Spotlight on Chianti Classico: San Fabiano Calcinaia Cellole Gran Selezione 2010

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photoAn important part of Chianti Classico’s rise to quality beginning in the 1980’s was the increasing use of consultants. Consultants carry mixed connotations for many in the industry. For some they conjure up the idea of constructed formula wines designed to appease certain critical palates. These same critics often also view the ‘flying’ consultants as propagating an international style of wine. For others they represent a winery’s dedication to constant improvement. In reality, as always, the situation is somewhat more complex.

Consultants and the Modernization of Chianti

In Chianti Classico consultants have come in many forms. One of the original and most famous Giulio Gambelli is actually a staunch traditionalist who eschews temperature control during fermentation and prefers to use very long macerations. He also happens to be the consultant on Tuscany’s most legendary wine, Soldera’s Casse Basse Brunello.

Of course, other consultants are more modernist, focusing on modern fermentation in stainless steel, aging in French barrique or tonneau vs. large Slavonian oak botti, computer controlled temperature for fermentation and storage areas, and extreme hygiene. Since the 1980’s wineries have also been more often built with gravity in mind. Some of these improvements were essential for a region that too often made dirty, undistinguished wines. Other aspects perhaps took a little soul out of the wines.

San Fabiano Calcinaia, which was founded in 1983, uses a famous consultant named Carlo Ferrini. Ferrini casts his role as being an ‘estate consultant’, which for him means focusing at first on vineyards and the holistic terroir available at a particular estate. He plays the long game, ensuring that the right clones are planted in the right ways (he prefers high density plantings close to the ground). In this way does Ferrini lie between the staunch traditionalist approach and the criticized modern consultants who focus mostly on winemaking over vineyard. His clients include Castello di Fonterutoli, Casanova di Neri, and Castello di Brolio, amongst others.

Dark Fruited Elegance

San Fabiano is near Castellina in Chianti, which is on the west side of Chianti Classico and is known for elegant wines at the high elevations and rich, “chunky” wines from the lower elevations. San Fabiano’s vineyards span a few hundred metres in elevation, but the riserva is grown at 450m above sea level in clay soils. The 2010 vintage of this wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot and Colorino. It takes a more modern approach in the cellar with maturation in barrique.

The wine itself is quite dark and chunky on the nose, with black cherries and sandalwood. The palate presents an extremely elegant, well-made wine with beautiful fine tannins that provide structure for long ageing. There is a nice bitter, herbal finish and I did not find the addition of Merlot obtrusive – this is a more classic style. A perfect steak-cutting wine at a very reasonable price for the quality. It seems to embody both characteristics Castellina is known for and I think this is a nice example of terroir-driven Chianti Classico made with input from a leading consultant.

$50 at BCLDB


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