Outstanding Value from Chianti Classico

Today’s Story: Castello di Volpaia

Castello di Volpaia is a historic winery situated in the fortified medieval village of Volpaia in the heart of Chianti Classico. Drenched in winemaking history, Volpaia’s viticultural roots trace to 1172 and they were a founding member of the Lega del Chianti (Chianti League) in 1250. In 1966, a printer and bookbinder named Raffaello Stianti purchased the Volpaia estate and 2/3 of the village, later giving it to his daughter Giovannella and her newlywed husband Carlo Mascheroni as a wedding gift in 1972. Carlo and Giovannella instituted a major renovation project to modernize the winery and convert historical buildings into cellars, all while instituting an underground “wineduct” that carries wine from their fermentation tanks to the cellar by gravity. Castello di Volpaia is the highest elevation winery in Chianti Classico with 114 acres of vineyards situated between 1,300-2,100 feet above sea level. All viticultural practices at the estate are certified organic by Q Certificazioni srl.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly opaque and medium garnet in color with ruby hues. This needs to decant for an hour or two, but once it does the nose blossoms to showcase aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, anise, lavender, smoked game, tobacco leaf, damp gravel, dark chocolate, sage, and oak. Once on the palate, this wine delivers notes of blackberry compote, spiced black plum, brambleberry, black cherry, violet, licorice, crushed rock, wet volcanic soil, smoke, savory green herbs, and blood. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a very long finish. The wine is beautifully complex for how young it is, and based on its structure I would give this another 7-10 years to develop in the bottle.

Price: $35. This is one of the greatest value Italian wines I’ve had, and every time I find either this vintage or the 2015 I stock up. Pair this with chicken parmigiana, ossobuco, or lamb chops.

High Quality Value Barolo

Today’s Story: Paolo Scavino

Paolo Scavino was founded by Lorenzo Scavino and his son Paolo in 1921 in Castiglione Falletto within the Barolo region of Italy. Throughout its history, Paolo Scavino remains a family endeavor born on traditions of farming and today Enrico Scavino (3rd generation) and his daughters Enrica and Elisa (4th generation) operate the estate. Enrico is nearly 70 years into his work at the winery (he started in 1951 at the age of 10) and he has been instrumental in expending the estate’s holdings to include some of the greatest crus in all of Piedmont. With 30 hectares of vineyards across 20 crus in Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, La Morra, Novello, Serralunga d’Alba, Verduno, and Roddi, Paolo Scavino grows the traditional grapes of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Barolo

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Barolo is deep garnet in color and moderately opaque. This needs a good two hour decant, but once it opens up the nose emits aromas of cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, blackberry, anise, dried leather, tobacco, truffle, garden herbs, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of muddled raspberry, black cherry, pomegranate, licorice, rose, crushed granite, scorched earth, chocolate, clove, black tea, and cigar box. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $43. This is a great value Barolo from an outstanding vintage, though I suggest giving it another 3 years in bottle and consuming over the following decade. Pair this with veal chop, venison steak, or assorted cheeses.

An Italian Legend

Today’s Story: Mastroberardino

Mastroberardino is a family-operated winery founded in 1878 in Atripalda within the Provincia di Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. While widely known for their production of Taurasi DOCG, Mastroberardino further cemented themselves into Italian viticultural history through tireless efforts to identify and protect native ancient varieties in Campania, particularly those formerly grown in Pompeii. For instance, Mastroberardino was selected by the Italian government in 1996 to oversee the Villa dei Misteri project in Pompeii where they replanted vineyards destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 using the same plans, varieties, viticulture, and winemaking practices of that period in time. Though the winery has had its ups and downs over time (including near collapse following WWII due to economic hardship, phylloxera, neglect, and even family feuds), Antonio Mastroberardino resurrected his family’s legacy and helped build the winery into what it is today: a standard bearer of winemaking in southern Italy. Traditionalists in style, Mastroberardino continues to make some of Italy’s most historically important wines with Antonio’s son Piero now at the helm.

The wine I am reviewing today received countless critical acclaim, and is largely considered the wine that brought significant attention to winemaking in the Campania region and the immense potential of the Aglianico variety.

Today’s Wine: 1968 Taurasi Riserva

100% Aglianico; 12% ABV

The 1968 Taurasi Riserva is almost entirely opaque and is deep ruby in color with garnet variation, especially near the rim. This is shockingly youthful right out of the bottle and we let it decant for about an hour before enjoying over the next hour-plus. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, black plum, forest floor, tobacco leaf, black truffle, smoked game, white pepper, black tea, underbrush, oregano, and dried rose. Once in the mouth, this beautiful wine displays notes of dried blackberry, black cherry, cigar box, forest floor, mushroom, leather, tar, ash, smoke, peppercorn, and green herbs. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, refined medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $850 (though this came into our possession years ago for a much lower cost). This is truly a unicorn wine that I will surely never taste again, and a bottle we were very lucky to receive with the purchase of a private wine collection. Pair this with braised beef, venison, wild boar, or grilled lamb.

An Italian Great

Today’s Story: Marchesi Antinori and Tenuta Tignanello

Marchesi Antinori traces its roots to 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri (Florentine Winemakers’ Guild) and the family has been making wine since through 26 generations. I recently reviewed one of the family’s other wines, the 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva Tenuta Tignanello in Chianti Classico for a Remarkable Value. Interestingly, that Chianti Classico is made using fruit from Tenuta Tignanello, one of the great estates owned and operated by the Antinori family. Tenuta Tignanello is located between the Greve and Pesa river valleys in Tuscany on 319 hectares with 127 hectares planted to vine in calcareous rocky soils with alberese and marl. Though some of the Tignanello fruit goes into the Chianti, Tignanello’s prized vineyards and signature wines of Tignanello and Solaia are some of the most influential and important wines in Tuscan winemaking history.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Tignanello

85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% ABV

The 2012 Tignanello is deep ruby red in color and almost entirely opaque. This wine requires at least an hour in the decanter to truly blossom, but once it opens up the nose is characterized by aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry, red cherry, strawberry, violet, blue florals, graphite, smokey earth, crushed rock, savory green herbs, and tar. On the palate, this wine showcases notes of plum, black cherry, wild raspberry, licorice, rosemary, dried tobacco, red and blue florals, dried and dusty rocky soil, white pepper, and clove. This wine is full-bodied with moderate acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish while being elegant and supple in mouthfeel and supremely classy overall.

Price: $100. Tignanello is always worthy of its price tag and even though it is not cheap provides great value for high quality Italian wine. Pair this with bistecca alla fiorentina, herb-roasted lamb, or assorted cheese and charcuterie.

Chianti Classico for a Remarkable Value

Today’s Story: Marchesi Antinori

Marchesi Antinori traces its roots to 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri (Florentine Winemakers’ Guild) and the family has been making wine since through 26 generations. While the historic epicenter of the Antinori “empire” rests in Tuscany and Umbria, over time the family purchased vineyards in various regions throughout Italy and the world to bolster their portfolio and live a consistent goal of exploration and experimentation. Not only is Marchesi Antinori one of the largest wine companies in Italy, they are also one of the oldest family operated companies in the world. Today, Albiera Antinori is President of Marchesi Antinori and is supported by her sisters Allegra and Alessia, while their father Marchese Piero Antinori acts as the Honorary President.

Though the Antinori family owns what I’d say are too many estates for me to justify listing here, their website has great maps and lists of their properties here and it is worth checking out. Further, there is a really cool timeline tracing the family back to 1179 here, which I could not do any justice to in trying to reproduce myself.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva Tenuta Tignanello

90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is medium ruby in color and slightly transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, cherry, cranberry, black licorice, chocolate, purple florals and rose, crushed rock, green herbs, and dried earth. On the palate, this wine displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, forest floor, mocha, sweet tobacco, spice, savory herbs, and slight vanilla. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long elegant finish.

Price: $35. One of the greatest Chianti Classicos I’ve enjoyed and consistently incredible value after Antinori switched exclusively to Tenuta Tignanello grapes in 2011. Pair this with red sauce meat pasta, pizza, veal marsala, or chicken parm.

Fun Orange Wine for the Adventurous

Today’s Story: Tre Monti

Tre Monti was established in 1974 by Sergio and Thea Navacchia. Thea was a major driving force behind the winery throughout their inaugural decade-plus, and together with her husband Sergio became pioneers in a sense by planting large densities per hectare and experimenting with non-traditional vines. During the 1980s, the couple collaborated with a young Francesco Spagnolli before working with Vittorio Fiore and later Donato Lanati, all quite instrumental in making Tre Monti what it is today. Thea unfortunately passed away in 1989, however, though this tragic event inspired her children Vittorio and David to join their father in managing the estate. While Sergio continues to run the show, Vittorio controls the enological side of the business while David, who has a background in Law, controls the financial and marketing aspects.

In the cellars, Vittorio follows a minimal intervention philosophy in order to showcase the integrity of his fruit as well as the terroir from which it comes. The winery became certified organic in 2014 and the team refrains from using unnatural products in the vineyards thanks to this practice. To learn more about the estate, their farms, or their wines, check out the website linked here. If anything, it gives you a nice representation of how down to earth, friendly, and passionate the Navacchia family seems to be.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Vitalba Albana in Anfora

100% Albana; 14.5% ABV

The 2017 Vitalba is a fully transparent pale to medium amber color with peach variation. On the nose, this wine showcases aromas of apricot, cantaloupe, stone fruit, mango, orange marmalade, honey, white and yellow florals, and some bright herbaceous overtones. Once in the mouth, the wine offers notes of golden apple, peach, dried apricot, nectarine, lemon zest, pineapple juice, bright peppery mineral, and ginger. This is medium- to full-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity, light tannins (!), and a medium (+) length finish. Really refreshing and a fun wine to try, this is fermented in Georgian amphora (kvevri) using only natural yeasts and sees 95 day maceration. 125 cases produced.

Price: $24. For its price, this is a fun “orange wine” to try and offers a structure many wine drinkers probably do not experience from a white grape variety. If you come across this bottle and are in the mood for an adventure, check it out. Pair this with assorted white fish, goat cheese, fruit tarts, or apple pie.

Nobility in Piedmont

Today’s Story: Cordero di Montezemolo

The Cordero di Montezemolo winery traces its roots to 1340, however the Cordero di Montezemolo family is of Spanish origin and did not settle in Piedmont until the mid-1400s. Though the family has deep roots in Piedmont, they did not find foundation in wine but rather in printing/typesetting businesses as well as military and diplomatic roles for the Royal House of Savoy. As a well-established and aristocratic family in Piedmont, the Cordero di Montezemolo family tree intertwined with the Falletti family who were one of the most noteworthy noble families in the Alba area and also proprietors of the Monfalletto Estate. In 1918, Maria Lydia (the daughter of Marchese Luigia Falletti) married Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo and the Cordero di Montezemolo family cemented their future in wine.

Maria Lydia and Paolo unfortunately passed away at young ages, however their son Paolo who was orphaned at the age of 15 grew up under the care of his grandmother Marchioness Luigia Falletti. When she passed away in 1941, Paolo inherited her entire property holdings which included the Monfalletto Estate in La Morra. Though Paolo through his ownership of the estate marks the Cordero di Montezemolo family’s foray into wine production, the estate throughout its history has been family owned and operated. Today, the estate is under control of its 19th-generation with Giovanni Cordero di Montezemolo and his children Elena and Alberto at the helm.

Though the historical single-body vineyard of the estate consists of 28 hectares (69 acres), Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo expanded the property in 1965 by purchasing a two hectare plot of old vines in the Villero area in Catiglione Falletto. The estate expanded further over the years through purchases and leasing agreements, and today total vineyard land sits at 51 hectares (126 acres). For all of their land, Cordero di Montezemolo started the organic farming certification process in 2013 and achieved certification a couple years ago. They use natural mineral products and repellents from organic material to fight parasites, organic products and green manure for fertilization, and natural grass planted beneath the rows to foster biodynamic balance. Not only do these efforts protect the land, but they help culminate into wonderful wines full of complexity and demonstrations of place.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Monfalletto

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Barolo Monfalletto is deep garnet in color though moderately transparent. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following three hours due to its youth. Once this opens up, the rather intense nose showcases aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, rose, sweet tobacco, black licorice, black tea leaf, mint, Asian spice, cocoa powder, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of dried cherry, raspberry, cranberry, licorice, tobacco, dried rocky soil, chocolate, iron, and toasted oak. This Barolo is full-bodied with high acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with notes of green herbs. Though elegant and somewhat approachable in its youth, this wine has the structure for the long haul and I would give it another three years of bottle aging and drink it over the following decade.

Price: $48. This is a great value Barolo for me, especially given the intensity and complexity it shows at a young age. Pair this with duck, quail, or game meats. Add some white truffle to these dishes and now you’re talking.