Ask Giuseppe Mazzocolin, heart and soul of Felsina, how much cabernet or merlot it takes to overwhelm the delicate aromas and flavors of sangiovese in a wine, and the terse reply is "Even one percent." So Mazzocolin's unconditional love and dedication for sangiovese, Tuscany's premier cultivar, is clear. And two of Italy's greatest wines, his Chianti Riserva Rancia and the Fontalloro Super-Tuscan, are proof enough. "I'm not exaggerating," he clarifies. "Sangiovese is overwhelmed by varieties with stronger personalities and I feel that their addition is often just a shortcut for masking poor-quality grapes." Wine lovers and foodies should also know what insiders are well aware of: Mazzocolin is an extra virgin olive oil nut, and Felsina produces one of Italy's very best, of a quality far superior to that offered by most other Tuscan wine estates, with many different bottlings issued from different olive types such as raggiolo and leccino.
($22) Full medium-dark ruby. Violet, strawberry and underbrush on the simple, effusively fruity nose. Somewhat more complex on the palate, where meat, sage and mushroom flavors complicate the primary ripe fruits. Soft tannins and a smooth finish left my mouth wanting more.
Impressive dark ruby color. Expressive aromas of blackcurrant, plum, mint and cigar box, all lifted by a mineral element. Dense and rich, combining pinot noir-like texture and refinement with syrah-like flavors of rare meat and raspberry liqueur. This boasts a wonderfully tactile feel and a remarkably long, palate-staining finish. A great Chianti with loads of personality.
($37) Medium-deep ruby. Spectacular nose offers intense strawberry and red cherry fruit with balsamic accents, and a penetrating violet character that contributes to the impression of breathtaking purity. Lovely bright red fruits complemented by a salty mineral edge, with nuances of game and wet earth on the finish-the latter a sure-fire sign of a hot vintage with Rancia, as these flavors normally take longer to emerge in this wine than they do in the Fontalloro. I might have scored this even higher had the finish been a little longer.
($37) Medium-deep ruby but a touch lighter than the '03. A gamey, animal aroma on the initially closed nose slowly morphs to blood, underbrush and fresh sausage. Quite bright and lively in the mouth, with pure blackberry and cherry liqueur flavors and none of the gamey elements shown on the nose. The long, peppery, mouthfilling finish features ripe tannins.
($47; 100% sangiovese) Good full ruby. Richer and even more minerally on the nose than the '04 Rancia, offering plenty of orange zest, lily and pleasantly tart red cherry aromas. Lush, very ripe red fruit flavors and a salty edge give this immediate appeal, but make it a bit less refined than the Rancia in '04. The tannins, though, are smoother and slide effortlessly along the very long finish.
Medium ruby. Bright red fruit aromas with hints of salt and underbrush. The palate starts with real sweetness, with fine, light red fruit flavors framed and lifted by lively acids. Elegant and very fresh: though some might wish for more power, this is a paradigm of elegant sangiovese.
($38) Inky ruby. Varietally accurate blackcurrant aroma complicated by obvious bell pepper, graphite and cedar nuances. Very refined and lithe on the palate, with pretty dark fruit, underbrush and inky flavors. Extremely long on the back, with wonderfully smooth tannins. This is quite an achievement in this very hot vintage.
Medium golden amber. Very sweet nose offers enticing hazelnut, fig and white chocolate aromas. Much more tropical on the palate, with mango and papaya complementing fig and date flavors. The long and very fresh finish keeps this dancing on your palate long after you've swallowed, but higher acidity would have given even further delineation to the flavors. If you can find it, the '97 is even better. (Douglas Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY)