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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tuscany Revisited: Azienda Agricola Il Molino Di Grace.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti.
What is Chianti? Chianti is no longer just a red table wine bottled in a straw covered bottle. The rolling green hills of the Chianti region of Tuscany, produce wines of different quality and taste, with variations of light/dry and bold/fruity/dry wines. With lands covering 1.2 million acres and nearly a third of Tuscany these varitaions comes as no surprise. Much of the grape growing area of this region is comprised of clay soils with mixtures of flint, limestone, sand and tiny pebbles, all of which contribute to the uniqueness of Chianti classified wine.

Sangiovese grape.
There are seven sub-zones within Tuscany that can call their wine Chianti, all of which are within the Tuscan provinces of Arezzo, Firenze (Florence), Pistoia and Sienna. There is also more than 14 different clones of Sangiovese, which have been divided into Sangiovese Grosso (Prugnolo Gentile) which is used to produce Brunello Di Montalcino and Vino Nobile De Montepulciano, and Sangiovese Piccolo (Sangiovese de Lamole), which is the basis of the Chianti wine.

The term Classico refers to the old and original production area of the Chianti. In 1924  a group of some 33 wine makers gathered in Radda in Chianti and created a Consortium known as "Consorzio per la difesa del vino tipico del Chianti e del suo marchio di origine". This group chose the black rooster emblem as their symbol which was the symbol of the Chianti League. The term "Chianti Classico" was first introduced in 1932 by a Ministerial Commssion which decided to classify this area clearly in order to reduce huge amounts of fake Chianti that was abusively being produced in most of Central Italy at that time.

Sangiovese Piccolo.
In 1967 the Chianti Classico area was granted the DOC regognition, one of the first in Italy.
The first version of the DOCG production code for Chianti and Chianti Classico dates back to 1984, but it was only in 1996 with the Ministerial Decree that Chianti Classico obtained the definitive recognition of its importance, precedence and independence from the other Chiantis. New rules were then adopted to benefit the quality of the wine and the appellation. An important change concerned the variety of the grapes that could be used in the production of the wine. In the new production code, the minimum percentage of Sangiovese (Sangiovese Piccolo), the typical red variety of the zone, was increased from 75% to 80% and the maximum percentage of 100%. In addition to Sangiovese, producers could use other native red grapes like Canaiolo and Colorino, or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot up-to a maximum ratio of 20%. The white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia which were previously used in the blend could not be used any more from the beginning of 2006. Varoius other rules were introduced and adopted, dealing with minimum alcohol content (12% for the regular Chianti and 12.5% for a riserva); yield per hectare of land; vine production was limited to three kilos; vinification, maturing, aging and fining in the bottle to be carried out within the production zone; aging in oak was stipulated at 7 months minimum; chemical analyses were to be carried out prior to the award of the appelation for each vintage, prior to the wine's release; and that the release of Chianti is authorized only after the 1st of October of the following year from the vintage year. The Riserva Chiantis required a minimum maturation of 24  months, including at least three months of bottle aging.

With all of the above in mind, and with all the strict laws and competition from other long established producers of premium Chianti, AZIENDA AGRICOLA IL MOLINO DI GRACE opened its winery doors, which is situated in Volano near Panzano in Chianti in 1999, and have in just eleven years developed into one of the foremost quality wine producers in Italy, with world-wide attention for its Chianti Classico DOCG; Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Margone; Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG;  and its IGT Super-Tuscan Gratius.
The vineyards of this wienmaker had already been fruitful for over 350 years, when it was purchased by the present owners in 1995, but there was no winery on the estate. The new winery was designed and built as a state of the art winery, adopting the best equipment and production technologies. All wines are estate produced and bottled using the best organic materials and sustainable practices in both vineyard and the winery. OK so off to the wines:

The - IL MOLINO DI GRACE -  Premium, red wine collection.


This is the flagship wine of this winemaker  and is produced from a selection of the estate's finest,100% Sangiovese single vineyard grapes, cultivated and late-harvested by hand after the 10th of October, from the company's estate at Volano. It is not classified as a Chianti, although produced from exclusive selections of Sangiovese in good vintage years, but due to its unique production methods and concentration, it is classified as an IGT Super-Tuscan.

The hand picked grapes are carefuly selected and after a second grape quality control at the winery, the grapes are pressed and fermented with extended maceration for 20 days at controlled temperatures of 28 to 30 Deg.C, with soft extraction processes and punch-downs to extract the maximum flavor from the must.

After maceration is completed, the wine is then matured for 11 months in French barriques, and aged further for a number of months prior to release.

Due to a long cold winter in 2004, and a rainy spring, which delayed the budding and flowering of the grapes, the prolonged warm, not hot, summer and unusually hot October brought the grapes to optimum ripeness. Overall, the grape harvest in Tuscany, was delayed in most zones by 15 to 20 days, which resulted in a wonderful ripening and good development of flavour compounds, deep dark must with bright tonality, outstanding aromas and depth.These conditions produced excellent fruit harvests, which resulted in the transformation of some excellent wines such as the Gratius 2004.

GRATIUS 2004 is the result of these exceptional conditions in a very good vintage year.
The colour is dense purple, flecked dark and deep ruby.
Rich and complex fragrancies of violets, wild black berry fruit and ripe cherry with a tinge of plum.
On the palate it is dry and full-bodied, with round tannins and an intense flavour of ripe cherries, black berries and currants, spices-cloves and herbs, and chocolate persist. Elegant, rich and complex finish well balanced and long with a very good structure. The wine is unfiltered.

Grape variety: 100% Sangiovese.
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Vintage: 2004.
Price range: Eur36.50


This Chianti Classico Riserva is produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes in accordance with the Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG rules, with an extended aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux and aging in the bottle prior to release.. Vinification and maceration is on the same level as for the Gratius.

The Il Margone is a full-bodied, dry, red wine with a colour bordering on deep, dark crimson.
The bouquet is rich, spicy, earthy and intense suggestive of dark fruit and pepper.
The palate shows good depth, smooth and round tannins and a velvety texture.
The wine is ready to drink now.

Grape Variety: 100% Sangiovese.
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Vintage: 2004.
Price range: Eur29.50


In 2005, climate conditions in Tuscany were very erratic with many producers stating that it  was a tough and difficult vintage. In Chianti, producers across the board complained about the cold, wet weather prior to the harvest, which meant that only the best producers who have had the foresight to take good care of their vines, would achieve to have the best results, through careful and judicial selection of grapes at harvest.
In this regard, this Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 from Il Molino Di Grace, is a result of this attention and selection resulting in the production of an excellent wine., which is ready to drink now.

Grapes are handpicked in early October.

Vinification is 20 days maceration under controlled temperatures of 28 to 30 Deg.C after which the wine spends 11 months maturing in Slovanian oak casks and the Riserva maturing requirement in French barriques and tonneaux. Further aging as per Riserva DOCG rules and aging in the bottle prior to release.

This is a dark, ruby red Chianti Classico Riserva with aromas of prune, plum cherries and spice.
The wine is firm but smooth in the mouth with blackfruit and forest fruit flavours.
The wine is full-bodied, well structured and complex with smooth, round  tannins, harmonious and well balanced. Finish is medium long with a very good aftertatste.
Ready to drink now.

Grape variety: 100% Sangiovese.
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Vintage: 2005.
Price Range: Eur22.


2006 produced highly variable weather in Tuscany, ranging from extreme heat in June and July, more tepid and humid weather in August, and a return to heat, interrupted by heavy rain at the end of the season. This resulted in a grape harvest which, produced wines that although not over the top, nevertheless have proved to be very good, with intensity and concentration, excellent balance and a promise of wine that can age for a good number of years.

This is exactly the case with the Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 DOCG.

This particular style of Chianti Classico Riserva is produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes hand picked in early October, and differ significantly from the blended brands of Chianti Classico Riservas which normally contain about 80% Sangiovese, and 20% of other approved grapes.

This Riserva has a dark ruby red colour of great intensity, dense with a luminous ruby colour and with a lighter, ruby red edge around the periphery of the wine in the glass, indicating that this wine, even after four years from vintage, is still in its infancy and still evolving.

It is full-bodied and very dry indicating more than usual strong tannins.
Bouquet is dense and with sweet aromas of oak and ripe black fruit and powerful flavours of bitter cherry and wood, mixed with black fruit- blackberries, black currants and chocolate.
Long and lasting finish with a very strong full-bodied aftertaste. Good structure and complex and rich in texture. This wine has a good level of warm alcohol and crisp acidty which in a way balance the strong tannins.

The Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2006, is in my opinion still evolving and require and will reach its peak between 2012 and 2016. As was indicative of the vintage year, this is a strong wine produced for the long haul, and makes an excellent addition to one's wine collection for aging in the cellar.
To drink now, it is suggested to open the bottle and to decant it at least 1 and if possible 2 hours before drinking. It is a classic wine to be drunk with food.

Grape Variety: 100% Sangiovese.
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Vintage year: 2006.
Price Range: Eur23.


A classic Chianti Classico, produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes, spending 20 days in fermentation and maceration in controlled temperatures of 28/30 Deg.C, and 11 months maturing in stainless steel tanks, Slovanian oak casks and French barriques and tonneaux.

Sunday roast-prime-rib.
The wine is intensely  ruby red in colour, with a nose of small red fruits and violets. Soft tannins with good structure, fruit balanced by wood sweetness in the mouth and a persistent good finish. A classic and tradional 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico.
Re-taste-tested and rated on June, 26th 2011, at exactly 17Deg.C with an excellent food pairing of a rich tomato and beef sauce on spagetti al-dente with herbs, and roast prime-rib with baked potatoes.
Ready to drink now but can be aged further.

Grape Variety: 100% Sangiovese.
Vintage: 2007.
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Price range: Eur13.50

Unfiltered residue of the Chianti.
Unfiltered residue of the Gratius.
All the above wines are unfiltered.
Food pairings: Roast lamb shanks; Beef Osso Buco; Prime beef steaks- Fiorentina, Rib-eye; etc.
Roast lamb Shanks.
My Beef Osso Buco.
Prime grilled sirloin.

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