Poggio Antico (Ancient Hill), the highest vineyard in the brunello region (Photograph provided)
It is the story of a class of wines that did not exist before the late 1960s and, to underscore their appeal and quality, I will share a somewhat embarrassing occasion.
A reader of this column recently invited me to attend a wine tasting at his home with some of his friends. I didn’t know anyone there, nor did I know the tasting would be blind. I had no idea what a white could be and cautiously suggested a rare native varietal 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 declared it to be expensive. Our host showed me the bottle – no French grapes, no French varietals and a young 2018 vintage. Well, I understood the price correctly, because it was much more expensive than any wine I will describe today.
Once home, I searched the internet for the wine and saw that this sangiovese-based “Super Tuscan” scored 100 points. So attribute it to another instance where perfection and sheer beauty caused my mind to give up rational thinking! At least in one case, these settings resulted in a new path in my life that is more than I could have asked for.
In 1972, Italian wine laws only allowed 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 grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and they only wanted to use red grapes in their red wines. Wines like this began to enter the market, but they had to be modestly labeled “vino da tavola”, or table wine.
Finally, in 1992, the government realized their fine quality and created a new designation called “Indicazione Geografica Tipica”, or IGT.
In 1972, San Felice launched Vigorello, a 100% Sangiovese (no white grapes) from the 1968 vintage, and it was the first wine from the Chianti region to take this bold step. In 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were added to this Super Tuscan, as they are now called. We currently have stock of 2017 San Felice Vigorello, which is a dense, garnet-speckled ruby that displays a rich blend of red currant, sweet spice and pungent undergrowth. Flavors are rich and warm with expressive tannins and sweet vanilla notes. The blend is 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 35% Pugnitello.
The story I was told is that the Pugnitello grape was saved when there was only one ancient vine, and San Felice, at the forefront of native vine studies, saved it. and propagated.
Critic Vinous says, “The 2017 Vigorello is one of the most compelling wines in this range. It offers a lot of intensity, with more freshness and better balance than other wines today. Black cherry, mocha, leather, spices and lavender form a voluptuous and powerful blend that combines pugnitello with Bordeaux varieties. $59 (#8957).
Biologically produced Volpaia Balifico Castle 2018 comes close to perfection with 96 Vinous points and this description: “The 2018 Balifico, Volpaia’s Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, is fabulous. Rich and inky, the 2018 offers a compelling blend of dark berries, dark spice, licorice and espresso. I particularly admire the textural richness of the wine. In this tasting, it was a total knockout. $69 (#8967).
Our Monte Antico Supremus 2016 comes from prime historic wine sites in Tuscany and is orchestrated by Neil Empson and Franco Bernabei, who bring over 30 years of research and experience to the region. Its very intense and persistent bouquet of violets, cherries and red fruits shows subtle and elegant notes of vanilla and toasted wood, mineral undertones and hints of leather, chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon. Sangiovese dominates at 75% and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make up the rest.
James Suckling is of the opinion: “Very deep purple with ample purple reflections. Extremely intense and persistent bouquet with elegant nuances of violet, red berries, cherry and toasted vanilla as well as balsamic, leathery and mineral notes and hints of chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon. 95/100. $27 (#9052). The very well made regular 2018 Monte Antico is a wonderful “best buy” at only $19 (#9055).
Breastfeeding also appreciates the Poggio Antico Lemartine 2018 that he feels like this: “Lots of aromas and flavors of ripe cherry and raspberry. It’s full-bodied and layered with ripe tannins and a savory finish. Just a hint of austerity at the end gives it interest. Blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Drink or hold back. $49 (Stock No. 9078).
The 2018 Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi Maremma Tuscany comes from an area of the Tuscan coast that lies outside of the Chianti region, and some fine wines originate there. For example, James Suckling gives Saffredi 97 for a score, writing: “A fantastic nose with notes of cassis, sage, rosemary and rose petal. Sweet tobacco and spicy chocolate too. Very complex. The palate shows a nice depth of fruit with blackberries, cassis and fine tannins. It is racy and refined with a direct and precise palate. Just a baby.
He collects 96 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and this: “The 2018 Saffredi Fattoria le Pupille borrows quite a bit from all the grape varieties that make up the blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot). These balanced results open on a round bouquet of black fruits, black cherry and plum. As the wine warms in the glass, it shows spices, cured tobacco and campfire embers. It is a full-bodied expression, but without excess. $125 (#9203).
• This column is an infomercial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm