The Monte Bernardi estate covers 53 hectares, 15 of which are under vine. 4.8 of these hectares are held on a long lease, which was taken out in 2011. The vineyards are situated in the hilly, southern-most region of Panzano, an area long acknowledged as one of the Grand Crus of Chianti Classico.
Michael Schmelzer and his family bought the estate in 2003, and have invested heavily in it ever since. The vines are planted on a soil of a high rock content mixture which, depending on the vineyard, consists of shale (Galestro), sandstone (Arenaria) and limestone (Alberese). The vineyards are perfectly situated at an altitude of 350 metres above sea level, surrounded by forests and enjoying a southern exposure, with the river Pesa flowing just a few hundred metres to the south.
The estate has been certified organic and biodynamic since 2004. Grass and cover crops are grown in alternate rows: composted cow manure and biodynamic preparations are used. Harvesting is by hand, usually from late September until mid-October.
For their Sa’Etta Chianti Classico Riserva (100% Sangiovese) the best grapes are selected from Sa’Etta, a single vineyard which benefits from the best position, exposure and terrain on the estate – highly reflective sandstone (Arenaria-Calcare-Pietraforte) rich with quartz inclusions. After natural fermentation, in large oak casks, the wine is placed in a combination of German and Austrian oak where it undergoes malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in oak for at least 24 months, followed by finishing in bottle for another 12 months.
Citronella and lemongrass aromatics envelop more subtle primary fruit that include peach skin and naartjie peel. Then also hints of vanilla, baked apple, marzipan and honey. The palate possesses verve and savoury grip, with elements of crushed river pebble, rock salt and flint, but also a grainy, pithy textural element akin to walnut and hard pear. There is real weight and mouth-filling substance, even at 12,5% ABV with complexity gained from lees contact and completely integrated oak. Bone dry, savoury finish.