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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Querciabella Chianti Classico

Italy (Tuscany)

sangiovese (95%), cabernet sauvignon

This past week my drinking terroir turned cold. Winter crept in with unremitting, bitter satisfaction, despite the flashes of heavenly beauty. Europe, too, has been caught off guard. At least we in Canada have snow tires and wisdom derived from the yearly plunge into the deep freeze.

When I took these pictures overlooking St John’s (I didn’t lie, it does have ‘one of the best natural harbours in the world’), the wind chill was nothing short of minus 20C.

It called for warmer memories. It called for the memories of the heat of a candle dripping coloured wax down the sides of a straw covered bottle. It called for memories of the aftermath of that bottle.

Ah, but chianti has shrugged off its adolescence. No longer the stuff of college dorms and cheap Italian restaurants. Chianti has matured.

Wine lovers now give it serious attention. And Querciabella’s chianti has grown into one of the very best.

Look for the black rooster (gallo nero) around the neck of the bottle. That will distinguish it as chianti classico. The rooster as symbol goes back seven centuries, to a time of particularly intense rivalry over the ownership of the lands between the cities of Florence and Siena, where the chianti vineyards are to be found. Gallo nero outfoxed his white rival and lent his profile to chianti history.

Italians would never think of consuming their chianti without food. And for very good reason. It is superbly food-friendly, which in this case means tomato-based sauce over fried eggplant, with parmesan and basil, what Antonio Carluccio’s cookbook calls ‘Milinciani alla Parmigiana.’ Wonderful. The acidity of the tomato and the chianti in perfect balance.

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2006

Foodless, it has its charms. Noteworthy among them the refinement of style. Contained rustic. This is a wine that has been crafted without losing the essence of chianti. It maintains its roots. Fine-grain tannins, a dry savouriness speaking of polished extraction. It earns respect. It is not showy or oak-headed. It just feels right. With food it excels. Eat and drink, and eat and drink some more. No wonder it was Italians who came up with chianti. At the time they were probably leaning over cooking pots, sipping tomato sauce from the end of a wooden spoon.  $$

Three generations of the wine-making family: Querciabella’s founder, Giuseppe Castiglioni (1926-2003), son Sebastiano Castiglioni, and young Orlando. Giuseppe restored an ancient estate in the 1970s, and by 1999 it had turned biodynamic, at a time when the movement was largely unknown. The role of nature is at the forefront of the thinking here. Work with the soil is inevitably the starting point. A new plot begins with the planting of herbs and root crops to establish microbiological balance. Manual labour is the order of the day. In the winery can be found the best of equipment, but what nature delivers is gently allowed to find its expression. Bravo.


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