I was recently a guest of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico (www.chianticlassico.com) and Balzac Communications (www.balzac.com) during a series of festivals that celebrate a misunderstood region. This is part two of three and covers the second half of my amazing trip. Traveling with me were Rick Bakas (www.rickbakas.com, TW/G+ bakasmedia), Monique Soltani (www.wineoh.tv, FB/TW wineohtv), Ian White (www.7×7.com, TW 7×7), and Ron Holden (cornichon.org, Tw ronaldholden, FB ronald.holden1). Part III will focus on a subsequent day of touring that I had separately arranged with two of Antinori’s properties.
Let’s pick up the narrative on Saturday, June 8, which included my participation in the seminar, “Sangiovese or Sangiovese?” Here the terroirs, grapes and wines of Montalcino and Radda in Chianti were compared during a blind tasting in the town of Radda. While I managed to correctly identify the origin of seven out of ten of these 100-percent Sangiovese wines (top score among press!), what most struck me was the amount of loud disagreement as to each wine’s identity amongst the residents of Radda, many of whom tasted the wines along with us.
Following that tasting we had lunch at a restaurant in Radda that was closing in the near future (therefore no need to name it), where the San Giusto a Rentenanno Chianti Classico 2008 showed a deep ruby-black, with a nose redolent of cinnamon and red cherry and a taste that screamed cola, granite, and blue plum. There was a very special moment quite resonant with the Tuscan character when the restaurant’s owner, upon learning that we were wine writers, provided a special treat from the soon-to-close cellar, a Castell’ in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva Cantina Storica 1993. Red-orange in color, boasting smells of allspice and pomegranate and a palate thick with red plum, cinnamon, and red apple.
That afternoon brought “Radda in the Glass,” a tasting of Radda in Chianti wines in the streets of the town center. After this we headed back to the Hotel Belvedere San Leonino, and then on to dinner in Luiano at San Casciano Val di Pesa. That night’s theme was “Let it Beef,” a mixed grill in the farmyard with plenty of Chianti Classico and the rhythm of a Beatles cover band. There I enjoyed the Luiano Toscana Rosato 2012, a not terribly complex mélange of pink-orange hue, cinnamon candy nose, and bitter lemon and rose water finish that was of high intensity but only moderately long.
Sunday we arrived just before noon in the town of Lamole (above Greve in Chianti) for an open-air tasting of this village’s wines. There the I Fabbri Chianti Classico 2008 stole the show, with its dusty red color, nose of white pepper and red raspberry, and tastes of red currant and wildflowers.
After our Lamole stop we returned to the Santa Maria al Prato Convent in Radda in Chianti for the spectacle of the Homemakers’ Trophy, where Chianti homemakers vied in a cook-off of typical dishes. We were part of the jury along with other “experts,” most of whom were local or, at the least, Tuscan.
Here two wines stood out. Don Vincenzo’s Chianti Classico Riserva Casaloste 2008 brought a black-purple tint to the glass. The nose was black licorice and granite while the taste was black cherry and lavender. Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico 2009 seemed more reddish-blue, with chamomile scents and a red raspberry and plum palate that ended with much less brightness that the Don Vincenzo, perhaps because of the difference in their relative ages.
We checked in to My One Hotel in Radda in Chianti and had a few hours to relax before a wild dinner in Panzano at Officina della Bistecca with Dario Cecchini, the butcher who taught Mario Batali’s father how to cut up cows. The portions were as intense as the flavor produced by Dario’s herd of cows that he keeps in Spain. As only Dario can say, “to beef or not to beef, that is the question!”
Monday, the final day of the Consorzio tour, began with a lunchtime visit to impressive, historic Castello d’Albola in Radda in Chianti (www.albola.it). Here the Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 showed very well. Ruby-orange and nosing red cherry and brown sugar, this candied orange behemoth showed bright and juicy. Another terrific Albola wine was the black-purple Acciaiolo IGT 2009. Black and purple in tone, with smells of plum and milk chocolate and tastes of red flowers, mocha, and granite. This winery also makes a terrific Vin Santo 2003, deeply amber, nosing apricot and lemon zest and tasting of apricot and candied lemon peel.
We then headed over to Villa Calcinaia in Greve in Chianti (www.villacalcinaia.it), where the bright yellow Comitale Bianco IGT 2012 brought forth yellow peach, fennel, and slate on the nose. Sweet apricot and lemonade lined the moderately acidic finish. The same winery’s Casarsa IGT 2008 was dark purple, with blackberry, espresso, and cola on nose and tongue.
The end of this press tour found us back in Florence, but by the time we got to dinner that night I was too tired to take notes.
Chianti Classico can best be described as the donut hole in Chianti, an exclusive area in the middle of the general region that represents wine with slightly different laws, perhaps a bit higher alcohol, and often more oak influence. Calling Classico anything else (including plain old Chianti) is not only missing the point of micro-regional wine; it is also inaccurate. Classico is generally much better wine, among the most regal and generous juice in Tuscany. So don’t miss the best of this region’s most extraordinary product.
After one more column detailing my extra time at Antinori I will present a press trip that occurred the following week and focused on the southeast of Austrian wine country, particularly the Burgenland. While I’m on the road I mostly employ Twitter (@WineOnTheRoad) and a WOTR Facebook fan page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wine-On-The-Road/230432927008331) for day-to-day observations. If you have any questions, comments, or if you just want to chat, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), Twitter, Facebook, or my cell (+1 303 522-6738).
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Planned excursions include Italy’s Piedmont during the annual white truffle festival next November (currently available at www.wineontheroad.com/piedmontunfiltered.php), a luxury tour of the Napa Valley in October, 2013 (www.wineontheroad.com/napaunfiltered.php), and a visit to Mendoza and Buenos Aires, Argentina, tentatively scheduled for early 2014 (www.wineontheroad.com/argentinaunfiltered.php). You can learn more about this trip, book private groups in wine country world-wide and request more information on any of these tours by emailing me at email@example.com.
Villa Calcinaia Comitale Bianco IGT 2012 (Tuscany, Italy) $16
Luiano Toscana Rosato 2012 (Tuscany, Italy) $20
San Giusto a Rentenanno Chianti Classico DOCG 2008 (Tuscany, Italy) $45
Castell’ in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva Cantina Storica DOCG 1993 (Tuscany, Italy) $N/A
I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2008 (Tuscany, Italy) $40
Don Vincenzo Chianti Classico Riserva Casaloste DOCG 2008 (Tuscany, Italy) $50
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2009 (Tuscany, Italy) $20
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 (Tuscany, Italy) $25
Castello d’Albola Acciaiolo IGT 2009 (Tuscany, Italy) $65
Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2008 (Tuscany, Italy) $40
Castello d’Albola Vin Santo 2003 (Tuscany, Italy) $60/500mL