This weekend I focused on Super Tuscans, a style of wine that producers interpret in many ways. One way to understand this group of wines is that they are the Grand Prix of Tuscan enology where all aspects and techniques of winemaking are pushed to the limits to enhance the expression of terroir. Another is that Super Tuscans express a free interpretation of a given area in Tuscany whose winemakers explore the territory beyond the bureaucratic restrictions of DOC and DOCG.
One pioneer that is an example of the above statements is Le Macchiole, established in 1983 by Eugenio Campolmi and one of the major players in the Super-Tuscan movement. Eugenio realized that the best way to make his wine was to make mono-varietal wines that expressed their terroir. The estate believes that wine is made in the vineyard, but the management of the cellar is crucial in achieving quality wine. I tasted the 1999 Scrio, which is starting to enter its drinking window, and I was blown away. While Le Macchiole is an old player in Bolgheri, Angelo Gaja is relatively new to the Super-Tuscan movement. Angelo Gaja is known as a great winemaker, but he’s also know as a rebel and someone who does not necessarily follow the rules of DOC and DOCG, so it’s only natural that he produces Super-Tuscan wine. I tasted the Ca’ Marcanda (Gaja) Camarcanda 2010, and although it’s still rather young, it shows how spectacular it’s going to be with some age.
This ’10 Super Tuscan bursts with plums, and blackberry, blueberry followed by notes of earth and leather and sweet balsamic. The tannins are silky smooth, and the wine nearly crackles with noticeable acidity that will integrate nicely with time—a baby, this wine is still a bit tight. Patience will reward with this wine. Drink 2017-2025.
Le Machciole makes its mono-varietal Syrah in limited quantities that never exceed 5,000 bottles. The word “Scrio” has Tuscan origins and it translates to “pure,” “sincere,” or “upright,” and this wine is all that with aromas of dark red fruit, mocha, chocolate, earth spice and mineral. Sporting a full, powerful mouth-feel with sweet tannins that have integrated nicely, this wine reveals new aromas and flavors with every sip and ends in a lovely, lingering finish. Drink now.
This past weekend I had the honor of attending the wedding of a dear friend of mine in Newport, RI. The setting was breathtaking, but unfortunately it was impossible to take it all in because of cold weather and rain. The day after the wedding, I gathered with some close friends for dinner, and never one to let my mood be determined by the weather, I decided to warm all of our spirits with the Castello di Selvole 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva.
Chianti has come far in the past few decades, but I still tend to rely on a few reliable producers. This bottle was something new to me. A wine that Sergio hand-selected and brought into stock, I’d yet to try it and I was thrilled at the opportunity to dig in among friends. Sometimes when we step out of our comfort zone we can experience something very wonderful.
Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in all of Italy and you could argue that the Chianti and Chianti Classico regions are the heart of this grape’s production. Tuscan Sangiovese wine is inherently Italian. The nose and palate are a balance of fruit, earth and life, and the structure maintains a strong backbone, yet a seductive rusticity remains. When you close your eyes and sip a good Chianti Classico, it takes you somewhere. You feel as though you are walking through a small village with colorful stucco buildings around your, shoes tapping along the cobblestone street until you turn into a dusty old antique shops, owned by an old woman who you wish was your grandmother. This is the power of great Sangiovese.
Castello di Selvole is located in a wine region with roots dating back over 300 years, but this estate has been in operation for just under two decades. Like so many romance stories, this property was born from the love of two people and their love of the land and the magic it produces. Drinking this wine from the heart of Chianti Classico in a café with my friends, the wind whipped outside and the rain poured down, but I did not feel cold. I felt warmth in my stomach, my heart and maybe even a little bit in my face.
This Chianti is young, but if opened for an hour or so it shows you incredible potential. It’s a wine sure to bring people together where the stories can flow and lives can be shared. At just under $35 a bottle, this Chianti Classico Riserva packs a powerful value.
A perennial favorite of both critics and collectors, Domaine de Pegau is one of an elite few estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape that consistently crafts some of the region’s very best wines. The domaine’s 50 acres of vineyards (predominantly Grenache) average 60 years of age and yield stunning wines that are at once both concentrated and elegant, offering voluptuous aromas of dark black fruits, grilled meats, herbs, black pepper and leathery notes. Above all, their wines convey the breathtaking terroir of southern France and pull me back among the rolling hills, jutting rock faces and medieval fortresses that dot the dramatic Provençal landscape. The Cuvée Reservée is the estate’s standard bottling while the Cuvée da Capo is produced only in the most exceptional vintages and is one of the crowning achievements in all of modern Rhône Valley winemaking. Put either of these wines on your dinner table with a rack of lamb and some assorted grilled vegetables, and you will know the meaning of bliss!
The ‘12 Cuvée Reservée has been billed as perhaps the estate’s finest effort to date, and after tasting it last Friday night, I can confirm that it is incredibly delicious. A massive wine that will easily live for two decades or more, the ’12 Cuvée Reservée is loaded with myriad layers of fruit, spice, earth and toast, and amid all these wild flavors, it manages to remain quite balanced, with firm tannins and enough acidity to soften them to approachable levels. A dense and chewy wine, it’s at its best with a hearty meal of lamb or game.
At least one highly influential critic has awarded the 2010 Cuvee da Capo a perfect score, and while we don’t put much stock in critics and their scores, you can’t quite ignore it when one of the world’s foremost experts exclaims that “wine doesn’t get any better.” I very rarely say this, but believe the hype: this is a wine that serious collectors and Rhône enthusiasts will be talking about for decades. The ’10 Cuvée da Capo will need a few more years (at least) before it will be truly approachable, and it will continue to evolve for another three decades. While plush, hedonistic and highly enjoyable in its youth, this is a wine you want to hold onto for a special occasion years down the road. It’s an investment you won’t regret!
There is an unmistakable scent when wine ages. It’s a smell of ineffable purple, of life and wood and grapes and the alchemy of fruit becoming something else, something greater. The air of every winery I’ve ever visited has that certain aging wine odor, yet they are all unique unto themselves. The closest analogy I can think of, and this will make sense only to horse-lovers, is the scent of horse barns. Every horse barn smells the same, for each one is, after all, a mixture of the same elements. And yet, each barn is individual and, to a horse-lover, something beautiful. Such is the case with wineries.
This analogy makes the most sense when you consider Tenuta San Guido, makers of Sassicaia. Both horse breeders and winemakers, Bolgheri’s Tenuta San Guido owns every inch of its aristocratic heritage. In America, we tend to think of aristocrats as haughty and pretentious—and, certainly, some of them are—but Sassicaia has an intense comfort with itself. It needs to prove nothing to anyone, so it can be simple, beautiful, hi-tech, clean and quiet. It’s a winery of buffed wood or shiny glass and steel. The winery, begun as a foray into experimental wine culture Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, is all these decades later serious business, and its seriousness imbues the wines, which are products of careful study, ceaseless experimentation, and an indefatigable commitment to its grapes.
“Good grapes make good wines,” says Sebastiano Rosa, who was Tenuta San Guido’s Director of Communications when I visited. They do, indeed, but no matter how much the estate tries to play down its viniculture in favor of its viticulture, it’s still a place where wine moves from vat to barrique and barrique to bottle by forced nitrogen so that it isn’t harmed by pumping or mechanization. There’s a serene, spare confidence to Sassicaia, and it’s telling. It’s in the architecture of the buildings. It’s in the air of the tasting room. And it’s in the wines. You can taste the self-assuredness, and it’s comforting and starkly, unattainably beautiful. These are fairytale wines. This is, after all, where the Super-Tuscan revolution began in 1964, and it remains the beating heart of this extraordinary shift in Italian winemaking.
Today, IWM’s eLetter presented one of the most fabled vintages of Sassicaia, the 1985. Most people will never taste this wine (I haven’t), but that’s okay. There’s always the estate’s Guidalberto or Le Difese, the estate’s second-tier and entry-level wines, and they’re entirely first rate.
Once again I look to France’s Rhône Valley for my wine picks this week, putting my eye on the prized bottlings of the masterful Chapoutier estate. Chapoutier is one of the oldest names in the Rhône, founded in 1808 by the Calvet family and sold later to the Chapoutier family in 1855. Polydore Chapoutier was the first generation of the family to take on the reigns and the only one not to have his first name start with the letter M. Today, Chapoutier remains as one of the leading producers based at the foot of the hill of Hermitage (which was at one time known as “Ermitage,” its original spelling) consistently offering out some of the region’s most compelling wines, the best being the wines released from single vineyard bottlings from Hermitage.
Unlike Burgundy and Bordeaux, the Rhône does not have an official classification system; however, there are some very special leux-dits or “named areas” that denote vineyard sites and plots within each appellation. Chapoutier owns some of the most famous plots in the region including a generous piece of land within the prized Hermitage appellation where they practice organic and biodynamic farming. I’m focusing on Le Meal, a specific plot within Hermitage with vines aging up to 90 years. Le Meal is also the warmest terroir in the appellation, which is one key factor in the character and ripeness of the wine. These wines are only produced in minute quantities, around 400 cases for the white and red wines.
A rich, rustic display of Syrah, this Le Meal plot shows intense red fruit character with remarkable acidity for such a warm site. This 2006 is remarkably balanced and can go for the long haul if you have the patience. This wine is perfect match for rich game and braised meats.
100% Marsanne, this very unique and rich white is one of the greatest hits from Chapoutier. The wine bears a bright golden hue with flavors of stone fruit, gala apples and plenty of minerals. Marsanne packs a punch, but this is one of the most elegant yet complex expressions of the grape I have tasted.
« go back — keep looking »