One of the most anticipated visits of the trip was to the legendary Fèlsina estate in Chianti Classico's Castelnuovo Berardenga. Fèlsina has long stood with tradition in crafting 100% Sangiovese wines, never following the trends of adding Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to appeal to a more global market. They've been the epitome of value for Sangiovese, and the entire lineup of wines from top to bottom deliver consistently in a way the entire region emulates. Today, we take a look at their top Chianti Classico, the Rancia Riserva from the powerful and classic 2013 vintage.
Fèlsina was established in 1966 when Domenico Poggiali found a cellar tucked into the limestone hillside in Castelnuovo Berardenga. The property had formerly been established by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Poggiali slowly built up his estate based upon the foundation of tradition and the highest standards of organic viticulture.
Fèlsina sits at an interesting point, straddling the border between Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senesi. Walking through the vineyards in a great lesson in terroir. Fèlsina has two flagship wines, and on my left I see the Fontalloro vineyard of Colli Senesi, and on my right is Rancia, in Chianti Classico. Limestone has a more prominent role in the soils of Chianti Classico as compared to the greater concentration of clay loam in Colli Senesi. For me, it's Rancia and this limestone foundation that's always offered the most thrills with its bright, lacey, fine-grained mineral notes. Fontalloro has a weight and richer texture thanks to the clay that shows a more powerful and broad side of the region.
Looking closer at Rancia you can see a divide between the upper and lower slope, with more limestone at the top and greater blue-grey sandstone at the base. The former rendering lift, delicacy, and floral tones, while the latter gives way to darker fruit and tell-tale licorice and tobacco notes. Still, at 1,400 feet elevation Rancia shows the estate's most nimble side of Sangiovese.
Another secret is revealed in the cellars. The Fontalloro sees about 30% new French barrique for aging, whereas the Rancia is aged entirely in neutral oak. There's no doubt that with age the new oak integrates really well with Fontolloro, but on this day tasting the 2013's there's no comparison for me, the Rancia has it all. The 2013 vintage has everyone in the region very excited, calling to mind many of the qualities that made 2010 such a success.
We went very deep on this vintage for Rancia, in part because it's just as wild a value as you're to find in Tuscany, but also because the challenging 2014 vintage may very well mean there will not be another Rancia produced until the 2015 is released in two year from now.
Rancia's liveliness and agility make it such a thrill to drink today. It pulls me back for sip after sip, perfectly placing into focus the vintage that's given rich fruit, tremendous concentration, with a shimmering finish that quietly convinces this will be a great one to follow in the cellar for decades to come.
Antonio Galloni of Vinous really captures what's so appealing about Rancia this year,
"Fèlsina's 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia bristles with energy, with veins of underlying acidity that give the wine its focus and drive. Dark red cherry, plum, rose petal, herb and licorice are some of the signatures. Most of the Fèlsina Chianti Classicos are defined by their dark fruit and savory notes, but the Rancia is also wonderfully bright and lifted from start to finish while staying very much true to the house style."
2013 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia
$57 per bottle.
Special 6-pack pricing, $325 (Regularly $342)
Special 12-pack pricing, $615 (Regularly $684)
2004 Fèlsina Fontalloro
$74 per bottle.
1990 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia
$199 per bottle.
1990 Fèlsina Fontalloro
$199 per bottle.