Making the case for why pockets of Chianti warrant the same attention as Brunello di Montalicino, or even Burgundy, is a challenge for me. Have I lost you yet? The blame can fall squarely at the feet of those infamous straw-covered fiasco bottles, or even with higher priced examples where sharp acidity may mesh with the marinara, but not much else.
If I have one opportunity to prove to you that Sangioves from Chianti Classico can show a grace and pristine fruit quality akin to red Burgundy I will use Giovanna Morganti's "Le Trame" as my first example. I implore you to trust that this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2015 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame", with special E-mail pricing on 4-packs.
Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine, and its Le Pergole Torte is a benchmark for the region. But, in many aspects his other discovery, "Le Trame", is better suited to illustrate how Sangiovese's sometimes illusive fruit-forward profile and silken tannins can lead the charge in calling to mind those traits I personally adore about red Burgundy.
A visit last summer with Giovanna Morganti was one of the most memorable I've had along the wine route. Ever. The mentality of this estate exemplifies so much of what gravitates me toward the artisanal approach. One where we can talk ad nauseam about what happens in the cellar, but it's the fastidious vineyard work giving the raw materials responsible for showcasing greatness under cork.
You can read more below the offer to go down the rabbit hole on fermentation and aging specifics. But, I'd like to cut this one short here and say this is a profound wine that's simply a joy to drink. The number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and dead serious all at the same time is innumerable. I recommend you take the dive to see what this small gem of an estate in Chianti Classico is all about!
2015 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame" Toscana Rosso
$53 per bottle.
2014 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame" Toscana Rosso
$53 per bottle.
In 1990 Giovanna Morganti, the daughter of a famed oenologist, embarked on her own project - a 5 hectare parcel she planted in Chianti Classico's southern zone, Castelnuovo Berardenga. 27 years later her wines stand out as some of the most soulful, perfumed, and elegant in all of Tuscany. Her approach differs somewhat dramatically from many of her contemporaries, but one thing is very clear after my visit: Every aspect of her process is with eyes firmly fixed on quality with a detailed focus. This is the best of Sangiovese that you've never tasted.
My love affair with these wines goes back a little ways. Drinking them I was always taken aback by how silken they were without conveying any sense of new oak influence or modernized quick-fix methods. These are natural wines, and learning about the process from the vines to the cellar offered some new surprises.
Growing up in a home where winemaking was in her blood, Giovanna knew there was an alternative approach that she would take when her time finally came. Her first two choices were to plant ancient native varieties to supplement the Sangiovese that would be the overwhelming dominant variety in her Chianti Classico. Planting at a very tight 8,000 vines per hectare (to promote competition of vines and concentration of fruit) she introduced Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Foglia tonda Mammolo, and Prugnolo with the Sangiovese. Most had a history in the region dating back centuries, but aside from Colorino they've nearly vanished from the limestone soils here in Castelnuovo Berardenga's border with Gaiole.
She also felt the wire systems from guyot and cordon vine training restricted the natural inclination of the vine to grow vertical, with this on her mind she introduced gobelet training which allowed the vine and its shoots to freely travel upward - a stake is planted and vine shoots are tied several times during their upward trajectory, a very labor intensive process. Giovanna sees these vines as living in 3D vs. the 2 dimensional plane created by a wire system.
In the cellar the divergence from the norm continues with fermentation taking place in small 500L open top barrels, and an ancient tradition of a wooden pole (pictured below) used for daily punchdowns - an extremely gentle process that was an ah-ha moment for me as I recalled the delicate structure and unique tannin profile of her gorgeous wines. Aging is done in traditional Slavonian botte, with now a move toward Austrian Stockinger large format because she's found the quality to be on another level.
All the technical information may clearly outline how Giovanna's Chianti Classico is one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't do a fair job of referencing what will end up in your glass. Some wines you just have to try for your self. With 5 hectares and organic and biodynamic principles followed you know the raw material is going to be pristine, but what stands out for me is that each vintage, no matter how challenging, the wines are just perfectly composed. Purity of fruit is always what I look for above all, and Giovanna is making a strong case now as the prime address for the best value Sangiovese in all of Tuscany.
As always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach me by phone or email.
"Montevertine is one of the most privileged spots for wine anywhere in the world. If I had to choose only one Sangiovese to cellar, it might very well be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte."Antonio Galloni of Vinous
I visited Martino Manetti in Radda last June and since then I've been anxiously awaiting to offer the 2014 vintage we tasted together. If I had to pick one wine to make the case for Sangiovese's greatness it would be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte. Today, I'm so happy to offer the 2014, along with an array of back-vintages spanning through 1979.
2014 marks one of the latest harvests on record at Montevertine, concluding on October 19th. The cool growing season meant a long hang time with slow, even ripening. Manetti referred to this Le Pergole Torte as one of his favorites over the last two decades, as the wine was more reminiscent of the older style. He remarked how some of the fleshier fruit and muscle that increasingly warmer temperatures have endowed to the wine wasn't a feature in the 2014. The vintage is one that stands out for its superior clarity and open-knit structure, placing it atop the list of Le Pergole Torte's that will drink beautifully from day one.
Sergio Manetti originally planted just 2 hectares at this vacation property in 1967. With the unexpected glowing reception of the his first vintage (1971) he began to focus on winemaking exclusively. Manetti believed in the greatness of 100% Sangiovese from this hillside, and in 1981 due to the laws of Chianti Classico requiring the addition of Trebbiano in the blend he chose to leave the consortium.
This was a radical move at the time, hard to believe now as so many of the great wines of Chianti Classico are produced with 100% Sangiovese. (Even though the law was changed in 1995 to allow 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico many producers opt to maintain their "lower" IGT status). The estate gained a loyal following at home and abroad, with Sergio's son Martino taking an active role with his father in 1989. In 2000 Martino took full control upon his father's passing.
The 18 hectare estate rests high at 425 meters in Radda, one of the coolest zones in Chianti Classico. The soil is heavily dominated by limestone, coupled with the site's climate Montevertine has a sense of transparency and grace that stand out immediately. Le Pergole Torte is sourced from the estate's oldest vines and highest elevation plantings. Aging takes place in French barrique with a maximum of 15% new wood. The deft use of barrique here is so impressive, adding concentration and texture while still harnessing the pure, lithe qualities inherent in site.
* There's been much confusion about the derivation of the name Le Pergole Torte. When Sergio Manetti bought the property there was a neighbor named Bruno who had just 3 rows of vines planted. These vines were trained in the old pergola fashion and the wine produced was so mesmerizing that it was the impetus for Manetti to plant.
I've spoken before about how the wines from Montevertine always remind me of the qualities that may be found in Burgundy's Chambolle-Musigny and Volnay. Talking to Manetti after bringing him a bottle of Roumier's Chambolle was really exciting, hearing about his love for the village and particular producers - Those that approach winemaking as he does, eyes firmly fixed on reflecting terroir above all else and not being afraid to produce beautifully transparent wines.
Le Pergole Torte speaks to a very special place, tugging at the heartstrings like only the best wines of the world can do. The 2014 marks an ideal vintage to drink tonight, as well as offering the ability to transform over decades in the cellar.
*Priority for large format requests will be based upon support of 750ml bottles.
24x 2014 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$123 per bottle.
2x 2014 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 1.5L
$273 per bottle.
1x 2014 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 3L
$578 per bottle.
1x 2014 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 6L
$1,238 per bottle.
4x 1979 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$739 per bottle.
3x 1982 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$649 per bottle.
1x 1990 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$549 per bottle.
12x 1990 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte Riserva
$1,499 per bottle (OWB pictures here)
Produced only in 1990 from a portion of the vineyard harvested late, fermented and aged separately.
1x 1996 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 3L
$1,529 per bottle.
5x 1998 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$349 per bottle.
3x 2001 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$349 per bottle.
1x 2006 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
$289 per bottle.
7x 2013 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 1.5L
$345 per bottle.
3x 2013 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 3L
$738 per bottle.
1x 2013 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 6L
$1,596 per bottle.
Visiting the great traditional estates of Montalcino in June left a sense of awe that's been hard to shake. Since then I've done my best to gather a nice collection that reflects the diversity of this very particular zone of Tuscany.
In so many ways Brunello di Montalcino has been at the forefront of the modernist shift within Italy. Today's offer shies away from this, instead focusing on estates who rely on long macerations and large botti aging - both integral parts of crafting Sangiovese built upon structure and freshness. Featured below are among the most age-worthy wines of Tuscany, and many are the only listings in the US.
3x 2004 Salvioni (La Cerbaiola) Brunello di Montalcino
$216 per bottle.
7x 2006 Salvioni (La Cerbaiola) Brunello di Montalcino
$229 per bottle.
8x 2010 Salvioni (La Cerbaiola) Brunello di Montalcino
$299 per bottle.
4x 1999 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$439 per bottle.
11x 2000 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino
$259 per bottle.
1x 2001 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino
$259 per bottle.
3x 2001 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Decennale 1.5L
$899 per bottle.
17x 2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino
$259 per bottle.
4x 2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$376 per bottle.
3x 2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1.5L
$899 per bottle.
6x 2006 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino
$227 per bottle.
22x 2007 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$339 per bottle.
24x 2008 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$299 per bottle.
3x 1993 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino
$286 per bottle.
21x 2001 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino
$299 per bottle.
16x 2006 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino
$299 per bottle.
3x 2008 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino
$199 per bottle.
1x 1997 Soldera (Case Basse) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$899 per bottle.
2x 2008 Soldera (Case Basse) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Toscana IGT
$499 per bottle.
1x 1988 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$599 per bottle.
6x 2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$249 per bottle.
1x 1995 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino
$122 per bottle.
3x 1997 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino
$161 per bottle.
16x 2004 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$149 per bottle.
2x 2010 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$227 per bottle.
1x 1997 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$167 per bottle.
1x 1999 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
$167 per bottle.
1x 2001 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino
$117 per bottle.
1x 2005 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli
$88 per bottle.
3x 2010 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino
$94 per bottle.
4x 2006 Il Paradiso di Manfredi Brunello di Montalcino
$113 per bottle.
This summer's extensive visits throughout Tuscany left so many indelible marks. One of the highlights was the in-depth visit atop Montalcino with La Gerla's winemaker, Alberto Passeri. While Passeri's Brunello and Brunello Riserva fetch the most attention by critics and collectors alike, they aren't necessarily the true crown jewels of the estate.
Much like de-classification in Burgundy where you can buy Grand Cru bottlings labeled with more humbled appellations, here too the practice is used. If there's one wine in Montalcino that delivers the greatest value it's certain to be La Gerla's Rosso di Montalcino, sourced exclusively from vines in the Brunello zone. In 2015, with its perfect growing season, the moniker Baby Brunello couldn't be more fitting. At $29 per bottle this is the best deal in traditional Montalcino.
2015 was the vintage in botti I tasted first at each visit. Laws require that Brunello designated wines are aged 5 years prior to release (6 years for Riservas). At La Gerla, wines in botti that show more approachability in their youth are bottled as Rosso di Montalcino. These come from the same organic, estate-farmed vineyards that supply the two Brunello bottlings, but are released much earlier. When I sat down for lunch over and over again in Montalcino it was the 2015 La Gerla served by the glass that I kept coming back to each day. I did my best to taste through a range of producers and styles, but nothing came close to delivering the total package like the La Gerla Rosso.
On Montalcino's north side, La Gerla was originally owned by the pioneering Biondi-Santi winery, who in fact created the very first "Brunello di Montalcino". The story behind the sale is an amusing one with Franco Biond-Santi's disgruntled sister selling this small slice to Sergio Rosso in 1976. Sergio made immediate changes to the farming and cellar practices to upgrade everything and two years later, in 1978, the first commercial La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino was released. Today the estate encompasses 12 hectares, all of which are organically farmed. Aging takes place in botti for the Rosso and the Brunello.
The name La Gerla refers to the historic small wooden picking bins (pictured below) that vineyard workers would wear on their backs. The name is an hommage to the sacrifice made by the men and the women in the vineyards who worked tirelessly to ensure the best raw materials were brought into the cuverie. It's this warm reflection on the efforts in viticulture that became abundantly clear visiting with winemaker, Alberto Passeri.
Looking ahead, on the heels of the challenging 2014 vintage, the 2015 Brunellos are going to receive the monster press that proceeded the 2010 vintage. Growers were gushing about the brilliant balance, pristine fruit, and deeply developed flavors that were immediately revealed in botti. These rare 100% de-classified Brunello di Montalcino's like La Gerla's Rosso are the best kept secret in this fabled hilltop village. With the bar being raised in 2015 there's really no question that this $29 Baby Brunello hits all the right marks.
2015 La Gerla Rosso di Montalcino
$29 per bottle.
2010 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino
$56 per bottle.
There's something special about taking a first sip and immediately understanding that the people behind production are making wine for themselves, not for others. And I mean that in the best possible way. I may pull punches or mince words from time to time, but today is not that day.
Governing bodies throughout Europe have put some of the greatest traditionalists in a precarious spot. In the case of Monteraponi in Radda, they've been prohibited from labeling their top wine Chianti Classico Riserva. This is due to their insistence on following the path laid out by generations before, continuing to make the wine they believe most truthfully expresses their home.
I have little patience or interest in spending my days working with folks who produce what's ultimately intended to meet demands of critics and customers, before themselves - This soup is not worth our time. In the case of Michele Braganti and his estate perched atop Radda we need to pay very close attention.Visiting in July was an experience that offered a rare opportunity where wine, site, people, and expectations all converged seamlessly.
Radda is holy ground for Sangiovese. Perhaps best known as the home to the revered, Le Perogle Torte from Montevertine. It's here at 500 meters above sea level with extremely high proportion of chalky limestone that Sangiovese is at its most shimmering and transparent. This is a place where terroir is transmitted through a lens of finely woven beams of tannin and a fruit spectrum high-toned, with unrivaled grace.
Monteraponi itself was originally a 10th century village belonging to Count Ugo, the namesake for their top Riserva today. Hundreds of years later, this same cellar in the center of the tiny village is intact, complete with a drain still carved into the ancient stone on its cellar floor.
The winemaking style is as traditional as any, with aging in botti. Michele's insistence on keeping alcohol levels well under 14%, minimizing extraction to highlight transparency, and refusing to add international varieties have put the estate add odds with the local governing authorities. In 2013, the Baron Ugo, normally a Chianti Classico Riserva, has been forced to be labeled as Toscana Rosso because it wasn't deemed typical. Of course, basic designations like this have not deterred Michele from making the wine he believes is most authentic.
It's with this fervent sense of duty and nod to generations before that Monteraponi exists now as the most typical expression of Radda and Chianti Classico. All of the mint, rose petal, crushed rock, and red cherry notes that the purist expressions of Sangiovese deliver are here at their most unadulterated.
I've created special pricing today on Monteraponi's 2015 Chianti Classico, already one of Italy's greatest values, as well as the crown jewel of the estate, the Baron Ugo from the spectacular and classically-framed 2013.
2015 Monteraponi Chianti Classico
$30 per bottle.
Special 6-Pack Email Price: $162 ($27 per bottle)
2013 Monteraponi Toscana Rosso IGT Baron Ugo
(Chianti Classico Riserva)
$95 per bottle.
Special 6-Pack Email Price: $513 ($85.50 per bottle)