October 2017—Our 45th Anniversary!
The Chianti name has been used and abused over the decades, and as a result, it has lost a good bit of reliability. But the fact is, real Chianti—which I define as Sangiovese grown in the “original”, Chianti Classico zone, vinified alone or with a small proportion of other Tuscan varieties, and aged in large botti—remains one of Italy’s finest wines, and one of its most useful reds at table. So, let’s do a quick mental cleanse of the bastardized Chiantis that have soiled this great red’s reputation:
Forget the $10 Chiantis sold in straw baskets.
Forget the Chiantis churned out for the sake of yields—mechanized,
processed, and sterile.
Forget the Chiantis grown in soils apt to produce, at best, an innocuous table wine.
Forget the “Super-Chiantis” tarnished and blackened by Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot.
Forget the international-styled Chiantis that reek of the sweet vanilla from heavily toasted French oak barrels.
Let’s take this 2013 from Podere Campriano as an example of what I have brazenly dubbed real Chianti. Proprietor Elena Lapini crafts this wine with her husband Luca atop a hill overlooking the town of Greve, south of Florence. Their steep parcels of Sangiovese rest on galestro, a flaky, blueish stone similar to schist that is typically found in the region. Elena and Luca farm their tiny plots by hand, organically, and bring their grapes into the little winery adjacent to the family home for a natural fermentation. The wine then rests for a year in neutral oak casks, and when it finally goes into bottle, it is neither fined nor filtered, and minimal sulfur is added.
The result? A bright, yet deeply perfumed red reminiscent of sour cherries, herbs, and leather that envelops the palate with a velvety touch while simultaneously showing a firm structure of fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. The slightly grippy finish begs for roast pheasant or truffle risotto—but a simple pasta with red sauce will easily suffice.
This is real Chianti.
|Winemaker:||Elena Lapini, Luca Polga|
|Vineyard:||Planted in 1997, 1.46 ha|
|Soil:||Galestro (Clay and Schist)|
|Aging:||Aged 7-8 months in a combination of 10HL Italian oak botti and 5-7HL tonneaux of 4-5 passages, then in stainless steel tanks for 10-12 months|
Almost all of the growers with whom we work manage “small family farms.” Then there is Podere Campriano in Greve, who prove the statement more literally than just about anyone. This Tuscan family lives in a humble farmhouse atop a small hillside of 2 hectares of Sangiovese vines. This is their organically pampered backyard from which they craft a delicious Chianti Classicos in the stone cellars beneath their home. The Campriano red wines are traditionally made and reflective of the unique terroir of the Alta Greve—dark, galestro schist infused wines with bold fruit and serious depth. The extreme care and focus of the Lapini family and their dedication to organic agriculture impart a unique character and spirit upon their wines.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch