You can find a remnant of the summer Tuscan sun in a glass of the 2006 Volpaia Chianti Classico.
A few decades ago, I made an appointment to meet Giovannella Stianti, the owner of Castello di Volpaia. Turning off the main road between Greve and Radda, two historic towns in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, I began driving up a winding road. After each twist and turn, I thought I must be approaching the top. Little did I know that Volpaia is the highest elevation winery in the Chianti region. Years have passed and multiple visits made, but Volpaia’s altitude still impresses me.
“It takes a village” may have been popularized by Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Stianti lives the phrase. In 1966, her father purchased the Volpaia winery and most of the village, guaranteeing everyone could live there for as long as they wanted. When Giovannella Stianti married Carlos Mascheroni in 1972, her father presented Volpaia as a wedding gift to the young couple.
While her husband continued his legal career in Milan, Stianti set about building a new winery in an old church and developing new vineyards. She created new wines, made olive oil and expanded the vinegar production. Eventually, some of the village houses emptied and were converted into guest lodges, and at the turn of this century, she opened a cooking school. In between all that, she has travelled the globe promoting her wines and village. It’s a good thing I got that first appointment decades ago when sitting with her was possible.
Alongside the twisting road are slopes at 1,300 to 1,970 feet with sangiovese, merlot, and syrah vines. Planted between 1970 and 2004, these organic vineyards produce the grapes that Volpaia uses for the 2006 Volpaia Chianti Classico. The blend varies slightly by vintage, but its essence is 90-percent sangiovese and the balance a mix of merlot and syrah.
The 2006 Chianti Classico has a brilliant red hue. Its aroma and flavor bring tart cherries to mind; aspects of rose hips appear in the background, giving the wine a subtle complexity. The restrained use of oak keeps the delicious fruit flavors streaming across the palate, and the 12-percent alcohol is refreshing in its own right. Soft tannins combined with the lively fruit bring a long, pleasant finish.
I enjoyed the 2006 Volpaia Chianti Classico with a fennel and wild rice risotto-like cake. Its medium body and balanced fruit and acidity will make it a worthy partner to dishes ranging from grilled salmon and roasted chicken to pasta Bolognese. Or you can imagine yourself on a sunny summer afternoon sitting under one of the tableside umbrellas at the osteria in the village square of Castello di Volpaia eating a pizza and sipping the 2006 Chianti Classico. It’s worth climbing the hill.
The 2006 Chianti Classico retails for approximately $20.