Tuscan Chianti Classico

Sangiovese Grosso, Sangiovese Piccolo, Sangioveto…is to name just a few of the aliases for this grape and its closely related cultivars; providing the core body for most Tuscan red wine recipes, and still reigning as the most consumed Italian wine at home and abroad. Dark blue-skinned Sangiovese takes its name from the Latin term, Sanguis Jovis (‘blood of Jove’), which is an exalted reference to both the elixir’s colour and its place in Europe’s pantheon of great grape species: Vitis Vinifera. It’s also the most widely cultivated variety in central Italy, with prolific vineyards in Lazio, Umbria, Marche and Tuscany combining for 95% of the world’s plantings–a largely unrivalled dominance by a major grape sourced from a single country. Over several hundred years, growers have steadily built up their expertise with ‘San-joh-vay-say.’ In particular, the stewarding of these slow-ripening fruit clusters through to a balanced maturity is an agricultural art that Tuscans have diligently become very, very good at!

fiascoes

In the vinicultural history of many old world regions, the development of a distinctive wine style that becomes immensely popular, aided by large yields of grapes that are well-suited to the terroir, adds up to a mixed record of glory times and a fair share of winemaking folly. The sometimes too-voluminous output of Tuscany’s Chianti is no exception. Happily, the mid-20th-century decades during which large commercial producers let loose far too much unremarkable bulk wine dressed up in attractively rotund flasks swaddled with woven straw called fiascos, are long gone. In the 21st century, a re-invigoration of a different sort has taken hold in the baseline winemaking practices of these lands and culture that were the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. This time, Tuscan vintners are focused on advancing the competitive quality across all grades of their wine; from everyday offerings such as charmingly simple Chianti through to premium production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello. At the core of this shift is the general reduction of harvest yields by the growers–who themselves were instrumental in redefining the guidelines of Italy’s highest classification of quality: DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Too sad about the demise of the traditional straw wrapping, though, it was so rustically emblematic of Italian table wine for such a long time!

The 120 associated growers allied with the  Castelli del Grevepeas brand are focused on value-driven wines fashioned from the region’s indigenous grapes. This DéClassé feature of Castelgreve Chianti Classico 2016 is a delightful example of medium-bodied Chianti with an integrated character of vibrant fruit in among the savoury earth notes. Exercising restraint in the finishing process of wine demonstrates modern winemaking wisdom. In the case of this bottling, the straightforward recipe of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot that’s fermented in Inox tanks before spending the 12 months in Slavonian oak casks, results in an unfettered and refreshing offering true to its pedigree. Add a $17.00 price-point, and you have a winner that will sell swiftly. I would buy as many as are required to fill the empty slots in your loose-straw-lined storage boxes!

CASTELGREVE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #573485 | 750 mL bottle
Price $17.00
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Tuscany, Italy
By: Castelli Del Grevepesa
Release Date: September 1, 2018

Tasting Note
This medium-bodied Chianti demonstrates the expected combination of plum and cherry flavours and aromas blending with a restrained earthiness and the spice notes gained from its ageing in oak. Try serving as an apéritif with salty charcuterie and cheeses such as Pecorino or with heartier fare such as roast lamb with rosemary, rib eye steak with asparagus and mushroom risotto or Tuscan-style sausages and baked Fava beans.

Sangiovese Alert

The somewhat mysterious Etruscans are an Italianate culture that proceeded
and laid a foundation for the much later Roman age. Though their winemaking
traditions in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio can be dated roughly to 1000BC, the
far less ancient vineyards now overseen by head winemaker Benedetta Contini
Bonacossi has a relatively contemporary history that’s rooted in the Italian
Renaissance. Their 100-hectare Cappezzana estate on the slopes of Monte
Albano north-west of Florence was part of a large land holding of the influential
Medici Grand Dukes. After centuries of twists and turns in ownership, passing
in title through numerous Tuscan nobilities, it was acquired by the Bonacossi
family early in the 1920’s. Historically, the wine output of this small agricultural
area was an undistinguished part of the greater, Chianti designation of origin;
the estate now produces its premium wine lines within the Carmignano DOCG
(Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), established in 1990.

The appellation covers 450 hectares of vineyard around the namesake town of
Carmignano with its evolving history as a vinicultural nursery. In the 18th century,
under guidance from the Grand Duke Cosimo III, the region’s range of grapevine
plantings were expanded, including the adopting of French Cabernet Sauvignon;
now one of the allowable and distinctive components in the region’s basic blend.
Built around the starring grape, Sangiovese, the classic Tuscan recipe also calls
for incorporating splashes of indigenous Canaiolo Nero and Cabernet Franc to
help round out the structure, flavour and aroma.

In the modern age, the Cappezzana winery is also producing more youthful red
wines employing the same varieties, under the umbrella of a parallel appellation:
Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC created in 1994. These are only a lesser
grade in the sense that they’re fashioned from younger vines and aren’t officially
subject to the more stringent, ageing requirements of Carmignano (a minimum
2 years) prior to release. Nonetheless, this week’s DéClassé feature has spent
12 months in tight-grained Allier oak barrels and much more in the bottle. With sufficiently smoothed tannins, this very well-made, layered, fresh and charming
offering is ready to punctuate your well-laid dinner table now.

Barco Reale

CAPEZZANA BARCO REALE DI CARMIGNANO 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #508531 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Tuscany, Italy
By: Conte Contini Bonacossi
Release Date: August 8, 2015

Tasting Note
As the wine is made with younger fruit, it has a decidedly bright, red-berry flavour
profile, but also offers complimentary hints of Cassis and spice. Try serving with
dishes such as pasta with Bolognese sauce or heartier stews and tapas.

Chianti Classico Alert

Already 1,000 years old in its somewhat current form, this only references the
farm’s contemporary roots, a relative quantifier of fact and point of reference.
Earliest evidence of farming activity here, actually dates back much further to an
Etruscan period, preceding the very earliest, subsequent days of the Roman
age and culture. In turn, this eventually leads up to the tagging of its existence in
940AD in a registry managed under the domain of local, Medieval ruler: Otto IV.

Castagnoli is among the most celebrated estates within the larger Tuscan area,
having enjoyed the attentive development of vineyard and olive groves by noble
families such as Orlandi, Piccolomini and Tempi. Finally, toward the end of the
nineteenth century, the Ricasoli were the guiding hands before it passed into
becoming part of a 5 company consortium: Alimenta SPA, guided by Calogero
Cali. That’s quite a story – built over several millennia of compounding efforts.

The root of this week’s featured wine style: Chianti Classico is the term Chianti
itself. Some evidence suggests it derives from ‘clante’: the name of a person of
Etruscan origin; some believe it’s loosely associated to ‘clango’, a verb in Latin
that reproduces the sound of hunting horns and their announcement of hunting
season in the Tuscany territory. Moreover, the term does demark a territorial
boundary from the outskirts of Siena, reaching almost as far as Florence.

Chianti is Vino Nobile – the king of wines, made with Sangiovese. 100 hectares
of vineyard are devoted to this variety at Rocca di Castagnoli. In this bottling’s
blend are also 5% splashes of other indigenous grapes: Colorino and Canaiolo.
Sangiovese is the most widely planted, red-berried vine in all of Italy. High in acid
content and showing firm tannins, this slow ripening variety benefits from a long
growing season and relatively, delayed harvest. After fermentation, maturation
takes place partly in oak casks and partly in Tonneaux. The latter is a 900 litre,
wood container popular in the Middle Ages, eventually made into the smaller,
¼ size version that is today’s barrel standard.

With winter being hinted at, coming around the next corner, having satisfaction
of this medium-bodied wine will also arrive. You have to get some though, for this
prophecy to be fulfilled. It won’t be on Vintage’s shelves for long.

Rocca Di Castagnoli

ROCCA DI CASTAGNOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011`
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #222810 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.00
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Tuscany, Italy
By: Alimenta, Spa
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2014

Tasting Note
This is a savory wine with flavours of dark cherries and stone fruit flecked with
notes of dried herbs. Try with roast veal, pork and mushroom or squash risotto.