Chianti Classico: The Complete Atlas of the UGA Vineyards

In this excerpt from his book Chianti Classico: The Complete Atlas of the UGA Vineyards, Alessandro Masnaghetti examines the new UGAs (Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive), Chianti Classico’s version of place names, with historical background, in-depth information on soils and detailed maps for each UGA, plus a deep dive into the Lamole UGA. LAMOLE When more than a decade ago I published the first map of the Lamole vineyards, this small Chianti hamlet, whose name is historically linked to the production of quality wine, was just emerging from a long period of oblivion. The reason might have been that there were few producers, or because the hamlets of Lamole and Casole had always been rather closed, or because the market and the critics until recently did not appreciate wines as elegant and fragrant as those from the area. Since then, fortunately, the winds have changed year after year, so that today Lamole is one of the most esteemed areas of Chianti Classico. New plantings, new small wineries and new investments by producers from neighboring areas, however, have not undermined its traditions, spirit and landscape, so much so that for some years now Lamole has been included in the prestigious National Registry of Rural Landscapes. That was an important step that preceded a perhaps even more significant recognition, at least for wine enthusiasts, with the introduction of the UGA of the name, which was anything but expected given its small size. Just under 1,000 total hectares, of which only 90 hectares of vineyards, make it by far the smallest UGA, with potential production of Chianti Classico that accounts for only 1 percent of the total. Equally limited is the presence of olive trees, as typical as was once the cultivation of iris for perfumes, linked both to the type of soil—loose and therefore not subject to water stagnation—and to the traditional terracing that is still the hallmark of the Lamole landscape. Last but not least is the forest, which over 700 meters above sea level (the maximum limit for Chianti Classico vineyards) becomes the sole and undisputed protagonist. Regarding the boundaries of the UGA, before moving on to a brief description of the area, some clarifications seem in order, particularly for those familiar with the 2011 map I mentioned at the beginning. In that study I described the Lamole area as consisting of three historically distinct units. Lamole proper, which runs from Le Volpaie to the Fosso Selvabuia (actually it would start from Il Sodo, at the junction with the dirt road leading to Le Volpaie, but between there and Le Volpaie there are only woods); Casole, which runs from the Fosso Selvabuia to Pile di an area which in the past enjoyed viticultural and enological distinction; and finally, Castellinuzza, which formally would be part of the hamlet of Petriolo (where Vignamaggio lies, to clarify) but whose ridge represents a natural boundary for the area (its westward slope definitively closes the Casole basin). The boundary reported in the National Registry of Rural Landscapes is wider, extending to the north to include the first the vineyards of Poggio all’Olmo and then to the area of Le Corti (see Ruffoli fact sheet on page XY), while to the south, beyond Il Sodo, it makes a small detour along a narrow strip of land that reaches into the commune of Radda in Chianti. The current official boundary of the Lamole UGA, as shown on the maps published on these pages, is more restrictive, however. Le Corti and the extension into the territory of Radda in Chianti are excluded, while Poggio all’Olmo, although isolated from the traditional area, is confirmed as an integral part of the territory of Lamole. With this broad view in mind, let’s take a look at the territory of Lamole and its variations in altitudes, exposures and contours. The whole area, which lies at the foot of Monte San Michele, can be divided into two macro-areas: Lamole and Casole. The area of Lamole can be further divided into four sectors: the first, which runs from Le Volpaie to the cellars of Pile and Lamole, is characterized by good western exposure and a difference in altitudes that is well over 200 meters in total; the second, that of Le Masse, has similar exposure, but higher elevations that reach close to 700 meters; the third, which has Campolungo as its toponym of reference, is the warmest and most open, although it too faces mainly west, and has always enjoyed an excellent reputation; the fourth sector is that of Castello di Lamole, where the exposure turns decisively to the north without much limiting the presence of vineyards. As for Casole, this macro-area as a whole enjoys a more open position and can be summed up as a broad basin stretching from the Fosso Selvabuia up to and including Castellinuzza. Five other areas can be identified within it. The first, which coincides with the area of Filetta, enjoys a cooler position but of good value viticulturally (as most recent vinifications of Fontodi confirm). The second is included between La Sala, Casole Alta and Grilli and occupies the highest position with altitudes exceeding 700 meters. The third, which centered between I Fabbri and La Doccia, enjoys an excellent balance between altitude and exposure, particularly in the scenic amphitheater located just below the road. The fourth, more secluded, is the sector of Piuca, as well exposed as the previous but with a median altitude between I Fabbri and La Doccia. The fifth sector covers the steep and sunny southern slope of Castellinuzza, which of all, however, has the fewest vineyards due no doubt to the steep slopes. Looking back, you have surely noticed a factor that Lamole and Casole have in common: high altitudes, which on average fluctuate between 500 and 625 meters above sea level, with maximum and minimum points of around 715 and 425 meters. These heights make the Lamole UGA one of areas of latest ripening of Chianti Classico, becoming even more significant when combined with such a demanding grape variety as Sangiovese, although today—with ongoing climate change—this is much less a critical factor than in the past. Read even more from Alessandro’s excerpt and check out sneak peek images on Vinous now . Chianti Classico: The Complete Atlas of the UGA Vineyards is available through the Rare Wine Co .