Posts Tagged ‘La Fuga’
September’s BBC2 was a postponed celebration of a birthday – and the custom is that the birthday girl gets to choose the theme which in this case was Sangiovese. The likelihood, therefore, was there would be quite a lot of Tuscan, or at least, central Italian wines. The questions for a blind tasting might be:
- would be able to spot any non-Italian wines?
- would there be clear stylistic differences between the Tuscan zones: Chianti Classico, Montalcino, others?
- how does Sangiovese age in the bottle?
- how does Sangiovese compare in quality to other fine wines?
The wines were sorted by one of our members and served in two main flights, with two outriders. What did we learn from a blind tasting of 11 bottles?
As a joker, I brought a Sangiovese di Romagna, Palastri, 2010. This wine cost £4.65 (on special offer but a real price in Sainsburys) and was probably the cheapest wine ever brought to the BBC. It showed simple, sour cherry and red plum fruit, moderate if present tannins and acidity but was perfectly drinkable and showed some regional character. The trick is to have ripe enough fruit to give some real fruit character, moderate acidity and ripe tannins and then to keep it on its skins for just long enough to extract a good colour but not those powerful tannins for which this variety is famous. This wine is a a tribute to the versatility of the Sangiovese grape and to clean, accurate, modern winemaking. It is also an important representative of the inexpensive wines which make Sangiovese the most planted of all Italian grape varieties, 10% of all area under vine in Italy is Sangiovese, from the Veneto down to Puglia.
After this start, six wines were presented which were deemed to have something in common – not least that they were made with Sangiovese as the major grape variety. Blends were allowed as after all most Tuscan DOCs are blends.
Lesson 2. It is surprisingly difficult to spot the non-Italians (especially if they are 10+ years old)
There was a pretty wide consensus that the first of these six was not from central Italy – and we were right. Secondly, we thought that wine number 4 was not like the others – but we were wrong to think it was non-Tuscan. Nor did we spot that wine 2 was the other non-Tuscan. Wine 1 was in fact Hannibal, Bouchard Finlayson, Walker Bay, South Africa, 2002. It just about qualifies for this field as there is more of the nominated
Lesson 3. It is also challenging to spot the classic Tuscan regions from other well made wines!
The remaining four of the six were all Tuscan and as it turned out two were Chianti Classico and two were not. As least we noticed that wine number 4 was different, though we had it in the new world rather than in southerly Tuscan Scansano. This is right as the Maremma is Tuscany’s new world – warmer and less constrained by rules. L’Arcille, Poggio Trevvalle, Morellino di Scansano Riserva, 2007 was a high quality wine already developing attractive forest floor notes on the nose, while the palate was dense with modern clean fruit and lower acidity than some – warmer climate than Chianti if with some altitude. The other non-Chianti was from northern Tuscany. Tenuta di Valgiano, Palistorti, Colline Lucchese, 2007 had lively acidity and tannin, and was quite rich on the nose and palate (tasted after the older Washingtonian), with old oak notes. This flight finished with two more mainstream wines – La Prima, Castello Vicchiomaggio, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2001 and Rancia, Félsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva, 1999. Although there was a step up in intensity to La Prima, it was surprisingly light in body, even sleek, but not with the impact that you might expect from a big name. The Berardenga was all that you might expect in terms of tertiary iodine and savoury, meaty notes with surprisingly high tannins which on this showing may never soften!
4. Brunello di Montalcino shows its class
The final flight was three wines, a Rosso and two Brunello from the Montalcino appellation. We did not taste these in the same flight as the preceding six but there was a marked step up in complexity and in class. The Rosso (less ageing requirement) stood up well in this company: San Polo, Rosso di Montalcino, 2007 had a slightly medicinal nose with fine Sangiovese fruit to follow, in a classic austere style. The second of these three was hailed as the wine of the evening: La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino, 2001 with some restraint on the nose and then a fabulously long and succulent palate – those famous tannins have been softened and elongated by a decade of ageing, some of it in large, neutral oak barrels. A rich quite modern style but a wonderful wine. As a good contrast, the final dry wine was from one of the stars of this appellation which has so many fine, small estates alongside the big boys: Podere Salicutti, Brunello di Montalcino, 1998. This again was in the classic austere style with classy sour red cherry and dried fruit prominent and that big tannic/acidic structure now well rounded out. On a personal note I was delighted that this was good, not least as I had taken the chance to buy a whole 12-bottle case of this mature Brunello (with a couple of others at this tasting) and this was the first bottle broached by me – or them! No pressure then. For a full profile of Francesco Leanza’s commitment to producing great Brunello, see my piece here.
5. Vin Santo made from Sangiovese is a rare treat
The final wine of this splendid evening was by courtesy of Laura Perini whose very specialised estate Janet and I visited in the summer on a day of visits near the picturesque tourist resort and port of Castiglione della Pescaia. Laura kindly sent us a bottle for this tasting. Vin Santo is normally white, a good use for the acidity-retaining Trebbiano grape, but occasionally red versions are made by the same method of semi-drying the grapes before pressing and then ageing in wood. The class of wine is given the name Occhio di Pernice, pheasant’s eye, which no doubt helps when selling it as normally it is expensive (as all quality Vin Santo should be given the production difficulties). Sestosenso, DOC Vin Santo Montereggio di Massa Marittima, is a simple, delicious example. Moderately aromatic, in the glass it developed chocolate and coffee notes (presumably oak derived) to go with the red fruit of Sangiovese.
While I need no persuading of the merits of Sangiovese as a grape variety and Janet is a self-styled Sangiovista, this was an excellent introduction to the quality and ageing potential of central Italy’s most important grape variety. Most important areas were present, even if we missed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the wines of the Marche and the Sangiovese-based Super Tuscans, eg Tignanello. The wines here were of a very high quality, earthy, savoury and structured. The non-Italian examples were surprisingly good given Sangiovese’s reputation for not being much of a traveller. Given Italian love of sparkling wine somebody will be make a sparkling version … no shortage of acidity, not overly fruity, controlling the tannins will be the thing, so perhaps a blanc de noir is the next big thing!
And on the subject of sparkling wines, as an aperitif we also had a superb complex Cava, reputedly among the best: Kripta, Cavas Agustí Torelló, Cava Brut Nature, Gran Reserva, 2002, with powerful autolytic notes that would give many top Champagnes a run for their money. Great bottle shape too – obviously you will have a sommelier on hand to hold the bottle for you. Thanks to all who contributed the wines to make this such a special tasting.
The Overton BBC (bring a bottle club) has a cheerfully random air about it. This is particularly the case with ‘BBC1’. As the idea is to taste the wines blind, there is no plan about who will bring what. Usually this works absolutely fine and often some fascinating themes emerge. By chance three people will bring bottles from a single Burgundy village or there will be a couple of wines from the same vintage and comparisons can be made.
October’s meeting was a bit unusual. There were more people present than in recent months with a resulting 14 bottles to taste and, of these, one was a sweet wine, no fewer than 11 were red, with just one white and, unusually, a rosé. With all the benefits of hindsight we had a fair selection of the important red wines of the world with the following areas being represented:
- Burgundy – Savigny, Volnay,
- Languedoc – Corbières
- Tuscany – Chianti Classico, Montalcino
- Spain – Rioja
- Lebanon – Bekaa Valley
- South Africa – Swartland
- Australia – McLaren Vale
- mandatory off-piste region: Morocco!
We will make up for the missing Bordeaux in a themed tasting next month and no doubt California will get its chance to shine sooner or later. Let’s deal first with the white and the rosé minorities. The white had people fairly foxed – warm climate certainly but then Southern France, Spain and Italy were all canvassed. In fact it was La Forge Vineyard, Paul Mas Estate, Languedoc, 2010: bright citrus fruit, light oak notes, fullish in body, with a creamy texture. A good start, followed a bit later by an outstanding rosé, and you can’t often say that: pale salmon pink in colour, attractive strawberry notes, outstanding freshness, just a hint of leafiness. To add to the pleasure, this wine was bought at the winery by one of our members who had visited it recently, Ch. de Pibarnon, AC Bandol 2010. The reputation of Provence for top rosé from high inland sites continues.
To bring some order to the evening, here are the two red Burgundies together, both slightly surprising in their own way. First up was Savigny-les-Beaune ‘Les Talmettes’ Premier Cru, Domaine Chenu, 2007, a pale ruby; most guessed straight away it was Pinot Noir and some were in Burgundy. Quite savoury on the palate, but rather leathery and not really fresh – the relatively poor 2007 vintage has aged very fast. By contrast 2001 seemed quite spirity and hot, some good savoury fruit, a good depth of flavour if a bit rustic. This turned out to be Volnay AC, Nichoas Potel from 2001.
La Tour, Chateau Grand Moulin, Jean Noel Bousquet 2009 moved us to a hotter climate, with its rich, plummy and forward fruit, dense and compact on the palate, with medium length. 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 20% Grenache.
On a roughly similar latitude, we move to our Tuscan trio, starting with a 100% cru Sangiovese, Reciso IGT Toscana 2006, created by Pietro Beconcini by massal selection from old vines present on his family estate, grown on soil rich in fossils and white clay. It is made a in a very traditional way: fermentation in cement vats, using indigenous yeasts, five weeks of skin contact and 18-24 months of ageing in a mixture of French tonneaux and large Slavonian oak barrels. It has a richness in the fruit which is not typical of more classic, austere Sangiovese. Rancia, Beradenga, Chianti Classico riserva 1999 led with coal dust, tar, some sweet leathery and floral notes which had some of our number thinking this was Barolo, if without the imposing tannic structure. There was no shortage of tannins in the third example, Tenuta La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino riserva, 1995. Dusty, tea leaves and herbs on the nose, some fruitiness still, lively, mildly aggressive tannins.
The Tuscan wines can be followed by Mediterranean West and East – better known as Spain and Lebanon. Contino Rioja Reserva 2007 was much appreciated by people, even if only one person got close to identifying it. Some smoke, liquorice and quite a lot of vanilla on the nose points to American oak in combination with French oak, with fruit from a single vineyard of 66 hectares. Very good depth of flavour – though some thought not enough for a Reserva quality – perfume, good acidity, highly drinkable and elegant. At the other end of the Med is to be found Massaya Gold, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2000, a fascinating blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Mourvèdre and10% Syrah. Plums and raisins and orange peel on the nose, very good density of fruit, persistent tannins – with all that Mourvèdre.
From one of the oldest civilisations of the old world to the so-called new world of South Africa and Australia. A.A. Badenhorst’s Family Red, South Africa, 2007 is a Rhone blend: Shiraz (80%), Mourvèdre (10%) , Cinsault or Cape Hermitage (7%) and Grenache (3%). Heavy weight, deep flavoured with high tannins – we claimed that they there was 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Mataro, but at that stage we thought we were in Australia! Actually in Australia, Willunga 100 Shiraz Viognier 2007 also takes its inspiration from the Rhone, if on this occasion further north: 97% Shiraz with 3% Viognier which is co-fermented with the red grapes. Good fruit, cool climate in style with a slightly flat middle. Perfumed with some nice softness.
Every blind tasting needs a somewhat unusual bottle: Domaine de Mayole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2007 Beni M’Tir, Meknes, Morocco fitted the bill. A 60/40 blend, it had sweet plumy fruit, some of it perhaps a bit stewed, with lots of mouth-filling glycerol, and rather drying tannins. However, no ‘essence of rubber’ as some one remarked!
A sweet and rich conclusion to the evening. Following our excellent ‘every style of Sherry except Fino’ evening of a few weeks ago, we enjoyed this moderately luscious, coffee, liquorice and walnut scented Moscatel from Lustau, 2007. A few more white wines next time? I expect so, but it is northern Italy so we will see.