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Be wary of perfection

Poggio Antico (Ancient Hill), the highest vineyard in the brunello area (Photograph supplied)

This is a story about a class of wines that did not exist until the late 1960s and, to emphasise their appeal and quality, I will share a somewhat embarrassing occasion.

A reader of this column quite recently invited me to attend a wine tasting in their home with a few of their friends. I knew no one there, and also was unaware that the tasting would be blind. I did not have a clue to what one white might be, and cautiously suggested a rare indigenous grape from Northern Italy. It was Greek.

A red was poured and, without hesitation, I identified it as a great, classified Bordeaux, from a great vintage, probably 2009 or 2010, and finally stated that it was expensive. Our host showed me the bottle — not French, not French varietal grapes and a young 2018 vintage. Well, I got the price thing correct as it was far more expensive than any wine that I will describe today.

Once home, I looked the wine up on the internet and saw that this sangiovese-based “Super Tuscan” had scored 100 points. So, chalk it up to another instance when perfection and sheer beauty caused my mind to abandon reasonable thought! At least in one instance these parameters resulted in a new path in my life that is more than I could have asked for.

Back in 1972, the Italian wine laws only allowed for Italian grapes such as nebbiolo (barolo) and sangiovese (chianti), and if you wanted to call a wine chianti, you had to add white grapes to the mix. A few producers wanted to use French varietals such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and they only wanted to use red grapes in their red wines. Wines like this started to enter the market, but they had to be labelled lowly “vino da tavola”, or table wine.

Finally, in 1992, the Government realised their lovely quality and created a new designation called “Indicazione Geografica Tipica”, or IGT.

In 1972, San Felice released Vigorello, a 100 per cent sangiovese (no white grapes) from the 1968 vintage, and it was the first wine from the Chianti region to take this bold step. By 2001 some cabernet sauvignon and merlot had been added to this Super Tuscan, as they are now known. We presently have stocks of 2017 San Felice Vigorello, which is a dense garnet-flecked ruby that displays a rich mix of red currant, sweet spice and pungent underbrush. The flavours are rich and warm with expressive tannins and smooth hints of vanilla. The blend is 30 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 30 per cent merlot, 5 per cent petit verdot and 35 per cent pugnitello.

The story that I was told is that the pugnitello grape was rescued when only a single ancient vine existed, and San Felice, at the forefront of indigenous grape vine studies, has rescued and propagated it.

The critic Vinous says: “2017 Vigorello is one of the most compelling wines in this range. It offers plenty of intensity, with more freshness and better balance than the other wines today. Black cherry, mocha, leather, spice and lavender build in a voluptuous, powerful blend that combines pugnitello with bordeaux varieties.” $59 (Stock #8957).

Organically produced 2018 Castello di Volpaia Balifico nears perfection with 96 points from Vinous and this description: “2018 Balifico, Volpaia’s sangiovese/cabernet sauvignon blend, is fabulous. Rich and inky, the 2018 offers up a compelling mélange of dark berry fruit, dark spice, liquorice and espresso. I especially admire the wine’s textural richness. In this tasting it was a total knockout.” $69 (Stock #8967).

Our 2016 Monte Antico Supremus comes from choice, historical vineyard sites in Tuscany and it is orchestrated by Neil Empson and Franco Bernabei, who bring to bear more than 30 years’ research and experience in the region. Its very intense, persistent bouquet of violets, cherries and red berry fruit shows subtle, elegant notes of vanilla and toasted wood, minerally nuances and hints of leather, chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon. Sangiovese dominates at 75 per cent and cabernet sauvignon and merlot make up the rest.

James Suckling opines: “Very deep crimson with ample purple reflections. Extremely intense, persistent bouquet showing elegant nuances of violets, red berries, cherry and toasted vanilla as well as balsamic, leather and mineral notes and hints of chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon. 95/100.” $27 (Stock #9052). The very well-made regular 2018 Monte Antico is a wonderful “best buy” at only $19 (Stock #9055).

Suckling also appreciates the 2018 Poggio Antico Lemartine that he feels this way about: “Lots of ripe cherry and raspberry aromas and flavours. It’s full and layered with ripe tannins and a flavourful finish. Just a hint of austerity at the end gives it interest. A blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Drink or hold.” $49 (Stock #9078).

The 2018 Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi Maremma Toscana is from an area on the coast of Tuscany that is out of the Chianti region, and some beautiful wines are originating there. For instance, James Suckling gives Saffredi 97 for a score as he writes: “A fantastic nose to this with currant, sage, rosemary and rose-petal character. Sweet tobacco and spicy chocolate, too. Very complex. The palate shows lovely depth of fruit with blackberries, blackcurrants and fine tannins. It’s racy and refined with a direct, focused palate. Just a baby.”

It garners 96 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and this: “The Fattoria le Pupille 2018 Saffredi borrows quite a bit from all of the grapes that make up the blend (cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot). These balanced results open to a round bouquet of dark fruit, black cherry and plum. As the wine warms in the glass, it shows spice, cured tobacco and campfire embers. This is a full-bodied expression, but not excessively so.” $125 (Stock #9203).

• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published November 04, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated November 03, 2022 at 4:50 pm)

Be wary of perfection

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