Tasting Notes: ‘Italian Whites and Chianti’, presented by Rob Caswell, Solent Cellar, Lymington, 28 February 2018

Cantina Andriano Pinot Bianco Finado & Cantina Terlano Pinot Grigio

We are starting with two whites side by side to demonstrate one of the key elements of terroir, vineyard aspect. Cantina Terlan and Cantina Andriano are based on opposite sides of the same Alpine Valley with the river Adige flowing through it in Alto Adige, Northern Italy.

 This area is also known as Süd Tyrol as it has been part of Austria historically. The area is still fairly Germanic, you can see these traditions in their wine making down to the shape of the bottle for these wines, the Riesling Flute shape. There are also Germanic grape varieties, Gewurztraminer, Muller-thurgau.

Cantina Terlano cooperative was established in 1893. Before this landowners were the dominant force in winemaking,  then 24 Terlano growers joined together. Andrianon and Terlano then merged in 2008.

The valley runs from NW to SE, with Terlano on the Northern side, with a SW aspect. Cantina Andriano is on the south side, with a NE aspect. Terlano then gets much more sunshine and importantly the warm afternoon sun.

This is reflected in these wines, both are their entry level wines.

Terlano – Ripe PG, in more of a Pinot Gris style rather than PG.

Andriano – Higher acidity, lighter style.

 

Robert Sarotto Gavi di Gavi

We head south west for the next wine to Southern Piemonte. Gavi di Gavi (aka Cortese di Gavi) is a famous white wine DOCG zone in Piedmont, Italy. The 1,200-hectare vineyard area surrounds the city of Gavi itself, which is 50km inland from Genoa.

Cortese, Piedmont’s finest white grape, is at the heart of Gavi di Gavi and is distinguished by its crisp, floral, peachy, aromatic qualities.

Located close to the town of Gavi, in the frazione Zerbetta, at 260 metres above sea level on ancient Miocene sedimentary marne/tufo soils that are identical to those found in the Langhe to the north, Roberto & Aurora Sarotto’s 12ha Tenuta Manenti estate is perfectly placed to grow exquisite Cortese grapes for their fine Gavi del Comune di Gavi wines; the nutrient poor white soils focussing Cortese’s energy into the fruit, not the leaves.

 

Lorenzo Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi  Classico ‘Le Oche’

We now head to central Italy on the Western coast, the opposite side of the boot  to Tuscany. The area here is called Marche, with Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi considered the finest area for white wine in a region more noted for bulk wine then quality. It was granted DOCG status in 2008.

DOC/DOCG discussion

DOCG- Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita 

DOC- Denominazione d’Origine Controllata

IGP- Indicazione Geografica Tipica

Verdicchio from this area has a lovely nuttiness. This cuvee is aged for 15 months in concrete, which offers a relatively neutral vessel for the wine to mature.

 

Reds

Our focus here will be on wines from Chianti Classico and a wine from Maremma, a coastal region of Tuscany to the South West of Chianti Classico. The key thread with the wines is that they are all based around the key grape in Tuscany, Sangiovese.

The key thing with Sangiovese is that all of the key traditional fine wines in Tuscany are based on this grape including: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano . The role of Super-Tuscans  in breaking the hegemony of Sangiovese is interesting as well. Ended up redefining DOCGs

The region of Chianti originally extended between the cities of Florence and Siena. It was in 1716 that Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, officially defined the production zone of Chianti wine. This gradually sprawled further. So in 1932 they added a layer of complexity to the labelling by allowing 7 areas outside of the traditional Chianti Classico region to affix their name to Chianti, a well known example of this is Chianti Ruffina.

 

Le Fonti ‘La Lepre Delle Fonti’

Le Fonti are part of the Panzano Viticulture Union. We will be tasting two wines from another member, Rignana as well.

This union organises the Panzano wine festival every September, and also shares sustainable vineyard practices and all partners farm organically.

This is their house wine, served at the Fattoria at the vineyards. Made from fruit from their younger vines, they blend 85% Sangiovese with 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine spends 8 months in French oak, so below the minimum 1yr for a Chianti Classico release, so the wine is released as Toscana IGP. Named after the hares and rabbits of the vineyards.

 

Valdonica Arnaio

This made in Maremma, coastal Tuscany. The vineyards were established by an Englishman, Tom Manning, their first wine was produced in 2008. These vineyards are at 500m above sea level. They are organic as well.

The Arnaio is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Ciliegiolo. Ciliegiolo is one of the grandparent varietals to Sangiovese, though some claim it is an offspirng of sangiovese!

The wine spends 18 months in barriques, with 10% of the barrels new.

 

Rignana Chianti Classico and Classico Reserva

For Chianti Classico the wine must be made of at least 80% Sangiovese. The grape that makes up the blend can be international varieties, but they must be grown in the area. Traditionally they used Caniaolo or Colorino, (two native grapes), but often use international varieties now.  Historically Chianti was quite different as they could use high yield white grapes to bulk out the wine, up to 30% Malvasia or Trebbiano. Top producers brought pressure on to the consortium to change, began releasing the top wine as IGP or just Vino! This was part of the Super-Tuscan phenomenon, the use of international varietals to make wines more familiar to overseas drinkers. A by-product of this more international varities are grown in Chianti. Rignana produce a 100% Merlot!

Some top Chianti-producers also release their top wine as a 100% Sangiovese from the top vineyards under the IGP label. These typically see more new oak and need more ageing.

The Classico must have a minimum of 1 year in barrel, whilst the  Riserva must have 2 yrs in barrel. The Riserva was the top category for Chianti producers, but there is now a category in Chianti Classico  of Gran Selezione, which requires 30 months in barrel.

The Classico is 85 % Sangiovese and 15% Canaiolo. It is aged in 3rd use oak barriques.

The Riserva is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Franc. Aged for 24 months in 1st and 2nd use barriques.