To begin, the picture: Badia a Coltibuono is one of Chianti's historic estates, and though they do have a new winery complex that they inaugurated a couple of years ago, the botti are still in the cellars of the Badia, and quite beautiful. Equally impressive is their bottle archive, which begins with 1937 -- the occupying Germans drank everything older -- and continues to the present.
Returning to wines, I have noted in the past that Badia a Coltibuono was one of the first estates to bottle Chianti Classico, but didn't know why until Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti took me to see their more southerly vineyards, about a half hour's drive from the Badia where they have their main offices: She told me her father, who studied engineering after being quite active in the resistance during the War, became a director of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (i.e. 3M), and as a result had a much broader view of the world than most of the landowners in Chianti.
This led him to be one of the first to think about bottling and exporting the family's wines, and also to be one of the first to take stock of the changes that came with the end of the Mezzadria, the old tenant farming system that was one of the casualties of the post-war period and Italian industrialization.
Badia a Coltibuono continues to be forward looking; it was one of the first major Tuscan estates to really believe in organic farming, and now all their top wines, those of the Badia A Coltibuono line, which are made from estate-grown grapes, are organically produced. Emanuela was pouring the new releases at the Chianti Classico Anteprima, but I was curious about how last year's wines -- what are currently on shelves in wine shops -- had developed, so she invited me to come taste.
It was a beautiful day, perfect for a drive in the countryside, and I must say that the contrast between their vineyards and those of a neighboring estate that still uses defoliants to keep the ground cover between the rows of vines in check was rather stark. The wines, tasted March 22 2011:
In 2008 they had some problems with hail, and as a result decided not to make either Sangioveto or Cultus Boni. As a result their best Sangiovese and Canaiolo went into their basic wines, with impressive results:
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2008 Lot SGF 06/11 Deep cherry ruby with brilliant reflections and white rim. The bouquet is quite fresh, with violets and brambles mingled with succulent red berry fruit and some graphite shaving bitterness supported by brambly acidity and dappled shade. On the palate it's bright, and quite fresh, with lively cherry fruit supported by sour cherry acidity and some slightly leafy underbrush accents, and by tannins that are fairly smooth, but do have a bite to them, and flow into a clean slightly bitter sour cherry finish with some leafy undertones. Quite pleasant, and will drink nicely with pasta or hearty soups, and also has sufficient acidity and tannic structure for simple grilled meats and light stews. A smiling lark of a wine, and one that will go quickly. 88-90
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2009 Prerelease sample; the wine will be released towards the end of the summer. Lively cherry ruby with violet accents and brilliant ruby reflections and white rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with violets and berry fruit mingled with slight brambly acidity; it seems a little riper than the 08. On the palate it's medium bodied, and smooth, with fairly rich sour cherry fruit supported by soft sweet tannins and by slightly brambly acidity that flow into a clean rather brambly cherry fruit finish with underlying savory accents. It's slightly riper that the 2008, and also has slightly softer tannins, with less of a burr to them. This makes it a little more approachable than the 08 (we're talking slight degrees here), and a little less suited to fattier meats such as grilled sausages or lamb chops, both of which I would happily serve with the 08. 2 stars
Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007 Lot 31/3110 (? Blurred) Deep ruby with slight almandine accents and some orange towards the rim. The bouquet is elegant, with rich rather dusky cherry fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity, a mixture of cherry and raspberry, and pleasant brambly accents as well, with some sea salt and hints of balsam thrown in. Quite welcoming, and pleasant to sniff in a rich, rather classic key. On the palate it's medium bodied tending towards full, with elegant sour cherry fruit supported by warm rather savory sour berry fruit acidity, and by warm tannins that have a dusky burr and flow into a long rather savory finish with lasting warmth and some peppery minerality as well. It's quite elegant, and is a wine that begs a substantial dish; it will work very well with hearty roasts or stews, ranging from leg of lamb though stewed boar or venison, and will also age nicely for a number of years, becoming lacy and ethereal with time. It's quite harmonious, and very nicely balanced. 88-90
Badia a Coltibuono Cultus Boni Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 Lot SGF 0810 Cultus Boni differs somewhat from the rest of the line: It is intentionally a more polished, more approachable wine, a modern expression of Chianti, if you will. Not that it is without tradition: In addition to Sangiovese it contains Canaiolo -- the grape Baron Ricasoli used to temper his Sangiovese, and Colorino, a grape traditionally used to increase color. But it also has a little Merlot, which provides cheeky smoothness. Lively pigeon blood ruby that looks a little younger than the Riserva; there aren't the garnet accents. The bouquet is elegant, with rich smooth ripe cherry fruit supported by hints of cedar and some graphite shavings; continuing the comparison with the Riserva, it shows more polish and refinement; the Riserva is a bit scrappier. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with rich cherry fruit supported by slight brambly acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean dusky finish that has some cedary accents to it too, and continues at length. Quite pleasant in a more international key, and whereas I would suggest the Riserva if you like scrappier more aggressive wines, you will like this very much if you prefer wines that are smoother and more polished. In terms of accompaniments, I would see it well with roast beef, cooked fairly rare and sliced fairly thick. 2 stars
Sangioveto was introduced in 1980, when Sangiovese was still a relatively unknown grape, with the express intention of drawing attention to the varietal. At the time Chianti Classico still required the addition of white grapes, so they labeled it Vino da Tavola, a classification in which it took its place along side Tignanello and Pergole Torte.
Since then the regulations have changed, and now Chianti Classico can be 100% Sangiovese. But Chianti Classico's Disciplinare prohibits the use of grape names on the label, and therefore Sangioveto is an IGT.
Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana IGT 2006 Lot 006908 This is Sangiovese in Purezza, and was introduced to demonstrate the potential of Sangiovese (at a time that making a wine in Chianti from just Sangiovese was a revolutionary idea; Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim tending towards garnet. The bouquet is brooding, with fairly rich sour cherry fruit supported by brambles and some brambly acidity, with a fair amount of alcohol as well. It gives an impression of holding back, and though not young does come across as developing. On the palate it's quite elegant, with rich sour cherry fruit supported by savory notes and deft slightly brambly acidity, and by tannins that have a warm savory burr and flow into a long warm savory fruit laced finish. Quite graceful, and though one could drink it to great pleasure with a steak, it gives an impression of still having a ways to go; if you are blessed with patience in another 3-5 years it will reward you more than today. 90
Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana IGT 2007 Prerelease sample Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and slightest hints of leathery garnet in the rim; it looks younger than the 06. On the palate it's deft, with brambly berry fruit supported by some savory notes; it's readier than the 06 but still coming together and quite nicely. On the palate it's quite elegant, and again readier than the 06, with fairly bright savory berry fruit supported by smooth tannins that do have a slight burr, and flow into a clean savory finish. Quick to write, but a very pleasant wine, and though it won't tower the way the 06 will in a few years, it will now and within 3-5 years bring considerable joy to a meal build around a porterhouse steak or leg of lamb. Quite approachable, with pleasant complexities to plumb, and you can expect the bottle to go quickly, which isn't what one normally says of a wine of this caliber. But here it's true. 88-90
Badia a Coltibuono Vinsanto del Chianti Classico DOCG 2004 Tawny leathery amber with slight greenish reflections and dusky amber highlights. The bouquet is fairly intense, with sweetness mingled with dates and walnut skins, and some hints of Moroccan leather as well, and as it opens oatmeal with some brown sugar. Nice depth, in a slightly more reserved key than some. On the palate it's full, rich, and sweet, with powerful date and dried apricot sweetness supported by lively fairly mineral acidity that has some apricot accents, and by pleasant savory tannic notes that flow into a clean long sweet finish with, as the sweetness fades, hints of walnut skin, and slight bitter almond too. It's one of those wines you hate to pour out at a tasting: quite pleasant, and if you want to drink it at table I would drink it with aged cheeses. Otherwise, with friends far from the table. 2 stars
In addition to the wines, Badia a Coltibuono has a coking school, a very fine restaurant, and an agriturismo where one can stay. For information on all, check their website.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.