What makes a wine great? Is it a definable character? Is is consistency? Is it longevity? For the Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Poggio”, it’s all three of the above, plus several other factors. Whatever the solution to the above question, this is a renowned wine that has merited all its acclaim, to be sure.
Recently in Chicago, I met with Laura Bianchi, co-proprietor of Castello di Monsanto. Situated in Barberino Val d’Elsa in western Chianti Classico, Monsanto was established in 1961 by her father Fabrizio. The following year, he made the decision to produce a single vineyard Chianti Classico from the best parcel of the estate; he called this wine “Il Poggio” – “the hill”.
Laura Bianchi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Laura Bianchi told me that the original vineyard was planted to 3000 vines per hectare; today with replanting, it is a high density vineyards of 5500 vines per hectare. The original vineyard was planted to Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino, along with the white varieties, Trebbiano and Malvasia. She recalls that her father decided to eliminate the white varieties in 1968, and today, Il Poggio is approximately 95% Sangiovese, with small percentages of Colorino and a touch of Canaiolo.
The vineyard is divided into three main parts, with various exposures; with the southwestern part being picked earliest, then the central part and finally the northern part. Only after tasting the wine from these three sections is the decision made as to the final blend, as it could include all three sections, or perhaps only one or two. Whatever is not used for the Il Poggio bottling is included in the Chianti Classico Riserva. Il Poggio is only produced in the finest vintages; from lesser years, the grapes will be used for the Chianti Classico Riserva.
What are Laura’s favorite vintages? “1988 is the vintage I love now. Recently the 2010, as well as the 2013, which has not been released. The 2013 is powerful, but it is still very young; it is a baby. But in 20 years, it will be fantastic.”
What reactions from consumers have Laura experienced? “Most people that don’t know Monsanto are surprised at the aging capacity of this wine. They think that in Tuscany, only Brunello ages well. The surprise for most people is the longevity of Il Poggio. Their idea of Chianti Classico is that it is an easy-drinking wine. The main message from this vertical I want to give people is the longevity of Sangiovese, if it is planted in the right places.”
Here are brief notes on eight vintages of Il Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva:
2012 – Beautifully balanced, with a distinct minerality in the finish; graceful tannins. Very good quality. Best in 7-10 years, and of course, will drink far beyond that. Excellent
2011 – Not typical, in that the oak notes are dominant and the tannins are harsh. Still, good varietal character and impressive weight. Best in 5-7 years. Good
2007 – Beautiful ripeness, touch of clove in the aromas. Lovely balanced tannins, very good complexity. Very appealing now; best in 10-12 years. Excellent
2006 – Red cherry, plum and cedar aromas – just lovely! Excellent depth of fruit; very good acidity, wonderful complexity, rich tannins. So well balanced, but meant for down the road. Best in 12-15 years. Outstanding
1999 – Beautiful harmony of all components; lovely aromas and Sangiovese character. Excellent persistence, very good acidity. Sublime! Best in 12-15 years. Superb
1982 – Ripe, with balanced acidity and excellent complexity. Beautiful harmony, and excellent persistence. Nearing peak- best in 3-5 years. Excellent
1977 – Classically structured, with good acidity and nicely balanced tannins. Light earthiness and nuttiness. Still plenty of life ahead of it. Best in 7-10 years. Outstanding
1968 – Classic definition of a mature Chianti Classico, with its aromas of animal hide and dried meat. Medium-full with excellent persistence and very good acidity. Great complexity. Drink now or over the next 5-7 years. Superb