"With each passing vintage, the wines at this estate continue to get better and better. Even her “entry-level” Romagna Sangiovese Predappio, a blend of three vineyards, can put many of the top wines of the region to shame. While you could say that it’s meant for earlier consumption and easier drinking, there is so much character packed into this classic varietal expression, and there is no harm in cellaring it for three to five years or more". Eric Guido, Vinous, November 2021.
Awarded 92 points by Eric Guido and Vinous in November 2021. See the review and tasting note linked below. That's a very good score indeed from this outfit for a wine of this price.
Chiara Condello, Romagna Sangiovese Predappio (normale) 2019 - Vinous Nov 21 review
For the curious, interested and time-rich, see this excellent webinar/tasting with Chiara Condello from May 2020.
Chiara Condello is a young winemaker located in the town of Predappio in Emilia-Romagna, specifically Romagna. Chiara owns 7 hectares of land, 4.8 of which are planted to Sangiovese; the rest are split between woods and olive trees. Her family also makes wine in Predappio under their own label called Condè, but Chiara works in her own way, with her own vineyards and own cellar.
Chiara grew up in Fiumana di Predappio near her family winery, which was founded by her father Francesco Condello back in 2001. She studied Economics at Bocconi University in Milan and then, at the age of 24, she took over her family estate fully committed to not only preserve her family business, but also to elevate the Sangiovese grape reputation to new heights.
Chiara and her family believe strongly in the value of Predappio, a subzone in Romagna known as one of the very best for the production of Sangiovese. It is indeed an area characterised by a rich and complex soil and favourable conditions for the grape, with a cooler climate than the neighbour Tuscany.
A few years ago Chiara, in addition to the family business, started an exciting new project under her name. The Chiara Condello range consists of two 100% Sangiovese wines: a normale called Romagna Sangiovese Predappio and her increasingly famous Riserva Le Lucciole. Her first vintage was 2015 and since then her reputation has gone sky-high to the extent that even the sommeliers of the world best restaurant (Le Mirazur, Menton, France) have included her wines in their list. In a short time, she’s combined her bright-eyed enthusiasm with a clear vision of what her Sangiovese should be.
Chiara’s wines are made from some of the best plots of the Condé vineyards, close to a forest where the vines are deeply rooted in calcareous-clay soil rich in sedimentary sandstones called spugnone (see below) and fossil marines. The resulting wines are pure and expressive, richly textured and deeply layered with tannins of rare elegance.
Romagna is no stranger to Sangiovese; many ampelographers believe it originates here and not in Tuscany. Predappio is one of twelve villages that give their names to Sangiovese subzones authorized as of the 2011 vintage. It is located in the foothills of the Apennines, and is characterized by a sedimentary soil called spungone, which is relatively young (three million years old, from the Pliocene epoch). It contains abundant, intact shells of marine life, often quite large, and is chunky and porous, held together by a calcareous sandstone 'cement'.
A Romagna Sangiovese with an authorized subzone on the label must be 95% Sangiovese, with lower yields and more stringent ageing requirements compared to a regular Romagna Sangiovese. Chiara’s two wines go above and beyond what is required by the appellation. Farming is organic, making use of cover crops and the occasional application of horse manure. In the cellar, Chiara draws inspiration from the late Giulio Gambelli, often using open-top fermenters with extended maceration (sometimes with whole clusters), and a preference for ageing in large neutral vessels.
This wine: Harvested late September. 100% Sangiovese from three vineyards parcels between 150m and 350m above sea level, with a north/northeast exposure. One is clay-limestone, one is red clay with high spungone content, and the last is clay-limestone with veins of spungone. The vines are approximately 40 years old. The grapes were partially destemmed but not crushed, leaving whole berries intact. Fermentation was spontaneous in small stainless steel tanks (with temperature control), and open-top tronconic wood vats and tonneaux. Macerations lasted 20-40 days. Ageing was for one year in used 3500-litre Slavonian oak botti plus 6 months in bottle. Unfined and unfiltered.
Annual production is just 12,000 bottles.
Vintage report from Chiara herself: "2019 started with a cold winter and some snow in January followed by a dry and fresh spring that resulted in a late budbreak. From May we had average temperatures and there were some consistent rainfall that helped the vegetation growth and the plant to gain balance. During summer there was a sunny weather without any heat spikes (that are becoming more common in the last years) and September brought the desired strong temperature excursion between nights and days and so I had perfectly ripe and healthy fruit. Harvest was classical and on time, taking place in the last two weeks of September with just some days of rain during harvest period. The characteristic of the vintage resulted in beautiful fruits, but not big quantities. 2019 skins were deep and structured and allowed me to make a long macerations of up to 40 days".
Exel tasting note: Clear (in that way Sangiovese is), with a bright ruby colour. The Predappio has an intense, seriously fruity nose: classic (and very ripe) red cherries, married with blacker-than-usual fruits for Sangiovese – most notably, blackberries and black cherries. There’s florality and complexity here: hints of violets and rose allied with soft, sweet vanilla tones from the oak. Very balanced in the mouth with silky tannins and beautiful acidity; long and elegant. This is ripe, rich and sumptuous for a Sangiovese, reflecting the warmth of the vineyards. This is thus a more easy-drinking (and ready-to-drink) style of Sangiovese, with acidity and tannins tamed (a little) more than usual, yet lacking neither in complexity or the ability to age (easily five years, and quite probably ten).
How does the 2019 differ from the 2016, 2017 and 2018? Eric Guido of Vinous wrote of the 2017, "While the 2016 might color a little more within the classic lines and last a bit longer in the cellar, this 2017 is perfectly balanced, fruit-forward and ready to give a lot of pleasure".That is, the 2017 was softer, easier and more voluptuous than the leaner and more classic 2016. 2017 was a very hot vintage throughout Italy. It imposed a challenge on all top-end wine producers in crafting elegant, balanced wines. What the 2017 normale/Predappio lacked in elegance and multi-layered structure, it more than made up for in immediacy and approachability. It was inherently darker, blacker, riper and softer in nature than the 2016.
The 2019 is very similar to the 2018, and is a Goldilocks Porridge vintage, that sits perfectly between the 2016 and 2017. Remember that, in any event, the Predappio is a very approachable Sangiovese (being typically more open and immediate than Chianti Classicos of the same age and vintage). It combines the elegance, finesse and greater ageability of the 2016 with the softer warmth and plushness of the 2017. It genuinely feels like a best of both worlds, rather than a diminution of either.
It remains a very more-ish and a highly enjoyable glass of red wine (and that is to undersing its praises).