Text and photo ©Tom Hyland
I enjoyed lunch with my friend Laura Bianchi at the Trump Tower in Chicago a few weeks ago. I’ve known Laura for several years now, first meeting her during a visit to Castello di Monsanto, the gorgeous Chianti Classico estate owned by her father Fabrizio and her. Laura travels the world, overseeing sales of the wines; this lunch was my chance to catch up on the latest wines as well as trends in Chianti Classico.
She told me that business is down (thanks to the realities of the economy) in just about every region where they sell their wines, but she didn’t seem overly concerned, especially as they are a small producer that doesn’t need to sell hundreds of thousands of cases. She's confident that sales will improve soon and return to normal levels. I’d say she probably wasn’t all the concerned, given the quality of the wines, which are as good as ever. Laura, being the humble spokesperson, wouldn’t comment on the excellence of her family’s products, but she certainly realizes it.
I tasted three wines at lunch and each was a delight. The 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva was first and talk about a stylish wine! There are aromas of red cherry, plum and currant with notes of cedar; the finish is elegant with moderate tannins, very good acidity and subtle spice. This is so good now and will offer pleasure for another 5-7 years.
The 2003 Il Poggio was next; this being the single vineyard wine that made Monsano such a famous producer in Chianti. This has greater richness on the palate than the Chianti Classico normale, yet is beautifully balanced with a big finish with excellent persistence. This is a beauty and will last for another 10-12 years. Depending on the market you live in, this may be the current offering or perhaps the 2004 has come on the scene. That wine is superb with the difference clearly being the wonderful growing season of 2004, but each wine is very classy.
The final wine that day was the 2001 Nemo, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from an estate vineyard some 850 feet above sea level. This is a bit more modern-styled bottling with aging in small French oak barrels, yet the oak is nicely integrated in this bottling. There are lovely aromas of black currant and myrtle and the tannins are quite graceful. Look for this wine, from an oustanding vintage, to be at its best in another 10-12 years.
Three different wines in three various frameworks, but all quite elegantly styled, like all of the wines of Castello di Monsanto. I never tire of beautifully made wines and as that’s all that Monsanto seems capable of producing, I don’t think I’ll ever get blasé about tasting their wines – especially when I can do that over a lunch with Laura Bianchi!
These wines are imported by Moët Hennessy of New York. Prices vary depending on what market you live in, but expect to pay about $25 for the Riserva, $50 for the Il Poggio and $55 for the Nemo.