It is by happy chance that my parents have a long established ‘holiday romance’ with the Chianti wines of Castello di Bossi. They came to know them from their holidays in Tuscany whilst I was first introduced to them by Michael Palij MW of Oxfordshire’s Italy specialist, Wine Traders (www.winetraders.org.uk).
My Mum is — I think — as much in love with the place as she is with the wines. Immaculate vineyards, beautifully-maintained estate buildings and spectacular views make it the sort of place that has you pretty much seduced long before you get a sniff of wine.
For my part, it is what Michael refers to as the “generous dollop of suave sophistication” that is hard to resist. The Sangiovese wines, in particular, achieve a lovely balance of richness, texture, depth and elegance. It may sound simple but it’s a tricky combo to pull off. The 2007 Chianti Classico (£18) is 100 per cent Sangiovese (something of a rarity these days with the increased fascination with international varieties) that has been oak aged for 12 months.
As you might expect, there’s a fair chunk of spicy, toasty aromas from the barriques but there’s no sense that they overwhelm the almost floral cherry-driven fruits on the palate.
The Chianti Classico Reserva Berardo 2006 (£27.50) is predictably more majestic and it has a presence in the glass and on the palate that gives more than a nod to its 18 months of ageing in oak. There’s no denying the potential and those that can sit on it for a year or two will be rewarded. Fortunately, the temptation is easy enough for me to resist, as the modest number of bottles that make it home in my parent’s suitcase are stored several hundred miles away. On a much more modest scale is the charming estate of Gabriele Buondonno. I have known Gabriele in a professional capacity for over ten years now and have always had a real soft spot for his refined, understated wines.
Not quite as well manicured as Castello di Bossi, his property and vineyards are home not just to his family, but their dogs, horses, chickens and year-round visitors. It’s another vineyard with spectacular views and you can see what made him move there from Naples many years ago to make wine.
The Buondonno Chianti Classico 2007 (£14.50, www.vintageroots.co.uk) is predominantly Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot and Canaiolo added too. The wine always seems to deliver this fabulously bright, nicely textured blue fruits with vanilla and spice. It’s never laboured or heavy and there’s never been a day when I haven’t enjoyed drinking it.
Prices will probably seem steep to many and I appreciate the frustration but I have genuinely struggled to hit upon a Chianti that I’d recommend over other things at under the £10 price point. The best — and readily accessible — is the Waitrose Chianti Classico 2008 Barone Ricasoli (£10.44, waitrosewine.com) that has a generous fruit palate, crunchy red cherry fruits and some well-balanced but present tannins, that soften when taken with a mouthful of ricotta-stuffed ravioli.