2017 Monte Bernardi 'Retromarcia' Chianti Classico
Region: Panzano in Chianti < Tuscany < Italy
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Biodynamic farming; shale (Galestro), limestone (Alberese) and sandstone soils; vinification and maturation in large old oak casks; bottled unfined/unfiltered with minimal So2; 12% ABV
Winemaker: Michael Schmelzer
In 2003, American Michael Schmelzer moved to Italy with his family and purchased 10ha of organic vineyards, right in the heart of Chianti Classico. When he planted in 2005 and began farming biodynamically, he didn't know how difficult it would be. But he did know that conventional vineyards tend to spray when it rains, to help prevent the grapes from rotting, and that these chemicals just wash off of the vines and into the soil -- and that he wasn't going down that path. So he focused on building strength from the roots– from the base up, basically –then he would have healthy vines that would be more resistant to mold and pests. Bingo. He was right, and his robust vines, now 15 years in, have maintained equilibrium through the ups and downs of each vintage and its unique weather and other cards dealt by Mother Nature. We had the pleasure of visiting Monte Bernardi two years back. See some pics of their gorgeous vineyards -- and crazy, rocky soil -- here.
Retromarcia means “to reverse” in Italian, referring to Monte Bernardi’s ethos of returning to the elegance and simplicity of pure Sangiovese in the style of old-school, traditional Chianti Classico -- not the modern BS you often see there, with a large percentage of international grapes, new oak and other modern manipulations. The result: a bright, pretty, balanced Chianti that we actually want to drink, with a light chill, with food or without -- because it doesn't require a whole side of beef to tame the tannins or drown out the oak. It's also surprisingly fresh for such a hot, dry vintage, a testament to both Michael's biodynamic farming practices, as well as his gift for picking early enough to maintain acid while still getting ripe enough to capture the lovely red fruit. It smells and tastes like the Tuscany of our dreams: sour cherry, orange peel and mountain herbs on the nose, then zingy red plum, wild cherry and fennel in the glass. If we can be in Tuscany right now, we'll settle for this with a big bowl of pappardelle al sugo, or a big plate of tomato bruschetta, dripping with peppery olive oil....
SERVE SLIGHTLY CHILLED.