2019 Montecalvi Chianti Classico DOCG
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Montecalvi has a winemaking history that stretches back, oh, 700 years or so. Originally part of the enormous Nicola d’Uzzano estate of Greve-in-Chianti, it belonged to a Florentine politician during the Medici era and was owned subsequently by a host of Tuscan noble families who admired the property as much for its view and expansive grounds as for the wine and olive oil, preferring to use local farmers to do all of the work and then splitting the proceeds. That is definitely not the case now! An independent estate since the 1980s, the current custodians of Montecalvi are the English Drake family who have painstakingly restored the entire property, converted everything to organic farming and dedicated themselves to handmaking top quality wine and oil from their four hectares of vines and half-hectare of trees. The estate came with one of the true treasures of Chianti, a vineyard of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo and Malvasia Nera planted in 1932, one of the oldest vineyards still extant in all of Tuscany. A portion of these gnarly, low-production vines create the core of the just-under 1000-case production of Chianti Classico. The rest comes from the Montecalvi Alto and Basso vineyards, both planted to Sangiovese in 1990, and Montecalvi Bosco, planted to Sangiovese with Canaiolo and the ancient Canina Nera grape in 2006. Winemaker Tim Manning likes to use a relatively high percentage of whole clusters in the Montecalvi fermentations, and that endow his wines with a nice structure and more finesse than we normally see in Chianti Classico. It was aged 18 months in French oak tonneaux and another six months in bottle prior to its heading our way where it was just unloaded. We are loving the 2019 Tuscan wines. It’s a vintage that emphasizes elegance, subtlety and complex layered flavors over pure power and alcoholic strength. The Montecalvi Chianti could serve as the poster boy for all of these attributes. The wine’s beautiful natural acidity pushes the gorgeous Sangiovese aromatics into the forefront with wild berry and cherry leading the way with floral, saline and spice notes in supporting roles. It’s impeccably balanced with plenty of integrated tannins that balance out its complex fruit flavors. This essence of the summer Tuscan sun calls out for all the fresh flavors of the season- a tomato-rich Panzanella with crunchy croutons, maybe, if you wanted to go light, but my go-to with this stylish, charming sort of wine is always pasta- an eggplant-y Norma, sage butter ravioli or a bowl of good ol’ spaghetti and meatballs. Delicious, well-priced and, literally, just off the boat!
Decanter: Very light intensity of colour yet the impact on the nose and palate of this Sangiovese is dramatic: a plot twist that, from sight, one would not expect. The nose is salty, sweetly spiced and faintly herbal, with star anise, peppered tartare and fresh mint, but the palate is really where the drinker can get lost down rabbit holes. The tannins are so resolved that they sit back and do not occupy centre stage as Sangiovese wines so often do; thus the acidity and fruit interplay is flamboyant and theatrical, with a long finish. More acts to follow, it would say. 94 points.