This young, delicious wine sets a benchmark for Chianti Classico at an affordable price and can be your go-to red for all kinds of Italian foods.
The Chianti Classico zone is the top appellation within the larger Chianti region of Tuscany, and the quality of the fruit in Monte Bernardi’s 2019 “Retromarcia” is superb. It doesn’t hurt that Monte Bernardi is in Panzano, one of the best Chianti Classico vineyard sites in terms of terroir.
The wine is made from 100 percent Sangiovese, the signature red grape of Chianti and Tuscany. And the fruit is gorgeous, with ripe blueberry, red and black cherry, and raspberry tastes with hints of orange rind and earth. Moderate tannins give it a slight chewiness, and refreshing acidity makes it perfect for pasta sauces — meat-based or with vegetables such as sautéed eggplant.
The wine is aged for 18 months in small and larger barrels that have been previously used, which impart a more delicate oak influence than new oak barrels. Indeed, the wood component in Retromarcia is there but subtle; the wine is more on the fruity side, which, for me, makes it so delightful.
There’s an interesting story behind Monte Bernardi. The first wine from the property was produced in 1992. In 2003, the estate, including about 23 acres of organic vineyards, was purchased by an American winemaker, Michael Schmelzer, who started to farm it biodynamically.
At about $22, Monte Bernardi’s 2019 Retromarcia Chianti Classico is a great value. In a market flooded with Chianti — one of Italy’s and the world’s most recognizable wines — this one really stands out. Monte Bernardi also produces a Chianti Classico Riserva, several other Sangiovese-based wines, and a couple of Bordeaux-style “Super Tuscan” blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.