Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fontodi Chianti 2018 Vintage






Nestled below the hilltop town of Panzano is a “golden basin” known as the conca d’oro, an amphitheater-shaped ring of vineyards that produce some of Tuscany’s most celebrated wines. Since 1968, the Fontodi estate has been the most prominent producer in the region. Fontodi and the master butcher, Dario Cecchini (whose shop is just up the hill), have given the hilltown of Panzano an international reputation.  

Daniel Bellino Zwicke

I first tasted the Fontodi Chianti 20018 on September 2018. I remember the date easily as it was just last week, and I remember it was on a Monday, and the sad 20 Year Anniversary of 9/11 and the attack of The World Reade Center Twin Towers on Tuesday September 11th, 2000. 

I was at the bar at Monte's Trattoria in Greenwich Village when I first tasted this wine. Now I want to point out as your average person soesn't think of these things, that when it comes to wine, vintages are different, and no vintage of any given named wine ever taste exactly the same. They may sometimes one vintage may taste similar to another, but never exactly the same. So when I said this was the first time that I tasted the 2018 Fontodi Chianti, one might think it was the first time I ever drank it. No, no, no. I first drank Fontodi Chianti Chianti curiously enough, in 1997 at the Fontodi Estate in Panzano, with none other than Mr. Giovanni Manetti, one of the family members who own  the Fontodi Estate, and wines. This was in my early years and second stage of really delving into Italian Wine in a major way. My friend Fianfranco had set up the tasting, so it was way back in 1997 that I first tasted the famed Super Tuscan wine Flacinella produced by the Manetti Family in Panzano at Fontodi, along with their Chianti, and Reserve Chianti "Vigna del Sorbo" as well as their Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Vin Santo wines. Giovanni is a wonderful host, and treated us well, and over the yearsm I gave attended numerous luncheons, wine tastings, and Wine Dinners with the man.

Now back to the current vintage. So, I first started drinking the Chainti, Flacinella, and Vin Santo of the Fontodi Estate, and I've have drunk most every vintage of these wines since then, and have had many good times drinking these wonderful wines, usually occopanied by some tasty Italian food.

So it was on this day in 2021 that I first tasted this wonderful wine, the Fontodi Chianti 2018, and what a day it was. I poured the wine into the glass, gave it a little sniff, then took my first taste. Wow! It blew my mind. The wine was spectacular. It tasted oh so good, and I took another sip. Wow. I noticed the wine to be fully flavored, with what I call perfect balance of the fruit, with wonderful flavors of sour cherry and black fruits that filled my mouth and gave me a most wonderful feeling. The wine was simply great, and I was enjoyng it immensly as I had recalled another Fonodi wine a couple years before that was one of those special wines, like this wine, I wine that I go bonkers for, and just cant't get it out of my mind. That other Fontodi wine I'm speaking of was the 2010 vintage of Fontodi's famed Super Tuscan wine Flacinello, another wine I went simply bonkers for, and remember it to this very day. There are other wines that have givien ne the same reaction, especially any nunber of Barolo's and Barbaresco from the 1996 vintage of thise wine, the 1996 being my favorite vinatge all time for these wines, and that includes the much lauded 2000, 2001, and 1997 vintage, I like the 1996 vintage Barolo the best, Anyway, lets get back to the Fontodi Chianti and the 2018 at that.

When I describe a wine, I don't like to go crazy with too much descriptions, going on and on, if you know what I mean. If I say I love it, and that the wine is in perfect balance, of having some nice fruit, the right weight, and just the right amount of acid and tannins in the wines make-up, then I don't need to say a whole lot more, other than 1 to 3 prominent taste (flavors) of the wine. That's it. Basta!

So in closing, I think you already know I love this wine. I feel it is a great wine, and perfectly balanced, and thouhg I might want to tell friends about it, and talk on it a bit, the main thing I want to do is drink it.

Giovanni Manetti



In the Spring of 1997 I had a most wonderful time at the Villa Calcinaia in Greve, Italy. The wine estate is owned by the Noble Florentien Family the Capponi's of Florence Italy and Greve who have been making wine for some 600 years now. My friend Hilda who was a friend of the two young Italian Counts Niccola and Sebastiano Conti Capponi. We met Hilda at her shop in Flroence and then walked a couple blocks to the Capponi Family Palazzo just about 100 feet from The Onte Vecchio (bridge) on the Arno River in Fierenze. Niccola came out and we were introduced. We chatted a few minutes, then Moran hopped in Niccola's Fiat Panda and headed to the Villa Calcinaia estate in Greve. It's just about 17 miles south of FLorence and we arrived about 40 minutes later. Niccola's brother, Conti Sebastiano Capponi met us outside the castle. A few minutes later we went inside, and walked into the 500 kitchen, where the cook was there preparing our meal on a open-hearth fire. A few minutes later Niccolabegan our tour of the castle and cellars below. He lead us down a stone hallway and announced "I will now take you to our 300 year old Mother." What, I thought. 

Niccoloa lead us into a room and said, "Here is our Mother. She is 300 years old." He explained that the mother was the starter to make Chianti Vinegar from wine. The mother must be kept alive, and this one was 300 years old. "Wow!"  Afterseeing the mother, Niccola took us to another special room, were Trebbiano grapes were hanging and drying in order to make the Tuscan Elixir known as Vin Santo. Niccola explained the process which wasthe first time I learnt of how Vin Santo was made, and from an Italian Count no less. Niccola then took us into one of the barrel rooms, where there were many large Slovenian Oak Botte, filled with Chiant. Niccola pulled out a theif and removed some of the aging Chianti with it, and filled our glasses with some of the wine. Wow, I loved it, my first ever barrel sample. "I loved it."

After talking about their process of making Chianti, and other tidbits of info, Niccola lead us outside to look at some of the vineyards and vegetable and herb garden. It was a beautiful Summer's day in Chianti Classico, in Tuscan, and here I was being given a personal wine tour by two of the Conti Capponi at their beautiful wine estate Villa Calcinaia in Greve, and we were about to have lunch inside the castle with the two counts. This was awesome.

Sebastiano lead us to the dining room. It was lovely. I really liked the country elgance of it. We settled in, as Sbeasiano poured us some wine. It was Villa Calcinaia Chianti of course. It was the 1995, and it was quite nice. We also drank some of 1993 vintage as well. The cook brough in platters of Salumi and Pecorino Toscano, both made in house on the property. I dug in, and savored every bite of the tasty cheese and salami. I really loved the wine. The second course was a simple, yet tasty plate of Macccheroni Pomodoro.For the main course, we had Roast Wild Boar that we saw the cook preparing previously in the kitchen when we entered the castle. We finished the meal with the wonderful Vin Santo of Villa Calcinaia with some homemade biscotti as Sebastiano and Niccola continued talking about the wine and the history of Villa Calcinaia, while my business partner Tom and I told them of the Venetian Wine Bar (Bacaro), Bar Cichetti that we were opening in New York. 

Our time with the Conti Capponi could not have been better. The counts we wonderful host, showing us around and especially to treat us to such a memeroable lunch. It was truly spectacular. "Grazie Mille."

We left Villa Calcinaia and turned right and south toward Panzano. We were on the Chiantiagana Road which runs the entire length of the Chianti Classico region, from north to south. The road is an ancient old Roman Road, and is quite beautiful. It was a shor 15 minute ride to the Fontodi Wine Estate in Panzano. We pulled in and were greeted by Mr. Giovanni Manetti, one of the owners of Fontodi. Fontodi is one of the top wine estates in the area, producing fine Chianti, Vin Santo, and their famous 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan wine Flacinello. Giovanno showed us around the estate, then brought us to the tasting room were he tasted us on the full line-up of Fontodi Wines. He told us about all the wine as we tasted each, and he gave us a breif history of the estate.We finished up and jumped in our car to head back to Florence. 

The day was absolutely wonderful, visiting Villa Calcinaia, having lunch with the Counts of Capponi, and spending some nice time tasting Fontodi wines with Giovanni. We went back to our hotels to rest. If the day wasn't already wonderful enough, that night we had one of the most wonderfully memorable meals of my entire life. I was staying at a modest hotel, while Tom and Moran were staying at The Grand Hotel just off the Arno near the Ponte Vecchio. After taking a little nap and a shower I went over to The Grand to meet-up with the guys for dinner.  I waited in the lobby and Tome came down. Moran arrived a few minutes later. We had a coupke Campari's in the beautiful lobby of the hotel, which is one of the most stunning hotels I've ever been in in my life. And I've been in some of the World's most luxurious hotels all around the World. The Grand of Florence, Italy may very well have them all beat, as far as beauty is concerned. 

We enjoyed our coctails until our taxi arrived, then jump in and made our way to the restaurant. The Concierge at The GRand reccomended it to Tom. The restaurant is called Pandomonio, and the dinner that dinght might vert well be the most wonderful and enjoyable of my life. It is a wonderful trattoria, run by a lady that everyone calls "Mamma," and she runs the restauarant with the help of her sister-in-law in the dining-room and her son in the kitchen.

We had some Crostini Toscana (Chicken Liver), Artichokes, and varous Salumi, and cheese for our antipasto. For the main course, we ordered a beautiful Bisteca Fiorentina for the three of us, and a bottle of Bioni Sante Brunello 1993. Mamma rolled over a cart with the wine and 4 wine glasses. She open the wine, and pour Brunello into our three glasses. She smiled and said, "some for Mamma," and pour a little Brunello for herself. We all laughed and smiled, clicked our glasses together with Mamma and said. "Cento Anni," meaning, may you live 100 years. Our meal was most enjoyable. Tom, Moran, and I really enjoyed the wine, antipasti, and the delcious T-Bone Steak, but even more chit chatting, Mamma and her interactions with us, and the whole feel of the room.

After we were done eating and there were just about 8 or 10 people left in the place, Mamma pushed all the tables together so everyone left in the trattoria were all sitting together. And so we all continued drinking, chatting and making merry for another hour and a half before leaving the restaurant, kissing Mamma good night, and we headed back to our hotels. "Wow! What a day," and still I must say oen of the best days of my life and one I shall never foregt.

A little foot note. I had such a great time at Pandomonio that night, I was able to return a couple more times, for more wonderful meals, and hanging out with Mamma. And I have sent some friends and family to Pandomonio over the years, and everyone I have ever told to go there, and they went, every single person has told me that their meal at Pandomonio was the best and most fun of their entire trip. Now that's saying something. "Bravo to Mamma!"


Daniel Bellino Zwicke










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