Please note that the above reference to vertical sipping does not mean you must be standing up to drink this wine. I mean, you could, if you wanted. But it's not a deal breaker. What I mean by a vertical tasting is that we are going to compare two of the same wine - same vineyard and winemaker, but different vintages, or years.
Thanks to my amazing friends at Banfi wines, I have the perfect chance to do this. About a year ago, they sent me a 2011 bottle of Bolla Chianti. And then last month, they sent me a bottle of the 2013 to sample. So we get to see what a difference two years makes in a vineyard.
The year you see on the bottle refers to the year that the grapes were grown, by the way, and not the year the wine was released so the grapes of the bottles I tasted were grown in 2011 and 2013. And lots of things can happen in a vineyard from year to year. One year could be really, really rainy and the next year, bone dry. One year could see a killer winter and the next year could be a nice, normal winter (if there is such a thing as a normal winter). All this can affect the soil, which affects the roots and the vines and thus the grapes. It's like one big circle of (winey) life. As well, the 2011 vintage got a bit more time to age in its bottle.
Each of these wines' grapes were grown in the hillsides of the Chianti zone of Italy, right in Tuscany. The Banfi website tells us that the soil there is composed of "sand, clay...limestone [and] often very rich in marine fossils". They were both 13% ABV and primarily made with Sangiovese grapes.
Looking back on what I wrote in my review of the 2011 vintage, I said that, "It started out with sour cherry and oak on the nose." With the 2013 vintage, I found the nose to be mostly cherry aromas with a hint of anise. So the oak was gone from the nose, replaced with a bit of a licorice scent.
In the mouth, the 2011 "was tart cherry, oak, some dark green herbs (Chianti is known for its herbs) and a touch of raspberry in the middle. The 2013 taste was of cherry cordial and raspberry, with a thin line of something mineral and lemony above it all. So gone were the herb tastes, to be replaced by a sharper citrus flavor.
As for the finish, in 2011, "My initial reaction was, "Finally, a Chianti that doesn't leave me with my lips in a pucker! The fruits are there for sure, but the wine ends with some nice lingering tannins. They are more round and full though - not thin and sharp and drying as with some other Chiantis I have had." But in 2013, that round feeling led to a line of tannins that were a bit puckery. The whole feel of it thinned out to a fruity, tannic taste. So the 2013 vintage was less round and fruity but a bit brighter and livelier.
If I had to pick, I liked the older vintage better, but I have learned that I love a round, full feeling with my red wines. I also like my fruit to be at least on par with the tannins, because apparently, I hate to pucker.
To keep you from being bored to death, I won't go into all the meteorological details, but in August of 2011, a massive heatwave settled over Tuscany and most winemakers had to harvest the grapes about three weeks early. Winemakers were a bit disappointed that they didn't get as many grapes as usual, and that the ones they did get came from very dry soil. 1 2013 started out with a very rainy, mildew inducing spring, but in the end, the winemakers thought it would be a great year for the wine. 2
All this amuses me, because I liked the Chianti from the "bad" weather year better. I don't do it to be contrary, really. In the end though, can you see how two different years can give us two very different tastes from the same vineyard?
Now that we are done vertically sipping, if you'd like to have some fun with Chianti, and learn a little more about it, head over to Crazy For Chianti - it's a fun winey website and those are always a good vintage!
1 Sanderson, Bruce. "2011 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.2 Sanderson,
2 Bruce. "2013 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.