Story by Manos Angelakis
The second major in-person wine tasting this year I was invited to, took place in New York City, May 21.
The Chianti Classico DOCG producers were out in full force with sample bottles from different vintages, starting with regular Chianti Classico 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, then featuring 2012, 2013,2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 Reservas and a few 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 2017 and 2018 Gran Selezione. In addition, there were 8 Vin Santos – the desert wines that are only produced in exceptional years by a few producers.
There were 243 bottles altogether. That many bottles are impossible to evaluate all in one seating - the palate “goes to sleep” after about 35 to 45 samples, depending on the age and experience of the taster. In reality, after a large number of samples, they all start tasting the same (all I taste are the tannins).
So, I decided to select samples from a few good producers, samples from wineries and winemakers I respect, and also try a number of new to me wineries I never had before. I pruned my list down to 30 samples, plus a couple Vin Santos at the end.
Regarding wine tastings; I have said this in the past and will repeat it again “Wine tasting is like a fairy tale, you have to kiss many frogs before you find a prince!”
Actually, during this tasting, I not only found a few princes… I also found some dukes and earls!
This tasting was a “slosh-and-spit” kind of affair, with no food involved except for a paltry cheese-and-vegetable sandwich. Normally, I like to taste wines with food; the way wines are supposed to be drunk. In the past, lavish lunch buffets ware included during the tastings; memorable were the ones at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City in years past, where Dario Ceccini, a legendary butcher and restaurant owner from Panzano, held court!
This tasting cemented for me the view that Sangiovese blends, instead of 100% Sangiovese, make for much better wines; at least wines that I enjoy. Most of the princes that I discovered turned out to be blends, some had 15% Cabernet Sauvignon blended-in with the Sangiovese, others Merlot or Syrah and a few up to 20% indigenous Colorino and/or Canaiolo or both, and a couple also included Malvasia Nera, the red cousin of Malvasia Bianca and/or Alicante (in Italy Alicante is the name for Garnacha Tinta). There were 4 100% Sangiovese wines that I considered if not as full princes, at least as dukes: Fèlsina’s Berardenga Chianti Classico 2019 and from the same winery the 2018 Reserva Rancia; Castello di Radda’s 2015 Reserva; I also liked the 2018 Gran Selezione Tenuta di Arceno – Strada al Saso also 100% Sangiovese. To all I gave 91 points each.
I was surprised that I enjoyed very much Banfi’s 2019 Classico, a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Banfi is a very large mass producer and usually, though I consider their wines very tasty, I only like them with food; I don’t seem to like them on their own as much as wines from other firms. In this case I gave that wine 94 points, the same rating that I gave Rocca delle Macìe’s 2019 Familia Zingarelli and to the 2017 Rocca delle Macìe – Sergio Zingarelli Gran Selezione and the 2016 Castello di Cacchiano (a blend of 95% Sangiovese, 3% Canaiolo, 1% Malvasia Nera and 1% Colorino).
I also liked Antinori’s – Marchese Antinori blend of “Sangiovese and other complementary varieties” (sic) and Ricasoli’s Brolio 2018 Reserva blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot as well as the Castello di Meleto which was the same kind of blend – to all three I gave 92 points each.
I liked the 2016 Capannelle Reserva, the 2018 Castello di Fonteruoli – Badiòla and from the same producer and same vintage the Vicoregio 36; also the 2017 Nardi Viticoltori Reserva and the Carpineto Reserva, though both the last had more pronounced tannins than the rest of the wines I liked. I figured, a few years in the cellar would do the trick for them.
Wines that I would definitely have liked with food, were Fontodi’s Filetta di Lamole or Lamole di Lamole – Blue Label; Quercia al Poggio or Rocca di Castagnoli. I can see any of them accompanying pappardelle con ragu di cinghiale (wild boar ragu), a dish I enjoy whenever I visit Tuscany.
One should remember that Chianti and Chianti Classico are two different DOCGs, with two different sets of regulations, covering two different production zones and with different consortia promoting the wines.
The symbolic trademark for the Chianti Classico is the “Gallo Nero” the Black Rooster, historic symbol of the Chianti Military League, and since the Renaissance symbol of the Chianti territory.
To your health!
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