998 to an unknown clone of sangiovese with very small-sized berries in extremely stony ground with little soil. The wine is  pure sangiovese aged in large old cask and the 2015 is a classic in the making. The colour is a luminescent, saturated red-garnet, while  the nose offers fine and refined, spicy-peppery perfume, lifted, fresh, floral and stony in the Tuscan style. I love the sapidity on the palate, saline and vibrant, with excellent depth and length. This is the kind of savoury, salty sangiovese than can only originate from an excellent terroir, quivering with brilliant acids and echoing on and on. Best after 2020, or hold into the early ’30s. Tasted February 2019.

95 2015 Monte Bernardi Chianti Classic Riserva Sa’Etta
From a single site planted in the 1960s, particularly stony and rich in pietraforte (macigno, or sandstone), Monte Bernardi’s Sa’Etta is generally the tightest, most tannic expression of pure sangiovese from the estate, but also very floral. About 50% stems are added back to the ferment, and total time on the skins is an exceptional 40-60 days. The net result is simply gorgeous, a beguilingly floral expression, vital and vibrant, with perfectly ripened and poised fruit character, fresh. No wood is evident, and the palate bears the very sapid and savoury hallmark of great sangiovese. Tannins are indeed abundant, very tight, and fine-grained, firm and dusty, while coursing acids frame this beautiful, sinewy wine, vibrancy and vital. Although drinking now, it really needs another 3-5 years to turn properly savoury and mature. First class wine. Tasted February 2019.

94 2015 Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Riserva Calidonia
Another brilliant wine here in 2015 from Bindi Sergardi, from a single plot of old vines in richer soils than the mean from the Mocenni Estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga. It’s open and broad, amply aromatic, perfectly sculptured and sinewy, firm and tight, with excellent length. Tannins are lovely, fine-grained, and the profile is precisely where it should be in the spicy red fruit spectrum with marked minerality and salinity. Very fine. Tasted February 2019.

94 2015 I Fabbri Chianti Classico Riserva ‘I Fabbri’
A selection of the top lots each year from the lower vineyards, selected from the best bunches, of which the remainder go into the (also excellent) Terra di Lamole bottling, some cannaiolo is included and the whole is aged in large tonneaux only. There’s terrific depth, palate presence and freshness here, all resting on firm but fine tannins, impressively constructed; it seems as though there is an extra gear relative to the Terra di Lamole, a genuinely better selection of grapes. Lovely, peppery, long finish. Tasted February 2019.

93 2015 Le Fonti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
Le Fonti’s Gran Selezione ages in 400L and 500l casks of which about 1/3 are new, plus a portion in the used barriques from Fontissimo. The 2015 wears the wood better than the Riserva ’15 in my view, less lactone-coconut-inflected, although wood influence is certainly marked. The palate is thick and rich, chewy and firm, and evidently wood-tinged, but there’s sufficient extract to envision future integration in time, 3-5 years. A big and impressive wine that will hold long term in the cellar, on the more muscular and concentrated side of the Chianti Classico spectrum. Tasted February 2019.

93 2015 Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva
The high elevation commune of Radda as a whole appears to have performed extremely well in 2015, and this Riserva from Castello di Radda is a fine example. It’s saturated red-garnet and luminescent, with fine perfume, beautifully balanced between fresh red fruit and savoury herbs, white pepper and more. The palate is sapid and savoury, vibrant and herbal, with crackling acids, salty and fresh, and excellent length. Tasted February 2019.

93 2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva
Fine perfume, orange peel and red fruit, delicate and fresh, but also structured and complete, saturated with flavour. The palate is particularly salty and sapid, with excellent length. A top reference from Greve. Tasted February 2019.

93 2015 Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva
Reticent nose, but lovely, juicy, succulent palate, with the requisite saltiness and depth. Excellent length. Top notch stuff. Tasted February 2019.

93 2015 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino
A prime example of the success of Bibbiano’s latest releases, the Capannino bottling is a cracker in 2015. The vineyard on the south side of the Bibbiano hill was planted originally in 1958 and 1962 to Sangiovese grosso brought by Giulio Gambelli from the Biondi Santi estate in Montalcino, and about half was re-planted from a massale selection in 2008. As usual, this is the riper more muscular bottling from the estate, here verging on blue fruit, but holding freshness with pine and resinous herbs. The palate is thick and chewy, fullish, densely packed – clearly serious wine, and impressive, with excellent length. It will need time to unwind; try after 2021. Tasted February 2019.

92 2015 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva
Polished and wood-inflected in a modern style, I find the texture lovely and polished, fine-grained, silky, with deep intensity and fine complexity. Length is excellent. A fine wine from Brancaia. Tasted February 2019.

92 2015 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva
The high elevation terroir of Lamole performed well in the warm 2015 vintage, delivering freshness and vibrancy well above the mean, liveliness and attractive peppery notes. Tannins are firm, like raw silk, and length and depth are excellent. An archetype of the region. Tasted February 2019.

92 2015 Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva
Monte Bernardi’s Riserva hails from a vineyard rich in galestro (friable shale) with some alberese (limestone) planted in the 1960s. With 5% cannaiolo, the whole is fermented in concrete with stems, moved to large cask for malolactic, with a portion in tonneaux. Really fine perfume, lifted, floral, elegant, spicy, maturing nicely now. Tannins are present but supple -Monte Bernardi’s wines are not showy, but rather classy and aristocratic, for fans of the reserved, old world style. This is more perfumed, supple and ready to enjoy compared to the estate’s Sa’Etta bottling, though all wines here are excellent. Tasted February 2019.

91 2015 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva
Pale garnet; open, ripe, old school perfume, faded flowers; light-mid-weight palate, transparent and delicate. A refined and delicate wine with character and class, ready to enjoy or hold mid-term. Tasted February 2019.

91 2015 Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva
Fully into the savoury spectrum with lightly dried fruit, very resinous and herbal, Querceto’s ’15 Riserva is quite advanced in flavour profile. Tannins are still firm nonetheless, if fine grained and lightly sandy. Length is very good. Fine wine. Tasted February 2019.

91 2015 Castello Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva
Still quite tightly wound on the nose, though the palate opens nicely, with solid power and depth. I like the fruit expression, ripe but not overripe, red and darker berry fruit as well, with a light dusting of resinous herbs. Very good length. Aged in used barriques and botti grandi, with c. 10% cabernet sauvignon. 60k bottles made. Tasted February 2019.

91 2015 Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo
Pure sangiovese, one year in barriques, of which 20% were new. Still quite tightly wound on the nose, shy, but with underlying depth and concentration. The palate is nicely balanced, with a certain amount of finesse and elegance, structured but not overly grippy or drying. I like the pure ripe cherry, red and black, flavours; tannins need another 2-3 years to unwind, or cellar this into the late ’20s. Very good to excellent length with some heat on the back end. Tasted February 2019.

91 2015 Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
Pure sangiovese with 30 months ageing, over half in botti grandi, and c. 1/3 in amphora. Really interesting nose here, lightly lactic-buttery, a unique signature, mixed with more typical tart red fruit. The structure is lovely, fresh, silky, lively, abundant but not at all hard. Very good length. Tasted February 2019.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS