Badia a Coltibuono, Abbey of the Good Harvest, was established by eleventh century Benedictine monks who are responsible for planting vineyards in the Upper Chianti region. In 1846, the estate was purchased by Piero Strucchi-Prineti, and has since remained in his familyís hands. Surrounded by 2,000 acres of pristine woodland, the ancient monastery sits atop a spectacular view of the picturesque Tuscan countryside where history and nature remain seemingly frozen in time.
Emanuela Stucchi-Prineti and her brothers Roberto and Paolo manage the estate today. Since 2003, their vineyards have been certified organic. According to British wine writer Monty Waldin, up to 30% of vineyards in the Chianti Classico heartland of Panzano, Gaiole and Greve are now organic (the national average in Italy is approximately 10%). Many of these vineyards are surrounded by organic olive groves, and fruit, cereal and vegetable growers which creates large scale environmentally protected areas or Ďbiodistrettií where organic farming has become a way of life rather than something out of the ordinary.
2014 was a tricky vintage, with numerous storms that brought rain and damp conditions throughout the summer, followed by a warm, sunny autumn that miraculously saved the difficult growing season. In general, organic growers fared better against the elements, their vines having developed better root systems to penetrate deeper into the soil and healthier canopies that helped prevent outbreaks of rot and mildew. With the wines now in bottle, some of the 2014s have pleasantly surprised everyone, with Badia a Coltibuono being one of our most exciting examples!
I find that Chianti is in the midst of an identity crises. I always think of Chianti as the perfect food wine, cheerful and lively, never heavy or tiring, with delicate cherry scented Sangiovese fruit and a harmonious balance of tannin and acidity. Sadly, too many producers seem to want to compete with their neighbors to the south in Montalcino, beefing up their wines with heavy extractions, non-Tuscan varietals and excessive use of oak. Iím not saying these wines arenít good, but they are not true to the Chianti style. To me, the 2014 Badia a Coltibuono is the quintessence of pure Chianti. Bright, luminescent ruby in color with aromas of cherry blossoms, cedar and spice. In the mouth, the wine is youthful, fresh and agile, with charming red fruit flavors and earthy complexity. Refreshing acidity compliments the fruit with gentle tannins on the finish.
Food friendliness is the hallmark of a good Chianti Classico. The typical food pairing is pasta with red sauce or pizza, but the scope of Chiantiís versatility lies far beyond the red and white checkered tablecloth. Lighter meats, poultry and fish find good acquaintance with a lightly chilled Chianti, as well as salads, vegetable dishes and Mediterranean inspired cuisine.
Bart Hopkins - Italian red wine buyer