Despite extremely stiff competition, the top wine of the tasting was Antinori’s Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione, which is made using the best Sangiovese grapes from the Chianti Classico property of the same name. Described by one judge as “sexy and elegant”, this wine shows a rare and wonderfully harmonious combination of ripeness and freshness. Texturally, there is a chalky sensation from very end, integrated, high tannin. In terms of flavours, ripe cherry fruit, cedar, and tobacco combine to create an appealing fleshy, gently smoky effect, without any sweetness. This is a wine in a lovely condition, and would be delicious to drink now, ideally with meaty foods, but, as a fine Chianti Classico, it could be cellared for a decade to develop more savoury, leathery characters, and even greater complexity.
Meanwhile, for those in search of a outstanding Chianti Classico Riserva, then look no further than the Nittardi winery. This high-class producer was one of few to gain the top title of Master in the Chianti Classico tasting, winning praise from the judges for its Nittardi Riserva Selezionata 2011 in particular. Although its Riserva from the 2009 vintage was highly-rated, and achieved a Gold (see below). Firstly, the Riserva Selezionata 2011 is made using Nittardi’s best Sangiovese grapes, and a small percentage of Merlot, from its single vineyard called Vigna Alta – so named because it is located 500m above sea level. With two years ageing in 30% new 500 litre oak barrels, the wine displays an appealing note of cigar-box, complementing the rich, black cherry fruit. It’s a powerful Chianti Classico, and dense tannins surround the ripe fruit at its core, but the wine is not tiring; rather it is impressive and joyous to drink now, Although it has plenty of potential to evolve greater complexity in-bottle if left to age in a cool cellar.
Also worth trying is the slightly less expensive Nittardi Chianti Classico Riserva, particularly from the 2009 vintage. This wine, like the Selezionata, is a full-bodied Chianti Classico, and shows a lovely combination of cedar and ripe, black cherries. There’s lots of tannin, and, once again, this example has been built to last.