Posts tagged ‘selvapiana’

Best Italian Red Wines of the Year – Part Two

In my last post, I listed a few of my choices as the Best Italian Red Wines of 2011, focusing on Amarone as well as Barolo and Barbaresco. In part two, I will look at some other wines from Piemonte as well as several from Tuscany. Again, this is a partial list; for more information about all my selections, see the end of this post.

2008 Elio Grasso Barbera d’Alba “Vigna Martina” - While this great estate in Monforte d’Alba is best known for their cru Barolo, this selection, named for Elio’s wife, has become one of the finest examples of Barbera d’Alba. Light purple with inviting aromas of black plum, blackberry and violets, the wine is matured in half-new French barriques, but unlike too many examples of Barbera these days, the oak sensation here does not overwhelm. The 2008 bottling is especially accomplished with lively acidity and excellent persistence; it’s also quite delicious. This is fine now, but it will be better in a year when it settles down and should drink well for another 3-5 years. $30

2009 Vietti Barbera d’Alba “Scarrone Vigna Vecchia” – This is arguably the most famous version of Barbera d’Alba; it’s also one of the most famous red wines in all of Italy. Vietti owns this vineyard, planted on a steep hillside in Castiglione Falletto and prodcues two wines from here. The regular Scarrone Barbera is from the section of the vineyard that averages 60-65 years of vine age. That’s pretty impressive, but this “Vigna Vecchia” (old vine) bottling is sourced from the vines on this hill that are aproximately 85 years old! Now imagine how small the yields are and how concentrated the wine must be and you have some idea of how spectacular this wine truly is! Deep ruby red-light purple with aromas of boysenberry and black plum, this has excellent concentration and a generous mid-palate with layers of fruit. The acidity, though not as high as a more traditional Barbera is still very good and there is a powerful finish with excellent persistence. This is, in a word, hedonistic. A modern Barbera that is as captivating and as well made as any on the market, this is a beautifully made, exquisitely balanced wine that will impress you like few red wines made from any variety. If you haven’t had this wine in the past, you owe it to yourself to find a bottle of this wine, as the 2009 is a memorable a version as any in some time. This is so appealing now, but this will improve and drink well for another 7-10 years. $75

E. Mirafiore Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 – The Mirafiore line of wines, produced at the venerable estate of Fontanafredda in Serralunga d’Alba is a special set of wines that harkens back to the origins of this firm in the late-1800s, when it was known as Mirafiore. Made from grapes grown in Serralunga, the wine was aged in medium and large-sized oak casks for two months, resulting in a wine of beautiful variety purity. Displaying aromas and flavors of cranberry, black raspberry and violets, this is medium-ful with moderate tannins and a lengthy, satisfying finish. What a lovely Dolcetto on its own or served with duck, rabbit or pork tonight or over the next 2-3 years. A lot of character here for only $20.

2007 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva “Vigneto Bucerchiale” - Under the guidance of Francesco Giuntini A. Masseti, this estate has risen to the top of a very small group of the finest wine estates in Tuscany. This wine is produced from a single vineyard on the property that was planted back in 1968. The lovely aromas of wild strawberry, bing cherry and rose petals are simply intoxicating and there is beautiful texture and structure with medium-weight tannins, ideal acidity and excellent persistence. An outstanding offering – this is what great Chianti should taste like! Appealing now, this will drink well for 10-12 years. $35 (and worth every penny.)

2009 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico – You can never go wrong with a wine from this estate, one of the most consistent in Tuscany for more than 40 years. The 2009 Chianti Classico offers aromas of red cherry, thyme and red roses with very good depth of fruit, a beautifully defined mid-palate and excellent structure; the oak is subtle and there is very good acidity. Beautifully balanced and such a lovely food wine, enjoy this over the next 5-7 years. $20

2009 Felsina Chianti Classico- Here is another great producer that produces first-rate wines across the board. While probably best known for their Riserva bottlings (both a regular and the exquisite “Vigneto Rancia” offerings), their Chianti Classico normale is noteworthy as well. 100% Sangiovese, aged in medium-sized Slavonian oak casks, the wine offers textbook varietal aromas of red cherry along with notes of red roses and thyme and has a beautifully defined mid-palate, lively acidity and excellent persistence. Approachable now, but at its best in 5-7 years. $20

2008 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico “Castello di Brolio” - This is the famous Brolio estate where the recipe for Chianti Classico was formulated back in the 19th century. Today Francesco Ricasoli oversees production at this magnificent site, which features one of Tuscany’s most splendid castelli. While this is labeled simply as a Chianti Classico, it could be designated as a Chianti Classico Riserva. But Ricasoli does not use that term; indeed, this is the finest wine of his estate each year and wants the consumer to know the wine simply as Castello di Brolio, much like Lafite or Latour and other top chateaux in Bordeaux. A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot matured for 18 months in tonneaux and barriques. Offering excellent concentration and perfectly tuned acidity and beautifully integrated oak to go along with the sumptuous red cherry and black currant fruit, this is an accomplished Chianti Classico – one of great breeding and class! This 2008 version- from a very underrated vintage in Chianti Classico – is one of the best; it will be at its peak in10-12 years and may drink well for several years after that. At $50, this stands up to the finest of all Tuscan reds.


This is a partial list of my selections for the best Italian red wines of 2011. In my next post, I will focus on Brunello di Montalcino along with several choices from Campania, Sicily and Puglia.

January 24, 2012 at 10:50 am 5 comments

Chianti Rufina – Special Wines and Special People

Federico Giuntini Masseti of Selvapiana with his son Cosimo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


During my recent trip to Toscana, I was able to visit the Chianti Rufina zone for two days; this district, located east and slightly north of Florence, is a wine area that should definitely be better known.

There are seven Chianti districts in addition to the Chianti Classico zone and each has its own unique characteristics. For Chianti Rufina (pronounced roo-fee-nah), it is the elevation of the vineyards that gives this area its identity. The plantings are between 150 to 500 meters (500 to 1640 feet) above sea level; this means that the vineyards in Rufina are on average, the highest in terms of elevation of any Chianti district, including Chianti Classico (vineyards here are generally between 100-300 meters above sea level).

According to Barbara Tamburini, consulting enologist for this zone’s Fattoria di Grignano, the high elevation means a longer ripening time on the vine and higher acidity; the combination of which makes for longer-lived wines. “At the higher elevations,” she notes, “we receive more direct, pure sunlight, which helps ripening.”

There are about 22 producers in Chianti Rufina, most of whom produce Chianti Rufina DOCG of course, but there are other wines of note from this area as well. At Fattoria Lavacchio, Dimitri Sidorinko and Faye Lottero produce a lovely white named Pachar, a flavorful, elegant blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, while at Fattoria di Lago, the 2007 PInot Nero displays good varietal character and offers very nice complexity.

There are two very famous wine estates in Chianti Rufina: Frescobaldi and Selvapiana. The former is one of the best-known producers from any of the Chianti districts and their Nippozano Riserva has become a household name for Chianti. I tasted the 2007, which has typical forward fruit, moderate tannins, is easy-drinking and of course, has lovely Chianti typicity.

I also sampled their top two reds: the 2007 Mormoreto, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and the 2007 Montesodi. The first wine is quite ripe with black currant fruit and a hint of olive in the aromas with young tannins and the stuffing to age for 10-12 years (perhaps longer). The Montesodi is even better; this wine, a long-time favorite of mine is a 100% Sangiovese that is silky, flavorful and just beautifully made each year. This 2007 displays the richness of this vintage in Tuscany, while also offering a lot of finesse. While this is tempting to consume now, it will offer even greater pleasures in another 7-10 years, though given the track record of this wine, this bottling may indeed drink well for as long as another 15-20 years.


At Selvapiana, owner Federico Giuntini Masseti has helped elevate this estate into one of the most consistent from any Chianti district. The 2009 Chianti Rufina normale is a beauty, with textbook red cherry and currant fruit mingled with notes of allspice and cinnamon; it’s a lovely wine for the next 2-3 years. A step up in concentration is the 2007 “Vigneto Buerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva. Sourced from the estate’s best vineyard, which is 40 years old, this 100% Sangiovese has delicious red plum and red cherry fruit and polished tannins. It’s an elegant wine that is a joy to drink now and it will offer pleasure for another 7-10 years.

I also want to note the elegance of the wines from Colognole, a moderate-sized estate managed by Cesare Coda Nunziante. I was impressed by this man’s no-nonsense attitude and his down-to-earth manner; he is clearly not looking for high scores, but rather, he is after making the most typical wines he can from his vineyards. I tasted three vintages of his Chianti Rufina normale (2008, ’07 and ’06), with the ’06 showing the most complexity at this point, though the ’07 will eventually display greater complexities in a few years, while the ’08 is a lovely wine for current consumption. His Riservas are naturally bigger wines, yet they are quite elegant and thankfully, the oak is minimal while the acidity is nicely tuned; the 2007 is especially impressive.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the quality of the wines at Fattoria di Vetrice, a small estate run by the Grati family. These wines offer lovely varietal purity, very good acidity and an extremely delicate touch when it comes to wood. The regular Chianti Rufina 2008 is a tasty wine for consumption over the next year or two and has an elegant, lightly spicy finish. The riserva bottlings are extremely impressive, both the 2006 and especially the 2004; not only do they offer more depth of fruit as well as greater complexity, but the wines are impeccably balanced and display beautiful freshness. Too often I have tasted various riserva wines from various Chianti districts that are too over oaked; the result being that the fruit is muted in the aromas and on the palate with the wines having a slightly bitter edge to them. This is definitely not the case at Vetrice- these are wines that are a pleasure to drink and ones that superbly represent their terroir. For me, this is one of the finest estates in all of Chianti.

Gualberto Grati, Export Director, Fattoria di Vetrice (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


Finally, I want to note the 2004 Vin Santo from Grignano. Amber gold with aromas of almond and pear, this has excellent concentration, beautiful complexity and impressive persistence; the cleansing acidity gives the wine a dry finish. This has remarkable freshness for a 16 year old wine and yes, this is the current release of this wine from Grignano! It is a first-rate Vin Santo – complimenti to winemaker Barbara Tamburini!

Barbara Tamburini, winemaker, Fattoria di Grignano (Photo courtesy of Barbara Tamburini)


As I wrote at the beginning of this post, Chianti Rufina is a district that should be better known. There are several outstanding producers here and the overall quality of the wines is quite high. I’ll write soon about a wonderful restaurant named Mulino al Vento near Pontassieve that highlights the wines of the district and offers some of the best grilled meats and poultry I’ve tasted anywhere in Tuscany. Another reason to recommend Chianti Rufina!

February 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

The Districts of Chianti

Every wine lover knows Chianti, even if they don’t know exactly where this wine originates. In this post, I’d like to discuss the various districts of the Chianti zone in Tuscany.

Chianti Classico, the heart of the Chianti zone, between the cities of Florence and Siena, is the most famous of all Chianti districts. I will talk about the wines from here in a future post, but for today, I will be writing about the seven Chianti districts that have been unified under the Chianti Consorzio, all with similar laws on production of the wines.

The seven districts are as follows:

Chianti Colli Fiorentini

Chinati Colli Senesi

Chianti Colline Pisani

Chianti Colli Aretini

Chianti Rufina

Chianti Montalbano

Chianti Montespertoli

The districts are all named for a city or for a geographical area; thus Chanti Colli Fiorentini is the Chianti district in the hills of Florence, Chianti Colli Senesi refers to the hills of Siena and so forth. In each district, Chianti is made from a minimum of 75% Sangiovese, although current regulations do allow for a 100% Sangiovese in each district. Blended wines often contain other local red varieties, such as Colorino or Mammolo, but international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are allowed as part of the blend of these Chianti wines, as long as they do not exceeed 10% of the blend. Since 1967, all Chiantis made here that adhere to the regulations, may be labed as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).

Some of these districts are home to dozens of excellent producers (such as Chianti Classico Fiorentini and Senese), while others are rather small (Montespertoli and Pisane). In fact, it is becoming more difficult to find a Chianit Colline Pisane these days, as producers there are making more bottlings of proprietary wines than their regular bottlings of Chianti. The same holds true in Chianti Montalbano, as this is the area in which Carmignano, a DOCG Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend is produced. In each district though, producers can make a range of wines, from a simple Chianti to a Riserva; many also opt to make an IGT blend (known by many as Super Tuscans), made from local and/or international varieties.

The wines from these seven districts as a rule tend to be lighter than those from Chianti Classico, so they are easy drinking and quite approachable upon release. However, there are some excellent producers throughout these districts that craft some very special wines, ones that can age from 5-10 years. Among the most accomplished producers here, I would include Selvapiana and Frescobaldi (Chianti Rufina); Castelvecchio, Castello di Poppiano and San Michele a Torri (Chianti Colli Fiorentini); and Fattoria Sannino (Chianti Montespertoli).

Ferdinando Guicciardini, Castello di Poppiano (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Here are lists of some of the other leading producers in these districts:

Chianti Colli Fiorentini: Lanciola (this estate also produces Chianti Classico), Fattoria la Colombaia, Le Querce

Chianti Colli Senesi: Castello di Farnetella, Tenuta di Trecciano, Le Bertille, Villa Sant Anna

Chianti Montalbano:  Tenuta di Cappezzana, Ambra

Chianti Montespertoli: Fattoria Poggio Capponi, Tenuta Trecento, Tenuta Cortina e Mandorli

Chianti Colli Pisane: Badia di Morrona, Tenuta di Ghizzano

Chianti Rufina: Travagnoli, Villa di Vetrice, Renzo Masi

Chianti Colli Aretini: Mannucci Droandi, Villa a Sesta, Ruspante

One final note: Many of these producers also make the wonderful dessert wine, Vin Santo (“the wine of the saints” or “the holy wine”). This is generally made from the white varieties Trebbiano and Malvasia, which after harvest are laid on mats in a temperature controlled room to dry. After a few months, the grapes have shriveled, almost to the size of raisins and are then fermented in very small barrels called caratelli. The wine is then left to age in the caratelli for five years before being bottled. The resulting wine is amber gold in color with moderate sweetness and aromas and flavors of almond, dried honey, marzipan, butterscotch and sherry notes. This is a wine that is difficult and costly to produce and only the best versions still show a freshness upon release. Among all the producers in these Chianti districts, my favorite Vin Santo is made at Selvapiana.

October 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

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