Featured Producer:

FONTODI: Giovanni Manetti

From Burton Anderson's Best Italian Wines

“If a photographer wished to capture the image if the new Chianti, he might portray  Giovanni Manetti smiling brightly amid roes of new barriques in the lower level of Fontodi’s ultramodern cellars.  Or he might catch the impeccably dressed young man stepping from his four-wheel-drive vehicle into a vineyard replanted with select clones of Sangiovese.  If the pictures came with an interview, readers would learn that Giovanni, who looks younger than 38, has a doctorate in economics and has devoted more than half of his life to building Fontodi into a model of modern winemaking in Tuscany.

Giovanni was 16 when he and older brother Marco took charge of the farm on the edge of the town of Panzano, while father Dino and uncle Domiziano ran their prestigious terracotta factory in another part of Chianti.  They set about renewing Fontodi’s rundown vineyards sloping into the vaunted vale known as the Conca d’Oro.  But they realized that they needed expert advice to improve the wines, so they hired an enologist on the rise named Franco Bernabei.

The Chianti improves rapidly, but the first Fontodi wine to make an impact was Flaccianello della Pieve, a pure Sangiovese Super-Tuscan from 1981.  The brothers kept the faith in Chianti, planting a plot called Vigna del Sorbo with Sangiovese and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  From the great 1985 vintage they make their first Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo, a wine that can to rival Flaccianello and, from some vintages, to surpass it in class.

Critics may still be divided in preference between the two tops wines, though even the regular Classico is so consistently good that James Suckling of The Wine Spectator in 1999 wrote that Fontodi “is clearly Italy’s best producer of Chianti.”  Marco now runs the terracotta business, leaving Giovanni fully in charge of Fontodi.  From 64 hectares of vines, he produces about 300,000 bottles of wine a year, including IGT Case Via Syrah and Pinot Nero and a white Pinot Bianco called Meriggio."

Featured Wine

Fontodi Flaccianello

Review from Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate

The 2009 Flaccianello della Pieve is a bit of a shock to the palate after 20+ older vintages. Still, it is impossible to miss the wine’s striking purity and finesse. Today the 2009 is a bit of a brute, but it should mellow out over the next 5-7 years as the tannins start to soften. Firm tannins frame layers of ripe, juicy fruit in this young, extroverted Flaccianello. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029.
This complete vertical of Fontodi’s flagship 100% Sangiovese Flaccianello was yet another of the remarkable tastings of my recent trip to Tuscany. Flaccianello is an interesting wine because the quality level that is the norm today only really starts around 2001. Prior to that the wines were very good, and sometimes even better than that, but not profound. In 2001 proprietor Giovanni Manetti made the decision to focus on his estate’s best fruit rather than making Flaccianello as a single-vineyard wine. Since then, Flaccianello has routinely been among the most exciting wines in Tuscany. Much of the fruit that now goes into Flaccianello comes from vineyards in the Pecille sub-zone of Panzano with a full southern exposure. Today Flaccianello is 100% Sangiovese, but the first vintages up to and including 1984 have 15% white grapes, as was common at the time. The early vintages up until 1990 spent about one year in French oak barrels, 50% new. In the mid-1990s Manetti increased the period of barrel aging to 18 months with the 1997, and then to 24 months with the 2006. Today the percentage of new barrels is close to 100%.
Fontodi Flaccianello Key Points:
1. 100% Sangiovese aged in French oak barrels
2. Since 2001 made from the estate’s best fruit across a number of vineyards in Panzano’s historic Conca d’Oro, prior to that a strict single-vineyard wine.
3. Flaccianello’s status as an icon wine is cemented beginning in 2001
4. One of the more powerful of the 100% Sangioveses from Chianti Classico
5. Aging potential: 20+ years