Castello di Fonterutoli has been a part of the Mazzei family since 1435, making them one of the oldest running Italian companies. The historic Fonterutoli property spans 1600 acres in the heart of Chianti Classico with sweeping views of the Tuscan hillside. The vineyards comprise 7 properties with 290 acres of vines. I had the opportunity to taste and chat with Giovanni Mazzei, the 25th generation of the Mazzei family.
Giovanni shares many colorful stories of his family history that spans 900 years. The Mazzei family has a significant history in Tuscany yet they are continuously innovating and evolving. Starting with the 2017 harvest, the family has launched a new approach to its Sangiovese wines, aimed at highlighting the biodiversity of three different terroirs, in three different communes, via three different Gran Selezione wines.
The Mazzei family is originally from Florence, where they have been linked to winemaking and the wine industry since the eleventh century. As their coat of arms indicates, the Mazzei family were originally artisan coopers. Over time they became an influential family in politics and the military.
In 1398, Ser Lapo Mazzei authored the first known document to use the “Chianti” denomination. Later down the road in 1435, Ser Lapo Mazzei’s granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, and since then the Fonterutoli holding been a part of the family’s estate.
The Mazzei family continued to play an influential role in Tuscany. Years later came winemaker Philip Mazzei, he called himself a “Citizen of the World”. Phillip Mazzei was a friend of Thomas Jefferson. Philip is credited for influencing another historic document, whose philosophical writings on equality of man served as inspiration for the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Philip inspired Jefferson with the idea that “All men are by nature equally free and independent”.
Chianti Classico – Gran Selezione
Giovanni says, “The Chianti region is like a beautiful library, where you just want to dive in and go for the journey”. In each district of Chianti, you can see the differences in the complexity of the soils, altitude and exposure, which deliver a wide range of wines. Now more than ever, there is a desire within the Chianti region to differentiate these unique characteristics.
Gran Selezione is a new classification within Chianti Classico. The quality behind Gran Selezione wines is phenomenal and exceptional. It is the highest level of wine in the region. Only 5% of the total production of Chianti Classico is classified as Gran Selezione, showing that it is truly the best. There is a special committee that tastes the Gran Selezione wines to ensure that they are truly representing the terroir on the label.
Castello di Fonterutoli – 3 Cru, 3 Comuni, 3 Gran Selezione
Castello di Fonterutoli Badiola Gran Selezione 2017 (SRP $99)
Badiola comes from the commune of Raddo which is known for its higher elevation vineyards. The Badiola vineyards sit right below a 10th-century Roman church, at an elevation of 470-570 meters above sea level. Giovanni says it is a very challenging altitude to grow Sangiovese. This elevation creates the most incredible expression of Sangiovese. The site delivers a wine that is elegant and pure with a nice level of fruit. Due to its elevation, the wine is the leanest of the three Crus. There are nice aromatics on the nose with red cherries and spice. There are beautifully silky tannins that coat the mouth. Typical of the wines of Raddo, the Badiola is complex and austere. Badiola is a wine that is linear and focused with great finesse and elegance. This exceptional wine is made in limited production with only 3000 bottles.
Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2017 (SRP $74)
Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione is their flagship wine from the commune of Castellina. The wine was first introduced 1995. It has elegance, power, tannins and plenty of aromatics. The wine is sourced from 11 parcels in Fonterutoli that are vinified separately from vineyards that are 480 meters above sea level. The wine has silky tannins and is full of energy. Due to altitude, you also have nice aromatics on the nose, with notes of orange peel, violets, lavender, and black cherries. This wine is a wonderfully pure expression of a classic Sangiovese.
Castello di Fonterutoli Vicoregio 36 Gran Selezione 2017 (SRP $99)
The Vicoregio is a blend 36 different biotypes of Sangiovese planted together on their single vineyard site in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardegna. The vineyard is the site of their 50-year nursery project that has studied the various biotypes of Sangiovese. This is a wine with a strong terroir identity. Each clone is planted row by row, and there are 36 biotypes that are vinified individually. Giovanni says it is a big task to make this wine. This is a stunning wine with a velvety texture and intense aromatics.
Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi Toscana IGT 2018 (SRP $130)
Siepi is not a Gran Selezione but in my opinion one of the finest wines I have tasted from Tuscany. Siepi is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Sangiovese. Merlot grows beautifully in these parts of Tuscany. There was a great debate between the younger and older generation of the Mazzei family, each wanting to make 100% Merlot or 100% Sangiovese. Ultimately they compromised, though there is no compromise on the quality, the family agreed to a 50% Merlot and 50% Sangiovese blend.
The Merlot/Sangiovese blend makes the wine very unique. Both grapes are complementary to each other. The elegance, brightness, and energy come from the Sangiovese and the silky tannins, roundness, power, and black fruit come from the Merlot. It is a unique wine for the region, as there are very few 50/50 blends from Tuscany. On the palate, the wine is elegant with a pure expression of fruit. Notes of ripe cherry, mocha and cedar on the palate. The mouthfeel is vibrant with nice bright acidity. Siepi is a sensational wine that is distinct and is showing full potential.