Today we are delighted to be able to offer one of the best value Italian wines on the market. It has been awarded a plethora of exceptional scores, 97 points from Decanter ‘A classic gourmand style per eccellenza perhaps but remarkable from any angle’, 94 points from the Wine Spectator, 95 from James Suckling and 92+ from Monica Larner, who proclaims; ‘Here’s a terrific wine, at a reasonable price point, that gives you an authentic albeit contemporary taste of Tuscany.’ The wine is Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 and priced today at £105 per case of six or £190 for 12 bottles, it boasts a lot of wine for £15.83 per bottle. It is of course their highest ever scoring vintage, though few would claim otherwise from this back-up-the-truck year, which will rewards collectors for decades.
The Mazzei family are woven in to the fabric of Tuscan wine-making and political history. The first document that names the Mazzei family in relation to wine-making dates back to the 11th Century. Ser Lapo Mazzei (1350-1412) was a winemaker and notary and is accredited with being the ‘father’ of the name Chianti, first mentioning the name in 1398. Filippo Mazzei (1730-1816) who was a progressive thinker, intellectual and scholar, became a close friend of Thomas Jefferson. He was asked by Jefferson to bring Italian wine-making to Monticello, Virginia and he duly obliged, going on to plant the first vineyards in that part of the new world. ‘I thank you for your obliging act of the culture of the wine, and I am happy to hear that your plantation of them is in so prosperous a way’ (George Washington, 1 July, 1779). His impact, however, extends beyond this; Filippo remained in the US for many years and his ideas regarding equality struck Jefferson, from where he drew inspiration for one of the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence, ‘All men are created equal’. As such Filippo is considered an American patriot!
The grapes that go into Ser Lapo come from the surrounding vineyards of the village Fonterutoli, which the Mazzei family have owned for 24 generations. The village is of historical importance, containing an Etruscan Acropolis, later it became a final frontier on a Roman road and then the border between Firenze and Sienna during the height of their hostilities.
Mazzei spare no expense with Ser Lapo, crafted with 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot the grapes age 12 months in French barrique, of which 50% are new. This adds power to the brilliantly nuanced and delicate Sangiovese grape they have worked boy to man for over 600 years, the merlot adds to the svelte mid-palate and chocolate and tobacco on the finish. The 2016 is a balanced 13% alcohol and a wine ready for consumption, though equipped to mature for years. It is a wine to be enjoyed on its own, or with food; pasta, meat dishes, fried vegetables, charcuterie, it is hard to imagine any Mediterranean cuisine Ser Lapo’s black fruit, sour and sliced cherry undertones, violet and smoke aromatics wouldn’t accentuate.