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Raccolta Selection: Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico

Raccolta Selection: Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico, May 2004

When I first started tasting wine Bordeaux was the definition of sophistication. In comparison the wines of Chianti Classico seemed rustic - like wealthy country cousins. Not that there weren't excellent wines produced in Chianti Classico, but they just didn't have the polish of the wines from Bordeaux.

Comparisons between Bordeaux and Chianti Classico are inevitable because they are the same type of wine. Not the same in flavor or grapes used (although cabernet sauvignon and merlot have become an established part of Tuscan winemaking), but in the balance, structure and elegance these wines are capable when produced by skilled winemakers using grapes from fine vineyards. There are other similarities between these two regions: Wine estates in both regions were traditionally farms of aristocratic families -- many of which still own and make wines today. The wines in Bordeaux and Chianti Classico are tied to communes and estate names more than the specific vineyard names that define Barolo, Barbaresco and Burgundy. The wines of both regions are based on blends of several grape varietals as compared to the mono-varietal wines of Langhe and Burgundy.

Another critical aspect shared by both Bordeaux and Chianti Classico is winemaking. Today the techniques and winemaking philosophies of both regions have become striking similar because they are trying to make more or less the same style of wine. While there are certainly differences in the wines coming from the different varietals and unique soils and climates, the fact of the matter is that fine Bordeaux and Chianti Classico have become more or less interchangeable at the table. The style of winemaking in Chianti Classico today (with a few wonderful exceptions such as Montevertine and Monsanto) has eliminated all the rough edges creating a wine with similar structure, balance and oak flavors to Bordeaux. Chianti Classico is no longer the rough country cousin, but an urbane international citizen.

The tie to Bordeaux is part of the psychology of the region with the Poggibonsi in the Chianti Classico zone often being referred to as the "Pomerol" of the region. The warm exposures here produce a particularly rich and smooth wine. On these steep hillsides Fattoria Le Fonti produces wines with elegance and balance that even the most die hard Bordeaux lover will admire. It is interesting they have created their wines without a drop of cabernet sauvignon or merlot relying instead on the considerable charms of sangiovese to establish the character of their wines. If you love the textures of Pomerol you will most certainly love the wines of Le Fonti. No, they don't taste like Pomerol, but they most decidedly feel like it.

Raccolta Selections:

2001 Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico Riserva ($35)
A very bright, radiant ruby, just translucent. The round, smooth aromas are filled with cherry vanilla, sweet black licorice and toasty oak. Smooth and seamless on both the nose and palate. This wine is medium in body, but not at all light in any regard featuring a lovely generous texture throughout. The finish is elegant with spiced dark bitter cherry flavors supported by round tannins with just a bit of an acid bite at the end. Drinking well now, this wine should improve over the next five years, but I don't see any great reason for waiting for this already delicious wine.

2001 Fattoria Le Fonti, Vito Arturo, Sangiovese, IGT ($45)
Dark brilliant ruby, just translucent. Forward ripe plum and tart cherry aromas are filled out with sweet cedar notes. The fruit is lush and forward on the palate with sweet toasty oak flavors blended with bitter chocolate and ripe raspberry. The finish is lush and filled with sweet baked cherry flavors with a hint of tobacco and round, easy tannins. This wine already offers great pleasure and like the Chianti Classico Riserva this is a wine for only short term aging. The great drink-ability of both of these wines makes them perfect for restaurants.
A Jens Schmidt Selection-Imported by Montecastelli