“I want to scream to the world that there are badass wines from Chianti,” says Giovanni Mazzei, whose family have been winemakers in Tuscany for 600 years. Their flagship Castello di Fonterutoli estate is at the heart of Chianti Classico; indeed, in 1398, Ser Lapo Mazzei was the first to document the Chianti denomination. Twenty four generations later, the Mazzeis have added estates in coastal Maremma and Sicily to their name, while Giovanni has launched Il Caggio – a personal project he hopes will propel Chianti into the same prestigious league as nearby Montalcino.
The region has, in fact, been attracting greater attention since the institution of the Gran Selezione classification, which began with the 2010 vintage and will be applied to Il Caggio’s first release, Ipsus 2015. “I want our wines to be a point of reference for the Sangiovese grape in the region,” says Giovanni, whose vineyards neighbour the Mazzei estate, their 6.5 hectares rising to a south-facing plateau, 350m above sea level. “The classic Alberese soil – limestone-rich marl – gives real elegance and finesse, while the intense blue clay-rich soils guarantee concentration and colour and also freshness,” says winemaker Gionata Pulignani, adding that the six plots of vines (with 18 micro vinifications) are each vinified separately, then aged in large oak barrels and cement vats.
After 14 years on site, they have just released Ipsus 2015. It is the most Burgundian young Sangiovese I can recall tasting. Powerfully elegant, delicately firm. The nose is very high-toned for such a solar vintage, with cranberries, redcurrants and red plums underpinned by herbs, but also coffee, tapenade, blood-orange peel and a ferrous, lead-pencil note. Giovanni points to the wine’s “crystalline acidity” – and there is indeed an impressive saline freshness alongside the smoky, peppery berry fruits and dusky tannins – and sums it up as “electrifying”. It is excellent and sets a new benchmark for Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.
A maximum of 3,000 bottles will be made of each vintage, and buyers – who will be “part of the family” – are encouraged to visit the carbon-positive estate and its cellars, designed by Giovanni’s aunt, architect Agnese Mazzei. My hour-long tasting with Giovanni and Pulignani had to take place on Zoom, so I too look forward to touring the vineyards that, I have no doubt, will take Chianti to new heights. Three-bottle case of Ipsus 2015, €885 on allocation – one case per successful applicant. Visit ipsus.it
Where to go for Chianti Classico
Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo
While this historic estate is justly renowned for its single-vineyard wines, San Lorenzo is a hidden gem – the baby brother of Vigneto Bellavista, with some of the same brooding, intense, minerally depths. 2016: £260 for six bottles, millesima.co.uk
Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia, Castelnuovo Berardenga
From the south of the region, Felsina is known for powerful, gamey, dark wines – especially Rancia, which offers a satisfyingly rugged mouthful of cedar, leather, polish and sour cherries. 2013: £45, oldbridgewine.co.uk
Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badia a Passignano
Rich, spicy, herbal and deep-fruited, the last couple of vintages of Antinori’s top Chianti have been especially satisfying and show that the wine is on the march to the top flight of the category. 2016: £38.95, hic-winemerchants.com
Querciabella Chianti Classico, Greve
This pioneering vegan, biodynamic estate consistently turns out supple, generous, fresh-perfumed Chiantis (as well as one of Tuscany’s greatest white wines: Batàr). 2016: £25.60, honestgrapes.co.uk
Isole & Olena Cepparello, Castellina
Not technically a Chianti Classico but too good not to mention, this 100 per cent Sangiovese is the flagship red from outspoken winemaker Paolo de Marchi. It’s packed with cocoa, cherry, spicy plum and tobacco notes, plus its deceptively elegant tannins ensure impressive longevity. 2016: £72.50, vinvm.co.uk
Tom Harrow is a fine-wine commentator, consultant and presenter. His Grand Crew Classé is the ultimate invitation-only club for fine-wine enthusiasts, with exclusive access to rare bottles and events around the world. Follow him on Twitter: @winechapUK