Chianti Classico: Characterful Wines at Value Prices

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Tuscan olive grove surrounded by vines at Castello di Ama

This post highlights characterful wines from a fabled part of the world long known for its natural beauty, fabulous food and great wines. I’m talking about Tuscany, in the heart of Central Italy.

Brunello and so-called Super Tuscans from this part of Italy are world class but typically very pricey. There is, however, another appellation producing remarkable wines here that just don’t receive the same respect or command equivalent prices. In some cases, a producer whose well known Super Tuscans garner high scores makes other wines from the identical vineyards that are a much harder sell.

I’m talking about Chianti Classico. In this hilly, heavily forested region you can find screaming good deals like:

  • 90 point 2012 Castello di Gabbiano for only $13
  • 91+ point 2012 Luano averaging $17 U.S. retail
  • 92+ point 2012 Badia a Coltibuono at $20

What I love about Chianti, besides the value prices, are the reliably high acidities, tart red fruit, and savory elements, suggestive of herbs like tarragon, and aromas reminiscent of a forest hike. These characteristics, when combined with food typical of the region–rich pastas, tomato based sauces and braised meats–create unbeatable pairings.

These are not wines for sipping on their own. In Italian culture, wine is for enjoying with and as a complement to food, and that’s where Chianti Classico really excels. For me, these wines truly represent the soul of Tuscany, reminding me of walks in its olive groves and memorable meals in which the wine and food combine to create sublime moments of true satisfaction.

So having traveled to Chianti Classico as a guest of the Consorzio in the fall of 2014, visiting some of my favorite producers there, continuing to check in on new releases, and hosting meals featuring older examples since then, I’ve compiled a list of 150 wines from 51 producers below. With a few exceptions, most of these producers’ wines are currently available in the U.S., and many represent significant bargains.

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modern version of a fiasco bottling

But first, what the heck is “Chianti Classico”? We’ve all heard of Chianti, and many of us associate it with the iconic, straw covered, bulbous bottles called “fiascos” that so many people used as romantic looking candle holders throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Is the Classico suffix just an Italian marketing gimmick, à la “Classic Coke”?

History

Tuscany is blessed not only with stunning scenery, classic architecture and fabulous food, it also has a long winemaking tradition, based primarily on the Sangiovese grape. It is home to such important wine regions as Brunello di Montalcino in the south; Montepulciano in the southeast; and the very large Chianti appellation running from northwest of Florence and east toward Pisa, all the way down to just south of Siena.

Chianti Classico claims to be the oldest officially demarcated wine growing zone in the world, its original boundaries having been set forth by Tuscany’s Grand Duke Cosimo III in 1716, exactly 300 years ago this year. At that time it included the townships of Radda, Gaiole and Castellina and part of the township of Greve.

A “recipe” for traditional Chianti is attributed to one-time Italian prime minister Baron Bettino Ricasoli. In an 1872 letter, he summarized years of experimentation with wines at his estate located at the southern end of Chianti Classico. His letter recommended that wines of Chianti be based on Sangiovese, for “bouquet and vigor,” with a portion of Canaiolo for softening.

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view from Castello di Brolio, former home of Baron Bettino Ricasoli

It took awhile for other producers in this region to switch over to finicky, thin-skinned Sangiovese as the base for their wines, as many had long used primarily Canaiolo, along with a mix of other grapes, including neutral white grapes like Trebbiano. It eventually became standard to blend 70% or more Sangiovese with other grapes, including white grapes. This “formula,” misattributed to Baron Ricasoli, became enshrined in the 1967 DOC regulations for Chianti.

The wines resulting from inclusion of such a high proportion of neutral white grapes resulted in lighter bodied, thin, high acid wines that were okay with food but that did not age very well.

Over time, producers throughout much of Tuscany began to create wines in the same style that they called Chianti. In 1924, the Consortium for the Protection of Chianti wine was created. It adopted the logo of the black rooster which continues to be used on Chianti Classico wines today.

The original boundaries of Chianti were officially expanded in 1932, incorporating lots of areas, including low lying valleys, far from the original four townships. By ministerial decree, the word “Classico” was added to distinguish the original region, encompassing roughly the same area as that established by the decree of 1716.

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neck of a bottle of Chianti Classico sporting the black rooster emblem

The 1932 boundaries were incorporated in the denominacion of origin (DOC) regulations of 1966, which permit eight areas of Tuscany to call their wines Chianti. But only the heartland area that traces its roots back to 1716 can use the term Chianti Classico and the black rooster logo.

Chianti Classico Today

Through the 1970s and ‘80s, the regulations requiring inclusion of white grapes led many top producers not to use the DOC for their great wines made with 100% Sangiovese, or Sangiovese along with other red grapes. Fortunately, those regulations, after being amended several times, today no longer permit the inclusion of white grapes.

Chianti Classico can now be 100% Sangiovese, but must contain a minimum of 80%, with other red varieties grown in the region allowed up to a maximum of 20%. Those red grapes include varieties native to the region, like Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as international varieties–e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot–authorized for the production zone.

There are now 580 members of the Chianti Classico Consorzio, of which 376 produce and bottle their own wines. About 7,000 hectares are currently registered for the production of Chianti Classico.

Up until 2014, there were two types of Chianti Classico–Normale, also known as Annata, and Riserva. Riserva wines–amounting to a little over 20% of production–are required to have been aged for at least 24 months before release.

In 2014, the category of Gran Selezione was added to create a top tier for the appellation, and as an effort to attract the Sangiovese-based Super Tuscan wines from the region to start using the Chianti Classico DOCG.

There is still some controversy about the new category. Fabrizio Bianchi, patrician proprietor of Castello di Monsanto, for example, told me he was “not sure what it means.” Nonetheless, it caught on quickly with a lot of producers, expanding from only 20 Gran Selezione wines at the beginning of 2014 to over 120 after three months, according to Consorzio Marketing Director Davide Gaeta.

To be permitted to label a wine Gran Selezione, an application has to be made and the wine has to be assessed by a tasting committee. It also has to be produced from grapes from a single vineyard or estate, and must have been aged at least 30 months.

I sampled a lot of Gran Selezione wines during my trip to Tuscany, as well as on my return. While there are some admirable wines in this category, there are also many internationally styled, heavily extracted wines with this labeling that are not particularly food friendly and that really don’t speak of the appellation to me. Hopefully Gran Selezione will develop a more identifiable style over time, so consumers have a better idea what they are getting, other than simply the priciest Chianti Classico.

Recommended Wines

My notes on 150 wines below include the average retail price for wines listed as being available in the U.S. according to Wine-Searcher.com, the most complete online database for that information. Often one can find these wines for considerably less than the Wine-Searcher average. For example, I recently spotted the 90+ point 2012 Nozzole Riserva selling for $15 at Costco and snagged the first wine on my top ten, Castello di Gabbiano, for slightly less than $13 at Lucky.

I tasted many more Chianti Classicos in Tuscany that are not currently in the U.S., but have omitted notes on those except for the three I consider the best–Castello di Radda, Le Miccine, and Villa Barberino—in the hopes they soon find distributors here.

My top 10 values among the wines listed below are:

  1. 2012 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico – 90 points $13
  2. 2012 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico – 92+ points $20
  3. 2012 Luiano Chianti Classico – 91+ points $17
  4. 2012 Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Le Corti – 92+ points $21
  5. 2012 Castello la Leccia Chianti Classico – 91 points $18
  6. 2012 Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico – 90+ points $18
  7. 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico – 94 points $36
  8. 2011 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico – 94 points $37
  9. 2011 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico – 90 points $17
  10. 2013 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli – 89 points $14

Brief thumbnail summaries of some of the major producers appear below. I also plan to post separately about significant wines made by many of these producers that are not DOCG Chianti Classico. But first, I must highlight two producers from this appellation I consider true artists, whose wines I not only admire greatly–and that are highly reviewed elsewhere too–but that I also personally collect.

Star Producers

The following two producers make not only highly regarded Chianti Classicos, but also an array of widely regarded wines that don’t fit the DOC rules. Since they have been so successful, for many years, these producers have a big following both in Italy and abroad. These wines are therefore not bargains like some of the others on the list, although I still consider their basic Chianti Classicos to be a relative value given their quality. These are also wines for fine wine collectors, because they age gloriously.

Castello di Ama

Ama is a small, historic “borgo,” essentially a hamlet, that was purchased by four Roman families in 1972. Castello di Ama now amounts to 90 hectares of vines. It won Gambero Rosso’s Guida Vini d’Italia Winery of the Year award in 2005. Winemaker Marco Pallanti, who was Gambero Rosso’s Guida Vini d’Italia Oenologist of the Year in 2003, and who served several years as President of the Consorzio, is truly an artist. And the estate where he lives with wife and Castello di Ama co-owner Lorenza Sebasti Pallanti, is a delightful showcase of art installations, created by artists from around the world who were invited to spend a residency at the estate,

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Marco Pallanti

Pallanti, a Tuscan native who received his degree from the University of Bordeaux and worked at Mouton Rothschild, is credited with bringing the open-lyre vine training system to Tuscany. He not only grafted over large amounts of white varieties and Canaiolo to Sangiovese and red varieties, but also greatly increased the density of the plantings, to over 5,000 per hectare. He produced a stunning 100% Merlot, L’Apparita, beginning with the 1985 vintage, a year before the all-Merlot Masseto, which ultimately became one of Tuscany’s highest scoring, and costliest, wines.

As Pallanti explains it, depending on the vintage, there are up to four bottlings of Chianti Classico from the estate. The Ama comes from young vines, less than 10 years old, and is fruity and fresh, meant for easy drinking. The San Lorenzo is their best vineyard and source of their Gran Selezione. And in top years, they produce two single vineyard bottlings–Vigneto Bellavista and Vigneto La Casuccia. They have made no Riserva since 2009.

For me, everything Pallanti creates–from his stylish Chianti Classico crus, to one of my favorite rosés in the world, to an unusual old vine Pinot/Sangiovese blend and a marvelous Vin Santo–are wines for contemplation and deep enjoyment. Partaking in a marvelous lunch with Pallanti and his wines, and spending an afternoon listening to him talk about the estate and how some of his wines came about was an unforgettable highlight of my trip.

Fontodi

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Giovanni Manetti

Giovanni Manetti is the affable owner/winemaker here. His father, head of a longtime family tile manufacturing business, purchased 15 hectares of vines in 1968. These vines are located in the spectacular natural amphitheater near the town of Panzano known as the Concha d’Oro, “golden shell.” This acquisition was gradually expanded to comprise 130 hectares, of which 80 are planted to vines. Over 95% of the plantings are Sangiovese, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and a small amount of Pinot Noir. The estate has been certified organic since 2008.

Fontodi became famous for the 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan wine called Flaccionello, first produced in 1981. This wonderful wine, which now qualifies for the Chianti Classico DOCG, but which is still labeled as IGT, was a single vineyard wine until 2000, but is now a selection of best barrels from throughout the estate.

The Chianti Classico is also 100% Sangiovese that spends about 12 months in French oak. The former Riserva Vigna del Sorbo has now become their Gran Selezione. Although it formerly contained a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is now also 100% Sangiovese. It spends 24 months in French barrels of which 50% are new.

Manetti makes some other stellar wines–Pinot Noir, Syrah, a Sauvignon Blanc and Vin Santo–in small amounts, but those are very difficult to find in the U.S. When I visited, he also showed us his experimentations with amphora fermentation, without sulfur. The results–which can only be made in small amounts–were spectacular and excitingly fresh. I don’t think those will ever be made in sufficient quantities, however, that we will see them in this country.

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amphorae at work at Fontodi

Spending time with Manetti, who has worked for decades with consulting enologist Franco Bernabei, one soon realizes that, although he seems very easygoing on the surface, he is truly a perfectionist, constantly striving to make the best wines possible. Having had a chance not only to taste mature examples of his famous wines, but also some of the very small production bottlings on which he lavishes the same effort and attention, I am a huge fan of Manetti and the Fontodi wines.

Final Note: Origin of the Black Rooster

The black rooster seal of the Consorzio Chianti Classico derives from a story dating back to the intermittent warfare between the city states of Florence and Siena in the Middle Ages. According to the story, which is likely apocryphal, the leaders of Florence and Siena decided to bring an end to endless battles over the territorial boundary between the states by establishing the final boundary in what must have sounded like a very equitable manner.

One knight from each city was to depart at daybreak on a chosen day, when the rooster crowed, riding toward the other city along the one major road between them. Wherever the knights met on the road was to become the final boundary. The Sienese chose a white rooster while the Florentines picked a black one that they then kept confined in the dark without food for several days until it was desperate. As a result, as soon as the black rooster was released, well before dawn, it started crowing, giving the Florentine knight a substantial head start. According to the story, the Florentine ultimately met his Sienese counterpart at Fonterutoli, only 12 kilometers north of Siena. The black rooster therefore celebrates a blatant instance of cheating by which Florence gained most of the territory of Tuscany well before they ultimately defeated Siena itself.

While the rooster has been a highly visible and effective symbol on DOCG wines for many years, the Consorzio learned a few years ago that the symbol does not necessarily work well in all advertising contexts. They produced a promotional t-shirt featuring the black rooster after the word “I” and a red heart symbol. Upon learning this symbol combination suggested an entirely different meaning in English speaking countries than they intended, the shirt was quickly taken out of circulation.

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ill-fated promotional T found hidden away on a shelf at Consorzio headquarters

Tasting Notes on 150 Chianti Classicos from 51 Producers

Antinori
I enjoy the great wines of Antinori–Tignanello and Solaia–with some age on them. The Tig was originally produced, starting in 1970, as a Chianti Classico Riserva. Their mass production Chianti Classicos, however, are more extracted and fruit forward than the more savory, traditional style Chianti Classicos I prefer.
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  • 2012 Antinori Chianti Classico Pèppoli $23
    Light medium ruby color; reduction, tart red berry nose; light-medium bodied, red berry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot & Syrah) 89 points
  • 2011 Antinori Chianti Classico Pèppoli $26
    Dark red violet color; intense, lifted, cinnamon stick, candied red berry nose; tight, simple, tart cherry, raspberry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese w/Merlot & Syrah; 13.5% alcohol) 87 points
  • 2011 Antinori Chianti Classico Marchese Antinori Riserva Tenuta Tignanello $38
    Saturated, very dark ruby color; redolent, cherry syrup, black cherry nose; rich, extracted, black cherry syrup, berry syrup palate with lowish acidity; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2009 Antinori Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badia a Passignano $55
    Medium ruby color; lifted, cherry, cedar, dried cherry nose; maturing, cherry, cedar, dried cherry, black cherry puree palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese; 14% alcohol; best 20-25 hectares selected from 60 hectare vineyard) 90+ points
  • 2011 Antinori Chianti Classico Villa Antinori Riserva $30
    Medium dark red violet color; tart raspberry, cherry nose; tasty, tart raspberry, cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10-day maceration; 14% alcohol) 90+ points

Badia a Coltibuono
I didn’t get to visit here, but I’ve long enjoyed their excellent wines that are built for aging. Badia a Coltibuono has been a family affair since 1846, when it was purchased, along with Fattoria Selvapiana in Rufina, by banker Michele Giuntini. The current family member in command, Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti, served as president of the Consorzio and led the estate through organic certification. These are wonderful, traditional style Chianti Classicos.

  • 2013 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico $20
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry, cranberry nose; very tart red berry, tart red currant, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points
  • 2012 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico $20
    Medium ruby color; dried red fruit, cherry nose; tasty, poised, tight, tart cherry, dried berry palate; needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points
  • 2009 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva $34
    Medium ruby color aromatic, floral, dried cherry, roses nose; tasty, tight, tart red berry, tar, juniper berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points
  • 1965 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Bricked light medium red violet color; aromatic, mature, mushroom, dried cherry, ferrous nose; tasty, mature, mushroom, dried cherry, ferrous, raspberry palate with surprisingly youthful fruit yet; medium-plus finish 93 points
  • 2000 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Bricking medium dark ruby color; appealing, licorice, dried cherry, dried mushroom nose; tasty, licorice, dried cherry, dried mushroom, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Banfi

  • 2011 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva $18 Black-tinged dark red violet color; dried red berry, tart red currant, balsamic nose; silky textured, tart red berry, dried red berry, roasted berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% alcohol) 88 points

Barone Ricasoli
This is the largest wine estate in Chianti Classico, with nearly 240 hectares under vine. The Ricasoli family had retained ownership of the vineyards when Seagrams’s bought rights to the name and began leasing the vineyards in the 1970s. Baron Francesco Ricasoli bought back the commercial rights in 1993 and has been trying to re-establish the once mighty image of the estate ever since. Massive and careful replantings have been undertaken. For me, these are well made wines in a very modern, plush, fruit forward style. These are generally not the kind of food partnering Chianti Classicos I adore.
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Baron Francesco Ricasoli, whose great great grandfather pointed the way to Sangiovese-dominant Chianti Classico

  • 2012 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Brolio $20
    Very dark ruby color; tart black fruit, talc, black raspberry nose; rich, tasty, tart berry, black cherry palate with grip and medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points
  • 2011 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Brolio Riserva $33
    Medium dark ruby color; tart red berry, reduction nose; juicy, ripe raspberry, raspberry puree, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) 90 points
  • 2011 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio $55
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, cherry puree, cedar, vanilla nose; rich, cherry puree, cedar, vanilla, raspberry puree palate; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot) 90 points
  • 2010 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio $62
    Saturated dark purple red violet color; mocha, ripe black fruit, blackberry, black currant nose; rich, plush, ripe black currant, ripe blackberry, black cherry palate; needs 3 years; long finish 92+ points
  • 2011 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledila $61
    Medium dark ruby color; ripe red berry, raspberry puree nose; tasty, polished, ripe red berry, raspberry puree palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points
  • 2010 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledila $74
    Very dark purple red violet color; aromatic, black raspberry, blackberry tea, ripe berry, mocha nose; rich, tasty, tart blackberry, black currant, blackberry tea palate; long finish (100% Sangiovese) 92 points
  • 2011 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva Rocca Guicciarda not available
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, tart black plum, black cherry, black raspberry, black currant syrup, toast nose; tasty, rich, black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry tea palate; approachable now; medium-plus finish (Sangiovese with Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon) 90 points

Bibbiano

  • 2013 Bibbiano Chianti Classico $20
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry nose; tart red berry palate with near medium acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (97% Sangiovese, 3% Colorino) 88 points
  • 2012 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello $20
    Medium ruby color; tart red berry, red currant nose; tart red berry, red currant, reduction palate; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 88+ points
  • 2011 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino $34
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, tart cherry, red berry nose; silky textured, tart cherry, red berry palate with medium acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese Grosso) 89+ points

Brancaia

  • 2011 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva $33
    Dark red violet color; milk chocolate, baked black fruit nose; rich, medium bodied, milk chocolate, baked black fruit palate; could use 1 year; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot) 88+ points
  • 2012 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva $40
    Dark red violet color; savory, tart red berry, cranberry nose; tasty, poised, tart red berry, tart cherry, herbs palate with integrating oak and good balancing acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot; 16 months in French oak) 91+ points

Canonica a Cerreto

  • 2010 Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico $19
    Dark red violet color; reduction, tart berry, black cherry nose; tasty, medium bodied, tart berry, balsamic, black cherry palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot; 12 months in barrique; 14% alcohol) 88+ points

Casa Emma

  • 2013 Casa Emma Chianti Classico $21
    Medium dark ruby color; tart red berry nose; tart red berry, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Malvasia Nera) 88 points
  • 2011 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Medium dark ruby color; baked berry, blackberry nose; rich, baked berry, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Malvasia Nera) 90 points
  • 2010 Casa Emma Chianti Classico Gran Selezione not available
    Medium dark ruby color; vanilla, ripe cherry, ripe berry nose; rich, vanilla, ripe cherry, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91+ points

Casaloste

  • 2010 Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Dark red violet color; aromatic, cherry puree, ripe red berry, floral nose; rich, ripe raspberry, cherry puree, saline palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 90 points
  • 2009 Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva Don Vincenzo $36
    Medium dark red violet color; reduction, tart red berry nose; light-medium bodied, tart red berry, juniper berry palate with near medium acidity; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard; 14.5% alcohol) 89 points

Castellare di Castellina

  • 2012 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico $24
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, dried red berry, dried herb nose; tart cherry, cherry liqueur, raspberry puree palate with good acidity; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cannaiolo) 91+ points
  • 2011 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Dark red violet color; appealing, aromatic, sandalwood, tart berry, black raspberry nose; silky textured, tart berry, mineral, blackberry, black plum palate; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 92 points
  • 2011 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Il Poggiale $38
    Medium red violet color; dried red berry, dried herbs, balsamic nose; tight, ripe red berry, cherry syrup, raspberry syrup palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Cannaiolo, 5% Cillegiolo) 91+ points

Castellinuzza

  • 2012 Castellinuzza Chianti Classico $28
    Dark red violet color; tart red berry, tart cranberry, tart stewed tomato nose; very tart cherry, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol; aged in concrete, no oak) 89+ points

Castello d’Albola

  • 2011 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico $17
    Medium cherry red color; aromatic, tart cherry, cherry puree nose; medium bodied, structured, tart cherry, light cedar, cherry puree palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo) 90 points
  • 2010 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva $26
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, raspberry puree, tart cherry nose; tasty, delicate, medium bodied, raspberry puree, tart cherry palate; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo; 24 months in Slavonian oak casks) 91+ points
  • 2011 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Il Solatio Gran Selezione $62
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, black raspberry, reduction, black cherry, blackberry nose; rich, creamy textured, ripe black fruit, blackberry, blackberry puree palate with medium acidity; long finish (100% Sangiovese, 13% alcohol) 91 points

Castello di Ama
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  • 2011 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico $37
    Medium dark red violet color; fresh, ripe red berry, ripe red currant, tart raspberry puree nose; tasty, focused, fresh, tart raspberry puree, mineral, saline palate with medium acidity; wonderful for early drinking; medium-plus finish 94 points
  • 2010 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo $50
    Medium ruby color; appealing, tart red berry, tart cherry nose; tasty, fresh, complex, creamy textured, tart cherry, tart red currant, saline, tart raspberry puree, mineral, subtle herb infusion palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot & Malvasia Nera; 13% alcohol) 94 points
  • 2011 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto Bellavista $189
    Medium ruby color; appealing, ripe plum, tart blackberry nose; tight, tasty, tart berry, tart blackberry palate with medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Malvasia Nera) 93 points
  • 2011 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto La Casuccia $185
    Medium dark ruby color; appealing, sandalwood, licorice nose; tight, tart berry, black cherry, licorice palate; needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot) 94 points
  • 2007 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Vigneto La Casuccia not available
    Saturated dark red violet color; very aromatic, savory, green olive tapenade, sweet green herb nose; magnificent, silky textured, very tart red currant, tart raspberry puree, saline palate; delicious now and could benefit from 3-plus years and will go 30; long finish (15% alcohol) 98 points

Castello di Bossi

  • 2011 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico $20
    Medium red violet color; smoke, resin, tart red berry nose; tight, tart red berry, juniper berry, menthol, balsamic palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90 points
  • 2009 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva Berardo $30
    Bricking medium red violet color; aromatic, balsamic, dried red berry, dried cherry nose; tasty, dried cherry, dried red berry, blackberry, licorice palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 93 points

Castello di Cacchiano

  • 2009 Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico $18
    Bricking medium red violet color; oak, ripe red berry, tart red currant nose; oak, ripe red berry, tart red currant palate; medium finish 87 points
  • 2009 Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Millennio Gran Selezione not available
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, ripe berry, light reduction, black raspberry nose; tart black cherry, tart black raspberry palate with near medium acidity; could use 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 91+ points

Castello di Gabbiano

  • 2012 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico $13
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red plum, tart cherry nose; tasty, black fruit, tart black cherry palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Colorino; 13% alcohol)
    89 points
  • 2010 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Bellezza Gran Selezione $28
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, red berry, tart cherry nose; rich, tasty, red berry, tart cherry, black cherry palate; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese; 16 months in French oak, 50% new) 91 points
  • 2011 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva NA
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, raspberry puree, baked cherry, red hard candy nose; rich, tart cherry, raspberry puree, hard red candy palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot; 14.5% alcohol) 90 points

Castello di Meleto

  • 2010 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione $72
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, blackberry syrup, black plum nose; rich, tasty, tart black plum, ripe berry, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol) 92 points

Castello di Monsanto
This is a truly beautiful estate, including one of the widely acknowledged “grand cru” vineyards of Chianti Classico–the 5 hectare, hilltop Il Poggio. The Bianchis who own this wonderful property are in the textile business in Lombardy. Fabrizio Bianchi received the property as a wedding gift from his father in the early 1960s. They removed the white grapes planted at Il Poggio in 1968. Daughter Laura now assist with running the wine side of the business. The Chianti Classicos are very good, traditional style wines for the price. Il Poggio is capable of long aging. The videographer who visited with our party happened to be celebrating his birthday that day. When Fabrizio learned the man’s birth year was 1977, he had an Il Poggio pulled from their extensive cellars to share with us. It was a wonderful, mature wine, with great length and structure.
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view from Il Poggio Vineyard at Castello di Monsanto

  • 2011 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva $26
    Medium ruby color; ripe currant, juniper berry, sour cherry nose; tasty, fresh, light-medium bodied, silky textured, ripe red berry, juniper berry, ripe red currant palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo & Colorino; 14% alcohol) 91 points
  • 2010 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva $23
    Medium dark red violet color; savory, tart red berry, light balsamic, roasted fruit nose with a sense of underbrush; tasty, tart cherry, balsamic palate with medium acidity; ready now but will go 10-15 years; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 91+ points
    91 points
  • 2009 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico il Poggio $47
    Medium dark red violet color; reduction, savory, tart roasted cherry, raspberry nose; tight, juicy, tart cherry, tart raspberry puree palate with medium acidity; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (18 months in French tonneau, 1/3 new) 92 points
  • 1977 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio not available
    Bricked medium red color with orange meniscus; very aromatic, mushroom, dried porcini mushroom, roast beef jus nose; delicious, savory, beef jus, tobacco, dried porcini, dried red currant palate with good acidity; long finish (14% alcohol) 94 points

Castello di Querceto

  • 2010 Castello di Querceto / Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva $24
    Dark red violet color; tart plum, oat cake, bran muffin nose; silky textured, tart cherry, red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 89+ points

Castello di Radda

  • 2012 Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Medium dark red violet color; savory, dried berry, licorice nose; tasty, savory, dried berry, licorice, black raspberry, lavender palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Castello di Verrazzano

  • 2012 Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico $24
    Dark red violet color; tart cherry, tart plum, roasted vegetable, tart red berry nose; silky textured, tart red berry, tart plum palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 90+ points
  • 2010 Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva $38
    Dark ruby color; tart black cherry, blackberry, cherry puree nose; rich, silky textured, cherry puree, vanilla, blackberry palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 90 points

Castello di Volpaia

  • 2012 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico $20
    Medium red violet color; light cedar, red berry nose; tight, light cedar, red berry palate; medium finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot) 87 points
  • 2010 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Puro Casanova not available
    Medium dark red violet color; sandalwood, red berry nose; tight, sandalwood, cedar, red berry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90+ points
  • 2009 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva Coltassala $62
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry, dried berry nose; tasty, tart red berry, dried berry, tart black cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Mammolo) 89 points

Castello la Leccia
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  • 2012 Castello la Leccia Chianti Classico $18
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, tart cherry, tart raspberry nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry palate with medium acidity; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points
  • 2011 Castello la Leccia Chianti Classico not available
    Medium dark ruby color; appealing, lifted, roasted cherry, tart red berry, tart raspberry puree nose; very tart cherry, tart raspberry puree, mineral palate with medium acidity; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese; 14% alcohol) 90+ points
  • 2010 Castello la Leccia Chianti Classico Bruciagna Gran Selezione $38
    Dark red violet color; appealing, aromatic, raspberry puree, ripe red berry, talc nose; juicy, tasty, very tart raspberry puree, tart red berry, cranberry, mineral, saline palate with vibrant, medium acidity; good now but should benefit from 2-plus years and will go 20 years; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 91+ points
  • 2011 Castello la Leccia Chianti Classico Bruciagna Gran Selezione not available
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry, cedar, tart red currant nose; tasty, poised, dried red berry palate; could use 4-plus years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 92+ points

Cecchi

  • 2010 Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia $30
    Dark red violet color; tart plum, tart currant nose; tasty, tart plum, tart currant, charcoal palate with medium acidity; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 92 points
  • 2012 Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva Villa Cerna not available
    Dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, tart red currant, dried herb nose; tasty, savory, tart red currant, dried herb palate; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish 91+ points
  • 2013 Cecchi Chianti Classico Storia di Famiglia not available
    Medium dark red violet color; redolent, tart red currant nose; tart red currant, tar palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Cennatoio

  • 2012 Cennatoio Chianti Classico Avorio $15
    Medium ruby color; reduction, tart red berry nose; tart red berry, tart red currant palate; medium finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino) 87 points
  • 2013 Cennatoio Chianti Classico Oro $17
    Dark ruby color; tart red currant, reduction nose; tart berry, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; medium finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino) 86 points
  • 2011 Cennatoio Chianti Classico Riserva O’Leandro not available
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, vanilla, berry compote, caramel nose; rich, silky textured, black cherry, black raspberry, black compote palate, not very characteristic of Chianti Classico due to the high proportion of noticeable new oak; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 88 points

Felsina

  • 2012 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico $23
    Medium red violet color; tart red berry, tart red currant nose; tasty, poised, dried cherry, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91+ points
  • 2011 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico $26
    Dark red violet color; aromatic, dried berry, tart blackberry, light violet nose; rich, tasty, tart blackberry, black cherry, tart plum palate with lots of dry extract; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points
  • 2009 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia $44
    Dark red violet color; raspberry puree, black cherry, black currant nose; rich, ripe black currant, black raspberry puree palate with lowish acidity; medium finish (13.5% alcohol) 90+ points
  • 2011 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia $44
    Medium dark red violet color; appealing, tart red berry, tart red currant nose; tasty, silky textured, tart red berry, tart red currant, sour cherry palate with medium acidity; could use 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 92+ points
  • 2010 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia $122
    Medium red violet color; appealing, aromatic, dried cherry, red berry, sandalwood nose; tight, tasty, dried cherry, red berry, dried berry, sandalwood palate; could use 4 years; long finish (100% Sangiovese) 94 points

Fontodi
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  • 2012 Fontodi Chianti Classico $34
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, tart cherry preserves, raspberry puree nose; delicious, lively, tart cherry, raspberry palate; good now and should go 30 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 93 points
  • 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico $36
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, black raspberry, raspberry puree nose; tight, delicious, tart black cherry, black raspberry, violets, tart black currant palate with firm, sweet tannins and near medium acidity; needs 4-5 years; long finish (14% alcohol) 94 points
  • 2011 Fontodi Chianti Classico $37
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, black cherry, black raspberry puree, tart blackberry nose; tasty, tight, tart black cherry, tart black raspberry, tart blackberry palate with great freshness and near medium acidity and fine tannins; remarkably good for a challenging vintage; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 93 points
  • 2009 Fontodi Chianti Classico $38
    From magnum – bricking, dark ruby color; black cherry, beet jus, black raspberry nose; tasty, maturing, black cherry, black raspberry puree, beets palate with near medium acidity; long finish 93 points
  • 2011 Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo $77
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, dried cherry, baked cherry nose; rich, tasty, dried cherry, baked cherry, tart raspberry, cherry puree palate; could use 2 years and will go 30+ plus; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) 93+ points
  • 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo $89
    Very dark red violet color; very aromatic, tart black currant, balsamic vinegar, black raspberry, tar nose; tight, rich, tart black currant, tart black raspberry palate with sweet, fine tannins; needs 6-7 years and should go 30; long finish (95% Sangiovese from vines averaging 45 years old and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% alcohol) 94+ points
  • 2004 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo not available
    From magnum – dark ruby color; aromatic, black cherry, black raspberry puree, talc nose; rich, tasty, focused, silky textured, juicy, black raspberry puree, cherry puree, violets palate; could use 2 years; long finish 96 points

Il Molino di Grace

  • 2012 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico $21
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, red berry, cedar, tart cherry nose; red berry, cedar, tart cherry palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 89 points
  • 2008 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva $37
    Bricking, medium dark cherry color; savory, tart red berry, dried cherry nose; savory, tart red berry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90+ points
  • 2010 Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone $40
    Bricking, light-medium ruby color; redolent, dried berry, licorice nose; tasty, dried berry, licorice palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91+ points

Isole e Olena

  • 2012 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico $24
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red berry, dried cherry nose; tart raspberry puree, tart cherry palate with near medium acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah; 13.5% alcohol) 90 points
  • 2006 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione $210
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, cedar, tart red currant, reduction nose; tight, cedar, tart red currant, reduction, light herbs palate with firm tannins; needs 5-6 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah) 91 points

Lamole di Lamole

  • 2011 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico $20
    Medium red violet color; tart red berry, red currant nose; tasty, tart red berry, red currant palate; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cannaiolo) 90 points
  • 2011 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Etichetta Blu $19
    Dark red violet color; reticent, tart red berry, tart currant nose; tart red berry, tart currant palate; with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points
  • 2012 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Etichetta Blu not yet available
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry, floral, raspberry nose; tart red berry, floral, raspberry palate with medium acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot) 91 points
  • 2010 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto di Campolungo $36
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, red currant, red berry nose; red currant, red berry palate with firm, sweet tannins; needs 5 years; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) 91+ points

Lanciola

  • 2012 Lanciola Chianti Classico Le Masse Di Greve $21
    Medium red violet color; brett, tart red currant nose; brett, tart red currant palate; medium finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo & Colorino) 86 points
  • 2011 Lanciola Chianti Classico Le Masse Di Greve Riserva not available
    Medium dark red violet color; brett, cedar, tart red berry nose; brett, cedar, tart red berry palate; medium finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo & Colorino) 86+ points
  • 2011 Lanciola Chianti Classico Le Masse Di Greve Gran Selezione $49
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, cedar, tart red berry nose; cedar, tart red berry palate; medium finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo & Colorino) 86+ points

Le Miccine
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Paula Cook welcoming us at Le Miccine

This small estate is owned and run since 2010 by a Canadian woman, Paula Papini Cook, whose grandparents were from Tuscany. She visited when she was 15 and fell in love with the region. Inspired to learn Italian and study agriculture, she was fortunate to have a wine loving father who encouraged her to attend a viticulture program in Europe funded by the EU. This is a very small production operation, that has no problem selling much of what they produce in Canada. I was very impressed not only with the Chianti Classico wines but also a terrific Merlot called Carduus.

  • 2012 Le Miccine Chianti Classico not available
    Medium dark ruby color; tart roasted cherry, black raspberry, tart berry nose; tasty, tight, elegant, delicate, tart cherry puree, tart raspberry, saline, mineral palate with medium acidity; needs 2-3 years and should go 20+; medium-plus finish 92+ points
  • 2011 Le Miccine Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, lifted, floral, cherry puree, black raspberry puree, cherry pie filling nose; rich, tasty, cherry puree, black raspberry puree, saline palate; needs 3 years & will go 20+; long finish (14% alcohol) 93 points

Lornano

  • 2011 Lornano Chianti Classico $21
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, pastille, black mushroom nose; tasty, cherry, pastille, iodine palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90+ points
  • 2009 Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva not available
    Medium red violet color; maturing, tart red berry nose; maturing, tart red berry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points
  • 2011 Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione $44 Medium red violet color; aromatic, red berry, dried berry nose; tasty, red berry, dried berry, cedar palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot) 91+ points

Luiano

  • 2012 Luiano Chianti Classico $17
    Medium dark ruby color; tart strawberry, ripe red berry, tart red plum nose; juicy, tasty, balanced, tart cranberry, tart raspberry puree palate with medium acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 91+ points
  • 2013 Luiano Chianti Classico $17
    Medium cherry red color; aromatic, tart red currant, red berry nose; tat red currant, red berry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) 88+ points
  • 2011 Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva $20
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, mature, tart red currant, dried berry nose; maturing, tart red currant, dried berry palate; could use 1 year; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90 points
  • 2011 Luiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Ottantuno $45
    Medium dark red violet color; iodine, cedar, dried red berry nose; iodine, cedar, dried red berry palate; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot) 87+ points

Marchesi Mazzei
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Francesco Mazzei, VP & CEO

This estate has belonged to the Mazzei family since 1435. The 24th generation is now in charge. In the late ’80s and ’90s, the family helped lead the effort to raise the quality of Chianti Classico. Lapo Mazzei served as Consorzio president for 20 years. Today they have 117 hectares under vine in five different areas, amounting to 100 different parcels, which they microvinify. They have engaged in extensive studies of clones, and 18 of the 36 biotypes of Sangiovese identified by the Chianti Classico 2000 project were found only at Castello di Fonterutoli. These are very good, and pricey, Chianti Classicos. I’m a bigger fan, though, of their Super Tuscan wines, especially the Mix 36 (a blend of all 36 Sangiovese biotypes), even more than the well known Siepi.

  • 2010 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli $27
    Dark red violet color; tart raspberry puree, roasted cherry nose; tasty, tart raspberry puree, roasted cherry, dried cherry palate with medium acidity; could use 3 years and will go 15-20; medium-plus finish (92% Sangiovese, 8% Malvasia Nera & Colarino; from best 50 parcels; 14% alcohol) 91 points
  • 2012 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli $28
    Dark ruby color; tart red berry, reduction, roasted berry, saline nose; tart red berry, sour cherry, tart raspberry puree palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, Malvasia Nera & Colarino; 13.5% alcohol; 12 months in barrique & tonneau, about 40% new) 89 points
  • 2013 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli not yet available
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, tart red berry, cranberry nose; tasty, light medium bodied, tart red berry, cranberry palate; could use 1-plus year; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese; 10% Colorino, Malvaisa Nera & Merlot) 90 points
  • 2011 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Fonterutoli Ser Lapo $23
    Light medium ruby color; dried red berry, light vanilla nose; tasty, light-medium bodied, tart cherry, tart red berry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot) 90 points
  • 2011 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione not available
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, oak, tart red berry nose; tasty, tart red berry, ripe red currant palate; almost ready; medium-plus finish (92% Sangiovese, 8% Malvasia Nera & Colorino) 90+ points

Nittardi

  • 2011 Fattoria Nittardi Chianti Classico Casanuova di Nittardi $36
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, tart red currant, green olive, anchovy paste, extra virgin olive oil nose; savory, tasty, tart red currant, extra virgin olive oil, tart tomato sauce palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (97% Sangiovese, 3% Cannaiolo; 12 months in tonneau; 14% alcohol; fabulous pairing with pasta and tomato sauce) 91 points

Ormanni

  • 2011 Ormanni Chianti Classico $18
    Medium red violet color; redolent, tart red berry, dried berry nose; tart red berry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo) 89 points
  • 2010 Ormanni Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Etichetta Storica not available
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, tart cherry, tart red berry nose; tart cherry, tart red berry palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese)  90+ points
  • 2010 Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva Borro del Diavolo $26
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, dried berry nose; tasty, dried berry, ripe cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 90+ points

Poggio al Sole

  • 2012 Poggio al Sole Chianti Classico $21
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, tart cherry, ripe red berry nose; tart cherry, ripe red berry palate; could use 1 year; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Merlot) 90+ points
  • 2012 Poggio al Sole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Casasilia not available
    Medium dark ruby color; tart berry, cedar, raspberry puree nose; tasty, rich, tart berry, cedar, raspberry puree palate; needs 2-3 years; long finish (100% Sangiovese) 92+ points

Poggio Bonelli

  • 2012 Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico $18
    Medium dark red violet color; savory, tart red currant, red berry nose; tasty, savory, tart red currant, red berry palate; ready now; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Poggio Torselli

  • 2012 Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico $23
    Medium ruby color; reduction tart berry nose; reduction, tart berry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) 90+ points
  • 2011 Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico Riserva $30
    Medium ruby color; reduction, tart red berry nose; tart red berry, raspberry puree palate; ready now; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points

Principe Corsini

  • 2009 Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Don Tommaso not available
    Medium dark red violet color; savory, maturing, dried berry, currant, mushroom nose; tasty, maturing, dried cherry, currant, mushroom palate with bright medium acidity; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot) 92 points
  • 2012 Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Don Tommaso not available
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, appealing, dried berry, sandalwood, spice nose; tasty, tight, dried berry, sandalwood, dried cherry palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot) 93 points
  • 2012 Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Le Corti $21
    Medium dark red violet color; reduction, savory, tart red berry nose; intriguing, dried red berry, spice, dried cherry palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Quercia Al Poggio

  • 2009 Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico $26
    Dark red violet color; tart red currant, dried red currant nose; tasty, juicy, ripe raspberry puree, ripe red currant palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 20% Ciligiolo, Canaiolo & Colorino; 14% alcohol) 91 points

Rocca delle Macìe
Sergio Zingarelli with daughter Giulia

Italo Zingarelli, producer of Spaghetti Westerns, including the Trinity series, purchased this estate in 1973. His son Sergio, who is the current President of the Consorzio, entered the business in 1984. Subsequently the family purchased three more Chianti Classico estates. The basic Chianti Classico from the excellent 2013 vintage is a good value at $14.

  • 2012 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli $14
    Medium dark ruby color; tart raspberry syrup, ripe red berry nose; silky, light-medium bodied, tart raspberry, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot; 13.5% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2013 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli $14
    Medium ruby color; savory, tart red berry, tart red currant nose; savory, tart red berry, tart red currant palate; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot) 89 points
  • 2010 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva $23
    Dark ruby color; tart black plum, red berry nose; medium bodied, juicy, tart red berry, raspberry puree, red currant palate with near medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2011 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva $23
    Medium ruby color; tart red berry, juniper berry nose; tart red berry, juniper berry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot) 88+ points
  • 2012 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alfonso $23
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, tart raspberry puree, red currant nose; tight, medium bodied, ripe raspberry puree, tart cherry palate with near medium acidity; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard with high clay content; 14% alcohol) 90 points
  • 2011 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva di Fizzano $27
    Medium ruby color; tart red berry, bark, tart red currant nose; tart red berry, bark, tart red currant palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot; 13.5% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2010 Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli $95
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, black raspberry puree, talc, cherry syrup nose; tight, black raspberry puree, talc, cherry syrup palate with good acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino; 13.5% alcohol; 18 months in French barrique and 1 year in bottle) 92+ points

Ruffino

  • Ruffino Chianti Classico Aziano $14
    Dark ruby color; savory, tart red currant, iodine, balsamic, saline nose; tight, savory, dried herb, tarragon, tart red fruit, tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; could use 1 year; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2012 Ruffino Chianti Classico Tenuta Santedame $20
    Medium red violet color; aromatic, tart red berry, reduction nose; soft, red berry, ripe currant palate; medium finish (80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 5% Colorino, 5% other varieties) 87 points
  • 2011 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale $23
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, tar, tart red berry nose; tight, tart red berry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish 89 points
  • 2010 Ruffino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Ducale Oro $37
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red berry, light cedar nose; silky textured, tart red berry, cedar, tart red currant palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Colorino) 88+ points

San Felice
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Enologist Leonardo Bellacini at San Felice
This is a very impressive operation, owned by Gruppo Allianz. It includes a picturesque borgo, a magnificent Relais & Chateaux hotel, and extensive vineyards and fine wines. Enzo Morganti produced one of the first of what became known as Super Tuscans here in 1968, a 100% Sangiovese called Vigorello. I was most impressed with the estate’s longtime enologist Leonardo Bellacini, who has worked with the University of Florence to study dozens of indigenous varieties in the estate’s experimental vineyard. One of the almost extinct varieties rescued as a result of this effort is Pugnitello, with which they are making a magnificent, characterful varietal wine that I have been collecting since my trip. The operation also produces the Campogiovanni Brunello Il Quercione. Of the Chianti Classicos, the Riserva Il Grigio and Gran Selezione Il Grigio are very strong, but I was even more impressed by some of the non-DOCG wines in their portfolio.

  • 2011 San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva Il Grigio $24
    Very dark red violet color; tart red berry, tart red currant nose; refined, medium bodied, tart cranberry, tart red currant, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points
  • 2010 San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Grigio $40
    Saturated, very dark red violet color; aromatic, tart red plum, red currant nose; plush, poised, tart red currant, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; needs 3-plus years and could go 20-25; medium-plus finish 92 points
  • 2010 San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva Poggio Rosso $43
    Very dark red violet color; tart red berry, reduction, cranberry nose; tight, reduction, tart red berry, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2011 San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Poggio Rosso not available
    Dark red violet color; reduction, tart red berry, red currant nose; tart red berry, red currant, roasted red fruit palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (15.5% alcohol) 89 points

Tenuta di Arceno

  • 2012 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico $17
    Very dark ruby color; tart raspberry puree, tart red currant nose; focused, tart red currant, very tart raspberry puree, mineral palate with medium acidity and soft tannins; medium-plus finish (80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol) 88+ points

Tenuta di Nozzole

  • 2012 Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva $20
    Saturated, very dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, tart black fruit, tart black cherry nose with a sense of underbrush; tasty, tart black fruit, tart plum, balsamic palate with balancing acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 90+ points
  • 2011 Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva La Forra $38
    Black-tinged dark red violet color; savory, dried red currant, reduction, ferrous nose; tight, tart dried berry, tar palate with near medium acidity; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese; 13.5% alcohol) 87 points

Tenuta Villa Barberino

  • 2012 Tenuta Villa Barberino della Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico Nunzi Conti not available
    Dark garnet red color; appealing, tart roasted cherry, cranberry, tart plum, sandalwood nose; tasty, velvety textured, tart plum, tart roasted cherry, cranberry palate with near medium acidity; good now but could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (83% Sangiovese, 7% Merlot, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino; 13.5% alcohol) 91+ points
  • 2012 Tenuta Villa Barberino della Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico Nunzi Conti Riserva not available
    Dark garnet red color; tart red berry, tart berry, berry syrup nose; velvety textured, tart berry, tart blackberry palate with medium acidity and fine, sweet tannins; could use 2 years; long finish (100% Sangiovese; 14% alcohol) 92 points

Tolaini

  • 2010 Tolaini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione $40
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, tart red berry, red currant nose; tasty, tart red berry, red currant, dried cherry palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese; 1/2 French oak, 1/2 stainless steel) 90+ points
  • 2011 Tolaini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione not yet available
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, baked cherry, raspberry puree, light pie crust nose; tasty, baked cherry, raspberry puree, pie crust palate; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 91 points
  • 2010 Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva Montebello Vigneto No. 7 not available
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, ripe cherry, ripe red berry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, ripe red berry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Vignamaggio

  • 2013 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Terre di Prenzano $13
    Medium dark ruby color; tart red berry nose; fresh, tart red berry palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Sangiovese) 87+ points
  • 2012 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gherardino $20 Medium ruby color; red berry, oak nose; red berry, oak, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot) 87+ points
  • 2010 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello di Monna Lisa $36
    Medium dark red violet color; raspberry, ripe red berry nose; raspberry, ripe red berry palate; medium-plus finish (85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) 88+ points

Vignavecchia

  • 2012 Fattoria Vignavecchia Chianti Classico $20
    Medium red violet color with pale meniscus; aromatic, red berry, rooibos tea nose; tight, silky textured, red berry, rooibos tea, dried red berry palate; medium-plus finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot) 88+ points
  • 2010 Fattoria Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva Vigneto Odoardo Beccari $28
    Medium dark red violet color; cedar, tart red currant nose; tight, cedar, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; could use 3 years; long finish (90% Sangiovese, 10% Cannaiolo) 89 points
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