March 4, 2011 Fontodi
Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico
sangiovese (90%), cabernet sauvignon (10%)
I went looking for an Italian connection. So the wine bottle stands in front of the landmark towers of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist a few streets away from where I live. There was a time when I thought the chosen bottle would bear the iconic silver cross of the estate’s super-Tuscan Flaccianello Della Pieve, but someone gobbled up the remaining stock where I had it tracked down, and I had to settle for Fontodi’s other flagship wine. Perhaps a good thing since, besides coming in at twice the price, I would have been opening the famed wine before it had reached its prime.
Not that Vigna del Sorbo should ever be thought of as a stand-in. It is an outstanding wine in its own right. And I rather like the idea of escaping the paparazzi in favour of something more classic and subdued.
The single vineyard from which this wine is derived is part of Fontodi’s 70 hectares in the Conca d’Oro of the Chianti Classico region, just south of the Tuscan town of Panzano. The Fontodi terroir of the ‘Golden Shell’ dates back to Roman times, and is renowned for its special combination of high altitude (on average 400 m); a soil mix of chalk, clay, and schist (known as ‘galestro’); ideal light and with a strong contrast in day and night temperatures.
Even so, the Manetti family — long-established Florentine purveyors of terracotta tiles and bricks, including those that pave the Uffizi Gallery –purchased the entire Fontodi estate in 1968 for today’s equivalent of twenty thousand dollars. Chianti’s reputation was not what it is today. In fact it was rather abyssmal. How times have changed. A concentrated effort to improve a wine region and its methods of production (including, in the case of Fontodi, a move to organic viticulture) can indeed lead to great results.
At Fontodi Giovanni Manetti is in charge today, with the input of oenologist Franco Bernabei. From all accounts Manetti is as affable a winemaking gentleman as one is likely to encounter. That smile is genuine, and indicative of his enthusiasm for what he does.
He oversees wine production that for Vigna del Sorbo starts with meticulous attention to the vineyards. The September harvest is by hand into boxes that minimize bruising the fruit, even though the cellar is not far away. There the grapes are sorted by the bunch, and then grape by grape. The ultra clean and modern cellar has been constructed on three levels so the transfer of the developing wine is by gravity, in keeping with the philosophy of minimal disturbance of natural processes. The time the wines do spend in oak (very lighted tasted) is closely monitored. At Fontodi a guiding principle of non-intervention takes precedence.
Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico 2006
The wine is a 90/10 engagement of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon. Deep purple-red, giving an intricate old world nose. Black fruit & smoke, earth & spice. Balanced tannic taste. Firm yet expressive. Fully realized with very pleasant herbaceous volume. A smart chianti classico making this an upscale, glamorous pizza experience. $$