Friday, March 22, 2013

Blind Chianti Classico Report





 
Last month, I arranged a series of tastings dedicated to recent release Chianti wines from the 2008-2010 vintages. 
 
Due to the number of samples received for this report and given the size of the Tuscan Vines tasting panel (10 of us) I decided to break the tasting into two parts.    Part 1 took place at a cozy Trattoria where the 10 of us took refuge in a private room and tasted 12 of the wines in blind flights with an array of delicious and appropriate food.
 
For Part 1, the wines were arranged in flights by vintage and opened about 45 minutes before dinner. They were then bagged, numbered and randomly recorked.  Three different members of the tasting panel, including myself, controlled each step of the process; so no individual knew the subject of the flight or any of the given wines.  The other 7 members of the panel were tasting completely blind.
 
Part 2 was completed over a private dinner, with the remaining seven wines again bagged, numbered and served completely blind. I alone knew which wines comprised Part 2, but the order of service was unknown to me.
 
All submitted samples were received with information on the wine itself, along with suggested retail pricing. Tasting notes below are mine, the rankings that follow each flight are self explanatory.


Part 1

Flight Number One
 
Wine Number 1:  Dark crimson in the glass. The aroma is slightly tight, wound up a bit.  Red fruits and leather evident. On the palate there's ample soft red fruits, on the medium body and a nice bitter, cured black olive component. Balanced and well done.   My score: 90 points.
 
Wine Number 2:  Dark garnet. Very spicy and floral nose with cherries. Nice. More intensity to the fruit in the mouth than the previous wine.  This is very charming now, but not as complex. Slightly short on the finish.  My Score: 91 points.
 
Wine Number 3:  Dark brick red. Very spicy nose with pepper and clove. Earthy aromas and flavors that show wild berry and licorice but also slightly bitter tannins.  This is the softest wine of the three.  My score: 87 points.
 
The Reveal
 
This turned out to be the one and only flight of 2010's.
 
Wine #1 = 2010 Felsina Chianti Classico  (100% Sangiovese, SRP - $22)
 
Wine #2 = 2010 Donna Laura Chianti "Alteo" (100% Sangiovese SRP - $13)
 
Wine #3 = 2010 Bramosia Chianti Classico  (85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot SRP - $16)


2010 Alteo Chianti & 2010 Felsina Chianti Classico 

The 2010 Bramosia Chianti Classico

Flight Winner:  Donna Laura "Alteo" 
 
The Alteo received 8 out of 10 first place votes, including mine, with the 2 other first place votes going to the Felsina.  It was surprising at the time how well the Alteo showed. It's delicious. I think it's wine to clearly enjoy now and is made for that purpose. I think with cellaring, the Felsina will improve.  It seemed tightly wound.


Flight Number Two

Wine Number 1:  Medium ruby color.  Wonderfully aromatic with spices, berries, and licorice. Polished in the mouth with spicy medium body to the red fruits. Nice!  My score: 92 points

Wine Number 2:  Dark ruby color. The nose is all reduced. Lacks fruit and it's very funky, with decaying earth and leaves. A bit much. On the palate the funk is there as well with bitter stemmy tannins. This is not nice. My score: 82 points

Wine Number 3:  Dark, blackish red. Nice floral nose with spices and cherries and a hint of animale. Attractive. The palate is very polished. Well done with a powdery texture to the tannins. Licorice and wild berries. Really good.  My score: 91 points.

I was convinced, based upon the poor showing of Wine #2, that this flight was the 2008 Chianti Classico Riservas that I knew were in the tasting somewhere.  With that assumption, I was convinced I knew the identity of Wine #3.  Boy is blind tasting humbling.....


The Reveal
Wine #1 = 2009 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico (SRP - $17)
Wine #2 = 2009 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico  (SRP - $16)
Wine #3 = 2009 Felsina Chianti Classico  (100% Sangiovese SRP - $22)

The Castello d'Albola 2009, Radda in Chianti
 
The very funky Villa Cafaggio
 
Consistently Wonderful

Flight Winner:  Castello d'Albola
 
This was a tight competition between the Castello d'Albola and the Felsina.  The aromatics on the Albola carried the day for me as it was just slightly more intense.  The remarkable thing to note over the first two flights was the sheer consistency of the Felsina.  They simply turn out amazing Chianti Classico.  The Castello d'Albola received 6 of 10 first place votes, including mine. The Felsina received 2 first place votes and two Francophiles awarded their first place votes to the Cafaggio.  I was surprised at the Cafaggio, as I've had that wine many times and enjoyed it. I don't think the bottle was "off" - it was just a very odd style. 
 
The TuscanVines Tasting Panel in Action
 
 
Flight Number Three
 
Wine Number 1:  Bright ruby red with violet reflections.  Intense wild berry, spice, vanilla and floral aromas. Wonderful. On the palate, there is intense, juicy ripe wild berry fruit, with spice and new leather. I wrote: "Yum!!"  My score: 92 points
 
Wine Number 2:  Crimson color. Fruit aromatics with spices and slight menthol. Not as complex as Wine 1.  Really nice on the palate with balanced red fruits. Polished, and with juicy acidity. My score: 90 points
 
Wine Number 3:  Dark violet. Very expressive on the nose with tobacco, sage, and cherries. On the palate, the wine is juicy and fresh with sweet pipe tobacco, berries and suede.  Delicious.  My score: 91 points
 
The Reveal
 
Wine #1 = 2009 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo SRP - $20)
 
Wine #2 = 2009 Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico (SRP - $15)
 
Wine #3 = 2009 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico (95% Sangiovese 5% Canaiolo SRP - $14)
 
Isole e Olena Chianti Classico - Delicious!

Always a reliable Chianti Classico

Excellent Value

Flight Winner:  Isole e Olena

This was the second flight of 2009's.  It's clear that this vintage is tremendous and a widespread success. Of the six 2009's in this tasting, all but one scored 90 points or higher. It's very comforting to know when you're shopping and you may be forced into trying a label you're not familiar with. 
 
The voting was tight. The Isole e Olena received 4 first place votes, including mine. The Castello di Bossi also received 4 first place votes while the Castagnoli received 2.  As there was a first place tie, the Isole e Olena was declared the winner by virtue of it's 4 second place votes, to the Castello di Bossi's 3.  Any of these wines would be great on your table.


Flight Number Four


Wine Number 1:  Dark purple color. Lots of flowers on the nose, with dark berries and spice. On the palate this is peppery, with lots of spice, a solid core of dark fruit, but a slightly drying finish.  My score: 90 points

Wine Number 2:  Brick red. Timid aromas of red cherry and spice. Not complex. On the palate the wine is light bodied, underfruited and one dimensional. The chewy, bitter tannins obscure what little fruit there is. This is poor winemaking.  My score: 80 points

Wine Number 3:  Dark purple. Slight animal to the nose, with dark berries, and leather. Nice core of wild berry fruit that's juicy and slightly tart and moderately tannic. This needs some time. Best of the flight. My score: 91 points. 

The Reveal

Wine #1 = 2008 Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva "Ser Lapo" (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, SRP $18)

Wine #2 = 2008 Ruffino Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva  (SRP $22)

Wine #3 - 2008 Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva (100% Sangiovese SRP $40)

An Excellent Wine Given the Vintage

As Expected, The Underwhelming Ruffino

Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva

Flight Winner:  Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva

This flight of 2008 Riservas was clearly the weakest overall group of wines. The differences in the quality of the vintages were readily apparent. The flavors weren't as fresh or vibrant and the wines were not as rich or long.
 
The Tolaini was the most muscular of the three and should benefit from some time in the cellar. It received 8 out of 10 first place votes, mine included. The other 2 first place votes went to the Ser Lapo, which showed well - a consistently excellent wine for the vintage. The Ruffino was not well received. They are a firm trading on their name alone at this point.  That wine wasn't worth $5 let alone $20+ 


Overall Winner - Part 1

As we sat over espresso, we voted again for an overall winner.  The unanimous selection, received 5 out of 10 first place votes. The remainder of the first place votes were split among five different wines. This again shows how tight the competition was, especially among the 2009 wines. We then used second place votes to break the ties for 2nd-4th place.

1) 2010 Donna Laura Chianti Alteo  (5 first place votes)
2) 2009 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico (1 first, 5 seconds)
3) 2009 Felsina Chianti Classico (1 first, 3 seconds)
4) 2009 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico (1 first (mine), 2 seconds)

The 2010 Felsina and the 2009 Castello di Bossi also each received 1 first place vote.  Thus ended Part 1 of the tasting........

___________________________________________________________________________


Part 2

As I mentioned above, the second part of this tasting was held in the comfort of the TuscanVines headquarters dining room.  The remaining seven wines were randomly bagged and numbered and served alongside appropriate food.

Wine #1:  Medium garnet color. Playful aromas of crushed berries, with minerals and forest herbs. In the mouth, the wine is lively, with fresh acidity giving lift to the berry, herb and mineral notes. Dusty, powdery texture. Really nice.  My score: 89 points 

Wine #2:  Dark cranberry in color. Slight floral nose with crushed berries and decaying leaves. Rustic. On the palate the wine is more austere, with tightly wound cherry fruit and earthen accents. Solid, but nothing more. My score: 87 points

Wine #3:  Bright violet color, pretty. Floral, aromatic, with an herbal component that's attractive. On the palate, bright, rich berry fruit is tinged with cocoa. Full bodied, with substantial tannic structure. Seems more international, but delicious nonetheless. My score: 92 points 

Wine #4: Dark ruby with violet hues. Wonderful, effusive floral nose. Sweet pipe tobacco with crushed red fruits. On the palate, the wine is concentrated, with a full body and wonderful minerally laced fruit. Shale and stones. Delicious.  My score:  93 points 

Wine #5: Bright violet color - not as dark as the last two wines. Floral tones, with spice and leather. Polished, with plum and berry flavors. Balanced well with slight mocha and licorice.  Mild bitter twinge on the finish.  My score: 90 points 

Wine #6:  Very dark blackish red.  Bright perfumed nose of flowers, cherries, mushrooms and slight animal. Full bodied, with solid core of fruit, big tannins and mineral, amimal and earthy finish. Really gorgeous. Of the entire tasting, parts 1 and 2, along with the Ruffino, this was the only other wine I correctly identified.  My score: 94 points 

Wine #7: Dark, impenetrable garnet red with violet reflections. Explosive nose of flowers, sage/underbrush, freshly crushed cherries. In the mouth, full bodied and long with lively, fresh berry and cherry fruit with tobacco, mineral and mushrooms. Harmonius.  Soulful and classic.  My score: 95 points.

The Reveal

Wine #1 = 2010 Monteraponi Chianti Classico  (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, SRP $20)

Wine #2 = 2010 Casa Emma Chianti Classico (90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Malvasia, SRP $17)

Wine #3 = 2007 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva (80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet, 5% Merlot, SRP $25)

Wine #4 = 2009 Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva, Vigneto Il Campitello (90% Sangiovese, 8% Canaiolo, 2% Colorino, SRP $30)


Wine #5 = 2010 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico (80% Sangiovese, 19% Merlot, 1% Cabernet, SRP, $20)

Wine #6 = 2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva (100% Sangiovese)

Wine #7 = 2009 Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva Baron Ugo (90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo)

Delicious classic Chianti from Monteraponi

Rustic simplicity - Casa Emma


Polished, refined, absolutely delicious

Monteraponi Riserva "Il Campitello" - Gorgeous!

Another excellent wine hailing from Castelnuovo Berardenga


Simply a stunning effort from a great vineyard

The Baron Ugo Riserva - Soulful, Sangiovese, Stunning!

Flight Winner:   Monteraponi Riserva, Baron Ugo

This portion of the tasting was so strong.  From top to bottom, the wines impressed and you can tell as the scores are very tightly bunched. I can think of few fates better than a cellar full of the four Riserva wines in this flight!
 
The Tenuta di Arceno wines were new to me. I expected a lot from them, threw them in with top tier competition and they made their mark.  Their stylistic difference was noticeable, but the wines were delicious and still Tuscan despite the inclusion of the international varietals. 
 
One factor that jumped out at me as I wrote this up, and I find it interesting, is that 7 out of these wines hailed from Castelnuovo Berardenga and I rated all of those that did very highly. Terroir rules, and along with skilled winemakers and good vintages, I don't think this is a coincidence. The other area that portrayed itself very well was Radda, where at least 4 more wines hailed from. 
 
In closing, what makes this tasting great, is that all of these wines are readily available right now in the market place. The Riserva wines are released, and the 2010's are out there side by side with the 2009's.  The former a cooler vintage that displays more mineral, more acid and fresher fruit. The latter a bit warmer and riper, with richer fruit and bigger overall structures.
 
It's hard to go wrong with any of these wines.  Hopefully you've enjoyed this report and these reviews will assist you in making some purchases. 
 
Finally, a thank you to all the importers, distributors and producers that made this tasting possible. It was a great success and we at TuscanVines appreciate the partnering.


Ci vediamo amici!












6 comments:

  1. Great tasting! WOW. Good to know to stock up on 2009s...

    Two things for me: Ruffino has been quite disappointing the last couple of times I tried their wines, so this was not a surprise for me.

    Isole e Olena's wine only $20 in suggested retail price? I seem to remember them being a bit pricier...

    Again, thanks for posting!!

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you and John concerning the Ruffino!
      John, there's a lot to digest here, but interesting insights.
      Thanks,
      Dennis

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    2. WG..thanks for commenting. I alluded to the fact that I didn't expect the Ruffino to be good. Shame, that tan label used to be a nice wine. This is precisely why I decided to include it and also why it was the only other wine that I was able to pick out. Because it was so poorly done. It seemed like it went down in quality right after it continuously appeared on the "Sopranos". As for the Isole, I'm in NJ, and we're pretty lucky to see some good competitive pricing. That said, the prices I quote are either given to me by the Distributor/Importer or they are the prices I've paid including discount by excluding taxes. Cheers, and thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  2. Dennis,

    Read up my friend. As I said, this was a very interesting tasting for me as well and I've got a similar one planned for 2008 Barolo, though that won't likely won't be as intensive. Just too much wine at once frys the palate.

    It's funny, in my interview with Il Palazzone, Marco remarked how awesome 2010 will be for Brunello. I'm beginning to think that's an appellation thing because I haven't seen that quality evident in the Chianti's I've tried or in the various inexpensive IGT I've come across. It will be interesting to watch. Most of the "serious" wine has still not been released. I think the Vino Nobiles will be a good early indication.

    Saluti!
    J

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  3. John,
    Enjoyed reading your notes. Not familiar with Monteraponi wines at all. Who imports?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mike,

      Monteraponi is handled by AI Selections - a/k/a Acid, Inc.

      They are located in New York. You can Google up their website pretty easily.

      Let me know if I can help you out in any other way.

      Saluti
      J

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