2018 Volpaia Chianti Classico
In the wars that spawned the founding of the Florentine League and its famed Gallo Negro standard, Volpaia was one of the three frontier towns protecting the newly minted Chianti league from its nasty southern neighbors, the Sienese.
Evidence of war surrounds Volpaia. Of the original enclosing walls, only three sides remain standing today. And the tower of Volpaia still stands – a fate not shared by neighboring town Brolio, which was conquered, and its tower—castrato.
This divisive history is probably why Volpaia still has magnificent vineyards to this day. The vineyards were planted high up into the hills, behind the township itself, at the highest altitude in the town and the best for grape-growing. The walnuts, the olive groves, and the cattle may have been destroyed by a warring army, but the vineyards high beyond the town were preserved.
Volpaia has some of the best growing conditions in its zone in Chianti – a fact borne out that vines were first planted there in 1172. Those original vineyards have been bought and sold over the years and passed through many hands until they landed with Raffaello Stanti, a book-binder and printer in the early 1960s.
Raffaello had one daughter, Giovannella, and on her wedding gave he gave her an 18th century ring in the shape two dancing foxes – a Volpaia, or fox’s lair. As she later recalled – the ring sealed her destiny to the town and vineyard, which she and her husband inherited in 1972. They, along with their children, manage the estate to this day.
And that brings us up to the 2018 vintage – a blockbuster of a year for Tuscan wine. Simply put, Mother Nature gave them perfect conditions and while Volpaia Chianti is always tasty, this year it’s simply out of the park. Frankly, it’s almost a Brunello:
The wine opens with a powerful expression of dark cherry fruit characteristics backed up by woodsmoke, truffles, hints of gravel, earth and bittersweet chocolate. Yet for all its savory characteristics, the wine is ultimately pinned to the earth with a core of pure and fresh fruit. And while 2018 is a great vintage, the wine is not overdone: There is enough acidity, tannin and all-around structure to give definition to the power. It is drinkable now, but I am also a lover (and believer) in aging Sangiovese, and good Sangiovese, like Grand Cru Red Burgundy – I am guessing this one has at least 25 years of life in it.
Here it is – an exceptional place, history, culture and wine – which all says great drinking to me!
“A racy, fine-tuned Chianti Classico with blackberry, black-cherry and wet-earth aromas. Medium-bodied with medium polished tannins and a long finish. Transparent. From organically grown grapes. Drink or hold.” – James Suckling
“Volpaia is an 11th century hamlet high up in the area of Radda-in-Chianti. Owned by the Stianti family since 1966, the property includes 43 hectares of vineyards planted mainly on sandstone or macigno as it is known in Chianti Classico. The 2018 shows beautiful purity of cherry nuanced by hints of mint and tarragon. There is a sneaky fleshiness of fruit on the palate and sufficient acidity to balance. While tannins aren’t massive they provide a much welcome grip dissolving slowly and cleansing the palate. Lingers subtly.” – Decanter