Showing posts with label Fontodi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fontodi. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Delightful. Insightful. Masterclass by Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi in Chianti Classico.

Masterclass by Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi in Chianti Classico. Delightful. Insightful. 

“A joy. A piece of my heart”.

Giovanni Manetti, who runs the family vineyard Fontodi (1968) in the heart of Chianti Classico, was answering the final question in Tuesday’s Liberty Wines online Masterclass. And, at this point, he wasn’t talking about his fabulous wines!

Someone, who had obviously visited the winery, had asked about the cows and Giovanni was delighted to talk about them: “Everyday it is my first stop… we had a new calf yesterday.”

How did a herd of cows end up at the bottom of one of the most famous vineyards in Chianti? “It was part of our tradition in the area. But, in the 70s, they disappeared, very quickly. But they remained in my mind and I brought them back in 2000.” He started with four and now has 65 “and growing!”.
Chianti Classico "hierarchy"

Fontodi is an organic vineyard and the cows were welcome. “We feed them with our hay and barley and they give fertility to the soil. The beautiful meat goes to the village butcher and to my large family. The cows give mountains of manure and we mix it with waste from the vineyard and winery to make compost, amazing compost.”

“They improve our land fertility and the biodiversity, millions of micro-organisms, all good for the complexity and flavours of our wines. Bio-diversity doesn’t leave room for enemies. All part of the bio-dynamics, playing a part in the system.”

Fontodi's Super Tuscan
Just before, he had answered a query on climate change in the area.
“Temperatures are getting higher every year. It rains less often but it is much heavier, dangerously so. Now everybody is growing grass between the rows as it can help avoid erosion and retain the water to help the wines. We also manage the canopy but different from the past when leaves were stripped off. Now we keep leaves to counter the extra heat. We are at work on climate change with two universities (Pisa and Florence) in the area.”

He was also asked about ageing in amphorae as against wood. The mention of amphorae was perhaps a surprise but not so much when you know that the family have been here since the 17th century when they set up a terracotta factory. Later, they made amphorae for wine and olives.

“It was in my background so we we started again producing the vessels in the factory. I’m very protective of it, just a few bottles in the cellar (not for sale) to taste and try all the time. Now using it for many different wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Trebbiano, and I like it very much, gives extra freshness. We have 50 and working on it.” And he told us there is a great demand for them from all over the world.

Chianti set up an association in 1924, the oldest in Italy. But during the Mussolini years the larger area was created, “a big mistake”, and the confusion between the Chianti Classico and Chianti in general continues. “They’re two different areas,” Giovanni emphasised, different soil, micro-climate, and so. “I'm always trying to clear this up. Only Classico bottles are allowed the Black Rooster on the neck.”

There is a commitment to quality among the 515 estates who produce about 36,000,000 bottles per annum. Of these, 354 are bottlers and that number “is growing every year, very encouraging. Producers are trying their best to improve quality and low yields are one sign. It is a good unique wine with a sense of place, an identity that cannot be replicated.”

There is also a commitment to sustainability and already some 40% are organic or biodynamic and that percentage is growing every year. “If you respect Mother Nature, less interference is needed, I’m very excited about this!” 

He is also proud that the main red grape here is Sangiovese, that it has seen off the challenge of the international grapes. “By rule, Chianti Classico must contain 80% Sangiovese but the trend is towards increasing that percentage, a very positive trend as it gives more sense of place. It is a very delicate grape but suits the terroir and it expresses it well.”

“Sangiovese has always been the biggest player but other indigenous grapes could be a good companion, better than the international varieties.”

He indicated that the others indigenous grapes (see chart) might “add extra freshness, a bit of complexity”. “It is necessary to do research into them as well as new clones of Sangiovese to face the problem of global warming. We are at work to face this problem.”

Always problems to be worked on it seems. So why not take time out to see how the cows are doing of a morning, “My beloved cows, at the bottom of the vineyard.”

* Giovanni Manetti has run the Fontodi property since 1980. The estate’s 90 hectares of vineyard are situated in the prime 'conca d'oro' (golden shell) of Panzano, a south-facing natural amphitheatre which allows the grapes to ripen fully. The altitude ensures cool nights, which in turn results in the retention of good acidity and lovely aromatics.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Top Olive Oils at Bradley’s

Top Olive Oils at Bradley’s
Three very young oils

Bradley’s of North Main Street, Cork, are well known for their selection of fine wines. And, where there’s wine, there’s olive oil. Indeed, quite a few of the oils available here are made by top wine-makers including a few from Tuscany and Spain’s Torres.

Speaking of Tuscany, a wine and olive oil producer there once told me that the best way to make olive oil is to immediately cold press the just picked grapes. In his place, it was done in the cool of the night as the Olive Press was too hot during the day, which it was. I tried it and you could hardly stand there for a minute.

He was scathing about the big companies who dragged in olives from all over the Med and were still able to claim that the oil was on a par with his. The longer the olives are hanging around (or in transport) the more the acid is a factor. Some big producers filter out the acid but also much of the goodness.

Tuscany is more or less on the northern edge of the kind of climate in which the olive tree grows and so is very susceptible to changes in the weather, especially the frost which has been known to more or less wipe out the olive rows. 

The one in 1985 was a disaster. The trees had be severely pruned to ground level and it took all of ten years to get a good crop again. So the arrival of the new season’s oils in Tuscany is a big event. It is like a fete and the restaurants mark it by putting on special menus. It is very important for Tuscan cuisine and they always cook with good oil. 

Fontodi Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a richly coloured oil from Tuscany, very delicately balanced. Fine aromas of artichoke leaf and an elegant peppery flavour come together in a fragrant lingering finish. The organically raised olives are picked by hand and carefully pressed the same day in order
to keep the fragrance. Read more here.  

The River Cafe I Canonici 2016 EVOO: also from Tuscany, this is an almost luminous green in its youth (as many of them are!); this bright oil is fragrant and very spicy with lovely fresh grass and green olive characters. Clean and bright it has tremendous depth of flavour right through to the long peppery finish.

Capazzana 2016: Organic and another Tuscan. Quite a bright green in colour, soft and fruity with a light spice and great delicacy, perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and using in dressing for salads.

Alpha Zeta 2015 EVOO: Golden-green in colour with a light delicate perfume of fresh grass and ripe olives. Light and delicate on the palate with a fresh grassy taste, medium body and a smooth ripe finish. Excellent for drizzling over more delicate dishes. This comes from the hills outside Verona where cool breezes come down from the Dolomites.

Torres Silencio: Sourced from the estate of Los Desterrados in Lleida, Catalonia, from centuries-old Arbequina olive trees. The olives are harvested and cold-pressed on the same day, and only the oil from the first pressing is used. The resulting extra virgin olive oil is rounded and well balanced with aromas of artichoke, unripened almonds and fresh-cut grass. And Miguel A. Torres Senior requests it at every meal when travelling (where available). 

West Cork Olives: Bradley’s also carry oils marketed by West Cork Olives and imported from Spain and Greece. I haven’t had a chance to sample these yet.

Suggestions On Olive Oil In Cooking

1 - How about delicious Pumpkin and Farro Soup with a topping of Parmesan and a good oil?

2 - A lovely plateful of local scallops with lemon, chilli, coriander and oil. Needless to say, plenty of bread (with oil on it) with these two dishes. 

3 - Slow Cooked (15 hours) shin of beef with red wine (Italian or Spanish!), thyme, garlic and black pepper, served with braised winter greens and an olive oil potato mash.  

If you prefer fish why not try this Fenn’s Quay dish that I came across a few years back: Grilled plaice, with braised leeks, olive oil crushed potatoes and onion puree. The first three dishes were served at an olive oil tasting in Ballymaloe.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011



Three of Tuscany’s makers featured at an Olive Oil Master class in Ballymaloe Cookery School last Wednesday (9/11/11). Capezzana were represented by Beatrice Contini Bonacossi, Federico Giuntini Masseti was there for Fattoria Selvapiana while Liberty Wines’ David Gleave MW stood in for Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi.

Tuscany is more or less on the northern edge of the kind of climate in which the Olive tree grows and so is very susceptible to changes in the weather, especially the frost which has been known to more or less wipe out the olive rows.

Federico remembered the one in 1985 as a disaster. “The trees had be severely pruned to ground level and it took us all of ten years to get a good crop again.” There were a number of difficulties this year mainly due to the very cold weather in December and this has resulted in an oil that isn’t as green and spicy as normal.

Still, the arrival of the new season’s oils in Tuscany is a big event, according to Beatrice: “It is like a fete and the restaurants mark it by putting on special menus. It is very important for Tuscan cuisine and we always cook with good oil.”

We started our tasting with the multi-varietal Capezzana, harvested a little earlier than usual. Like the others, this was quite a bright green in colour, soft and fruity with a light spice and great delicacy, perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and using in dressing for salads.

Just two varietals in the Fontodi, the Frantoio accounting for 80%. Another lovely oil for salads or soups or for drizzling over pastas and salads. David Gleave remarked again that it wasn't quite as spicy as usual, lacking a little of what he termed austerity. I think most of us were maybe relieved that it wasn't as spicy as normal!

The Selvapiana was also neither as green nor as spicy as usual and, according to Federico, was part of a small crop after two bad winters in a row. But it was a lovely viscous liquid with enough of a spicy finish and he particularly recommended having it on toasted bread.

The lunch dishes that followed our “lessons” were a practical and tasty demonstration of the use of Olive Oil in cooking. We started with delicious Pumpkin and Faro Soup with a topping of Parmesan and the Selvapiana oil.

Then onto a light and lovely plateful of Roaringwater Bay scallops with lemon, chilli, coriander and the Capezzana oil. Needless to say, plenty of bread was used with these two dishes.

The main course was Slow Cooked (15 hours) shin of beef with Allegrini, thyme, garlic and black pepper served with braised winter greens and Golden Wonder Fontodi Mash.

Pretty full at that stage but still room for a delightful Raisin, Orange and Walnut biscotti served with a knockout Capezzana Vin Santo, a sweet wine that requires much patience and investment to bring to the table. But well worth the wait!

Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t the only wine on the table as we got to taste samples of Fontodi’s Meriggio 2010 (100% Sauvignon Blanc), Selvapiana’s Chianti Rufina 2009 and their flagship Vigneto Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva 2007, then the 80% Sangiovese Capezzana Carmignano Villa de Capezzana 2007 (91 points on the Wine Advocate) and next the terrific Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pive 2008 (92 points in the Wine Advocate).

Quite a line-up of wines but the focus during the morning was very much on the oils. And it was hard to believe that just a week ago, the olives were still on the plant in beautiful Tuscany.

The wines and the oils are distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines who have a new website which you may see here.