A Visit to Tenuta Di Nozzole
When you're out hunting for a bottle of Chianti Classico it can be confusing. There are so many labels and so many styles. You have to start somewhere and once you find a producer that makes a wine that suits your palate, you can branch out and make new discoveries. A quick short cut is to look for wines made by one of the "Fantastic Four". Fèlsina, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Castello di Fonterutoli and Frescobaldi are all icons of Tuscan winemaking and their wines standout for their consistency in style and clear expressions of the territory. From their entry level to their flagship offerings the Fantastic Four can be counted on to deliver reliable, well crafted wines.
Our visit to Tenuta di Nozzole was an afterthought. Earlier we enjoyed a visit to Le Cinciole in Panzano having just finished having lunch at La Cantina Ristorante-Pizzeria in Greve. This was a family vacation and I had told myself before leaving on the trip that I would not drag my family around to various wineries the whole time we were in Italy. Still, it would have been uncivilized not to introduce our son to the treasures of Tuscany (This was his first time in Italy) while we were on the peninsula. Besides who spends a day in Tuscan wine country and visits only one winery?
It was the first rain on the first day of October and as we drove though the countryside of Greve, from our viewpoints the majority of the vineyards had already been picked. In fact Luca Orsini's cru was busy picking their last plots when we left Le Cinciole.
First a little history about the Folonari families. The Folonari's, Lombards from the region of Brescia in northern Italy have been in the wine business since the late 1700's. The Folonari's fortunes turned brighter with the purchase of the Ruffino wine brand in 1913. After World War II the Folonari and Ruffino brands grew explosively through solid marketing and mergers. In the early seventies the Folonari's sold their wines brands and the Folonari name to Gruppo Italiano Vini, arguably the largest wine company in Italy to focus on higher quality wines. Smartly, they kept the Ruffino brand, among them the gold label Riserva Ducale, unquestionably one of the most recognizable names in Chianti Classico wines. Fast forward to year 2000 and the Folonari family went through a split over philosophical differences. Some family members retired, others kept the Ruffino brand and Ambrogio and Giovanni (father and son) established Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute. A & G Folonari Tenute (estates) consists of six estates and almost 620 acres of vineyards in Tuscany. They farm properties in Bolgheri, Chianti Classico, Montalcino, Montecucco and Montepulciano. Coincidentally Constellation Brands the world's biggest wine maker, purchased 40% of the Ruffino brand just four years after the year 2000 split and by the end of 2011 the Folonari's were completely bought out for $142 million.
The Folonari's purchased the Nozzole estate in 1971. At that time the estate was 950 acres, 250 planted to vineyards and 40 acres were devoted to olive trees. Six wines bear the name Tenuta di Nozzole, an IGT red and white (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay), three Chianti Classicos and a Vin Santo. All six spend time in small french oak barrels. We saw very little of the production areas, but the places we did see were packed wall to wall with small 59 gallon French oak barrels. The grounds and the facility itself is spartan and impeccably maintained. Modernity and attention to detail are the hallmarks here. These markers are immediately evident in the wines. All of the wines at Nozzole are very good. Made for the modern palate the wines are fresh, powerful and rich, displaying wonderful structures and are decidedly true to type.
Reservations are required and we had not made an appointment so when we arrived I wasn't sure how we would be received. If it wasn't for the large touring bus parked outside the production area I would have thought we were not on the right property. Good for us my curious wife wandered into the business office, where she was greeted by Laura Dassiè the Export Manager. Amazingly Laura stopped her business activities and spent the next hour and a half showing us around and leading us through a private tasting. We discovered through our time together that Laura had spent some time in Northern California and her English I must say was spot on. Affable and patient, I really appreciated how she shared the details of their business and handled our inquiries. She's indeed a pros pro and the give and take was really fun. Toward the end of the session she handed us off to Oliva Busignani who is the Hospitality Manager. Oliva helped us with our purchases.
The 2015 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva wine comes with a newly fashioned label. A picture of the estate is still prominently displayed front and center. The label is less cluttered with the bottling information, the alcohol info and the family brand name and symbol having been relocated to the back label. Just the facts here, the estate picture and name, the vintage and type of wine. An atypical deep tinted, taller, heavier, glass tapered bottle, rounds out a quite stylish package. Once you've emptied it you can get a workout in by doing arm curls with the bottle. The nose shows black cherry, leather,earth and baking spice all wrapped in oak. On the palate black and red fruit, licorice and tobacco. Medium to full bodied, there is ample acidity, the tannins are polished and the finish is long. A thoroughly modern interpretation of Chianti Classico but there is no mistaking that it's Tuscan Sangiovese. 14 % alc. $17 - $20
After fermentation the 2013 Tenuta Di Nozzole Gran Selezione Chianti Classico spends up to two years in 1,585 to 1,849 gallon botti (large barrels). After bottling the wine spends a minimum of six months in the bottle before release. Gran Selezione is Chianti Classico's newest top tier wine and this is the first release from Nozzole. 100% Sangiovese, already it’s soft and approachable, showing incredible depth and complexity, with sweet tannins and a silky texture. Aromas of violets, ripe cherries and cocoa and a soft round mouth feel make for an immensely enjoyable drink. This was my son’s favorite wine of the lineup. Who say’s millenials don’t have good tastes? As good as the Gran Selezione is now, I suspect it will age gracefully. N/A
2013 Tenuta Di Nozzole La Forra is composed of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s fermented in stainless steel vats and the wine is pressed off the skins after 20 days. The wine spends 16 - 18 months in 132 gallon French oak barrels and six months in bottle before release. The black cherry, licorice and herb aromas are in harmony with the wines firm acidity and solid tannin structure. The La Forra nose is not as developed as the previous two, powerful and rich it is built for the long haul. $35 - $40
We also tasted the 2016 IGT Chardonnay La Pietra (the stone) from their Tenute Del Cabreo property. It’s fermented half in new barrels and the other half in one use barrels, then aged twelve months on the lees. It has a pale gold color, with a reticent tropical fruit and spice nose. On the palate it’s texturally dense with good structure and has a satisfyingly long finish. Admittedly I’m too much of a Sonoma County Chardonnay honk to go all in on this wine, but my wife loved it, so we purchased some. $30 - $35
We enjoyed our visit to Tenuta Di Nozzole and would like to thank Laura and the staff at the property for their hospitality. If you ever find yourself in Tuscany, phone ahead and make a reservation to visit the Nozzole estate. You won’t be disappointed. Cheers!