Castello di Monsanto

Castello di Monsanto is a winery that has made history in a historic wine region. With its iconic wine, Il Poggio, the winery was among the first to show the spirit of the place of growth and the character of the Sangiovese grape, without any compromise. 

A typical Tuscan story

Aldo Bianchi left his birthplace before the Second World War to try his luck in the north. Three decades later, the already rich textile manufacturer is invited to a wedding near his home town. He cannot resist the romantic beauty of the landscape and he purchases a smaller Renaissance villa with a picturesque view and five hectares of vineyards in the still extremely poor region. The father is captured by the beauty of the landscape, then the imagination of his son Fabrizio is moved by the wines in the cellar and he decides to get the most out of the land.

  

 

The Chianti that makes history

Il Poggio, the core of the estate is still a mixed plantation (at the time), and in accordance with the then wine regulations, white grapes are also put into the 1962, which is the first vintage. This wine already makes history as it is the first single vineyard-selected Chianti. Another important milestone is also linked to the name of Castello di Monsanto: in 1968, the first Chianti without white varieties is also made here. When, after almost five decades of work, Fabrizio hands over the winery’s management to his daughter, Laura, the winery is an influential player of the wine region, and the Il Poggio is the most well-known ‘cru’.

 

 

Sangiovese is not easily tameable

Chianti is the name of the wildly romantic Tuscan region between Florence and Siena. The first mention of Chianti as a wine dates back to 1398, when it was still white. The contents behind the name have been changing constantly ever since, but the direction has been obvious since the second half of the 20th century: to push the white varieties out of the blend and provide a larger space for the most noble variety of the region – Sangiovese. But why were white varieties blended with Sangiovese? Basically, because Sangiovese is not an easily tameable variety: it’s a late-ripening, abundantly-growing, tannic grape that has lively acidity. In a good vintage, alongside a low yield, it gives big wine that’s unique in character, with decades of ageing potential. The problem was that Italy, and later the world, didn’t need this. The 1963 regulation defines Chianti as the ‘table wine of the people’, and based on the 1872 formula of Count Ricasoli, alongside the Sangiovese that provided the backbone, the use of the ‘rounding, softening' Canaiolo and the white Malvasia and Trebbiano was also prescribed. It is indeed a good recipe from the point of view of mass consumption but also a straitjacket for those who want to make big wines.

 

From the table wine in the straw-covered bottle to the big Chiantis

It was undoubtedly a worldwide hit but as a result of mass production and price competition, the quality declined, and the name became a synonym of cheap table wine. In the ‘70s, winemakers who were sensitive about their names were forced to sell their best wines – which despite the legal regulations were made exclusively from red wine grapes – outside the framework of the PDO, as table wines (hence the nicely-sounding ‘Super Tuscan’ name). The success of the pioneers, Castello di Monsanto’s Il Poggio or Antinori’s Tignatello, stimulated the whole of the wine region, and by the turn of the millennium, regulations were synchronised with quality: white varieties were no longer allowed to be put into Chianti, and it has to contain at least 80 per cent Sangiovese.

 

 

Born to be aged

Age has always been considered as a respectable virtue in a wine. With the passing of the years the wine settles, the tension of the acids and tannins diminish, the currents that previously ran in different directions move in the same direction. The loud, primary fruit and the unruly barrel spices calm down, the colours start to dissolve into each other, more subtle tones appear and the texture of the wine becomes silky. It sets off from cacophony towards harmony. Those who have managed to catch a wine at an ideal age will always long for this experience and seek the opportunity of this in every promising young wine.

The classic Chianti doesn’t belong to the full, charming, sweetish fruity wines. It’s a discreetly elegant, balanced, slightly sour wine with lively acids and a long finish. There are no amplitude sways and restarts from the beginning to the end of the palate – it stays on the same course throughout. It’s a perfect partner for food, a perfect basis for ageing. At Castello di Monsanto, it’s no exaggeration to expect three-decade long ageing potential from the wines.