Saturday, June 15, 2019

Tasting Through the 9 Communes of Chianti Classico

A couple weeks ago I attended a Masters class in Boston hosted by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and led by Jeff Porter.  It was a horizontal tasting discussing the diversity of Chianti Classico and its 9 communes including:  
  • San Casciano in Val di Pesa   
  • Tavarnelle Val di Pesa   
  • Barberino Val d’Elsa   
  • Poggibonsi   
  • Greve in Chianti   
  • Castellare in Chianti   
  • Gaiole in Chianti   
  • Radda in Chianti   
  • Castelnuovo Berardenga
Chianti Classico wine region of Tuscany
Copyright of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico
Tuscany is one of the regions I have traveled through the most and understand the lay of the land the best.  Plus, sangiovese is one of my most favorite if not my most favorite grape of Italy.  I was thrilled to attend this class to get a better understanding of the different communes comparing their styles of Chianti Classico. 
Chianti Classico gallo nero black rooster
Gallo Nero representative of Chianti Classico
We tasted through 10 wines so I honestly can’t say coming out of the event that I can completely tell the difference between the communes since we didn’t taste through every commune.  Without also trying multiple wines from each commune it would be hard to characterize them right here and now.  Many of the owners were in attendance each representing their winery giving a lay of the land to best describe what makes them unique.  What was completely evident from the tasting was even when we compared wineries from the same commune some were very different in comparison.  With some it was the variety of grapes used, the altitudes of the vineyards or the soils in which the grapes are grown.  This to me is one of the most fascinating aspects of wine. 
wine tasting in Chianti Classico
The wineries present included:  
  • Castello di Gabbiano (San Casciano in Val di Pesa)   
  • Casa Sola (Barberino Tavarnelle)   
  • Cinciano  (Poggibonsi)   
  • Il Molino di Grace  (Greve in Chianti)   
  • Castello Vicchiomaggio (Greve in Chianti)   
  • Famiglia Cecchi (Castellina in Chianti)   
  • Fattorie Melini (Poggibonsi)   
  • Cantina Castelvecchi  (Radda in Chianti)   
  • Felsina (Castelnuovo Berardenga)   
  • Vallepicciola  (Castelnuovo Berardenga)
Although I’m sure many folks know, the wine region of Chianti Classico is located in Tuscany, which is in central Italy.  It is almost the same size as Burgundy, France and is home to about 600 producers with 7,200 hectares total (almost 18k acres).  Interesting fact is that about 40% are certified organic or eco-certified.
The history of Chianti Classico  
  • 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de Medici defined the Chianti Classico territory   
  • 1848 Baron Bettino Ricasoli created the recipe for Chianti Classico including primarily sangiovese with canaiolo, malvasia and other local red grapes   
  • 1924 the Chianti Classico Consortium was created   
  • 1932 the term Classico was added to distinguish those wines from the rest of Chianti   
  • 1984 Chianti Classico becomes a DOCG   
  • 2006 trebbiano and malvasia are banned from production of Chianti Classico   
  • 2014 Gran Selezione is born
chianti classico wine region in Tuscany
Copyright of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico
The soils of Chianti Classico 
For those that love the chemistry of the land and geology this part is for you.  Understanding soils is very important and something I myself need to dig into more.  It will help you understand what lends certain characteristics to the wines.  The soils of Chianti Classico I learned mostly consist of galestro, albarese and macignoGalestro is a highly powdery clay schist that is hard and compact.  It forces the vines to struggle resulting in wines with power and intensity.  The albarese soil is a hardened marl stone and limestone that results in wines with high acidity and finesse.  Lastly the macigno, a sandstone, dusty rock lends aromatics and florality.   

Chianti Classico wine region
Types of Chianti Classico 
There are 3 levels of Chianti Classico including the annata, riserva and the new Gran Selezione created in 2014.   

Annata is the standard wine that requires a minimum of 12% alcohol and 12 months of aging.  These wines are fruity, approachable, fresh and pleasant.  Jeff mentioned that he has had 20 to 40 year old annata that were “stunning” proving the impressiveness of these wines even at the basic level.   

The Chianti Classico Riserva wines require a minimum of 12.5% alcohol with at least 2 years of aging with 3 months in the bottle.  These wines are fruity, consistent and persistent, well-integrated with the oak to go along with its structure.   

The new Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is based on single vineyard sites or the best selection of grapes from a particular winery.  The alcohol minimum is 13% with 30 months aging with 3 months in the bottle.  Wines of fruit, spice, depth, elegance and a balance of acidity and tannins. 

The wines of Chianti Classico’s 9 communes 
There were many styles of Chianti Classico portrayed across these wines and since I love sangiovese I can appreciate them all.  Jeff Porter described it best by saying “there is a chianti classico for everyone”.  Here are my favorites in ranking order. 
  1. 2016 Cantina Castelvecchi Capotondo Chianti Classico DOCG – Located in Radda in Chianti in the Siena province.  With altitudes from 400-600 meters the soils here consist of mainly albarese and galestro.  Consisting of 88% sangiovese and 12% canaiolo.  A deep, rich and darker fruit on the nose than some of the others.  A wine with bright acidity which Jeff called the tell tale of RaddaNotes of tobacco, deep cherry notes, elegant with silkier tannin on the finish. 
  1. 2016 Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG – Located in Greve in Chianti in the Florence province located just outside Florence.  This wine is made of 100% sangiovese with vineyards at about 228-280 meters.  Soils are made of 35% clay, 40% marl and 25% sand.  Aromatic, ripe cherries on the nose.  A nice balance with moderate tannin and good acidity finishing with a beautiful elegance. 
  1. 2016 Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG – Located in the northwest part of Chianti Classico in the Barberino Tavarenelle commune.  This wine is made of 90% sangiovese, 4% caniolo, 4% cabernet sauvignon and 2% merlot.  A winery located on rolling hills consisting of galestro and albarese.  Rich cherry with nice tobacco and cedar notes on the palate with silky tannins.  
  1. 2016 Fattorie Melini Terrarossa Chianti Classico DOCG  
  1. 2016 Famiglia Cecchi Villa CernaPrimocolle” Chianti Classico DOCG 
  1. 2016 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 
  1. 2016 Vallepicciola Chianti Classico DOCG 
  1. 2016 Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 
  1. 2016 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG  
  1. 2016 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are my own.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Zucchini Quiche with Raats Chenin Blanc from South Africa

An exciting day as our Wine Pairing Weekend group features food and wines from South Africa.   We all know I have a deep love and passion down to my core for Italian wine and travel throughout Italy.  Although, I have to admit my trip to South Africa back in 2012 was the most memorable trips of my life to date.  I traveled the country from west to east renting a car starting in Cape Town driving the coast out to Knysna and jumping on a plane from the George airport out to Kruger National Park for a 5 day safari.  Absolutely amazing!  Unique and delicious food, beautiful wine trails and animals galore. 

You can see a glimpse and overview of South Africa on my preview earlier this week.   Wines of South Africa was kind to supply some of our bloggers with some chenin blanc to sample.  June 21st is coming quickly which is #CheninBlancDay so it was the perfect time to experience this wine.  The wine that I tried was a 2017 Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc. 

The Winery ~ Raats
In 2001 the Raats winery was founded by Bruwer Raats and his brother Jasper, whom has since stepped away from the business.  Their father was the viticulturalist until his unfortunate passing in 2009.  Today their cousin, Gavin Bruwer, has joined the family business as the current winemaker.  They are located in the Polkadraai Hills of South Africa’s most popular wine region, Stellenbosch. 

Raats Winery solely produces chenin blanc and cabernet franc and takes great pride in focusing on these particular varietals.  Their grapes are sourced from the few hectares of their estate vineyards as well as some other parcels of land closely managed by Bruwer with low-yielding old vines in the areas of the Bottelary Hills, Simonsberg and Blaauwklippen at over 800 feet above sea level.  These areas have soils of Table Mountain sandstone and decomposed granite.  
Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa
Table Mountain

A respected winery whom earned Winery of the Year in 2018 from Platter’s South African Wine Guide.  According to Raat’s website they are the first in history to have 8 wines within the same year receive 5 stars from Platter’s.  I’m not always one for ratings, but that alone should peak your interest in discovering what their wines are all about. 

The Land ~ Stellenbosch
Stellenbosh along with Franschoek are two of the wine regions that I drove through on my journey through Africa.  Although I didn’t visit Raats at that time I did visit some others including Spier Winery that I’ve written about. I realized I dropped the ball on writing about the others including Asara and the unique winery Vergenoegd where they use runner ducks to keep out pests instead of chemicals.  Quite unique and something I still must share. 
Runner ducks at vergenoegd winery
Runner ducks at Vergenoegd Winery
Stellenbosch is located in the Western Cape along the Eerste River and is only about 25 miles east outside of Cape Town.  It is the 2nd oldest settlement after Cape Town and is named after one of the prior governers, Simon van der Stel.  Winemaking here dates back to the late 1600’s when vines were planted by the French Huguenots.  I also read that it’s the birthplace of pinotage established in 1924.  This one region alone contains about 1/5 of all of South Africa’s wines.     
The Wine ~ Chenin Blanc
The 2017 Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc is sourced from 3 of the vineyards mentioned above with an average age of 40 year old vines.  Half of the wine grown in granite was fermented in stainless with the other half sourced from the sandstone fermenting in 300 liter French oak barrels that are 20% new.  After 9 months they are blended together and spend another 2 months on the lees before they are bottled. A brilliant straw color.  Mostly tropical on the nose with a toastiness and hints of vanilla.  Nice crisp, bright acidity with notes of pear and citrus, some minerality and good length.  SRP $24 ABV 13.5%

Food Pairing with Chenin Blanc
I tried a couple pairings with this wine including marinated chicken in a honey soy sauce with a side of fresh green beans in a feta dijon mustard topping.  
chenin blanc pairing with chicken
Although, my favorite choice pairing was a crustless zucchini quiche.  The quiche consisted of zucchini, eggs, a bisquick substitute, fresh herbs and some fresh pecorino romano. The lusciousness and crisp acidity of the old vine chenin blanc with the zucchini  and creaminess of the quiche was a perfect balance.  
chenin blanc pairing with zucchini quiche and Raats chenin blanc

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are my own.