Fontodi is one of the top properties in Chianti Classico. I last visited back in 2008, so it was nice to be here again, hosted by Giovanni Manetti (who still looks the same age, 15 years later), together with his son Bernardo.
The 2023 vintage is in the cellar, and after a very difficult season in the region, Giovanni is happy with the quality. Nice weather at harvest meant that full ripeness was achieved while keeping good acidity. The pH of the wines is around 3.4-3.5 with very high TA of around 8.5, although because much of this is tartaric, it may fall during élevage.
We took a look at some of the vineyards, beginning with Vigno do Sorbo. Giovanni explained how there are three different soils in Panzano, as it is a transition area. There’s some schist mixed in with clay/limestone, then pietraforte (a conglomerate rock that’s based on sandstone) on the ridges. Then on one side there is albarese. The oldest block in Sorbo was planted in 1963, and then a second block was planted in 1968/1970. A third block was replanted 15 years ago and this goes into the Fontodi Chianti Classico.
We took a second stop at Terrasi san Leonino, which is a more recently planted vineyard at the top of the hill. Previously this was just olive trees, with a small parcel planted in the 1970s. Giovanni found drawings from the 15th century in the University of Florence which demonstrated that back this hillside was entirely planted with vines. This allowed him to get planting permission.
There’s a transition in this vineyard from schist to hard albarese. Giovanni explained that you can have galestro of albarese, because galestro just refers to how the rock is breaking down, not its composition.
The Gran Selezione wines now have UGA Panzano on the label. ‘It took 40 years for us to do it,’ jokes Giovanni. This is the latest development in the region: identifying the subzones of Chianti Classico.
Of recent vintages, 2021 stands out. ‘It was a wonderful vintage,’ he says, ‘my favourite vintage ever made. It is a very complete vintage. Hard to compare with other vintages but really great.’ Overall, Giovanni is very happy with the last few vintages, barring the volume issues with 2023. ‘We’ve never had such a long line of good vintages in our history,’ he says.
‘We love 2019,’ adds Bernardo. ‘It was generous but also with good equilibrium. The weather was consistent, resulting in a good crop but no dilution.’
New white wine, 2022 Trebbiano, already bottled, but not yet named
Sourced from a 50 year old vineyard in Panzano, fermented 16-18 C in a one year old 600 litre barrel (low toast with 39 mm staves) with daily battonage during fermentation. 780 bottles made. Whole cluster pressed with no maceration. This is fine and layered with a lovely mineral undercurrent, with a touch of grapefruit and some fine lemons, as well as a touch of white peach. Such precision and purity here, with lovely balance. 94/100
Fontodi Filetta di Lamole Chianti Classico 2021
Project started in 2014 with cousin Lorenzo who owns this historic vineyard in the high altitude UGA of Lamole. They stopped bottling in the 1980s, so they started cooperating. Vinify there in the cellar in concrete vats, then bring the wine here to age. Sandstone soils with low limestone content at 550-600 m. Cooler microclimate because of elevation and surrounding forests. Lovely aromatics here of sweet floral black cherries and blackberries. Good concentration on the palate with fine spices and nice structure under the fresh, lush sweet fruit. Lovely density here and such appealing fruit, with excellent balance. 94/100
Fontodi Chianti Classico 2021
Half in botti and half in small oak, but older. Brooding nose of sweet black cherry fruit with a touch of blackcurrant. Lovely focus here. The palate shows tight, dark, tannic black fruits with amazing structure and acidity. There’s lovely fruit here, but also concentration and structure that suggest a long future for this wine. So expressive and yet unyielding at the moment. 94/100
Fontodi Dino Chianti Classico 2021
Special selection of Sangiovese. The vineyards this is sourced from are in the bottom of the valley with very cold nights, so high diurnal variation. Pietraforte soils, which gives tannins that are a bit finer. Vinified and fermented in amphora. 400-500 litres at 950 C – like it was made in the past. Unlined. They make the amphorae because they’ve been making tiles for 400 years as a family. Fleshy and expressive with lovely sweet black cherry and plum fruit, as well as some fine spiciness. Has a sense of freshness and some fine-grained structure, with hints of stones and minerals. So supple and expressive with good precision and some potential for future development. 95/100
Fontodi Pastrolo Chianti Classico 2021
Sangiovese from Lamole, with marl soils with some limestone, and this was a vineyard bought in 2019. The fruit was going to the cooperative but they made one barrel in 2019, so 2020 was the first commercial vintage. It was almost all cordon, but now they are being grown high bush vines. Mostly Sangiovese but with some other varieties too. Planted in 1976. They will apply for Gran Selezione for this wine, but have to wait for approval. Vinified in amphora, malo in 500 litre barrels and then aged in these for 18 months. Nice aromatics here with sweet cherries, some dried herbs and some liqueur-like notes. Perfumed. The palate has some flesh and some subtle spicy woody notes with lovely silkiness and elegance, showing a core of open, sweet fruit. This needs a bit of time for the oak to integrate fully, but promises to be a very fine, expressive and elegant expression of Sangiovese. Superb. 95/100
Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Panzano 2020
Vinification changes with vintage, but this year it spent 1 year in barrels with 25% new oak, then goes in casks for a year. Old vines, planted in three stages. The same soil for all the parcels which is mostly schist, which tends to give rounder tannins and darker fruit, with more volume on the mind palate. This is bold and concentrated with structured black cherry and blackberry fruit, showing compact fruit with some grippy structure and some smoky detail. Nicely intense with good tannins, but no austerity. Concentrated and intense with power and weight, and potential for development. Serious stuff. 96/100
Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Panzano 2019
More cask and less barrel this year, to preserve the freshness of the year. This has lovely purity and focus with sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit as well as some spicy character. Has density and is quite brooding with fresh black fruits and a silkiness to the fruit, as well as the grippy structure. Some woodsmoke and spice, too, with good focus. A beautifully balanced wine with nice acidity and firm tannins, and it should age beautifully. Fresh. 96/100
Fontodi Terrazze San Leolino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Panzano 2020
The first year was in barrel, the second in cask. 20% new oak. This is just below the old church at 400 m. Albarese provides freshness, but there’s also schist in this vineyard, which is on terraces. This has beautiful fruit with red cherries, black cherries and fine structure. Weight and intense with beautiful fruit, showing fine black fruits with lovely purity. Expressive with sweet fruit, some chalky mineral character, and fine but firm tannins on the finish. This has such purity and balance. 96/100
Fontodi Terrazze San Leolino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Panzano 2019
This is quite beautiful with lovely flesh and purity, showing ripe cherry and blackberry fruit with a touch of silkiness, lots of freshess, and then some fine structure. Lovely fruit purity here with fine acidity and well integrated oak. Primary, pretty and with potential for long ageing. 95/100
Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2020 Colli Toscana Centrale
First year in barrel, then large oak to finish. 35% new oak. A selection of the best fruit from the best parcels, grown close to the top of the hill. Three vineyard sources. Fresh, pure and expressive with lovely concentration and purity, with good structure but fine tannins. The oak works well to focus the beautifully pure fruit. Very fine and expressive with incredible fruit quality and good structure. Classic. 97/100
Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico 1988
Had 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in blend. This has some earth and spice and iodine on the nose with sweet black fruits: showing evolution. Quite savoury and mature, with a note of malt and some porcini. The palate has some firm structure but also nice bright acidity, with some grippy structure still. Has lots of depth with firm structure. Better in the mouth than the nose, this has freshness and brightness still, finishing fresh. This is really quite beautiful once you get past the mature notes on the nose. 94/100
Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1983 Colli Toscana Centrale
Mature but with lovely weight on the palate, showing some sweet, elegant cherry and strawberry fruit with fine structure. So pure and elegant with a touch of orange peel and some fine spices, showing lovely purity. Apparently this is a very good bottle: they very quite a bit at this age. So expressive and elegant, and quite remarkable. 97/100