Chianti Classico deep dive (4) San Felice


San Felice is another wine estate with a lot of properties. These in the past were accommodation for the sharecroppers, and many old farms in the region have small villages associated with them for this reason. In the late 1980s San Felice converted its real estate into a luxury hotel with 60 rooms (yes, it’s expensive!). It looks quite beautiful, and the winery is part of this complex of buildings.

Leonardo Bellaccini

We visited with winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini, who has been here since 1984.

Their vineyards mostly surround the winery, but they also own 20 hectares close to Felsina, 23 hectares in Montalcino (Campogiovanni) and 6 hectares in Bolgheri (Bell’Aja). They replanted 150 hectares of vineyards (the entire San Felice estate vineyard; the property is 600 hectares overall at an altitude of 400 m) between 1994 and 1998. ‘When I replanted these I thought they should last 50 years,’ says Leonardo, ‘but global warming hasn’t helped. Sangiovese is not a long-living variety, and mechanisation doesn’t help. When I started ESCA was half a page in a book, and now there are books on ESCA.’ He says that around a quarter of the vines have been killed by ESCA.

He’s very keen on 2021 as a vintage. ‘It’s an outstanding vintage. We changed the way of managing the vineyards. If the heat arrives at the beginning of the summer the vines adjust themselves. So we had a reduction of quantity, but it’s not an over-ripe vintage. When the heat arrives early the vines have a bonsai character. We don’t see higher alcohol, even though the vintage is hot and dry. If the heat arrives late you get an over-ripe quality, but not when it arrives early.’

In the winery, he uses an optical sorter. The difference between the classico and the riserva is made by the optical sorting of first and second choice grapes.

Recent vintages have been good, but not abundant. ‘2019 was the last vintage with a normal crop,’ says Leonardo, ‘of approximately 7 tons/hectare. It’s been closer to 4 or 5 each vintage since.’

Limestone soils


San Felice Chianti Classico 2021
Mostly Sangiovese, but also some Colorino and Pugniatello. Supple and bright with good acidity and nice strawberry, cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s a nice grainy structure and some brightness, with a slight stony edge to the fruit. Very fine and expressive. 92/100

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2020
Ripe, textured and bright with good structure and acidity as well as sweet fruit. There’s a juiciness and also good structure, with a floral edge to the fruit, and some firm but fine tannins, accentuated by high acidity. Nice finesse to this wine, which should age well. 94/100

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castelnovo Berardenga 2020
Sangiovese plus some indigenous grapes. Structured, dense and focused with firm tannins under sleek, ripe, generous fruit. There’s a prettiness here to the fruit, but it’s very youthful with tannins very present, but not abrasive. Fleshy with fine detail, and real potential for development. Very fine, bright and focused, but give this wine time. Primary and intense. 95/100

San Felice Chianti Classico Pogiorosso Gran Selezione Castelnovo Berardenga 2020
Limestone soils and 100% new oak (500 litres). Vineyard replanted in early 2000s. Lovely flesh here with silky red cherry and raspberry fruit, showing nice intensity and brightness as well as good tannins. Concentrated and bright with nice precision showing lovely fruit. 94/100

San Felice Chianti Classico Pogiorosso Gran Selezione Castelnovo Berardenga 2019
Limestone soils and 100% new oak (500 litres). Fresh and vivid with bright cherry and red berry fruits. Lovely acidity here with good structure, and lots of potential for development. Subtle hints of leather and spice and even a touch of liquorice, with bright acidity on the finish. This is beautifully focused and bright, with nicely balanced fruit. So fine, but also has a twist of wildness. 95/100

San Felice Campo Giovanni Brunello di Montalcino 2019
This is ripe and dense with good structure showing bold, ripe black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Bold and rich with nice sweetness to the fruit, a touch of cedar spice, and a long black fruits finish. Well structured. 94/100

San Felice Vigorello 2019 IGT Toscana
1968 Vigorello the first super Tuscan ever. Same year as Sassacaia. The reason for this was that the quality of Chianti was very low, so the proudest producers didn’t want to be identified with this wine. At San Felice they decided to show the quality of Sangiovese. But now this is not Sangiovese-based since 2004. It’s a blend of Pugniatello and Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bright, lively and expressive with cherry and berry fruit and some nice grip. Grippy and expressive with nice focus and acidity. There’s a brisk, linear quality to this wine but the fruit is ripe. Polished and fine. 94/100

San Felice Bell’Aja 2020 Bolgheri Superiore
15.5% alcohol. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe, lush, sweet and modern with liqueur-like berry and black fruits, with amazing fruit intensity, some warmth, and a nice definition. Despite the alcohol, this has lovely freshness and fruit definition with some nice spicy quality. Has fine spices and nice depth. Fleshy, intense, striking. 93/100