Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Evolution of Flaccianello: A Vertical History

 A 30 Year Retrospective

By Eric Guido

Fontodi has been on my short list of Italy’s top producers for quite some time now, starting with my first taste of the 1999 Vigna del Sorbo back in 2011.  Having tasted younger vintages prior to that, I simply didn’t understand that they could mature into such majestic wines of importance.  That one taste put me on the path to exploring deeper and trying to understand what it was about Fontodi that set them apart.

I came to realize that it was a combination, not just of terroir, but also of the forward-thinking--constantly evolving--owner and winemaker, Giovanni Manetti.

The History

With a long history in Tuscany, known for their manufacturing of terracotta amphora, the Manetti family decided to enter the wine business in 1968 when they took ownership of the Fontodi estate and vineyards in Panzano.  The location was perfect, nestled in the amphitheatre-shaped “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell), at high altitudes with calcar--clay schist soils. However, bound at the time by the rules of the Chianti Classico consortium, they produced a selection of wines that were very different from today’s portfolio. The biggest change came with Giovanni Manetti, who took the reins of the winery in 1980.  It was his passion for Sangiovese which drove him to experiment and finally arrive at the elevated position which Fontodi enjoys today. 

You see, even going as far back as the 1985 vintage, Giovanni wanted to show the world that a 100% expression of Sangiovese could produce a world-class wine. It’s because of this that he created the highly-regarded Super Tuscan, Flaccianello.  However, this success wasn’t gained overnight, and is very much the result of Giovanni’s relentless work to perfect Flaccianllo’s blend and aging regimen.

The Evolution 

The original source of fruit was a single-vineyard of the same name, “Flaccianello della Pieve", until the 2001 vintage when the decision was made to create a blend of the estate’s best fruit.  This was largely the result of acquisitions that Giovanni made of choice parcels within the Pecille district of Panzano.  Also, going back to 1985, Flaccianello was aged only one year in barrel (50% new) until the 1990 vintage.  Since that time, the aging has been slowly extended, with today’s vintages seeing up to 100% new oak in Troncais and Allier barrels for 24 months.  However, when you put your nose to the glass, new oak is the first thing that comes to mind.

Having recently tasted through eleven vintages spanning 30 years, I was not only impressed by the evolution of Flaccianello, but also by how much I enjoyed every stage of that evolution.  For one thing, I had always thought of this an an Internationally-styled wine, due to the new oak, yet when tasting on this day, the prominence of Sangiovese came through, especially as the wine enters it’s fifth and sixth year in bottle.  What’s more, Giovanni remains determined to continue the evolution of his portfolio, and in the case of Flaccianello, that means adding a refreshing quality to the young wines.

This was a remarkable tasting with a number of killer vintages, and the best part is that many of these wines can still be found.

On to the tasting notes

2016 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2016 Flaccianello della Pieve is alluringly dark, spicy and floral, with crushed stone, giving way to blackberry, savory meats, animal tones and wild herbs. Here I'm finding silky textures offset by zesty acidity with saturating spices and mineral-infused dark fruits cascading across the palate in a wonderfully fresh expression, before fine tannins settled in. The finish is long, almost salty and savory with tart blackberry and minerals soaking the senses with grippy tannins. Wow, a totally different expression of young Flaccianello, and I like it a lot. In fact, I’m noticing that Flaccianello has been impressing me a bit more than Vigna del Sorbo in recent vintages. 2024-2038 (97 points)

2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2015 Flaccianello della Pieve is intense, showing dark red fruits and crushed plums, with exotic spices, sweet grilled herbs and dried flowers. This is wonderfully soft on the palate, as it envelopes the senses with zesty cherry, crushed blackberry, sweet and savory spices, and minerals, all kept in check by a mix of brisk acids and fine tannin. It finishes long and spicy with saturating minerality and youthful, slightly angular tannin. I can only imagine what this will mature into, but I’m very excited to find out. I have officially upgraded my score to 96 points. 2022-2032 (96 points)

2014 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2014 Flaccianello della Pieve remains one of the prettiest examples I’ve ever seen of Flaccianello.  Here I'm finding a dark bouquet with dried black cherries, hints of sandalwood, spice and savory herbs. On the palate, it displays lean yet focused red berry fruit, a mix of cherry and raspberry, with silky textures giving way to inner floral tones and spice in a pretty and lifted expression.  The finish is medium in length and a bit lighter than expected with a mix of tart red fruit and minerals. 2021-2028 (94 points)

2013 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The bouquet of the 2013 Flaccianello della Pieve is intense, with spicy, ripe black cherry, crushed stone, dusty spice and sweet florals.  On the palate, you'd expect a bruiser, but instead this treats you to the silkiest of textures with tart cherry-blackberry fruit, balsamic tones and savory herbs. Grippy tannins linger long into the finish, along with dark red fruits, which seemed to go on and on. That is an absolutely beautiful showing. 2021-2033 (95 points)

2010 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2010 Flaccianello della Pieve is absolutely gorgeous with a nose with dark red berries, spice box, dried herbs, balsamic tones and black earth. It nearly coats the glass with dark red, verging on purple viscosity. This is undeniably elegant, silky and refined, yet vibrant too, as youthfully lean red berry fruit is offset by brisk acidity and fine tannin. The finish is persistent and structured as the fruit leans more to the black spectrum, joined by hints of savory herbs and minerals.  This is one for the ages. 2022-2036 (96 points)

2007 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2007 Flaccianello della Pieve shows crushed cherry, dusty florals and undergrowth in a performance that seems more mature to me than expected. Here I'm finding silky textures complemented by lifting acidity with mature red fruits, hints of cedar and spice. The finish is medium in length, showing light tannins, dried cherry, undergrowth and floral tones. I can't tell if this showing is more about the wine or this specific bottle, but I'll be on the lookout to taste the 2007 again soon. 2021-2027 (92 points)

2006 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2006 Flaccianello della Pieve is a dark and beautiful beast, with ripe black cherry, dark wood tones, plum, sweet florals and spice, as it seems to gain richness the longer it spend in the glass. This is a soft and silky expression with ripe black fruit in the foreground, leading to spices and sweet herbs.  The finish is long with fine tannin coating the senses, yet never overwhelming, due to a gorgeous display of mint, orange peel and sweet herbs.  Anyone with the 2006 in their cellar should be quite happy with what’s in store for them down the road. 2021-2036 (97 points)

2004 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2004 Flaccianello della Pieve wafts up with dark red fruits complemented by nuances of undergrowth, minerals and olive tones, which seem a bit more wood inflected than terroir. On the palate, soft textures give way to tart black fruits with grainy tannins and a recurrence of briny olive. The finish is long and grippy with hints of dark red fruit and spice. It appears to me that the wood used in 2004 may be overpowering the fruit of the vintage, but only time will tell. 2021-2026 (92 points)

1999 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 1999 Flaccianello della Pieve is simply gorgeous, even hauntingly beautiful, displaying rich black cherry, plum, sweet dried spices and herbs. Here I'm find soft, silky textures, yet it's still so youthful for its age as vibrant acidity provides lift.  Dark red fruits, sweet inner florals and herbs add a savory edge, giving way to fine tannin in the onset of resolution. The finish is long with black cherry, minerals and spice.  It was hard not to drink this wine, instead of taste, which I hope I will one day experience.  What a beautiful Flaccianello. 2021-2029 (96 points)

1995 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 1995 Flaccianello della Pieve shows crushed black cherry, brown spices, sweet herbs and a hint of olive. This boasts soft textures with a mix of red and black fruits, and mature tannin. There is something missing on the mid-palate, yet this is beautiful for a 25 year-old wine.  It finishes with medium length, residual acids and tart blacks fruits. Drink (91 points)

1986 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The nose on the 1986 Flaccianello della Pieve is beautiful in its maturity, showing dusty earth, savory sous bois, cedar, and dried herbs. It displays wonderfully soft textures, with dark-dried red berries, minerals, inner florals and a hint of iodine, and then tapers off with medium length, brisk residual acids and minerals that linger on. Drink (93 points)


Originally published at The Cellar Table Blog

Article, Tasting Notes and event photos by: Eric Guido

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