Published 15th August 2017
The old adage that great estates make impressive wine each and every year always struck Simon as a facile attempt to sell something that was not going to sell itself. To Simon, the key phrase that is always missing is ‘relative to the competition’. Our offer below on 2014 Flaccianello della Pieve, Fontodi.
It is, however, true that specific vineyards can deal with problematic weather more easily than other sites. Think of the benefits of altitude in a hotter than average year, or an exposure that is not full south. Think of the benefits of free draining soils in wetter years...there is substance behind the simplicity of the comment. And then consider that approaches differ from estate to estate. One estate may have far more exacting standards in the vineyard and in the cellar. In trickier years, a strict selection of fruit, for example, is often key, as only the best berries make their way into the vats.
The vineyards of Fontodi are based in the fabled ‘Conco d’Oro’ (meaning golden shell) below Panzano in Chianti Classico. It is fair to say that some of the finest vineyards in Tuscany can be found in this sweeping south facing basin. The first vintage of Flaccianello was the 1981 and the wine was initially produced exclusively from the vineyard of the same name. However, it has since evolved to become a composite wine made from the finest fruit from the best parts across the estate. It is perhaps this flexibility in approach that has yielded consistently impressive vintages of Flaccianello. In trickier conditions, the freedom to select fruit from a wider span of vineyards can be telling. The soils across the Fontodi vineyards are the classic Tuscan ‘Galestro’ or Schist-based clay which sees Sangiovese yield some of its finest results.
There is a reason why Antonio Galloni (of vinous.com) states that ‘Flaccianello has routinely been among the most exciting wines in Tuscany.’ To be routinely exciting takes hard work. Galloni has not yet tasted the 2014 Fontodi releases, but we had the opportunity last week. The 2014 Flaccianello impressed with its fine depth of fruit. While not possessing the power of say the 2010 vintage, the 2014 showed refinement and finesse, with a classically sleek texture and long, flowing fruit. While it will drink a touch earlier than the 2010 – perhaps hitting its stride in 2020 – the 2014 will still be a strong prospect for cellarage. Frankly, Fontodi would not put the Flaccianello name to anything that did not shape up and I cannot recall tasting a vintage of Flaccianello that I did not rate.
The 2014 Flaccianello is a startling result given that the Tuscan summer was cooler than the norm with some hailstorms in July and August. However, September and October offered stable, dry conditions vastly augmenting the quality of the vintage. As the vintage report on Jancis Robinson’s website would have it, these late season conditions ‘turned a potentially disastrous vintage into a surprisingly good one, but with generally much lighter, earlier-ripening wines than 2013.’ Of those wines that over-achieved, Flaccianello 2014 is surely one of the most notable.
2014 Flaccianello della Pieve, Fontodi
£270 per 6 bottle case in bond
95 points, Monica Larner, The Wine Advocate
Like the Vigna del Sorbo, the 2014 Flaccianello della Pieve spends a few additional months in botte grande than usual. The wine still breathes in large oak cask, but the environment is slightly more reductive (oxygen-free) compared to smaller barrique, thus allowing for a more complete and slower integration that is necessary in a cool vintage like this. The result is a beautifully complete wine that takes a few minutes to spread its wings. The bouquet starts off with a timid personality, but soon reaches a full regime of red fruit and spice that is so specific to this celebrated selection of Sangiovese from Panzano in Chianti. The September heat (following a gray, soggy summer) helped to eventually achieve fully ripened tannins. There is no greenness or astringency to disturb the soft and velvety mouthfeel. Thanks to severe fruit selection, production of the 2014 Flaccianello della Pieve is one-third less than average. Giovanni Manetti calls 2014 “a vintage of opportunity.” Although Panzano saw less average rainfall in 2014 compared to neighboring villages, Fontodi vineyards required double the work that year. This is an impressive achievement. Drink 2019-2032
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