Sunday, February 28, 2021

Expressions of Terroir with Chianti Classico

I attended a virtual horizontal tasting last month called “Expressions of Terroir” sampling the different communes of Chianti Classico led by Jeff Porter in partnership with the Chianti Classico Consortium.  The tasting was focused on learning and understanding the difference between the communes and the styles they produce.  Each have a variety of different soils, altitudes, climates etc. each playing their own role in the development of the grapes. 

Chianti Classico is the oldest appellation in Italy.  The land had been defined in 1716 by Cosimo del Medici, but the specific Classico territory wasn’t established until 1932.  What we know as the “recipe” for Chianti Classico was created by Bettino Ricasoli in 1848, which originally included white grapes that have been removed as of 2006. 

The territory contains 10,000 hectares under vine with 7,200 hectares dedicated to Chianti Classico over 515 estates.  Forty percent of these producers are either certified or under conversion to be certified while 70% of them are practicing sustainability.  Even one third of them are using alternative sources for energy so there is a strong focus in this appellation for the preservation of the environment and it’s resources. 

There are 4 different soils that primarily make up the vineyards of Chianti Classico including alberese, lending acidity, galestro producing wines with sapidity, macigno Toscano, a sandy and light well drained soil and lastly argille, a clay based soil good for moisture retention. 

The Wines

Now a focus on the Chianti Classico wines tasted.  There were a taste of seven samples from the northern part of the territory in the Florence province to the southern part of Chianti Classico in the Siena province.  Although I enjoyed them all, four of them were my particular favorites.

Chianti Classico wine producers

San Cassiano in Val di Pesa (Florence) – Fattoria I Collazzi

This is the closest commune to the city of Florence just southwest on the outskirts.  San Casciano in Val di Pesa is a lower altitude and one of the warmer communes.  It’s a smaller territory with Fattoria I Collazzi occupying 400 hectares with 200 hectares planted to olive trees and only 10 hectares dedicated to Chianti Classico vineyards at about 1,000 feet above sea level.

San Casciano is located along two ancient rivers, Greve and Pesa, that are west and east of town.  The soils are alluvial consisting mostly of clay and galestro along with some river pebbles that allow the wines some softness and approachability.  The galestro helps with the acidity in the wine and provides structure, but elegance.    

The 2018 I Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico DOCG is made of 80% Sangiovese with 18% Merlot and 2% Malvasia Nera.  It’s aged 12 months in barrel with an additional 4 months in the bottle.  It’s a medium bodied wine with tart cherry and a vibrant acidity with cedar and tobacco notes on the finish.  Alberto Torelli mentioned that the 2018 vintage was one of the best in the last 10 years with a balanced climate.  ABV 13.5%

Greve in Chianti (Florence) – Podere Castellinuzza 

Greve in Chianti is located southeast of Florence.   It’s a quick jaunt outside of Florence and is a quaint town with a great town center.  Podere Castellinuzza is located in the village of Lamole, only comprised of 9 producers total in the Monte del Chianti so the vineyards are at high altitudes.  The area is known for their irises, olives and vines with an aquaphor underneath the village providing water to the area.  Podere Castellinuzza has about 3.5 hectares of vines.

The soil in the area is made primarily of macigno del chianti, a sandstone that faces a lot of water stress and results in wines that are more floral, elegant and with the higher altitudes you’ll see wines with higher acidity.

The 2018 Podere Castellinuzza Chianti Classico DOCG is made of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo.  It’s aged 18 months in barrel with 6 months in the bottle. A sweeter nose of ripe cherries.  It’s vibrant, floral and fresh being more fruit forward than the others.  ABV 14%  

Barberino Tavarnelle (Florence) – Il Poggiolino

Barberino Tavarnelle is on the northwestern side of the appellation, therefore receiving some of the winds from the Mediterranean Sea.  The winters are milder with the summers cooler and breezy so the vines sprout earlier with a later harvest.  The soil here is mostly made of galestro with some flysch sediment and blue clay that maintains humidity and balance for the summer months. 

The 2018 Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico was a favorite for me.  Made of 95% Sangiovese with 5% Colorino this wine is aged 8 months partially in both big and small barrel with an additional 4 months in the bottle.  A balanced wine with nice structure and moderate tannin.  Deeper cherry flavors with a licorice, herbal notes and tobacco.  Higher acidity with nice length.  ABV 13.5% SRP $25

Chianti Classico communes
Copyright of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico

Castellina in Chianti (Siena) – Tenuta di Lilliano

Castellina in Chianti is located northwest of Siena in the southern part of Chianti Classico.  It’s a bigger subzone that is hard to define.  It is a warmer climate and Alessandro Ruspoli from Tenuta di Lilliano defined the commune of Castellina in Chianti’s wines as “savory, balanced with freshness”.  The winery was started by Alessandro’s grandmother in 1920 and was commercially bottled in 1958. 

They own about 1,100 acres with 100 planted to vineyards and the rest occupied by crops, olives and forest.  The soils are rich in alberese that result in wines that are fresh with good acidity.

The 2018 Tenuta di Lilliano Chianti Classico DOCG was another chosen favorite.  Made of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Merlot.  It was showing deeper, riper fruit of cherries and violet.  Acidity was prevalent on the back tongues with low to moderate tannin on the finish.  This wine was aged 12-14 months in botti with an additional 3 months in the bottle.  Momentarily the winery is using 5% Merlot as the Canaiolo is being regrafted, but they plan to go back to a heavier amount of Canaiolo to replace the Merlot.  ABV 14.5%

Radda in Chianti (Siena) – Monteraponi

This is the smallest area of Chianti Classico just about 20km north of Siena.  A large part of this territory is forest.  Monteraponi has been farming organically since 2009.  Their soil is primarily based on alberese lending acidity to the wines.  This is one of the oldest soils in Chianti Classico.  They have 12 hectares mostly planted to Sangiovese with some Canaiolo, Colorino and Trebbiano.

The 2018 Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG is made of 95% Sangiovese with 5% Canaiolo.  It spent 16 months in French and Slavonian oak with an additional 2 months in the bottle.  This wine had juicy acidity showing more black cherry and a hint of menthol with moderate tannin and a silky finish.  When I went back to retaste the wine after I even picked up a little toasted marshmallow.   ABV 13.5% SRP $28

Gaiole in Chianti (Siena) – Badia a Coltibuono

Gaiole in Chianti is northeast of Siena and there are about 45 producers there.  It overlooks three valleys and receives a lot of water from the mountains.  It’s a larger territory and Roberto Stucchi Prinetti of Badia a Coltibuono recommends that the territory be divided into 4 sub zones since it’s very diverse between altitudes and soils.  The soil contains a lot of limestone and in northern Gaiole there is a lot of macigno that is lighter and sandier. 

Monks had been making wine on their property since the 11th century.  The abbey is located in the north of Gaiole, but the vineyards of Badia a Coltibuono are located in the southern part of Gaiole and Roberto describes these typically as “concentrated, robust and elegant”. 

The 2018 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG is made of 90% Sangiovese with 10% native red grapes including Canaiolo, Colorino and Ciliegiolo.  It spends 12 months in large botti with an additional 2 months in bottle.  I’ve always been a fan of Badia a Coltibuono so this was another favorite pick of mine.  Well-balanced showing beautiful cherry notes, fresh acidity, and supple tannins.  ABV 13.5% SRP $21

Castelnuovo Berardenga (Siena) – Felsina

Castelnuovo is the most southern part of Chianti Classico.  It is more hilly than some of the other communes and receives a light breeze and is an open area so it has nice ventilation.  They own a number of vineyard sites over 72 hectacres so there are a variety of altitudes and soils.  Most of it is white alberese and the sandy soils and limestone lend more florals to the wine. 

The 2018 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG is made of 100% Sangiovese selected from 11 of their parcels.  It’s aged 12 months in barrel with an additional 10 months in the bottle.  This is their mostly sold wine with a production of 280,000 bottles.  This is their estate wine with the first vintage released in 1967.  Chiara Leonini from the winery says the main characteristics of their wine show herbal and balsamic notes.  The wine is fresh with bright acidity, cherry, herbal and tobacco notes.  A well-balanced wine.  Another fav of the day!  ABV 13.5% SRP $26


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Vite Colte Barbera d'Asti Superiore with Orecchiete and Sausages

A couple months ago I was fortunate to receive an invitation to attend a virtual tasting event from the Vite Colte winery in Piedmont.  The Piedmont wine region in northwestern Italy produces some of my favorite Italian wines and the fact that they were all based on the Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes were just icing on the cake. 

The Winery ~ Vite Colte 

The winery I’m highlighting today, Terre da Vino, was a first for myself to experience.  Terre da Vino plays a large role in the wine industry in Piedmont.   A coop of their size working with over 2,500 members with over 12,360 acres (5,000 ha), I'm surprised I haven’t experienced them sooner.  There is always so much to learn and try when it comes to Italian wine it’s a non-stop learning curve.   

Terre da Vino started a project back in 2010 under the subsidiary, Vite Colte, that takes their wine production to another level focusing on selecting the best vineyards and growers to produce top quality wines from about 780 acres.  The project consists of about 194 growers that have been selected that each dedicate a portion of their grapes to Vite Colte.   The winery is located within Barolo and as they state on their website Vite Colte is like a “winery in a winery”. 

How does Vite Colte select their growers?  They have strict protocols and selection criteria based on a multitude of factors including soil, altitude of the vineyards, vine density, low yields and the grapes grown.  The vineyards must be over 15 years of age.  The growers must prune based on the number of buds.  Close attention must be paid to the plant’s nutrition with manual vegetation management.  All grapes must be harvested by hand with a production of 4.4 pounds per vine and the harvest date has to be closely monitored.  So as you can see the growers work closely with the agronomist, Daniele Eberle and Winemaker, Bruno Cordero, on making sure all of this is achieved to attain the highest quality that Vite Colte is looking to attain. 

The Wine 

At another point I’ll share the Barolo and Barbaresco wines that I sampled from this virtual tasting, but today I’m focused on Vite Vole’ts Barbera d’Asti wines that are the flagship wines of Vite Colte. Their first vintage working with Barbera was in 1988.  Per Vite Colte’s website they have the largest amount of acres dedicated to the Barbera grape at about 222 acres.  They produce about 450,000 bottles of Barbera d’Asti.  The grapes under the La Luna e I Falo label come from 44 growers over 148 acres.  They are all located within the Asti province including the areas of Ronchetta Tanaro, Nizza, Monferrato, Monbaruzzo, Calamandrana and Agliano Terme. 

Vite Colte Barbera d'Asti Superiore

2012 Vite Colte La Luna e I Falo Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 

Deep ruby in color.  Medium-bodied with some spice on the nose.  This wine leaned more toward dark red fruits, mostly cherries and raspberries.  Lively acidity, smooth and well-balanced and elegant with vanilla notes.  SRP $20-25 ABV 14%  

2018 Vite Colte La Luna e I Falo Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 

I found this more recent vintage to lean more towards rich dark fruits, blackberries and black currants, with some herbal undertones.  Great acidity and silky tannins towards the finish.  Richer Barberas than most, but also still a young wine with time age.  SRP $20-25 ABV 14.5% 

Pairing with Barbera d'Asti: After the tasting I resampled these wines with an orecchiette dish I prepared in a marinara sauce with sliced Italian sweet sausages topped with 24 month aged parmigiano reggiano.  The one great thing about Barbera is that due to it's high acidity it pairs well with many dishes, including this one.  Plus, since this Barbera was rich in style with depth it stood up well to this marinara sauce and sausage that had a little spice.

Orecchiette with Sausages paired with Barbera d'Asti Superiore


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Braised Brisket with Donnachiara’s Kapemort Aglianico

As the snowy days have arrived finally in New England the timing couldn’t have been better for this month’s feature of Italian Food, Wine & Travel as we pair Italian wines with braised meats.  I recently wrote about a pairing with Donnachiara’s Greco di Tufo and today will be featuring one of their Aglianico wines from a newer line of theirs, Kapemort.   

Donnachiara’a Kapemort Line 

I won’t dig too much into the details of the Campanian winery in Montefalcione, Donnachiara, since I recently covered it. Today we’re going to focus on what they deem their “unconventional wines” and with their eye-catching skull labels who doesn’t love to discover the meaning behind fun labels. 

The labels of their Kapemort line were created by the Sicilian artist, Alex Caminiti, whom has worked with a large variety of big brand names.  The skulls on the label represent the mystery and myths of Naples as you’ll read below on their Nerone Aglianico.  The Kapemort project was created to attract a wide variety of wine lovers and not just the wine connoisseurs.  Their goal is to make wine “within everyone’s reach, easy to drink, and is an expression of creative freedom and the take it easy philosophy because life is so brief”.  If there is ever time that the whole world understands this desire to live life to the fullest it‘s now.     

The Grape ~ Aglianico 

Aglianico is one of my favorite grapes of Italy and is primarily found in the volcanic areas of the Campania and Basilicata wine regions in southern Italy.  Campania is home to an abundance of native grapes and Aglianico leads the way for red grapes in the region occupying 30 of the 60% of total area under vine for red grapes. 

Aglianico is a late ripening and thick-skinned grape resulting in wines with high tannin, high alcohol and high acidity.  They are full-bodied wines that are deeply colored and can be quite dense and powerful.  It typically grows well on the hillsides of these regions and takes a liking to the volcanic soils resulting from Mt. Vesuvius in Campania and Monte Vulture in the Basilicata.  

The Wine 

2019 Donnachiara Kapemort Nerone IGT: This wine is made 100% from the aglianico grape grown in clay soil. The name Nerone derives from “the Terme Stufe di Nerone, an ancient spa center, a place of entertainment and games for Ennio, pleasures, loves and betrayals for Cicero and damnation for Properzio as well as a vice for Seneca” as listed on the Kapemort website.   

The color was a fairly dark ruby red.  On the nose were black cherries and ripe blackberries with a hint of licorice and white pepper.  On the palate the wine had high acidity continuing to show blackberries and dark fruits.  I was surprised how approachable the tannins were. Since this wine was provided as a sample I couldn’t locate the SRP, but it’s sold on their site at 10 euro. ABV 13%  

2019 Donnachiara Kapemort Nerone Aglianico

The Pairing 

I chose to pair this Aglianico with a braised brisket that simmered on low filling my home with wonderful aromas.  I rehydrated my dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 15 minutes and used that juice to braise the brisket along with chicken broth, tomato paste and a variety of spices.  Once the brisket was cooked, I simmered the sauce until it thickened.  The Aglianico was a natural pairing to this dish and was quite the treat.

Braised brisket and porcini mushrooms with aglianico

Join my fellow Italian food and wine lovers as they share their Italian wine choices with braised meats.  Join us live on Twitter at #ItalianFWT this Saturday at 11am EST.  See you there!


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