It's easy to look at Le Pergole Torte as the more powerful site expression compared to Montevertine's Rosso and Pian del Ciampolo, but I think that misses the point. Sergio Manetti believed in the greatness of Sangiovese from this hillside, and Le Pergole Torte always shows its class in this stable through its level of precision and delineation.
The 18-hectare estate rests high at 425 meters in Radda, one of the coolest zones in Chianti Classico, and Le Pergole Torte is sourced from the estate's oldest vines and highest elevation plantings. These wines from limestone soils coupled with unique climate have a sense of transparency and grace that stands out immediately. The deft use of French barrique (15% new oak at most) is impressive, adding concentration and texture while still harnessing the pure, lithe qualities inherent in this site.
There is much confusion about the origin of the name Le Pergole Torte. When Sergio bought the property, his neighbor named Bruno had just planted three rows of vines trained in the old pergola fashion. The wine he produced was so mesmerizing that it became the impetus for Sergio to plant two hectares at this property in 1967. The first vintage (1971) received such a glowing response that Sergio began focusing on winemaking exclusively.
Due to Chianti Classico laws, which required the addition of Trebbiano in the blend, Manetti chose to leave the consortium in 1981. This was a radical move, and even though the law changed in 1995 to allow 100% Sangiovese in Chianti Classico, today, they still opt for IGT status. The estate has gained a loyal following at home and abroad. Sergio's son, Martino, played an active role starting in 1989, and Martino took over upon his father's passing in 2000.
"Giovanna's wines are pure, bright, fresh and juicy, with bracing acidity and lingering flavors of red fruit and flowers." — Eric Asimov, NYT
When I have the opportunity to prove that Chianti Classico can show grace and pristine fruit quality akin to Red Burgundy, I use Giovanna Morganti's Le Trame as my first example. I implore you to trust this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese. Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine is a benchmark for the region, but his other discovery, Le Boncie, better illustrates Sangiovese's sometimes elusive, fruit-forward profile and silken tannins. Earlier this year, Eric Asimov of the New York Times included Le Trame in his top ten list of Chianti Classicos. Giovanna farms her fives hectares using organic and biodynamic principles. I could go down the rabbit hole on farming, fermentation, and aging specifics, but I'd like to cut this one short and say: This is a profound wine that's a joy to drink. I've lost count of the number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and deadly serious.
One of the highlights of my summer trip to Tuscany in 2017 was the in-depth visit atop Montalcino with Alberto Passeri of La Gerla. These vines originally belonged to Franco Biondi-Santi—creator of the first Brunello di Montalcino—though Franco's disgruntled sister sold a small slice of their land to Sergio Rossi in 1976.
Named after the small wooden picking bins worn on one's back, La Gerla is an homage to the vineyard workers who worked tirelessly to bring in the best raw materials. Today, the estate encompasses 12 hectares of vines, all farmed organically. Once in botti, the wines showing more approachability in their youth are bottled as Rosso di Montalcino. This is one of the best deals in traditional Montalcino!
When considering the most soulful and magically unique wines in Italy, the name Paolo Bea always leads the discussion. Their family roots in Umbria's Montefalco region stretch back to the 16th century on this property, now a diverse ecosystem of livestock, vegetables, and fruits.
Five of the fifteen hectares here are devoted to vines, and though the hearty and tannic Sagrantino variety is the focus throughout Montefalco, today we take a close look at the most approachable wine from the estate, the San Valentino.
San Valentino is a unique blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Montepulciano from a clay-dominant single vineyard at 1,300 feet. Wines from Umbria often stand out for extremely forward fruit personality - the high elevation here adds a dimension of snap and buoyancy that makes this one of the world's most hedonistic, yet refreshing wines.
Harvest of these 50-year-old vines usually occurs at the conclusion of October where phenolic ripeness is perfectly achieved for all three varieties. The grapes are fermented in the traditional manner spending 30+ days macerating on the skins. The wine is then aged for three years in stainless steel, and then one year in bottle prior to release.
The three varieties complement each other magically here. Sangiovese providing high-toned red fruit notes with terrific acidity. The combination of Sagrantino and Montepulciano provides inky blue and black fruits with a firm structure. In the end, sweet cherries, fig, tobacco, dried flowers, and hints of charcoal meld together beautifully.
Traveling throughout Tuscany and speaking with producers and sommeliers from Florence through Montalcino has been an epic journey for me. The diversity within this home of Sangiovese can be difficult to adequately articulate. My visits seem to circle to an adventurous era when Brunello di Montalcino was officially born in 1966. Since then, there have been many property sales of old school iconic estates, but one has stood the test of time and prevailed. The wines of Costanti today are revered as much for their deep historical significance as for their fortitude progressing into the 21st century with a philosophy firmly rooted in the 1960s. This is where I turn when the ultimate terroir-driven tradition of Brunello is in my crosshairs.
A tour through Costanti's vineyards and cellar was the ultimate time warp. There are artifacts scattered throughout this ancient building, some dating as far back as 1 AD. It was Tito Costanti in 1870 who first presented a wine named "Brunello" at the wine exhibition of Siena. And Emilio Costanti produced the first commercial release of their Brunello di Montalcino in 1964, a time when the family was just one of 25 producers in the region - and one of the first to bottle 100% Sangiovese.
Since 1983, it's been Andrea Costanti who's presided over operations. While Brunello's reputation has skyrocketed in his time, the vineyard holdings (10 hectares) and production (around 4,000 bottles) have remained fixed. The profound admiration for tradition was more evident visiting Costanti than any other estate this trip. The large Slavonian botti have stood the test of time, housing countless celebrated vintages such as those featured today.
Costanti's vineyards sit at 450 meters, extremely high in the greater region and key to the cool-fruited, subtle, and wildly nuanced Sangiovese born here. The soil is predominately galestro, a prized high calcium mix of decomposed shale, limestone, and clay. It easily breaks in your hand, a reminder of what's happening deep below the topsoil where these old vines can dig quite deep in search of water and nutrients - in turn also endowing superb concentration to these wines.
All of the vineyard holdings here are designated as Brunello di Montalcino, and a decision to bottle Rosso di Montalcino is strictly one of declassification. Fermentation takes place over 3 weeks with daily pump-overs. Large botti are used for aging, and the wines are bottled unfiltered and un-fined.
The bright red cherry, graphite, licorice, tobacco, and leather notes really jump out from Costanti much more than at neighboring addresses. There's an unadulterated quality of Sangiovese here that's earned them so many loyal collectors over the years. Today, bottles from the '60 are still sought after for their freshness and delicacy.