A Tuscan Hotbed

Between Wine&Siena in January, and the Tuscan anteprima medley in February, things  really heat up here in Tuscany in the wintertime.

Beautiful hues of the new vintages

I have tasted my heart out at Chianti Lovers, Chianti Classico Collection, skipping  Benvenuto Brunello (where it seems it was rather hard to get in this year) and the Vino Nobile anteprima in Montepulciano. I managed to do DOC Orcia, the up-and-coming wine-to-watch and drink!

Tasting room at San Quirico d’Orcia

And I will head off to Umbria for the Montefalco anteprima tomorrow. And then I will load up on whitening toothpaste, because these are reds that really pack a punch!


The tasting table at the Leopolda was laden with bottles ranging from the new vintage of Chianti Classico, then the Riserva, and finally the Gran Selezione. If you don’t remember what makes them different, see my report on last year’s anteprima.

The question I want to ask is: Did you ever stop to think just how prolific Sangiovese is? And how it is able to express itself in so many myriad ways? Whether it’s called Prugnolo gentile, Brunello, Morellino – what is in a name? A Sangiovese by any other name would taste as full-bodied and tannic… What I want to know is, how do they distinguish one from the other? I mean, nicknames aside, I want to see these little fellas on the vine! I want to see why Brunello is Sangiovese grosso and what they mean by Sangiovese piccolo. And you know the origin of the word Sangiovese, right? Sangue di Giove – or Jove’s blood.

There were no lines, no crowds, no one bumping to get in last Tuesday in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. Could it have been that weirdly menacing Black Rooster in a suit that greeted you at the entrance?

Not sure what that was all about, but seeing the cartoon-y rooster dressed in a man’s suit was a rather questionable marketing decision.

Is it me, or is that spooky? The unmistakable black rooster symbol is what marks a Chianti Classico, the Gallo Nero, which you can see in the center in its more sober stylized form.

In terms of effective and memorable displays, the entrance hall did offer a beautiful array of glass bowls containing all the kinds of aromas one might find in a good Chianti Classico.

Whether it’s chocolate, coffee, spices, or small red berries, or marmelade, or violets, roses and other floral or herbal scents, these sniffing bowls allowed visitors a chance to hone their noses before heading in for the main event.

Lots of rotund shapes and explanations – wine education is always a good thing!

Getting down to business, I had my dedicated sommelier bring me the vintages to taste.

Professional and multilingual, he poured away as I shifted those senses into gear, taking notes on what I saw, smelled and finally tasted.

I’d say overwhelming, but somehow it wasn’t. I limited myself to trying 15 wines, five Chianti Classico, five Riserva, 5 Gran Selezione. Turn on a fan, because there’s a lot of heat in these wines… between the tannins and the alcohol, my tastebuds were begging me for mercy! Special mention goes to: Volpaia, San Giusto a Rentennano, Il Tarocco, San Iacopo da Vicchimaggio, Renzo Marinai Gran Selezione.

Big, persistent, at times complex, with that unmistakable, distinctive character… All you expect of a Chianti Classico and then some, as more recent vintages acquire an elegance their grandfathers never knew.

Yours truly with President of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macìe

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