Badia di Morrona – excellence in Chianti DOCG
This article concerns Badia di Morrona, a medium-sized wine estate south of Pisa in Tuscany. They make a wide range of wines, including Chianti DOCG, called I Sodi del Paretaio. But before we get to that, it’s worth considering the broader context of Chianti DOCG.
Chianti is one of the best-known wine names in the world, with a history stretching back millennia. More recently, it was established as a DOC in 1967 and then DOCG in 1984. Yet there are many different Chianti’s. Given that the area under the vine is so large (some 15,500 hectares), there are many terroirs. Traditionally always a blend using the ubiquitous Sangiovese grape variety; even the amount of Sangiovese used ranges from 70-100%. Furthermore, a current proposal would reduce the minimum amount to 60%.
Then the wines can also be categorised according to maturation; “Annata” ( a young wine, minimum ageing of four months), “Superiore” (with a minimum of 12 months ageing) or “Riserva” with a minimum of 24 months ageing. And then there is the matter of sub-zones.
In addition to Chianti DOCG, there are seven geographical sub-zones: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rùfina. These are shown on the map below. It seems likely that Terre di Vinci will soon become a new eighth subzone.
Indeed, there used to be eight subzones until Chianti Classico (once a subzone representing the old traditional heartland of Chianti) became an entirely separate appellation in 1996. Hence the far larger Chianti area surrounds Classico. In the time since, Classico has gone its own way, growing to 5,200 hectares, and arguably has taken much of the limelight with it. But Chianti has much to offer.
Annual Chianti production is enormous, at around 100 million bottles per year. However, there is quality as well as mere quantity. Indeed, there are wines of excellence made that can rival Classico and are usually more affordable. The most reliable way of finding those is at the producer level.
Badia di Morrona
The Gaslini Alberti family bought this beautiful estate in the Colline Pisane in 1939. Located between Pisa and Volterra, it covers 600 hectares. That includes 110 hectares of vineyards and 40 hectares of olives. The rest is a mix of oak and cypress woods. In the 1990s, the estate made far-sighted improvements designed to improve wine quality. The biggest of these involved a replanting programme using clones and rootstocks selected to match a mosaic of soil types, including clays, sands and marls.
Nevertheless, Sangiovese remains the mainstay, at 60% of the vineyard area. Other red varieties planted include Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Canaiolo. In white, there’s Chardonnay and Vermentino.
The vineyards are scattered around the winery, transforming the grapes into ten wines. The grapes for I Sodi del Paretaio are sourced from their Vigna la Crocina vineyard.
I Sodi del Paretaio is made into two distinct styles; an Annata for fresh young drinking and a Riserva featuring complexity and maturity.
Winemaking is now in a new solar-powered Eco-winery, built underground and gravity-fed. A waste-water purification system is also part of this new setup.
Sustainable energy and water recycling are essential given the increasing Climate Emergency, as the current European heat and drought attest.
I Sodi del Paretaio, Chianti DOCG
Annata, 2021, 14%
The Annata version is the current release, blending 85% Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. After macerating the grapes for a week for aroma and colour, the fermentation takes place in stainless steel. Maturation is then in concrete vats for ten months, not far short of qualifying for the “superiore” designation. This wine sees no wood, and the bottling is under cork.
It’s an attractive light crimson. Then there are mulberry and raspberry aromas with a herbal undertow. Super-fresh acidity brings lift without astringency on the palate and balances the fruit (elderberry, mulberry and raspberry), light tannins and alcohol admirably. 14% alcohol is well-hidden and feels like a rounded-up figure compared to its bigger brother below.
Poise and delicacy are to the fore, presenting an authentic taste of Chianti DOCG redolent of the lighter Pisan terroir. It’s for young drinking and is irresistible right now. It’s best with Salumi/Charcuterie (Tuscan Finocchiona, a Salami with fennel) and young cheeses. So whether you drink this outside in summer or hunkered down in the depths of winter, this wine will put a smile on your face.
UK availability: Drinks & Co. £12.32
Riserva, 2019, 14%
Unlike the Annata, the Riserva isn’t a blend, instead being 100% Sangiovese. This takes 24 months to age, including spending 18 months in 4,400-litre French oak ovals, followed by a period in concrete vats before bottling under cork. Here it feels like the alcohol figure rounds down, as it is weightier than the Annata. That’s not to suggest any clumsiness; the fruit is a riper selection and more capable of carrying the burden of age and wood. Neither does the barrel treatment bring wood flavours. Instead, wood has allowed the Sangiovese to express a sense of place.
It’s a darker crimson with a surprising depth of colour for a pure Sangiovese. In the glass, it offers roses and tea scents over cherry fruit. On the palate, it’s soft and well balanced, the fruit accompanied by a darker, savoury tone while retaining freshness. This wine demands food and will pair well with hearty and heftier fare. A Cumberland sausage casserole hit the spot, as did Pappardelle all Cinghiale. It’ll work well equally well with grilled and roast meats.
UK availability: Drinks & Co. £15.99
Although they share a common name, these are two different wines that contrast the Annata and Riserva styles. Both are expressions of terroir and also show how Chianti DOCG offers excellence. Choosing between them is yours, but I’ll take both of them.
If you like these wines, the estate’s flagship wine is VignaAlta. This is a 100% Sangiovese wine under the Terre di Pisa DOC banner. It’s heartily recommended here.
Badia di Morrona
Via del Chianti 6
My thanks to Consorzio Vino Chianti for the map used in this article.