Tuscany, and more specifically Chianti isn’t somewhere I associate with diversity. This isn’t the wine region to pick if you want the thrill of discovering unheard of grape varieties, finding weird and wonderful orange wines or small, wacky estates.
What Chianti does have is an unshakeable position in the annals of fine wine, even if the region is full of large producers and sometimes less than inspiring wines. I can still remember a holiday a few years ago, where the staff at an agriturismo in Chianti Classico confided “we’re just a small estate – only a million bottles a year”.
My geek antenna were therefore out on stalks when I spotted a Chianti producer at a recent tasting with an unlabelled bottle scrawled only with “Anfora”. Lorenzo Dzieduszkcki from Fattoria di Sammontana explained this apparent cultural misfit: “We believe in the tradition of Chianti, but we also believe in innovation. We don’t like mixing the two – so our Chianti DOC wines are always made only from indigenous grape varieties, while we experiment with the IGT wines”. Said Anfora wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a single hectare planted by grandfather Dzieduszkcki in 1972. But why use an amphora?
“We don’t like a lot of oak influence in our wines, and amphorae have such a historical pedigree, we wanted to give them a try. Ours are made by a craftsman from the local red clay, so there’s a still a strong link to the region”. I’m reminded of Filippa Pato, in Portugal’s Bairrada region, who lusts after her own “regional” amphorae – but at Fattoria di Sammontana they have actually put this into practice.
The 2013 Anfora is “nearly ready”, Lorenzo tells me. I find it already delicious – vivid blackcurrant/cassis flavours, spicy overtones, a wonderful earthiness and surprisingly accessible, soft tannins. This is achieved by separating stems and seeds from the fermenting must after only a few weeks. Look out for this individual and hugely successful wine when it hits the UK in the summer.
Fattoria di Sammontana’s other wines are not to be ignored – the lightweight and unoaked Alberese 2013 is pure Sangiovese fruit, still with a slight savoury character that keeps it from being too fey. And it’s available in the UK for under £10, something of a bargain.
Maestro 2004 (Toscana Rosso IGT) is impressively fresh, good and weighty as it should be (there’s 40% Cabernet Sauvignon along with the Sangiovese), while Tinaio 2011 (Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT, Syrah/Colorino) has piercing acidity (a positive, for me at least), intense dried apricot and prune and serious structure.
I’m gutted I didn’t manage to snap the new labels that Lorenzo has contributed for Alberese and Tinaio. Their abstract, modern style is another clear indicator that this small estate (35 hectares) dares to be different. From 2012, the wines are certified organic, with some biodynamic practices already being adopted in the vineyards. Most of the wines are fermented without added yeasts, all are unfiltered. But these details are unimportant – the wines speak clearly for themselves.