Like many of Chianti Classico’s grand properties, the land at the extensive Fèlsina estate was farmed by sharecroppers until the end of the second world war. The period following saw an exodus of sharecroppers, leaving abandoned accommodation (in some areas the large wine estates owned small villages that have since been re-purposed) and a shortage of labour. Here, the sharecropping arrangement finally finished for good in 1966. This is when the current owner, Domenico Poggiali bought the estate and invested in it, turning it into what it is now: one of the leading producers in the region.
The Poggiali family hail from Emilio Romagna, and was Domenico drawn by the opportunity of getting his hands of a 300 hectare hunting reserve and 9 hectares of vines. Up to this point, most of the wines from these vineyards were made in homes (the podere), and the cellar in the big house was large enough to cope with all the grapes from these 9 hectares.
Domenico fell in love with the area, and understood the potential of the property. He practiced massal selection from the old vineyards and planted new vineyards, just with Sangiovese. The first vintage of Fèlsina was the 1967 Chianti Classico Berardenga. This came from Castelnuovo Berardenga, right at the southern edge of the Classico appellation, and to this day is the cornerstone of the Fèlsina portfolio.
In the late 1970s, Domenico’s son-in-law, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, joined the family business on the commercial side. His son, Giovanni Poggiali, also joined the business in 1990, and is currently the CEO.
The estate has grown. Now it is 500 hectares, with 300 hectares of forest and 72 hectares of vineyards, with other agriculture too. It’s border country, with the typical landscape of the south of Chianti Classico: rolling hills and open country. In Classico the soils are rocky, but just next to this is Colli Senesi, which has sandier soils. The boundary between the two runs through the Fèlsina property.
We visited the vineyards with Chiarla Leonini, who’s the export manager, and later joined Giovanni for lunch.
2023 was a difficult vintage. They are very happy with the grapes they harvested, but quantities are significantly down. Starting mid-May they had rain almost every afternoon, and June was very wet. They farm organically, but with a lot of attention to detail the grapes they did get were really good. ‘I’ve never seen a vintage like it,’ says Giovanni. ‘It was really challenging. In the end we have just 30-40% of production. It wasn’t possible for us to go every day in the vineyard.’
As well as farming organically, they have been trialling biochar. They partnered with another family who work in forestry in Romagna, where they have another estate. They use oak and pine to make charcoal. They have collaborated with a university to see if they can develop a machine so they can make their own biochar, which is made in a similar way to charcoal by pyrolysis (burning in the near absence of oxygen). But first they are seeing whether their vineyard crew can work with it, as this is a large estate. They’ve already been working with it for four years in their Romagna estate.
Fèlsina also make some excellent beers!
Fèlsina Spumante 10 Anni NV Toscana
Fresh, fine and lively with nice citrus fruit, and some pear richness. Linear with ripe white peach fruit. Textural and fruit-driven. 91/100
Fèlsina I Sistri Chardonnay 2021 Toscana
Fresh and linear with appealing pear and spice notes, as well as some lemony brightness. There’s a hint of stoniness, too. Fine and linear with lovely purity and elegance. So refined. 93/100
Fèlsina I Sistri Chardonnay Collecion Privata 2019 Toscana
13% alcohol. Toasty hints on the nose but the core of this wine is vivid citrus fruit. Concentrated, linear and textural with a lovely acid line. Very pure and fine with such focus. 94/100
Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2021
Supple and fresh with a stony, mineral edge to the sweet red cherry and plum fruit. Fine-grained structure supports the pure fruit. An elegant style with lovely fruit. 93/100
Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva 2020
Structured with lovely density. Spicy and firm with ripe sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. There’s nice weight and structure here with purity and freshness. Stylish stuff. 94/100
Fèlsina Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva 2019
This has a lovely supple green hint to the ripe, sleek cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice grainy structure with a hint of beetroot. Ripe, bold and expressive. 93/100
Fèlsina Fontalloro 2019 Toscana
From sandy clay soils. Fresh and bold with nice density. Has sweet, open black fruits with a grainy structure but also some lushness. Luxurious. 94/100
Fèlsina Colonia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2020
13.5% alcohol. Fresh and linear with lovely purity to the cherry and berry fruit, showing good acidity and quite firm structure. There’s a transparency this wine with lovely fine, pure fruit. So focused, with lots of potential for development. 95/100
Fèlsina Colonia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2019
13.5% alcohol. Colonia was first made in 2006. The hard limestone soils were too tough to cultivate without using dynamite, and for a while in Italy dynamite was banned because of the Brigado Rosso so initial attempts to develop this vineyard were abandoned. The project was restarted by Giovanni Poggiali in 1991, planting was finished in 1993. The first grapes came in 1997, but this wine wasn’t released until 2006. Textured, fine and focused with sweet cherries and raspberries as well as some nice grainy structure. Shows good acidity and purity, with lightness despite the substantial structure. Fine, taut and linear. Very assured, with a long future ahead of it. 95/100
Fèlsina Colonia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2009
I think this might have been the first ever gran selezione. Notes of earth, spice and leather with vibrant cherry and raspberry fruit. Has texture with some earthy hints. Fresh, elegant and linear. Lovely evolution. 95/100
Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva 2005
Savoury, earthy and linear with nice bright sweet cherry and raspberry fruit, showing lovely texture and some earthy hints. Still fresh and quite delicious. 95/100