Giovanna studied oenology herself and went to work in the mid 1980s for San Felice wines in Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena, on a project to plant around 300 traditional Tuscan grape varietals collected from old vineyards. When Giovanna’s father gave her a small farm with olive groves, called Le Boncie, she added a vineyard planted with her favorites from the experimental project – Sangiovese, obviously, but also Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Foglia tonda Mammolo and Prugnolo., The vineyard, planted to a very high density of 7000 vines per hectare and dedicated principally to Sangiovese (supplemented by a few rows of Fogliatonda and the others for blending), produces the definitive wine of the estate: “Le Trame”. Vineyard work is conducted according to the general principles of the biodynamic movement. Harvesting is by hand. Fermentation occurs in traditional open-topped wooden tanks. The elevage is long and tranquil with an occasional racking implemented to aerate the wine. Aging occurs in mid-size barrels; the wine is then left to age in bottle for at least six months prior to release. Thus, the normal rhythm results in the wine’s arrival in our cellars in New York not earlier than 30 months after harvest.
|Chianti Classico Le Trame: The beauty of Sangiovese is revealed here in its most pure form, unencumbered by manipulation of the wine during vinification and elevage and without exposure to new oak. The vineyard lies at an altitude of 300-350 meters; the average vine age is 15 years. The essential character of this wine can best be described as “ferociously elegant”. But, what appears to be an oxymoron is, in fact, the reality. There is a gracefulness to this wine, an impeccable balance, that belies the intense concentration reflected in its vigorous, ripe tannins. Annual production is approximately 1000 cases; we import between 25% to 30% of that amount for the US market.|
|“Il Cinque”: is the little brother/sister of “Le Trame” from Podere Le Boncie. Originally this wine was sold only at the winery and was essentially created from fruit of vines younger and/or less well-positioned. Recently, Giovanna Morganti acquired access to a vineyard 3 kilometers up the road from their house in San Felice, a hamlet of Castelnuovo Berardenga but just outside the Chianti Classico zone. This new parcel is 1.3 hectares with very rocky limestone soils facing south-southwest in a windy area that is good for the health of the vines—Sangiovese with two rows of Canaiolo. (Her 3-1/2 hectares in the Chianti Classico zone are planted to Sangiovese with a bit of Mammalo, Colorino and Fogliatonda—first vintage bottled was 1990.) With this additional fruit, the “Il Cinque” has taken on a more serious tone and, starting with the 2012 vintage, we have purchased a substantial portion of the production.|
The wine’s name “Cinque” recognizes the original composition of the wine, namely five grape types classic to the production of the finest Chianti Classico: principally Sangiovese with Colorino, Mammolo, Fogliatonda and Ciliegiolo completing the quintet. Recently, the wine is no longer composed strictly of the 5 grapes anymore, but Giovanna says the name also refers to the relative precociousness of the wine, thus a wine to “keep at hand” [5 fingers]. She also notes that grape vines have five leaves and flowers per bunch, that their house address is number 5, and that in Italian school you are graded one to ten, with five not quite passing [like a “C” or perhaps even a“D”!], so the wine is graded a 5 because it doesn’t make the cut for the noble cuvee “Le Trame”. All parts of a good story to justify this quirky name of “5” or “Cinque”.
The Cinque is fermented in steel and then spends one year in wood vats of varying sizes (5 to 30 hectoliters). It is then assembled in tank, left to rest for a bit, and finally bottled without fining or filtration.
Chianti Classico, Sangiovese, Castelnuovo Berardenga
We recently indulged ourselves with a trip into our past as experienced through several older vintages of Chianti Classico Riservas from Castell’in Villa, one of our first sources of superb Italian wine (and no longer part of our portfolio for a complex of reasons). Most specifically, we drank on separate occasions the 1988 and 1985 versions of Coralia Pignatelli’s formidable standard bearer. The drama of both of these wines, the profound depth, the regal bearing and the astonishing freshness that marked each vintage puts in stark relief the proposition that: Sangiovese, planted in its proper zone, is one of the most noble of grapes and, further, the hilly region immediately surrounding the village of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the southern tier of the Chianti Classico appellation is the region that showcases Sangiovese at its most compelling.
We are fortunate to have replaced Castell’in Villa in our portfolio with Giovanna Morganti’s “Podere Le Boncie”, far smaller in size but blessed, it would seem, with the same “terroir” as that of Castell’in Villa. Le Boncie’s vineyards are located in the hamlet of San Felice, just north of Castelnuovo Berardenga and minutes away from the vineyards of Castell’in Villa which sits within the limits of the hamlet of San Gusmé.
In both instances, the wines are produced virtually exclusively from the Sangiovese grape with perhaps a miniscule percentage of other local, autoctonous varieties. These are wines of structure with a significant tannic backbone that is cocooned within a muscular but truly elegant and athletic frame. Excuse me, please, for what might appear to be an excess of praise but the best of the wines from this pair of estates are equal to the finest red wines produced anywhere. The impeccable balance that marks these wines makes for a long horizon through which to view their evolution. At ten, twenty, even thirty years of age, I can assure you that these wines will provide a complete and satisfying experience. I have witnessed this phenonenon on multiple occasions with Castell’in Villa and I am certain that will prove to be the case with the wines of Podere Le Boncie. Here, in the humble appellation of Chianti Classico, one can find some of the greatest values in the world of wine.
All of which brings up the question: why was it ever necessary to indulge in the nasty pursuit of the “super Tuscan” wine? Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet … none of these “invaders” was ever necessary to produce important wine in this district; in fact, the presence of these imposters destroys the essence of the “terroir” that is best expressed through the oh-so-noble Sangiovese. Fortunately, the folly of this path has become evident. Sangiovese, certainly when planted and cared for in the hills around Castelnuovo Berardenga, needs no help in rendering wine of the most compelling nature.
NIR: 10 Feb 2013