One of the great things about wine is that different philosophies can still produce wines of great quality, as the 2016 Concerto di Fonterutoli revealed when I tasted it a couple of weeks ago.
Tuscany went through a period of change from the 1970s through to the 1990s – producers turned their backs on wine laws, content to produce great wines and rely on their own reputation. As a consequence, some chose to champion authenticity, focusing on the native Sangiovese and producing 100% varietal wines, though often from a base of different clones. Others seized the opportunity to embrace non-indigenous grape varieties and recognised the value of blending Sangiovese. Whatever way you cut it, Sangiovese benefits from blending either within a range of clones or with other varieties as per the Super Tuscans. The clones of Sangiovese that dominated in Tuscany in the 1970s were not capable of producing consistently high-quality wines, and clonal research has been going on for decades resulting in 70 approved clones today.
This all brings me, hopefully neatly, back to the impressive wine I tasted a couple of weeks back from Castello di Fonterutoli, namely Concerto, a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fonterutoli is one Tuscan estate that is truly steeped in history; it has been owned by the Mazzei family since 1435. This estate was one of the first to focus on quality, with an extensive replanting programme undertaken in the 1970s when they introduced Bordeaux grape varieties and ageing in French barriques. This was long before many other Tuscan estates had acknowledged the unreliability of the prevalent clones of Sangiovese and the traditional approach to ageing in large chestnut barrels. Today the estate is run by Filippo Mazzei, who is on record as stating that he ‘doesn’t believe in 100 per cent Sangiovese wines, one year they’re great, the next they’re worth nothing’. He goes on to say that ‘in years like 2006 and 2004, okay 100 percent Sangiovese is possible. In years like 2005 or 2003, it’s difficult…..I prefer to be consistent and tell people exactly what I am doing.’ May be these comments predate the run of vintage that Tuscany has witnessed since 2010, when perhaps we have seen consistently warmer summers and full ripeness has not proven tricky to achieve, but Filippo Mazzei follows his philosophy and the wines speak for themselves.
Based at a couple of kilometres from Castellina in the Chianti district, we find the hamlet of Fonterutoli. The estate is extensive with 117 hectares under vine. Their vineyards are divided into five different subzones, where altitudes vary from 200 to 500 metres, and as many as 120 distinct parcels. The fruit for Concerto comes from the Fonterutoli vineyard as well as Siepi, the name given to the estate’s prestigious Sangiovese and Merlot blend. Both vineyards are based on decomposed limestone and sandstone, with the age of the vines spanning 18 to 33 years. Concerto, as mentioned is a blend of 80:20 Sangiovese and Cabernet; it was first released in 1981, when the Super Tuscan movement was getting underway.
Consistent with Filippo Mazzei’s philosophy, Concerto is only made in very finest vintages – I guess releasing a 2016 Concerto was an easy decision to make! The 2016 is really something; the vintage has delivered terrific ripeness and poise. The Mazzei family noted that the 2016 vintage was characterised by warm, not hot days, with significant variations between day and night-time temperatures as harvest approached. They comment that this led to an accumulation of aromas in the berries as well as very fine ripeness. The evidence is in the glass as the 2016 possess such striking aromatics and such a deep, ripe fruit….This is exactly what Fonterutoli do so well, hugely impressive.
I include firstly my note and then Antonio Galloni’s below... it suffices to say we both loved it. An authentic Super Tuscan?
2016 Concerto di Fonterutoli
£265 per 6 bottle case in bond
Bright purplish hue in the glass, the aromas here are stunning, violet and mint overlay wonderfully ripe, fresh berry fruit. Impressive in texture and depth, this vintage possesses such a wealth of fruit. Both components are evident as the Cabernet brings darker fruit characters, subtle cassis-like notes and fleshes out the lively bright Sangiovese characters with its hints of spice and floral-accented red fruits. What impresses most is hard to say; the tannins are beautifully handled and the wine retains such great poise, with no sense of headiness, and of course there is this incredibly layered sense to the fruit…..Wow, the 2016 vintage has led to a hugely impressive Concerto – it is hard to consider how this could show any better. This vintage has the capacity to age over a couple of decades or more, but you could be forgiven for broaching a bottle early. 2022-2042 (SL)
95 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2016 Concerto di Fonterutoli, the estate's blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, is dense, plush and explosive, with superb depth and notable persistence. Super-ripe black cherry, lavender, spice, menthol, licorice and rose petal build in a rich, dramatic wine endowed with superb depth, intensity and pedigree. All the best elements of the house style are on display in this sumptuous, modern Tuscan red. Two thousand sixteen is a terrific vintage for the Concerto. I loved it. 2022-2041
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