John Szabo’s Vintages Preview: Tuscan Previews 2019

And more March 16th VINTAGES release recommendations

Photos and text by John Szabo MS, with reviews by Michael Godel, David Lawrason, and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week, along with picks from the March 16th VINTAGES release, we feature a special report on Tuscany, and in particular the twin pillars of the Tuscan wine edifice, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino. In these two appellations sangiovese reaches its zenith of quality, declined in a technicolor array of nuances, blood of the limestone, marl, shales, clays and sandstones that prop up the picture-perfect rolling hills of the region.

This February Michael Godel and I spent several days in both Florence and Montalcino, our annual pilgrimage to the Anteprime Toscane, the preview tastings of the latest releases. We each independently sampled over 350 wines under very civilized conditions, comfortably seated with a squadron of sommeliers delivering the desired samples to our glasses. The Chianti Classico Collection this year featured the 2017, 2016 and 2015 vintages in annata, riserva and gran riserva bottlings, while at Benvenuto Brunello the 2014s were on offer, the youngest wines that can legally be released under the appellation.

I muse briefly below on the overall quality of the latest vintages in Tuscany, and Michael and I have parsed our many reviews to bring you our Five Essential Chianti Classicos and Five Essential Brunellos from the Anteprime, from producers represented in Ontario. 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.

And for those particularly enamoured with Tuscan wine, see my complete list of recommended wines from the Anteprime, along with Michael Godel’s Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino reports, via the links below. If you love sangiovese, these guides are for you.

John Szabo’s Chianti Classico Collection 2019 Report
John Szabo’s Benvenuto Brunello 2019 Report
Michael Godel’s Anteprime di Toscana 2019 report: Chianti Classico
Michael Godel’s Anteprime di Toscana: Brunello di Montalcino 2019
New Winery Discoveries: Monte Bernardi, Panzano

Go directly to our  March 16th VINTAGES release picks

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 desiccated 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.

Sunset from Lamole

Sunset from Lamole

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.

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.

Multiple sorting tables at Fontodi

Multiple sorting tables at Fontodi

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 possibly 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.

Andrea Costanti

Andrea Costanti, with the Orcia Valley in the background

Tuscan Vintage 2014: Topsy-Turvy

2014 has been a hard vintage to get a handle on. It was cool and wet, with a very unusual lack of Tuscan sunshine, and quality is patchy. Yet at the same time there are many lovely wines, especially for those who count leanness and freshness as favourable attributes. It’s a vintage like a lot in Chianti Classico.

And Chianti Classico seems in general more even-keeled and generally better than Brunello di Montalcino, where there were many unexpected failures and fewer successes – even good terroirs seemed to fail while others not normally in my top echelon produced very good wines. It’s a topsy-turvy vintage to be sure.

Balance is the key word in 2014. Many producers missed the ideal point, over extracting, or more rarely under-extracting, and ambition, or perhaps the commercial pressure to deliver on the promise that high Brunello prices encourage, was the enemy. Put simply, 2014 provided for light-bodied, early maturing wines. Any efforts to attempt to produce bigger, richer wines in the style of, say, 2012, were mostly failures, with too much hard, astringent tannin and/or oak flavour.

The most successful producers, on the other hand, rolled with what nature offered and made light, easy-drinking, pleasant wines for the short mid-term. Indeed, many notable producers did not produce Brunello in 2014, like Costanti, Salvioni and Biondi Santi to name a few, preferring instead to declassify the entire harvest into Rosso di Montalcino. Costanti comments that “three years in wood”, the normal ageing period for his Brunello, “would have been too much for the wine”. The Rosso di Montalcino “Vermiglio” that he did produce, however, is excellent, an example of working with what you have. All in all, the vintage suits some house styles – more refined and elegant – much more than others.

Godel’s positive spin is: “Rather than focus on disconnects like dilution, astringency and bitterness, it would be much more beneficial to celebrate what attributes went right. There are two examples of excellence in 2014 Brunello di Montalcino. On one hand there are sangiovese of clarity, transparency, honesty, grace and finesse. There are also a few handfuls of highly concentrated and glycerin-curved Brunello urged on by succulent acids and sweet tannins.”

Read on for our top picks from these vintages, and enjoy the journey.

Quick Links:

Felsina Berardenga's superb Rancia vineyard

Felsina Berardenga’s superb Rancia vineyard

Buyer’s Preview Guide: John Szabo’s Essential Chianti Classico

94 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva 2016
Arguably the top estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, the southernmost commune in the appellation, Felsina’s wines are unfailingly exemplary. This 2016 Rancia Riserva, from a very stony, galestro and albarese-based single vineyard, has a typical terracotta rim, and 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. (Lifford)

93 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2016
Giovanni Mannetti’s benchmark estate boasts some of the most prized (and well-tended) vineyards in the exceptional terroir of the Conca d’Oro, a perfect amphitheatre of vines sitting under the town of Panzano. It’s an island of organic vineyards, and, so discussion continues, a future sub-appellation of Greve. Fontodi’s 2016 annata is a cracker. 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. (Rogers & Co.)

93 Le Fonti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015
Le Fonti is an impeccably managed, organic, 15ha estate in Panzano, run by partners Vicky Schmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali. Wines are stylistically on the more muscular and concentrated side of the Chianti Classico spectrum. The Gran Selezione ages in 400L and 500L casks of which about 1/3 are new, plus a portion in the used barriques from Super Tuscan 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. Tasted February 2019. (The Vine)

93 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2016
The loquacious Paolo dei’ Marchi puts as much thought and attention into his wines as he does into his philosophical musings, and the Isole e Olena estate on the western edge of the Classico district performed exceptionally well in 2016, making for a wine of clearly superior quality. Its seriousness is evident off the top, offering an appealing mix of ripe red fruit and herbal spice, minimal wood influence other than dried herbs (old wood) and a lightly open/oxidative nature that is pretty much perfectly dialled. The palate delivers on aromatic promise with 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. (Halpern Enterprises)

92 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2017
The high elevation, and thus cooler vineyards of Radda appeared to have weathered the heat of 2017 better than most areas, as the ensemble of wines from Radda showed, and Volpaia, a leading reference  in the commune, has indeed crafted one of the year’s best Chianti Classicos. It’s clean, pure, red fruit-scented and savoury in the classic sangiovese style, while the palate still has a touch of reduction which time to 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. (Rogers & Co.)

Vineyards in Radda

Vineyards in Radda

Buyer’s Preview Guide: Michael Godel’s Essential Chianti Classico

96 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015 ($150.00)
Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019. (Rogers & Co.)

93 Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($35.95)
Sometimes there’s a sangiovese that’s really quite perfect for its place and time. In Geggiano’s case their land is a highly specific micro-climate in as far as the crow flies close to Siena at the western edge of Castelnuovo Berardenga. With terrific 2016 in pocket it adds up to immediate gratification giving way in credence to structural organization. This is the 2019 find from Annata so many of you will have been looking and waiting for. Precise and focused are certainties though it is the way its silky texture slides down and its fine tannins only limelight the layers the pleasure along that ride. Great work from field to table from the brothers Boscu Bandinelli Bianchi. Drink 2022-2033. Tasted February 2019.

93 Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($42.60)
Michele Braganti’s 2016 Annata is 95% sangiovese with canaiolo, certified organic, off of the youngest (9-15) year-old vineyards. “Here is Radda,” he insists. Generally speaking at Monteraponi “the stone is highly rich in stone,” which sounds like a proverb and believably so, plus the altitude does not allow for Michele to make powerful wines. It’s cold here, even in September it can be five degrees at night. Acidity comes from structure and the fruit walks like un funambolo, a tightrope walker. It’s both linear and climbing uphill. This is red limestone lightning sangiovese of absolute purity, transparency, honesty and connectivity. To the land. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted September 2018 and February 2019. (Cavinona)

93 Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)
Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2019. (Brand New Day)

92 I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Olinto Grassie E Figlio 2017 ($26.95)
“A true expression of this terroir,” says Susanna Grassi, from the organic vineyards, and the tiniest (3,000) bottles of production. At altitudes as high as any in Chianti Classico and from the warmest of vintages, the fresh factor is as high as there will be. The fruit goes beyond cherry, into what careens like raspberry and the savoury aspect is almost sweet, but not. Aged in concrete and just so pleasurable meets territorial. Exactitude for Lamole. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019. (Winehouse Imports)

San Franceso in the Vineyards of Molino di Grace

San Franceso in the Vineyards of Molino di Grace

Buyers’ Preview Guide: John Szabo’s Essential 2014 Brunello di Montalcino

94 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino 2014
Il Marroneto has gained a bit of cult-like status in recent years, as the traditionalist, elegant and minimalist styling that Alessandro Mori has always favoured has regained popularity. In any case, it’s the expression that these northern Montalcino vineyards seem destined to give. His 2014 an absolute beauty of the genre, very pale garnet red, fully transparent, with a delicate, dusty, oxidative nose in the post-modern (traditional) style, inviting, complex, full of pot pourri and dusty faded flowers. I love the fine-grained, filigree palate, with crackling acids and light-dusty tannins, grippy but well-integrated. Long finish. Not a blockbuster, but toute en finesse; a wine of the times. Tasted February 2019. (Massimo Buono)

93 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2014
Riccardo Talenti’s ’14 Brunello is one of the most successful wines from southern Montalcino, near the village of Sant’ Angelo in Colle, with vineyards ranging from 200 to 400 m a.s.l. It delivers a solid mix of red fruit and herbal spice, with neither dominating for now, indicating well-balanced vineyard management and a smart harvest time decision. The palate is properly juicy and succulent, with a little more depth than the average, also more fruit, with very good to excellent length. It’s still a lighter wine, but one which faithfully respects the vintage character. A grand success I’d say overall, drinking now-mid-twenties. Tasted February 2019. (Lifford Wines & Spirits)

93 Gianni Brunelli Le Chiuse di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2014
I’ve admired the impeccably-made wines of Laura Vacca-Brunelli for many vintages now, which always manage to present a sleek and polished side without abandoning authentic sangiovese styling. The annata draws from the original 2ha of vineyards in the northwest of Montalcino (Canalicchio) planted in 1989, and the newer southeast estate of Podernovone, planted in 1998 at up to 500m (and a new cellar was completed in 2015), and aged in large Slavonian casks ranging from 2500 to 3000L. The 2014 shows a fine, authentic red-garnet colour, and dusty, earthy, savoury, proper sangiovese aromatics, mature but still with plenty of life. The palate is fleshy and full, riper than many 2014s, with supple tannins, well managed, and excellent length. A success for the vintage to be sure. Tasted February 2019. (Brix & Mortar)

93 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2014
Brother and sister Paolo and Lucia Bianchini head up this storied property in southern Montalcino near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, former property of the Count Alberto Piccolomini d’Aragona. Multiple south-facing parcels of vines surrounding the estate are planted to a unique, old vine, massale selection that tends to yield wines on the more refined and elegant side of the sangiovese spectrum. The colour of the 2014 is a sustained red-garnet, while the nose is already open and pleasantly aromatic, mixing bright, fresh red fruit with fresh herbs, a touch of honey and orange peel, but clean and inviting. The palate is succulent, fleshy, juicy, saline and mineral, with genuine presence and excellent length and complexity. I would happily drink this fine wine. Drink or hold until the late ’20s. Tasted February 2019. (Brix & Mortar)

92 Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2014
Giuseppe Sesti and daughter Elisa apply a naturalist philosophy to tending their nine hectares of vines at the Castello di Argiano estate, essentially organic, and a minimalist approach in the winery: nothing added, and even the Brunello annata is given a long sojourn of four years in larger wood. The results are appealingly evolved straight from release, like this 2014 with its decidedly earthy, leathery, advanced and mature style (fully in the garnet spectrum), showing both fantasy and complexity. I appreciate the supple, succulent, silky palate, well-managed in an unabashedly old school style, working with the vintage to maximize potential. This will offer plenty of pleasure over the short-near-mid-term. Tasted February 2019. (Le Sommelier)

The Siena Skyline from Bindi-Sergardi

The Siena Skyline from Bindi-Sergardi

Buyers’ Preview Guide: Michael Godel’s Essential 2014 Brunello di Montalcino

94 Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2014
Clear, transparent, honest and finessed. This is what you hope for from the 2014 Brunello. The clarity here is apparent from the get go, with fruit locked and shut tight beneath a reductive shell. Acids are succulent and far from sour, tannins pure, sweet and of the finest grain. Not about concentration because the vintage will resist allowing it. But this is made in the best possible way and will live a few decades or more. Drink 2024-2038. Tasted February 2019. (Le Maître de Chai)

94 Cupano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014
Cupano’s fruit concentration is so impressive in 2014 that the minor amount of Brettanomyces is but a smudge on the glass of sangiovese life. Here is Brunello that found a way in 2014, to grow quality fruit, pick it at just the right moment and deliver it straight to glass. The barrel work et al along the way is but a messenger’s or a shepherd’s conduit. Really well done. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2019.

94 Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino 2014
Here comes a sangiovese with swagger and confidence born and bred out of understanding and finesse. Sweet rose and violet candied floral fruit gives way to a caressing palate of fine acids and some of the vintage’s finer tannin. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted February 2019. (Lifford Wines & Spirits)

93 Ciacci Piccolomini D’Aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014
Ciacci e buono, from the beginning, instilled with confidence, finesse and grace. The fruit is beguiling Brunello sangiovese, sour cherry sweetening and flashing as it sits and you taste. Gathers all the necessary attributes along the forest path, through the well-attended vines and into a cellar ready to make things happen. That they do, with charm and structure. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2019. (Brix & Mortar)

93 Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014
Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2019. (Nicholas Pearce) 

Buyer’s Guide: March 16th VINTAGES RELEASE

Antech 2015 Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux, Traditional Method, Languedoc, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A great value in this release, Antech’s Expression is an appealing, yeasty blend of chardonnay, chenin, and the star of this southern French appellation, mauzac. Rich and frothy, the dosage here is perfectly in balance rounding out the acidity. Complex and refreshing with aperitif potential or pair with smoked fish with a caper tapenade.

Duncan 2017 Savage Untamed Shiraz, Swartland, South Africa ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A juicy, upbeat, highly gulpable shiraz, with compelling aromas of cassis, violet, tomato leaf and a hint of white pepper. Mildly reduced but the character blows off rather quickly with air. A mouthful of clean perfectly ripened fruit greets on the palate. Widely appealing and undeniably distinctive of the grape variety. Exhibiting both riper “shiraz” and aromatic “syrah” styles.

Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015, Ap Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Late to this party and happily invited because the (70 per cent) syrah and grenache joint is a juicy one, but also peppery, sharp, pointed and structured. Here the heart of Roussilon is pierced, not just the geographical centre but the emotional one. It’s a full-bodied red found in very pleasing balance, with smoky beats, tart meanderings and overall succulence. Liquid chalky tannins surmise, surprise and summarize the entire operation. Long finish seals the deal.

William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2017, Burgundy ($27.95)
David Lawrason – This is tidy, straight-arrow Chablis with slightly elevated acidity, which will not be a problem for Chablis fans. The nose is fairly generous with classic, well integrated green apple, citrus, minerality and vague parmesan cheese bread character. It is mid-weight, slim yet filled out just enough with very good to excellent focus and length. This is the kind of wine you want to have kicking around the house for fine but not ultra elaborate shellfish and shrimp recipes. Solid.

Antech Expression Brut Crémant De Limoux 2015 Duncan Savage Untamed Shiraz 2017 Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015 William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2017

Château Teyssier 2015, Ac Montagne Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France ($24.95)
Michael Godel – From one of Bordeaux better if not one of the most consistent and high quality satellite appellations, this Montage Saint-Émilion delivers the classic liquid chalky conviction that brings merlot to a structured place. It also takes you to that place on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, northeast of the greater appellation. Rich, oozing black cherry and red to black currant fruit gets a mild smoky smoulder and plenty of food pairing acidity. Excellent beef, lamb and red sauce pasta wine. Reminds me of merlot grown in Chianti Classico on similar chalky soils.
David Lawrason The ripe 2015 vintage has worked its magic on this quite lush merlot-based red from the Montagne satellite. Ripe, soft raspberry fruit is nicely framed by vanillin, spice and some tea and tobacco character. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense, soft and warm. Tannins are firm but ripe. The length is very good to excellent. The generosity of 2015 is front and centre.

Sous La Montagne 2016 DSM Vin d’Altitude, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($20.95)
Sara d’Amato – Rich and supple, this blend of carignan (41%), syrah (30%), grenache (23%), and a form of grenache known as lledoner pelut (6%) is harvested from granitic soils in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Yielding a very approachable red that is clean, offering purity of fruit and showing no influence from oak. A quarter of the grapes were vinified whole adding a slight tannic edge but this is overall quite affable and well-balanced. Notably fresh but brimming with ripe fruit as well.

Château Siaurac 2010, Lalande de Pomerol Bordeaux, France ($45.95)
Sara d’Amato – This re-release of Château Siaurac’s 2010 vintage appeared just over a year ago on VINTAGES shelves but did not last long. It has softened even more in is drinking very well now although it should develop happily for another 2-3 years. The estate is planted to 75% merlot, 20% cabernet franc and 5% malbec. This relatively ripe vintage offers a savory edge to its voluptuous fruit. Excellent concentration but not without poise and sophistication.

Château Teyssier 2015 Sous La Montagne Dsm Vin D'altitude 2016 Château Siaurac 2010

Buyer’s Guide: Best Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino Currently Available in Ontario
(Agent is listed if it is available in the Agents’ Consignment Program)

Isole E Olena 2015 Cepparello, IGT Toscana ($108.95)  (VINTAGES Release Jan 5, 2019)
John Szabo – I’ve included this wine under the Chianti Classico heading even though it’s IGT-designated, as it’s pure sangiovese from the estate (Cepparello is the name of the dry creek that runs through the Isole e Olena property) and would qualify for the Classico appellation if Paolo dei Marchi so chose. But the wine’s creation dates from the era when pure sangiovese was not permitted, so the lesser appellation was retained for commercial continuity. This 2015 is deeply-coloured, ripe, red and mostly dark fruit-inflected, rich, intense, structured, full-bodied, savoury and succulent, a magnificent wine, complex, complete, with extraordinary texture, finely woven, firm and tensile. Terrific length, too. Still far from prime, I’d cellar until 2025 for maximum enjoyment, or hold another decade post that. Tasted December 2018. Value Rating: ***

Fèlsina Berardenga Riserva Chianti Classico 2015, Docg ($38.95) (VINTAGES Release Jan 5, 2019)
John Szabo – Pure sangiovese, from 11 parcels across the Fèlsina property, multiple clones, aged principally in large cask with a small percentage (c. 10%) of old barriques. The 2015 is maturing now, intense, offering spicy and savoury, resinous herbal character, old wood, a touch of volatile to lift the ensemble. Complex, firm, zesty and succulent Chianti Classico from a reliable house, classically styled from the warmer Berardenga zone in the southern part of Classico district, with more than a touch of minerality-salinity. Tasted December 2018. Value Rating: ***

Palazzo 2013 Brunello Di Montalcino ($69.95) (VINTAGES Release Oct 27, 2018)
John Szabo – Medium-saturated red-garnet. Discreet aromatics, and full, highly structured palate. Tannins are a touch drying – astringent, but there appears to be enough fruit here to see this through to better balance. This is powerful and generously flavoured wine with genuine concentration and excellent length. Best after 2020. Tasted February 2018 and March 2019, and improving with age as expected.
Michael Godel –  From vineyards just directly southeast beneath the village of Montalcino there is a blessed, unobstructed warmth in this wine from a mixed idea vintage. Carries in its mid-weight stride the classic cherry-leather liqueur of central-south Montalcino sangiovese. It’s both traditional and sweetly spiced, with anise, nuttiness and a clearly transcribed Montalcino vernacular. It’s lovely Brunello is what I’m trying to say.

Rocca Delle Macie 2016 Chianti Classico ($18.95) (VINTAGES ESSENTIAL)
John Szabo – 2016 is a fine vintage for Rocca delle Macìe’s Chianti Classico, delivering a ripe but fresh, fleshy and plush, juicy but gentle wine with wide appeal. A solid wine for the price, well-made, clean, food friendly. Tasted March 2019.

Isole E Olena Cepparello 2015 Fèlsina Berardenga Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2013

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($27.95, Abcon International)
Michael Godel – This next Annata from Radda in Chianti is impressive for its delivered impression of simulated Riserva quality and with a bit of reserve on the nose. Poggerino’s stands apart in this respect. There are many layers in the variegated red fruit, at times really dusty and often liquified of a chalky strength. It is this presence that says all the best fruit is right here. It will be very interesting to taste the Riserva Bugialla to compare, contrast and quite likely re-think.

Toraccia Di Presura 2013 Il Tarocco Chianti Classico Riserva ($43.95, The Vine)
John Szabo – Lovely, classic Italian nose flirting with acetone-volatility, very umami-rich, driven by sundried tomato, shoe polish, dried porcini mushroom, dried resinous herbs, alongside fresh/dried red fruit. I must say I love the savoriness on the palate, and the firm-dusty tannic structure, while acids (and acetic acid) lift the ensemble. This is serious wine, well worth the premium. Drinks like Brunello. Pure sangiovese. Tasted July 2018, and again in March 2019.
David Lawrason – This is an intense, somewhat angular and edgy Chianti, typical of the 2013 vintage – although it is less green than some. Very complex, generous aromas of blackcurrant, anise, bay leaf, chinotto (Brio) and dried wood spice are very appealing. It is medium-full bodied, slightly tart edged tannic and green but so intense. The length is excellent.

Castello Dei Rampolla 2016 Chianti Classico ($44.95, The Vine)
John Szabo – Rampolla is known for their minimal interventions in both vineyard and winery, and it shows here in this open, very natural-smelling 2016 Chianti Classico. The blend includes some cabernet sauvignon and merlot alongside sangiovese, and the palate is deep and fleshy, highly concentrated, sapid, succulent, even lightly salty, with that natural, woolly-tannic texture and excellent length. This is a big and satisfying mouthful, with genuine concentration and structure, complexity and excellent length. An iconoclastic style, though I wish it were a touch more ‘made’. The palate turns a touch brittle on the finish, but the wine is impressive to be sure. Tasted March 2019.
Michael Godel – Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something.
David Lawrason – This is an exceptional, unique wine. A vibrant, generously fruited lively young Chianti with intense aromas of blackcurrant, chokecherry, spearmint, graphite and gentle oak spice. Impressive aromatics. The same intensity and fruit concentration powers onto the palate. It is medium-full bodied, so lively and intense, with excellent to outstanding length. A hint of VA in the background, but this is electric!
Sara d’Amato – Sangiovese is enhanced here by cabernet sauvignon and merlot in this delectable Chianti Classico with notable pedigree. Its wild nose is mesmeric with notes of mint, earth and sweet cherries. Despite its youth, an impressive degree of flavour is revealed. Elegant and poised yet under the surface, it is percolating with barnyard and even some volatility – flaws that contribute to a myriad of flavours and textures on the palate while adding vibrancy and edge. Highly satisfying now or hold another 2-3 years.

Poggerino Chianti Classico Docg 2015 Toraccia Di Presura Il Tarocco Chianti Classico Riserva Docg 2013 Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico Docg 2016

Piemaggio 2013 Chianti Classico Le Fioraie ($29.99, Wilson Wines)
John Szabo – Really pretty nose here on offer, complex, spicy-herbal, pot-pourri inflected, high toned and floral but not volatile – this is fine wine. The palate is vibrant and succulent, lightly drying but honest and woolly, with plenty of vibrant-tart fruit, evolving slowly, and well. This is a fine example of savoury sangiovese, drinking now, or hold mid-term. Best with some salty protein to lighten the tannic load. Tasted March 2019.
David Lawrason – This has a terrific, complex maturing nose of sundried tomato/currant fruit, fresh basil, pepper, leather and some meatiness – all so well integrated. It is medium-full bodied, with typical 2013 edginess, yet nice harmony as well. There is nicely smooth centre here, with fine acidity. Excellent length.
Sara d’Amato – A firm and impressive Chianti Classico, complex with a highly compelling nose of wildflowers. Offering great depth of flavour and a surprisingly youthful degree of fruit. Only mild tertiary (bottle aged) flavours are present such as wet leaf and a slight note of leather adding to the overall dimension. Still showing a great deal of tannic presence but the palate dominated by note of fresh cherry, fig, balsamic and dates. Finely integrated wood treatment with great length.

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 ($69.95) (Coming Soon in VINTAGES Release Mar 30, 2019)
Michael Godel –  The vintage is a terrific one for San Polo, transparent in its fruit clarity, inflective of warm south Montalcino vineyards. Località Podernovi is found on the southern slope with Mount Amiata acting as the mitigator for winds whipping in from the sea. The vintage was not a scorcher and how this walks a neither hot nor cold line is how it finds its grace. The fruit and acids are both of the appetizing and epicurean kind, equally opposing and nicely in synch. Lovely freshness to this Brunello

Castello Di Querceto 2016 Chianti Classico, Tuscany ($24.95, Profile)
David Lawrason – This has lovely energy, lift yet some semblance of elegance as well. Expect fairly intense, classic Chianti aromas of currants, sundried tomato, basil, a hint of meatiness and gentle oak. It is medium-full bodied, with good intensity on the palate and excellent length. Give it a year or two. Tasted March 2019
Sara d’Amato – Named after the oak forest in the vicinity, the Querceto estate is one of the founding members of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico and subsequently a driver of planting international grape varieties for the promotion of the Super Tuscan genre. This estate’s Chianti Classico, however, is made up almost entirely of sangiovese (92%) with varieties such as canaiolo, colorino and mammolo e Ciliegiolo making up the remainder of the blend. It offers notes of bright, juicy cherry and bramble with mild and integrated oak spice. Clean, concise and substantial with fine tannins. Lively with notable complexity and very good quality fruit. Excellent price/quality ratio.

Piemaggio Chianti Classico Docg Le Fioraie 2013 San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino 2013 Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Docg 2016

Le Fonti di Panzano 2015 Chianti Classico ($31.95, The Vine)
John Szabo – The ripe, forward, not to say international style, of Le Fonti shines through here, along with density and sheer weight – so evidently from low yielding, carefully tended vines. It’s a fullish, firm, juicy, mid-weight Classico, well-structured with that arch-Italian/Tuscan leanness and firmness. Acids are pleasantly tart. Length and depth and good to very good. Proper and representative, carefully tended and crafted beyond doubt, falling to a more robust and powerful style for the appellation. A such, it will satisfy widely to be sure. Tasted three times, in February 2018 and February 2019, and March 2019.
Michael Godel – Le Fonti is the life work of Vicky Schmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, organic, sustainable and Europe’s first “Bio-Distretto di Viticultura,” leading their Panzano-Greve community in the charge of “attractive territories for a sustainable world.” This is where sangiovese captures the warmth and relative ease of a vintage, like bottling sun, gravel, schist, limestone, sand and clay for better days ahead.
David Lawrason – This is a quite ripe, rich yet still edgy and intense Chianti, filled out by the small portion of merlot and cabernet buffing the sangiovese. Comes together well if not with as much traditional, edgy Chianti flavour. Expect generous currant fruit with Italian sausage, herbal and some sweeter oak complexity. It is medium full bodied, fleshy yet nicely dry. The length is very good to excellent. A good buy at $30ish.

Le Fonti di Panzano 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany  ($44.95, The Vine)
David Lawrason – This is a complex, nicely integrated Chianti riserva moving into prime time. Expect generous, nicely woven classic aromas of currants, raspberry, fresh herbs, leather and spice. Ticks all the Tuscan boxes.  It is medium weight, very generous, warm and rich with excellent length. Best now to 2012. Tasted March 2019

Cappone 2015 Chianti Classico ($22.99, Nicholas Pearce)
John Szabo – Ripe and evolving, Sebastiano Cappone’s 2016 from his more accessible label (relative to top end brand Calcinaie), has reached a fine stage of drinkability, with pure and sapid, sangiovese flavour, complete with dried porcini and dusty earth, fresh leather and twigs. I like the zesty palate, the succulent acids , the fine tannins. An arch-classic Classico, drinking now or hold until the mid-twenties. Tasted March 2019.
Sara d’Amato – Organically grown sangiovese is the basis for this compelling Chianti Classico. Prickly in texture, with spine-tingling acidity grounded by an earthy element. Very complex, still rather youthful and tightly wound. Pleasantly wild and slightly feral. Finely integrated wood treatment meshes elegantly with the fruit. A touch of warmth is notable on the finish but not out of balance. The concise definition on the palate and the multifaceted layering of flavours is impressive at this price. Offering excellent length.

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Docg 2015 Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 Cappone Chianti Classico Docg 2015

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

John Szabo, MS

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