Few red wines whet the appetite like a top-notch Chianti Classico – just ask Hannibal Lecter – and few, if any estates, produce better Chianti Classico than Rocca di Montegrossi. Over the past several years, it’s been hard to keep up with the accolades bestowed on the estate’s wines. Most recently, San Marcellino 2016 was the highest rated Chianti Classico Gran Selezione in an extensive line-up compiled by Decanter (you’ll find the glowing note below).
We’re delighted to today offer San Marcellino 2016 alongside the fabulous, earlier-drinking Chianti Classico 2019.
Rocca di Montegrossi was established some twenty-five years ago by Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi. Having studied winemaking in Dijon, Marco worked at his family’s estate, Castello di Brolio, before turning his focus to a two-hectare plot high in the hills of Gaiole, which was gifted to him by his mother. Marco’s holdings now amount to around ten hectares, which lie at an altitude of between 350 and 500 metres on pale, free-draining Alberese limestone.
At the centre of the estate is the tenth-century church of San Marcellino (made from the same limestone), which Marco is currently restoring to its former glory. The vineyards are surrounded for the most part by woodland, making this an ideal spot for organic viticulture, since there is little risk of contamination from non-organic neighbours. A bigger risk to the welfare of the grapes is the large local population of wild boar, though it should be said the creatures are not entirely unwelcome, since they play a starring role in Tuscany’s cuisine.
Marco’s Chianti Classico is a blend of 88% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and a dash of Colorino. In contrast to Sangiovese, Canaiolo is a low-acid grape with soft tannins, whose role here is to make the wine rounder and more approachable in its youth. Colorino – you guessed it – provides a touch more colour. The wine is matured for eleven months in a combination of concrete tanks and large oak botte. The 2019 is yet to be reviewed, but the previous five vintages were all scored in the nineties by Antonio Galloni (of the 2018, he wrote, ‘This is a fabulous wine for the money. Don’t miss it.’)
San Marcellino hails from the eponymous vineyard, planted in the sixties, where the smallest bunches of Sangiovese are hand-selected by the harvest team (larger bunches go into the Chianti Classico). These small bunches are prized for the berries’ concentration and thick skins – characteristics shared by Pugnitello, which makes up the remaining 10% of the blend. Pugnitello is so named because the bunches resemble a small fist. It is, in Marco’s view, the most interesting of the supporting grapes in Chianti, with the highest potential quality after Sangiovese.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is a relatively new denomination, introduced in 2014. Any wine estate-grown within Chianti Classico can qualify, but must be a minimum 13% abv., and aged for at least thirty months, including at least three in bottle, prior to release. Raised for 25 months in Allier oak – half barriques, half 900L tonneaux (20% new) – then a further 24 months in barrel, San Marcellino 2016 is an exceptionally fine and age-worthy example.
Each of these releases from Rocca di Montegrossi is an outstanding wine in its category. Their precision, freshness and unfussy labels might suggest a modern slant, but above all they are sensual and food-friendly wines in the best traditions of Chianti Classico. The Stannary team recommends them in the strongest possible terms. While both wines boast a long drinking window, the Chianti Classico will deliver a huge amount of pleasure in the short to medium-term while San Marcellino benefits from extra time in bottle. Purchase a case of both and you will receive a 5% discount on the prices shown below.