Chianti Classico Estates
© by Tom Hyland

In mid-February, I was one of only three U.S. journalists to attend the Consorzio tastings of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. These were preview events, aimed at giving the world's journalists a taste of what the newest releases from Tuscany were all about. I tasted hundreds of yet-to-be-released wines, including the 1998 Brunellos, 2001 Chianti Classicos and 2001 and 2000 bottlings of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I am organizing my notes and will write about these events in next month's column.

Meanwhile, I am writing about wines I tasted at three first-rate estates in Chianti Classico I visited on my own after the formal tastings. Italian wine lovers will no doubt recognize two of the estates, Fontodi and Castello di Volpaia, while the third name, Castello di Bossi, may not be quite as familiar. All however, are producing notable wines.

FONTODI - PANZANO IN CHIANTI

Giovanni Manetti
Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi
Photo ©2003 Tom Hyland
If one were to rank the various communes in the Chianti Classico zone according to the number of excellent producers, Panzano no doubt would rank first. Quality estates such as La Massa, Villa Cafaggio, Castello dei Rampolla and Cennatoio are just a few of the producers located in this area. Given the overall quality of these estates, it is evident that the soils and climate of Panzano are quite special, as the wines from here are beautifully structured and among the longest-lived in Chianti Classico.

Arguably the most famous producer of Panzano however is Fontodi. Founded in 1968, the estate is managed by the affable Giovanni Manetti, one of the nicest people I have ever met in the wine business.

The 66 hectares (about 161 acres) of vineyards here are beautifully sited and the view of these plantings from the estate is lovely as they sit in a natural bowl-like setting below the old town of Panzano (there is a new section of Panzano as well). Manetti produces a Chianti Classico and Classico Riserva and also produces a 100 percent Syrah as well as other wines. The winemaker is Franco Bernabei; one of Tuscany's most famous and talented.

2001 CHIANTI CLASSICO
2001 was a stellar vintage in Chianti Classico as the wines have ripeness, very good depth and excellent acidity. Not surprisingly, Fontodi produced an outstanding 2001 Classico normale. Light purple with an aroma of black cherry, a hint of chocolate, sage and oak. Medium-full to full with excellent concentration. Long, multi-layered finish with perfectly ripe fruit, balanced tannins and lively acidity. This should offer great pleasure for 5-7 years perhaps longer. 100 percent Sangiovese. *****

1999 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "VIGNA DEL SORBO"
Another great year in Tuscany, 1999 saw ideal weather with the wines having great structure and backbone. Deep ruby red-light purple with an aroma of black cherry, a hint of peppercorn, oregano and sweet oak. Medium-full to full-bodied with excellent concentration. Long finish with plenty of ripe fruit, firm but balanced tannins and lively acidity. Give this a bit of time to settle down. Best in 10-12 years. 90 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. ****

1999 FLACCIANELLO DELLA PIEVE (IGT TOSCANA)
Although this could be labeled as a Chianti Classico, Manetti has chosen to designate this wine as IGT, as he believes this is a wine that is different from his Chianti Classico. 100 percent Sangiovese from a single vineyard that is 35 years old. Medium-full to full-bodied with excellent concentration. Big finish that grabs you with its vibrant acidity. The tannins and oak are well integrated. While drinkable now, a few years will really help this wine display its best qualities and this should be at its finest in 12-15 years. *****

CASTELLO DI BOSSI - BOSSI (CASTELNUOVO BERADENGA)

Marco Bacci
Marco Bacci of Castello di Bossi
Photo ©2003 Tom Hyland
While you may not have heard of Castello di Bossi, that will probably change, as this estate is producing as many fine red wines as any in Tuscany at the current moment.

Castello di Bossi was founded in 1980 and is today owned by two brothers, Marco and Maurizio Bacci. The estate is located in the small village of Bossi, part of the commune of Castelnuovo Beradenga, which is the southernmost part of Chianti Classico. 124 hectares (304 acres) of vineyards are planted to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The latter two grapes were planted here as far back as 40 years ago, making these plantings among the oldest in all of Tuscany.

Marco Bacci serves as winemaker along with Alberto Antonini and the use of French barriques in prominent here. Bacci is careful to not allow the wood to overpower the fruit; in the Riserva Chianti Classico, about 80 percent new wood is used while in the normale, that percentage drops to 20.

These are ripe, fruit-forward wines that are in more of an international style than other Tuscan estates. But make no mistake; these wines retain their Tuscan identity. Best of all, they combine power with elegance and finesse. Keep Castello di Bossi in mind when you think about the best estates in Chianti Classico the proof is in the bottle.

2000 CHIANTI CLASSICO
Bright purple with an aroma of black cherry, plum and a touch of coffee. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Complex finish with soft tannins and lively acidity. Drink over the next 5-7 years. A blend of 90 percent Sangiovese, 7 percent Merlot and 3 percent Colorino. ****

1999 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "BERARDO"
Berardo is a single vineyard on the property and this wine is a blend of 85 percent Sangiovese and 15 percent Merlot. Deep purple with an aroma of toasty oak, plum, black cherry and sage. Medium-full to full-bodied with excellent concentration. Well-structured finish with lively acidity, balanced tannins, nicely integrated oak and nice length. This is a big wine, but an elegant one. Enjoy over the next 7-10 years. *****

1999 CORBAIA (IGT TOSCANA)
A blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Light purple with an aroma of walnut, black cherry, sage and blackcurrant. Medium-full with excellent concentration and a touch of chocolate on the palate. Earthy, with refined tannins and lively acidity. A powerful wine that has the stuffing and necessary structure to age for 10-12 years. *****

1999 GIROLAMO (IGT TOSCANA)
100 percent Merlot. Deep purple with an aroma of black cherry, plum, licorice and chocolate. Full-bodied with excellent concentration and lots of plums and black cherries on the palate. Big finish with deeply concentrated fruit. Lovely acidity with firm, but balanced tannins and perfectly integrated oak. This is so attractive now, but it is just a baby, so enjoy this when it will be at its best in 12-15 years, if you can wait that long! *****

Volpaia
Vineyard and the landscape at Volpaia

CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA VOLPAIA (RADDA IN CHIANTI)

A beautifully sited estate in the hills near Radda, Castello di Volpaia may be difficult to find, but it has become very popular with tourists in Chianti Classico. The dramatic views have something to do with that of course, but the lovely wines are a big drawing factor as well.

The estate is owned by Giovanella Stianti, who keeps a nice balance between the traditional look of the castle and the new technology designed to keep her wines among the finest in Tuscany. The operative word for these wines is elegant, as they are more subdued than the offerings from Fontodi or Castello di Bossi, yet the quality is first-rate.

Stianti recently hired Riccardo Cotarella to assist in winemaking duties. As Cotarella has a hand in dozens of Italy's finest estates, look for the wines of Castello di Volpaia to reach new levels of complexity and refinement.

2000 CHIANTI CLASSICO
Deep ruby red-light purple with an aroma of black cherry, plum, a touch of sage and oak. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nicely balanced with polished tannins and fine acidity. A touch of spice in the finish. Drink over the next 3-5 years. ***

1999 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA
Ruby red-light purple with an aroma of black cherry, sweet oak a touch of plum and a hint of mint. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lovely wine with a lengthy finish really a textbook style of Chianti Classico. Drink over the next 5-7 years. ****

1999 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "COLTASSALA"
Bright ruby red with an aroma of black cherry, tobacco, vanilla and a hint of violets. Medium-full with very good concentration. Round, rich mid-palate and an elegant finish with balanced tannins and acidity and nicely integrated oak. A touch of white pepper on the finish adds a nice complexity. Drinkable now and over the next 5-7 years. ****

1995 VIN SANTO
Amber gold with a lovely aroma of orange peel, heather and caramel. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lengthy medium-sweet finish with an excellent balance of sugar and acid along with a nice complexity of flavors. Never heavy or cloying, this is an elegant, subdued Vin Santo that is drinking beautifully now and will offer great pleasure over the next 3-5 years. ****

***** Outstanding
**** Excellent
*** Very Good

More reviews of Chianti Classico wines can be found in the April-May issue of Guide to Italian Wines, published by Tom Hyland. Also in this issue are reviews of the wines tasted at the Consorzio Preview tastings of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.

March 11, 2002

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