At the Chianti Classico Collection in February, 152 Chianti Classico producers showed close to 300 different wines—regular bottlings from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007; Riserva bottles from 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006. The most intense focus naturally fell on the two most recent vintages, both high in quality.
The 2009 and 2010 growing seasons differed markedly from each other. A gentle winter preceded a mild but very rainy spring in ’09. That in turn ushered in a hot June and July, followed by an August of fluctuating daytime temperatures but uniformly cool nights—the latter optimal for good ripening and rich aromatics. Rain and sun alternated in September, with the October harvest yielding top-quality fruit.
By contrast, the 2010 crop started with a real winter and an unusually cool but normally wet spring. June and July went to the other extreme and were very hot, but then August and September again dropped to below-average temperatures, making for a slow and protracted process of maturation. Despite all the fluctuations, the harvest was excellent—in the words of the Chianti Classico Consorzio, “a vintage rich in aromas and scents and a great structure conferred by optimal acidity levels, raising hopes in a Chianti Classico for aging.”
“I like the 2009, but I prefer 2010,” said Jacopo di Battista, owner of Querceto di Castellina. “It’s a bit more elegant, a bit less alcoholic, a little lighter—and more ready to drink than 2009, which seems to need more time to evolve.”
On the other hand, Roberto Stucchi of Badia a Coltibuono says, “For us, 2009 is just a perfect vintage. I love it. Everything is right: the balance, the perfumes, the quality, the quantity. For me, 2010 is less classic—lighter, fleshier, more immediate—a very good vintage, which a lot people will like, but not up to 2009.”
Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi has yet another take on the two vintages. “2009 was a warmer vintage than 2010. There was a lot of fruit, so it was necessary to green harvest very strictly to bring the grapes into balance. If you did that correctly, everything was perfect—some of the healthiest grapes I’ve ever seen. You can feel that in the purity and focus and intensity of the wine. It’s a vintage of great balance, like 2001. It’s drinkable now, and it can live for a very long time. 2010 is very rich, very muscular, and a much smaller crop—very good concentration. Mine is still in barrel—only the lighter 2010s have been released now.” As confirmation of that judgment, Manetti pointed out that Piero Antinori has announced that in the 2010 vintage, Tignanello will be 100% sangiovese—no cabernet at all.
My personal judgment, based solely on the wines on show, is that these initial 2010 offerings evidence a good, solid, but not outstanding vintage—nice fruit, with distinctive inflections from their diverse terroirs. Their balance makes them drinkable now—an enjoyable consumer and restaurant vintage. What character the vintage may reveal as heftier bottlings make their debut is something else again.
The Chianti Classico normale of 2009 already show fine fruit and earth tones, more than a little elegance, and an evident structure for aging—a top-tier vintage. Too many of the ’09 Riservas I tasted, however, are marred by over-heavy toasted oak flavors that mask their sangiovese character.
Even so, as Roberto Stucchi warns: “To generalize about vintages in Chianti Classico is very, very difficult, because our soils vary so much. Our closest neighbor makes wines completely different from ours, because his soil is so different.”
And a final note about Antinori: after 35 years of secession, Piero Antinori has announced that he is rejoining the Chianti Classico Consorzio. This caused great excitement among the producers, for whom it seemed to mark some sort of achievement of respectability or prestige. Among the journalists, the announcement caused less stir, most viewing it as a final step in the process begun by Castello Brolio’s rejoining the Consorzio a decade ago.
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