Marchesi Mazzei Launches Its New Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2015 In Arty Style…

It has long been apparent the excellent quality that Tuscan producers managed to harness with the 2013 vintage for wines from Chianti, Bolgheri and the Maremma. Indeed, it was one of the very few European premium wine regions that reached very high quality levels in 2013. While 2014 saw its challenges for Tuscany, 2015 returned with a bang to allow producers to make some astonishingly pretty wines. 

I recently had the opportunity to taste the impressive new Gran Selezione 2015 Chianti Classico from Marchesi Mazzei’s Fonterutoli estate in Tuscany. The success of this new vintage was put into context being tasted alongside the 2008, 2010 and the superb 2013 and paired with excellent food from the acclaimed Petersham Nurseries, a restaurant business owned by Giovanni Mazzei’s wife Lara Boglione’s family.

To complete the perfect setting, the wines were poured at the Petersham Nurseries‘ temporary Pop-Up Restaurant at the 2018 Frieze Art Fair in London... a suitably flamboyant venue for these delicious wines.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2008, 13.5 Abv.

Layered and opulent, the bouquet is starting to show subtle tertiary notes after 10 years age. Plenty of earthy stewed cherries, herbal spice, black plum, tannery leather, liquorice and aniseed root. Palate is plush and comfortably mellow, showing plenty of piquant sappy spice, cedar and pithy, stewed black berry fruits. Drinking well now, quite traditional in style, maturing nicely. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, 14 Abv.

Lovely smokey aromatics of incense, graphite, sweet grilled herbs, polished mahogany, tannery leather and earthy black plummy fruits. Pithy and piquant, there are subtle coffee bean notes, wood spice and creamy brûléed back berry nuances. Evolving nicely, drinking well now, but still plenty of life ahead. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Youthful and vibrant, the 2013 displays beautiful perfume of cherry blossom, violets, dried flowers, black cherry and smokey charcoal embers. Palate is super polished, vibrant and elegant with deliciously fresh acids, soft creamy tannins and a glitteringly pretty, elegant, vibrant textural finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, 14 Abv.

An altogether more opulent, dense, powerfully ripe expression from a very fine vintage in Tuscany. The aromatics are youthful and intense with lashings of black cherry confit, black plum, kirsch liqueur and salty cassis. The palate follows with a ripe, fleshy, intensely focused palate with high class tannin management, beautifully sweet mid palate fruit weight and a long, vibrant, concentrated finish that fans it’s tail with caramelised red cherry, black currant and sun raisined cranberry nuances. Fabulously delicious and eminently drinkable already.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Available to trade in the UK from importer Maison Marques et Domaines. 

Querciabella 2015 Raising The Quality Bar For Premium Chianti Classico…

South African winemaker Manfred Ing continues to make waves in Chianti’shire as he continually pushes the level of quality upwards across the entire range. But of course it’s the Chianti Classico red that is the main Estate wine and therefore the offering that receives the most close and critical assessment from wine reviewers and commentators with the release of each new vintage.

A 100% Sangiovese cuvee, the grapes used have been biodynamic since 2000 and organic since 1988. Averaged yields are approaching 35 hl/ha and the oak use is 100% French, 5% new with the remainder normally consisting of 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

Agricola Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv. 

Wonderfully bright ruby hue, this is a power packed, super distinguished juicy effort from a fantastic vintage in Gaiole, Tuscany. The aromatics are packed with sun raisined cranberries, aniseed root, sweet wood spice, wet tobacco, black cherry and dusty earthy clay notes. The palate ups the ante with an ultra generous texture, wonderful ripe red cherry fruit concentration, suave sweet tannins and an incredibly focused, creamy mineral laden finish. True class, impeccable proportions and fantastic balance. Drink from release or cellar for 8-10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The 2015 is an exceptional wine from an exceptional Tuscan vintage and probably the best new release Chianti Classico I can remember tasting from this winery. The signals are all looking good for the 2016s as well, so I look forward with great interest to see what young talent Manfred Ing can conjure up.

Joaquin Aglianico – Still Amazingly One of the Best Kept Fine Wine Secrets of Campania…

One of my most interesting winery visits of 2018 was a trip in June to Campania producer Joaquin Wines located in Montefalcione, Avellino, Italy. Whilst there, I tasted through owner / winemaker Raffaele Pagano’s entire current release range of vinous wonders as well as some true back vintage unicorns.

However, one wine that slipped the net and wasn’t reviewed in my winery report was the incredible new release red I Viaggiatori 2016 made from pure Aglianico. In fact the wine was tasted over dinner at our amazing outing with Raffaele to Pepe i Grani, the number one rated pizza restaurant in the world. So it’s time to revisit this superb Aglianico red expression …

Joaquin Aziende Agricole I Viaggiatori Aglianico 2016, Campania IGT, 13.5 Abv.

The wine is dark and impenetrable with a slight black cherry rim. But this is not a wild, untamed Campania expression of Aglianico, to the contrary, it has the most pure, intriguingly perfumed aromatics of violets, black cherry, saline cassis, maritime oyster shell nuances, black currant and striking salty liquorice. Like the nose, the hallmarks of the palate are incredible purity, salinity and an expertly crafted structure with tart mouth watering electric acids, tart boiled black currant pastille fruits expertly balanced by seamless sweet tannins and a searing black berry concentration with a hint of cherry cola, smokey reduction and ashy complexity on the persistent finish. An incredible interpretation of old vine Aglianico from a top vintage with a harmony and finesse rarely seen with this variety. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Gaja Barbaresco 2015 – Quite Simply the Most Impressive New Release Gaja Barbaresco Expression Tasted in Over a Decade….

Gaja’s Barbaresco is a truly magnificent wine and needs no introduction. A firm favourite amongst collectors, it is produced from fourteen unique vineyard sites in the commune of Barbaresco and offers an incredible insight into the brilliance of Gaja’s Nebbiolo wines. Extremely complex and refined, it is aged in barrels for twelve months before being blended together and matured for a further twelve months in large oak casks. A wine which is normally approachable relatively young, the 2015 will definitely improve for 10+ years and age well over two decades.

Antonio Galloni says that the “warm growing season yielded supple, radiant Barbarescos.” Following a mild winter and a protracted and damp spring, which replenished the water tables, temperatures rose steadily in July and August. The vines responded well, a result in part of the many innovations introduced in the vineyards in recent years by the Gaja family. Ideal weather conditions before the harvest allowed the grapes to ripen quickly and evenly producing perfectly ripe fruit with exceptionally regular bunches.

Widely regarded as an outstanding vintage with great promise, 2015 has broader shoulders with richer flavours than the previous vintage combined with “intense aromas and lovely energetic fruit” according to Gaia Gaja.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2015, 14 Abv.

This has always been one of Gaja’s greatest wines as well as greatest value wines. But dispensing with commercial intricacies, this wine has also always been the perennial over performer out punching many Crus (even from Gaja) in blind tastings. The aromatics suggest something grand and complex, something more profound than your average year, and in 2015, that is exactly what this wine delivers. Elegantly perfumed, very precise and pure, with a beautifully perfumed bouquet of crunchy red cherry, freshly plucked rose petals, violets and exotic spices. Quite reticent and restrained, more in the mould of knowing it is great without having to shout about it. On the palate, there is power and depth, concentration and density of fruit, with layers of red cherry, blueberry, sour red plum and piquant, grippy chalky natural grape tannins. There is plenty of energy here, power and intensity, all as you’d expect from a warm powerful vintage in Piedmont. This is an a impressive addition to the Gaja Barbaresco archive and one you should probably look to start drinking in 3 to 5 years and cellar for 20+. A very impressive wine indeed.

(Greg Sherwood MW –  95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting with the great Angelo Gaia at the winery.

Ornellaia Delivers One of Their Greatest Vintages Ever on Their 30th Anniversary – Tasting the Ornellaia 2015 Bolgheri Superiore…

Ornellaia is a Super Tuscan of international acclaim that is arguably one of the world’s most collectible wines. An uncompromising attention to detail is a mantra by which wine maker Axel Heinz lives. Where Sassicaia often tends to reflect a character of greater minerality and elegant restraint, coming across almost Pinot Noir-like in some years, Ornellaia is boldly more opulent and hedonistic without ever over stepping the mark.

The 2015 vintage of Ornellaia, which marks its 30th vintage anniversary, is without doubt one of the great Ornellaia vintages. I thought I would repost my specific Ornellaia 2015 note on this epic wine as it was perhaps a bit lost in my longer post featuring the Vendemia d’Artista banquet in London.

After the unusual 2014, the 2015 vintage proved to be very regular, almost “textbook” like. After a normal, rainy, mild winter, with just a couple of days with temperatures below zero, the budding arrived on time in the first days of April. Spring was characterized by dry and sunny weather, ideal conditions for a regular vegetative development that culminated in a fast and complete blooming at the end of May.

Winemaker Axel Heinz describing the vintage

Starting in June, water stress gradually became an issue. July will be remembered as particularly scorching and dry, with maximum temperatures that exceeded 30°C every single day of the month. The heat, combined with the absence of rains, raised the spectre of an interruption in the ripening process and possibly an early harvest. Luckily rain came around the 10th of August, with abundant precipitation allowed the grapes to continue ripening, also bringing a much cooler weather during the final stages.

This cool yet sunny weather persisted throughout the harvest, allowing Ornellaia to pick very slowly, waiting for every vineyard to arrive at the perfect point of ripeness, combining a fresh and lively aromatic quality with a perfect phenolic maturation with abundant yet silky and soft tannins. Harvest began on the 29th of August with the Merlot, and ended on the 12th of October with the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

Tenuta dell Ornellaia 2015, Bolgheri Superiore, Toscana, 14 Abv.

Intense broody dark fruited nose brimming with black cherry, crushed gravel and graphite spice. But the minerality of this superb, glamorous, opulent vintage does not outweigh or over power the incredibly intense perfume of lavender, violets and cherry blossom. The underlying note on the palate is dark fruited, powerful and structured with vibrant black tart cherry acidity, suave fleshy textural concentration and the most seductive, complex finish of pithy black cherry, liquorice stick, graphite and chalky tannin spice. A very serious effort, showing great generosity, power, intensity and gravitas. This has the credentials to age for 2 to 3 decades, and the potential to be a future Bolgheri Ornellaia legend.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

One of the Great Names of Chianti Producing Some Very Impressive Wines – Tasting with Francesco Ricasoli…

Having just returned from Tuscany and Campania, it was lovely to have Francesco Ricasoli pop in and show me his new vintages. The Ricasoli family has been linked with winemaking since 1141, with the original “blending recipe” for making wines in the Chianti region invented by Baron Bettino Ricasoli or the Iron Baron.

From the estate’s 5 main soil types, grapes are harvested for 230 micro-vinifications, with my favourite often being the Colledilà. Together with their own vineyard yeasts which they have just had isolated and cultured, Ricasoli is making some very expressive wines from around Gaiole.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv.

After the excellent 2013 from Baron Ricasoli, the Colledilà 2015 ups the intensity somewhat being even more exciting and impressive. The fruit from this 7.5 hectare vineyard plot was not bottled into Colledilà in 2012 or 2014. On the nose, the 2015 shows a wonderful exotic perfume of cranberry cordial, red crystallised maraschino cherries, lavender, parma violets and a delicate pink musk fragrance. Thoroughly seductive and alluring. The palate expresses a brisk steely linearity and precision, revealing the true characteristics of the vineyard’s marl limestone soils, bringing extra brightness, fresh acidity and an intense minerality. The texture is ultra sleek and harmonious, pin point and taut with delicious red cherry and black currant fruit nuances, aniseed root, fennel seeds and a pronounced piquant graphite spice on the finish. Superbly balanced and focused in the mouth, this wine shows class with power, intensity and purity. Already drinking so beautifully, a few more years in bottle will bring added tertiary complexity and allow this pure Sangiovese to unwind a little.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Vinous Exploration into the Old Vine Wines of Campania, Italy – Tasting the Fascinating Wines of Joaquin Winery…

In a small and beautiful town called Montefalcione, located in the Campania region of southern Italy, lies the winery of Joaquin, built in 1999 and known for two of the greatest DOCG wines produced in the area: Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico Taurasi.

Raffaele Pagano, the colourful owner of Joaquin Wines first produced his own “non-family winery” wines in 2006 and ever since has been very clear about what he wants to achieve… “To me, it’s all about finding the right grape that is matched to the right soil. I decided to look for authentic vineyards to grow local grapes, which I think is how everyone should do it.”

According to Raffaele, each of his wines are supposed to be unique with low production volumes resulting in focused, characterful, expressive, individual high end wines with great texture, terroir nuances and complexity.

Owner and winemaker Raffaele Pagano

Originally from a famous Salerno based winemaking family that has more than 250 years of winemaking heritage, Raffaele decided to go it alone and established the Joaquin winery founded on a mission to become the flag bearer for one of the great wines of Campania, the Fiano, starting from a meticulous study and selection of antique, pre-phylloxera vineyards in the area of Lapio and Montefalcione, regarded as the original habitat for this variety. Since 1999, Raffaele has been working tirelessly to create an expression of Fiano which is the quintessence of the terroir of Lapio, with a purebred typicity that is different from the other Fiano wines produced from the local area.

Old vine Fiano vineyards of Joaquin

His winemaking model has also been applied to other varieties, creating a unique production philosophy which has come to characterize the Joaquin brand. With the motto “with each new vintage, a new project,” only the best wines which excel in a given vintage are produced and bottled, a philosophy which can lead to some cuvees not being produced for 2 or 3 consecutive vintages.

Probably the most unique 1.2 hectares of up to 200 year old Aglianico vines used for the Joaquin Taurasi DOCG Riserva.

The Joaquin winery also hand crafts unique wines on the beautiful and prestigious island of Capri, located off the coast of Sorrento. Here they perform what Raffaele likes to call “triage viticulture” … the recovery of indigenous varieties and the meticulous restoration of small, local vineyards, a project in which JOAQUIN DALL’ISOLA (Joaquin from the island) wines strive to safeguard the few vines left on the island, with varietals like Greco, Falanghina, Biancolella and the local “Ciunchesa” (an antique clone of Greco) being bottled, usually together as a white blend.

Over two fascinating days, I trawled many of the multiple vineyard sites Raffaele owns or contracts for the various Joaquin wines. It must be said, I encountered some of the oldest and most fascinating historical vineyards I have seen throughout Europe. With a dry, warm Mediterranean climate, vines in some secluded vineyards have managed to slumber their way past 250 years of age.

It seems only fitting that one of the most passionate, colourful, eccentric and generous winemakers should use these very rare, old vines to craft incredibly unique, boutique but thoroughly authentic natural expressions. While Raffaele remains an unashamed dreamer, the quality he has achieved with his profound Joaquin range of wines is very much a reality. Seek them out and indulge in these fascinating Campania whites and reds.

(Available in the UK from Woodwinters and throughout the EU from Classico)

Tasting at the Joaquin Winery:

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2017, Campania, 12 Abv.

(1,700 bottles) Field blend of Greco, Fananghina, Biancolella and Ciunchesa. A striking, lifted nose showing intense savoury pear purée, tangerine peel, briney maritime notes, banana rock candy and attractive orange blossom complexity. There is a very fine sleek texture, fleshy, creamy round mouthfeel and a very vibrant salinity. Quite light on its feet, but displays impressive acidity and a long savoury, yellow stone fruit finish. Very young but a great terroir expression. Give this time or drink with food.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Joaquin dall’Isola Bianco 2009, Campania, 12 Abv. (Produced only in Magnum)

Deep dark yellow straw, the aromatics are exotic and complex, revealing tertiary notes of truffle, grain meal, bruised yellow orchard fruits, baking herbs, waxy green apple and savoury creamy peachy fruits. Round, fleshy and full in the mouth, this wine shows a riper vintage character with softer acids, pithy herbal green tea spice and a long, unctuous finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Joaquin Iviaggi Aglianico Bianco 2006, Campania, 13.47 Abv. (2,300 bottles)

Aged 5 months in acacia oak, this was the last bottle of Raffaele’s first vintage of Joaquin. Superbly complex nose with herbal candied gooseberry notes, dried Seville oranges, pithy marmalade, orange cordial and exotic peach tea nuances. Similar in many ways to a dry botrytis white with a delicious hard toffee sweets character, peach tea, orange pastille, and grapefruit marmalade, all framed by incredibly vibrant, fresh crunchy green fruit acids. It teases the senses, plays with the palate, enchants and seduces without any trickery, just with its innate complexity and terroir expression embellished by the passage of time.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Joaquin Piante A Lapio Fiano Bianco 2012, IGT Campania, 13.5 Abv.

100% Fiano from 80 to 100+ year old vines. Natural yeast ferment, then aged in chestnut oak for 10 months with a natural flor cap developing as barrels are not topped up. The nose is exotic and complex with aromatics of grilled herbs, fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, savoury pork fat with youthful pithy yellow orchard fruits peeking out from beneath. The palate follows suit with incredible intensity and concentration with massive saline, peppery honied lemon peel depth, baking herbs and orange pastille sweets. A very profound expression with inspired winemaking and exceptional Old Vine fruit. A wine that pushes boundaries and challenges the mind and palate.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2010, Campania, 15.10 Abv.

100% Aglianico grapes with 30 days post fermentation maceration on skins in 500 litre barrels. The colour is comparable to a 2010 Gevrey Chambertin with a fine translucent garnet character on the rim. The nose is multi-faceted and complex with enticing notes of coffee granules, salty liquorice, stewed black berries, black cherry and subtle savoury notes of balsamic drizzled over bresaola. On the palate there is incredible power, freshness and definition with textural layers of brûléed coffee beans, black liquorice, grilled herbs and baking spices merging synergistically, underpinned by gravelly, basalt mineral tannins. A whole lot of wine packed into a bottle. Fabulous with food, perfect for ageing and drinking beautifully with 8 years of age… and it’s only the estate’s current release.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The unique unicorn wine that is the Buona Morte Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2009 red, as yet unlabelled.

Joaquin Taurasi Riserva DOCG Buona Morte 2009, Campania, 15.3 Abv.

100% Aglianico fruit from vines up to 200+ years old from the village of Paternopoli. Aged 30 days on skins post fermentation and then aged for 8 years in one 225 litre barrique without any topping up. The wine has the colour of a 10 year old Barolo and the complex, tertiary aromatics of blood oranges, cognac spice, grilled herbs and a bold lick of raspberry balsamic savoury depth. There is VA lift in a Chateau Musar meets traditional Cru Barolo style but the wine’s stability keeps its integrity in check. As Raffaele says, ‘there is no power without control’, and this wine exemplifies his philosophy of long ageing of terroir-driven old vine fruit combined with winemaking knowhow. The finish is unctuous, glycerol and almost sweet, with seductive length and power. Profound on so many levels. Only 150 bottles due for first release in 2019.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Church of the Venerabile Confraternita della Buona Morte that lends its name to the Joaquin Taurasi Riserva Prestige Cuvee red DOCG.

http://www.joaquinwines.com