Visiting Chianti Classico 
Part 2: Fontodi   


Fontodi is one of the most highly regarded of all Chianti Classico producers, and this was our first visit in the region. We were hosted by owner Giovanni Manetti (above), whose family purchased the estate in 1968. The 70 hectare estate is run organically, and the 2008 vintage, being picked as we visited, was to be the first one certified organic.


Fontodi is located in Panzano (above), in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. ‘In Panzano 60% of vineyards are organic or biodynamic’, explained Manetti. ‘There are lots of younger vignerons with a new mentality; people live in the vineyards. It is also easier to be organic with this microclimate.’ In Panzano there is a small association of growers to support those who want to change to organics (Unione Viticultore Panzano) which currently has 22 members.


From the Fontodi estate there’s a nice view across to Panzano. We then hopped in a couple of 4 wheel drive vehicles to go and look at the vineyards, where the grapes were being harvested. The vineyards are all located in a valley known as Conca D'oro (the Golden Basin), which is south of the town and has an altitude of around 400 metres. It’s a beautiful situation.


We get back to the winery and the Sangiovese grapes that have just been picked are being processed. It’s quite simple: they are sorted on a table for quality, then destemmed, then pumped gently to the fermentation tanks.


In 1998 a new winery was built. The fermentations here employ natural yeasts and the maceration is typically 20 days. Only French oak is used, and elevage is 12–24 months with differing percentages of new oak. The Chianti Classico sees no new oak; the top wines have 70–100% new oak.


Manetti is assisted in the winery by consultant Franco Bernabei. One thing Fontodi are doing that is a little different is using more no-toast barrels. ‘10–20% of no-toast oak can keep the freshness of the wine’, says Manetti. ‘But the oak must be perfect: some barrel makers toast barrels to cover green characters’.



Fontodi Meriggio 2007
A Pinot Blanc/Sauvignon blend fermented in French oak. Attractive grassy green edge to the ripe, sweet, rounded fruit. The palate shows beautifully rounded, refreshing, subtly grassy lemony fruit with a bit of passionfruit character. Sophisticated and satisfying. 90/100 (£15.49 UK retail)

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2006
This is the main wine from the estate, of which some 160 000 bottles are made annually (60% of production). It’s 100% Sangiovese, and spends a year in used French oak. Deep cherry red colour. Fresh nose of pure red and black cherry fruit. The palate is really fresh and structured with firm tannins and good acidity under the spicy, earthy cherry fruit. More red fruit than black, this is almost Burgundian with a brilliantly minerally finish. 91/100

Fontodi Case Via Pinot Nero 2006 IGT
Spicy, earthy edge to the nose: it smells a bit like Sangiovese! The palate is fresh and herby with sweet, spicy fruit. There’s some earthy spiciness here. It’s ripe and full, but perhaps just a little clumsy, finishing spicy and medicinal. 87/100

Fontodi Case Via Syrah 2004 IGT
Sweet, spicy, earthy nose with red fruit character. The palate is dense, spicy, earthy and intense with a firm spicy, medicinal character. Dense and fresh with good acidity. Quite Sangiovese like. 88/100

Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo 2004
90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, from 35 year old vines. The Cabernet component is picked very late, 1–2 weeks later than the Sangiovese. Beautifully aromatic nose of sweet cherries, spice and a hint of herbs. Lovely pure focused fruit. The palate is super-elegant and expressive with a lovely spicy, cedary edge to the pure red berry and cherry fruit. Beautiful stuff with some firm tannic structure but a lovely expressive personality. 94/100 (£31.49)

Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo 1999
Very open, aromatic nose with cherries and herbs, as well as some warm spiciness and cedary notes. The palate has spicy, earthy warmth behind the bright, sweet cherryish fruit. Dense structure still, but beginning to evolve nicely. Satisfying stuff. 92/100

Flaccianello della Pieve IGT 2005
From 1981–2000 this was a single vineyard wine, but then the vineyard was replanted. So since the 2001 vintage this has been a super-selection of the best Sangiovese. Smooth, pure, elegant dark fruits nose is a little closed, with some brooding, slightly tarry notes and a bit of oak. The palate is concentrated and smooth with dense, pure blackberry and black cherry fruit supported by firm structure. Quite serious and tannic with lovely purity of fruit. 93/100 (£42.49)

Flaccianello della Pieve IGT 1999
Evolved, open, herby, sweetly spiced tarry nose, with some subtle medicinal notes. The palate is warm and rich with spice and slight earthiness, with cherry fruit but also non-fruit characters. There’s also a sweet, fudgey, spicy note. Drinking well. 92/100  

see a short video of the harvest at Fontodi which I recorded, below:


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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