Fortezza da Basso and Stazione Leopolda were abuzz on March 20, 21 and 22 as producers, trade professionals and the press were reunited after a two-year pandemic pause for Florence’s two Tuscan wine previews, Chianti Lovers & Rosso Morellino and Chianti Classico Collection.
Chianti Lovers & Rosso Morellino
More than 400 wines presented by 110-plus wineries were up for tasting at the return of Chianti Lovers & Rosso Morellino on March 20 as the fair adopted spacious digs at the Fortezza da Basso. Wine enthusiasts and professionals savoured Chianti DOCG 2021, Superiore 2020 and Riserva 2019 (not released until 2022) as well as Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2021 and Riserva 2019 (not released until 2022). Sunday started by climbing the sixteenth-century steps next to the fort’s mighty keep designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger for Alessandro de’ Medici. Just off a terracotta terrace boasting a Duomo view, the Italian and international press tasted Chianti wines blind or by category in a light-filled room intended to bring out the best of sensations. I opted to begin with Chianti DOCG 2021 wines from a trio of provinces—Arezzo, Florence and Siena—noting the difference in aromas and expressions, although all three share the same purplish tone and fruitiness. The glasses suddenly acquire a floral feel with a quartet of Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG, all subtle and pretty; the Marzocco di Poppiano 2021 teletransports you to Tuscany, like spring in a glass, while Torre a Cona’s Badia a Corte, a Riserva 2019, displays the elegant aromas obtained from higher-lying land. There’s always a certain degree of bias whenever Chianti Rufina is poured, given that I’ve lived in the heart of the subzone for 15 years, but the transparency and grace never cease, especially in cerebral and considered wines like Borgo Macereto’s “La Fuga” and Frascole’s bolder DOCG, both 2020. Muscular qualities come across in Chianti Superiore DOCG as cherries macerated in alcohol predominate in Castello del Trebbio and Fattoria Uccelleria’s 2020 vintages, despite hailing from two wildly diverse areas: the Florentine hills and the Pisa hinterland. The morning ends with Morellino di Scansano, all ruby red gems from 2021 and spectacular in their own way. Highlights include Antonio Camillo’s gorgeously crisp and cherry-rich “Cotozzino”, Terenzi’s vibrant, violet-driven Morellino made in Scansano and Fattoria Le Pupille’s ever delightful signature label. A morning spent tasting in the company of colleagues has never felt better.
Chianti Classico Collection
After a tentative version held in the sprawling Santa Maria Novella museum last May, Chianti Classico Collection returned to its longstanding venue, Stazione Leopolda, on March 21 and 22. The popular wine preview was met with pure glee by the trade and journalists, who had the opportunity to attend two days of intense tasting and learn about the Chianti Classico Consortium’s recent decision to divide the wine region into 11 geographical areas, known as Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive (UGAs). This separation into smaller areas—San Casciano, Greve, Lamole, Montefioralle, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina and San Donato in Poggio—that share certain characteristics—natural factors, such as soil composition, microclimate and aspect, and human elements, like cultural heritage, local traditions and community spirit—means that Chianti Classico wineries can state the municipality on their labels, providing clearer communication in terms of identity and provenance. The division was clearly emphasized in the producers’ area and tasting catalogue, enabling trade professionals and journalists to taste by UGA. 180 producers were in attendance, presenting a total of 650 labels, including 161 Chianti Classico Riserva and 125 Gran Selezione, plus 39 samples of the 2021 vintage. Highlights included dinners with the producers held at modern Tuscan restaurants, such as Cibrèo at the Helvetia & Bristol, Osteria dell’Enoteca and C-ucina. Essenziale, in piazza del Cestello, was my vinous port of call as creative cooking was served with a side of sparkling conversation and countless bottles of Chianti Classico, Riserva and Gran Selezione. Three centuries of Tuscan winemaking have led to an unparalleled international allure: the Californian director of Belgian-owned Podere Capaccia (Radda) chatted to a Swedish wine writer as I, a Brit, conversed with the Florentine general manager of Castello La Leccia (Castellina), which belongs to a Swiss family, before the Italian marketing director of South African-led Querciabella popped over to share their perfumed 2018 Riserva. Democratically, we all proclaimed Fèlsina’s 2018 Riserva as the unofficial Wine of the Night due to its extraordinary length and aromas. Day Two brought educational moments as Filippo Bartolotta delighted all in a two-hour vertical tasting-cum-history lesson about the longevity of Chianti Classico wines. One gem unfurled after another, accompanied by historical context about local and world events from the Florence-born, London-trained wine expert: 1949 Castello di Brolio, fresh as a daisy from the Gaiole castle cellars, all citrus and rose petals; 1958 Badia a Coltibuono, prunes, poise and tea leaves; 1969 Castello di Monsanto, super fresh, mandarin and roses; 1975 Villa Calcinaia, land and leather with mushrooms all over the show; 1985 Marchesi Antinori, cigars and gentlemen’s clubs; the list went on, each pouring more poignant than the next. With 33 per cent of Chianti Classico exported to the United States, 10% to Canada and 8% to the UK, and a 21% increase in revenue across the appellation in 2021, the Black Rooster is firmly back in business.