by Chris Ryerson
Admittedly, this isn’t my most timely post ever; my notes on the wines of Montevertine date from April 27th when the owner and winemaker, Martino Manetti visited the Bay area. However, in a way it seems appropriate to have taken my time. These wines are imbued with a sense permanence and classic style, with an emphasis on balance, clarity, and moderation. Since 1968 when Martino’s father, Sergio, started this fabled estate almost nothing has changed in the winemaking style, and I get the very strong feeling nothing will be changing in the near future either. The elder Manetti was among the first in Tuscany to leave the Consorzio and to forego the status of the Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. in order to follow his conviction that authentic and truly great wines can be made entirely of Sangiovese or other indigenous varietals such as Canaiolo and Colorino.
Montevertine makes three wines. The entry-level “Pian del Ciampolo” is essentially the equivalent of most producers’ Chianti Classico. “Montevertine” is the standard-bearer of the estate, made from at lest 90% Sangiovese with the balance Colorino, and aged 24 months in large barrels. Finally, made from 100% Sangiovese, “Le Pergole Torte” is the top wine only made in the best vintages. Although it used to be a single vineyard bottling, it is now a selection of the best grapes from the estate’s oldest vineyards.
2003 production and produced no “Le Pergole Torte,” so all the best grapes went into the regular “Montevertine.” Deeper notes of baked raspberry, coffee grounds, and grilled meat are offset by fresher notes of bright cherry showing through now and then. The smoky, earthy complexity is punctuated by the expected tangy flashes of great Sangiovese. At only 13% alcohol and with impeccable balance it should have a very long life ahead, however, the softer nature of this vintage allows for great enjoyment now.
The 2004 “Le Pergole Torte” is a remarkable wine from an outstanding vintage. The bouquet is intoxicating; ripe Bing cherry, licorice, baking spice and pipe smoke all make an appearance. The palate offers similar flavors, densely packed yet somehow finely delineated. The wine has impressive power and intensity, but like all Montevertine wines it exhibits fantastic purity and balance.