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Speaking of 2022: an "otherwise warm" year

29 March 2024

March marks the annual time of reflection and tastings for me. Calm and determined, I taste one sample from each barrel in our barrel room at Montefioralle. This ritual celebrates the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one.

Even if it is not the main topic here, our decision to use small barrels requires us to dedicate a whole morning to tastings with more than 70 barrel samples to evaluate. This routine, rooted in collaboration with our oenologist Elisabetta, has proved crucial for maintaining the quality and preventing risks, from bacterial contamination to excessive oxidation.

The barrels with all the wines from the penultimate harvest are thus tasted in flights. In this case, the 2022 vintage and then Riserva, Gran Selezione, and IGT Monteficalle from 2021. We can define the evolutionary trend of the various vintages more clearly after a morning of tastings like this.

Vintage 2021: Elegance over time

Albeit touched by a cold spring that reduced the harvest by 20%, 2021 stood out for its austere elegance, a promise of excellence that matured with patience. Soon, we will bottle the Chianti Classico Riserva, Monteficalle, and Gran Selezione, which are testimonies of a vintage that will shine over time despite the adversities. It will take a bit of patience and knowing how to wait to enjoy a vintage that will surprise you.

Vintage 2022: Challenges and Surprises

I want to say a few more words about the 2022 vintage instead because the Chianti Classico Collection, the trade show that allows the consortium’s member wineries to preview their wines, recently ended. The trade press dedicated more space there to talk precisely about the 2022 vintage.

Let me start by saying that I never bring the preview wines as barrel samples to the Collection, partly because I find it challenging to prepare them and partly because I don't like to leave an unfinished wine to be judged by critics. Therefore, we did not bring the 2022 vintage to the event as we will only bottle the 2022 in a few months.

However, I couldn’t fail to read how many journalists and experts described 2022: the almost always recurring element was how this was yet another warm year that put the vintners to the test with climate change—consequently, rough tannins, not well-balanced wines, etc. 

Climate change is an evident phenomenon, especially for those of us who make wine, and certain very warm years are well imprinted in my memory for the challenges we had to face. I remember the exceptionally stifling heat (then destined to normalcy) of 2003, the dry 2011, the very warm 2012, and my worst nightmare, which dates back to the heat and the total absence of rain in 2017.

However, I don't feel like similarly defining 2022 to those mentioned above. Yet, according to the thermometer and handmade measurements, it was perhaps the hottest of all. Still, there was something different. When I review the harvest dates of the above-mentioned vintages, they were all carried out in the first half of September, while we managed to wait until the end of the month in 2022.

I remember well having to alert the boys and girls who helped us with the harvest very early on for fear of a collapse in acidity but then having to postpone the harvest start several times because the parameters were not suitable yet. We had to give the tannins time to complete their maturation.

Will it have been the well-timed precipitation in spring and then in August and September? Will it have been the choice to postpone the start of harvest as long as possible? I don’t know; the fact is that I do not recognize our Chianti Classico 2022 in the general description of the press regarding that vintage. Upon tasting, I found an excellent pulpy and powerful wine but, at the same time, with a well-balanced freshness and verticality on the palate. The tannins are tight but well tripe; it is a wine that, in some ways, is more ready even than older vintages.

Unexpectedly, our Chianti Classico 2022 emerges not as a wine that simply "survived" the heat but as a sample of our territory that opposes easy generalizations.

In conclusion: Your voice

While we await the bottling moment and summer release, I ask myself: am I the only one who sees a mirage in the glass, or have we written a new beautiful chapter in the history of Montefioralle Chianti Classico? It will be your palate that gives us the definitive answer.