Vintage Tuscan Classics

I was in Tuscany a couple of years ago and started to fall in love with Italian wines.  The below wines were tasted at The Sampler during my recent visit and this was a great chance to reminisce. I have been pining for mature Italian wines ever since but they are hard to get hold of without spending some serious money.  Being able to taste these for a reasonable price is wonderful.  Check out the main article for a review of The Sampler. One of these wines was already reviewed on the blog by my fellow author but I couldn’t resist commenting too.

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Castello Di Ama, Vignetto Bellavista, Chianti Classico, 1995

When visiting Tuscany a few years ago Castello Di Ama’s Ama Chianti Classico was one of my favourites.  Unfortunately the prices for Castello Di Ama are pretty high in the UK so I have not got round to tasting any since.  This was the first time I have tasted a wine from the Gran Selezione single vineyard range, or a Chianti Classico with this much age.  Unfortunately we tasted this as an afterthought following the Hermitage when it should certainly have been tasted before. This was delicate and aromatic with predominant red fruit and some residual tannin.  This is a complex wine that deserves the time to be enjoyed – my only note written at the time was “Delicious – I would like to sit down with a bottle of this!”

Antinori, Tiganello, Tuscany 1989

I have previously tried Tiganello in its youth whilst visiting Tuscany.  It was a treat to revisit it at the other end of its progression.  In youth this is tightly wound, highly tannic, with only a hint of the underlying aromatics and complexity showing.  At 27 it is the colour of chocolate with a hint of oxidation on the nose but an incredible depth and intensity. There were floral notes, a sense of a dusty cellar and the fruit breaking down.  This retained high acidity with perfect poise. There was some minerality (iron) notes complimenting the lengthy finish.  This was a wine towards the end of its life but it is in a very graceful state at present. I’d love to try this around 20 years of age.  Score 93/100.

An Italian Heavyweight

When I think of Italy, I think of Rome. When I think of Rome, I think of Romans. When I think of Romans, I think of Wine.

Pliny the Elder was an important source of Roman writing on wine. In his encyclopaedia: Naturalis Historia, he includes a ranking of several ‘first growths’ of the time. If he were to be re-incarnated and update his book (published between 77-79AD), I am certain that Castello di Ama’s vineyard, Bellavista, would be included.

Castello di Ama is one of Tuscany’s most famous estates, producing a well renowned and good value Chianti Classico. However, if you want to try some truly spectacular, try the Vigneto Bellavista. This is a single-vineyard wine consisting of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Malvasia Nera. It is only made in exceptional years, with 1995 being one of them. Back in 2012, Antonio Galloni (then at Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate), gave this wine 96 points. So, with the purely educational intention of understanding what a ’96 point wine’ would taste like, I have it a try.

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Castello di Ama, Vigneto Bellavista, 1995

Wonderful concentration in colour even now, after 20 years. Exuberant nose of kirsch and strawberry. Amazing that the fruit still dominates at this age. Opulent mouth-feel, but beautifully balanced; I could drink this all day. There isn’t too much of anything: the fruit isn’t jammy, the minerality doesn’t numb your mouth, the acidity brings balance without electrocuting you. There are some hints of sweet shisha tobacco and some herbal elements. This is a brilliant wine and one that justifies its price tag. 94 points (BP- The Sampler, South Kensington).

Learning Point: I should be a famous critic (Antonio Galloni tasted a vertical from this vineyard).