I love the idea of Tuscan Sangiovese; gorgeous, earthy, often regal wines that speak so clearly of place. Unfortunately, that idea has been almost completely hijacked over the last couple of decades with the inclusion of French varietals like Cabernet and Merlot along with toasty French barrique aging into the wines of so many of the region's great estates. This trend didn't just affect Brunello, lots of Chianti producers were seduced by the idea of internationally styled, high scoring wines that taste like they could have come from Bordeaux or Napa Valley. The wines of Montesecondo are definitely not that.
The Montesecondo estate isn’t a very old operation by Tuscan standards. In a region where every winery seems to exude medieval history complete with ancient castles and abbeys, Montesecondo is practically brand new. Silvio Messana and wife Catalina relocated to this northern corner of the Chianti Classico zone from New York in 1999. The estate was created by Silvio’s parents who purchased the land in Cerbaia, just outside Florence in the Val di Pesa, in 1963 where they lived and sold fruit to a local negociant. Silvio was selling wine in New York City and made the decision in 1999 to move his family closer to his aging mother and stayed on after her death, converting the farm to their new home and seasonal B&B. Silvio also immediately decided to start tending the vines, build a cellar and make wine.
After a year working the vines conventionally, Silvio knew there had to be a better way and after attending a seminar with Nicolas Joly, the godfather of the biodynamic movement, he came home, threw out the chemicals and started converting the vineyard to biodynamics. He also farms for very low yields; 30 hectoliters per hectare which is about half of that of most good Chianti producers and well below the legal requirements of even the best grand cru Burgundy sites. This allows the Sangiovese to fully express its structure and regal aromatic profile. The addition of small amounts of Colorino and Canaiolo revive the classic recipe for great Chianti. The former for, well, color and the latter to help soften Sangiovese’s often considerable tannins in much the same role that Merlot plays to Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux.
Winemaking is meticulous here starting with a manual harvest, native yeasts and long fermentation in stainless steel vats. The wines are then transferred to old, well maintained 500 litre barrels where they spend a year mellowing and integrating.