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.
Badia 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
Noel's Bottle Shop
Closed - Old Vine Wine & Spirits
Team Liquor W&s - Coon Rapids - Closed
Dennis Brothers Liquor
Cash Wise Liquor - Duluth
Firehouse Liquor - Dundas
Punch Pizza - Eden Prairie
D'amico & Sons - Edina
D'amico & Sons - Golden Valley
Do Not Use, Owner - Wine Cafe
Punch Pizza - Maple Grove
Punch Pizza - West Lake St
D'amico & Sons - Uptown
Mcdonald Liquor Store
Punch Pizza - East Hennepin
Team Liquor W&s - Minneapolis-closed
Chef Shack Ranch
Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits
Punch Pizza - Washington Ave
U.s. Liquor & Wine - Sold
Glen Lake Wine & Spirits
Lunds & Byerlys - Minnetonka
Oak Wine & Spirits
Oak Park Heights
D'amico & Sons - Roseville
St Anthony Village # 1
Veranda Lounge - New Ownership
The Local Blend
Saint Louis Park
Punch Pizza - Grand
First Grand Liquors
D'amico & Sons - St Paul
Market Place Liquor
Team Liquor W&s - Shorewood - New Ownership
The Wine Thief
Do Not Use Owner, Mgm - Vadnais Heights
West Side Liquor - Waite Park
Punch Pizza - Wayzata
D'amico & Sons - Wayzata
Wayzata Wines & Spirits
Acqua - White Bear Lake
White Bear Lake
Punch Pizza - Woodbury