The story of the legendary Montevertine estate in Radda-in-Chianti begins in 1967, when Milanese industrialist Sergio Manetti purchased the property and immediately planted two hectares of vines. Assisted by his close childhood friend Giulio Gambelli and a local named Bruno Bini (who was born on the property), Manetti produced his first vintage in 1971, with the humble intention of making wine to share with his family and friends. It turns out the trio had a real knack for their craft, and word swiftly spread in the area about the quality of wine Montevertine was creating from their excellently situated high-altitude vineyards. Manetti and Gambelli were ardent proponents of Sangiovese from the outset, and strongly opposed the appellation requirement that Chianti Classico include a portion of Trebbiano—a requirement they felt compromised the expression of place, particularly in such a refined terroir as Radda. When regulations later changed to allow Chianti Classico to be Trebbiano-free, Montevertine had long since abandoned the designation, and the wines have been classified as “Rosso di Toscana” since 1981—although, ironically, they are (and always have been) among the most visceral expressions of Chianti Classico in existence.
Sergio passed away in 2000, and his gregarious son Martino has held the reins since his death, changing virtually nothing about the low-tech, traditional regimen which has always been employed. Vineyards are worked entirely without chemicals; grapes are hand-harvested; fermentations are spontaneous; no stainless steel exists at the estate—only cement and old wood; sulfur is applied conservatively and only at racking; and neither fining nor filtration are employed. Martino notes with pride that not only have Montevertine’s methods remained the same, but many of the estate’s day-to-day employees have decades of experience under their belts—meaning that the same minds, the same hands, have been doing the work here year-in and year-out.
Every bottle issued forth from Montevertine’s cellar is a testament to the beauty which Sangiovese at its zenith can achieve. However, one wine stands as not only the estate’s pinnacle, but as one of Italy’s greatest wines: Le Pergole Torte. Le Pergole Torte, which translates loosely to “the crooked pergolas,” was the first vineyard Sergio planted in the late sixties, situated at around 425 meters of altitude, and through the late eighties Le Pergole Torte was a single-vineyard bottling. Since 1990, it has comprised the estate’s best parcels—still primarily from the northeast-facing Le Pergole Torte, rounded out by 35-year-old vines in Montevertine and 20-year-old vines in il Sodaccio—but it is first and foremost a nakedly mineral, staggeringly complex expression of pure Sangiovese grown in Radda’s high-altitude alberese sandstone soils. It is rarely richer than the flagship Montevertine Rosso, but Le Pergole Torte is unfailingly more layered and profound, and the 2016 vintage—which we will receive in early (Feb) 2020—is perhaps one of the greatest wines ever produced here.
Martino admitted a personal preference for the 2016 vintage over the much vaunted 2015, comparing it favorably with 2013 and 2010 in its classicism. A rainy May presented its share of challenges, but the weather turned mercifully dry and sunny in mid-June and remained so through harvest, which commenced on October 5th (fairly late by today’s post-climate-change standards). The finished wine, though strikingly intense in its concentration, projects a sense of serenity and equilibrium. At the same time, this 2016 offers an almost unreal clarity—a glimpse into the wine’s inner architecture without the dark shadows cast by massive young fruit and brawny unresolved tannins. To be sure, typical elements of Le Pergole Torte appear—camphor, black cherry, iron ore, new leather—but they are rendered with utmost finesse. In comparison with recent vintages, the 2016 is not an outlier like the massive 2015 or the atypically lithe 2014; instead, it feels like listening to a familiar favorite recording on an upgraded stereo system, where previously unnoticed flourishes emerge and the album takes on a thrilling new glow. As always, the 2016 Le Pergole Torte fermented naturally in 150-hectoliter cement vats with a three-week maceration; it was racked into small, previously used French oak barrels after malolactic fermentation and spent its first year there, after which point it was moved by gravity to large Slavonian casks for its second year of elevage and bottled without filtration. It is truly a staggering achievement, and we look forward to opening bottles for decades to come—and encourage those of you who are fortunate enough to access some bottles to exercise some patience to allow Le Pergole Torte’s true magic to unfurl.