Few people in Italy understand Chianti as well as Maurizio Castelli, the winemaker at what is one of the country's oldest winemaking estates (wine has been made in the main building, an abbey, since the 11th century) and the creator of some of the purest and most ageworthy all-sangiovese wines of the area. Never one to rest on his laurels, Castelli has started increasing maceration times for the Riserva wines by many months. The first "new" Riserva will be on the market in 2008, and the barrel samples I've tried were very exciting.
Also recommended: 2004 Cetamura Chianti (86), 2004 RS Chianti Classico (86).
Other wines tasted: 2003 Cultus Boni Chianti Classico. (Dalla Terra, Napa, CA)
($23; 100% sangiovese) Medium-deep ruby. Smoky balsamic and black cherry aromas are complicated by vanilla, minerals and violet. Juicy and sappy in the mouth, with flavors that are slightly less well defined than those of the '04 version, and yet this is lovely, fruit-driven brightly acid sangiovese at its best. Finishes clean and moderately long, with a strong tannic backbone.
($23; 100% sangiovese) Medium ruby. Delicious smoky red berry and cherry aromas bear more than a passing resemblance to a Savigny-les-Beaune. Densely packed and only now beginning to open, with bright cherry and plum flavors tinged by a delicate herbaceousness. The bright, fairly long finish boasts good complexity and superb vinosity.
($28; a blend of 80% sangiovese and 20% merlot) Good medium-deep ruby. Pretty violet and blackcurrant aromas complicated by vanilla and coffee. Following the penetrating, perfumed nose, this is quite fat and supple on the palate, but with bright acids keeping it lively. Offering a much creamier mouth feel than the 100%-sangiovese Chianti, this modern-style wine's riper texture and moderately long finish is sure to attract interest.
($50; 100% sangiovese) Bright, medium-deep red. Pure, perfumed sangiovese aromas of sour cherry and dried tea leaf are tinged with sweet sandalwood and black cherry jam. The very pure and persistent flavors of floral red and black cherry, cured tobacco, and sweet underbrush display impressive depth. Offers a captivatingly sweet, fine-grained texture and finishes with a pleasant peppery quality.
($35) Medium-deep gold. Pretty, light aromas of hazelnut, almond cookie and raisin. Very clean, fresh flavors of dried fruits, citrus and maple are nicely accented by fine acidity. Finishes pure and long, with moderate sweetness and lovely balance.