A tasting of Tuscan reds

Published by Sally on September 19, 2010

Every few months I organise a themed tasting seminar for a group of local business people. We taste blind and discuss the wines.

Red wines from Tuscany was a recent theme. 

Grape varieties in Tuscany have expanded from the indigenous sangiovese, the most widely planted grape variety in Italy, plus canaiolo and colorino, to include all the more famous French varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and syrah. The IGT category (equivalent to Vins de Pays in France) has long allowed blending of indigenous and international varieties – this is the realm of the supertuscan wines.

But more recently, Chianti and Chianti Classico have allowed minor proportions, up to 20% in the blend, of those international varieties.

So now, there are three broad categories of Tuscan red:
a)       completely traditional wines, made only from sangiovese, or with small proportions of other traditional red grapes such as canaiolo, colorino and mammolo e.g. Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano,  some Chianti and Chianti Classico, a few IGTs
b)       blends of indigenous and specified international grapes, so sangiovese with more or less cabernet sauvignon, merlot etc. e.g. some Chianti and Chianti Classico, many IGTs
c)       blends of international varieties only e.g. Bolgheri and many IGTs

Argiano, Rosso di Montalcino 2008, ~£15 (14%)                   
Sangiovese 100%
Medium pale depth of colour. Tea leaf and baked cherry nose. An initial light-bodied palate filled out in the glass to reveal a supple-fruited wine with a decent intensity of dry-baked cherries and redcurrants. Some sweet red berry fruit notes mid palate add flesh to the fresh acid frame. Appropriately modest tannins are supple and integrated. Nicely upright, firm sangiovese.  

Argiano, Brunello di Montalcino 2005, ~£30 (14%)                                         
Sangiovese 100%
Medium deep colour, dark, tarry nose, dried cinnamon, allspice and dark chocolate nose. Savoury black tea leaf attack, charcoal, tar with mocha and bitter chocolate perfumes. Sweet core seeping into the savoury surround, leather baked earth, fine-grained tannins in almost first flush of youth are beginning to blend into the wine. Big and gutsy, but not butch and powerful. Retains defining acidity and poise to structure. Young, savoury and demanding at this stage.

Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino, Vigna del Fiore 2003, ~£45 (14%)
Sangiovese 100%
Medium deep colour, coffee and chocolate, leather and sandalwood perfume. Smoky, savoury attack, tar and tobacco leaf. Powerful with bitter-sweet cherries and baked pomegranate. Firm-backboned, fully dry spectrum held upright by acidity and surreptitious fruit. Plenty of fine grained chalky youthful tannins lend weight, backbone and longevity potential. Complex, concentrated. Long warm fruit defined finish. Very good

Fattoria Selvapiana, Vigneto Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva 2006, ~£20  (14.5%)                       
Sangiovese 100%
Medium deep colour, bright red cherries, primary fruit mixes with vanilla-cream hints, blackcurrant, and warm, enveloping sweet tannins. Black tea leaf, with some rose petal perfume. Richly balanced sweet cherries with ripe, savoury tannins creating a medium-full bodied feel to the palate, while the acidity runs through the core demanding posture and definition. Full and richly-dry. Good. Chalky dry finish to the youthful tannins, balanced by fruit. Needs time.

Querciabella, Chianti Classico DOCG 2006, ~£18  (13.5%)                               
95% sangiovese, 5% cabernet sauvignon
Medium deep colour. Blackberries and cream, sweet black tea, bramble and fruitcake notes linger in the background. Smooth attack of freshly-tanned leather, sweet, baked black cherries, with hint of sweetness to the characteristically dry tannin structure. A developing lush texture in the mouth suggests a modern touch, and the earthy, herbal hint on the back palate remains true to the origin. More than approachable. Nicely balanced. Obviously still youthful. Good.

Castello Vicchiomaggio, Ripa delle More 2006, IGT Toscana, ~£27 (14.5%)             
Sangiovese 60%, cabernet sauvignon 30%, merlot 10%
Deep ruby. Almost porty seductive sweet bramble compote nose, rich, enticing, overflowing with sweet primary fruit. No blousiness – characteristic defining acid core to keep the whole in proportion and balanced. Long flavour, fresh, moreish, widely appealing. Modern and lush. Tannins may be sweet and ripe, but still fine chewiness in youth on the finish. Good

Villa Cafaggio, Cortaccio  2004, IGT Toscana, ~£40 (14%)                               
Cabernet sauvignon 100%
Deep ruby. Chalky dry-baked blackberry nose, sandalwood and cedar attack on the palate quickly flooded with creamy-dry blackcurrant and blackberry fruits. Medium bodied with an elegant refinement of structure and balance. Refreshing, youthful, dry tannin core with masses of fruit volume and concentration. Not an iota of age showing on this sample. One to put by for a few more years yet. Seriously good, with some sophistication.

Tenuta Argentiera, Bolgheri Superiore 2006, ~£35 (14.5%)                 
Cabernet sauvignon 50%, merlot 40%, cabernet franc 10%
Deep ruby. Creamy coffee and baked cherry and blackberry pie nose. Ripely proportioned black fruit with soft flesh around sweet acid core. Savoury baked earth and dry-baked fruit notes on the palate with deep, concentrated flavours. Chalky note of youthful tannins balanced by dense, dark fruit concentration augurs well. Elements of sophistication here. With sweet finish that has you going back for another taste.

Antinori, Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2005, ~£65 (14%)                           
Cabernet sauvignon 50%, merlot 45%, syrah 5%
Deep ruby. Bramble, tender wood smoke and violets emerge from a deep pool of aroma. Blackcurrant fruit to the fore, sweet, fine, youthful tannins wrap around the dark brooding berry fruits with a velvet-glove texture. Seductively textured, massively concentrated palate but not at the expense of deportment or elegance. Unsurprisingly, really very good. Combination of sweetness of tannin and fruit with structure of dry tannins complemented by entirely integral acid frame.

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