Visiting Chianti Classico 
Part 11: Vicchiomaggio   

Owner John Matta received us at Vicchiomaggio on a wonderfully clear, starlit evening for dinner and tasting at his impressive family estate.

Vicchiomaggio is a 150 hectare estate with 32 hectares of vines. There’s a continual replanting program underway: John made a big effort to complete the first 10 hectares in his first 4 years, and since then half a hectare is being replanted each year. He also has 10 hectares of vines in Maremma, in DOC Morrelina di Scansano. It’s just 6 km from the sea.

John has been replanting at a high density (5000 vines/hectare) using new clones of Sangiovese selected by the Consorzio. The older clones had big berries. ‘You always had a rough time with late harvests,’ recalls John. ‘The berries break inside the bunch and you get mould from the inside out. With the Sangiovese of old you’d have mildew and rot everywhere. As a result, people have tended to harvest a bit early with Sangiovese.’ This, he says, has been one of the appeals of Cabernet and Merlot, which can be harvested later without problems. ‘Even in 2002, a difficult vintage, Merlot didn’t have problems because it has small berries and dries. With the new Sangiovese clones you can risk a late harvest.’

John is English, born in London to an Italian family. His father was in the wine business: in the 1920s he founded a French wine specialist (FS Matta Ltd). Then, when the boom in Italian restaurants occurred in the UK, John’s father was the first to supply them with wine, with a two-year start on the other importers.

The company grew quickly, and went public. It was taken over by Beechams (who at the time had other wine interests) becoming Findlater Matta agents. However, Beechams didn’t really understand wine marketing and the ventured struggled. In the meantime, John’s father had cloned the company and resurrected it in various guises with different partners (Enotria, Italivini, Hedges & Butler).

John went to school in the UK but then studies Viticulture and Oenology at Alba in 1968; his family had purchased Vicchiomaggio in 1964. Now he’s running the family estate. And the wines? They're very impressive, in a fruit-forward, more modern style. They do, however, flirt slightly with spoofiness at the top end.

Agostino Petri da Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Reserva 2005
Deep coloured, structured and spicy with bold, forward dark fruits backed up by spicy tannins. Concentrated with lots of fruit and well integrated oak. Savoury, with some mineral notes and good acidity. 91/100

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva La Prima 2004 (magnum)
This is the oldest vineyard. Smooth, refined, sweet pure blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with some minerality. The palate is concentrated, sophisticated and mineralic with good tannins and a gravelly edge. Sophisticated and stylish. 92/100

Vicchiomaggion Ripa delle More 2004 IGT Toscana
60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Deep, intense, tight blackberry and blackcurrant nose. Really rich with tight spicy, rounded, tarry notes on the powerful palate, which is structured with some gravelly minerality. Brilliant stuff: dense and satisfying. 94/100

Vicchiomaggio FSM 2004 IGT Toscana
This is a high-end varietal Merlot from yields of 18 hl/ha, aged for 29 months in new oak. This was the first vintage. Super-concentrated, dense and minerally with lush, sweet dense blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Very rich indeed, with huge concentration. Slightly too modern? But very stylish and seductive. John describes this as his visiting card. 94/100

We also tried a barrel sample of a 100% Petit Verdot from the Maremma, which will be released as an IGT wine. It’s very spicy, rich and dense with soft, sweet fruit. A rich new world-style wine of great appeal.


Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Fontodi
Part 3: Castello di Querceto
Part 4: Castello della Paneretta
Part 5: Bibbiano
Part 6: Fattoria di Felsina
Part 7: Castell'in Villa
Part 8: Palazzino
Part 9: Barone Ricasoli
Part 10: Colle Lungo
Part 11: Vicchiomaggio

Wines tasted 10/08  
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