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MWG March 8th tasting (5/5): Jove’s blood

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Located a few kilometres east-northeast of Siena, Fattoria di Fèlsina straddles the border between the Chanti Colli Senesi and southern Chianti Classico appellations. The estate is experimenting with biodyanism but has not sought certification. Castello di Fonterutoli, which is part of the Mazzei group, is located entirely in the southern Chianti Classico appellation, a few kilometres more distant from Siena and in a north-northwesterly direction. Besides their proximity, the estates share other similarities: both are around 600 ha in size, have around 100 ha given over to grape cultivation, also produce olive oil and are widely viewed as being among Chianti’s elite producers.

IGT Toscana 2007, Fontalloro, Fattoria di Fèlsina ($55.75, 11269419)
100% Sangiovese from the Fontalloro or Poggio al Sole vineyard in Chianti Classico (rocky limestone and clay with some shale) and the Casalino and Arcidossino vineyards in Chianti Colli Senesi (sandy, loamy and silty). The manually harvested grapes are rigorously sorted, destemmed and pressed. Fermentation is temperature controlled (c. 29ºC) and followed by 16 to 20 days’ maceration, with daily punch-downs and pump-overs. Malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats. The wine is matured 18 to 22 months in new and second-vintage oak barrels, then blended and bottled. Bottle-aged eight to 12 months before release. 14.5% ABV.
Cherry, terracotta, sun-baked earth, graphite, sawed wood, tobacco, sandalwood, cedar. Rich, complex, elegant. Intense and substantial yet so balanced, the high alcohol not at all apparent. Perfectly structured. Savoury. The finish is long and deep. A flawless wine. Delicious now and for years to come. (Buy again? If you can scrape together the bucks, yes.)

Chianti Classico 2008, Castello Fonterutoli, Marchesi Mazzei ($46.75, 11494481)
The estate’s flagship wine, introduced in the 1995 vintage. Technically a riserva, though there’s noting on the label to that effect. Sangiovese (85%) with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sourced from 50 different parcels. The hand-picked grapes are fermented at c. 29ºC, then macerated for 5 to 18 days. Matured 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new. Bottle-aged 18 months before release. 14% ABV.
Similar to the Fontalloro but more leathery and plummier, more Chianti-like. Gained dried herb and wood notes as it breathed. Rich and smooth, the fruit both elegant and earthy. Layered and beautifully delineated, not too mention well proportioned. Long, woody (not oaky) finish. Impressive. (Buy again? Yes.)

Chianti Classico Riserva 2007, Rancia, Fattoria di Fèlsina ($38.25, 10268529)
100% Sangiovese from the 6.25 ha Rancia vineyard located entirely in the Chianti Classico DOC. The manually harvested grapes are rigorously sorted, destemmed and pressed. Fermentation is temperature controlled (c. 29ºC) and followed by 16 to 20 days maceration, with daily punch-downs and pump-overs. Malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats. The wine is matured 16 to 18 months in new and second-vintage oak barrels, then blended and bottled. Bottle-aged six to eight months before release. 13.5% ABV.
Cherry, plum, slate/graphite dust, Asian spice, blond tobacco. Smooth, suave and impeccably balanced. Shot through with tannins and acidity, a lode of savoury fruit and minerals runs from the attack through the long finish. Remarkably pure. (Buy again? Unhesitatingly.)

Chianti Classico 2010, Fonterutoli, Marchesi Mazzei ($25.70, 00856484)
Nine-tenths Sangiovese with Malvasia Nera, Colorino and Merlot making up the balance. The fruit is sourced from five estate-owned vineyards. The hand-picked grapes are fermented at c. 29ºC, then macerated for 16 to 18 days. Matured 12 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. 12.5% ABV.
Surprisingly profound nose dominated by leather, minerals and black cherry. Smooth, dapper and pure in the mouth. Sweet fruity for a Chianti, though not in a New World way, thanks largely to the bright acidity, sharp-edged tannins and lingering bitter minerals. Solid. (Buy again? Yes.)

Tuscan Sangioveses often come across as austere and unsmiling at tastings; conventional wisdom is that they need food to show their mettle. But these four wines had the entire table mmming from the get-go. Yes, with their French oak and Merlot and up-front fruit, they’re modern. Yet they also succeed in being true to their roots, in being about much more than just fruit, in maintaining a sense of proportion and a sense of place.

Another interesting thing about the flight was how clearly the wines’ prices – around $25, $35, $45 and $55 – reflected their absolute quality, with each $10 seeming to bring an extra layer of depth or an added dimension.

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Written by carswell

March 24, 2013 at 10:52

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