Fontodi – The Best Chianti Classico from the 2004 Vintage

This year when I stopped by to see Giovanni Manetti at Vinitaly he explained that the 2004 vintage wines would be among the best vintages that he has ever experienced in Tuscany. The wines have excellent concentration as well as excellent definition and a classic structure making them excellent candidates for long term cellaring. I would have to agree as the 2004 Flaccianello is as good of a wine that I have ever tasted from Fontodi, but it is a wine that will require some patience. If you are looking for wines to drink today check out some of the older vintage wines we have from Fontodi on this offering the 1995 Chianti Classico Sorbo and the 2000 Flaccianello are both excellent right now. The Syrah is another favorite of ours we showed 6 vintages of this the last time we hosted a dinner with Giovanni and even the 1993 Syrah Case Vie was still in excellent shape.

A bit about Fontodi: In the beginning there were Fontodi bricks and tiles. The work comes from fonte di odo, which means a place rich with water. Brunelleschi’s Florentine cupola was restored with Fontodi tiles. Ancient and modern day Florentine homes use Fontodi tiles for decoration and for their natural warmth. The same family made the bricks that pave the Uffizi Galley in Florence. This family with the same hand and the same will has also been involved with the wine but for a shorter time. It was Maria, the mother, who took an active part in the winery. She first got the family interested in wine They purchased the winery in 1968, and by 1980 the had moved there from Panzano. It is a difficult land to farm but it yields some of the finest stone and clay for bricks, and tiles, but the finest oils and the most noble wines.

Today, Fontodi is one of the leaders in Chianti, their wines have consistenty impressed the critics; from the Gambero Rosso (the Italian wine bible), Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate (the American authority on wine), to The Wine Spectator (the most popular international wine/lifestyle publication), all of these publications have waxed poetic about the wines form this estate. The estate of Fontodi is on a hill just south of Panzano, from where you can look across the valley towards Rampolla and Cafaqqio. The gardens are full of Rosemary and in May the cuckoos are noisy. Since the Manetti family has owned the estate they have undertaken a major renovations of the vineyards. The young and talented owner, Giovanni Manetti, is one of the most far-sighted and intellectual grower-producers in all of Italy. His estate is enchanting, not only because of the villa where it is based is spectacularly beautiful, but also because Manetti has consistently made quality the first priority in all areas of the business, from rootstock, to trellising, to hiring the brightest mind in winemaking in all of Italy, Franco Bernabei. Franco has won more “Glasses” in Gambero Rosso than anyone in the history of the guide (the wineries for which Bernadei acts as consultant have totted up 36 three glass awards as of the 1999 printing of the guide). Manetti’s greatest attribute is his common sence and his commanding personality which makes others stand up and listen.

The winery focuses its efforts on six wines. Three Chianti’s, a Classico, a Riserva and a single vineyard wine called Vigna Del Sorbo. The flagship wine Flaccianello Della Piave, a 100% Sangiovese based wine coming form the vineyards surrounding the age-old parish church in Panzano. This wine is made with carefully controlled fermentation and strict temperature control during the initial stages. It is big and powerful wine yet retains a ripe, soft, seductive character. The only white produced here is named Meriggio, it is a blend of pinot bianco, sauvignon blanc and a small amount traminer grapes aged in small oak barrels. Fontodi also makes a Vinsanto, an Italian dessert wine, this is a blend of malvasia and sangiovese grapes which are naturally air dried on straw mats until December. After a soft pressing the wine is aged for four years in four different kinds of wood (oak, chestnut, cherry and juniper) in cask that vary also in age and capacity. This wine has a yellow-golden color and a delicate fragrance of honey and hazelnuts. On the palate it is dry, warm, fragrant but suitably soft.

Fontodi is probably best known for his Chianti’s. The Chianti Classico is a blend of sangiovese, caniolo and cabernet grapes – the product of traditional winemaking. The wine is aged for six months in oak barrels, it completes its its refinement in the bottle. It is a graceful, balanced, elegant, and stylish wine, but still easily to enjoy in its youth. The Chianti Classico Riserva comes form a selection of the finest grapes in Fontodi’s vineyards. It is aged in oak for 2-3 years where it acquires its finesse, smoothness and bouquet following 6-12 months of bottle aging. Soft and brambly on the nose with a delicate but firm style. This wine is typically a little hard in its youth, but promises to reward those with a few years of patience. The Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva is a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blended according to traditional methods and matured in small oak casks. This wine is full flavored and has garnered the coveted “Three Glass” award in vintages like 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1994.

By WineWatch

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