Grapevine Archive for Sangiovese

Fri 18 Jun 2010

Italian Road Trip

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Sebastian Payne and I spent a busy couple of days last week in Tuscany – we have an upcoming Italian offer and we had one day in Chianti Classico and one in Montalcino which both use predominately the sangiovese grape to make their wines.

Before enjoying the rustic charm of Tuscany though, we had to get there, managing to get through our Ryanair flight without buying their duty free, scratchcards, telephone cards and even the smokeless cigarettes they were announcing every few minutes on the admittedly smooth flight over.

We based ourselves at Felsina in Castelnuovo Berardegna in the South of the Chianti Classico region where they gave us a great welcome. It’s a mixed used estate with 70 hectares of olive trees and about the same of vines, primarily sangiovese. The rest of the estate is given over to a few cereals and forest. Our first tasting of the day was actually 4 single-varietal olive oils (see photo below) – Giuseppe is re-introducing single varietal oils, with the trees harvested at different times per variety just like grapes.

Felsina Single-Varietal Olive OilsFelsina Single-Varietal Olive Oils

The estate was put together from 11 small-holdings, or subsistence farmers, and Felsina respect this heritage by making a wine from the original 11 vineyard parcels, one per small-holding. They started working with 100% sangiovese in 1983 before it was actually allowed within the Chianti Classico appellation.

After tasting the wines and olive oils at Felsina we visited Fontodi in the Concha d’Oro (golden shell) at Panzano. Our host, Giovanni Manetti, had to leave us to our own devices for a while he dealt with a surprise visit from the organic regulation inspectors – “funny how they come as soon as it is sunny” he says, reflecting on the recent rainy spell! Giovanni had no problem with the inspectors as he’s been running organic for some years and has persuaded most of his neighbouring growers to do the same. Fontodi are in the middle of major works as they build a new barrel store, and we did discuss with them whether there was a market in the UK for their old barrels as flowerpots for our members.

One food tip from rural Tuscany – beware the Bistecca a la Florentina in the Trattoria del Berardegna in the village unless you are really carnivorous. Over an inch thick, only lightly seared and brought by the kilo! Giovanni’s Chianti Classico was a perfect match though.

The next morning I took this picture near Felsina – it could be part of a bigger estate but it looked to me like a smallholding with a few vines and olive trees. One bottle of wine per vine would give a year’s supply for the guy living in the building at the bottom I think – a simple life but a good one?

Felsina SmallholdingFelsina Smallholding

Then on to Montalcino to visit prospective new producers, finishing the day at Laura Brunelli’s (she supplies our ‘Gianni Brunelli Brunello de Montalcino‘). The wines, including the Riserva 2004 and the younger Vino Rosso, were great, and the view from her terrace was to die for. She invited us to stay longer with typical Tuscan warmth but my family – and the World Cup – proved stronger…..but before that ….Ryanair and the smokeless cigarettes!

Categories : Italy
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