Import Selection: Coltibuono Bianco, 1989. La Badia
Revelations never cease, it seems, when I investigate good Italian wines. While researching this article the translation of the name “Badia a Coltibuono” (something I had been in mystery about for nearly ten years) like the answer to an ancient riddle, suddenly appeared: the “Abbey of the Good Harvest”.
La Badia was built as a church early in the eleventh century making it now nearly one thousand years old. In 1095 it became a monastery for a certain order of monks who are credited with planting the first grape vines in this particular district of the Chianti region. Of the original building only its splendid square tower still remains, the rest has been converted into an impressive Villa, owned by the Stucchi family.
Winewise, Coltibuono’s claim to fame is, of course, its very fine Chianti Classicos, but it produces several other outstanding wines as is evidenced in this month’s selection. The young winemaker there, Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, took over the winemaking responsibilities in 1985 after receiving his degree in Enology, get this, at U.C. Davis which he followed with several years apprenticing at some of Napa Valley’s finest wineries.
Weatherbeaten traditions welcomingly dissolve when someone such as this modernly educated young man boldly enters the scene and does things like blending Chardonnay (65%) a foreigner with Trebbiano (35%), the “home town” favorite, an admirable albeit unorthodox mixture. Why not just go with 100% Chardonnay? Well, this still is Italy and Trebbiano is a pretty good grape. But you be the final judge.
The wine exhibits a very pale straw almost hygienically clean color, a mark of extreme freshness. The aroma shows big fruit characteristics: a little citrus and a lot of melon. There is also something like a wet clay note here in the background returning us to Italy (I would associate none of this incidentally with Chardonnay). On the palate the wine is softly acidic, wonderfully so, fairly mouthfilling, round and smooth. The fruit rests quietly under this blanket of soft acid. The taste is very clean with hints of lime in a delightfully smooth finish. This unpretentious “Bianco” offers a degree of finesse usually associated with far more expensive wines.
Serve chilled with delicate sauteed fish like John Dory or Dover sole.
Cellaring Notes: After 6 months or a year it may lose this graceful freshness…at its best now.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
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