Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Pair From Badia a Coltibuono, And An Older Tasting Too

To begin with the present, Badia a Coltibuono produces two lines of wine:

  • Badia a Coltibuono, which is made from estate grown grapes, following organic agricultural practices. This is what they pour their heart and soul into, and it is, perhaps correctly, what attracts the most attention.
  • Coltibuono, which is made from outsourced grapes, and is considerably higher volume: For the most part what one might call vini da battaglia, in other words inexpensive wines to be set out and drunk.

Here we have a couple of the latter, and they drink quite well, as I discovered when I served what remained of the wines I had tasted and taken notes on with the meals that followed -- home cooking for the family, with pasta, burgers and so on. The wines complemented the foods, and this is obviously what I Cancelli and Chianti Cetamura are intended to do.

I Cancelli is an IGT wine, a blend of Sangiovese and Syrah, and is aimed at those who might stop by a wine bar for a quick glass with friends in the course of an evening. The label, with its bold red interpretation of the gates (I Cancelli) of Badia A Coltibuono's wine cellar reflect this.

Cetamura is a classic old-style Chianti, which reminds me of meals enjoyed out in the country years ago, at the homes of farmers who knew what they were doing in the cellar. Enough talk! The wines:

Coltibuono Cancelli Toscana IGT 2006
Prerelease Sample, No lot
This is a 70-30 blend of Sangiovese and Syrah, and is deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim fading to white. The bouquet is fresh and bright, with lively cherry fruit that gains direction from some tart cherry acidity, and depth from spice-laced underbrush, with slight hints of dried mushrooms, and cedar overtones. Nice balance, and harmonious. On the palate it's lighter than I expected from the nose, with moderate fairly tart berry fruit with bitter accents supported by bright brambly tannins that flow into a clean brambly finish with a mineral tannic underpinning and lasting bitterness. It's direct, in an appealingly gangly sort of way, a bright young wine that will work very well with foods, ranging from red-sauced pasta dishes through fried meats, simple grilled meats, and light stews, and given the proper setting -- a quick meal with friends, or perhaps a cookout -- it will go very fast.
2 stars

Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti DOCG 2006
Lot 017307
Deep blackish ruby with hints of violet and white rim. It looks young. The bouquet is fairly rich, with cherry fruit supported by some savory accents and delicate underlying acidity that gains depth from hints of candied lemon peel, which are unusual, but work well. Harmonious. On the palate it's medium bodied, with fairly bright sour cherry fruit that has a slightly languid feel to it, and is supported by a combination of sour cherry acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a warm sour berry fruit finish that gradually fades into bitterness. It's simple and direct, what Italians call a vino a tutto pasto, in other words a wine to set out with the meal and drink: It will do a fine job of supporting foods, ranging from hearty soups and pasta dishes through grilled meats and light stews, without hogging the limelight, and you'll be surprised at how quickly it goes. Bottom line: It would be a nice day-to-day wine.
2 stars




And Now Onto Something Else: A Vertical, Or Rather: A Selection Of Older Vintages

Badia a Coltibuono was one of the first wineries in Chianti Classico to begin bottling on their own. Because of this, their cellars are both fascinating and wonderful, with bottles that go way back. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical that reached back to the mists of time (or so it seemed), and since you may not have seen it when I first published it, I am republishing it here.

Observations are woven into the tasting notes and between the wines.

The 46 is the oldest vintage they have, because the Germans who occupied the abbey during the war drank up the cellar.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 1946
Pale garnet with almandine brick overtones. The bouquet is still very much alive, with an initial rush of leathery balsam that brings an old leather book binding to mind mingled with sea salt and some iodine; swishing brings up dusky cherry fruit and more balsam, while the leather smoothes some, and with time the balsam gains in intensity and hints of spicy tobacco emerge, going hand in had with the balsam. Beautiful, in an elderly key that brings to mind faded lace. On the palate it shoes its age to a greater degree, with rather tart leafy overtones that mingle with sea salt and dust, with considerable very sour cherry tartness that resolves into warm hot steel and saddle leather with tobacco overtones. Interesting; it's not a wine to sip far from the table, and is clearly long on years, but still has a story to tell and will drink well with hearty flavorful stews, for example venison or wild boar. It has held better than many humans of like age. Lots of tannins, in part from the raspi (stems) -- the fermentation was in the individual homesteads, in upright wooden tanks, with whole bunches, stems and all. The 46 was bottled immediately, and had therefore been in bottle for more than 50 years when we tasted it. Impressive.
2 stars

The 46 was entirely from coltura promiscua, the old land management system in which grain was planted between the rows of vines, and there could be other crops as well, or fruit trees. Coltura promiscua required that the vines be worked by hand, and thus could result in excellent quality of the farmers knew what they were doing. Things were changing, however -- they were planning to plant vineyards but hadn't yet.

In terms of varietals, these wines are from a white red blend, which they continued to use until 1980. In the early years production was sharecropped, with the share croppers giving a share of the wine to the land owners.

The wines of the 50s through 1980 were kept in ancient (centuries old) chestnut casks, and the older wines still in cask were all bottled in 1981. Since the cellar was cold and damp, the wood kept perfectly, though it was no longer anything but a storage medium. Some of these bottles are still available. Only Chianti Classico Riserva until 1970, because until then the farmers kept the lesser wines themselves, either drinking or selling them. Production of Chianti Classico D'Annata came after 1970.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1959
Deep almandine ruby with Moroccan leather and almandine overtones. The bouquet is rather pungent, with spicy saddle leather that mingles with some iodine and sea salt, and underlying wet leaves; a swish brings up a certain amount of acidity and pleasant minty overtones, while leaf tobacco also emerges. Quite a bit going on. On the palate it's surprisingly graceful, with fairly tart cherry fruit supported by lemony acidity and warm smooth tannic overtones that are rather dusty and lead into a clean dusty tannic finish with bitter brambly graphite overtones. One can taste the tannins from the stems, which provide the bitterness, but the overall effect is graceful and there's still quite a bit of life to it. As with the 46 it's a wine that will drink better with foods than on its own, and indeed will be a nice counterpoint to a flavorful stew. In short, if you find a bottle that has been well kept, enjoy it.
2 stars

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1962
Almandine ruby with black highlights and almandine rim. The bouquet is rather musty, with wet leaves and well soaked leather at first sniff, and also some balsam. Swishing brings up more of the same, with the leather increasing and taking on penetrating smoky spicy overtones, and also some leaf tobacco that gains support from some acidity. On the palate it is faded, with some sour notes but not much fruit, supported by some tannins that have a dusty feel to them and lead into a bitter finish with iodine overtones. Geriatric, but then again it 41 years old.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1966
Almandine with black highlights and almandine leather in the rim. The bouquet is clearly elderly, with pungent smoky spice that mingles with leaf tobacco and some acidity that rises up to tickle the nose. On the palate it's livelier than one might have expected from the nose, with some tart cherry fruit that gives way to balsam and sea salt wit underlying tobacco leaf bitterness, and it all flows into a clean tannic finish with strong bitter India ink overtones -- the stems of the grapes providing their contribution. It's interesting, and though it's not a wine for a casual wine drinker, it does have something to say and will drink well with a hearty stew.
1 star

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1968
Deep orange almandine with black reflections and Moroccan leather rim. The bouquet is clearly well along in years, with spice and leaf tobacco that mingle some slightly greenish overtones. On the palate it's lighter than some of the others, with sea salt and balsam supported by tobaccoey tannins that lead into a clean bitter finish. Though there isn't as much fruit, it has a certain grace, and also a degree of charm; because it is lighter it will work well with grilled meats.
2 stars

The wines of the late 50s and 60s are cut from the same cloth, and this is due to the vineyard replanting of the late 50s. The fashion at the time was to plant what are now known as "fiat vineyards," vineyards with rows far enough apart to allow tractor access. Planting densities are, by modern standards, low, and therefore the yield per plant was fairly high, higher than winemakers would want today.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1971
This was one of the best vintages of the 20th century. It's deep black almandine with black highlights and almandine rim; by comparison with the older wines it's livelier. The bouquet is clean, and delicate, with some lacy berry fruit that mingles with slight balsam and hints of spice and salty leaf tobacco that become stronger with more swishing. Deft, and a fair amount going on; it gives an impression of distance. On the palate it's full and quite rich, surprisingly so considering its age, with delicate slightly sour cherry fruit supported by clean dusty tannins that have warm bitter overtones and lead into a warm clean finish. Elegant, and though it's obviously not a young wine it still has quite a bit to say, and will work well with a steak or light stew. If you find a bottle, do enjoy it.
88
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1976
A dreadful vintage, and since Dr. Stucchi's policy was to bottle the best cask of the vintage as Riserva regardless, theirs was the only Chianti Classico Riserva 1976 made. The Consorzio had to special order the Galli (black roosters) to put on the bottle necks. The wine is almandine with pale black highlights and Moroccan leather rim paling to white. The bouquet is tired, and this cones as no surprise considering the vintage, with musty slightly smoky penetrating leaf tobacco mingled with damp underbrush and underlying saltiness. On the palate it's thin, with hints of cherry fruit supported by bitter rather evanescent tannins that flow into a clean bitter finish with slight sour cherry fruit overtones and alcoholic notes that rise up into the back of the throat. It has, to put it simply, faded, and given the 76 vintage this comes as no surprise, though the way it has faded shows that there was something there to begin with.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1977
Almandine with pale ruby notes and black highlights, Moroccan leather rim. The bouquet is unusual, with a rush of menthol at first sniff that brings Vicks Vaporub to mind underlain by balsam and sea salt; swishing brings forth more mint and some leaf tobacco, but the mint remains paramount. On the palate it's full, and surprisingly smooth, with delicate cherry fruit that has slight tart raspberry overtones and is supported by smooth sweet tannins that have slight minty overtones and lead into a clean warm cherry laced finish with (again) balsam and mint. All this talk of mint may seem off-putting, but the wine manages considerable grace, albeit in an elderly, lacy key, and will drink nicely with succulent white meats.
2 stars

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1980
Deep black almandine ruby with black highlights and Moroccan leather rim. The bouquet is a bit off, with old wet leather that has been soaking for a long time mingled with sea salt and some cedar, hints of acidity, and slightly sour leaf tobacco. No fruit to speak of, and not much depth. On the palate it's mouth-filling, though oddly flat; there's a presence that expands off the tongue to press against the cheeks, but there isn't much in the way of fruit to it, and it's all supported by clean balsam laced bitter tannins that lead into a warm, balsamic finish. It feels like the soul is missing, in a way. Maurizio Castelli, who has been their enologist for many, many years, says the grapes didn't ripen.
1 star

Sangiovese in purezza from here on.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1982
Deep black almandine ruby with black highlights, some ruby highlights, and almandine rim with Moroccan leather overtones. The bouquet is unexpected, with hot steel and hints of balsam that mingle with wood smoke; with time some cherry fruit emerges too. On the palate it feels stripped bare, much like the 1980, though in this case there's a little more cherry fruit, supported by tannins that have faded into thinness, though they feel as if they once had a burr, and flow into a balsamic finish with cherry overtones. It's gives an impression of thinness, though this is an effect of age -- it obviously had considerable grace to start out with, and has evolved into laciness with time. Graceful, but requires thought.
2 stars
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1985
This is another historic vintage, with a long sunny fall. Deep black almandine ruby with almandine ruby that has some orange overtones in the rim. The bouquet is clean, with cut leaf tobacco and bitter underbrush; not much fruit on the nose, though there is some underlying cherry that provides depth and direction. Also considerable graphite shavings. With time the fruit opens and becomes stronger. On the palate it's full and quite smooth, with powerful dusty cherry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean sweet cherry laced finish with lots of dust and some bitter cedary notes. Pleasing, and fully mature; because of the bitter dustiness it won't do well as a sipping wine, but it will instead work quite well with hearty stews or succulent grilled meats, especially steaks. Quite nice and worth seeking out.
88-90

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1986
1985 and 1988 were both great vintages, and the 86, which is sandwiched between them, has always gotten short shrift that is perhaps undeserved. Black almandine with almandine rim. The bouquet is delicate, with leaf tobacco and balsamic notes supported by underlying bitterness and sea salt, with hints of sour cherry fruit that provide direction. Also peppery spice, slight mint and pencil shavings. On the palate it's full, and quite smooth, with delicate slightly tart cherry and forest berry fruit supported by velvety tannins that still display a slight burr, and flow into a clean cherry laced dusty finish. It is better that its reputation, though it doesn't have the power of the 85-88 set, and will work nicely with red meats or stews. Has lived its life and is coming down.
2 stars
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1988
This was perhaps even better than 1985, in part because of what the winemakers learned about handling a long sunny fall from the 1985 vintage. Deep black almandine ruby with black reflections and almandine rim; gives an impression of vibrancy. The bouquet at first sniff is more delicate than one might have expected, with slightly sour cherry fruit supported by balsam and hints of bitter sea salt with underlying leaf tobacco; more swishing brings forth stronger tobaccoey spice that takes on a reddish cast from the underlying berry fruit, and gains life from some acidity. On the palate it's full and warm, with pleasing sour cherry fruit supported by smooth warm tannins that lead into a warm clean tannic finish with sour cherry overtones; though it doesn't flow over the tongue exuberantly, and indeed shows a degree of restraint, it is graceful, and will work quite nicely with foods, for example a platter of mixed grilled meats. You may wish you had a second bottle.
88

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1990
Deep black almandine ruby with hints of Moroccan leather in the rim. By comparison with the 88 it's slightly more shifted towards brick. The bouquet is clean, with delicate spice and sour cherry that mingle with some mint, warmth, and slight brandied cherries; it's quite nice and there's a lot to plumb. On the palate it's full, though not huge, and to be frank is more about finesse than opulence, with delicate balsam-laced slightly bitter cherry fruit that has leaf tobacco overtones and is supported by clean dusty tannins that lead into a long warm balsamic finish with considerable warmth and some fruit that gain definition from bitter pencil shavings. By comparison with the 88 it displays more finesse, though a little less power.
91

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 1993
The 1993 vintage looked quite promising until September 23, when it began to rain, and didn't stop for a month. This made the harvest quite difficult, though not as difficult as the 92 (when it rained more). Deep cherry ruby with almandine in the rim. The bouquet is unusual, with peat smoke and cherry fruit that mingle with peppery spice; with more swishing the fruit comes to the fore. On the palate it's medium bodied, with a thin feeling to it that is the vintage at work, and pleasing cherry fruit that is supported by smooth sweet tannins. To be frank it's not a great wine -- a month of rains beginning just before the harvest preclude greatness -- but it does display considerable grace and will drink quite well with succulent red meats. In short, how to draw a success from an adverse situation; an Italian might say, tanto di cappello, and tip his hat.
2 stars

2 comments:

Boondoggle129 said...

Cetamura Chianti 2005:
Got it for $8.99. Gonna buy a case. Absolutely drinkable, so make sure your conscience is clear at your party.

Very clean flavor. Doesn't scorch the palate or the throat. After taste nestles nicely on the tongue.

Great party wine. (a little rough next morning, however)

Kyle Phillips said...

To avoid (or mitigate) the next morning part, drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids the night before, especially before you go to sleep. Rehydration works wonders.