WineInk: Badia a Coltibuono
In last week’s WineInk story about the harvest workers, I misrepresented the status of the team that hosted me at Ehlers Winery. The eight vineyard workers at Ehlers are employed full-time, year-round. They work in both the vineyards and in the cellar, and Ehlers also offers employee benefits and a 401K. My apologies to Francisco Vega and his entire team for not being clear about their status. KJ.
I love sangiovese in all of its forms and colors. Long ago, when people would ask me for my favorite wine I would respond “Firebreak!” a sangiovese-based wine made by Shafer Vinyeyards and named for a vineyard that had, famously, once protected the winery from fire. Alas, the last release was in the early 2000s.
Then, just this past summer, I became enamored with a 2013 Cavatappi Molly’s Cuvee bottling sourced from three different vineyards in Washington state. The Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima, one of the sites, is one of my fave rave plots of land.
But make no mistake, despite my fondness for sangiovese grown in America, it is at its very best, at its very essence, when it comes from its native land of Italy. And for me, especially when it comes from Tuscany and the Chianti Classico region.
So it was with great joy that I accepted a promotional box that arrived last month holding treasures from Italy. Inside were four bottles of sangiovese from Badia a Coltibuono, the regal and responsible Tuscan producer who makes many of the region’s best wines. They also make some of the best Tuscan olive oil, which you may have seen on the shelves of your favorite gourmet food shops.
“The Blood of Jupiter” — that is what sangiovese translates to. It is so poetic and the grape is one of the most versatile on the planet. It can be brown and tannic in the hands of producers who make the beloved Brunello di Montalcino from 100 percent sangiovese. It can BE fruity and fresh, with great acidity, and quite affordable, from the Chianti region when made by those who capture the character of the wine in its youth. The grape can even makes marvelous rosé wines, especially when grown in the warmer climes of southern Italy.
But the beauty of the grape, especially when grown in the motherland of Tuscany, is that it features a rustic, almost earthy quality that tells the tale, with each sip, of one of the most unique and beautiful wine regions on Earth. When a wine takes you to a place it is a special experience. And, as I drank, not one, not two, but three of the Coltibuono wines over the course of a week, I took a mini-vacation under the Tuscan sun.
The four wines ranged from a 2015 Coltibuono Chianti Classico “RS,” which is sourced from different vineyards and growers and retails for an incredible $15, sometimes even less. “Our pizza wine” is how my wife described it. Food-friendly, easy to drink and affordable.
The next two nights were about the grill and a pair of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico, a D.O.C.G from the 2016 vintage ($22 MRSP) and a Riserva from 2013 ($35 MRSP). The former was young and vibrant, though certainly ready to drink with a meal. Both wines include three other regional varieties (Canaiolo/Ciliegiola/Colorino), but it is the sangiovese that defines the flavors. The dry tannins, the fruits, the taste of the earth.
And the Riserva? The treat of the week as it had all of the tannins and fruit and earth of the previous wines multiplied. Everything seemed to be kicked up a notch but the wine was still soft and velvety in my mouth. This was a wine to sip and contemplate. One that took you someplace, but also made a statement about the grape and the grower and the style. ‘Twas fun.
Which brings me to my final wine. The Badia a Coltibuono Montebello Toscana 2013 IGT ($60 MSRP). A wine that I will write about in a future column as I saved it for savoring another day. Yes, it is that special.
I receive a fair amount of wine but it is not often that a box arrives that I view as so special that it deserves your time and mine for a second column. But these wines from “The Blood of Jupiter” (I just like typing that) speak to me. Made with care from organic vineyards by siblings from the seventh generation Stucchi-Prinetti family on vineyards acquired over 150 years ago, they are amongsmy favorite affordable experiences.
Wine or otherwise.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.