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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Frieze and Mazzei Gran Selezione 2013

A Chianti Classico parcel tasting of the Gran Selezione master blend with the Mazzei family

I have long held a working assumption that Great Wine is like Great Art - beyond merely being superficially pleasant, it is, at a deeper level, somehow compelling; it evokes in us some kind of emotional response.
Good wine is enjoyable wallpaper; Great Wine speaks to us.

Greatness is, then, ultimately subjective, a purely personal opinion. What moves me may leave you cold. However, a consensus may arise as to whether something is great or not; you may not personally "get" Picasso, Warhol or Mapplethorpe, but there are plenty of people who do.
Walking through Frieze 2017 - a vast, wide-ranging and rather corporate exhibition of contemporary art - it was impossible, as a mere amateur, to discern nuances or themes; too much sensory overload.

The only way to make sense of the breadth and volume was simply to walk briskly and see what catches the eye.
Of course what attracts us to something - be it art, wine or a potential spouse - is not what binds us over time; yet there needs to be an initial spark of attraction that then develops into something deeper and more sustained.
The wines of Giovanni Mazzei, 25th generation of a Tuscan winemaking family dating back to 1435, Marchesi Mazzei, possess this quality; attractive, compelling and intriguing they are also sophisticated, elegant and complex.

Over lunch at a pop-up café from Petersham Nurseries, we tasted Giovanni's award-winning Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 alongside five of the single Cru wines that go into the master blend.
For those not in the know, Petersham Nurseries Café follows the Slow Food philosophy with seasonal, Italian inspired food.
On arrival
Villa Marcello Prosecco DOC with Pinot Blanc in the blend, a fresh, crisp, structured and mineral aperitif that also works with the canapes

With sharing starters

Vineyard: Siepi, Parcel: I Sodi from the lowest altitude vineyard, fresh and structured with cherry fruit, mushroomy gaminess and oaky spice. Elegant, supple, long and harmonious.

Vineyard: Caggio, Parcel: Orto darker, denser, more spiced and aromatic.

Vineyard: Belvedere, Parcel: Piano darker, more brooding and intense, a Heathcliffe of a wine

With sharing main course

Vineyard: Fonterutoli, Parcel: St Antonio fresh and more elegant with lifted fruit and freshness; very complex and balanced

Vineyard: Le Ripe, Parcel:Trebbio sweet, ripe dark fruit and spices; fresh yet plump and supple with ripe tannins. Concentrated and long with a peppery finish.
Giovanni had encouraged us to keep a little of each wine in our glasses and make a pop-up blend of our favourite parcels; this would have been like grabbing a piece of each favourable artwork in the exhibition and hoping to assemble them into a masterpiece and served only to demonstrate how much skill there is in the blending process.

My favourite parcels were 3, 4 and 5 - with 3 and 5 having the darkest, most expressive character and 4 being the most nuanced.
Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 the master blend, assembled from 47 of the estate's 120 parcels of vines; spices and pepper with red and black fruits, dried berries and plums along with a musky leatheriness. Balanced and fresh.
A comparison of Giovanni's favourite individual parcel, the Fonterutoli, with the master blend was like comparing two very beautiful women - the Fonterutoli had a sophisticated and individual beauty that was not perfection, yet needed no addition. The blend, by contrast, was no less attractive but, plumped and preened down at the salon, had lost something of its individuality in the process.

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