A “New” Chianti Classico: Gregory Dal Piaz on Lecci e Brocchi

7/23/16 -

"Discovering" great wines today is a crapshoot. Simply put, there are not many producers out there who are both little known and fabulous. One must rely on luck and timing, above all, to be able to introduce wine-loving friends to something new and exciting. Many recent "discoveries" should be more aptly termed renaissances, as generational change pulls existing producers out of bad habits and a tendency towards inertia. Such is the case with the small, even tiny, Chianti Classico Producer Lecci e Brocchi - a family affair, run by second generation winemakers Sabrina Lastrucci, her husband Giancarlo, and young son Giovanni. What had started out as a hobbyist's farm, purchased in the 1970s, has become a rising star in Chianti Classico, due both to the hard work Sabrina and family have undertaken over the last few years as well as the serendipitous good fortune of her father.

As with almost all great wines, the story at Lecci e Brocchi begins in the vineyards - well, under the vineyards, actually. The famous galestro soils that makes Chianti Classico unique are widely recognized, as are the sands, clays, and limestones that offer variety within the appellation, but few know of this curious streak of red, ferrous earth that dots the northern edge of the eastern lobe of the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga. If you don't know what you're looking for, you'd miss it in a blink of an eye. A concave hillside, mostly taken back by the woods, though between the trees you can still see the sheer face, red and dusty, where thousands of years of erosion and fractures have released this cache of unusual red earth. This geologic anomaly is only found here in this small spot shared by two wineries.

Soil, of course, is where a wine gets its start, and this red galestro soil certainly sets the wines of Lecci e Brocchi apart from their peers. Castelnuovo Berardenga is known for powerful wines, born of relatively heavy clay soils and the warmer climate that the south facing slopes of this part of Chianti Classico enjoy. By contrast, these red soils (at a moderately high elevation for the appellation of 400-420 meters) give wines of remarkable minerality and transparency. Red-fruited, bright and zesty, the wines of Lecci e Brocchi are an intense expression of the marriage of terroir and the remarkably mutable Sangiovese grape.

This expression, born in the vineyard, is ably put into bottle by a family that believes in tradition as well as progress. I was sad to see their very old Sangiovese vineyards uprooted this past year – it’s rare to find vines as old as theirs. However, when one considers how little land they farm (just about 2 hectares once everything is replanted), how underproductive those old vines were, and how few there were since many had died, it’s completely understandable if you want to be an ongoing concern. Without a doubt that is the goal here; an attempt to bring together the best of what is old and new. New vineyards, but with thought. A tiny parcel has just been planted over to Malvasia Nera. They are bush trained vines in the traditional Albarello style and will eventually be part of the blend here. The family prefers a blended wine, old-style (even as many producers turn towards pure Sangiovese), finding it softer than the often aggressive nature of Sangiovese in purezza, and have chosen to use only the traditional, local varieties such as Malvasia and Canaiolo.

n the tiny cellar, production has been driven more by what has been available than by a dogmatic approach. There is a mix of concrete, some stainless, and old wood, primarily because that’s what Sabrina’s father had cobbled together as a hobbyist. A preference for non-interventive winemaking is a unifying philosophy between the generations here, though as we all know, change often comes very slowly at these smallest of small properties.

Next up on the change list is certification of organic farming. Lecci e Brocchi have already started their official conversion, though their methods have changed little over the years. What has changed is the final product, which is now a gorgeous expression of terroir wrought from the soil by a family committed to not only that special soil, but also to the lifestyle it has long supported.

Across the board one finds a unique perfume in the wines of Lecci e Brocchi. Intensely floral, and then richly mineral and with fresh if obviously ripe fruits. The goal here is not to make monumental wines, but rather to highlight the approachability that Chianti Classico is capable of, which in and of itself is a throwback concept as the region is tending en masse to try to make Chianti Classico a more important wine. That’s really not necessary here. These wines are full and ripe with enough fruit to satisfy any wine lover, and are married to the tang of terroir that the true geek seeks.

Simply put, this is a big part of the future of Chianti Classico. We’re all familiar with the past of Chianti Classico: while there was much to like there were also plenty of rough spots. Wines like Lecci e Brocchi fill in those rough patches with exemplary expressions of terroir. They are thoughtfully made wines that speak loudly of the unfulfilled potential of the region, and anyone interested in Chianti Classico should be trying these wines. They are both a bridge to the past and a look into the future of the region’s wines, brought to us by careful stewards of the land. You may like these wines more or less than I do, but after drinking them you will have a newfound understanding of what Chianti Classico can be. Gregory Dal Piaz

(Gregory Dal Piaz is writing a book on Chianti. You can read more of his writing at www.simplybetterwines.com)

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