The best part of two hours in the car, on picturesque but windy roads, and we are in the real heart of Tuscany – the Chianti Classico region. We are visiting Sean O’Callaghan, the immensely talented wine maker at Riecine.
We tasted a range of parcels in both tank and barrel which showed so clearly the impact of different soil, exposure and age of grapes on the finished product. Sean described what he is looking for in his range and how he decides which parcels to put into which wines. “The Chianti Classico is all about balance and drinkability, but as the first step on the ladder the quality must be consistent with the other wines. In the Riserva I am looking for finesse and elegance while the richest most powerful parcels with the greatest ability to absorb oak go into La Gioia.” He uses wines from new barrels sparingly, comparing them to seasoning or spice in food.
The final stop in Tuscany is Carmignano. Close to Florence, the vineyard area dates back to Medici times when it was the royal hunting park. Catherine de Medici brought Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to the area and this is immortalised in the DOC rules which require 10% of the wine to be made from French grape varieties.
We were meeting Beppe Rigoli of Ambra and as we were short of time so we tasted the wines over lunch at Ristorante Falcone di Poggio a Caiano. For me this was the epitome of good Italian food – crostini, delicious pappardelle with wild boar ragu followed by grilled chicken and salad – once again very simple, but incredibly good and a perfect foil for Beppe’s wines.
For whatever reason Ambra wines do not fly off our list, but all you Bordeaux drinkers out there should be getting involved…. They are a lovely blend of classic Italian Sangiovese with its notes of pure cherry fruit, but with extra definition and density. So get buying… And then there is their Vin Santo. Complete heaven. Enough said.