“Great producers make great wines even in tough vintages”: it’s almost a cliché at this point, but few prove that as forcefully as the legendary Montevertine estate in Radda-in-Chianti. Montevertine as we know it today began back in 1967, when Milanese steel magnate Sergio Manetti acquired the property as a summer home. Within a few years, and with the help of a beloved local named Bruno Bini who was born and raised at Montevertine, he began producing wine from the farm’s enviably situated high-altitude vineyards and experienced virtually immediate success and acclaim. From the outset, Sergio was an ardent proponent of Sangiovese, and felt that the then-required presence of Trebbiano only compromised Chianti’s ability to express a sense of place—especially in such a refined terroir as Radda. When regulations finally relaxed to allow Chianti Classico to be Trebbiano-free, Montevertine had long since abandoned the DOCG, and the wines have thus been classified as “Rosso di Toscana” since 1981—although, ironically, they are (and always have been) among the most pure and complex expressions of Chianti to be found. Sergio passed away in 2000, and his son Martino has held the reins since his death, changing virtually nothing about the steadfastly low-tech, traditional processes from which the wines are birthed.
Three wines are produced from the estate’s eighteen hectares: the flagship “Montevertine Montevertine,” the slightly more straightforward and younger-drinking “Pian del Ciampolo,” and the estate’s crown jewel, “Le Pergole Torte,” widely regarded as one of the greatest red wines in all of Italy. The early vintages of Pergole Torte were mostly but not entirely Sangiovese, sourced from a single particularly well-situated plot on the property, but the wine evolved over time to represent the estate’s best and oldest vines of Sangiovese in purezza. Pergole Torte reaches its Olympian heights of expressiveness not via technological trickery but through impeccable vineyard management and natural, low-intervention cellar work. Only wood and concrete are used at Montevertine—never stainless steel. Pergole Torte is vinified in concrete, then aged one year in large, fifty-hectoliter Slavonian oak casks, followed by a second year in smaller, almost entirely used French barrels of Allier origin. The wines are moved via gravity only, and they have never been yeasted, thermo-regulated, or filtered—the kind of winemaking that announces its naturalness not in broad, obvious strokes but in the wine’s spine-tingling sense of purity.
In mid-February, Rosenthal Wine Merchant will receive our yearly allotment of the iconic Pergole Torte. The 2014 growing season was a notoriously tough one in Tuscany, which makes the arrestingly beautiful nature of the ’14 Pergole Torte all the more impressive in context. In fact, Martino Manetti remarked to us that it is among his favorite Pergole Torte in the past two decades—a wine more in the “old style” than some of the more muscular versions our ever-warming climate has produced as of late, and a wine that—poignantly—reminds him of the father he loved and admired so much. Having had the fortune to taste so many vintages of this enchanting wine over the table with Martino and his family over the years, we have to agree.
2014 Montevertine “Le Pergole Torte”
Harvest didn’t finish until the 19th of October in 2014—very late even in this relatively cool zone of Chianti Classico—and the summer was plagued by an excess of rain and ailments in the vineyards. However, although the ’14 Pergole Torte is not as rich and powerful as it can sometimes be, the challenges of the season are nowhere to be found in the final product. The most striking aspect of this lithe, open-hearted version of Pergole Torte is perhaps its resonance—in the absence of chubby young fruit taking up bandwidth, the bright, clean, mineral-drenched flavors ring out with chime-like clarity, creating an impression of thrilling energy and unstoppable kinesis on the palate. That said, the telltale savory whisper of young Pergole Torte is plainly evident, and the less-assertive tannins of the vintage allow for an early accessibility rare for this notoriously long-lived wine. You can find Pergole Torte that are bigger than the ’14, but you would be hard-pressed to find one more gorgeous.