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San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Riserva 1998
Agricola San Felice is steeped in local lore and history. Named after a local early Christian Saint from the 18th century, the property was bought by the Grisaldi Del Taja family – the founding members of the Chianti Classico consortium. The family produced wine for several centuries until 1968 when the estate passed to Enzo Morganti. Prior to assuming control, Enzo Morganti spent two decades researching and experimenting with Sangiovese clones at Tenuta di Lilliano. At San Felice, he restructured and transformed this venerable estate, concentrating on high quality winemaking, systematic scientific research and thoughtful vineyard purchases, which included the Campogiovanni vineyard in Montalcino in 1984. Today the property includes a 1,853 acre resort, 445 acres of vineyards and a 44 acre parcel dedicated to experimental viticulture and genetic improvement of Sangiovese,
The San Felice vineyards are situated amongst the gently rolling hills of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area of Chianti Classico. The vines are planted in two different soil types: calcareous clay and a combination of sand and lime. The terroir of Campogiovanni, including its sandy, mineral-rich argillous soil, allows Sangiovese vines to grow slowly and steadily, therefore producing unusually complete and balanced grapes. In addition to indigenous varietals like Toscana's classic Sangiovese, San Felice has plantings of international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Like Enzo, winemaker Leonardo Bellacini has spent much of his career working with Sangiovese carries on the legacy of tradition and research and experimentation.
Famous for its food-friendly, approachable wines and their storied history, Chianti is perhaps the best-known wine region of Italy. This appellation within Tuscany has it all: sweeping views of rolling hills, endless vineyards, the warm Mediterranean sun, hearty cuisine and a rich artistic heritage. Chianti includes seven subzones: Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Rufina, Montalbano, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Colli Aretini and Montespertoli, with area beyond whose wines can be labeled simply as Chianti.
However the best quality comes from Chianti Classico, in the heart of the Chianti zone, which is no longer a subzone of the region at all but has been recognized on its own since 1996. The Classico region today is delimited by the confines of the original Chianti zone protected since the 1700s.
Chianti wines are made primarily of Sangiovese, with other varieties comprising up to 25-30% of the blend. Generally, local varieties are used, including Canaiolo, Colorino and Mammolo, but international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are allowed as long as they are grown within the same zone.
Basic, value-driven Chianti is simple and fruit-forward and makes a great companion to any casual dinner. At its apex, Chianti is full bodied but with good acidity, firm tannins, and notes of tart red fruit, dried herbs, fennel, balsamic and tobacco. Chianti Riserva, typically the top bottling of a producer, can benefit handsomely from a decade or two of cellaring.
The perfect intersection of bright red fruit and savory earthiness, Sangiovese is among Itaaly'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.