Ever since I first tasted them a few years ago, the wines of Giacomo Mastretta at Porte di Vertine in Gaiole in Chianti have always thrilled me. They offer one of the most elegant yet real expressions of Chianti Classico today.
In an appellation where historical marketing missteps (remember the 1970s?) and a widespread misguided desire to refashion the wines in the image of Americankind, Giacomo’s wines stand out in a crowded field of mostly anonymous and homogenous bottles.
But when I had the chance to taste with him at the winery a few weeks ago, it wasn’t his superb 100 percent Sangiovese 2010 Riserva, with its rich earthy overtones, that has kept me up at night.
No, it was his 2012, a wine from a challenging vintage in Italy, that really blew me away.
The 2012 vintage was a warm one, said Giacomo. August was very hot and heavy rains at the end of the month weren’t enough to cool the vines and keep the fruit from becoming overripe.
He didn’t make a riserva that year. Instead, he blended all of his Sangiovese, together with small amounts of Canaiolo and Colorino, as his Chianti Classico.
I loved this wine. It was bright and fresh in the glass and the fruit, while ripe, wasn’t overly concentrated or sweet. And the wine’s acidity and restrained alcohol sang in harmony with its flavors.
But the thing that really impressed me was how it reminded me of my first encounters with great Sangiovese in the late 1980s, before the second wave of U.S.-bound Chianti eclipsed traditional values in the appellation.
I can’t recommend it enough. Like any good winemaker faced with a challenging vintage, Giacomo made less wine from the troubled 2012 harvest than he would have normally. But, man, what a wine!
To quote Villon, this is the Chianti of yesteryear… today…
On deck for tomorrow: two great Amaro that I tasted on my trip…