Badia a Passignano was the first (and for a long time, the only) Chianti Classico we fell in love with and a visit to this gem of a winery – part of the Antinori conglomerate – was at the top of our list. There are various tasting options in accordance to time and of course euros; having two small and boisterous children, we just went for lunch.
The experience at Badia a Passignano’s Osteria is amazing and one I cannot recommend highly enough: we will be repeating sans children the next time we visit Tuscany. We had three different wines with our meal and, somewhat unimaginatively, only bought those exact ones afterwards in the shop – but that was because they all blew our minds. Bear in mind that Badia a Passignano is top quality, therefore relatively expensive, but the food is delicious and imaginative, beautifully presented and you are looked after well. The service is attentive without being over-bearing or patronising and crucially for us – children are made very welcome.
The wine list is encyclopedic, featuring Antinori’s wines from around the world as well as many others. There is a selection of about 15 wines by the glass, all from Antinori, but not just limited to Chianti Classico. For us, first up were a glass of Chardonnay from Umbria and a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, respectively.
Cervaro della Sala was stunning and Burgundian in style – rich and sunny; layers of golden fruit, with a lovely minerality (it reminded me of a Montrachet). The Santa Pia Montepulciano was perfectly balanced, ‘darker’ and more savoury – with notes of plums and black cherries – than Chianti Classico. The richness of flavours comes from riper grapes as this south east corner of Tuscany tends to be hotter with clay-like soils. There are over ten different clones of Sangiovese, and the strain local to Montepulciano is known as Prugnolo Gentile.
There were numerous vintages of Badia e Passignanos to choose from and we plumped for a 2009 Riserva, a classic vintage for Sangiovese, which was absolutely gorgeous.
Isole e Elena
We discovered this smaller, exceptionally well regarded winery at Vinitaly earlier this year. With respective histories spanning back hundreds of years, the two estates, Isole and Elena, in western Chianti Classico, were bought and consequently combined by the de Marchi family in the 1950s. Current owner Paolo de Marchi is one of the world’s leading experts on Sangiovese.
|View from Nipozzano|
We never got round to making an appointment with Marchesi de Frescobaldi even though it was on our list as one of the leading wineries producing Chianti Rufina. Luckily Lara was happy to accommodate us for a quick tasting at Castelli Nipozzano, one of their five estates across Tuscany. Nipozzano is in the heart of Chianti Rufina and dates back to around 1000. Chianti Rufina itself is to the north east of Chianti Classico and is generally considered the next best Chianti sub-district after Classico in terms of quality. Additionally, it is the most elevated.
Nipozzano Reserva 2008 is rich and complex; despite the altitude, the Rufina style can be a little more rustic than the more refined Classico, but is complemented by lots of fruit and excellent acidity. This wine is 90% Sangiovese (75% is the minimum in Chianti Rufina) and the residual 10% is a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colorino and Malvasia Nera. On the nose, it is perfumed with hints of dried fruit and tea-leaves, on the palate, it is rich, mellow red fruit, coffee, vanilla and a touch of herbs. I can only imagine the aging potential!
Pomino Bianco 2014 – Frescobaldi is the dominant player in the tiny sub-region of Pomino, which is relatively high and favoured for producing fresh, interesting white wines. The main white grape varieties are Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay and also Trebbiano. This example is elegant and crisp; think zesty green apples, gentle floral tones and a clean minerality.
Selvapiana (Chianti Rufina)
|View from our table|
Lamole was not a winery that we knew prior to visiting Chianti, but boy, were we glad we noticed signs for Ristorio Lamole when hungry just outside Greve and patiently followed the narrow winding road until we reached this special place perched in the hills. The views are magnificent for a start – the large balcony offers panoramic views of the glorious countryside.
And whilst the food is excellent and the staff ultra-professional and friendly, Ristorio Lamole has a relaxed vibe. Maybe there’s something about eating outdoors?
When in Rome – or when in Lamole – we thought it was only right to have a bottle of the producers own wine, Lamole Riserva 2009. Again, like all the top Sangioveses we guzzled, this was rich and concentrated, with layers of flavours. It was creamy and farmy on the nose and as the wine started to open up, we detected these flavours on the palate. We thought this wine was a little more savoury than others – tar, liquorice and herby – mingling with red currant and raspberries on the finish. Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious.
Batar 2011 is a delicious blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc and is grown in Maremma. This was a standout white, powerful and complex, with a length that just goes on and on. This wine is made for serious ageing, Querciabella suggest over 15 years, which we could well imagine.
Next up was Mongrana 2011, which is Querciabella’s simplest wine, designed for early drinking (up to 10 years). Composed of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, this was fresh and full of juicy red fruit. However, later in our holiday, we opened a bottle of Mongrana 2009: those two extra years of maturity (plus a boost from the classic vintage) made all the difference. The resulting wine was elegant and beautifully balanced, with smidgens of blackcurrant coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon and an understated fleshy power courtesy of the Merlot.
Querciabella Chianti Classico – 100% Sangiovese and what we’d had back in London. It’s fresh – a mixture of both sweet and sour red cherries – but also a bit more to it, slightly perfumed, and well balanced in both acidity and tannins.
In contrast to our previous tastings in Chianti Classico, Rocca di Montegrossi is in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti as opposed to Greve. We had another comprehensive tour and technical talk through the wines and methods (there is a huge emphasis on being as eco-friendly as possible); owner and wine maker Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi was a welcoming host and extremely patient with our hyperactive children. He was happy to talk about a huge range of wine related subjects and we came away with considerably further insights of all things Sangiovese and Chianti Classico – and more, such as how the latter’s climate differs to that of Bolgheri or Maremma, for example. The thing that struck us about the three Rocca di Montegrossi red wines – and also the Vin Santo – is how concentrated, yet clean tasting they all were.
with a delicious smokiness of roast hazelnuts.