While I’ve been more focused on grapes than regions of late, I do try to spread my attention around somewhat, if only to keep the pins on my map from all ending up in a tight clump. However, in trying to maintain some level of distribution, I’ve sometimes managed to neglect key regions. I’ll fill in one of those gaps today with this Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2007.
Chianti is one of the better known wines/regions of Italy, though among people who know little about wine it may conjure up images of either a peculiar food pairing which includes fava beans or a straw wrapped bottle repurposed as a candle holder, depending on the age of the person in question. (That straw covered bottle, now somewhat dated, is called a fiasco, something I only just discovered and which I find strangely amusing.)
Contemporary cultural touchstones come and go, but the region Chianti has a reputation dating back to at least the 14th century. First recorded as an area of Tuscany between Florence and Sienna, the wines produced at that time were white. Fast forward to today and the area within that designation has grown greatly and is now broken up into eight zones which can all use the term Chianti in conjunction with their geographical name. In addition, there is a broad bordering area which may produce wines called Chianti without finer geographical designation.
This wine is a Chianti Classico, which deserves a bit more detail. Within Italy, the term Classico is often used to indicate a part of a region as it stood before expansion, which can sometimes undermine a region’s brand and perception of quality. To maintain that differentiation, the DOCG rules for Chianti Classico are more stringent than Chianti. Sangiovese much make up 80% of the blend, whereas in Chianti the minimum is 75%. Maximum yields in the vineyard are 3.34 tons / acre, the finished wine must be 12% ABV, must see seven months in oak, must be bottled under cork, and cannot be released until October 1st of the year after vintage. (24 months ageing, including three months in bottle are required for the Reserva designation.) Chianti limits are 4 tons / acre in the vineyard, finished wines must only be 11.5% ABV, and only four months in oak are needed.
I had a difficult time pinning down the exact requirements for the remainder of the blend until I actually looked at the official website. They’re described as “red grapes belonging to varieties recommended and authorized in the administrative districts of the production zone of the grapes” which I means it’s not set in stone, but rather locally decided. The regional red grape Canaiolo is commonly used, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
The climate of the region is Mediterranean, with most of the area under vine being within 100km of the sea. Autumns are wet, making it often difficult to achieve full tannic ripeness with Sangiovese. The hills vary in altitude from 250m to 500m, and the soil types largely consist of galestro, a grey chalky marlstone, as well as some sandstone.
Santa Margherita was founded in 1935 by Count Gaetano Marzotto Jr. and is run currently by his grandson, Vittorio Emanuele. Marzotto was running a textile group at the time, and founded the estate between Fossalta and Portogruaro in the Veneto as part of a larger modernization effort which put and end to sharecropping and aimed to improve the conditions of farm workers. While based in Portogruaro, and best known for wines of the Veneto, they also own property and produce wine in Alto Adige, Lombardy, Tuscany and Sicily, covering the range of dry and sweet, still and sparkling, red white and rosé, IGT, DOC and DOCG. The company is part of the Terlato Wines International group based in Illinois, which makes wine across six continents and over 40 brands.
As to this wine, in the glass it is clear and bright, with a medium garnet colour and legs. On the nose it is clean and developing with medium plus intensity and notes of raspberries, sweet spice, red cherries, and a little vanilla. On the palate it is dry with medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium tannins, medium intensity, a medium plus length, and medium alcohol. There are notes of raspberries, sweet spice, cranberry and some vanilla and oak on the finish.
This is a good wine – solid, hits the numbers, slightly thin but not particularly lacking because of it. There is a lack of complexity or developed notes, but it delivers on the general tasting notes expected from the region. It’s a solid Chianti Classico from a big producer, certainly well made and enjoyable, but not what I’d call particularly exciting. I think a trip to Italy might be what I need to reignite my interest in the classics.
Pin in the map is in Portogruaro in the Veneto, which this wine is actually from Chianti Classico in Tuscany on the other side of northern Italy. I can’t find Santa Margherita’s actual address, so the pin is the location of the building on the label, Villa Marzotto, at one time owned by the founder of the company.