This fine, very large (more than 280 hectares) wine estate produces wines under two different labels, the Castello di Meleto proper and the Pieve di Spaletenna, in the heart of Gaiole, one of the finest Chianti districts of them all. Both can count on the same winemakers, Federico Cerelli and Stefano Chioccioli.
Other recommended wines: 2004 Chianti Classico Castello di Meleto (86), 2003 Vigna Casi Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Meleto (86). (Vias Imports, New York, NY for the Castello di Meleto line, Verdoni Imports, Hawthorne, NJ for the Pieve di Spaltenna wines)

2003 Castello di Meleto Fiore Toscana Rosso

(a 75/25 blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon) Dark ruby. Initially mute nose opens to reveal dark cherry, gunflint, menthol and sassafras aromas. More convincing in the mouth, with fresher dark cherry and plum flavors supported by smoky, inky oak. This rather muscular blend ends on a welcome mineral note that gives it much-needed lift.


2003 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico Pieve di Spaltenna

($15) Full ruby. Subtle aromas of powdered stone, spicy red cherry and underbrush, with a pretty floral twist. Juicy, lean and a bit tight; made in a rather strict style, but pure and focused, with subtly rich black and red fruit flavors emerging on the moderately long finish. Charming and easy to drink.


2001 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi

($25) Ruby-black color that owes much to the presence of both merlot and colorino, the latter a heavily pigmented native variety (colore in Italian means color, and it wasn't given that name haphazardly). Very ripe, almost cooked black fruit aromas, with a sexy toasty oak component that adds a very evident menthol note. Less exaggerated in the mouth, where it is less obviously aromatic and shows more restraint and detail. Red cherry, spicy black plum and balsamic flavors are nicely framed by harmonious acids that keep this much lighter and more buoyant than the nose would have had you believe. Finishes with smooth tannins and decent persistence.


2003 Castello di Meleto Rainero Rosso Toscana

($50; a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese) Deep ruby-black. Aromas of physiologically unripe cabernet and merlot, not surprising given the furnace-like conditions of '03. Mercifully, besides the obvious bell pepper notes there are also attractive, ripe blueberry, cassis and smoky blackberry aromas that do not come off as cooked. Surprisingly fresh and lively on the palate but with harmonious acidity, this finishes longer and cleaner than you might have expected.

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