Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fontodi's Flaccionello della Pieve: A vertical tasting (1995 - 2015)

Besides its DOCG, Vin Santo, and Gran Selezione wines, Chianti Classico is also known as the birthplace of the now-famous Super Tuscans. The Super Tuscan wines grew out of producer frustration with earlier iterations of the wine laws which prevented them from making wines that were 100% Sangiovese, or removing the allowed white varieties from the wine. Some producers made these types of wines anyway but they could only be called table wine under existing laws. These wines were so finely made, and widely accepted, however, that the laws were modified such that a new level -- IGT -- was created above the table wine to support their initiatives. The current instance of the Chianti Classico wine laws would allow many of the Super Tuscan wines to be labeled as Chianti Classico but many producers continue to retain the IGT label and the success that they have enjoyed as standalone brands.

Such is the case for Fontodi and its vaunted Flaccionello della Pieve, a 100% Sangiovese wine made in an international style. Wine Watch (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) recently held a tasting of selected vintages of the wine produced between 1995 and 2015. I report on that tasting in this post.

The Estate and the Wine
The Fontodi estate sits on 130 ha of land -- 70 of which are planted to vines -- just south of the village of Panzano, itself located in the commune of Greve in Chianti. The estate, which includes vineyards that have been operational since the days of the Roman Empire, was purchased by Dino Manetti in 1968 and his son Giovanni came aboard in 1979 (Prior to their involvement in the winery, the Manetti family produced and sold terracotta amphorae.). Giovanni took over the running of the business in 1980.

Panzano, the estate's home village, sits at one end of  ridge which divides the valleys of Pesa and Greve. On the Pesa side, the land falls away from the crest of the ridge in a number of amphitheater-like structures, the largest of which is called Conca d'Oro (golden shell). It is upon this south-facing, sun-drenched amphitheater that the Fontodi vineyards reside.

Source: fontodi.com
Vineyards on Conca d'Oro are planted at altitudes between 350 metres and 450 metres. The Chianti Classico climate is continental, with long summers and cold winters. Annual rainfall ranges between 700 and 800 millimeters and occurs primarily in the spring and late autumn. Conca d'Oro day-night temperature differentials are enhanced by its elevation.

The soil is a mix of flaky shale, galestro (crumbling schistous rock), and some limestone albarese.

Vineyard practices are focused on sustainability. The estate is certified organic with an end goal of becoming fully biodynamic (24 of 25 wineries in Panzano are either organic or biodynamic).

The Flaccionello label was launched by the estate in 1981 as a 100% Sangiovese (IGT) made in an international style. Grapes are hand-harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. The wine is subjected to a post-fermentation maceration (with punch downs) of 3 - 4 weeks, upon completion of which it is transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation and aging.

Eric Guido (Morrell Wine), in a piece titled The Evolution of Flaccionello, points out a number of changes in the Flaccionello production process over the years:
  • Fruit source -- the fruit for this wine was originally sourced from a vineyard named Flaccionello della Pieve. Beginning with the 2001 vintage, and subsequent to the purchase of some additional prime vineyard property, the decision was taken to make the wine as a blend of the best fruit across the estate's vineyards.
  • Aging regime -- Prior to 1990 the wine was aged for 1 year in 50% new oak. Beginning in 1990, the estate began a gradual shift to today's practice: 24 months aging in 100% new oak from the Troncais and Allier forests.
The Tasting
Early birds were treated to bottomless Franciacortas as we hung around the bar and engaged in pre-tasting banter. During the time that we were at the bar, all of the wines to be tasted were poured into our glass, giving them some exposure to oxygen prior to the actual engagement. The wines included in the tasting were: 1995 Felsina Fontalloro (don't ask me) and 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, and 2015 Flaccinellos.

With the exception of the Fontalloro and the 2000 and 2014 Flaccinello, the wines presented extremely well with a red fruit-herb-tobacco character as a through line. There was a dividing line in the tasting at the 2005 vintage where the wines became more youthful in nature and the fruit subsumed some of the tertiary characteristics. My favorites of the night were the 1995 and 2005 but the consensus picks were the 1999 and 2007.

Tasting Notes
The 1995 Felsina Fontalloro presented dried red fruit, rose petals, and dried herbs on the nose. Flat and dried out on the palate. This wine did not persist well in the glass as an additional pour later in the evening revealed a much livelier character.

The 1995 Flaccionello was more robust on the nose than the Felsina but not as aromatic. Deeper, darker, more concentrated fruit. Elegant on the palate. Lean but powerful. Citrus and burnt orange and a lengthy finish. I loved this wine.

The 1996 Flaccinello showed red fruits and a nuttiness on the nose. A beautiful fruit note on the palate. Elegant. Lengthy finish. High-toned.

Roses, tobacco, and dried herbs on the nose for the 1999 Flaccinello.  Rich and concentrated. Spicy, lengthy finish.

The 2000 also showed herbs and roses on the nose. Big, broad-based fruit. Most developed of the wines tasted up to this time. Browning. Drink now or forever hold your peace.

The 2005 showed red fruit, wet tobacco, and a perfumed nose. Bright on the palate with a slight puckering. Sandy, spicy, and beautiful fruit. Lengthy finish.

The 2007 showed tobacco, smoke, and rich red fruit on the nose. Tobacco, red fruit, and a youthfulness on the palate. Lengthy, grippy finish. Long life ahead.

Red fruit, tobacco, herbs on the nose for the 2009. Herb-infused fruity finish.

Herbs, green bark, somewhat unyielding on the 2014 nose. Mushrooms and red fruit on the palate. Not as impressive as the foregoing.

The 2015 exhibited power. Plum, licorice, herbs, and smoke on the nose. Spicy and structured on the palate. A drying finish.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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