What goes into the making of a truly great Chianti?

As with any great wine of the world, it starts with location, planting the correct clonal material in the correct spot for maximum quality.

Then of course there are the farming systems being employed, and finding the balance between vigor and intensity in the vines.

And finally the touch of the winemaker, or lack thereof. Some Chiantis in the last ten years have evolved into a very “international” style, with loads of new oak, deep color extraction, and a dollop of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even Syrah being added to the Sangiovese (official Chianti laws state that a Chianti must be a minimum 80% Sangiovese … the other 20% can be anything they want). On the opposite side of the spectrum are the traditionalists, who want to avoid winemaker influence at almost any cost.

One is not better than the other, simply different. But regardless of the winemaking style employed, we have the utmost respect for any producer that concentrates on making great wine in the vineyard first and foremost, and that is where this video series comes in.

 

Before we get into some cool lessons from Roberto Stucchi of Badia a Coltibuono, let’s define what a ‘truly great Chianti’ is. One of the more beautiful and accurate descriptions have come from Jackson Rhorbaugh in a great article for Wine Folly:

The best examples of Chianti are a visceral tasting experience. Imagine the smells as you walk through an Italian grocery store: at the entrance there’s a bowl of preserved sour Amarena cherries. You walk under bunches of dried oregano, past a wall of dark, aromatic balsamic vinegar, then pass a counter where dry salami is being sliced. At the bar, dark espresso is dripping into a ceramic tazzo. A whisper of sweet tobacco wafts in the door from the pipe of the old man outside. Chianti smells and tastes like Italy. There will be a little coarseness and tartness on the palate, but these aren’t flaws, they are classic characteristics of Sangiovese.

Spot on. And that brings us to Roberto Stucchi and Badia a Coltibuono.

Regarding intelligent and wholistic approaches to grape growing and winemaking, Stucchi is one of the leaders in the field, especially when it comes to the sub-zones of Chianti. His wines are hands-off, expressing all the good and true aromas and flavor profiles of the region.

Listening to Stucchi discuss vine growing practices is eye opening and incredibly educational.

First, a discussion of the sub zone of Giaole in Chianti, in the southeastern corner of the zone, where Badia a Coltibuono is located. Included is a fascinating talk on the “mother vineyard” where he has isolated the clones he wants to work with, and all plant material for other vineyard plantings comes from this site. (My apologies for my thumb being in the video for a bit.)

Next up, a full discussion on organic farming practices, use of cover crops, and the large number of Sangiovese clones used by Badia a Cotibuono and why. (Again, my big thumb gets in the way for just a bit, sorry about that!)

Going deeper, figuratively and literally, Stucchi discusses soil science and “reading the weeds” to identify problems and imbalances in the vineyard.

Continuing on the soil discussion, here talking about micro organisms and life content in the dirt.

 

cetamuraBadia a Coltibuono produces a range of wines from the Chianti region. A great all purpose wine from them is the Chianti Cetamura, available at the following locations (listed alphabetically by city, call ahead to confirm availability).

The Beanery Internet Cafe
Aitkin
(218) 927-7811

Noel's Bottle Shop
Bemidji
(218) 444-9864

Old Vine Wine & Spirits
Bloomington
(952) 858-8800

Team Liquor - Coon Rapids
Coon Rapids
(612) 281-6669

Dennis Brothers Liquor
Cottage Grove
(651) 458-8932

Cash Wise Liquor - Duluth
Duluth
(218) 722-4507

Firehouse Liquor
Dundas
(507) 645-5717

Punch Pizza - Eden Prairie
Eden Prairie
(651) 696-2921

The Hilltop
Edina
(952) 925-5628

D'amico & Sons - Edina
Edina
(952) 926-1187

D'amico & Sons - Golden Valley
Golden Valley
(763) 546-1166

Wine Cafe
Mankato
(507) 345-1516

Punch Pizza - Maple Grove
Maple Grove
(763) 494-3131

3 Squares
Maple Grove
(763) 425-3330

Heritage Liquor
Maplewood
(651) 777-7455

Punch Pizza - West Lake St
Minneapolis
(612) 926-0110

Falls Liquor
Minneapolis
(612) 729-5498

Surdyk's
Minneapolis
(612) 379-3232

Longfellow Grill
Minneapolis
(612) 916-2262

Team Liquor Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 375-9487

Franklin-nicollet Liquors
Minneapolis
(612) 871-1511

Chef Shack Ranch
Minneapolis
(763) 780-1168

Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 789-0678

Punch Pizza - Washington Ave
Minneapolis
(612) 331-3122

Mcdonald Liquor Store
Minneapolis
(612) 721-6686

D'amico & Sons - Uptown
Minneapolis
(612) 374-3366

Punch Pizza - East Hennepin
Minneapolis
(612) 623-8114

The Lowry
Minneapolis
(612) 341-2112

U.s. Liquor & Wine
Minnetonka
(952) 912-9797

Glen Lake Wine & Spirits
Minnetonka
(952) 935-7375

Lunds & Byerly's - Minnetonka
Minnetonka
(952) 541-1414

Northfield Liquors
Northfield
(507) 645-5153

Oak Wine & Spirits
Oak Park Heights
(651) 439-2184

D'amico & Sons - Roseville
Roseville
(651) 633-7667

Market Place Liquor
Savage
(952) 440-9860

Team Liquor W&s - Shorewood
Shorewood
(612) 325-0328

St Anthony Village # 1
St Anthony
(612) 782-3451

Veranda Lounge
St Cloud
(320) 309-6914

The Local Blend
St Joseph
(320) 363-1011

Knollwood Liquors
St Louis Park
(952) 938-2783

Punch Pizza - Grand
St Paul
(612) 378-7631

First Grand Liquors
St Paul
(651) 227-7039

Sunrise Market
St Paul
(651) 487-1913

Toasted Wine+spirits+ales
St Paul
(651) 246-8054

Yarmo Liquor
St Paul
(651) 698-0707

D'amico & Sons - St Paul
St Paul
(651) 374-1776

The Wine Thief
St Paul
(651) 698-9463

Scott's Liquor
St Paul
(651) 690-4434

Mgm - Vadnais Heights
Vadnais Heights
(651) 653-3456

West Side Liquor - Waite Park
Waite Park
(320) 253-9511

Punch Pizza - Wayzata
Wayzata
(612) 331-3122

D'amico & Sons - Wayzata
Wayzata
(952) 374-1776

Wayzata Wines & Spirits
Wayzata
(952) 473-7191

Acqua Restaurant & Wine Bar
White Bear Lake
(651) 407-7317

Punch Pizza - Woodbury
Woodbury
(651) 714-7986

 

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