Castello di Monsanto

Italy / tuscany

Producer Info

press recognition:
There have been Bianchis in Toscana since the Middle Ages, residing then in San Gimignano. Aldo Bianchi left the citta shortly after the Great War to seek his fortune in the textile factories of the north. This he duly did, returning to Tuscany in 1960 to buy the Castello di Monsanto estate, near Poggibonsi in the Barberino Val d’Elsa region of Chianti Classico, on the border of Greve & Castellina, with its spectacular 5ha Il Poggio vineyard on pure galestro soils that looks directly across at the towers of San Gimignano.
The fine 206ha estate includes 100ha of precious bosco (surrounding the vineyards), 77ha of vineyards & 30 houses (!) It is gathered round a natural amfiteatro at circa 300 metres asl, on demanding, schistous, pure galestro soils (rocks) & more fertile volcanic tufo/fossilised soils that largely facing west, south west.  The estate lies on the first ridge of hills on the western edge of the Chianti Classico zone & so is constantly refreshed by prevailing westerly’s & by the air currents thrown up by the Elsa river below, a tributary of the Arno.
1962 was the first vintage Aldo vinified, applying the traditional tools of white grapes (Trebbiano & Malvasia), stalks & ‘il governo’ (concentrated must) to help both the alcoholic & (the then mysterious) malolactic fermentation to occur. There was a (quiet) revolution in 1968 as old wooden fermenters, stalks, white grapes & il governo were set to one side as a more contemporary style of Chianti Classico was born. Indeed such was the revolution that the still finely poised & delicious Il Poggio 1969 was initially refused DOC status by the authorities! Aldo was succeeded buy his son Fabrizio & wife Giuliana, who initiated their own revolt with the single, Scanni vineyard, 100% Sangiovese ‘Sangioveto Grosso’ wine in 1974; this was followed by a swish 250m long barricaia/chai in the 1980s & the adoption of French barriques & tonneaux.
The 1990s saw Fabrizio’s daughter Laura abandon Law to manage the estate. And from the 2000s to the present day, she too has left her mark by deciding to rein back on the barriques & tonneaux, replacing them with botti grandi (nine new 39HL French oak Gamba botti being delivered in August 2017!)
The wines are finely tuned by their (Trentino) enologist Andrea Giovannini, since 2001. Laura personifies the wines’ bright fruit, natural elegance & beauty. The wines have a clear capacity to age gracefully for up to 50 years or more. It’s also perhaps worth adding that Castello di Monsanto lies on (former) Florentine land!




Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico Riserva

‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva

Tasting Notes

2016 Chianti Classico – tasted Nov’18, 14%, a blend of 100% estate Sangiovese (90%), Canaiolo & Colorino fruit from 10 different plots covering 27ha averaging 25yo, aged in 100% Gamba botti grande of 38HL: fine, precise, blueberry (2016) & canina fruit; fluid, grounded, racy, taut, red gleaming core, needs a bit more time in bottle.

2015 Chianti Classico – 14%, bottled in June ’17, first produced in 1990, 90% Sangiovese & 10% Canaiolo (an ancient variety dating back to 1700) e Colorino (no white grapes/Trebbiano since 1969), a blend of fruit from across 45/46 different plots on the Monsanto estate, blending both fruit from tufo/volcanic red soil & fossils with that from their trademark schistous galestro soil/rock, aged only in 50HL botte grande for 12/15 months. Bright red, bright & fresh on the nose, with lots of vim, of redcurrant zip, of smoky marasca cherry (red), raspberry essence, racy transparency, the palate alive with cranberry crunch, being so young. Love the pure fruit expression, joy of the ripe vintage & pulsating breeziness. [tasted July ’17]

2015 Chianti Classico Riserva – tasted Nov’18, a blend of (S, C, C) fruit from 20 Monsanto vineyards richest in galestro, aged in a mix of botti, tonneaux & used barriques. Richer (than the 2016), strawberry ripple notes; to taste, fine, red pearl, tigher than the Chianti Classico, a riper smoky core too, creamier, more indulgent, with good detail & a pretty rose/violet fruit acidity. 

2014 Chianti Classico Riserva – prior to the introduction of their Chianti Classico in 1990, Monsanto only produced Riserva & ‘Il Poggio’. Noticeably darker (compared to the bright red of the 2015), more Colorino perhaps, richer, broader, with a brambly/mulberry fruit presence, rendered creamier & smoother by the use of tonneaux & barrique (now on their way out…). Smoky cool, fleshy, layered, autumnal leaves, extra weight thanks to the inclusion of ‘Il Poggio’ into the blend (as ‘Il Poggio’ was not made in 2014) – bottled June 2017, tasted July ’17.

2015 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – tasted Nov’18, bottled March’18, having been harvested 3 October from the three sides of the ‘Il Poggio’ promontory, & aged in an inaugural mix of both botti grandi (38HL Gamba) & French tonneaux. Great presenza! Bright, balsamic, transparent, gleaming…the palate is sucoso/juicy, yet also racy, held in check by the botti grande (more reductive), a pretty red coil, aperto even now with slightly lower acid (than 2016 & 2014), the delicious, warm red berried fruit accompanied by smoky galestro notes, avvolgente!

2014 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – tasted Nov’18, 13.90% yields were reduced by over 50% & then Laura harvested only the SW facing flank of the Il Poggio ‘bricco’ on 10 October, macerated for 19 days on the skins (in stainless steel)aged in French tonneaux. Compared to the lush 2015, here there’s much more focus, tighter, lower alcohol, higher acid (TA 5.90), fine perfume of rose & strawberry, great potential…indeed, given the character of the (warmer) 2015 vintage, Laura is considering holding back the more complex, long-ageing 2014.

2013 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – bottled March 2015, a blend of 96% Sangiovese, 3% Colorino & 1% Canaiolo, 20 days on the skin, part aged in 35HL botte grande (Gamba francese) with 9 more of 20HL arriving Agosto’17! Very fine indeed, very focused, pinpoint indeed, a beautiful vivid, vibrant red colour, focus, a spiralling perfume of glacier marasca cherry, garrigue, rose & strawberry fruit notes; discreet to taste, a cooler vintage with occasional rain, but how it unfurls, nervous, but so alive, orange peel, hard to coax out, holds back, some bright fresh strawberry fruit finish, but needs time. Coiled. [tasted July ’17]

2007 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – surprisingly fresh & vivace for what was quite a hot, dry year. Sweet red berried core, trim, lovely mix of youth & secondary flavours. Incredibly good, & proves the point (when tasted alongside 2003 & 1997) that ‘Il Poggio’ performs particularly well in hotter vintages, thanks no doubt to its elevation, shale soils & breezy aspect facing west (tasted Dec’17)

2006 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – tapenade, graphite, bold, rich, thickness, clove, potent, still a ‘bambina’ with puppy fat! Needs another 5-10 years [tasted July ’17]

1999 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – pure quinine on the nose, it slowly emerges, regaling us with red/blackcurrant, graphite, clove, with lots of spirit, slender, strawberry joy, a fine spine/nervo, exciting, pacy, Nebbiolino even, the bare galestro outcrop that is Il Poggio always asking questions, stressing the vine, focusing its mind/energy into the fruit, not the leaves. Laura recalls a beautiful harvest in 1999, well-balanced with great natural concentration. Still very young. [tasted July ’17]

1997 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – arguably the first of the hot, dry years in Italy. ‘Il Poggio’ doesn’t appear to have wilted in the conditions, remaining spritely & fresh. More barriques used in this vintage, hence the broader, lush appeal. Develops quite quickly in the glass however. (tasted Dec’17)

1982 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – fabulous, relaxed, tertiary note complexity, a mass of dried fruit, leather, graphite, sangue di toro (bull’s blood), earth, molto fruttato with sweet cassis, sempre nervosa/nervous, crunchy spezia, licorice, sinew, broadening…wow! Laura reminded me that ’82 was better in Chianti Classico, while ’83 was better in Montalcino! And that 1989 was not great in Toscana, it rained! (unlike in Piedmont).

1969 ‘Il Poggio’ Chianti Classico Riserva – as you would expect (!), still very alive, full of joy, great lines, elegantissimo (!), cassis fruit, energetico, sapid, translucent…a perfect example of why Chianti Classico produces some of the world’s longest-living, most refined wines!