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2014 Berry Bros. & Rudd Chianti Classico by Badia a Coltibuono
Located in Gaiole in Chianti, Badia a Coltibuono’s history dates back to 1051, to the Vallombrosan order of monks, whose fine abbey (‘Badia’ ) still stands proud at the heart of the wine property; ‘Coltibuono’ means ‘good crop’ by the way. Current owners, the Stucchi Prinetti family have only been in residence since its purchase in1846 by great great grandfather and Florentine banker Michele Giuntini, cousin of the Selvapiana family of Rufina.
The present generation, siblings Emanuela, Roberto, Paolo & Guido, now run the show, bringing this most traditional of wine estates up to date. At 74ha it’s no garage operation, but it is fortunate in owning a significant slice of subzone/sottozona Monti in Chianti, whose excellent terroir is much prized.
Another asset is their stock of ancient Sangiovese clones, which they have used to replant key sites at higher densities of 7-8,000 Sangiovese plants per hectare; as opposed to the ultra traditional pattern of low densities of red and white grapes.
In 1996 they built a new winery in Monti, and with the 2003 harvest their fruit was certified ICEA organic. Roberto Stucchi Prinetti remarks that since going organic they’ve noticed that the fermentations have been easier to follow. He adds that though they’ve sacrificed journalist ‘Points’ they’re more than happy with the pale elegance of their wines. They also produce a Chianti Classico Riserva.
It is a high yielding, late ripening grape that performs best on well-drained calcareous soils on south-facing hillsides. For years it was blighted by poor clonal selection and massive overcropping - however since the 1980s the quality of Sangiovese-based wines has rocketed upwards and they are now some of the most sought after in the world.
It produces wines with pronounced tannins and acidity, though not always with great depth of colour, and its character can vary from farmyard/leather nuances through to essence of red cherries and plums. In the 1960s the advent of Super Tuscans saw bottlings of 100% Sangiovese wines, as well as the introduction of Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blends, the most famous being Tignanello.
Chianti Classico is a leading Tuscan DOCG zone which covers approximately 7,000 hectares between Florence and Siena. Its vineyards stretch into the Apennine foothills at altitudes of between 150m and 500m, and encompass two distinct terroirs and styles. The sandy, alluvial soils of the lower sites yield fuller, meatier wines while the limestone and galestro rocks of the higher vineyards deliver finer, more ethereal examples.
The origins of Chianti date back to the Middle Ages, although Chianti Classico was really born in 1716 when Grand Duke Cosimo III of Tuscany classified the zone, identifying the villages of Radda, Greve, Panzano, Gaiole and Castellina as the leading sites; these same villages still represent the nucleus of the Chianti Classico DOCG today. The regulations have been revised, however, to insist that the wine is made from a minimum 80 percent Sangiovese and a maximum 20 percent Canaiolo and ameliorative grapes (ie Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon); from the 2006 vintage, no white grapes are allowed.
Chianti Classico cannot be released until 1st October in the year following the harvest, while Chianti Classico Riserva must undergo 24 months of ageing before release, including at least three months in bottle. At the region’s top addresses, French barriques are gradually being adopted in the place of the traditional, larger slavonian botte.
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