Chianti & Brunello, the Pride of Toscana
Badia a Cultibuono
Badia a Cultibuono or the Abbey of Good Harvest is located in Toscana and is at least a thousand years old, according to the Marchio Storico and the monks of Coltibuono. The name implies a duality of purpose. An ancient badia, or abbey, holds a special place in the history of Western Europe. During the Middle Ages, these abbeys served not only as places of worship and spiritual refuge, but also as centers of learning, engines for economic growth, and laboratories for agricultural development. The monastery was active from 1000 C.E. to around 1800 C.E. when Napoleon annexed most church property in Tuscany. Some he gave away to friends as political favors; some he sold. There were only two owners between the time of the annexation and the abbey’s purchase by the Stucchi family in 1841. Today, Emanuela Stucchi and her siblings are seventh generation stewards of the property. The philosophical approach is to maintain both the integrity of Sangiovese and the unique terroir of Chianti Classico through organic farming practices, clonal diversity, and the restrained use of new oak barrels. The Stucchi family shuns international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The family continues to work with pioneering Tuscan oenologist Maurizio Castelli.
Casanova di Neri
Casanova di Neri was established in 1971 when Giovanni Neri acquired a large estate within Montalcino. In 1991, his son Giacomo took over direction. The 120 acres of vineyards are divided into four distinct areas: Pietradonice in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Cetine in Sant’Angelo in Colle, Cerretalto, and Fiesole. As the grapes have improved in quality, more care and attention has been given to the winemaking process, from vinification to the careful selection and use of casks, but always with the maximum respect for tradition. The winery’s Brunello production is divided between three different labels in order to best represent each area’s unique characteristics. The Fiesole vineyard is situated northeast of Montalcino and is the farm’s oldest vineyard. Nearby is the Poderuccio vineyard at 1148 feet above sea level. Both vineyards are used to produce Brunello di Montalcino. In 1986 Cerretalto was acquired. A natural amphitheatre near the Asso River at an altitude between 800 and 1000 feet, its position to the east of Montalcino and its unique terroir justify a single bottling. On the opposite side of Montalcino to the southeast, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, is the Pietradonice vineyard. Finally, the “Cetine” vineyard is 61 acres, facing south/southeast on a majestic hillside near Sant’Angelo in Colle. Its pristine landscape, plush with thyme and other plants typical of the Mediterranean, along with the extreme drop in temperature at night, allow the vineyard to produce fruit of incredible quality.
Garofoli is one of the oldest wineries in the Marche, dating back to 1871 when Antonio Garofoli began producing wine for local pilgrims, coming to the famous church of Loreto. Today, Garofoli is run by the family’s fifth generation, and its wines are garnering attention all over the world. Since its inception, the same philosophy has always guided the estate: constantly updating production techniques while respecting traditional winemaking methods and the unique terrior of the Marche. Garofoli was one of the first producers in the Marche to reduce yields and experiment with barrel-aging, with the intent to make a Verdicchio with bigger body, structure, and complexity. The Marche is well-known for its hills, which slope down from the eastern side of the Apennines toward the Adriatic sea. This terrain is particularly well-suited to the cultivation of vines because it is sheltered from the winds off the Adriatic Sea and has a warm, sunny exposure. Furthermore, the wines get their famous minerality from the region’s white calcareous clay soils. Garofoli’s estate vineyards cover a total area of about 128 acres in the zones of Montecarotto, the Jesi area, Paterno, and Piancarda, in the Mt Conero area, and Castelfidardo. The estate produces a range of wines including several different bottlings of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Rosso, Rosato, sparkling, and even passito wines.
Italian Wines of the Month
Badia a Coltibuono 2012 Cetamura
Cetamura is the name of an Etruscan settlement on the Badia a Coltibuono property. The wine is a deliciously pleasing Chianti, comprised of Sangiovese and Canoiolo grapes from various sub-zones of the region. The selected grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks before being blended and bottle-aged. The resulting wine shows intense bright ruby red, cherry and blackberry aromatics with cinnamon and clove nuances. The Cetamura is full and well-balanced with velvety soft texture. Serve at cool room temperature.
Garofoli 2013 Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Serra del Conte Classico
The Serra del Conte Verdicchio is a very fresh wine that is meant to be consumed young. Its high minerality together with bright acidity is balanced with intense fruity flavors, all of which make an incredibly versatile and food-friendly wine. The grapes for this wine are harvested from the hills around Castelli di Jesi in an area described as the Classico zone. Serve chilled.
Badia a Coltibuono 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva
A blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino from organically farmed estate vineyards, this 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva was aged for 24 months in French and Austrian oak casks. Antonio Galloni gave the wine 91 points and describes it as follows: “The 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva is gorgeous, especially for a vintage that was not easy. Black cherries, mint, licorice and tobacco are supported by firm yet well-integrated tannins and lively acidity, both of which should allow the wine to age gracefully for a number of years.” Serve at cool room temperature.
Casanova di Neri 2012 Rosso
This Rosso from the Sant’Antimo appellation is a blend of 95% Sangiovese Grosso and 5% Colorino. Deeply colored with intense aromas and a mouthful of flavor, the wine is rich with pronounced spice and ripe berries. The vineyard is located in the Sant’Antimo DOC, which was created in 1996 in the Montalcino area to give producers more options for their super-Tuscan wines, defined as red wines made from traditional Italian grape varieties as well as international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Until the new DOC, a producer’s only option was to label this sort of wine a vino de tavola or table wine.
Garofoli 2011 Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Classico Superiore Podium
The Podium has medium structure and is fruity, fresh, and delicate, especially when consumed young. Its high minerality, together with great texture and bright acidity make it incredibly versatile and food-friendly. The fruit for this wine comes from the hills around Castelli di Jesi in an area described as the Classico zone. The wine shows intense aroma of ripe yellow fruit, accompanied by elegant scents of citrus fruit, combined with a note of honey. The Podium is an ensemble of great complexity with a long finish. The flavor is seductive and soft but with fine character and strength. The wine is warm, elegant, and fruity. Serve chilled.
Badia a Coltibuono 2009 Sangioveto
With dark ruby color and shades of purple, the 2009 Sangioveto has a very intense nose with a bouquet of balsamic, flowery violet, iris, spices, red fruits, vanilla, and cloves.
On the palate it reveals its great structure. Dry and savory on the palate, the Sangioveto is supported by balanced acidity and is warm and persistent with great aging potential. Supple tannins refine the taste, which becomes soft and velvety with time. Antonio Galloni awarded the wine 90 points.
Casanova di Neri 2009 Brunello di Montalcino White Label
This 100% Sangiovese White Label Brunello is sourced from estate vineyards located on the southern slope of Montalcino, Pietradonice, and Le Cetine. The vineyards vary in altitude from 1148 to 1574 feet above sea level. This Casanova di Neri Brunello is characterized simply by its white label, to the point where it has now been renamed “White label” in the United States. The main characteristics of this wine are elegance, finesse, and longevity. It matures in large, used barrels for about 45 months and perfectly represents the estate’s desire to express a wine distinguished by character and tradition. James Suckling gave this Brunello 90 points.” Ripe blueberry and berry character with hints of orange peel. Full body, velvety tannins, and a medium finish. Drink or hold.”
Italian Region of the Month
The name Toscana comes from the Latin Tuscia, which the Romans called the area to honor the Etruscans, who developed an advanced civilization there before the Romans subjugated them. The Etruscans were wine makers and were probably responsible for draping vines over trees, a practice that still exists. But the Romans preferred stronger southern wines, and the Etruscan wine trade faded until monks revived viticulture in the region. Wine became a daily beverage in the medieval cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo, and the Renaissance, which began in Florence, transported the wines of Toscana throughout Europe. In 1716, the Grand Duchy of Toscana created Europe’s first official wine zones, and toward the middle of the 18th Century, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’Medici imported 150 grape varieties to create a total of 211 in the region. But despite these advances, the French took the lead in fine wine in the 19th Century while Tuscans went for quantity instead of quality. The world came to know Toscana principally for its mass-produced Chianti in fiasci, the straw flasks.
But Chianti, the dominant force in Tuscan viticulture, diminished production and improved quality in 1984 when it was elevated to DOCG, one of only 13 regions in the nation at that time, which the government defined geographically in its system of laws, controlling origins and protecting names of wines of “particular reputation and worth.” In addition to DOCG, denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, the law specified another 240 DOC regions, denominazione di origine controllata. Today, there are 73 DOCG regions throughout Italy and 239 DOC regions. Toscana alone boasts 11 DOCG areas, 39 DOC areas, and 6 ITG, or indicazione geografica tipica, a category that was created to recognize unusual wines of quality that would not fit into DOCG or DOC categories.
What Chianti has in common with the noble reds of Toscana is the grape variety Sangiovese. Although many clones of Sangiovese exist, the superior ones are among the world’s noblest vines, such as Montalcino’s Brunello, Chianti’s Sangioveto, and Montepulciano’s Prugnolo Gentile. Among other fine Sangiovese based wines are Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, and Carmignano. But the renaissance of Tuscan wines also includes the “Super Tuscans” such as Sassicaia, which is 100% Cabernet and Antinori’s Sangiovese-Cabernet blend, Tignanello. Vernaccia de San Gimignano is the most prestigious white wine in Toscana, and Vin Santo is a highly prized dessert wine.