Biodynamic Wine & Art in Chianti: Fattoria le Masse's Timeo Canaiolo and Chianti Classico

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Artist in residence at Fattoria le Masse (prod. site)

Fattoria le Masse is located in the village of Barberino Val d’Elsa in Chianti. You might be visiting to walk the biodynamically tended vineyards and taste the wine. Or you maybe because you've signed up for a yoga class. Or you could be a lucky painter, selected as one of this year's resident artists at the estate (a project that began in June of 2021). Le Masse, if you couldn't tell, is a special spot tucked into the slopes of Tuscany.

Their website explains the mission: "The experience and the intent that we currently have, focuses on a dialogue with nature and listening to a unique place that we have discovered we have and want to preserve over time. Le Masse has become a place of research, a place of confrontation and meeting, respecting the present and valuing the future." Sounds right up Chambers' alley!

Robin Mugnaini is the third-generation owner of the estate. It was his grandfather who bought the land, his father who preserved the "peasant traditions" of the farm, and he who introduced biodynamic agriculture techniques in 2018.

All generations take part at this Chianti estate (prod. site)

"Some of the most important operational tools used in biodynamics are the agricultural rotations: the alternation of different annual crops, including green manures, which allow the soil to be nourished and increase its biodiversity," the website says. There are also preperations like medicinal herbs and cow manure (stuffed into horns and buried) that are used in the vineyards. All organic waste (like clippings, manure, and yeast) from the farm left to sit at least a year before being used to enhance to health of the soil. And ultimately, their schedule is left to the sky: "The lunar and planetary calendar for sowing and cultivation operations is a compass that allows the farmer to orientate himself on the moments of implementation of the various practices." Grapes are harvested manually. There are no pumps in the cellars. Fermentation happens naturally.

Robin's mother, Christiane, is a painter raised in Berlin. She brought her artistic spirit to the estate when she married Alberto, Robin's dad. She designs all the labels. Alberto and Christiane's daughter, Lea, manages the residencies that bring artists to the estate.

The balance and harmony that Fattoria le Masse keeps at home is definitely reflected in the two wines we're offering today. Well-priced and delicious, we've got a feeling you'll find a place for these bottles on your own family table.      - David Hatzopoulos

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Less inspiring or fascinating than David's presentation of the philosophy and values of Fattoria le Masse, I just have my sensory experience of drinking these wines and eating Italian food. With very few exceptions, I always approach my Italian wine consumption with food in mind. Though consumed on separate occasions, both of these reds were fully satisfying for me and together represent the perfect pairing to a proper Italian meal. The 'Timeo,' my new favorite Canaiolo (ok ok I didn't have a favorite before, but I do love this one!), is super pretty, with fresh acidity and bright red fruit. I had this light to medium red with grilled artichoke and pesto, seafood tagliatelle (it played nicely with the briney character of the capers), and on a separate occasion, braised lentils and duck sausage (a variation on braised lentils with cotechino, a classic New Years dish in Italy). The Timeo was perfect with all of these dishes, and is a clear winner for Antipasti and Primi dishes. When I tried the Timeo with meatballs and red sauce, it didn't quite hold up, as the combination of acidities and lack of fullness with the red led the wine to seem a bit faint. Luckily we have the perfect fix for this situation: the Chianti Classico! Now here was a perfect pairing, still providing ample acidity to facilitate more eating and drinking, but also giving generous black cherry notes, and riper mid-palate, with more present tannins and more material overall. Any piece of meat, from a simply prepared steak to an Ossobuco, would pair well with this classic Sangiovese. Le Masse's Chianti has also scored remarkably well with the Tomato-based sauces demographic. Of course this begs the question "what to have with dessert," but I am trying to lay off the sweets, so you can use your imagination for the final courses!  - Eben Lillie

Le Masse 2018 Toscana Rosso Timeo (Canaiolo)

We know of Canaiolo mainly as a blending grape in Tuscany, and rarely do we find wine enthusiasts outside of Italy who can speak on its virtues, as it is equally rare to find a 100% Canaiolo wine. Recently however, there have been a few estates that have started to produce varietal expressions. The Fattoria le Masse 'Timeo' is a fantastic example, lithe and perfectly balanced with acidity and refined and elegant deep red fruit flavors, delivered with energy, and on the lighter side of medium. Grapes were harvested from vines planted in 1961 to sand and clay soils at the end of September. Fermented with indigenous yeast, with about 40 days on the skins without temperature control in steel tanks. Aged for 6 months in steel before one more year in bottle. Now we find that Canaiolo was "more popular in Central Italy than Sangiovese until the eighteenth century" (J Robinson/J Harding/J Vouillamoz, WINE GRAPES), with the "velvety texture and full body of its best examples rounding out Sangiovese's firm tannins." Curious indeed! Maybe the immediate joy of the Canaiolo was replaced by the reward of Sangiovese's noble ageing potential, but one can see with the 'Timeo' why Canaiolo was popular. Immediately drinkable, friendly and balanced, this is a perfect red for appetizers, salads, poultry, grilled fish, pretty much anything! I did find myself yearning for more material when I tried to pair it with meatballs and red sauce, so maybe the Chianti from Fattoria le Masse would be the better choice for red meat or dishes with tomato sauce, but this Canaiolo definitely goes the distance!  -EL

  • red
  • 8 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Le Masse 2017 Chianti Classico

By all reports a vintage of reduced crops, 2017 has been standing out to me as a vintage of quality for several Tuscan producers who were able to handle the concentration of the vintage and maintain balance with their wines. The 2017s from Monte Bernardi stand out, along with the Montesecondo wines I tried from 2017, and one of our local faves, the Lecci e Brocchi (we're onto the 2018 now, but the '17 was great while it lasted!). Enter Fattoria le Masse's 2017 Chianti Classico, a perfect rendition, with medium-full body, dark cherry notes, a touch of leather... sound like Chianti yet? Ideal with any meat dishes, red sauces, home-cooked pizzas, or roasted veggies. Grapes were harvested by hand in October. Fermented naturally, macerating on the skin for about 40 days. Aged one year in French oak and matures in bottle for 8 months before release. A classic Chianti, with fine tannins and just the right amount of material and acidity to age very well for 3-5 years, perhaps even longer!  -EL

  • red
  • 22 in stock
  • $29.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic