Another week, and another great opportunity for a Zoom meeting, this time with a winery in Italy, Chianti Classico to be exact:
…Giovanni Mazzei debuts three new Chianti Classico Gran Selezione releases from Castello di Fonterutoli, the historic Tuscan estate where his family has been making wine for 24 generations. Castello di Fonterutoli’s vineyards are situated within the territory of three adjoining Chianti Classico municipalities: Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga and Radda in Chianti. Beginning with the 2017 harvest, the Mazzei family launched a new approach to its Sangiovese-based range of wines, aimed at highlighting the biodiversity of these three terroirs in three Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines, each with its own inimitable character.
What We Learned from Mazzei
The wines we would taste were from different vineyards and varied terroirs. These were to highlight a new approach to Sangiovese winemaking. In over two dozen generations of making wine – back then it was talked about in barrel now it’s talked about in bottle – there has been an evolution to the winemaking.
The different vineyards, see the photo of the map, cover three districts and include seven vineyard zones. Each give different “aromatics, elegance and power.” There will be discernable little differences between the different districts. We were one of the first to sample these wines. Mazzei then invited us to visit, said he would love to take us through all of the vineyards in his Land Rover to see it for ourselves. Who doesn’t want to do that?
The Wines and Tasting Notes (Some of the notes are ones I agreed with but made by Mazzei or another participant in the Zoom.)
Badiola Gran Selezione 2017 – from the estate’s highest altitude vineyards, below the 12th century church of La Badiola. SRP $99 From the tech sheet: Aged 16 months in French oak barrels (500L, 30% new), then finessed for five months in concrete tanks before bottling. JAMES SUCKLING, 96 points, July 2020. 94 PTS WINE ADVOCATE 8/20 .92 PTS VINOUS 9/20. 91 PTS DECANTER 2/20. Our notes: Red cherries, red currant, spice, toasted oak, earth; same tart cherries, brambly.
Castelllo di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2017 – made from a selection of the best vineyard plots surrounding the hamlet of Fonterutoli. SRP $74. From the tech sheet: Aged 18 months in French oak barrels (500L, 50% new), then finessed for four months in concrete tanks before bottling. JAMES SUCKLING, 96 points, July 2020. 93 PTS WINE ADVOCATE 8/20. 92 PTS VINOUS 9/20. Our notes: Robust red fruit, black cherry, more brambly than the Badiola, lavender, peppery; full bodied, dry red fruit with silky tannins.
Vicoregio 36 Gran Selezione 2017 – a blend of 36 different Sangiovese biotypes (aka clones) deriving from 50 years of research, from the single Vicoregio vineyard. SRP $99. From the tech sheet: Aged 18 months in French oak barrels (500L, 50% new), then finessed for four months in concrete tanks before bottling. 95 points WINE ADVOCATE, August 2020. 95 PTS JAMES SUCKLING 7/20. 94 PTS VINOUS 9/20. Our notes: Thick, rich, raisins, prunes and other dark fruit; tannic, dry, “grip” and velvety.
Giovanni then shared the soon-to-be-released Siepi 2018 Toscana IGT, a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that was first produced in 1992. SRP $130. From the tech sheet: 70% of the wines are aged in new French barriques (Merlot: 18 months; Sangiovese: 16 months), then blended and aged an additional 4 months in concrete tanks. The wine is bottle aged for 4 months before release. 94-96 POINTS, WINE ADVOCATE, August 2020. Our notes: Really pretty nose, red to blue fruit, earth, smoky; complex, balanced (probably due to Merlot influence), silky, black fruit, chocolate, very drinkable now.
About Castello di Fonterutoli
In the Mazzei family since 1435, Castello di Fonterutoli stretches across 1,600 acres of rolling Tuscan countryside in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, taking in 7 areas under vine that cover a total of 290 acres. The seven vineyard zones are themselves broken down into no less than 120 plots which lie at an altitude of between 230 and 570 metres above sea level. Vineyard cultivation is entirely manual, up to and including the grape harvest, with vine care solutions tailored to each plot. Our centuries-old acquaintance with this territory, combined with more than half a century of research, has allowed us to base our range on36 biotypes of Sangiovese, 18 of which are mass selections exclusive to Castello di Fonterutoli. No other Chianti Classico winery can boast this level of biotype diversity.
The 2017 Vintage
It’s hard to remember such a remarkable season as 2017, when a succession of challenging weather events demanded all our instinct and expertise. A frost around 20 April was followed by a spring and summer when it hardly rained at all, with summer temperatures hitting the high notes and inducing a water stress that limited grape growth and reduced bunch weight. Towards the end of the season we took a gamble, waiting for September rains, and were rewarded with 130mm of rainfall in twenty days, which together with an abrupt fall in temperatures (with lows reaching 5 °C) gave the grapes new vigour. Grape quality was therefore good overall with peaks of excellence, far exceeding our pre-rainfall expectations, though yields were down 35% on the yearly average.2017 turned out to be of those ‘textbook’ years when great experience and a careful monitoring of every single vineyard, on a tailored, plot-by-plot basis, were essential to winemaking success.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.