Thirty years ago producers in Chianti began a concerted effort to greatly improve the quality of their wines. The movement was anything but easy, largely due to “misguided” traditions that involved over cropping grapes to boost production and antiquated wine making techniques that did not promote quality. It is an ironic coincidence that the Italian word for the infamous straw-covered bottle is fiasco. Apropos, indeed.

The good news is that all the hard work is paying dividends and Chianti has rebuilt its reputation as a fine wine region.

Arguably, a lot of the hard work has been a combination of long-standing Chianti producers recognizing that change was necessary to survive and young, upstart Chianti producers bringing new insights and techniques into the mix. One long-standing producer that is at the forefront of the quality movement is Badia a Coltibuono, or The Abbey of the Good Harvest in Italian. Badia a Coltibuono dates back well over a thousand years:

Badia a Coltibuono is about one thousand years old but its prehistory takes us back to Estrucan times and beyond. As we know it today, Badia a Coltibuono (which means Abbey of the Good Harvest), dates from the middle of the eleventh century. In 1051 the monks of the Vallombrosan Order, a Tuscan reform of the Benedictines, founded the Abbey and also began planting the first vineyards in the Upper Chianti area. Over the centuries they extended their vast land holdings to include many thousands of acres and developed a flourishing wine production and commerce.

In 1810, when Tuscany was under Napoleonic rule, the monks were forced to leave Coltibuono and the monastery was secularized.

The estate was first sold by lottery and then in 1846, Coltibuono was bought by Guido Giuntini, a Florentine banker and great grandfather of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, the present owner. Under the guidance of Piero Stucchi Prinetti, the estate grew and built a solid reputation in Italy and abroad through the high quality of its products.

Nowadays, his children Roberto, Emanuela and Paolo continue the activities embarked upon by their ancestors.

Badia a Coltibuono Web Site (www.coltibuono.com)

I have been a great fan of Badia a Coltibuono wines for a very long time, with the recent vintages of most of their different Chianti bottling showing stellar quality. One of particular note is the 2009 Chianti Classico Selezione RS, a high-value Chianti Classico that embodies the region with its bright red fruits and balanced acidity. At an average retail price of $14.99 per bottle, the wine is quite a nice value.

My tasting note:

Rustic, earthy nose with dried cherry, saddle leather and cedar hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin – good balance. Sour cherry and red berry notes – persistent leather and cedar on the palate. Moderate length – smooth with a touch of floral on the aftertaste – violets and lavender. Drinking well now and should continue to improve for another 2 t 3 years in the bottle. Classic Chianti Classico and a very good value from a solid producer.

Cheers!

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