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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
13 Jul 2018

From €19.80, 21.90 Swiss francs, £20, 227.90 Norwegian krone, CA$42.95, $34.99, 239 Danish krone, AU$62 

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Chianti Classico seems to be entering a golden age. It has put its dalliance with French grape varieties behind and is now revelling in the glory of (improved clones of) the indigenous Sangiovese. The standard of winemaking seems generally very high and, as our Italian specialist Walter Speller observes, the wines now have 'an elegance, energy and complexity that puts them firmly in the fine-wine category'.

We will be celebrating and demonstrating this on our Chianti Classico Night on Sunday 23 September. Since last Tuesday Purple Pagers have been given a chance to book tickets at a reduced rate. Such tickets as remain will be offered to everyone this coming Tuesday and I for one am very much looking forward to tasting about 40 of the finest examples, including Riservas and the best Gran Seleziones, all hand-picked by Walter.

I had the pleasure of spending two or three days in Tuscany in April and, inter alia, visited three great producers of Chianti Classico: Castell in'Villa, Podere Il Boncie and Fontodi. You can read more about them and what I tasted in Tuscany April 2018.

Although I have long been a fan of Fontodi wines, and the charming Giovanni Manetti, who currently runs this prime property in Panzano in the heart of the Chianti Classico region (conveniently close to a winemakers' favourite, Osteria Le Panzanelle, reviewed by Nick here), this was the first time I'd visited the estate. I was particularly impressed by Manetti's commitment to certified organic viticulture, moving towards biodynamics. Panzano, which became Italy's first organic commune, has 25 wineries of which 24 are either organic or biodynamic. Smiling, Manetti described the exception as 'our black sheep'.

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Panzano is also famous for its amphitheatre of vines, known as the Conca d'Oro, seen above. Acknowledging the wisdom of returning to traditional techniques, Manetti said how useful it was to talk to the old village contadini (smallholders) and has been deliberately pursuing a policy of inviting them for lunch or a coffee.

He has a team of 40 at work at Fontodi. Vintage takes place over three weeks and then the wines get a maceration of up to three to four weeks, after fermentation with indigenous yeasts, while being punched down in tank. Their posh barrel cellar also houses some amphorae now (the picture below must have been taken some time ago) because the Manettis' original business, in Ferrone just south of Florence, was and is producing terracotta pots. They restarted producion of them for winemaking in 2008 and are now overwhelmed by orders. The Chianti Classico is Fontodi's main product, aged for 18 months in French oak and, in most vintages, put into 170,000 bottles – although the 2017 crop was shrunk by about 40% thanks to the drought.

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I loved this 2015, which seems to speak so eloquently of the region and the charms of the Sangiovese grape. Its purity that is so magnificent, plus its balance of ripe but extremely fresh fruit and that tanginess that characterises a fine Chianti Classico. With particularly fine tannins, it lasts and lasts. Its 14% alcohol is not obvious. I gave it 17 points out of 20 and would happily drink it any time over the next five years – preferably with food.

Funnily enough, I have just been looking through a very old list of possible topics for articles and top of the list was: 'New restraint in wine styles (eg Fontodi 2006).'

Thanks to the quantity produced, this Chianti Classico is very widely available. Wine-searcher.com lists stockists in Italy (surprise, surprise – although 80% of all Fontodi wine is exported), Switzerland, UK, Germany, Spain, Norway, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, US and Australia. These countries are listed in ascending order of best price in that country.

There seems to be a fairly wide disparity in price. Even within the same country, UK prices range from £20 to £28.10 a bottle and in the US Wine-Searcher's cited prices range from $34.99 to $49.99.

Wine-Searcher list many stockists in both the UK and the US. Here are links to online UK stockists provided by importer Liberty Wines.

Harrods
Hedonism Wines
Noble Green Wines  
Noel Young Wines  
Slurp  
Valvona & Crolla  
The Wine Reserve  

Click on the link below for more stockists where you are.

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