A 28 Year Retrospective

Fontodi has been on my short list of Italy’s top producers for quite some time now, starting with my first taste of the 1999 Vigna del Sorbo back in 2011. Having tasted younger vintages prior to that, I simply didn’t understand that they could mature into such majestic wines of importance. That one taste put me on the path to exploring deeper and trying to understand what it was about Fontodi that set them apart.

I came to realize that it was a combination, not just of terroir, but also of the forward-thinking–constantly evolving–owner and winemaker, Giovanni Manetti.

The History

With a long history in Tuscany, known for their manufacturing of terracotta amphora, the Manetti family decided to enter the wine business in 1968 when they took ownership of the Fontodi estate and vineyards in Panzano. The location was perfect, nestled in the amphitheatre-shaped “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell), at high altitudes with calcar–clay schist soils. However, bound at the time by the rules of the Chianti Classico consortium, they produced a selection of wines that were very different from today’s portfolio. The biggest change came with Giovanni Manetti, who took the reins of the winery in 1980. It was his passion for Sangiovese which drove him to experiment and finally arrive at the elevated position which Fontodi enjoys today.

You see, even going as far back as the 1985 vintage, Giovanni wanted to show the world that a 100% expression of Sangiovese could produce a world-class wine. It’s because of this that he created the highly-regarded Super Tuscan, Flaccianello. However, this success wasn’t gained overnight, and is very much the result of Giovanni’s relentless work to perfect Flaccianllo’s blend and aging regimen.

The Evolution

The original source of fruit was a single-vineyard of the same name, “Flaccianello della Pieve”, until the 2001 vintage when the decision was made to create a blend of the estate’s best fruit. This was largely the result of acquisitions that Giovanni made of choice parcels within the Pecille district of Panzano. Also, going back to 1985, Flaccianello was aged only one year in barrel (50% new) until the 1990 vintage. Since that time, the aging has been slowly extended, with today’s vintages seeing up to 100% new oak in Troncais and Allier barrels for 24 months. However, when you put your nose to the glass, new oak is the first thing that comes to mind.

Having recently tasted through nine vintages spanning 28 years, I was not only impressed by the evolution of Flaccianello, but also by how much I enjoyed every stage of that evolution. For one thing, I had always thought of this an an Internationally-styled wine, due to the new oak, yet when tasting on this day, the prominence of Sangiovese came through, especially as the wine enters it’s fifth and sixth year in bottle. What’s more, Giovanni remains determined to continue the evolution of his portfolio, and in the case of Flaccianello, that means adding a refreshing quality to the young wines.

This was a remarkable tasting with a number of killer vintages, and the best part is that many of these wines can still be found in the market.

On to the tasting notes

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2014 – The 2014 remains one of the prettiest examples I’ve seen of Flaccianello. Here I found a dark bouquet with dried black cherries, hints of sandalwood, spice and savory herbs. On the palate, it displayed lean yet focused red berry fruit, a mix of cherry and raspberry, with silky textures giving way to inner floral tones and spice in a pretty and lifted expression. The finish was medium in length and a bit lighter than expected with a mix of tart red fruit and minerals. (94 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2013 – The bouquet was intense, with spicy, ripe black cherry, crushed stone, dusty spice and sweet florals. On the palate, I expected a bruiser, but was instead treated to the silkiest of textures with tart cherry-blackberry fruit, balsamic tones and savory herbs.. Grippy tannin lingered long into the finish, along with dark red fruits, which seemed to go on and on. A beautiful showing. (95 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2010 – The 2010 displayed an absolutely gorgeous nose with dark red berries, spice box, dried herbs, balsamic tones and black earth. It nearly coated the glass with dark red, verging on purple viscosity. On the palate, I was silky and refined, yet vibrant as youthfully lean red berry fruit was offset by brisk acidity and fine tannin. The finish was long and structured as the fruit leaned more to the black spectrum, joined by hints of savory herbs and minerals. This is one for the ages. (96 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2007 – The nose showed crushed cherry, dusty florals and undergrowth in a performance that seemed more mature to me than expected. On the palate, silky textures were complemented by lifting acidity with mature red fruits, hints of cedar and spice. The finish was medium in length, showing light tannins, dried cherry, undergrowth and floral tones. (92 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2006 – The 2006 was a dark and beautiful beast, with ripe black cherry, dark wood tones, plum, sweet florals and spice, as it seemed to gain richness the longer it spent in the glass. On the palate, I found a soft and silky expression with ripe black fruit in the foreground, leading to spices and sweet herbs. The finish was long with fine tannin coating the senses, yet never overwhelming, due to a gorgeous display of mint, orange peel and sweet herbs. Anyone on the 2006 in their cellar should be quite happy with what’s in store for them down the road. (97 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 2004 – On the nose, I found dark red fruits with undergrowth, minerals and olive tones, which seemed more wood inflected than terroir. On the palate, soft textures gave way to tart black fruits with grainy tannins and a recurrence of briny olive. The finish was long and grippy with hints of dark red fruit and spice. It appears to me that the wood used in 2004 may be overpowering the fruit of the vintage, but only time will tell. (92 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 1999 – The nose was gorgeous, even hauntingly beautiful, displaying rich black cherry, plum, sweet dried spices and herbs. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures, yet still so youthful for its age as vibrant acidity provided lift. Dark red fruits, sweet inner florals and herbs, which added a savory edge, gave way to fine tannin in the onset of resolution. The finish was long with black cherry, minerals and spice. It was hard not to drink this wine, instead of taste, which I hope I will one day experience. What a beautiful Flaccianello. (96 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 1995 – The nose showed crushed black cherry, brown spices, sweet herbs and a hint of olive. On the palate, I found soft textures with a mix of red and black fruits, and mature tannin. There was something missing on the mid-palate, yet this is beautiful for a 22 year-old wine. It finished with medium length, residual acids and tart blacks fruits. (91 points)

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT 1986 – The nose was beautiful in its maturity, showing dusty earth, savory sous bois, cedar, and dried herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures, with dark-dried red berries, minerals, inner florals and a hint of iodine. It finished with medium length and brisk acids and minerals lingered. (93 points)



Article, Tasting Notes & event photos: Eric Guido

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