IGT? Chianti Classico? This wine didn’t pass the tasting test held by the local panel which is charged with ensuring standards of quality and typicity. This is something that we’ve seen before in many places in Italy (and even more in France): a wine which, in our view, is of the highest quality and typicity, is rejected by a panel that doesn’t know its ass from its elbow. This frequently occurs for reasons of local commercial politics, and also because these panels are usually dominated by the largest producers, who tend to apply standards rooted in highly processed, technical wines that are as much the result of marketing as of farming. In Chianti Classico, for example, the governing bodies have moved away from accepting lighter, old-school wines in favor of concentration, power, and bizarrely viewing dark colored wines as demonstrating quality.
Michael Schmelzer, winemaker at Monte Bernardi, explained what happened in the following note he sent to his customers:“For the vintage 2016 only, the wine that has always been and was to be our Monte Bernardi Riserva Chianti Classico, from the 50 year old plus vineyards and classic Galestro soils, will be declassified and labelled as Monte Bernardi Colli della Toscana Centrale Rosso IGT.This is a result of subjective conflicting opinions of style and what constitutes a Chianti Classico Riserva. The wine passed all of the analytical tests for a Chianti Classico Riserva, but it did not past the tasting panel portion. It was deemed too light in color and structure. We are of course disappointed that these subjective elements have led to declassification, especially when our opinion is that the 2016 couldn’t be more wonderful and true to our Classico style, which is, by nature, not intensely colored yet entirely natural in it’s Sangiovese hues and elegant in structure.”
With or without this information, the IGT is a gorgeous wine – in my opinion, offering everything one could want in a gorgeous Chianti Classico. It’s very aromatic: flowers, bramble, slate, black plum and currant. The fruit on the palate is bright and fresh – the wine is just delicious, medium-bodied but very lifted, and ripe without a hint of anything syrupy. It’s very long, and really blossoms in time for a second pour. Tasted (for the 3rd time in the last 12 months) on a hot and sticky July night, it was super-drinkable just a little chilled. Whatever the local pundits might have thought, this is a beautiful Chianti. Jamie Wolff
Now that’s more like it! The controversial 2016 Monte Bernardi Colle Della Toscana Centrale IGT (really a magnificent Chianti Classico Riserva, rejected by the consorzio for being too f***ing cool, too delicious and also apparently not purple enough). Friends, this is the real g**damn deal! Morello cherry, sous-bois, saddle leather and a little ‘Live Rust’ on the nose. The palate is concentrated, but lively and deeply, mineral. Lots of salt and sapidity and 100,000 watt Marshall stack electricity. More Crazy Horse than Sabbath, but plenty of mineral crunch to go with that sturm und drang. Michael Schmelzer is making terrific wines—that’s what he does—and the 2016 IGT is sensational, embodying all that high altitude Panzano brio and the deep-rootedness that his organic viticulture affords. Strong &^)!ng re-buy, probably by the case. It was fantastic with wild boar sausage, duck fat potatoes with garlic and herbs, and chard. John McIlwain
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