When I received the invitation to a Tuscan Festival at Vivace Restaurant in Auckland's inner city, I had no idea what was in store. The invitation said the Festival started at midday but please arrive at 11am for a tasting of some incredible wines to promote three historic Tuscan wineries. The names Badia a Coltibuono from the heart of Tuscany, Fattoria dei Barbi from Montalcino in the south and Capezzana from the region of Carmignano in the north of Tuscany were unfamiliar to me.
So it would be a time of discovery and with a tasting of the Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti wines dating back to 1959, it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Badia a Coltibuono, which translates to "abbey of good harvest", was founded by Vallombrosian monks about a thousand years ago. It has an old-age tradition of vine growing. But modern winemaking was definitely a feature of the Riserva Chianti wines we tasted.
My notes for the library wines are supplemented with the Coltibuono supplied notes that were recorded on January 26th 2002.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1959
Tawny orange brick colour with quite a dark centre. Smells like a box of muscatel raisins. Lovely old cedar flavours with developed licorice, almost salty in a way. The fruit is sweet and savoury. There's a nice touch of spice an acidity on the finish. This is a quite remarkable wine for its age. It's lovely, smooth and vinous. The wine was 'ready' in 1983, however it is still up there on its plateau.
Interesting aluminium tamper evident seal on the Badia di Coltibuono library wines
Winemaker notes: Very mature color, brick, browning at edge. Incense note in the nose, spicy, dried cherry, slight tarry note. Very soft, mature mouthfeel with good acid grip. ***** A great result from a spotty vintage.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1965
A little redder, brighter in colour, but still in the bricky spectrum. Smells a little like savoury meats. Savoury, sweetish vinosity and more citrus (grapefruit) in profile than the '59. Firm tannins still, dusty and a tad sour on the finish.
Winemaker notes:Mature color, brick around the edge; spicy old wood nose, dried fruit, note of truffle; slight astringency but good acid balance, clean finish. *** The vintage was mediocre.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1966
Orange with red hues. Quite lifted, savoury, sweet vanillin fruit with a touch of musk, a hint of aniseed and peppermint. Seems so youthful. The 'book' said it was at peak in 1985 but it has not slid far off it in the last 17 years. This is simply a remarkable wine. (It seems to me we had a better bottle than the wine the winemaker notes were compiled from, below).
Winemaker notes:Color browning along the edge; very mature truffle nose, spicy, tobacco, tar; very soft, velvety, with good finish. *** Average vintage.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1969
Bright orange with red brown hues. Quite developed, savoury with duller fruit than those previously tasted. Kind of a cooked raisin character, however I love the touch of licorice and the sweet muskiness. More obvious tannins. A hard ask to follow the '66 when tasted in a line-up like this.
Winemaker notes:Mature brick color; quite mature in the nose too, tobacco, tar, spicy nose with notes of dried cherries; elegant and soft in the mouth, sustained by remaining acidity. **** Good vintage.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1971
Deep tawny red with orange rims. Quite savoury, meaty and cedary nose. Lovely sweet fruit again accompanied by quite a bit of musk spice. Porty.
Winemaker notes: Garnet red turning to brick around the edge; complex nose with flowery notes over a residual fruit aroma; great balance in the mouth, acidity and soft tannins well integrated. ***** Top vintage, a winner for all Chianti Classico.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1977
Brick red with tawny rims. Lovely cedar and old rose aromas. Quite harmonious in the texture - almost ethereal. Drinking so beautifully now. With cheese it becomes quite sweetish. Still heaps of acid and a spicy 'glow' to the finish.
Winemaker notes: Garnet with brick hue along the edge; complex nose with fresh and dried fruit, flowery note and aromatic spicy character; very pleasant, soft elegant mouthfeel, long finish. ***** Fine vintage, one of the best in the seventies.
The current vintage wines
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1997
A deep dark red ruby colour. Wild berry aromas and hints of cherry on the nose. Quite spicy fruit with vanillin notes, this is full and rich with strawberry, cherries, spice and an earthy depth. Well structured with soft silky tannins. A most harmonious wine with wonderful vinosity. Drinking beautifully now but based on the other there is years and years ahead in the very very good wine. NZ$65.
Notes on this wine include the winemaking regime. Sangioveto is blended with 10% Caniolo, which adds complexity and adds a softness. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and left on skins for 20 days. After malolactic fermentation it is matured in French oak casks for two years then 'refined' in the bottle for another year before release. 80,200 bottles produced and available in New Zealand.
Badia a Coltibuono Riserva Chianti DOCG 1998
Deep ruby red. Savoury aromas and earthy, tarry, savoury flavours. There is sweet cherry and berry fruit and plenty of acidity to ensure it will last. The tannins are rich and black cherry flavours linger. It just doesn't have the elegance of the fantastic 1997.
I did not take extensive notes on the other wines, which were mostly consumed with food. However I was most impressed with these offerings.
Cappezzana Villa di Capezzana DOCG 1997
Lovely deep ruby hues. Sweet scented with a hint of almond and marzipan and a rich fruitcake flavour with cherry, glazed citrus and harmonic oak. NZ$39.
Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1997
Made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, this is a big dark juicy wine with bold blackberry and plum flavours and seems, at first, almost New World in style. There's a rich gamey feel to the wine however. In comparison to the taut and tannic 1996 that was tasted alongside, this is a deliciously approachable wine with velvety tannins and a terrifically long finish. Top stuff. NZ$75.
Fattoria de Barbi Vin Santo 1993
Orange gold in colour with very appealing aromas of honey and spices with a hint of orange zest. Lots of delicious honey-macerated raisin flavours with lingering orange blossom and spice. This is probably the best Vin Santo I have tasted, although I have only tasted a handful, and was a very good match with peccorino cheese. 15% alcohol.
Vivace is one of my favourite inner city restaurants. The food and wine selection always excels. But today Paolo Pancotti from the famous Badia a Coltibuono cooking school was there to cook traditional Tuscan fare to accompany the wines. There was an endless selection of Antipasti at the first station, a creamy Risotto al Funghi Porcini (Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms), a tender Arista de Semi di Finochhio (roast pork with fennel seeds) and a Coniglio alle olive (Rabbit with Olives) among the many dishes at the second station and a selection of Dolci at the Third Station.
While Paolo Pancotti has now returned to Tuscany, he has educated the Vivace chefs in his methods. So you can taste his Tuscan inspired dishes and the current vintage releases of these historic Tuscan wineries when you call in at Vivace for lunch or dinner.
The wines that were tasted are imported into New Zealand by La Vendemmia Ltd.
© Sue Courtney. 4 October 2002