A Tasting of 2004 Tuscan Red WinesBy
It has taken me a long time to understand & fully appreciate the Sangiovese grape variety & what Tuscany has to offer. There is & has been no doubt that there are many truly superb wines coming out of the region & this grape variety. I just question whether they have the level of nobility (in comparison to Nebbiolo for instance), especially at the price point the top echelon wines are asking for. Furthermore, since Sangiovese is one to “take a back seat” in blends with Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah & whose nuances are easily masked by the over use of French oak, I felt too many of the early on Super-Tuscans overpowered the Tuscan-ness of the respective wines. Fortunately now, however, there are more & more winemakers/wine consultants who are swinging the pendulum back & skillfully incorporating modern technology in the vineyards & in the winery & are therefore today thankfully making better & better ITALIAN red wines. Furthermore, the use of French oak, I have found can be quite strong for the surprisingly precocious Sangiovese grape, even though it is needed to frame the wine for long term consumption. Interestingly, in some cases, the resulting wines need years to resolve the wine’s oakiness to the point where the grape & the terroir wonderfully re-appear & step forward. In tonight’s tasting we taste 4 top notch Tuscans…..from the 2004 vintage (& therefore 8 years of bottle age) to see it first hand. Another aspect to to this tasting one might find interesting is that the first wine is produced mainly from the Sangioveto clone of Sangiovese…..the 2nd wine from the Prugnolo Gentile clone of Sangiovese…..the 3rd wine from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese….& the 4th wine from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon & 30% Sangiovese. Yes….just another opportunity to learn.
2004 Castello di Rampolla Chianti Classico
the estate vineyard is in southern Tuscany near Panzano, 900 to 1200 feet elevation, calcareous-marl-clay soils facing south, southeast & southwest. The blend—95% Sangioveto & 5% other grapes, 16 months in Slavonian oak & 4 months in bottle before release. The wine on this night was very pretty, classy, highly refined & wonderfully harmonious.
2004 Poliziano Nobile di Montepulciano “Asinone”
the highly revered Asinone vineyard is 1000 feet elevation in Montepulciano with soft clay soils & this single vineyard wine is produced only in certain vintages. The 2004 is mainly Prugnolo Gentile with a little Colorino & Merlot…18 months in French oak, 12 months in bottle before release. On this night, the wine had lovely, lovely perfume, mesmerizing & wonderfully nuanced with pedigree. We referred to this wine as the “Queen of Tuscany”.
2004 Brizio Brunello di Montalcino
100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello) grown in limestone soils with fossil fragments. The wine is aged in 300 liter French Allier & then 12 months in bottle. Definitely much more masculine & intensely structured with lots of bravado. Unfortunately it actually was surprisingly unyielding & shut down & definitely needs some time to resolve itself.
the Querciabella estate vineyard is a spectacular “crown” at roughly 1400 feet elevation above Greve. The soils is so rocky, even the weeds have a hard time & has been organically farmed since 1988 & biodynamic since 2000. The 2004 is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Sangiovese, 24 months in French oak, 40% new, 60% 1 year old barrels. The intent in featuring this French oak-ed, high percentage Cabernet based wine was to show tasters it is possible to produce a Super Tuscan, which still tastes Italian! In this case it REALLY is starting to show its magic, pedigree & sophistication after 8 years of bottle age.