FONTODI: Giovanni Manetti
From Burton Anderson's Best Italian Wines
“If a photographer wished to capture the image if the new Chianti, he might portray Giovanni Manetti smiling brightly amid roes of new barriques in the lower level of Fontodi’s ultramodern cellars. Or he might catch the impeccably dressed young man stepping from his four-wheel-drive vehicle into a vineyard replanted with select clones of Sangiovese. If the pictures came with an interview, readers would learn that Giovanni, who looks younger than 38, has a doctorate in economics and has devoted more than half of his life to building Fontodi into a model of modern winemaking in Tuscany.
Giovanni was 16 when he and older brother Marco took charge of the farm on the edge of the town of Panzano, while father Dino and uncle Domiziano ran their prestigious terracotta factory in another part of Chianti. They set about renewing Fontodi’s rundown vineyards sloping into the vaunted vale known as the Conca d’Oro. But they realized that they needed expert advice to improve the wines, so they hired an enologist on the rise named Franco Bernabei.
The Chianti improves rapidly, but the first Fontodi wine to make an impact was Flaccianello della Pieve, a pure Sangiovese Super-Tuscan from 1981. The brothers kept the faith in Chianti, planting a plot called Vigna del Sorbo with Sangiovese and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. From the great 1985 vintage they make their first Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo, a wine that can to rival Flaccianello and, from some vintages, to surpass it in class.
Critics may still be divided in preference between the two tops wines, though even the regular Classico is so consistently good that James Suckling of The Wine Spectator in 1999 wrote that Fontodi “is clearly Italy’s best producer of Chianti.” Marco now runs the terracotta business, leaving Giovanni fully in charge of Fontodi. From 64 hectares of vines, he produces about 300,000 bottles of wine a year, including IGT Case Via Syrah and Pinot Nero and a white Pinot Bianco called Meriggio."