Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) "Colledilà" 2007 (Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., $65): This is the most exciting new wine that I have tasted all year. It’s a wine that haunts me, conjuring images in my mind of the picturesque hills of Chianti Classico, their history of noble landowners and sharecropper-farmers, and their iconic wine that has evolved over centuries, surviving through thick and thin. The winery name, Barone Ricasoli, is certainly one of the triggers for these impressions: The 19th century “Iron Baron,” Bettino Ricasoli, developed a formal blend of grape varieties for Chianti Classico and is the most notable figure in the history of the wine. The wine’s label adds to the effect, being a detail of the Ricasoli family tree, dating back to 1584. But the wine itself plays a role, because it proves convincingly the enduring greatness of Chianti Classico.
Colledilà is a brand new Chianti Classico from a storied estate. It is made entirely from Sangiovese grapes grown in a 17-acre vineyard on the 600-plus acre property of the Ricasoli family that is crowned by the Brolio Castle. The name Colledilà means “the hill over there.”
The backstory of this wine involves more than 15 years of research and experimentation that Francesco Ricasoli has instigated since buying back his family’s estate from foreign owners in 1993. With a mission of “preserving the DNA of Brolio,” he initiated ongoing research into the estate’s soils, its grape varieties, and the variations of Sangiovese on the property, doing 180 micro-vinifications each year to understand what excels where. That research supported the decision to make a 100-percent Sangiovese from the Colledilà vineyard.
What amazes me about Colledilà is that it has unmistakable Sangiovese character but it is more delicate than any top-quality Sangiovese wine I can recall drinking. Not only that: it epitomizes Chianti Classico and yet it is so very different from the vast majority of Chianti Classico wines today. It is a great wine that speaks of its region and yet is extremely individualistic.
Colledilà is not a dark wine, and that’s appropriate for Sangiovese. Its aroma is ethereal, suggesting floral notes (that textbook “violet” that we never really find in Chianti Classico?), a bit of anise, and tart cherry. In the mouth it is full-bodied but very refined, the depth of its acidity forming a mid-palate bridge between the silky texture of the entry and the firm Sangiovese tannin of the finish. Its flavors of tart cherry, tobacco and toasted notes are concentrated and vivid but still delicate. This wine has every element of quality -- depth, concentration, length, balance -- in an exquisitely fine-boned style.
I set out to write this review uncertain whether it would feature Colledilà or the superb 2007 Castello di Brolio, Ricasoli’s other Chianti Classico, which contains a bit of Cabernet and Merlot. (These wines, together with the terrific 100-percent Merlot, Casalferro, are the three members of Ricasoli’s new “Cru” range, all $65.) I adore the 2007 Castello di Brolio, the finest vintage of this wine I have ever tasted and far less oak-influenced than some previous vintages. But the Colledilà…it moves me.
I enjoy the Colledilà in a large Bordeaux-type glass. This wine can accompany many dishes but it deserves a simple meal that will provide a foil to its finesse, such as veal paillard, roast chicken, grilled portobellos or a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s a very young wine now, and I believe it will improve with aging over ten years, if not more.