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 here. 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 best 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 profound, and the 2017 vintage—which we will receive in February—combines lusciousness of fruit with a muscular underlying structure in riveting fashion.
The 2017 growing season presented its share of challenges, with a late-April hailstorm conspiring with intense drought conditions to reduce Montevertine’s yields by 40%. Still, Le Pergole Torte always seems to find its equilibrium, and certainly Radda’s relative elegance and the old age of these vines helped mitigate the potential ill effects of hydric stress in the finished wine. Compared to the 2017 Montevertine Rosso released last fall, this 2017 Le Pergole Torte is finer in its tannins and more multilayered in its impression on the palate, yet it bears no more richness than the Rosso and in fact comes across as more effortlessly elegant. Still, this is a ripe, darkly fruited, and gregarious Le Pergole Torte, reminiscent of recent warm years like 2011 and 2007, but with a stricter sense of underlying structure than either of those. Those tempted by the wine’s relative lusciousness to open bottles early are encouraged to exercise restraint, as the density of primary material here—dazzling as it is—will take ample time to transmogrify into secondary fireworks. As ever, the 2017 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.