Fontodi: The rocky, schistous “galestro” clay soil found in Tuscany’s best vineyards has long served as the artistic medium for the Manetti family, whose presence in Tuscany dates back...Read More
Fontodi: The rocky, schistous “galestro” clay soil found in Tuscany’s best vineyards has long served as the artistic medium for the Manetti family, whose presence in Tuscany dates back centuries. Before purchasing the Fontodi wine estate in 1968, the latter were wholly dedicated to the production of terra-cotta tiles, still adorning some of Florence’s most famous churches and museums.
Today, these soils continue to give life to the artistry of the Manetti family, through a portfolio of exquisite Chianti wines made from their certified organic, sustainable vineyard. The family has long championed a preference for Sangiovese, Tuscany’s native flagship variety. Today, this grape is at the heart of the Fontodi lineup, producing wines that burst forth sour cherry and plum aromas, along with leather and tobacco on the nose.
The estate, which dates back to the 16th century, was first purchased by brothers Dino and Domiziano Manetti in 1968. The Manetti family was previously known for their production of fine terracotta tiles in the Chianti area of Tuscany, an activity of the family since the 1650’s. The brothers poured their time and effort into bringing this once abandoned vineyard back to life. In 1979, Dino’s youngest son Giovanni Manetti, joined the family business and today owns it with his brother Marco Manetti. With the help of consultant Franco Bernabei, the Manetti brothers transformed the estate, elevating the quality of its wines to the status they enjoy today as some of Tuscany’s best.
Today run by Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi comprises 320 acres (130 hectares). Out of these, roughly 172 acres are planted with vines, which are certified organic, with plenty of emphasis on biodynamic practices in search for sustainability. From early on, the Manetti family has championed the prioritization of the the native flagship grape of Tuscany, Sangiovese, over international varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. In 1981, they were already producing a pure Sangiovese wine by the name of Flaccianello. Since at this time a pure Sangiovese wine could not be labelled Chianti Classico, it was sold as a table wine for many years.
Starting with the 2012 vintage, the estate’s single-vineyard “Vigna del Sorbo” wine was made from 100% Sangiovese, with the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon having been gradually reduced from 10% in the 2010 vintage to 5% in the 2011 vintage. The Manetti family believes that Sangiovese alone can reveal the fullest expression of the Tuscan terroir. Today, over 90% of the estate is planted with Sangiovese, used to produce the estate’s single-varietal red wines.
The modern winery is located in the heart of Chianti Classico and features a gravity-fed design, constructed on descending levels. It is here that some of the most profound expressions of the Chianti terroir through its native Sangiovese grape are meticulously crafted.
The 172-acre vineyard is situated in an area known as Conca d’Oro (or “golden shell”, named for its amphitheater shape), south of the town of Panzano in the DOCG Chianti Classico appellation of Tuscany, Italy. Today, the majority of the vineyard is planted with Sangiovese, the flagship grape variety of the region, complemented by some Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir).
The Sangiovese vines are planted at a density between 3,500 and 6,000 vines per hectare and trained on the guyot system. All of the vineyards are south-facing and the grapes enjoy plenty of sunshine. The terroir is characterized by a unique galestro clay soil, the same material used to make the Manetti family’s traditional terracotta tiles.
This is a poor, rocky soil of calcareous clay schist with plenty of limestone, which provides fantastic water drainage and limits the yield of the naturally high-yielding and vigorous Sangiovese. The harvest season here tends to be warm and dry, helping the fruit ripen in time for the harvest. Meanwhile, the thermal amplitude between day and night temperatures can reach 20 degrees Celsius, which helps the fruit retain its acidity and freshness.
The estate is managed with a sustainable approach, with only half of the land planted with vines and the other half dedicated to diverse agricultural activities. The aim is to reduce the need for any external input on the estate. Roughly 100 acres are planted with olive trees, from which the Manetti family produces their own olive oil. The estate is also home to a herd of Chianina cattle, whose manure is used in the organic compost applied to the vineyard soils.
Following a manual harvest, the grapes arrive at the gravity-fed winery of the estate, where they are vinified in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks using native yeasts only. This process typically takes at least 2 weeks for the estate’s three Sangiovese-based wines: the Fontodi Chianti Classico, their Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva and the Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve from the Colli Toscana Centrale IGT appellation. These wines aged for a period of 18 to 24 months in Troncais and Allier oak barrels, with the proportion of new barrels adjusted to each individual cuvée.
Beautiful expressions of Sangiovese, these red wines reveal the signature sour cherry and plum aromas of this grape variety, along with nuances of tobacco and warn leather. Oak-aging tames the tannins of the wine, resulting in a supple and silky-smooth in texture. Nevertheless, this wine offers a fantastic structure on the palate and a finish characterized by mineral touches.
The estate also produces the Fontodi Pinot Nero from its Case Via vineyard in the Colli Toscana Centrale IGT appellation. This is fermented in conic wooden vats and aged in Troncais barrels for 12 months. The family’s Case Via Syrah from the Colli Toscana Centrale IGT appellation is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel and aged for 12 months in Troncais and Allier barrels, of which 50% is new.
The Manetti family’s signature white wine is the Fontodi Meriggio, produced from 100% Sauvignon Blanc in the Colli Toscana Centrale IGT appellation, fermented in stainless steel and aged on lees for 6 months. Finally, the estate also produces a Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC from a blend of Malvasia and Sangiovese which is naturally dried for 5 months before being pressed. This luscious wine is aged in chestnut and oak barrels for 6 years before it is commercialized.