Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve – Differing Reviews of a Tuscan Collectible

Update: Read about my April 2013 visit to Fontodi here.

I like lists. I love Italian wine. So lists about Italian wines are right up my alley. I’ve recently finished reading James Suckling’s thoroughly enjoyable online countdown of the 12 most collectible Tuscan wines, which has some really informative videos with the winemakers explaining what makes their vineyards special.

One wine in the countdown that I really like, and can just about afford after some saving, is the Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve. Something that intrigues me however is the contrasting reviews that the 2006 and 2007 vintages of this 100% sangiovese IGT have received. I usually pay no heed to points and ratings but do find them a good resource for fine wines because buying misjudgments can really hit you hard in the wallet.

Both vintages finished eighth in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wine listing in their respective years of entry, but that’s where the review similarities end. James Suckling clearly favours the 2006 vintage, awarding it a near perfect 99 points, but only rates the 2007 at 95 points. Gambero Rosso, in their annual Italian wine guide, appear to favour the 2007 however, giving it three glasses out of three, whereas the 2006 vintage only received two glasses*.

I know that we are still talking about two wines of exceptional quality, but I must say I’m intrigued by the different preferences of the critics between these vintages, particularly when the Gambero Rosso review includes the dreaded phrase “over-stated extraction” when describing the 2006 vintage.

I always think if you are reading tasting notes online that it’s important to find a reviewer or critic whose palate preferences align with your own, and I’d love to post my own tasting notes on the relative merits of each vintage to tell you on which side of the fence I come down on. Sadly, since my budget has only extended to buying one bottle of each, I’m going to leave them a few years before opening. I’m hoping that the extra few years of bottle age will also afford the 2006 enough time to develop. If any readers have any views to share on these wines, I’d love to hear them.

Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi is due to participate in an upcoming wine dinner in Ireland which I’ve been looking forward to for some time. The wine dinner will feature olive oils and wines from Capezzana, Selvapiana and Fontodi and is being held in Ballymaloe House on 9th November in association with Liberty Wines. Maybe I’ll get to ask then which vintage he prefers. In the meantime, I’ll go back to drinking the excellent Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008.

*In the interests of full disclosure, it’s worth noting that Gambero Rosso awarded the 2006 Flaccianello two red glasses, which means that it went forward to the final tastings but ultimately did not attain a three glass rating.

Editor’s Update

It’s been a while since I posted about the differing reviews of Flaccianello. In the intervening months, this post has become the most viewed on my site, which is quite worrying since it doesn’t really say much other than Gambero Rosso probably think that James Suckling enjoys elegance and finesse in a wine about as much as Mitt Romney enjoys disclosing his tax returns. In any case, I no longer tend to use either Suckling or Gambero Rosso as sources for reviews, but they were useful enough for the purposes of this article.

Since I think my blog has improved a bit since this post, I’m taking the unusual step of updating this post to include something of interest – namely my tasting notes from a couple of Flaccianello vintages that I’ve tasted in the past years. Still no bottles of 2007 sadly!

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2006 -The Flaccianello was initially restrained on the nose but I could still detect some vanilla, toasty oak, cedar, crushed flowers, cherries and maybe a hint of the traditional sangiovese character of dried tea leaves. On the palate, the wine was concentrated and rounded with flavours of ripe morello cherries, plum and some spice (I wrote down black pepper initially but subsequently thought this was more of an overall mild spicy character), bright acidity and lots of tannin culminating in a really long mineral finish. In short, there was a lot going on in the glass and the wine was showing glimpses of its great power, complexity and class. I wanted, maybe even needed, another glass – surely the hallmark of a great wine.

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2008 – More perfumed than the 2006 Flaccianello but still retained a sumptuous richness and depth. Soft in texture, alongside the violets and fruit lay aromas and flavours of sweet spices, cigar box and licquorice. Smooth tannins, good acidity and a persistent finish tied up what, in my opinion, was a very nicely balanced wine. Approachable now but will need a number of years to come into its prime.

More Notes:

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Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 1999 – As the sun set in Panzano, you could still just about make out the transition in colour from the beetroot core to the brick like rim. Both the nose and palate were packed full of classic savoury characteristics of aged Sangiovese alongside an impressive concentration of sweet fruit. Many vintages of Flaccianello that I taste seem to showcase a beguiling underlying spicy characteristic that I can never quite put my finger on. The 1999 was no different in that regard but, in contrast to the bombastic structure of more recent vintages, the 1999 slid accross the palate with an oily slickness; elegant and seamless with a bitter finish that lingered almost as long as the sunset.

 

 

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