On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Report from : Chianti Classico Anteprima 2020

11 Aug 2020

(February 2020) – Tuscany … Seems like it has been forever since I went to this tasting in Florence, Italy – and I do miss the country so much, it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder; but now let’s look at step one of this tasting and the reason we are all there – to taste the newest vintage of Chianti Classico.

This year 198 wineries participated and 480 wines were on display: 214 Chianti Classico, 153 Chianti Classico Riserva and 113 Gran Selezione. Vintages ranged from the 2018 Chianti Classico to a 2007 Riserva. The tasting occurs over the course of two days during the Chianti Classico Anteprima 2020. It is the largest organized tasting of the week.

Having focused for many years on the current vintage this year I shifted my focus, looking mainly at the Riserva and Gran Selezione … for the Annata wines I wanted to get a snap-shot of the vintage and tasted about 25% of them – as opposed to 100% of the Gran Selezione and 80% of the Riserva (reports for each can be found separately) – and will be linked to the bottom of this post once ready.

2018 seems a drinkable but not very impressive vintage … that said it comes after some pretty stellar vintages like the 2015 and 2016, even 2017 was a lovely vintage (though it did have its challenges). The 2018s are a scattershot and one has to be familiar with the producer and their style to be comfortable with what is in the bottle.

Interesting to note that the majority of the Chianti Classicos were from the tasty 2017 vintage (96 wines) – and those looking for drink-early Chianti should be looking at 2017, while they rest their 2016 and even their 2015 … the 2018 still need another year in bottle to fully integrate and hopefully at next year’s Anteprima we’ll have a better idea of what is happening in these bottles.

Below is a list of the wines that truly represented, to me, the best of the Chianti Classico DOCG wines I tasted (in alphabetical order by producer / by star rating) – everything rated is a “finished” wine; “unfinished” or barrel samples are rated for potential on a Good/Better/Best scale and can be found under the star rated wines:

(All scoring is out of 5 stars)

Chianti Classico BookletChianti Classico were a range of
2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013  (DOCG) …

Three and a Half Stars …

Cantina Castelvecchi 2017 Chianti Classico “Capotondo”
Castelli del Grevepesa 2017 Chianti Classico “Clemente VII”
Castello Vicchiomaggio 2018 Chianti Classico “Guado Alto”
Conti Capponi 2017 Chianti Classico “Villa Calcinaia”
Felsina 2018 Chianti Classico “Berardenga”
I Sodi 2017 Chianti Classico
Isole e Olena 2017 Chianti Classico
Lamole di Lamole 2017 Chianti Classico
Ottomani 2017 Chianti Classico
Podere L’Aja 2016 Chianti Classico
Poggio Bonelli 2017 Chianti Classico
Tolaini 2018 Chianti Classico “Vallenuova”
Vignamaggio 2017 Chianti Classico “Terre di Prenzano”

Three and a Half Plus Stars …

Banfi 2018 Chianti Classico “Fonte alla Selva”
Carpineto 2018 Chianti Classico
Monteraponi 2018 Chianti Classico
Nardi Viticoltori 2017 Chianti Classico
Rocca delle Macie 2018 Chianti Classico “Famiglia Zingarelli”

Four Stars … Podere L'Aja

Podere L’Aja 2016 Chianti Classico “Chielle”
Terreno 2016 Chianti Classico “ASofia”

Barrel Samples …
Good / Better / Best

Brancaia 2018 Chianti Classico … (BETTER)
Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino 2018 Chianti Classico “Dofana” … (GOOD)
Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino 2018 Chianti Classico “Montaperto” … (BETTER)
I Fabbri 2018 Chianti Classico “Lamole” … (BETTER)
Isole e Olena 2018 Chianti Classico … (BEST)


Links to the other reports in this series …

Report from : Chianti Classico Riserva - Anteprima 2020

Report from : Chianti Classico Gran Selezione - Anteprima 2020



Report from : Cusumano's Other Side

06 Aug 2020

(August 5, 2020) ... Sicily is hot, it’s south and it is in Italy - that is what mosty of us know about this island at the "toe" of Italy … not a place you would expect to find delicate wines with plenty of acidity and finesse. I am a fan of indigenous grapes and Sicilian wine, which is a match made in heaven for wine drinkers, so when the opportunity came along to sit down virtually (and digitally) with Diego Cusumano (whom along with his brother Alberto) started the winery as we know it today … I jumped at the opportunity.

Cusuamno was started 45 years ago by Diego and Alberto’s father, and it produced bulk wine up until the late 90’s when the boys started to make some investments in the vineyard and the winery: their father’s advice about making good wine of quality: “it is important to control 100% of your grapes”.  They brought in a Piedmontese winemaker named Mario, who finishes harvest in the north then makes his way south to start harvest and making all over again.

Cusumano started their rise slowly, increasing their production to match the levels they required, thus able to keep their quality constant, plus they were using sustainable practices the whole way – they were sustainable grape growers and makers before it became trendy, Diego is proud to point out.

The three wines tasted today showed a different side of the winery’s output. Here in Ontario we see the Nero D’Avola, the Syrah, and the Insolia on a regular basis, and the occasional “Vintages” selection comes through the board – but these wines are on another plane of quality.

2018 Shamaris (Grillo) – Tenuta Monte Pietroso  Shamaris - Cusumano
This wine sees 6 months in stainless steel with no skin contact … making it a very fresh wine, it is also grown at 400m above sea level. Traditionally the Grillo grape is grown at, or about, sea level and can be a bland, non-descript white; with the higher elevation at which these grapes are grown it creates more character and keeps the acidity. It took the Cusumano brothers 6 years of experimentation to learn how to make a better Grillo, keeping freshness and lightness: lemon, beeswax, floral, bitter yellow melon and even a saltiness that makes this wine perfect for food pairing – but also a lovely sipper. Nice light 12.5% alcohol.  (*** ½+)

Disueri - Cusumano2018 Disueri (Nero D’Avola) – Tenuta San Giacomo
The Nero that goes into this wine is taken from a single vineyard that lies 10km from the sea at 400m above sea level, it’s claim-to-fame is that it has a completely white calcareous soil. The name of the wine means “desire”, given this name because the estate lies beside an old dried up riverbed that was known as, “the river of desire”. No oak is introduced to the wine and it remains on fine lees for its entire time in stainless steel (5 months). Not your usual rich version of Nero D’Avola, it is smooth and silky with soft tannins, but it’s the black cherry, licorice and herbal notes that are the most striking and riveting all backed with good acidity and a certain salty/stony quality. Another food wine that is incredibly sippable.  (****)

2018 Alta Mora (Carricante) Etna Bianco Alta Mora - Cusumano
The Alta Mora project, while part of Cusumano, is treated as something completely different: from the website to the wines. These are wines that come from a totally different region of Sicily, Etna, where the volcanic soils give a totally different character to the wines. Three “contrade” (crus) were acquired back in 2013 by Cusumano and the Alta Mora project was born. This Etna Bianco is made with the Carricante grape – a white that is native to Sicily and in particular the Etna region. It resides at 600m above sea level and is a late ripening variety. Diego says the final wine gets compared with the likes of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, as people try to determine what niche they should put this wine into; but he claims it is its own particular set of separate variety with its own characteristics. Interesting to note that the wine sees no oak treatment, yet it has a richness on the palate that mimics some wood, or long lees aging: rich and salty with notes of pineapple – a wine to be experenced.  (*** ½+)

The wines above are available through consignment (Family Wine Merchants)

Bonus Wine Still Available at the LCBO …

Cusumano 2018 Insolia ($12.95 - #173336)
Look, this wine is not going to blow the doors off ... but if you're looking for something to just sit on the patio and enjoy those hot days ahead, this one will definitely do the trick; and what's more it's the perfect summer sipper at an unbelievably good price. Good acidity follows grapefruit and guava plus there is a citrus pith note that provides a refreshing and pleasant bitterness on the finish. If you are looking for comparison, it's like Sauvignon Blanc with a Southern-Italian twist.  Rating: *** ½


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