This Time Winesurf's Carlo Macchi Takes the Stand:
Porciatti's Delicatessen in Radda in Chianti is one of those places that Tuscans say "fa conca," or draws, because sooner or later everyone winds up there. Last Thursday at about 12 I was there with Giovanna Stianti from Castello di Volpaia, Liviana Manetti from Montevertine, Riccardo Lanza from Pruneto, and a number of other people who don't make wine. All just shopping, the traditional shopping with talk, kidding, and laughter that lets you relax and be happy, and that allows you to feel astonishment at the quality of the foodstuffs. In short, the opposite of the supermarket experience. And even if you're buying just bread your eye will inevitably fall upon Radda's famed Tonno (tonno is usually tuna, but in this case pork loin prepared in a particular way) or upon one of the many cold cuts Luciano Porciatti has been making practically since he could crawl. All top quality foods, and it's difficult to say which is best.
And while you're thinking, Luciano occasionally pontificates, but more often teases. For example, I'm the one deserving of pity because I'm from Poggibonsi: I'm lucky enough to make the occasional trip to the prettiest town in the world (Radda in Chianti, obviously). Thank God that my grandparents were from Radda and I still have a few relatives in the area, because otherwise the kidding would have come down much harder. And it was the thought of the relatives Luciano mentioned that led me to write this note, which isn't about Porciatti's delicatessen, but the town that has always been my second home, and, of course, its wines.
Those who reach Radda passing through Castellina in Chianti will understand how thoroughly isolated it is. And to think that when Sergio Manetti, a pure-bread Poggibonsese just like me, started to make wine there the asphalt stopped just a couple of miles outside Poggibonsi, and it then took almost an hour and a half to reach Radda (35 km, or about 22 miles) along what the tourists called "the white (i.e., dirt) road of Chianti" and the locals simply called "the dust bowl".
Slowly, asphalt replaced dirt, but Radda's roots, which are anchored to its wines, have held firm. The lands where many wine makers have, over the past 30 years, planted their vineyards, are the bones of the earth. Galestro rock, which, combined with the elevations, on average higher than 450 meters, give Radda's wines a combination of backbone, freshness, aromas, angularity, elegance and finesse that are difficult to understand, though it's very pleasant to work at it.
Radda's Sangiovese is certainly neither rich nor opulent; rather it's a red that revolves around the finesse and austerity it draws from the ground. This austerity can open to reveal elegant aromas and deft tannins such as those of the wines of the Val delle Corti, or can remain lively and garrulous for years, like the wines of Caparsa and Pruneto. The can also gain admiring renown worldwide (Montevertine), or in lamentable rare cases be humdrum. If we were to move the area to Langa, Radda would be the intersection between Monforte and La Morra.
My advice, one you have reached Radda, is to walk around the small town looking out to the horizon: You'll be astonished by what you see, rolling forests and fields from which people have drawn vineyards. A land that observes those who watch it with detachment, that thinks of itself as its own master, and that gives of itself only reluctantly. As it reluctantly conceded the juniper berries that the women of Chianti picked without the benefit of gloves until the late 1960s (if you can do it without pricking yourself you're very good), giving them to Uncle Ezio, who took them to the "Macchi Pompilio Ingrosso Alimentari" company, which in turn sent them to distilleries abroad to become gin.
Now the berries stay where they are, because the bony land has found another way to gain the appreciation of the world: a way variously called Sangiovese, Chianti Classico, or Supertuscan. If you think about it, they too are distillates, distillates of the land of Radda. Three years ago we organized a beautiful tasting of Sangiovese just made form single vineyards, trying to find the characteristics of the individual vineyard parcels in the wines. It was an eye-opening experience, and the various terroirs of Radda in Chianti emerged forcefully.
If you haven't figured it out, I love Radda not just because my roots are there, but because it has remained true to itself, neither filling with shops that are all the same, nor succumbing to the weight of tourism. It's a town built to the measure of man, that makes wines of my size.
If you visit Radda you must stop at the Alimentari-Macelleria Porciatti, Piazza IV Novembre 1 (tel 0577 738 055)
And if you want to taste some good wines from Radda, here are my favorites, in random order:
Val delle Corti
Castello di Volpaia
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