I first met Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi about 14 or 15 years ago at a tasting of Chianti Classico in Florence. I was one of about 70 wine writers who attended this event, and while I was familiar with many producers’ wines, I had yet to meet more than a handful of the vintners.
I was certainly knowledgeable about the wines of Fontodi, as I thought these were among the finest produced in the territory. So I was excited to meet Manetti and tell him how much I loved his wines. I saw him (I had seen photos of him previously), introduced myself and shook his hand. He seemed genuinely happy to meet me, as he listened to what I had to say, and also answered a few questions I had for him. I was immediately impressed by him and knew I had met a producer who was making wines that mattered to him, and in turn, he was as much in tune with what others thought of his wines.
Flash forward to early fall 2019, and I was able to visit Manetti at his estate for the first time in at least ten years. Not much had changed, from the remarkable beauty of his hillside plantings to Manetti himself. He looks the same (or as much the same as one can look after not seeing them for so many years), and his outgoing, warm manner was on display once more. Nice to know that some thigns never change!
The wines are as brilliant as ever, from the familiar Chianti Classico to his famous Flaccianello, a 100% Sangiovese that is the top red from his porfolio. The wines offer a great combination of ripe fruit, very good acidity and excellent complexity and persistence. And yes, they are ideal examples of local terroir from Panzano in Chianti, a mid-way point in Chianti Classico.
As well as his work at his estate, Manetti also serves as Chairman of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, a role he assumed in September 2018. One of his most important tasks in this position is to further the dialogue about the notion of zonazione for labeling Chianti Classico. Zonazione, if approved, would be a major step forward for the territory’s producers, as wines would be labeled not merely as Chianti Classico, but with the name of the village or district from which the grapes were sourced. Thus the Chianti Classico wines of Fontodi would be labeled as Panzano in Chianti, while the labels of other wines would bear the origin of the fruit, as in Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and so on.
This is a long overdue situation for the producers of Chianti Classico. Manetti told me that most producers favor this change and that they are almost there with the final decision. Exact designations have to be agreed upon, for example, is Gaiole in Chianti sufficient or can producers who use fruit from the small village of Monti in Chianti be able to label their wines with that geographical term? There are several other origins that need to be fine tuned, and Manetti, who has been one of the major proponents of zonazione, is confident that this will be approved within the next year. Of course, then the consorzio has to submit their findings to the Ministry of Agriculture, and so it may be another two years before it is officially approved, according to Manetti, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So Manetti stays busy with his own wines and with the overall image of the territory’s wines, and he couldn’t be happier. And yes, he still has time to answer my questions!
Notes on current releases of Fontodi wines:
Filetta di Lamole Chianti Classico 2016 – This is a new wines at Fontodi, a 100% Sangiovese from the Lamole area, east of Panzano. Medium-full, this offers aromas of ripe morel cherry, tar and red crocus. There is tart acidity, excellent ripeness and medium-weight tannins. Well made and nicely balanced, enjoy this over the next 5-7 years. Very Good
Chianti Classico 2016 – 100% Sangiovese. Rich aromas of cumin, sage, morel cherry and cedar. Medium-full, this has a rich mid-palate, excellent concentration and a lengthy finish with medium-full, well balanced tannins. Beautiful overall harmony, and notable structure. Best in 7-10 years, though it will probably drink for a few more years. Outstanding
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Vigna del Sorbo” 2015 – 100% Sangiovese from 55-year old vines. Aromas of black cherry, plum and tea leaf. Medium-full with excellent concentration. A classical Chianti Classico in many ways, from its aromatics to the flavors on the palate to its structure. Great persistence, very good acidity, and excellent complexity. The wood notes are subdued. One of the best Italian wines of the year! 10-15 years for peak drinking. Superb
Flaccianello Delle Pieve 2016 (Colli Toscana Centrale) – 100% Sangiovese representing the best selection from Manetti’s estate vines. Aromas of black cherry, black plum, a hint of clove and purple iris. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich, generous mid-palate, outstanding persistence, good acidity and excellent persistence. Ample wood notes, excellent structure. I have enjoyed several older vintages of this wine that have been in excellent condition at 20 years of age; this 2016 version will continue that tradition. Peak in 20-25 years. Superb
Vin Santo 2009 – Medium deep amber; aromas of tea leaf, honey and dried apricot. Rich mid-palate and a long finish with a light sweetness. This is delicate and almost subdued for a Vin Santo, this is not imbued with spiciness or nuttiness, but instead with gobs of fruit. Wonderful! Enjoy now and over the next 10-12 years. Outstanding