We then had a very long drive south to Carmignano to see the charming and very tall Beppe Rigoli at Fattoria Ambra to taste his Carmignano Riservas, a DOC which was the first to include Cabernet with the Sangiovese. The wines are delicious and extraordinary good value, the Elzana 2005 was really fine and balanced, not a million miles away in style from a red Medoc.
Dinner and overnight was at the impressive Il Molino di Grace in Panzano, which has fast become a towering force in the area, achieving the recognition of being one of the best 100 wineries in the world from Wine Spectator and winning the highest prize of Tre Bicchieri for two of their 2004 wines, Gratius and Chianti Riserva.
We had a great tasting the following morning with Gerhard who was on very chirpy form and has many innovations planned for this year not least to continue to produce his wines organically and to really nurture the vines – impressive stuff, and a good partnership for us.
We then had our first visit to Tignanello, owned by the Marchesa Piero Antinori. This is a beautiful and immaculately run estate, incorporating unique vineyard practices including lining the base of the vines with white “albarese” stones, which reflect sun back up into the plant, and a drip irrigation system replicated from something seen in Israel. No chemicals are used and the blend is 80/20 Sangiovese to Cabernet, so technically if the vineyard was not irrigated it could be classified as Chianti Classico. Tignanello 2005 was fabuloso, cassis, rich, polished, v. v. long and a treat. We will offer some along with Antionori’s excellent pair of Umbrian Chardonnays, Cevaro della Salla and Bramito.
Onwards to Riecine which is an estate right at the very top of the quality spire – run with pride and passion by a great and talented individual, Sean O Callaghan. These wines deserve a place in all of our cellars. The Chianti Classico 2006 was pure blueberry/blackberry with real precision and will drink as soon as it lands, we have a little of his 2005 left which is buenissimo. There is no better Chianti Riserva than Sean’s that I have come across and his Super Tusan, La Gioia, is as the name suggests a complete joy to imbibe. We drank the 2004 which was full of herb, licorice, black plum, blackcurrant, leather and fixed a smile on my face for a good hour – it will be going into the JC cellar!