You might not expect to find elegant, nuanced Pinot Noir in Tuscany. But Cuna, Federico Staderini’s tiny winery in the remote Apennine foothills of eastern Tuscany, defies common logic. By planting Pinot Nero in limestone at high elevation, he has found an unlikely home for the grape, yielding a singular rosso that is anything but international in style. Brendino is Federico’s highest parcel at 1,800 feet above sea level, where cool nights temper the blazing Tuscan sun and harvest often stretches deep into October. The interplay of perfectly ripe, pure Pinot fruit with fine, chalky tannins makes this a mind-bending outlier for both the grape and the region.
Few wines are as complementary to the earthy flavors of simple Mediterranean cuisine as traditionally styled Chianti. Take this quick recipe for Tuscan pesto, shared by Elena Lapini of Podere Campriano: In a mixer or mortar, blend a large bundle of sage, some mint leaves, and a handful of pine nuts or walnuts. Add a healthy portion of grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino, and then incorporate everything with a generous amount of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil. Mix with al dente pasta, adding a splash of cooking water if the sauce gets too thick. Grate more cheese over the top and serve with one of Elena’s Chiantis. Just beginning to mature, her 2015 is in its sweet spot—pungently savory with herbaceous reminders of the Tuscan countryside, it is the perfect foil to this fragrant pasta that only takes a few minutes to whip up!
Glimpsing the dramatic “terraces” for which this Chianti is named, you might wonder if you boarded the wrong flight and landed in Côte-Rôtie. Trained vertically at a single vine per stake (known as échalas training in France), these vineyards have much in common with those of the northern Rhône. However, when you look around, you notice olive trees separating the vineyard rows, their silver leaves waving lackadaisically in the afternoon breeze. The brilliant sunshine and crystalline skies have an undeniable Mediterranean accent, and a rustic stone farmhouse encircled by cypresses at the top of the hill confirms: you are indeed in Tuscany.
But the Côte-Rôtie comparison may not be so far-fetched, after all. Thanks to its high elevation and thin, rocky soils, this is a decidedly bright, aromatic, almost exotic Chianti, with aromas of black olive, violets, iron, and smoked meat, that nonetheless boasts the firm structure and aging potential of Tuscany’s memorable 2016 vintage. Decanting is advised; pleasure is assured.
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