Tag Archives: Sangiovese

Tasting Notes from the Benvenuto Brunello 2015, NYC Event

Consorzio Brunello di MontalcinoLast week I had the opportunity to attend the Benvenuto Brunello USA 2015 event which was organized and sponsored by the Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium at the gorgeous location of Gotham Hall in New York City in order to unveil to the press and trade the 2010 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino wines made by 44 selected producers.

I definitely enjoyed attending the event and the related seminar about Montalcino and its exceptional 2010 vintage, despite a few problems marring the seminar – namely:

  1. The organizers failing to give preferential seating to those who had pre-registered (what is the point of pre-registering then?)
  2. The seminar starting 30 minutes late because of technical difficulties setting up the slideshow (setting it up ahead of time, perhaps?…)
  3. The seminar taking place on an open space overlooking the hall where the main walk around tasting was underway, which resulted in considerable background noise making it difficult for seminar attendees to listen to the speakers.

A Few Words About Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Benvenuto Brunello 2015 at Gotham Hall, NYC

Brunello di Montalcino is a very well-known, quality red wine made in Italy’s Tuscany region based on strict rules set forth in the regulations of the homonymous DOCG appellation. Brunello di Montalcino was established as a DOC appellation in 1966 and was upgraded to DOCG status in 1980.

Pursuant to the DOCG regulations, Brunello di Montalcino wines must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in the area of the town of Montalcino (in the Siena district) and must have a minimum aging of 24 months in oak barrels (72 months for Riserva wines) and 4 additional months of in bottle aging (6 months for Riserva wines). Nowadays, there are about 5,000 acres of Brunello di Montalcino vineyards.

For more information about Sangiovese, please check out our Grape Variety Archive

My Tasting Notes from the Seminar and the Walk Around Tasting

Without further ado, let’s move on to my tasting notes of my personal top ten Brunello’s among those that I tasted at the event (here is an explanation of our Rating System) – note that, of course, all these wines are very young and would all improve if tasted after a few years of cellaring:

1. Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: in a nutshell, outstanding to spectacular – best in show to me. Garnet and viscous in the glass, with an intense and exciting bouquet of cherry, cigar box, potpourri, cocoa, licorice, ground coffee and hints of barnyard. When tasted, it displayed a powerful mouthfeel suggesting high ABV and nice smoothness, counterbalanced by a lively acidity and slightly astringent, muscular tannins. The mouth flavors were intense and refined, reminiscent of cherry, coffee and extra dark chocolate (think like an 85% cocoa). A wine that, despite its very young age, is already so coherent, balanced and elegant – one can only imagine how wonderful it may become after a few more years of judicious cellaring. Rating: Outstanding+ Outstanding

2. Le Macioche, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: outstanding wine, with a very interesting and intense bouquet of wild red berries, cherry, nettle, mint, soil and mineral hints (granite?) and a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel with already supple tannins and intense flavors of mint, black cherry and licorice. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

3. Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino “Ugolaia” DOCG 2009: an outstanding single vineyard Brunello, with intense and pleasant aromas of tart cherry, leather, underbrush, moss, tobacco and barnyard notes, coupled with intense mouth flavors of cherry, licorice and chocolate and a long finish. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Benvenuto Brunello 2015 at Gotham Hall, NYC4. La Poderina, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good, with an intense and moderately complex bouquet of cherry, red currant, leather and chocolate, as well as intense mouth flavors of cherry, raspberry, vanilla and chocolate, complementing a smooth mouthfeel with well controlled tannins and a long finish. Very enjoyable and expressive. Rating: Very Good Very Good

5. Val di Suga, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good and bold, with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, red fruit candy, roses in bloom, black pepper and slight hints of enamel, along with a powerful mouthfeel and young, astringent tannins ending in a slightly bitter note, with intense flavors of cherry, licorice, coffee and quinine, and a long finish. Rating: Very Good Very Good

6. Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good, with intense aromas of cranberry, violet, underbrush, black pepper and barnyard notes, and a powerful mouthfeel underscoring a high ABV and noticeable yet well controlled tannins, complemented by intense flavors of cherry, coffee and rhubarb. Rating: Very Good Very Good 

7. Banfi, Brunello di Montalcino “Poggio alle Mura” DOCG 2010: a solid Brunello made from a clonal selection of Banfi’s Sangiovese grapes with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, strawberry, tobacco and barnyard notes, complementing a pleasing, smooth mouthfeel with supple tannins and intense flavors cherry, chocolate and dark coffee. Still very young. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

8. Argiano, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: good to very good, with intense, moderately complex aromas slightly veered to the tertiaries, reminiscent of ground coffee, cocoa, cherry and tobacco, along with a smooth mouthfeel delivering intense flavors of cherry and licorice, and a long finish. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

9. Il Marroneto, Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna delle Grazie” DOCG 2010: a good, solid Brunello, with moderately intense aromas of ripe cherry, licorice, wet soil and coffee, as well as intense a smooth mouth flavors of cherry, dark chocolate and juniper, and a long finish. Very good despite the bouquet lacking a bit in intensity – its great mouthfeel makes up for it. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good 

10. Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: good to very good, with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, cocoa, ground coffee, cigar box and camphor notes, and a smooth mouthfeel with supple tannins and intense flavors of cherry, dark chocolate, licorice, coffee and peppery notes. Good, still very young – needs time to become fully coherent. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good 

In wrapping things up with my account of the Benvenuto Brunello 2015 event, I want to add my tasting notes of an interesting sweet white wine that I got to taste at the Banfi stand:

Banfi, Moscadello di Montalcino Late Harvest “Florus” DOC 2012: this is a very interesting sweet white wine made in the Montalcino area from 100% Moscadello (or Moscato Bianco) grapes, that I had never tasted before. The one I tried was good to very good, with an intense and expressive bouquet of dried apricots, honey and orange blossoms, complemented by a sweet mouthfeel and just enough acidity and sapidity to counterbalance the sweetness. A very interesting tasting of a wine to be enjoyed young. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Meet the Maker: An Interview with "Mr Sassicaia"

Italy, Bolgheri: Marchese Nicolo' Incisa della Rocchetta in the Tenuta San Guido wine aging cellarOn my previous post we talked about my visit to Tenuta San Guido (the estate where fabled Sassicaia is made) and my tasting of the latest available vintages of the estate’s wine lineup: Le Difese 2011, Guidalberto 2011 and Sassicaia 2010.

Also, on a previous post we went through the history of Super Tuscans and particularly of their archetype, Sassicaia, and how this great wine came to be. If you missed those posts, I suggest you take the time to check them out as they provide a lot context for this post.

Now, without further ado, let’s move on to my interview of Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta, the owner of Tenuta San Guido, a true gentleman and big time dog lover (he has some 40 dogs, most of whom he got from the shelter) beside of course being the son of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, the man who created the myth Sassicaia.

Here are the questions I asked the Marchese, along with a summary of his answers:

Q1. Which vintage of Sassicaia are you most fond of and why?

A1. If I had to pick one, it would be 1988: of course everyone goes crazy about 1985 because it received a perfect score from Parker, but to me 1988 was also a stellar year that really shows the Sassicaia style loud and clear and that vintage also did extremely well in the Tasting of the Bordeaux Premier Growths.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards at Tenuta San Guido ready for harvesting with olive tree orchard in the background

Q2. Certain consumers worry about investing a considerable amount of money into a bottle of wine like Sassicaia, which they normally plan to hold on for several years before opening, because they fear that when they do open it, it might be corked. Do you or your distributors have a policy in place as to how to handle situations like that?

A2. In Europe, our distributors replace corked bottles, I am not sure whether our US distributor has a similar policy in place. The good news is that, while of course it is impossible to avoid the risk of the occasional corked bottle altogether, the incidence of cork taint on Sassicaia is much lower than the average: we estimate that there are about 10 corked bottles of Sassicaia for each vintage.

Italy, Bolgheri: Tenuta San Guido

Q3. Speaking of corks, certain of the top quality producers around the world have started experimenting with closure systems alternative to cork, such as synthetic or screw caps, one very visible example being Chateau Margaux. Are you also looking into it? Current regulations require that Sassicaia be sealed with a cork: looking ahead, do you think that using a closure other than cork for a wine like Sassicaia would still be perceived by consumers with a negative connotation?

A3. No, we are just not interested. A bottle of a wine like Sassicaia deserves being sealed by a cork, period. On top of that, the minimal contact with oxygen that the cork ensures makes a wine like Sassicaia that is generally meant for several years of in bottle aging beautifully evolve.

Italy, Bolgheri: Bolgheri sunsetQ4. Italian enologist Graziana Grassini has recently taken over the honor and the responsibilities of making Sassicaia from guru enologist Giacomo Tachis, who can be seen as the father of Sassicaia, along with your father of course. How did she approach the myth Sassicaia? Is she following the path of tradition or is she trying to leave her own mark on Sassicaia?

A4. It seems to me that she is walking in Tachis’s footsteps: they both have this approach that they are there just to underscore the unique terroir of the Sassicaia vineyards and make it shine in the wine they make. Tachis hated being called a winemaker, because he felt he was not there “making” (in the sense of artificially “building”) Sassicaia – he considered himself the guardian of the brilliant characteristics of those Cabernet clones that my father planted in the heart of the Maremma almost three quarters of a century ago and the terroir they grow in.

Q5. All your three wines are blends and all three have Cabernet Sauvignon as their prevailing variety in the blend, but each of them pairs it with a different blending partner: Cabernet Franc for Sassicaia, Merlot for Guidalberto and Sangiovese for Le Difese. Taken as a given that the Sassicaia is at the peak of the pyramid of the wines you produce, how would you briefly describe the concepts behind the Guidalberto and Le Difese?

A5. The Guidalberto was introduced to the market with vintage 2000 and we do not consider it the second vin of the Sassicaia. It was developed as a more affordable wine with its own identity, different from Sassicaia’s. A wine that can be enjoyed earlier than Sassicaia but is all the same meant for aging up to 10 years. Only about 10% of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes used in the making of Guidalberto come from the Sassicaia vieyards, the rest comes from dedicated, younger vineyards. Le Difese was launched with vintage 2002 and we view it as the second vin of the Guidalberto: it was developed with the idea of an affordable wine that is ready to be enjoyed upon release and is not meant for aging.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards and olive trees

Q6. How much of the wine you produce gets exported, and which are the top three countries you export to?

A5. We export about 60% of the production. By far the number one country we export to is the United States, followed by Germany and, maybe surprisingly considering its relatively small size, Switzerland. We are slowly starting to export to China too, but we want to be cautious: it is a huge market with an incredible demand for luxury products, including top wines like Sassicaia, and it is easy to let that cloud your vision. Considering that the number of bottles of Sassicaia that we make is not going to increase, what we do not want to do is penalize our historical and loyal customer base and distributors in the countries we are already in just to jump onto the Chinese bandwagon. It will be a gradual process.

Italy, Bolgheri: One of the buidings in the Tenuta San Guido estate

Q7. Organic viticulture: are you considering to embrace it or staying away from it?

A7. We view it as an emerging marketing trend which certainly appeals to consumers, but whose risks overweigh the benefits. In other words, we do spray our vines but we have always done so in the least pervasive way, as has been done for decades in traditional viticulture. We are a relatively small operation and we just cannot afford the risk of a blighted crop.

Q8. Let’s talk about your winemaking process: do you use pre-fermentation cold maceration? And how about micro-oxygenation?

A8. No to both questions: we feel our wine does not need the additional extraction of color or aromas that pre-fermentation maceration allows, and we certainly stay away from micro-oxygenation: we much rather let time do its work by leaving our wine in the barriques for as long as we think appropriate for it to be exposed to the oxygen that naturally breathes into the casks. No need to fast-track anything.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards ready for harvesting

Q9. What kind of fermentation do you go for: selected yeasts or spontaneous (indigenous yeasts)? Same question for malolactic fermentation: do you inoculate lactic bacteria or does it start spontaneously?

A9. In both cases we opt for spontaneous fermentation: we do not add anything to our wine, we just let the temperature start both fermentations spontaneously. We think this practice helps give our wines their own, individual character, which makes them different from other wines.

Italy, Bolgheri: Sassicaia French oak barrique cask

Q10. Last question: which barrique casks do you use to age Sassicaia and are they new, previously used or a mix of the two?

A10. In the beginning we used Slavonian oak, but then we realized that those barrels were assembled with sawn planks, which occasionally were not perfectly airtight. So we switched to French oak, where planks are axe-split instead of sawn. For the aging of Sassicaia we use barriques made of French oak coming from the Massif Central region of France, because oak from that area is known to release the least tannins/tertiary aromas to the wine and therefore we prefer it over more intrusive oak. Sassicaia ages in 1/3 new barriques and 2/3 previously used ones, which may be up to a maximum of 8-time used before, after which we retire the barrique.

Thant’s all: I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed having this informational and pleasant conversation with Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta.

As a final note, I would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank the Marchese for his graciousness and for the time he took to sit down with me and answer my questions. I also wish to extend my dy deepest gratitude to Carlo Paoli for his kindness in making all of this happen.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards and cypress trees

Meet the Maker: A New Column plus a Tasting of Sassicaia 2010 and Its Little Brothers

Italy, Bolgheri: Carlo Paoli, Tenuta San Guido's General Manager

A New Column: Meet the Maker

This post is going to be the first in a new column that I thought I would call Meet the Maker – this column will provide interviews with wine producers or other key players in the wine industry.

When I decided to give this new feature a go, I thought I might as well just start big 😉 so with some luck and lots of gratitude to Carlo Paoli, the gracious General Manager of Tenuta San Guido, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an hour or so in the wine tasting room of Tenuta San Guido with Carlo and Mr Sassicaia himself, Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta, who was kind enough to answer my questions while we were tasting the whole lineup of the estate, which was something pretty cool.

Italy, Bolgheri: Tenuta San Guido

About the Estate: Tenuta San Guido

But let’s start from the beginning: as you may know, Tenuta San Guido is a huge 2,500 HA estate that is located in that beautiful stretch of forested coastal Tuscany known as Maremma and it belongs to the Italian noble family of the Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta. The estate encompasses a 513 HA wildlife preserve managed by the WWF (Oasi Padule di Bolgheri), the training facility for the Dormello-Olgiata thoroughbred race horses, the most famous of whom was legendary “superhorse” Ribot, and of course 90 HA of vineyards from which glorious Sassicaia plus two more wines (called Guidalberto and Le Difese) are made.

More specifically, 70 of those 90 HA of vineyards are dedicated to the production of Sassicaia and therefore are for the most part Cabernet Sauvignon with some Cabernet Franc. In the remaining 20 HA, Merlot and Sangiovese (the blending partners of, respectively, Guidalberto and Le Difese) are grown, beside Cabernet Sauvignon (the common variety in all three blends). Among the three labels, Tenuta San Guido produces about 700,000 bottles per year.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards approaching harvest time with the Bolgheri church in the background

On a previous post, I have provided a pretty detailed story of the vision of an enlightened man, Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta (Nicolo’s father, the creator of Sassicaia), how Sassicaia came to be and how it became the archetype of all Super Tuscans, so if you missed it, I would suggest you go back and take a look before you continue reading this post.

As is described in detail on that previous post, the turning point for Sassicaia was Marchese Mario’s intuition to hire Antinori’s enologist, Giacomo Tachis, in the late 1960’s. Tachis optimized Sassicaia’s production process turning Sassicaia from a good wine to the wine that was awarded a perfect 100 score by Robert Parker for the 1985 vintage. Mr Tachis, arguably the most famous and revered among Italian enologists, eventually retired and Graziana Grassini took the helm of making Sassicaia (along with the responsibility to ensure that the legend lives on) as of the 2009 vintage.

Italy, Bolgheri: Tenuta San Guido's wine aging cellar and wine tasting room

About the Appellation

Interestingly enough, in an effort to recognize Marchese Mario’s vision and tenacity in creating a wine that gave Italian winemaking international lustre and fame, in 1983 Italy created a DOC appellation called “Bolgheri DOC” that would encompass a small territory surrounding the Tuscan town of Castagneto Carducci (in the Maremma, near Livorno) and within that territory a specific subzone was identified by the name of “Sassicaia” which precisely matches those about 70 HA owned by Tenuta San Guido where the Sassicaia is made. This has been the first case in Italy in which an official subzone of an appellation has been created to precisely overlap with the area where a single producer’s wine is made. As a result, Sassicaia is the only wine that can be made in the “Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC” appellation.

In terms of permitted grape varieties, the “Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC” appellation requires the use of at least 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be blended with up to 20% of other black-berried varieties permitted in Tuscany, and a minimum aging of 24 months, at least 18 of which must be in oak barrique casks.

Italy, Bolgheri: vineyards in the Bolgheri DOC appellation

Our Tasting Notes

Before moving on to the actual interview of Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta (which will be the subject matter of the next post), these are my succint tasting notes of the three wines in the Tenuta San Guido lineup that I got to taste with the Marchese:

1. Le Difese 2011 ($35):

Italy, Bolgheri: An old well at Tenuta San GuidoTenuta San Guido’s entry-level wine, whose first vintage was 2002. It is a 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese blend that is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrique casks and is released ready to be enjoyed (it is not meant for aging).

Pleasant and linear, with no frills: nice (although not particularly intense) nose of wild berries with hints of licorice and ground coffee. Well integrated tannins and good structure in the mouth for an enjoyable red with a good QPR.

Rating: Good Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Guidalberto 2011 ($40):

Tenuta San Guido’s mid-range wine (not Sassicaia’s second wine, as the Marchese pointed out in the course of the interview). It was released with vintage 2000 and it is a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot blend, aged for 15 months in mostly French and in small part American oak barrique casks, plus 3 additional months of in-bottle aging. The Guidalberto is a wine that can be enjoyed right away, but is meant for aging up to 10 years.

A very good wine, despite its young age, with an enticing nose of black berries, ground coffee, tobacco, cocoa and black pepper. In the mouth it was already round and smooth, with tame tannins and significant structure as well as a long finish. In my view, with a few more years under its belt, the Guidalberto will give plenty of joy to those who can wait.

Rating: Very Good Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Italy, Bolgheri: Tenuta San Guido's Sassicaia aging cellar

3. Sassicaia 2010 ($155):

The King of the Hill, of which we already said much in relation to its 1995 vintage on a previous post. It is an 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc blend that is fermented in steel vats and undergoes 15 days of maceration. It ages for 24 months in all French oak barrique casks plus 6 additional months in bottle. Sassicaia is a wine that is meant for aging and in my view it should not be enjoyed before at least 5/7 years after its vintage year.

The 2010 vintage that I tasted was already mind-blowing: the nose was very intense with a symphony of black cherries, blackberries, cocoa, licorice, coffee, sandalwood and leather. In the mouth it is still a bit “separate” in its core elements, which need time to fully assemble and integrate, but it already showed glimpses of how spectacular a wine it will be for those who can wait: full-bodied, with plenty of structure and tannins that are already supple, intense mouth flavors and good acidity, topped off by a long finish. Perfect to be cellared and forgotten for a few years and then enjoyed the way it deserves.

Rating: Outstanding Outstanding – $$$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Italy, Bolgheri: Tenuta San Guido's wine bar/store

That’s all for today: until the next post, which will feature my interview to Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta.

Italy, Bolgheri: One of the buidings in the Tenuta San Guido estate

Wine Review P2: Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, "Tenuta dell'Ammiraglia" Range

Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review of the wines has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.

Marchesi de' Frescobaldi's "Ammiraglia" LineupAfter learning about the producer, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldithe estate “Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia and the “Ammiraglia” wine range in general on our previous post (should you have missed it, please refer to it before reading this one), let’s now focus on the actual contents of the three bottles that I got to taste and move forward with my tasting notes.

In an effort not to make this post too lengthy, if you are interested in some very cool facts about the various grape varieties from which the wines in the Ammiraglia lineup are made (i.e., VermentinoCabernet SauvignonCabernet FrancMerlotSyrahSangiovese and Ciliegiolo), by all means check them out on our Grape Variety Archive page. As always, such information is taken from the excellent guide Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012,

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1.  Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, Vermentino “Ammiraglia” Toscana IGT 2012 ($18)

Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, Vermentino "Ammiraglia"The 2012 Vermentino Ammiraglia was 12.5% ABV and was made out of 100% Vermentino grapes harvested from just 5 HA of vineyards in the Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia estate, which achieve a good 5,500 vines/HA density.

After the grapes underwent a partial cryomaceration phase, the must fermented for 10 days at 68F/20C in stainless steel vessels, with no malolactic fermentation. After that, the wine rested for 4 months in steel vats, plus one additional month in bottle before becoming available for sale.

The fact that part of the grapes did cryomaceration and that the wine did not do any oak are both indications that the wine was made in such a way as to emphasize primary and secondary aromas and that it is intended for immediate consumption, not for cellaring. The Vermentino Ammiraglia retails in the US for about $18.

In the glass, the wine poured a light straw yellow and moderately thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was quite intensequite complex and fine, with aromas of grapefruit, citrus, honey, orange blossoms, with herbs and almond hints. One important factor to keep in mind to fully appreciate its aromas is service temperature: if you serve this wine too chilled, its bouquet will be restrained and will not do it justice. I noticed that a temperature of about 53-55F/12-13C is where the wine’s aromas peak, so bear that in mind if you buy a bottle.

In the mouth, the wine was dryquite warmsmoothfresh and tasty. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with intense and fine mouth flavors of citrus, almond, minerals and evident iodine notes. The finish was quite long (to reinforce the wine’s mineral and iodine flavors, the aftertaste leaves you a slight feeling almost of saltwater in your mouth!) and the evolutionary state was mature (meaning, drink it now, it will not benefit from cellaring).

Overall, I really enjoyed this Vermentino: ideally, I wish its aromas were a touch more intense, but its aromatic palette is quite complex (if tasted at the right temperature) and very enjoyable, as are its balance and tasty mouth flavors. And at a retail price of about $18, I think this wine delivers plenty of bang for the buck.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended, given its great QPR Good to Very Good – $

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Terre More dell’Ammiraglia” Maremma Toscana DOC 2011 ($18)

Marchesi de' Frescobaldi "Terre More"The 2011 Terre More was a whopping 14.5% ABV Bordeaux-style blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Syrah grown in 55 HA of vineyards in the estate with a good density of 5,500 vines/HA, on par with the Vermentino.

The must fermented for 10 days in stainless steel vats at 82F/28C and underwent 12 days of maceration as well as full malolactic fermentation. The wine finally aged for 12 months in second or third time used French oak barrique casks before becoming available for sale. The Terre More retails in the US for about $18.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and unsurprisingly (given its ABV) thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was quite intensecomplex and fine, with aromas of wild cherry, plum, blackberry, leather, coffee, tobacco and black pepper, with the tertiary, spicy aromas given by the oak aging being a little dominant over the secondary, fruity aromas (despite the wise choice of second/third time used barriques).

In the mouth, the Terre More was drydefinitely warmquite smoothfreshtannicquite tasty. I have to say that the wine’s muscular ABV was very evident, and tended to tip the wine mouthfeel a little bit off balance. The tannins were firm but quite integrated, despite the wine’s young age. The wine was full-bodied and had intense and fine mouth flavors of plum, blackberry, coffee (quite evident) and black pepper. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state ready, meaning you can drink it now but it will most likely benefit from a few years of additional in-bottle aging.

Overall, I ended up having mixed feelings about the Terre More: I quite liked its bouquet (despite the slight prevalence of oaky, tertiary aromas and it being not as intense as I would have hoped), but was not entirely convinced by its mouthfeel: despite its pleasant flavor profile, the heat of the wine’s ABV was in my view a little too evident. Truth be told, it is still a very young wine and a few years of cellaring would likely be beneficial. Having said that, with a retail price of $18, I think this wine is still a pretty good deal to pair with a juicy steak just off the grill.

Rating: Fairly Good Fairly Good – $

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

3. Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Pietraregia dell’Ammiraglia” Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG 2010 ($25)

Marchesi de' Frescobaldi "Pietraregia"As mentioned on our previous post, the 2010 Pietraregia started off on the right foot by having a nice cork closure. 😉 Beside that, the wine was 14% ABV and was a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 5% Syrah.

The must fermented in stainless steel vats for 10 days at 86F/30C, underwent 20 days of maceration on the skins and did full malolactic fermentation, The wine aged for 24 months in French oak barrique casks and 2 additional months in bottle before becoming available for sale. The Pietraregia retails in the US for about $25.

In the glass, it poured dark ruby red and thick when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was quite intense and a bit narrow, with aromas of plum, blackberry, violet and black pepper, but certainly fine. It is interesting to note how few spicy tertiary aromas the wine picked up after spending 24 months in French oak barrique casks. Honestly, I would have hoped that the nose of this wine delivered a bit more than it did.

In the mouth, the Pietraregia was drywarmsmoothfreshtannictasty. It was a full-bodied wine with intense and fine mouth flavors of plum and dark chocolate. The finish was quite long and its evolutionary state was ready (you know what that means: fine to drink now, but if you cellar it for a few years it will likely improve over time).

Overall, I liked the Pietraregia: while I wish it had more to give in its bouquet, in my view the pleasant mouthfeel of this wine definitely made up for whatever it lacked in its aromatic palette. Once you sip this wine, it will make you happy, especially if you still remember that you paid some 25 bucks for it, which I think is more than adequate for what you get.

Rating: Good and Recommended Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

So, to sum things up real quick:

1. I am generally pleased by the quality that the three wines of the Ammiraglia range that I got to taste delivered, of course given their price points.

2. Personally, I would definitely buy the Vermentino and the Pietraregia, which in my view are good value for money, while (once again, personally speaking) I think I would pass on the Terre More as, while it certainly is not a bad wine, it does not quite meet my own tastes.

And of course, many thanks to Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi’s US importer for providing the samples.

As always, if you get to taste any of these wines, please share your experience in the comment section!

Wine Review: Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer, who also happens to be a friend of mine! My review of the wine has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the opinion I am going to share on the wine is my own.

Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCGToday I will review a bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva that I received as a sample from the producer, who happens to be a former schoolmate of mine and a friend. The wine that I am going to review is Casa SolaChianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG (\sim \!\, $35). As I said in my disclaimer, my review will not be tainted by my personal relationship with the producer and will be as objective as a wine review can be. 🙂

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Casa Sola’s Chianti Classico Riserva to be a very pleasant Chianti, which could nicely complement a juicy steak or game dish.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended Good to Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Let’s now say a few words about Chianti in general.

About the Appellations

Chianti wine may be produced under two different Tuscan appellations: Chianti Classico DOCG or Chianti DOCG.

The Chianti Classico appellation encompasses that stretch of Tuscan territory where the grapes for making Chianti have traditionally been grown for centuries (the first document referring to Chianti dates back to 1398!): this means an area surrounding the cities of Florence and Siena, including such landmark towns as Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti.

The Chianti Classico regulations require that the wine be made from 80% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 20% may come from other permitted black-berried grapes (these include Canaiolo, Colorino or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot). The minimum aging required is (i) 12 months for the base version of “Chianti Classico” and (ii) 24 months, at least 3 of which must be in bottle, for “Chianti Classico Riserva“. Every bottle of Chianti Classico wine must bear the “black rooster”  logo on its neckband. Plenty of additional information may be found on the Website of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium.

The Chianti appellation encompasses a significantly larger territory in the surroundings of the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, Firenze, Pistoia, Pisa, Prato and Siena. The Chianti regulations require that the wine be made from 70% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 30% may come from other permitted grapes, provided that (a) the use of permitted white-berried grapes may not exceed 10% and (b) the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc grapes may not exceed 15%. The minimum aging required is (i) 6 months for the base version of “Chianti“; (ii) 12 months for the “Chianti Superiore” version, and (iii) 24 months for “Chianti Riserva“.

About the Grapes

Regarding Sangiovese, Chianti’s main grape variety, it is a variety that is indigenous to Central Italy and was first mentioned in writing in 1600 under the name Sangiogheto (which begs the question: if the first documented use of the word Chianti to identify the wine dates back to 1398, what did they call the wine’s main grape for those 200 and change years???).  In 2004, DNA parentage analysis showed that Sangiovese originated as a cross between Ciliegiolo (a Tuscan grape variety) and Calabrese di Montenuovo (a quite obscure variety from Calabria). Sangiovese is a vigorous and late ripening variety that is one of the most widely cultivated in Italy, especially in the regions of Toscana, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Some is also grown in California and Washington State. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

Sangiovese is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties and is utilized for making several signature Italian wines, including (beside Chianti) Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano. Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still “young” and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them. Given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

Our Detailed Review

Now, on to the actual review of the wine I tasted, Casa SolaChianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG.

This Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot grapes grown in the winery’s vineyards near the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, in proximity to Florence. The wine has a muscular 14.5% ABV and was aged for 18 months in a mix of larger oak barrels and barrique casks plus 8 months of additional in-bottle aging. The Riserva retails in the US for about $35.

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intensequite complex and fine with aromas of cherry, strawberry, sweet tobacco, licorice and vanilla.

In the mouth, the wine was drywarmsmoothfreshtannic and quite tasty. It was a full-bodiedbalanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, revolving mostly around fruity notes of cherry and strawberry. Its tannins were gentle and offered a pleasant counterpoint to the wine’s smoothness. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready, meaning definitely enjoyable now but a few more years of in-bottle aging could make it evolve even more and add additional complexity.

Finally, beyond producing wine and olive oil, Casa Sola also offers guided tours of the vineyards and winery culminating in a wine tasting experience, cooking classes and in-house accommodation in 11 rustically-furnished apartments: for more information, please refer to Casa Sola’s Website.

Mac & Cheese – Recommended Wine Pairing

Go red to complement Nicole’s mouthwatering Mac & Cheese, pick something with medium body, good acidity and gentle but still noticeable tannins.


Recommended Italian wines to go with Mac & Cheese include a quality Chianti, such as a Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Ser Lapo Riserva DOCG, a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot with intriguing aromas of plum, wild berries, graphite and a slight foxy note, or a Geografico Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva Torri DOCG, a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo with scents of wild cherry, blackberry, mint, leather and tobacco along with subtle tannins, or even an I Sodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo with aromas of violet, wild cherry, blueberry, blackberry jam, licorice, tobacco and soil.

Another very good option would be a Barbera from Piemonte, such as an enjoyable Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone DOCG, made of 100% Barbera grapes and with appealing aromas of rose, violet, raspberry and red currant, or a Batasiolo Barbera d’Alba Sovrana DOC, with pleasant scents of dried flowers, fruit jam and a slight toasty note.

If you prefer to stay in the USA, consider a nice, basic Merlot, such as a Bogle Merlot California 2009 (88 points, Wine Spectator) with cherry, herb and red currant aromas and distinct tannins, or a Kenwood Merlot Sonoma County 2008 (88 points, Wine Spectator), which is a blend of 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon with scents of cherry, raspberry, plum, tomato leaf and chocolate.

By the way, all of the above options have very interesting quality/price ratios.

And if you want to share your experience or have another wine that you would like to suggest, just leave a comment below!

Cheers!