Let us start with a fun, borderline wine geek type question for Italian wine fans: what’s common among Felsina Fontolloro, Montevertine Le Pergole Torte and Bibi Graetz Testamatta?
Answer: These three wines are all leading Sangiovese purist examples; whom have staunchly decided to stay within the Toscana IGT classification. (Are they Super Tuscan? This is a highly contentious topic and goes far beyond the apparent classification of “Toscana IGT/P” on a bottle. For Montevertine, it is very clear that owner Sergio Manetti does not share the Super Tuscan producers’ love for international varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc. – entirely.)
Stylistically, Felsina is the most traditional expression among the three, and Bibi Graetz exudes a modern, plush and expressive side of Sangiovese. Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte strikes a great balance between traditions and modernity and tends to open up beautifully with 10 to 15 years ageing. Bibi Graetz case might very well be a personal wine style decision as Toscana IGT affords Graetz more winemaking freedom – in his recent vintages, Bibi Graetz chose to blend 20% of wines from previous vintage in any of his current wines.
Felsina and Montevertine cases were more a historic product of Italian winemaking laws. Both were made to begin their journey as modest table wines (Vino da Tavola) as back when the first vintages of Le Pergole Torte (1977) or Fontalloro (1983) were released, the modern day IGT laws had not even been introduced. Eventually, there came the one change in Italian wine laws that essentially recognized the visionary decisions of both producers to embrace single varietal Sangiovese expressions. Since 1996 harvest, Chianti Classico wine laws were revised to allow Sangiovese to be used at a minimum of 75%, all the way up to 100%. Theoretically, both Felsina Fontalloro and Montevertine Le Pergole Torte could have gone “back” and up to Chianti Classico DOCG, the highest, officially recognized quality designation of the region.
But no, they chose not to – despite Felsina sourcing fruit from Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senesi; the winery has decided to keep Fontalloro a proud Toscana IGT/P. As for Montevertine, owner Sergio Manetti had kept to his 1981 decision to part ways with Chianti Classico – both the consortium and the legal designation.
Featured Image: The Triumph of Bacchus. (circa 17th century) Painting by Cornelis de Vos.