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Blast from the Past
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 25, 2015
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Dievole Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) 2013 (deGrazia Imports, about $20):  When I received a sample of Dievole Chianti Classico recently, I was a bit confused.  I knew the name: I had visited the gorgeous, age-old Dievole property more than once and had tasted through the whole line of wines on multiple occasions, but that was at least 15 years ago, or even twenty.  I hadn’t encountered the wine at all in recent years.  But now, suddenly, I was holding a bottle in my hands.

I was delighted to discover that the 2013 Dievole Chianti Classico is a lovely Chainti Classico, if rather different in style from what I remember the earlier wines to be.  Of course it would be different, because the entire Chianti Classico region has undergone so much change over the past two decades, beginning with the clones of Sangiovese being planted and continuing through the growing methods, blending grapes, and winemaking practices.  Even so, the changes in the Dievole wine were striking.  The rich, ripe, fleshy-textured style that I had considered typical of a property situated in the warmest, most southerly part of Chianti Classico, in the Castelnuovo Berardegna zone, had transformed into a taut, sleek, wine with a lively expression of ripe, fresh fruit.

Dievole is now imported by deGrazia Imports in Illinois, the U.S. arm of Marc DeGrazia Selections in Italy, which represents dozens of fine Italian properties.  The deGrazia catalog explains that Dievole has been under new ownership since late 2012, and that respected winemaker Alberto Antonini is now consulting to the property.  The catalog also lends perspective on the past that coincided with my own memories of the brand.  Although Dievole is a large and important producer in the Chianti Classico region, “Dievole had built its reputation as more a marketing phenomenon than as a top-level Chianti Classico producer,” the catalog notes.  “As such, it appears to have worn out its welcome and has been without representation [in the U.S.] for a number of years.”  I remember witnessing admirable passion for the place and its workers on the part of the owners and hearing fascinating storytelling that made me want to love the wines, although they never truly stirred me.

Changes to the property involve a shift to biodynamic growing that should be fully implemented by 2017, ambient yeast fermentations in truncated-conical Slavonian oak casks (2000 gallons in size), and the banishment of barriques, with 1000-gallon casks of French oak used for aging instead.  The 2013 wine is entirely Sangiovese, although the previous vintage apparently contained 15 percent of other native varieties.

The 2013 Dievole Chianti Classico is enjoyable now, but it certainly has the structure of tannin, acidity and fruit concentration to improve over the next few years.  To the eye, it is medium ruby, more transparent than opaque -- my first clue that something has changed at the winery.  Aromas are fresh, penetrating and pure, red cherry mingling with delicate floral notes.  The flavors echo the aromas and they are surprisingly pronounced; as much structure as the wine expresses -- firm, young tannins; uplifting acidity; a core concentration of extract -- the flavors are equally alive in the wine’s taste.  Altogether this is a straightforward, classic Chianti Classico in the lean, vibrant, pure-fruit style.

Welcome back, Dievole.

91 Points