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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany

Primary Grapes: Sangiovese, Mammolo, Trebbiano

Primary Appellations: Chianti Classico DOCG

www.coltibuono.com

American Importer: Dalla Terra Winery Direct

 

      

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Why Badia a Coltibuono is Essential

Viticulture on the site of Badia a Coltibuono (literally “Abbey of Good Crops”) dates back to 1051. Current owners, the Stucchi Prinetti family, have owned the property since 1846 when it was purchased by Michele Giuntini of Florence — a distant cousin and also a familial link to Selvapiana in nearby Rufina. This connection, in an overly simplistic way, makes sense, as Selvapiana is the only other estate I’ve come across who can render such lean elegance from Sangiovese as beautifully as Badia a Coltibuono does. Not surprisingly, they share the same importer (and absurdly reasonable prices).

Chianti Classico has made a shift in recent years. Organic viticulture is increasingly more common, cooler sites are increasingly more celebrated, and so is the mosaic of Sangiovese clones. “Less” is now “more” when it comes to extraction in the winery. These are all welcome changes, but in each case, Badia a Coltibuono was well ahead of the trend, as a taste of the 2007 riserva recently confirmed. Winemaker Roberto Stucchi has a singular focus to showcase the personality of his fruit, not the techniques he employs.

For the here and now, Chianti Classico (as a whole) will continue to be defined by the flavors of Sangiovese and oak, but I have a feeling that the conversation will continue to turn more toward Chianti Classico’s terroir in the coming years, and Stucchi will be the one behind the wheel leading the ship.

Wines to Seek Out

Badia a Coltibuono has long been a leader in organic viticulture, beginning their conversion in 1985, and receiving certification in 2000. There is a patient maturity to these wines that feels immune to fashion. They are Tuscany as the timeless idyll we wish to receive. There are two brands at work here: Badia a Coltibuono for the estate wines and Cultusboni, which operates on a négociant model.

Badia a Coltibuono does not offer a Chianti Classico in the Gran Selezione category, which the consorzio is trying to promote as the grandest expression of the area. Stucchi told me that this designation — in which the wine is aged for 30 months instead of the 24 months of Riserva — does not really represent the “top of the pyramid” to him. He has no problem with the designation; it is just not a good fit for Badia a Coltibuono, which has a reputation for delicacy to uphold. I tend to agree with him. Many of my favorite wines from Chianti Classico are annata or riserva level, which is where Sangiovese’s rapturous fruit is best on display.

Cultusboni “Colmaia” Sangiovese

This new wine, a Sangiovese that sees no oak, is as progressive as it is nostalgic. This is what the grape tastes like to winemakers before they move it to oak, and the snappiness and depth of the fruit — as well as an intoxicating aroma akin to autumn leaves on a forest floor — reveal the promise of Italy’s most widely planted grape. At $13, this wine is one of Italy’s best values.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico (annata)

This brilliant wine will have you revising your word bank of descriptors for Chianti Classico: fresh, vibrant, comforting. Again, this is Stucchi’s interpretation of his land, and it reads like a poem that anyone can understand. The fruit has radiance, while an aromatic cut resembling orange peel and cinnamon bark completes the depiction. And if you are waiting for Chianti Classico’s typical oaky tannins to come smother the show, you’ll be waiting for eternity.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva

As good as their affordable annata bottling of Chianti Classico is, the riserva kicks the seduction up several notches. It’s deep, savory and fruity, bold yet delicate and generous. If you want to start a wine cellar on a budget, start here. As it ages, it reveals layers of spice, mint and chocolate.

Badia a Coltibuono Montebello

The Chianti Classico Riserva anchors the lineup, but if there is a single wine that best summarizes the generous ethos of this estate, it is their “Super Tuscan.” Montebello is everything Super Tuscans are not. Typically, when you see Toscana IGT on a label, you know what’s coming: international grapes and anonymity. Instead, Montebello is Stucchi’s way of overcoming what he calls “varietal bias.” The indigenous reds used are all worth mentioning: Mammolo, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello, Colorino, Sanforte, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, Fogliatonda and, yes, Sangiovese. The wine seduces with generous tones of bing cherry, walnut, crabapple blossom and a bit of raisin on the finish, and the control of tannins — a hallmark of Stucchi — makes it as forgiving as it is seductive.

Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo del Chianti Classico

If there is a commonality among the red wines of Badia a Coltibuono, it is their hospitality. They are gracious to those who drink them, and never overwhelming or brash. That warmth shines in their version of Tuscany’s ultimate hospitality wine, Vin Santo. Traditionally poured for arriving guests, this wine ought to be a perennial favorite for those of you who regularly host dinner parties. It’s sweet but not sticky, full textured but silky, and redolent of peaches, apricots and hazelnuts.

Originally listed: April 2019. / Updated November 2020.

Visiting Badia a Coltibuono

Wine tastings and cooking classes — as well as accommodations — are available to the public at the historic estate of Badia a Coltibuono.

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