Greve Panzano San Donato
Northern Chianti hills, close to Florence, a september daytrip, with the fermenting must smell in the air, and the Vinsanto grapes drying on their racks. We tasted Chianti Classico, Supertuscans and Vinsanto in: Isole e Olena, Montagliari, and Fontodi estates. Two boutique wineries and one very traditional, specialize in ageing Vinsanto. Isole e Olena, owner and winemaker Paolo De Marchi, his winemakers family arrived from Piedmont 40 years ago, to work on high quality when Chianti was rather a nice table wine, often served in the straw-line fiasco bottle. Detailed study of the soils and microclimates, and of the Sangiovese clones led to amazing results that we taste today. Isole makes, trendy wines too, with selected French grape varieties.Welcomed by the owners, we start with Chianti Classico, gentle, intense and elegant, then come three great varietals: Syrah, Cabernet, and Sangiovese 100%. The last, Cepparello, is unanimously regarded as one of the most representative Sangiovese supertuscans. In additon we got a rare chance - it happens in the fall - we could see the last harvesting operations and we visited the Vinsantaia. Tousands of Trebbiano and Malvasia bunches, checked every single day, are slowly drying until the juice reaches the ideal concentration. Then, it is ready for the press anf for a very long ageing in the tiny caratelli barrels, to become Vinsanto, the traditional dessert wine of Tuscany. What we taste here is sweet, concentrated, acidic, and spicy, an excellent glass to sip as a great meditation wine.
Next we drove to Panzano town, we walked up an down the medieval town, and sat down at the Cecchini butcher’s place, for a simple, carnivorous lunch, drinking a simple, robust, still perfectly balanced young Sangiovese.
After lunch Montagliari, a classic family winery, David proposes us two specialties. First a very traditional Chianti classico, it recalled the traditional wine making style, when Chianti was essentially drunk here. They save it for amazing ageing, so that we could find bottles dating back to the 60s and 50s. But the real suprise in Montagliari is the Vinsantaia, a dark, magic place, smelling like a beehive, a gold mine that keeps over 500 caratelli barrels, of every possible size, and age. We tasted Vinsanto, of course, and took away bottles to drink back at home.
Last winery, still near Panzano, was Fontodi, within the so-called Golden Basin valley, one of the best terroirs for altitude, southern exposure and galestro soils. The Manetti family pursued the full identification with the terroir and its variability, the extraction of the deep Sangiovese character, so they completly eradicated every other grape. What we tasted with their welcoming staff, Chianti, and Vigna del Sordo, are but Sangiovese 100%, as well as their flagship, the memorable Flaccianello, a single vineyard that stands up to the finest Brunellos.
At the end of the day we took the Greve valley, driving by the Monna Lisa family villa, on the side of the hill, and reached the Greve town, Just a coffee and a souvenir break in the typical square, before going back to Florence.
The Chianti Classico wine.
Ruby red, medium bodied, with good acidity and tannin: Chianti in general, and the Classico especially, is definitely the more popular Italian wine abroad, and maybe the more representative of the real, common, unassuming Italian drinking style. It is what we call a tuttopasto wine, that we drinbk without a long ageing, and that matches most of the Italian cuisine. A young one with pasta and vegetables, a Classico with a Florentine steak, a Riserva with the more savoury country specialties or with a well aged pecorino cheese.
More and more wineries, as we saw today, have long bypassed this level, and produce intense, more smooth and refined, and long ageing wines that match the best reds on the wine lover’s scene.
Chianti is a blend, but sometimes it isn’t: Sangiovese not less than 80%, and other red grapes, that can be the local Canaiolo and Colorino or, at the wine maker’s preference, Cab and or Merlot, or Syrah or any other red grape.
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