After the excitements of the Lea & Sandeman tasting (see previous post), more of the biggest names in Italian wine were on show at Armit’s ‘Blooming Lovely’ Spring tasting. Certainly, they had the day for it, London being bathed in brilliant northern sunshine with temperatures higher than currently in Tuscany or even Southern Italy – briefly.
And the wines? Certainly, there was no shortage of big names, from Italy and elsewhere – the 2008 vintage from the two Super Tuscan giants, Sassicaia and Ornellaia; wonderful Rioja from La Rioja Alta, and many more. Bruno Giacosa is a huge name in Italy but not as well known here. On this occasion, Giacosa’s very good varietal wines – Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo – were shown, wines you can actually afford to drink, not just collect. But the family who put this area on the map was certainly very well represented: Gaja, with wines from his three estates, Barbaresco of course, but then also his two Tuscan estates: Pieve di Santa Restituta in Montalcino and the second and third wines from Ca’Marcanda in coastal Bolgheri. So I could have written about the Super Tuscan aristocracy, Sassicaia versus Ornellaia versus Gaja in Bolgheri … riches indeed.
I have written previously in much more detail about Gaja in general and his Bolgheri wines in particular. Here I want to concentrate on the single vineyard wine, Sorì Tildìn, from the family’s home area of Barbaresco, Piemonte. The label is classic Gaja – the family name, effectively the brand name is in big bold type, then the focus is on the vineyard name. Gaja eschews the Barbaresco DOCG classification, in favour of the simple Langhe Rosso; the message is, this is a bottle of Gaja wine, that’s all that matters. The style of the wine itself is highly characteristic – subtle and sophisticated, nothing remotely rustic or edgy, the perfect wine for the luxury worldwide market. Sorì Tildìn 2007 opens up with a beautiful combination of mature fruit, cherry and plums, seamlessly knit together with the cinnamon, smoke and mushrooms of presumably old oak. On the palate, the mushroom notes are very evident, along with the refined fruit, a great depth of flavour and with the fine and abundant tannins which will give this a very long life, if you can resist the temptation to drink it. The overall impression now is elegance, finesse, if you will.
There is a catch of course – the price. A pre-VAT trade price of £150 a bottle is going to translate to £220+ retail. So, unless the price does not matter to you or indeed makes the product more desirable, you are going to start to think about the price in relation to the quality. For a third of that price, you could enjoy Gaja’s Super Tuscan Ca’Marcanda, but, good though that is, you might want something more authentically Italian. If it was my money, I would spend it on his Brunello (either Sugarille or Rennina, both around the £70 mark) which is the same price as the Super Tuscan. Interestingly, although the flavour profile of the grape is different, the sleek style is similar, no doubt a tribute to the Gaja approach and the practice of chief winemaker, Guido Rivella. So, the Gaja brand and quality in a Tuscan style for a fraction of the price of the Piemontese wine. Very refined drinking!
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