SWA 2011: ITALY – TUSCANY

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Drinks: Wines
Location: Europe, Italy

Italy: Tuscany
An interesting and diverse category, Tuscany seemed to have everything from ‘affordable
and local’ to ‘blinged up and international’

Another new category created from within Rest of Italy: Reds, Tuscany has rocketed in entries over the last few years. Made up mostly of Brunellos, Montepulcianos and varying incarnations of Franco/Sangiovese blends from just above House Wine quality through to full-on Super Tuscans, it’s an area of the competition that is always eagerly anticipated for its ability to deliver fantastic, fascinating and commercially viable wines right across the price spectrum. And it did.

This year, prices ranged from £6 up to £80, with around 75% of the wines over a tenner. But while none of the cheaper entries made it onto the Gold List (perhaps unluckily), our tasters were still impressed with the way the category performed at the lower price levels. ‘Some of my highest marks were for the lowest-priced wines here. There were lots [in this flight]that weren’t classic Sangiovese,’ said Michael Harrison, Hotel du Vin.

The cheaper wines, it was reckoned, spoke with a more obvious Italian accent, unpolished by their French tutor, Monsieur Cabernet, or buffed up with oak. As prices went up, so did the levels of extraction and wood use, and a fair number of tasters felt that the wines, though good, were nowhere near being ready to drink.

‘Most of the more expensive wines would need three or five years in the bottle. And I’m not sure they were all worth the price,’ mused Sergio Benito.

Not only that but, as Natasha Hughes pointed out, their sheer size became an issue: ‘If you were matching them with food, many here would dominate.’ There was, to be sure, very little suggestion in these wines that ‘less is more’. Although there were a few understated versions, for many it was usually a question of getting significant amounts of fruit, oak and ripeness on display; the vinous equivalent of a rapper waving his chunky gold jewellery in your face.
But while there wasn’t much subtlety, the tasters still liked most of what they saw, with the best wines having complexity, structure and an appealing savoury character that would make them top-notch matches with red meat or wintery stews.

‘I’m really happy,’ proclaimed Ivan Dixon, Harvey Nichols. ‘I was expecting more of the modern styles to be made to an international recipe but the regionality shone through. They were unmistakably Tuscan and a good definition of Sangiovese.’

Congratulations go to Liberty, with the new vintages of the Fossacolle Brunello and Poggio al Tesoro Cabernet Franc both picking up Golds a second year running.

“I prefer the classic style of Sangiovese as opposed to the modern blockbuster. And there were a few good classics here. ” Sara Bachiorri, The Glasshouse


GOLD LIST

Raniero IGT Toscana 2005, Viticola Toscana, Tuscany, Italy
£14.20 @ Ehrmanns
SWA 2011 Gold List Plenty of liquorice and dark fruit on this complex wine, with strong tannins alongside dark red fruit flavours and good structure. ‘Beautiful – savoury, plum pudding and dried spices,’ said Team Leader Susanna Forbes. ‘Impeccable, elegant, harmonious and classy,’ said Ivan Dixon.

Ca’ Marcanda, Magari 2006, gaja, Tuscany, Italy
£22.50 @ Armit
SWA 2011 Gold List Vibrant and fresh on the nose with black pepper and dark, dried berries. Spice and liquorice show on the medium-bodied palate, with nice dark red fruits and an abundance of grippy tannins. Still a touch young, this is dry and peppery on the finish. ‘Violet notes, a silky feel and good length,’ said Charlotte Jonasson.

Fossacolle brunello di Montalcino 2006, Tuscany, Italy
£25.63 @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List Savoury and smoky on a somewhat subdued nose, this opens nicely on the palate to show good fruit character with plenty of dense, structured tannins and a pleasing peppery edge. ‘Good integration despite its high tannins,’ said Charlotte Jonasson. Bitter chocolate and other savoury notes – needs time,’ said Kyri Sotiri.

poggio al tesoro, W Dedicato A Walter Cabernet Franc 2007, Tuscany, Italy
£31.38 @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List Nuts, prunes, dates, baked fruit, spice and herbs – no wonder this complex beauty impressed one and all. Along with its ripe, firm tannins and long finish, ‘there’s a good structure with lots of rich fruits,’ said Laura Rhys MS. ‘It is both elegant and youthful,’ said an impressed Philippe Loiseau, Hakkasan.

SILVER

1489 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007, baroncini, Tuscany, Italy
£6.34 @ Boutinot
Tradition sings out with this nicely balanced, fresh, sour, cherry-driven Tuscan with gently grippy tannins. ‘A little herbaceous on the nose with pronounced oak on a dry palate,’ said Sergio Benito. ‘Easy to drink.’

Villa Antinori Rosso, Toscana IGT 2007, Tuscany, Italy
£10.73 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Dark fruits with a raspberry/plum tang, this has chewy but ripe tannins, meaty flavours, a touch of liquorice and mint, and fresh acidity. ‘A touch on the savoury side, this wine needs food,’ said Team Leader Peter McCombie MW.

Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni 2008, Tuscany, Italy
£13.37 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Coffee, oak, cherry and red fruit – there’s plenty going on on the nose and this continues
through to a fleshy, firm-tannined palate with slight baked notes alongside oak-inspired spices. ‘Rich and a little silky,’ said Rhys Griffiths.

Lucente 2008, Luce della Vite, Tuscany, Italy
£18.69 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Packed with bramble and damson fruit, the tannins here are still a touch tight and toothsome but it will be worth the wait. ‘Young but very good,’ said Team Leader Caspar Auchterlonie.

Ghiaie della Furba 2007, Capezzana, Tuscany, Italy
£22.17 @ Liberty Wines
With plenty of new oak alongside dense fruit, chewy tannins and spices, this has a polished international feel to it. ‘Good freshness to the dark fruits and a herbaceous charaacter,’ noted Laura Rhys MS. ‘Good concentration and length but needs time,’ said Natasha Hughes.

Palazzo Comunale Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Tuscany, Italy
£22.97 @ Liberty Wines
Elegant, traditional and complex, this has savoury, leather notes alongside nuts and hints of prunes on the nose, while the palate is fresh and mature, with a good structure and lengthy finish. ‘Lots of oak and tannins but enough concentration to balance,’ said Natasha Hughes.

BRONZE

Frescobaldi Remole 2009, Tuscany, Italy
£7.14 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Plenty of juicy plums on this well-balanced wine, with a fresh but firm palate and good rounded tannins. Rhys Griffiths noted a ‘little sweetness on the finish’.

Banfi Centine Rosso 2008, Tuscany, Italy
£8.28 @ Bibendum
With lovely, soft raspberry fruit flavours, this offers hints of smoky chocolate and a spicy finish. ‘Modern, bright and fruit-driven,’ said Ivan Dixon. ‘Commercial and well made.’

Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso, Il Bruciato 2007, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
£13.23 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Complex nose with prunes, cherries and savoury notes, this is a big wine that will probably evolve further with time. Firm, dry tannins alongside good balanced acidity and a long finish.

Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 2007, Tuscany, Italy
£15.07 @ Liberty Wines
A brooding number with intense oak and cassis on the nose, grippy tannins, fresh acidity plus complex flavours of oak, blueberry and hints of liquorice. ‘Great for venison,’ said Hakkasan’s Philippe Loiseau.

Belpoggio Rosso di Montalcino 2007, Tuscany, Italy
£15.17 @ Sommelier’s Friend
Powerful and impressive, this has a fine, structured palate, full of dark berries and spices. Well balanced, needs decanting to open up on the nose.

Ripa delle More 2008, Tuscany, Italy
£17.60 @ Hallgarten Druitt
A blockbuster, with a complex bouquet of cherry and vanilla, dark fruit flavours plus spice, chocolate, vanilla and sweet tannins from the well-integrated oak. ‘Lovely,’ commented Michael Harrison.

Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Tuscany, Italy
£20.94 @ Boutinot
Ruby/garnet in colour, this has steely red fruits on the nose, and baked fruit – red berries and confit – with earthy, grippy tannins and a peppery finish on the palate.

Pinino Brunello di Montalcino 2004, Tuscany, Italy
£24.28 @ Vinum
Exotic spices and dark fruit on the nose, the palate is dominated by its tannins but the pleasant minerality peeks through. ‘Perfect but youthful,’ said Susanna Forbes.

“I was looking for good fruit and a savoury character, and I found it. Overall, they were lovely. ” Michael Sharpe, Sycamore House


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