Christmas treats – Brunello and Chianti

The swedish christmas dinner on Christmas Eve is a staunchly traditional meal with meatballs, sill (pickled herring), gravad lax and a lot of other must haves. And the traditional beverage is christmas beer (winter ales and lagers) and snaps.

And to be honest – that is not my cup of tea. So when Christmas Day arrived with lamb and a creamy potato gratin – I was more than happy to uncork two fantastic wines from central Italy – a magnum of Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 1998 (my own) and a La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino 2001 (courtesy of my sister-in-laws husband).

And what a relief it was to find them both in mint condition. Both wines similar and at the same time different.

The 1998 was the second vintage of Castello di Brolio after the Ricasoli-family restored this classic estate to it’s former glory. The wine was an effort to once again put Chianti Classico in focus after that the so called “super tuscans” had dominated the scene under most part of the 1980s and 1990s. But with the new legislation in place (1996) it was possible to do a Chianti Classico of the best local and interanational grapes (a minimum of 80 percent sangiovese and up to 20 percent of other red varieties like Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

The Castello di Brolio 1998 is made with 100 percent sangiovese (the 97 and 98 were both monovarietals – but that was replaced with 10 years of experimentation and the 2007 was a blend of 80 percent sangiovese and 10 percent each of cabernet sauvignon and merlot).

The colour is still deep bordeaux-red with an orange maturity rim. The nose wonderfully opulent with dried fruits, cherries, spices and a hint of leather, almonds and chocolate. Sligthly oxidized complexity. In the mouth it feels round and mellow with a lovely fruit intensity and elements of cherries, dried fruits and herbs. The finish long and well balanced. Probably at it’s peak with a some tannins giving it a delicious lift. 

The Fattoria La Fiorita-estate is a new acquaintance – at least for me. It’s run by a well known oenologist, Roberto Cipresso, in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The 2001 was of course a wonderful vintage that delivered classic wines. And the La Fiorita Riserva 2001 is no exception.

The colour lighter than the Castello di Brolio – more brick/orange red. The nose is quite similar but juicier and a bit more perfumed with cherries, dried fruits, leather and nuts (almonds). The taste is also quite mellow (although it is two years younger than the Brolio-wine) and fruit-driven with cherries, leather, herbs and chocolate. The finish long, lingering and wonderful with a sligthly oxidized tone that gives that extra compelxity.

Both wines were superb with the lamb!

Wonders of Tuscany – Tenuta di Valgiano

Have you ever heard of Colline Lucchesi? No!? You are not alone! The vineyards on the hills of the small town Lucca in the norh-west of Tuscany may not be one of the most well known wine districts in Italy – but there are some truly amazing wines coming out of the DOC.

I recently tasted my first wine from Tenuta di Valgiano – an estate with 16 ha under vine that are run by Moreno Pietrini and Laura di Collobaino. The production is certified biodynamique and all wines are made in what they describe as a traditional way to reflect the terroir with a minimum of technological intervention.

In the cellar that means among other things a gravity-fed winery where fermentation takes place in small wooden vats with daily plunging. Maceration times can be anything between 6 and 18 days depending on which grapes we are talking about and where they have grown. The malo and maturation is done in french barriques (20 percent new oak) for 12 to 15 months and sulphur dioxide is used sparingly.

The Tenuta di Valgiano 2007 is a stunning wine – one of the best “supertuscans” or blends of indigenous and french varietys that I have tasted in a while. Gambero Rosso’s monumental guide to Italian Wines 2011 is equally impressed and writes:

“it’s breathtakingly authenticity and natural, tumultuous development. It is so rythmic and vibrant with endless flavour that it is simply not possible to describe in mere tasting notes”.

And I agree! The 2007 Tenuta di Valgiano is a blend of 60 percent sangiovese and 20 percent each of syrah and merlot. And it is an awesome power pack of dark berries, game, farm yard, spices, chocolate and oak. Complex and concentrated and yet well balanced with nuanced mineral flavours. It should develop wonderfully over the next 10 years or so.

Carmignano – the first supertuscan (Il Sasso 2004)

So you think that Tenuta San Guidos Sassicaia was the first supertuscan? Think again! The producers in Carmignano has been using french/international varietys (mainly cabernet sauvignon) for centuries. And the wines are awesome!

Carmignano might not be as well known as neighbouring Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino. But the district deserves a place in the limelight – and the wines can truly be called the first supertuscans!

Okay it was not until 1975 they got the go ahead to officially use cabernet in their DOC-wines! But the winegrowers had been blending sangiovese with cabernet since the 18th century. And the result was and is stunning wines that combine sangioveses perfumed cherry flavours with cabernets great tanninstructured dark berries.

In Sweden we seldom see bottles of Carmignano in our wine and spirits monopoly – Systembolaget. But Piaggias modern classic Il Sasso do pop up from time to time. It is a wine that usually get fantastic reviews in Gambero Rossos Italian Wines. And it is a blend of mostly sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon & cabernet franc, merlot and sometimes canaiolo. It gets 15 months on french oak and another six months in bottle prior release.

I bought a handful of 2004s a few years back and I have been sampling it occasionally. And this past weekend I opened another bottle. And it was fantastic.

Deep dark red in colour with an orange/brick-tinged rim. Big aromas on the nose with dark cherries, dark berries, chocolate, oak/vanilla and crème brûlée. The wine is still powerfull on the palate with a mediumbodied structure. The cabernet shines through with quite firm tannins and loads of dark berries (cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants). Hints of chocolate, crème brûlée, herbs and vanilla. Long focused finish with great tannins that are beginning to soften. Drink now or keep up to 10 years!