Chianti suffers from a profound identity crisis: at one extreme, an ocean of under-farmed, over-cropped wines riding on brand recognition and pretend-paisano authenticity; at the other, starched-shirt Super Tuscans with Bordeaux envy and appropriately aspirationalist pricing. The midfield is underpopulated, with a mere handful of traditional torchbearers attempting to do justice to this great and historical terroir; and even these often err on the side of staid conservativism.
Within this milieu, Giovanna Morganti and her four-hectare farm Le Boncie stand virtually alone. The daughter of an influential enologist, Giovanna pursued a similar path herself in the late 1980s, working for the highly visible San Felice estate in the hamlet of Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti. Encompassing 140 odd hectares, San Felice was then undertaking a massive project to plant and monitor over 300 native Tuscan grape varieties, a formidable task with which Giovanna was deeply involved.
A few years later, Giovanna’s father bestowed upon her a small three-hectare tract of land in Castelnuovo Berardenga—raw material upon which she could create her own winery, according to her own vision, from the ground up. There’s a beloved quote from the immortal jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker: “Master your instrument; master the music; then, forget all that s#*% and just play.” Indeed, rather than bringing to bear the orthodoxy of the schooled enologist on her new endeavor, Giovanna forged something deeply personal—built on the back of scrupulous viticulture and guided by a spirit of intelligent low-interventionism in the cellar.
Giovanna planted mostly Sangiovese—but also Colorino, Mammolo, Foglia Tonda, and Ciliegiolo (some of her favorites from the San Felice project)—at an ultra-high density of 7,000 plants per hectare in Le Boncie’s remarkably rocky alberese soil. She trained them in the ancient gobelet method, sacrificing productivity for expressiveness—“I get half the yield but twice the quality with gobelet,” Giovanna remarks—and ensuring herself an awful lot of manual labor. In the cellar, she favors long, natural fermentations in open-top wooden casks, and aging in non-flavor-contributing oak of Slavonian and Austrian origin.
Winegrowing on such an intimate scale is a rarity in Chianti. Beyond their unassailable philosophical and technical bona fides, Giovanna’s wines convey a generosity of spirit and sense of personality that confront the taster indelibly—an impression made all the more meaningful by how seldom one encounters such things in this particular region, voiced by these particular grape varieties. Much like Bordeaux, Chianti is a region we real-wine lovers know is great, yet which often underwhelms us; Le Boncie shows what it can be at its heartfelt artisanal best. We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant hold Giovanna’s wines in the highest regard—as some of the most special wines we import from all of Italy.
2017 “Le Trame” Toscana Rosso
Giovanna’s flagship wine—formerly a “Chianti Classico” but proudly a “Toscana Rosso” since she wearied of the red tape and exited the appellation in 2012—comprises almost entirely Sangiovese, head-trained and densely planted, with splashes of interplanted indigenous varieties (Colorino, Mammolo, Foglia Tonda, and Ciliegiolo). Fermented in open-top oak casks and aged in a combination of large botti and 500-liter barrels (all well used), “Le Trame” expresses powerful, punchy minerality and a purity of fruit—robustly healthy, untampered fruit—that soars from the glass. The 2017 was birthed from a rollercoaster vintage (frost, heat, drought) but drinks with silken grace, brimming with darkly dusty cherry fruit possessing a gently medicinal edge, and framed by bracing acidity and palate-cleansing freshness.
2018 “Cinque” Toscana Rosso
Giovanna calls her second wine “Cinque,” a dual reference to the five grape varieties planted at Le Boncie and to the Italian grading system, in which a 5 (out of 10) constitutes not quite passing (Giovanna is atypically and charmingly self-effacing for a Tuscan). Part comes from the non-gobelet-trained vines of her original three-hectare farm, and another part from a recently acquired 1.3-hectare parcel called “Chiesa Monte,” three kilometers from Le Boncie and just outside the limit of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Giovanna ferments “Cinque” in a combination of cement and steel, with a slightly briefer maceration than “Le Trame,” and ages it in large botti for roughly one year less than the flagship wine. The result is slightly less structured and gentler, but still deeply expressive of both the warm generosity of Castelnuovo Berardenga and of Giovanna’s caressingly pure style. 2018 was a rainy and relatively tough growing season, but one would never know if from this wine, which is lithe, supple, and open for business even at this youthful stage.