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Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva 1997
In the 17 published editions of Gambero Rosso, Italy’s acclaimed wine rating guide, this Tuscan estate has won the coveted Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award 17 times. They are a favorite of IWM, Robert Parker, and any Tuscan wine enthusiast. And they did it by revealing the true essence of the Sangiovese grape and the Chianti Classico terroir. What this tells us is that this is a winery of consistency, producing Chianti Classicos with the ability to age up to two decades for the right vintage. Much like the great Brunello estates, it is the marriage of an ideal microclimate and the uncompromising commitment of a dedicated staff that educes the full character of Tuscany's noble grape, even in off vintages. Even more importantly, this is a producer who creates compelling wines and releases them at contained prices, making Felsina accessible to all wine enthusiasts and one of Italy's greatest values!
One of the first wine regions anywhere to be officially recognized and delimited, Chianti Classico is today what was originally defined simply as Chianti. Already identified by the early 18th century as a superior zone, the official name of Chianti was proclaimed upon the area surrounding the townships of Castellina, Radda and Gaiole, just north of Siena, by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany in an official decree in 1716.
However, by the 1930s the Italian government had appended this historic zone with additonal land in order to capitalize on the Chianti name. It wasn’t until 1996 that Chianti Classico became autonomous once again when the government granted a separate DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) to its borders. Ever since, Chianti Classico considers itself no longer a subzone of Chianti.
Many Classicos are today made of 100% Sangiovese but can include up to 20% of other approved varieties grown within the Classico borders. The best Classicos will have a bright acidity, supple tannins and be full-bodied with plenty of ripe fruit (plums, black cherry, blackberry). Also common among the best Classicos are expressive notes of cedar, dried herbs, fennel, balsamic or tobacco.
The perfect intersection of bright red fruit and savory earthiness, Sangiovese is among Italy's elite red grape varieties and is responsible for the best red wines of Tuscany. While it is best known as the chief component of Chianti, it is also the main grape in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and reaches the height of its power and intensity in the complex, long-lived Brunello di Montalcino
Elsewhere throughout Italy, Sangiovese plays an important role in many easy-drinking, value-driven red blends and on the French island of Corsica, under the name Nielluccio, it produces excellent bright and refreshing red and rosé wines with a personality of their own. Sangiovese has also enjoyed success growing in California and Washington.
In the Glass
Sangiovese is a medium-bodied red with qualities of tart cherry, plum, sun dried tomato, fresh tobacco and herbs. High-quality, well-aged examples can take on tertiary notes of smoke, leather, game, potpourri and dried fruit. Corsican Nielluccio is distinguished by a subtle perfume of dried flowers.
Sangiovese is the ultimate pizza and pasta red—its high acidity, moderate alcohol, and fine-grained tannins create a perfect symbiosis with tomato-based dishes, braised vegetables, roasted and cured meat, hard cheese and anything off the barbecue.
Although it is the star variety of Tuscany, cult-classic “Super-Tuscan” wines may actually contain no Sangiovese at all! Since the 1970s, local winemakers have been producing big, bold wines as a blend of one or more of several international varieties—usually Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Syrah—with or without Sangiovese.