Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monteraponi: Wines from Chianti Classico

One of the nicest things about living in an appellation is that one can keep one's ear to the ground. Monteraponi is a welcome discovery; the owners, who started out by restoring a medieval hamlet in the Comune of Radda that once belonged to Count Ugo, Marquis of Tuscany, have also turned their attention to wine, with quite interesting results.

Production is limited, on the order of 25,000 bottles per year, and traditional, for want of a better term.

  • They use the classic Tuscan varietals; their Chianti Classico is made with Sangiovese and Canaiolo, and a little Colorino in the Riserva, and they also have an IGT that includes the Malvasia and Trebbiano, white varietals now banned by the Chianti Classico Disciplinare.
  • Fermentation is in cement tanks, and they let it go as it will, with the autochthonous yeasts present on the berries, and no temperature control.
  • The malolactic fermentation is also spontaneous, and again in cement; it is followed, for the Chianti Classico, by12 months in a mixture of 2-year old barriques from Allier and 25-hectoliter casks made from Slavonian oak, and, for the Chianti Classico Riserva, by 24 months in 25-hectoliter Slavonian and Allier oak casks. Following assembly, both wines spend 3 months in cement and three in bottle.
  • No filtration.

The wines:

Azienda Agricola Monteraponi Chianti Classico 2003
Lot 0105
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and ruby highlights. The bouquet is rich, with jammy forest berry fruit laced with some bing cherry, and supported by deft raspberry acidity. Powerfully fruit driven with slight cedar-spice underpinning that adds depth, and though there is quite a bit of alcoholic warmth, one wouldn't necessarily guess it came from one of the hottest vintages in recent memory. Nice balance. On the palate it's full, and smooth, with rich slightly sour cherry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have slight savory accents, and flow into a clean smooth berry fruit finish with a tannic underpinning that provides depth without distracting. Quite pleasant, in a fairly soft key, and this is also the heat of the summer that reduced grape acidities; one could sip it by the glass, though I would be tempted to enjoy it with nicely seasoned, not too fatty grilled meats. Well made burgers, even, if you're of a mind to have a cookout. Expect it to go quickly, and you may want a second bottle.
2 stars

Azienda Agricola Monteraponi Chianti Classico 2004
Lot 0106
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and ruby highlights. The bouquet is fairly rich, with slightly balsamic berry fruit that has savory accents as well, and sandalwood spice that adds an unusual something. Intriguing. On the palate it's medium bodied, with fairly rich cherry fruit that has pleasing tart accents and flows into a clean fairly tart cherry finish; the tannins are lighter than those of the 2003, and by comparison the wine is much more acidic -- the grapes ripened more normally, and he wine has a scrappy grace to it that brings a tomboy, all knees and elbows, to mind. It's not a wine that will work well far from the table, unless you like the style, but it will contribute considerably to a meal; it will work well with red sauced pasta dishes, and will also drink quite nicely with simple grilled meats, at a cookout, say, while the acidity is such that I might also be tempted to pair it with fried meats and vegetables. In short, a versatile, pleasingly brash wine that you can expect to go quickly.
2 stars

Azienda Agricola Monteraponi Chianti Classico 2005
Lot 0107
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is elegant, with rich violets mingled with red berry fruit and some underlying sandalwood spice, while there are also savory accents that provide depth. Deft, and shows nice balance. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have some nutmeg and sandalwood overtones, while direction comes form clean slightly sour berry fruit acidity that flows into a deft sour berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning. It's pleasant, in a light, slightly scrappy key -- it's rounder than the 2004 -- and will drink nicely with hearty legume-based soups or dishes (fagioli all uccelletto, tomatoey beans with sausages come to mind), red sauced pasta dishes, quickly cooked meats, including heartier fare such as lamb chops. In short, a versatile food wine that will drink quickly, and you may want a second bottle. Worth seeking out.
2 stars

Azienda Agricola Monteraponi Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva 2003
Lot 02 05
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and ruby rim. The bouquet is powerful, with jammy cherry fruit that has some red currant and raspberry accents, supported by slight sandalwood and hints of mentholated acidity that add depth and direction, while there is also a fair amount of alcohol -- the vintage -- and some underlying pencil shavings. Quite a bit going on, and it's nice to listen to what it has to say. On the palate it's full, with rich red berry fruit supported by smooth sweet almost chewy tannins that have some underlying warmth to them, and flow into a long clean slightly tart berry fruit finish. The first impression is that it's fairly direct, but there is considerable depth hidden under its exterior, and repeated sips reveal new facets. It is a child of the vintage, with a degree of alcoholic warmth and a softness that one won't find in other vintages, laced also with slight vegetal notes that are related (in this case) to the way grapes ripen under hot conditions, and as a result I wouldn't be too tempted to drink it far from the table. I would on the other hand eagerly break it out with a thick steak or a hearty roast, and think it would also work very well with flavorful stews, including venison and other game. It will also age nicely for at least 3-5 years, and probably more. In short, a fine expression of a difficult vintage, and one that you will much enjoy.
2 stars

Azienda Agricola Monteraponi Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva 2004
Lot 02 06
Elegant cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is elegant, with bright red berry fruit that gains depth from some mentholated accents and peppery spice that has hints of cumin, and underlying warmth. Considerable harmony. On the palate it's deft, and graceful, with rich red berry fruit that's supported by moderately intense smooth sweet tannins, while direction comes from vivacious slightly greenish raspberry acidity, and it all flows into a clean tart berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning. This is quick to write, but there's considerable depth and elegance in a light, decidedly traditional key; it's quite agile, and in a way brings a slender dancer to mind. It's one of those wines that can expand one's horizons, and even if you prefer more concentrated, fruit driven wines that have a considerable underpinning of oak, you will find things to appreciate and enjoy. If you're already a traditionalist, you will greatly enjoy it, and though it is a fine food wine that will contribute considerably to succulent red meats or game, you may be tempted to drink it with like-minded friends far from the table. It will hold nicely for 3-5 years, and become lacy with time.

Taken as a whole, Monteraponi's wines are clearly cut from the same cloth, focusing more on finesse than power, and displaying fruity grace in a rather lacy key, while acidity, though present, complements rather than overpower. One thing I did notice in the bouquets of all the wines are faint hints of cumin, which may be derived from the autochthonous yeasts responsible for the fermentations of the wines.

Bottom line: If you like the lighter, traditional-style Chianti, you will like these wines, especially the Chianti Classico Base. The Riserva is richer, with more powerful fruit, but maintains the same lightness of step. Nothing heavy or pondered here, and considering that their first vintage was 2003, I am impressed.

Winding down, as I said, Monteraponi is also a hamlet, and as you might expect, in addition to making wines they run an agriturismo. It would be a nice place to spend a few days relaxing.

For more information about the wines, or the agriturismo, check their site.

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