Monday, February 14, 2011

“The Italian Wine Masters,” Part 2 Chianti Classico

The Italian Wine Masters is a combined effort between The Consorzi Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. It’s a trade show of sorts, where industry professionals and press are invited to meet the owners and representatives of over 100 wineries from Tuscany and the Veneto, Valdobbiadene wine growing region.

San Felice &  Lilliano Chianti Classico
When I arrived at The Italian Wine Masters, one of the first things on my mind was to develop a strategy. What to taste first, how much time to dedicate to each room, and how to pick producers to visit were the most important things to settle on if I was going to have a successful day. I was surprised to see that my first pick, to visit the Chianti Classico room first, was not a popular choice.

Most attendees flocked to Brunello di Montalcino or to the Prosecco room. However, I’m of the opinion that of all the wines that were represented, Chianti Classico offers the most enjoyment for the best value. Not only that; when I’m coming home from a hard day of work, I don’t feel like decanting a Brunello for a few hours or popping some bubbly; I simply feel like opening a bottle of Chianti Classico. If you don’t agree, then maybe you owe it to yourself to explore these wines a little deeper. Chianti Classico has come a long way in the last two decades.

There were always quality producers turning out remarkable bottles, but to find those producers in the overpopulated sea of mediocre Chianti was near impossible. However, things have changed, and Chianti Classico has made a serious comeback. It’s been a long time since Chianti was just a pizza parlor wine.
Some would say that the best bottles could even stand toe to toe with Brunello. Another development is how many producers are using more traditional blends (Sangiovese with Canaiolo or Colorino). In addition, many producers have begun to use 100% Sangiovese in their Chianti Classico. The end result, whether it’s a showy bottle or an unassuming dinner wine, is that Chianti Classico is truly defining itself as “the wine” of Tuscany.

Before delving into the notes, I would like to mention one other thing that I consider important when selecting these wines for your cellar.
The Chianti listed on these pages is truly Chianti Classico. “Classico” is referring to a specific appellation between Florence and Siena. If you find a bottle of “Chianti”, but not “Chianti Classico.” it will simply not be the same thing. “Chianti” was created for wines made around the “Chianti Classico” region, where they were made in the style of Chianti. Without getting into too many politics, I will say from experience that you will find a more reliable bottle of wine when choosing “Chianti Classico.”

The run-down (by score):
2004 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico (92 points)
2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo (92 points)
2007 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Capannino (91 points)
2007 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico (91 points)
2006 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro (91 points)
2007 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Grigio” (91 points)
2006 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva Poggio Rosso (91 points)
2006 Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva (90 points)
2008 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Montornello (89 points)
2007 Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva (89 points)
2006 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico (89 points)
2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico (89 points)
2008 Ruffino Chianti Classico Tenuta Santedame (89 points)
2008 Tenuta Lilliano Chianti Classico (89 points)
2007 Tenuta Lilliano Chianti Classico Riserva (89 points)
2008 Bibbiano Chianti Classico (88 points)
2009 Carpineto Chianti Classico (88 points)
2007 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Tradizionale (88 points)
2008 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico (88 points)

On to the notes:

2008 Bibbiano Chianti Classico – The nose showed wild berry and cranberry. On the palate, I found red fruit against refreshing acidity on a lean yet juicy frame that finished fresh. This would make a great house red for a relaxing weeknight. (88 points)

2008 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Montornello – The Montornello was more refined than the normale with cherry and licorice on the nose. The palate was slightly restrained by this wine’s fine structure but should open up in decanter. A gorgeous expression of spiced red fruit lingered on the finish. (89 points)

2007 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Capannino – The nose showed cherry and dark woods with hints of cinnamon. On the palate, this wine showed a full, structured body with sweet red fruits and a fine, lingering finish. (91 points)

2007 Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva – The nose showed ripe strawberry, leather and earthy undergrowth. The palate wasn’t as full as you’d expect from the nose, yet it’s balanced and showed dark red fruits and minerals into its medium-long finish. (89 points)

2009 Carpineto Chianti Classico – The nose showed raspberry, dark wood, undergrowth and a hint of manure in a rustic expression of Chianti. On the palate, I found vibrant red fruit that stayed through the finish. (88 points)

2006 Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva – The 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva kept the same rustic feel on the nose as the normale but with more delineated fruit. On the palate, I found dark red fruits and cedar, leading into an enjoyably fresh finish. (90 points)

2004 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico – The 2004 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico, was easily one of the highlights of the tasting. The nose showed forest notes with earth, undergrowth, mint and cherries. On the palate, I found a beautiful balance of concentration and acidity as lush red fruit and wood was kept in check by the wine’s fine structure. (92 points)

2006 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico – The nose showed dark red fruits, savory beef notes and animal musk. On the palate, I found red fruit against a balanced frame but little else before the wine’s tannin numbed my palate. With age, this wine may blossom but on this day it was dwarfed by the structured 2004 and the rich 2007. (89 points)

2007 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico – On the nose, I found vibrant black cherry with spice and woodsy notes. The palate was full and bursting with flavors of mint and rich raspberry. The finish was medium-long with sweet red fruits lingering on the palate. (91 points)

2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico – The 2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico showed woodland aromatics with undergrowth and hint of evergreen ushering in its red fruits. On the palate, it showed its grace through light, yet well-focused red fruit with hints of tobacco and a bit of drying tannin going into the medium finish. Ultimately, this wine may need to be accompanied by food to reach its apogee. (89 points)

2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo – To drink this, and then have the 1999 later in the day, was an interesting peak into what was truly buried beneath the youthful structure of this wine. The 2007 showed red fruits with spice and vanilla on the nose. The palate was structured, showing mulling spice with leather and sour red berries. I believe it’s enjoyable now with a good decant, but it will be truly amazing if left to age in your cellar. (92 points)

2008 Ruffino Chianti Classico Tenuta Santedame – This wine showed perfumed, sour red berries on the nose, followed by forest notes. The palate was light yet juicy with red fruits, but a little dry into the finish. I was impressed by this unassuming Chianti and wouldn’t mind it with a plate of pasta and red sauce. (89 points)

2007 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Tradizionale – The nose showed red fruits, clay and earth with hints of manure. It was a bit gruff on the palate and drying, which I’ve come to expect from this bottling. The finish was long with spiced red fruits. (88 points)

2006 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro – On the nose, I found dark red fruits with hints of chalk dust. On the palate, it showed an ethereal elegance that I found lacking in the 2004. Hopefully this may be a sign of the producer moving away from the dark brooding character that this wine seemed to epitomize over the last few vintages. The palate showed vibrant black cherry with tobacco, minerals. The finish was long yet slightly tannic. This bottle may find its way into my cellar. (91 points)

2008 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico – The nose showed crushed red berries, soil and green stems. On the palate, I found sweet, round fruit with a nice balance of acidity. (88 points)

2007 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Grigio” – The nose showed animal musk and dusty black cherry. On the palate, I found vibrant strawberry fruit, spice and earthy minerals. This wine is well structured and has great balance. It was a pleasure to drink. (91 points)

2006 Agricola San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva Poggio Rosso – The nose showed candied cranberry fruit with spice and mint. On the palate, I found red and black fruits with hints of wood on a velvety full body. The finish is long and staying but a bit sweeter than I usually prefer. However, there’s no denying the quality in the glass. (91 points)

2008 Tenuta Lilliano Chianti Classico – The nose showed cherry and earth with notes of forest floor. On the palate, I found round red fruits with hints of violet candies. The finish was long and showed cinnamon and spice. (89 points)

2007 Tenuta Lilliano Chianti Classico Riserva – The nose showed red fruit and pecorino. On the palate, I found silky raspberry fruit and licorice. The finish was pleasant and juicy. (89 points)

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