Say ‘Ciao!’ to Berrys’ new Chianti, plus the latest news on Italy’s 2011 vintage


Indeed it’s time to say ‘hi’ to  Berrys’ new Chianti, that  in the 2010 vintage comes to us courtesy of the fine Chianti Classico estate of Badia a Coltibuono. And to celebrate the occasion it’s even sporting a fresh new look; the crisp white label reflecting the bright vibrancy of the sapid Sangiovese fruit.

Being a Chianti Classico estate, Badia a Coltibuono are not allowed to declassify fruit to ‘Chianti’. Owner Roberto Stucchi Prinetti therefore uses all his experience to source the grapes from three suppliers in the expansive Colli Senesi zone that encircles Chianti Classico. The wine is then made at their Monti in Chianti cantina without recourse to oak, so capturing the wine’s purity and maximising its bevibilità (drinkability).

I’d been on the lookout for a worthy Chianti for some time; one that echoed the step up in quality that we’ve witnessed across the Italian wine industry and that I now feel is mirrored in the Berrys’ range. Even though Roberto regrets that the wine is not organic (unlike his own estate wines that we stock: the 2008 Chianti Classico and 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva) his team have surpassed the brief in producing a delicate, crunchy red berried wine that delights with notes of violets and China tea; the perfect accompaniment to tagliatelle with fresh tomato sauce and basil.

Now with most of Italy ‘enjoying’ a scorching August, perhaps it’s time for a roundup from ten of Berrys’ suppliers from Piemonte to Sicilia as to how the 2011 season looks with weeks to go before the harvest; a couple of months for Aglianico or days in the case of Moscato d’Asti!

Overall 2011 is shaping up to be another good year: the north ahead of the average maturation curve while the centre and deep south looks bang on it.

Alberto Graci of Passopisciaro, Sicily says they kicked off with a wet winter and spring giving vines sufficient water to see them through the dry if less hot summer. Naturally smaller yields of Nerello Mascalese resulting in less of a need for green harvest. Slightly behind the norm, Graci needs more sun and heat to reach optimum ripeness for an October harvest (and no rain!).

Fresh to Berrys’ line-up is the Aglianico del Vulture producer Carbone, based in Melfi, Basilicata. Sara Carbone reports a well balanced year with the invaiatura/veraison occurring at the normal time. So a regular season without too many heat spikes nor water stress…but still a way to go before an end of October harvest.

In Umbria, at Cantina Fontecolle where Duccio Pompili’s Sagrantino vines are apparently in better shape than him, thanks to a wet winter, warm spring and variable summer, followed by the current August heatwave; humidity is down on 2010.

In Tuscany, Stella di Campalto, at her Montalcino cantina San Giuseppe, talks of  Sangiovese ‘uve belli e gustosi’ (‘nice tasty grapes’) as she surveys the effect of the August heat that has accelerating the ripening process. The year started well for her with a cold and wet winter, then a fresher than normal April – July period. While further north at Chianti Classico’s Bibbiano estate, Castellina in Chianti, owner Tommaso Marrochesi Marzi reminds us that Sangiovese is a late-ripening variety, hence time for a surprise. That said Bibbiano’s summer was stormy, along with some hail. He talks of the ‘bolla d’aria africana’, the torrid heat from Libya’s direction that he hopes will break soon; then all eyes will be on September!

Across the Apennines in the high Marche estate of La Monacesca, owner Aldo Cifola is confident that this will be Verdicchio di Matelica’s year, receiving equal amounts of sun and rain; the forecasts point to a normal harvest date.

Another looking forward to the harvest is Zeno Zignoli of Valpolicella producer Monte dei Ragni, who points to the moon, and its effect on the late Easter and spring as evidence that, local weather differences aside, the crop should come in on schedule (and not early).  He couldn’t ask for more: enough rain when asked for, along with hot days and fresh nights. But then he can’t speak for those below his 400 metre asl Fumane terraces.

At Berrys’ new Prosecco supplier Bele Casel, Luca Ferraro was pleased to skip a month’s worth of treatments thanks to the dry spring but was less happy to see some peronospera damage among the more vigorous Glera vines, caused by the wet June and inability to get among the vines with his organic sprays. And now the heatwave is threatening to spoil the small crop…

And finally to the Langhe where Mario Fontana is cautiously optimistic: a cold wet winter laid the foundations for a good Nebbiolo year; the warm spring brought budding forward by a couple of weeks, followed by a warm humid summer punctuated by fresh nights. He reports that the vines are not suffering from water stress; September will be crucial ahead of an October harvest.

Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and the above producers (bar Belecasel) will be presenting their wines at Berrys’ annual Italian wine tasting on Sept 8th at One Great George Street, London…book your ticket now!