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Chianti Classico just keeps racking up the wins. Not long after we went nuts over a revelatory 2021 bottling from Candialle, which is headquartered in Panzano, along came the latest release from L’Erta di Radda—so named for its steep, high-altitude vineyards in another of Chianti’s brand-name villages, Radda. Once again, we were floored, and once again, it’s not just the eye-popping quality of the wine itself but the price that amazes. L’Erta di Radda is a Certified Organic estate of tiny dimensions, whose shipments to the US number in the hundreds—not thousands—of cases. If this wine were a Bourgogne Pinot Noir from a similarly artisan-scale producer (and it compares more than favorably to quality red Burgundy), it would cost twice as much. There’s much more to snack on below, but the quick bite is this: You cannot find more wine for the money, period.
And by “more wine” I refer not just to pure deliciousness but to authenticity and true craftsmanship. Diego Finocchi was barely out of winemaking school when, in 2006, he acquired the 12 acres of vines that would become L’Erta di Radda (the name effectively translates to “The steep slopes of Radda”). It was a mature, not ancient, site, with vines rooted in the classic Chianti Classico mix of galestro (clay marl with limestone and sandstone) and alberese (whiter, chalkier limestone). Elevations in these sites climb past 400 meters, which surely plays a role in creating wines that are reliably finessed and loaded with woodsy perfume. Diego’s meticulous farming also plays a key role: The estate has been Certified Organic since 2015, and the wines consistently display the kind of lively, lit-from-within energy that comes from healthy, chemical-free raw material.
Finocchi is very much a one-man-band at his small farm, overseeing viticulture and winemaking alike, and while it’s always tempting to categorize Chianti Classico producers along “modern” and “traditional” lines, these boxes don’t really work as well as they once did. These wines are quite traditional in that they are un-manipulated, fermented spontaneously on native yeasts, and generally expressive of earth as much as fruit, but they are also modern in that they are clean, sound, and aged in French oak (albeit used barrels). It’s borne out when you taste the wine: you taste beautiful black cherry fruit but there’s also a keen sense that the wine hailed from the forest someplace—which, in fact, it did!
The hand-harvested fruit for this 2020 was entirely de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel, after which it is aged 12 months in used French oak. It is a wonderfully savory take on Sangiovese, with lots of tobacco, tomato leaf, and underbrush notes, although there’s also a saturated core of black cherry, cranberry, and raspberry fruit. Medium-bodied and full of tension, it also has relatively gentle tannins and manageable acidity for a young wine from this region—there’s lots of tension, but the acid isn’t in any way sharp. Does it drink like red Burgundy at half the price? Yes, so pour it into some nice Burgundy bowls at 60 degrees and celebrate your keen eye for value. The pairing possibilities for this run the gamut, but I can never resist some pasta with some crumbled sausage, garlic, and maybe some kale. It’s very Tuscan, very simple, and it never goes out of style—like this wine. Enjoy!
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