Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Tasting Of Chianti Colli Fiorentini

Chianti is, first of all, a well defined region between Florence and Siena, centered upon the territories of Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina in Chianti, three Florentine Communes that Florence combined into a single entity in 1384, calling it the Lega del Chianti, and charging it with the task of settling disputes with the City of Siena, by diplomatic means if possible, and by arms if necessary.

That the area also produced fine wines was merely a happy accident. But it did, and they were so good that Chianti is one of the four regions Grand Duke Cosimo III recognized in 1716, in an Edict that is the first formal recognition (anywhere) of winemaking areas, and as such marks the first establishment of appellations (the other three areas are Pomino -- what is now Chianti Rufina -- Carmignano, and an area of the Upper Valdarno towards Arezzo whose wine-making significance has since paled).

What Cosimo III recognized as Chianti is essentially what is now Chianti Classico, and when the people living in the area began to bottle their wines, they naturally put the word Chianti on the labels. This was long before labeling laws, however, and as a result there was nothing to keep those whose lands fell outside the region specified by Cosimo from putting the word Chianti, which did help sales, on their labels too. So they did.

In 1924, however, a group of 33 producers within the area Cosimo III specified banded together and established the Consorzio del Gallo Nero, whose symbol was a black rooster: Only those whose vineyards fell within the area could join, and only if they met rigorous standards (first of which, the wine had to be red). Members of the Consorzio del Gallo Nero (now Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico) were allowed to call their wines Chianti Classico, while the word Chianti came to mean everything else, and was represented by a Consorzio called Chianti Putto, which was established in 1927.

Chianti Putto was huge, and with time a number of subzones were established: Chianti Colli Fiorentini is, as one might expect, the subzone surrounding Florence. It's fairly large, resembling an upside-down horseshoe, and also quite variable, with parts bordering Chianti Classico, and others either extending into the Val D'Arno or up into the mountains behind Fiesole.

In terms of composition and production, the Chianti Colli Fiorentini Disciplinare allows producers considerable latitude: the wine must be at least 75% Sangiovese. They can use more Sangiovese, up to 100% if they want, but can also add autochthonous red varietals such as Colorino or Canaiolo (max 10% of the latter), up to 10% white varietals such as Trebbiano or Malvasia Bianca (this is a break with Chianti Classico, which has banned them), and up to 20% of the international varietals such as Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah (max 10% of a given varietal).

Wood use is also up to the producer and varies considerably; some use small wood, others large, and still others cement vats or steel tanks.

One important difference between Chianti tout court and Chianti Colli Fiorentini is the release date: whereas Chianti can be released on the first day of March, just a few months after the harvest, Chianti Colli Fiorentini must be held until September 1 (by comparison, Chianti Classico is released on October 1). The additional aging brings considerably greater maturity and complexity to the wines.

The Consorzio Chianti Colli Fiorentini held a tasting this fall that I was, alas, unable to attend. However, Patrizia Cantini very kindly had samples of the wines poured gathered, and I tasted them blind this January.

It was an enjoyable experience; as one might expect given the variability of terroir, composition, and wood use there were considerable variations in the wines, but I did find a number well worth seeking out. Also some that are frankly not worth seeking, and this brings up an important point. Though the producers of Chianti Colli Fiorentini are working hard to improve quality, they are years (decades, even) behind Chianti Classico. As a result, the enological landscape is much more varied; there are fine peaks, some rivaling anything else to be found in Tuscany, but also deep valleys and some topographical features that can only be termed sinkholes.

What this means is that one must select with care: Good Chianti Colli Fiorentini (the volume of which increases yearly) is quite nice. It also represents an excellent value for money because, as a general rule, Chianti Colli Fiorentini is less expensive than some of the other better known central Tuscan appellations.

The Wines, Tasted January 18 And 19 2009:

Fattoria La Colombaia
La Colombaia Terre delle Fornaci Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot not apparent
Pretty black label; the wine is deep cherry ruby with cherry rim fading to white. The bouquet is fairly rich, and bright, with lively brambly sour berry fruit with slight savory balsamic undertones. Invigorating. On the palate it's medium bodied, with lively sour cherry fruit supported by brisk acidity and fairly light tannins that have slight greenish undertones and flow into a bright brambly finish. Quite traditional, in a rather aggressive frame; it will work quite well with rich meat based pasta dishes, succulent grilled meats including sausages and spare ribs, and also has the acidity necessary to work well with a platter of mixed fried meats and vegetables. If you like the style you will enjoy it, though if you prefer the smoother softer international style it won't work as well.
2 stars

Malechini
Malechini Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 04/08
Cherry ruby with rim paling to white. The bouquet is moderately intense, with slightly jammy red berry fruit supported by some bitter vegetal accents that bring artichokes to mind, and by moderate sea salt with hints of iodine. On the palate it's medium bodied, with tart red berry fruit supported by dusky tannins that flow into a decidedly bitter finish. It's quite direct, and will drink well with hearty meat-based pasta dishes or simple red meats, especially off the grill.
1 star

Torre a Cona
Torre a Cona Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 108
Lively ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with brambly red berry fruit that has greenish vegetal overtones, and is supported by sour berry fruit acidity. Bracing, and zesty. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright sour berry fruit that has some black currant overtones, and is supported by zesty sour fruit acidity and by moderately intense fairly smooth tannins that flow into a clean sour berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning. A pleasant, rather scrappy food wine that will drink well with hearty thick winter soups, meat based pasta dishes, succulent grilled meats (it will be nice at a cookout, where it will also work well with things like potato salad), and also with fried meats and vegetables. With respect to some other scrappy wines the fruit has a touch more roundness, which will make it more approachable for those who like smoother fruit driven wines. If you like the style you will enjoy it, and it will go quickly.
2 stars

Lanciola
Lanciola Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot not apparent
Brilliant black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with mentholated red berry fruit that has some greenish spicy accents and the heather of a Tuscan field early in the morning during the summer months. On the palate it's medium bodied, with decidedly tart sour cherry fruit supported by a fair amount of berry fruit acidity, and by tannins that are moderately intense and have greenish brambly bitterness, while leaving a trail of dust over the tongue as they flow into a bitter finish. It's quite direct, and will drink well with simple grilled meats (including tose at a cookout) or light stews; if you like this rather scrappy aggressive style you will enjoy it. But you have to like the style.
1 star

Lanciola Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva DOCG 2003
Lot CFR03 (? Hard to read)
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and some gum Arabic with hints of petroleum and cedar as well, and an underpinning of sweetness. On the palate it's medium bodied with rather tart sour berry fruit that feels tired, supported by moderate berry fruit acidity and greenish cedar-laced tannins that flow into a fairly bitter finish. I'm not sure what has happened here --perhaps large wood that's a little too old, though I'm not sure, but it comes across as trying too hard, and rather winded. Because of the tart bitterness that emerges in the finish it will drink well with fattier roasts or stews, and might be a nice bet with something like stewed venison or wild boar.
1 star

La Querce
La Querce La Torretta Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 20601
Deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry violet rim; it's darker than many of the other vini d'annata. The bouquet is intense, and quite fresh, with violets mingled with red berry fruit and underlying cedar that confers slight bitterness. The overall effect is airy and brings to mind a crisp fall day. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich cherry and black currant fruit supported by moderate acidity and by tannins that are quite smooth, and gain depth from cedar laced bitterness that carries though into the finish, with is fruit driven. Pleasant, in a more international fruit driven style than some of the others, and is a wine that will drink well with light stews or roasts, and is also a wine one could drink by the glass with friends when the wine is to provide support rather than be the centerpiece of the occasion. I found it growing upon me, if you prefer fairly concentrated fruit driven wines you will enjoy it, and even if you are more traditional in tastes there are things to enjoy.
2 stars

San Michele a Torri
San Michele A Torri Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 82421
Pale ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense and refreshingly cool, with brambly berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal acidity and some spice. Direct. On the palate it's equally direct, with tart sour cherry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and moderately intense slightly greenish tannins that flow into a fairly long tart finish. A simple, direct wine that will do a fine job of accompanying grilled meats, ranging from ribs and sausages though chicken with the skin on, and will also work well with fried meats and vegetables. In the proper setting it will hit the spot, though you do have to like this frankly aggressive style. If you do, the bottle will go quickly.
1 star

San Michele a Torri San Giovanni 97 Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva DOCG 2005
Lot 39651
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, though not quite as clean as I might have hoped; there's red berry fruit supported by spice and hints of underbrush and balsam, with slight savory barnyard tang as well. Just a touch rustic. On the palate it's medium bodied, with fairly bright red berry fruit supported by brisk berry fruit acidity and by tannins that are fairly light, and flow into a sour berry fruit finish. The palate is more interesting than the nose and it's quite drinkable, but doesn't display as much depth as I'd expect from a Riserva. This said, it will work well with hearty pasta dishes, thick legume-based soups, and also with simple grilled meats or light stews.
1 star

Azienda Agraria Petreto
Via di Rosano, 196/a
50065 Pontassieve (FI)
Tel: 055/6519021

Petreto Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 2/08
Lively ruby with black reflections and rim paling to white. The bouquet is fairly intense, with red berry fruit supported by savory accents that at the outset bring Sichuan preserved vegetable to mind, and gradually resolve into savory spice. Interesting and not at all unpleasant. On the palate it's medium bodied, with fairly rich cherry fruit supported by delicate sour cherry acidity, and by smooth tannins that flow into a clean fresh cherry finish whose acidity carries at length. Pleasant in a light, fairly lively key, and though it's not a wine to drink by the glass far from the table it will work well with foods, ranging from hearty vegetable soups through simple grilled meats and light stews. In the proper setting it will go quite quickly. Worth seeking out.
2 stars

Tenuta il Corno
Tenuta il Corno Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot CF06/0908
Cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with violets and forest berry fruit supported by bitterness and chalk dust at first swish, which resolve into more intense forest berry fruit, in particular black currants, with more swishing, while savory vegetal underpinning emerges. On the palate it's medium bodied, with moderately intense forest berry fruit, a mixture of black currant and cherry supported by more tart cherry acidity than I might have expected, and by light tannins that flow into a clean sour berry fruit finish. The bouquet is a little unusual, while the wine is fruit driven in a light fairly acidic key; if you like the combination it will drink well with fattier grilled meats or light stews, and also has the acidity necessary to work well with fried meats and vegetables. In the proper setting it will go quickly.
1 star

Tenuta il Corno San Camillo Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva DOCG 2005
Lot CF1/00
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with sour berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and spice. Tart, and invigorating. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich tart cherry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and by clean slightly greenish tannins that flow into a fairly long sour cherry finish. Pleasant in a fairly light (for a Riserva) very traditional key, and will drink well with foods, though I wouldn't be tempted to drink it by the glass far from the table. What foods? Hearty roasts, stews, and also fried meats and vegetables, which are usually something I associate more with a vino d'annata than a Riserva. But it is pleasant in a scrappy traditional key, not attempting to be an Important Wine, and also has sufficient acidity to age nicely for 5-8 years, and I expect that it will become lacy with time. Worth seeking out.
2 stars

Le Torri
Le Torri Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 1091
Deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry ruby rim. The bouquet is eye opening in a rustic sort of way, with considerable animal tang -- wet stable straw with hints of lathered horse and leather -- and fairly intense underlying acidity. On the palate it's fairly full in a languid key, with ample cherry fruit supported by moderately intense cherry acidity, and by ample smooth tannins that flow into a fairly long tart finish in which acidity emerges more than fruit, and carries at length. It's particular, and you have to like the style. If you do, it will drink well with succulent roasts or stews, and you will find that the bottle goes quickly.
1 star

Le Torri Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva DOCG 2004
Lot 15063
Cherry ruby with black reflections and some almandine in the rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with brambly berry fruit supported by some greenish vegetal accents, and by airy savory notes. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright red berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by tannins that have a slightly greenish brambly burr and flow into a clean bitter berry fruit laced finish. Pleasant in a deft traditional key, though not quite as rich as some Riserve are; it will drink quite well with foods, ranging from hearty pasta dishes through succulent red meats, and if you like the style it will go quickly.
2 stars

Tenuta La Cipressaia
Via Romita,38
50025 Montespertoli (FI)
Tel & Fax: 0571/670868

Tenuta La Cipressaia Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 06/06
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and pink rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with red berry fruit supported by some vegetal accents and hints of gum Arabic; with more swishing the fruit reveals some black currants too. On the palate it's light bodied, with bright forest berry fruit that has fairly strong black currant accents supported by lively sour berry fruit acidity and by smooth slight greenish tannins that flow into a clean bright sour berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning. A light, zesty food wine that will drink well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and also has the acidity necessary to accompany fried meats and vegetables. Deft, and will be perfect in the proper setting, though you do have to like the style. If you prefer softer smoother wines it won't work as well for you.
2 stars

Tenuta La Cipressaia Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2007
Lot 06/07
Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with brambly red berry fruit supported by brisk greenish acidity. Direct, but what it has to say is interesting. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright rather green sour berry fruit supported by berry fruit acidity, and by tannins that are clean and have a tart savory burr that flows into a bright sour berry fruit finish with bitter underpinning. It's quite traditional, and scrappy too; if you like smoother softer wines it won't work for you, but if you enjoy the more traditional style it will drink well with hearty meat-based pasta dishes or risotti, and also with succulent grilled meats along the lines of sausages, ribs, burgers (swimming with cheese), and chicken with the skin; it will also work well with fried meats and vegetables. A step into the past, and a nice one.
2 stars

Il Castelvecchio
Il Castelvecchio Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2006
Lot 08/150
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is a bit funky, with berry fruit mingled with underbrush and savory notes coupled with something bitter that brings cobwebs to mind. On the palate it's medium bodied, with moderately intense red berry fruit supported by clean slightly sour cherry fruit and by fairly light tannins that flow into a fairly bitter berry fruit finish. Direct, and will drink nicely with foods, supporting from behind the scenes rather than demanding center stage.
1 star

Castelvecchio Vigna La Quercia Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva DOCG 2004
Lot 0780
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with red berry fruit that has some mentholated balsamic notes and is supported by a mixture of acidity and wet green leather. A bit unusual. On the palate it's ample, with moderately rich, frankly generic berry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and by smooth tannins that flow into a tart finish that simply fades. It's oddly disjointed, and feels like a vino d'annata that has been pumped up rather than something that always had the makings of a Riserva. Difficult to explain, but I think I'd have preferred it in a smaller key.
1 star

Fattorie Giannozzi
Villa Marcialla
Località La Ceppa
50020 Marcialla
Barberino Val d'Elsa (FI)
Tel: 055/8076602

Villa Marcialla Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2006
Lot 100408
Lively black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is a bit rustic, with lathered horse and wet stable straw mingled with fairly tart acidity and distinctly vegetal overtones. On the palate it's bright, with fairly rich sour cherry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and by tannins that have feel separate from the fruit somehow, and have a greenish burr that flows into a fairly sour finish. The rusticity of the nose carries into the palate, and it's a wine that you should only consider if you like this style. If you do, it will work well with succulent grilled meats, including fattier fare such as sausages or chicken with its skin, and also has sufficient acidity to work well with fried meats and vegetables.
1 star

Villa Marcialla Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2003
Lot 240408
Lively cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with some berry fruit -- but not much -- and herbal notes mingled with cedar, and sea salt underpinning. On the palate it's thin, with moderately intense rather sour berry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and by tannins that are again light, and flow into a fairly direct sour berry fruit finish. I'd have expected greater depth and concentration from a Riserva, because the region is quite capable of providing it.
1 star

Fattoria di Fiano
Fattoria di Fiano Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2006
Lot 4-08
Pale cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim fading to white. The bouquet is fresh, and rather tart, with sour berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and hints of berry fruit jam. Nice balance, and deft in a fairly scrappy key. On the palate it's medium bodied tending towards light, with bright slightly sour cherry fruit supported by deft acidity, and by tannins that have a distinctly vegetal cast to them, and flow into a clean fresh vegetal fruit finish. Pleasant in a young, light, scrappy sort of way, and will drink quite well with simple grilled meats or light stews, and also has the wherewithal to work well with fried meats and vegetables. If you like the traditional style you will enjoy it, and the bottle will go quickly.
2 stars

Fattoria di Fiano Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2006
Lot 6-08
Impenetrable slightly violet pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy berry fruit supported by some greenish vegetal accents and a pleasant underlay of spice with hints of cedar. Nice balance. On the palate it's bright, with fairly rich sour cherry fruit supported by deft sour cherry acidity and by smooth tannins that have a clean bitter underpinning and flow into a bitter fruit laced finish. Pleasant, in a middle of the road key, and though it's not quite substantial enough for a fatty roast like leg of lamb, it will work quite well with hearty grilled meats (a porterhouse comes to mind), and will also be nice with stews, including flavorful meats such as boar or venison. Worth seeking out, and it will age nicely for at least another 5 years.
86-8

Fattoria di Bagnolo
Fattoria di Bagnolo Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2006
Lot 071
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cherry fruit supported by some airy floral accents and by clean spice mingled with hints of truffle. On the palate it's medium bodied, with moderately intense cherry fruit supported by moderate slightly bitter acidity, and by tannins that have a slight burr, and flow into a clean bitter fruit laced finish. It's fairly direct, and I'd have preferred better definition than it displays -- there isn't quite as much acidity as I had hoped for, and as a result it has a lax feeling to it. This said, it will work well with meat-based pasta dishes, simple grilled meats, and light stews.
1 star

Fatoria di Bagnolo Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2007
Lot 081
Deep slightly violet pigeon blood ruby with lively ruby rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, and fresh, with forest berry fruit, a mixture of cherry and also quite a bit of black currant, that gains definition from hints of berry fruit acidity, slight floral accents, and underlying berry fruit jam. On the palate it's ample and smooth, with fairly rich forest berry fruit supported by berry fruit acidity and fairly light tannins that do have a slight burr, and flow into a clean berry fruit finish. It's deft in a smoother softer fruit driven key, and if you like this style (as opposed to the more aggressive traditional style) it will work quite well with grilled meats or light stews, and you may also want to drink it by the glass with friends.
2 stars

Fattoria di Bagnolo Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2005
Lot 072
Deep slightly cloudy pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with some berry fruit supported by warm cedar with hints of graphite that nicely balances the fruit; it's harmonious but not as complex as I might have hoped. On the palate it's ample and rather soft, with moderately intense cherry plum fruit supported by moderate berry fruit acidity, and by tannins that have a smooth cedar overlay and flow into a clean slightly bitter finish. It's direct, in a way that's simpler than I'd have expected from a Riserva, and is also lacking in intensity and concentration of fruit. A pity, because the region can do much more.
1 star

Note: It feels as if there has been a change of course between 2006 and 2007.

Castello di Poppiano
Castello di Poppiano Il Cortile Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2006
Lot illegible
Lively cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with ripe fairly generic red fruit mingled with gum Arabic and hints of dried mushrooms. It's muted, but in an odd way that isn't really youthful bottle shock; the second bottle is the same and I wonder if it's a corkage issue. On the palate it feels rather dilute, with generic red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity coupled with savory bitterness, and by tannins that have a splintery burr and flow into a savory finish. I'd have liked greater depth, brightness and concentration.
1 star

Castello di Poppiano Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva 2005
Lot 01 08 (? Hard to read)
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with bright cherry and forest berry fruit supported by cedar and savory spice and underlying berry fruit jam. Nice balance, and youthfully harmonious. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by moderate acidity, and by cedar laced tannins that lay a dusty trail over the tongue, and flow into a distinctly bitter tannic finish. It's not quite as smooth as it might be in the finish -- the tannic splinteriness is quite marked -- but will drink well with succulent grilled meats or hearty roasts, along the lines of medium rare roast beef cut thick, and will also age nicely for 3-5 years.
2 stars

A note on the order: I tasted the wines blind (labels covered), starting with the Vini D'Annata, followed by the Riserve. The wineries are listed in the order that I tasted their Vini D'Annata.

1 comment:

lesley said...

Whew! There's so much choice here, but it is a wine blog ;0)
I really enjoyed wandering around your blog, so informative without patronising & although I'm not a lover of Chianti (Bit peppery for my palate) my other half absolutely loves it. I have to say Montepulciano is much more my style especially Brunello di Montepulciano. This blog just makes me want to go back to Tuscany!!
I will be back for another glass or 2. ;0)