I commenced this spotlight with the goal of discovering the ‘terroir’ of Chianti Classico, the distinction between its various crus, and its potential to become driven by the distinctiveness of its varied vineyards rather than its brand. So far, results have been uneven. Querciabella falls within the camp of very good wine hinting at greatness, but not yet providing enough distinctiveness to fully prove ‘terroir’ in Chianti.
The Role of Farming and Vinification in Site Expression
Located in Greve, the more northerly commune known to produce wines that are highly varied in style, Querciabella is a trend-setting winery considered to be amongst the best in Tuscany. They introduced total biodynamics quite early for Chianti (2000-2002). This approach has led to a keen interest in soils and understanding how to grow Sangiovese so that it does not even need the assistance of biodynamic and copper sprays to achieve ideal balance. Hand in hand with improving farming to increase root depth is Querciabella’s embrace of genetic diversity, using both massal selection and clones to ensure in any given year certain plants will perform more ideally than others.
In the cellar Querciabella focuses on barrique ageing, which some might decry. I certainly feel that it provides elegance to the wines, but am curious what could be achieved with the fruit with a more neutral barrel profile.
This highlights the twofold path to finding site expression – farming and cellar work. It’s fairly clear to most that both are necessary, intricate processes, but it remains unclear to me the precise choices that seem to work best in Chianti. I certainly have a preference for higher elevation wines vinified neutrally and made with 100% Sangiovese (see, for example, Monteraponi). They seem to let the fruit express itself most purely. That said, wines made in this way are not always the most elegant or structured available in Chianti.
The Agony and Ecstasy of Pure Sangiovese
Querciabella embraces Cabernet Sauvignon, admittedly because Sangiovese is so difficult to work with. I will freely admit that Italy can make truly great Cabernet, and I understand why some winemakers like what it adds to the blend. Querciabella probably offers the best example of what is possible blending Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon both with its top wine Camartina and with this Chianti Classico, which is usually blended with about 10% Cab Sauv (though this vintage is 100% Sangiovese). That said, for my palate I find the grape interferes with what I am looking for in Chianti Classico, and it is why I find more consistency finding the profile I seek with the wines from Montalcino, which all must be 100% Sangiovese.
This 2010 is a well balanced, modern style wine, with dark but plush cherry fruit. It is medium bodied and much more versatile than many of the heavy, and I would argue in some cases over-oaked, riservas.
Chianti does not have the same distinctions yet of Burgundy, Barolo or even Etna (when done right). But as the right producers pursue further research and experimentation and if more producers embrace 100% Sangiovese then I think there is a bright future for site expression in Chianti Classico over the next 10-20 years.
~$50 at Kits Wine