Sangiovese in 5 Tuscan regions and … Corsica

I recently had the opportunity to taste six Sangiovese wines in very good circumstances. They were mostly high quality examples, bought from reputable merchants and stored in good conditions.  They all came from the excellent 2010 vintage, so vintage variation was taken out of the equation.  The aim was to see whether I and a group of experienced tasters could tell which were 100% varietal wines and which were blends and, for a bit of fun, whether we could spot the regions they came from.  They were not an entirely ideal selection – one was from Corsica (not really on people’s radar) and there was no example from cooler Chianti Rufina – but still pretty good. 

The wines were much appreciated in general for their savoury breadth and herb-scented red fruit.  I knew what the wines were but others found them difficult to place, which was rather surprising.  However, many of the wines really did not perform to the quality standard that you would expect from the label. I have tasted much better examples of Poggio Valente, Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG from Fattoria Le Pupille. The single vineyard, Vigna d’Alfiero, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Valdipiatta with rather baked fruit did not stand out from the crowd. Even Villa di Capezzana, Carmignano DOCG, 14%, usually a striking wine in which the 20% Cabernet Sauvignon adds a certain weight to Sangiovese, did not show its aristocratic bones.  Acino d’Oro, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Casa Bottega from the outstanding village of Radda was distinctly average. If anything the cheapest wine in the tasting,  Clos Alivu, Patrimonio AC, 100% Niellucio (i.e. Sangiovese), from Corsica seemed as good quality as many of these Tuscan stars.  So in many ways this was a disappointing tasting. 

But there was one exception: take a bow, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Il Colle.  This wine soared above all the competition.  Elegant and powerful at the same time, it showed wonderful Sangiovese purity in its sour cherry to red plum fruit, lifted perfume, refined if weighty tannic structure and thrilling acidity.  This one bottle was enough to restore faith in the potential greatness of central Italy’s most esteemed variety.

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