I have fought this problem all my life. In economic speak the term is PAUCITY. For the rest of us we all are too familiar with the problem of having unlimited wants. In my case; wine, travel, cigars, wine, taxes, wine, home repairs, travel, wine, insurance, wine and food. And living in a world of limited resources.
Some people, with the effortless action of Greek gods pooping marble, don’t seem have this problem. $50 bottles of wine show up on their on the doorstep almost daily. They are off on adventures and excursions almost all the time. $300 lunch at a Michelin five star restaurant, a little shopping, swing by the vineyard and then dinner at Maxine’s. Hell yes, I’m Jealous!
I know I shouldn’t be crying in my Cabernet. I have if far better than 95% of the world’s population and should be grateful, and I am! So, who’s more excited than me when I actually get a chance to hobnob with the rich and famous.
Yeah, I got to meet with the Italian vintner Niccolò Chioccioli. Niccolo is a second generation oenologists in the Chioccioli family. His dad Stefano is a legend in Italian wine. His wines have be selected over 70 times for the coveted “Tre Bicchieri” Gambero Rosso guides to wines highest award. Niccolo is now at the helm of Altadonna. He Manages all activities of the Tuscan office. He oversees wine production in the families other locations, from growing the vines to the bottling.
My host for the evening was the Madison Wine shop in Madison CT. If you have never visited this store you should. I believe you’ll be impressed with the warmth and feel of the place and the knowledge of the staff. The sponsor was Cellar Fine Wines who specialises in finding new “nascent” wines and introducing them to the Connecticut market. One of their motto’s is “Pour a glass of somewhere”. My thanks to both.
The evening began with a little champagne which I thought was kind of classy. Hey, I don’t get out often. Sorry, I don’t remember the name if they even told us.
Niccolo described his vineyard as looking like a V or that the property was on sides of side by side hills or mountains. Their land is 16 Hectares, surrounded by a state forest. They are in the town of Gaiole not far from Siena. This town is located in the Chianti Classico DOCG. The land is split between the two vineyards Altadonna is the lower level. Altadonna is Niccolo’s mother’s family name. Chioccioli is his dad’s family name and covers the upper level. Where one ends and the other begins is, well, debatable.
The first wine was Altadonna Chianti Classico. Rated a 93 by James Suckling. 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. Color was ruby red and garnet. I didn’t find any nose at all, very disappointed. Taste was full bodied, very light tannins and spicy red fruit. Served with spinach scachatta. Very nicely done guys.
The vineyard is worked by Niccolo, Enrico a Sommelier, lawyer, web and label designer and Niccolo’s younger brother, and Ginvera their younger sister who is a college student. And two full time assistants. The wine is “hand made”. The biggest obstacle on the vineyard is deer, they eat the fruit. Remember the vineyard is surrounded by a state park. Niccolo’s most valuable assistant “wolfs” they like deer, and don’t eat grapes.
The second wine was Chioccioli Chianti Classico. You can taste the difference in the terroir, remember, Chioccioli is harvested from the upper level of the vineyard. The blend is different too; 85% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Color was similar to the first wine but darker. Taste lots of red berries and liquorice. This wine is harvested and the grapes are cooled overnight. The grapes are then double sorted. Fermented in stainless steel and the pumped into French oak barriques for 14 months. The wine ages a little more in bottles before this is released. Served with meatball tomato and mozzarella cheese on toasted Italian bread, fantastic!
Niccolo employees three fermentation methods; (1) stainless steel tanks, (2) French barriques with traditional press down, (3) a French method that his dad saw in consulting in France using the barrigues mounted on rollers. The wine is gently rolled during fermentation. He is one of the few winemakers in Italy using this method.
Third wine Altadonna Chianti Classico Riserva. Color a little more intense than the first wine and about the same as the second. Again, I’m not getting a very notable nose. Taste, red and black fruit spice and tobacco. I like the tannin, nice fruit and spicy finish. The blend here is the same as the first wine 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. The Riserva is a chianti that can vote. By law it is aged two years in wood and a minimum of 3 months in the bottle. This was served with a meatball and puree cherry tomato. Food is getting better and better.
Our little symposium is breaking down into idle chatter. So let me impress you with a interesting fact; Only about 20% of all Chianti is Chianti Classico Riserva. Hey, I got another meatball!
Our fourth wine is a Super Tuscan Assalto. Super Tuscan is a consumer term not an official designation. They are a creation of the 1970’s and 1980’s and they are what most people said could never be done Italian and international at the same time. The more popular Chianti became the more white grapes were added to the point most chianti’s were pretty dull. In the 1970’s innovators began taking steps to oppose the “spaghetti Chianti” and began blending international varietals with sangiovese. Some Super Tuscans have no sangiovese in them at all. Two of the most famous Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Assalto is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeper in color I would still call it ruby. This wine had a better nose and similar to the other wines. Tates was thicker and richer. More complex and more refined. This wine shows off Enrico’s design talents with a design inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. Assalto is a IGT Toscana Rosso. It’s also delicious. Served with marinated mushroom with mozzarella on pita toast.
The last wine was a fantastic wine, Chioccioli Chianti Riserva. I think Niccolo is happy and proud of all of his wines. But, I’ll bet that when he wants to sit quietly by himself and contemplate life, the universe and everything, this is the wine he takes with him.
This wine is a limited production wine. It’s aged for 80 months on wood. Riservas use to be made only in the best vintage years and I hope Niccolo holds true to this notion. This was a great wine. A very refined aroma. Taste of fig chocolate cigar and spice. The flavor linger long after I swallowed. This was a fine way to end a great evening.
I had a great evening and I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet Niccolo hear his story and most importantly drink his wine. I would have loved to taken a bottle of the Chioccioli Chianti Riserva, a block of cheese and some bread and sat and talked with him, but the poor guy was trapped answering questions about his girlfriend and where he was staying. And me I had to get back to my life of adapt and improvise to get ends to meet, or maybe just maintain a reasonable gap.
So, Cent’Anni Niccol! Good Luck with the dear!