The Chianti Classico Consortium and several of its members got an early Christmas present last year, when the Wall Street Journal’s wine writers, John Brecher and his wife, Dorothy Gaiter, chose Chianti Classico 2004 as the wine to serve at a holiday party or to take as a gift.
Dorothy said, ‘Chianti is one of those words that makes people smile’. They dubbed Chianti Classico ‘the perfect wine for celebrating’ and said the 2004 had ‘easy drinkability and confident depth.’ The article led to a television interview which can still be seen online (see box for details).
Five of the 50 Chianti Classico wines they profiled were featured in the interview. Since many of The Florentine’s readers are near the Chianti region, we thought you’d like to know more!
The couple’s number one pick was Cennatoio, which they termed ‘perfectly balanced’. This small, family run winery is located just outside Panzano in Chianti, is owned by Leandro and Gabriella Alessi and their son, Emiliano. Although the supply of 2004 Chianti Classico is already exhausted, Emiliano assured me that the 2005 is as good, if not better. And after tasting it, I agree! Cennatoio is one of Tuscany’s few wineries that still offers a tasting of its full range of wines—not just one or two—and does so without a fee. However, it is open only from Easter until the end of October, so you’ll have to wait until March to make your trip there to taste for yourself.
‘Best value’ honors went to Casa Emma in San Donato in Poggio, owned and operated by the Bucalossi family. On an appointment basis, you can have a tour of the winery, a tasting of wines and cheese, and even lunch. Casa Emma has an excellent website (in English and Italian) and a free newsletter. The WSJ said the wine had, ‘rich, earthy fruit and an undertone of minerals that gives it a special sense of place’.
Another Chianti Classico from near Panzano was the ’04 Villa Cafaggio. The winery offers several types of wine tastings and tours, depending on your level of interest and knowledge. If you go for a visit, be sure to note the outdoor fermentation tanks. Villa Cafaggio is a winery with a long history but a fairly new owner. Since 2005 it has been run by the Cantina La Vis e Valle di Cembra, along with the Girelli family. Their philosophy is to pay ‘minute attention to detail’ at every step of the winemaking process. The WSJ review said this wine was, ‘more serious than most, with tight, raisiny fruit and some structure. Almost chewy. Fine wine. Tastes expensive’.
The pair also praised the Chianti Classico from Volpaia, near Radda in Chianti. Volpaia is actually a small village bought by the winemaker’s father in 1960; the winery is located throughout the tiny town. Depending on the weather, wine tastings are held in the garden or in the fifteenth-century deconsecrated church, Commenda di Sant’ Eufrosino, designed by Michelozzo. The Stianti family offers tastings, cooking classes, apartments, and villa rentals in this ancient borgo. The 2004 Chianti was found to be ‘easy to enjoy, but has stature, too, with balance and some depth. Buy more than you think you will need’. I’m sure the winemakers especially liked the last sentence!
Not surprisingly, rounding out the list was one of Chianti’s largest producers with one of its best known wines, the Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva by Ruffino. Brecher and Gaiter found it ‘smooth, with seriously purple fruit, blackberries, earth and some richness, like chocolate-covered cherries’. Founded in 1877, Ruffino now has seven estates in Tuscany, covering some 600 hectares of vineyards, as well as another 30 hectares in the Friuli region of northern Italy. The winery opened the Poggio Casciano estate in Chianti to visitors for the first time in 2007. It offers a range of tour options from 10 euro to 40 euro, some including lunch with a minimum number of guests.
With more than 600 members, about 350 of whom are bottlers, the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium now represents 95 percent of the entire ‘Chianti Classico’ denomination. Founded in 1924, it was the first of Italy’s grape-grower/winemaker consortiums and has worked long and hard to protect Chianti Classico wine and its trademark, the Gallo Nero (black rooster). Gone are the days of the straw covered ‘plonk’; this latest nod is further testament to the quality of the new Chianti Classicos.
Because many wineries operate limited (or no) tastings in the winter, be sure to contact them before attempting to make a visit. If you can’t get to one of these, or any of the other fine Chianti Classico producers, just head to your local enoteca and look for the black rooster on the neck of the bottle.
Casa Emma: www.casaemma.com
Villa Cafaggio: www.villacafaggio.it
Chianti Classico Wine Consortium: www.chianticlassico.com