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VinItaly 2002 - Part III

by Nerval

Part I - Piedmont; Emilia-Romagna; Friuli; Alto Adige; Veneto
Part II - Marche; Abruzzo; Umbria; Campania; Puglia; Sardinia; Sicily
Part III - Tuscany

TUSCANY
Everybody seems to be profusing judgments about recent vintages so why not add my two cents. 1997s Brunellos I generally find not living up to the hype. They are definitely better than 1996 and 1994 versions and marginally more complex or complete than 1995 or 1993, but lack any great sense of opulence or harmony. There are of course some very successful wines; my TNs below should indicate these but I thought Lisini and Casanova di Neri were the most interesting with Nardi and Ciacci following. But I was underwhelmed enough (and remember the prices!) to stop looking for opportunities to taste 1997 Brunellos after trying a dozen or so. Chianti is more exciting. 2000 Chianti on the other hand is looking outstanding across the board. There is a very clear tendency now for the handful most famous wineries to make more and more serious Chianti Classico bottlings which are structured like true riservas to age 10 years and more. I am referring to Felsina, San Giusto, Volpaia, Fonterutoli; Isole is a bit softer though still denser than normal. This explains why the prices are going up and I actually do not mind: with wines that good that are thrillingly exciting today and will age for many years I believe spending 12-15 euros is very cheap on today's market. Hence even more than in previous years which were also showing this tendency (1997, 1998 and 1999) I will be buying CCs heavily while only picking the few riservas which I feel deserve the extra money. In fact the gap between CC and CCR is narrower than ever IMO.

Fattoria di Felsina

Pepestrino IGT 2001
Made from Trebbiano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Crunchy and tasty nose, a bit neutral but drinking well. The only Felsina wine I think is not worth special praise and attention but then it's probably not meant to.

Castello di Farnetella Sauvignon IGT 2000
Sweet apple perfume on the nose, less yeasty than expected; quite long in mouth, fruity but still a bit medicinal-yeasty here. A wine of considerable class. On the simple side but excellent in its type.

I Sistri IGT 2000
Oak-aged Chardonnay. This is soft and buttery on the nose in a very noble way, juicy and long on the palate but without much substance I think.

I Sistri IGT 2001
Butter, some smoke, dusty on the nose, a familiar Chardonnay putting elegance ahead of weight. Very fine intensity and length on the palate, has quite some substance in turn. Very elegant, impressively long. Excellent.

Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi 2000
Includes 8% of Merlot, aged in a mixture of botti and a few barriques. Very nice purple colour. Juicy and soft cherry on the nose, verging on strawberry fruit, minor spiciness, this again has superior elegance and balance. Very good indeed, as usually.

Farnetella Lucilla IGT 2000
70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot from the Lucilla cru. A bit more vegetal on the nose than the above, similarly soft and cherry-scented, solid quality here again. Some tawny port-like walnut appear on the richly textured palate, this is so Tuscan in character yet each time manages to be interesting. More fruit filling here, the alcohol is also higher but shows only in a macerated fruit-like thickness. Good length and juiciness. This is a simple wine to be enjoyed every day but with so much refinement brought to the concept. Great class.

Chianti Classico 2000
Some pâtisserie dough-like quality appearing on the nose here, relatively complex, warmer, balsamic in style, less cool and restrained than in a couple of earlier vintages, indeed showing quite a bit of its generous vintage. Great density and solidity in mouth, paint and ink-like character, juicy and very long, with acidity enlivening the finish. Perhaps a hardish vegetal touch here? This only indicates how serious and structured this is for a CC. Quintessential Felsina. Safely among the best Chiantis of the vintage thanks to its consistency and breed above all else.

Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 1999
Colour is not extremely dark but quite so. A nose of magical sweetness reminiscent of some Tuscan pasticcerie specialities, with soft but almost crunchy griotte, fruit-jammy or -marmaladey in a restrained context. Then perhaps some vinegary top notes, but always an elegant and profound nose I think. Slightly warmer fruit here than expected, blackberry and currant rather than the blueberry customary to this bottling IME; quite soft in mouth, impressive length, showing just an austere uplift on the finish without overpowering the drinker with tannins. Juicy almost to fault, I thought at some point, has perhaps just a slightly weak, acidic, slightly metallic finish in one of the tastings (I tried this and the following wines on several days of the fair). Problematic, not easy to analyse indeed. Beautiful, elegant, airy nose; perhaps a bit less convincing on the palate; but has density of fruit and the juicy, undisturbed length which I find the miracle of the latest Felsina releases. Unquestionably great though dialectic and by no means easy.

Fontalloro IGT 1999
Colour as above. More eggy and altogether softer on the nose than the Rancia, with much the same soft dark cherry profile, but perhaps also a bit more muted and essentially more red-fruity than the Rancia, suprisingly, because my experience with 1998, 1997, and to a lesser extent 1995 was much the opposite. Seems really quite evasive, with top notes of roasted coffee; denser and more toasted in character than expected perhaps, but really a nose which kept changing between tastings and even during the same 10-minute nosing session. Sweeter, fuller and smoother in mouth than the Rancia, more feminine and yet more oriental in style; with an acidic, mineral, again almost metallic finish. Also seems slightly more tannic and even longer in mouth than the Rancia. Beautiful length, the quintessence of Tuscany. Lots of elegance, incisive acidity with a shade of vegetal unripeness but that's splitting hairs. As usually this seems to carry its intensity far longer in mouth than the always more restrained and tighter Rancia. Showing perhaps better on the palate but then without the magical perfume of Rancia which is sensually so compelling. Based on these two wines 1999 seems to be quite soft as a vintage in Chianti, or at least this zone of Chianti, softer than expected and less heavy. Otherwise pretty familiar elements and very consistent with the Felsina style of the three last vintages. The greatest quality here is the purity of the whole package, though this strikes me as even more understated both than the 1999 Rancia and the 1998 Fontalloro; last year's releases had an immediate, obvious quality about them that here is clearly missing. Again the most difficult wine to taste and assess today, although there's a lot of succulent fruit. Rather ready to drink if one insists.

Maestro Raro IGT 1997
I tasted this last year and thought it very good indeed but a level below the Sangiovese wines; now it is much more convincing, with a good Cabernet typicity in ripe cassis notes and softness of fruit preserve; lots of dried fruit, no oak showing generally speaking, already starting to acquire a reductive integration of bottle age; slightly bell-peppery finish of fine length. Great acidity. A very fine showing today. Again that juicy signature of the Felsina style cannot fail to amaze. Finish may be slightly harder than expected, not bitter but showing more structure than fruit, i.e. not as elegant as usually with Felsina, though that is to an extent a characteristic shared by the 1999 Sangiovese wines (and the 1998s as tasted today!). Fine balance between the fruit, roasted coffee character and acidity. Outstanding.

Farnetella Nero di Nubi IGT 1998
100% Pinot Nero. Slightly browning at rim already. Starts a bit barnyardy and milky-organic, showing minor oak but outstanding freshness of fruit. Elegant, seamless, with a captivating note of olive oil; finishing tannic but fine-grained. This has what Italians call luminosità, and shows outstanding character for a Tuscan Pinot.

Farnetella Poggio Granoni IGT 1995
A bit sweeter perfume, more balsamic, but not warmer, still cool and fruity, with sour cherry notes. Wonderful wine as always, though difficult to assess in these circumstances (i.e. Felsina people usually serve this after the three above wines which I think is essentially a wrong order). Juicy, rounder than others here but defying analysis in about the same way due to complex innate harmony and mysterious elegance. Not as noble as Fontalloro of course but a big wine. And I also thought I have never been as much impressed by it as I was this year.

Farnetella Rosa Rosae IGT 1998
A sweet wine of 100% Moscato Rosa. Colour is medium ruby. Sweet, elegant but not as focused on the nose, lacking ultimate cut perhaps which becomes obviously evident compared to the rest of the range here. Concentrated cherry and strawberry, sweet-candied on the palate, with typical varietal bitterness. A nice wine but no match for the rest of the range.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1993
Another great wine: juicy, quite crisp walnutty nose of a great sherry or madeira, combined with sweetness of apricot or peach or even some citrus syrup of top botrytis wines; the whole marked by great elegance. Slight alcohol coming up on the nose. Not heavy, rather lightweight among Vinsantos, elegant and understated. Perhaps a bit too thick and syrupy on the palate with nice candied notes on the finish but marginally lacking acids. But it might actually integrate with bottle age and show more balanced. Big wine.

San Giusto a Rentennano

Chianti Classico 2000
Barrel sample. Not too dark. Slightly hard, mineral on the nose with wet sand or gravel as typical of this bottling, good intensity of red fruit; very tasty mouthfeel of ripe fruit, fine definition, showing more softness to the red and black cherry fruit than most 2000 CC today (the majority still slightly bit dominated by the structure; this is already enjoyable, may be benefiting from a moment of grace before bottling). So well-made. Regarding the controversy about normal CC bottlings getting more and more 'serious' these days, tasting this I thought, never mind their serious character and ageworthy structure (which many find difficult to understand) if they can provide such sensual yet sophisticated drinking pleasure, admittedly for 50% more money than even four years ago, but some of them, and this one in particular, seem to have picked up many of the characteristics of former CCRs, which IMO are becoming less and less interesting QPRs when there is so much great normale juice available. All of this to say this is seriously fine quality for the money.

Chianti Classico Riserva 1999
Bottled one month prior, includes a bit of Canaiolo. Slightly darker purple I think than the normale. Lots of bacony oak on the nose at first, airy and spicy, if slightly odd perfume, again great purity of fruit which is underpinned by a softness and meaty profile from the barrique. But perhaps I have learned to appreciate this style more than before. Fine, if again, as many times when comparing 2000 CC with 1999 CCR, I am not sure I would find any reason to pay a premium for the CCR.

Percarlo IGT 1999
Bottled ten days prior. Medium purple. More elegant nose here in part due to a more integrated oak component, though by no means free from bacony and meaty notes; juicy red fruit and mixed spices, warm in character. In mouth this seems slightly harder and certainly more structured than the 1999 CCR and the 1998 Percarlo, which I remember being charming and approachable (again, same problem as with Felsina wines here). This will be a Percarlo for the medium to long term. Slightly chalky drying tannins on end, good length, fine elegance, needs time to reach harmony. Perhaps a bit more depth and finesse, although also bigger in size and inevitably showing rougher today, than the two previous wines but all three generally speaking on the same quality level. Note that no 2000 Percarlo will be released due to 'low poliphenolics', says Mr Martini di Cigala.

La Ricolma IGT 1999
Barrel sample of 100% Merlot. Slightly darker and with violet hues. Notes of blackberry and blueberry spread, though juicy and crisp, softer and smoother in mouth. A Merlot of fine breed although shows so juicy that it actually seems ready to drink, not overwhelming by its size, but has a tannic structure on the finish which shows great class. Shows considerably smoother today than the still somewhat acidic Sangiovese-based wines, which is in tune with my experience of Percarlo usually maturing rather slowly.

Vin Santo 1995
92% Malvasia, 8% Trebbiano; this is from barrel and still unfiltered. Due to low alcohol content (only 11%) this wine will not be released as a Vin Santo DOC but as Passito (apparently a new category being introduced, not clear to me whether DOC or IGT). Rather dark colour verging on brown. Charming nose of molasses and raisins, with lots of dark-flower honey; spectacular, but odd within the Vin Santo paradygm, not showing the merest hint of oxidation and with an above-average concentration and viscosity, almost syrupy. In mouth also not entirely convincing, simply too dense and soupy and without the harmony of a finished wine; rather an ingredient for something future, I thought. Soft, very fruity-raisiny, low acids and alcohol, also not very long; has some finesse, notably in noble top chocolatey notes, but seems to lack the fine interplay of fruit and oxidative ageing which is the hallmark of the best Vin Santos IMO.

Isole e Olena

Chardonnay IGT 2000
40% new oak for 6 months. Great golden colour. Rather elegant perfume with some sur lie character, butter and ripe peach, mixed herbs and cooler lemony notes, not overoaked at all. Good acidity in mouth, airy and elegant, not really fat, not bitter. A very fine Chardonnay which epitomizes balance and finesse. One of the best whites from Tuscany ever tasted. Mr De Marchi says young vines lose acidity very quickly at picking time and it took some time to learn to pick at just the right moment, but he emphasises that he has always been 'vinificatore di bianco'.

Chianti Classico 2000
Sangiovese, Canaiolo and a bit of Syrah, bottled only two days before. Mr De Marchi says that August 2000 was so hot that sugars ripened physiologically quicker than tannins which resulted in wines lacking some structure, even if Sangiovese vines need some stress to produce the best quality, he adds. The alcohol here is 13.5%. Slightly faded ruby-purple, not rusty but as of faded roses. Very intense nose mainly focusing on spiciness of cumin, lemongrass, Szech-wan pepper, later turning a bit meaty as if showing the Syrah component. Great juiciness, the whole much on the soft side, true to the De Marchi philosophy of not making 'impressive wines', to pick up his expression from last year. But wonderful purity of fruit with some growingly peppery spiciness which I associate more with the terroir here than the oak. Warming mouthfeel, the length is very good indeed for a Chianti normale, for class and elegance this is one of the most successful vintages of this bottling I've tasted.

Cepparello IGT 1999
Aged for a maximum of 18 months in 50% new oak. Darker in the glass than the Chianti, if still not too extracted, with again a faded rose elegance to it. Finesse-laden nose showing a bit more oak than usually, in a bread-crusty fashion in this case. I found it very soft both on the nose and palate, lacking some Sangiovese grip for a 1999; De Marchi points that he sometimes would add a minor percentage of Cabernet to add a bit of masculine character but felt it was not necessary in this vintage. There is top-class Tuscan elegance and complexity on the nose with mixed spiciness and jammy-geléed fruit, with the tannic structure coming up with some impact on the finish. The longer I tasted it the more balanced I found it between the softness and lushness of fruit and the structure for ageing. The length is very good though not necessarily much superior to the Chianti. Great juiciness of red currant fruit, with some mouth-drying tannins coming up on the finish. Also a recurrent note of lemony spiciness (lemongrass?), perhaps mixed with cinnamon, which is indeed beautiful. Again this strikes by its purity more than anything else. Close to greatness.

Syrah IGT 1999
25% new oak. Syrah needs a warm but not too dry vintage, says Mr De Marchi. Very dark purple in the glass; nose starts problematic with notes of foul egg and vegetable juice, boiled cauliflower? Later becomes a bit purer showing varietal fresh paint and peppery fruit, juicy and long, much rounder than the Sangiovese-based wines, without the vital streak of acidity though of course quite balanced – it just lacks the very sharp delineation of the two above. Tannins are also softer here, the length is good, that pure-fruity juciness of blackberries and currants is here. Left in the glass the acidity seems higher and the whole getting much longer in mouth. A fine Syrah but I could not entirely come to terms with the nose.

Cabernet Sauvignon IGT 1998
50% new oak here for 18 to 24 months. Cabernet likes long maturations on the vine, says De Marchi, which is why it was so successful in 1995 when grapes were picked not earlier than on October 10th. Unpenetrable purple-black. Very airy nose with a dominance of spices, among them lemon and lime peel; more serious and deeper aromatically than either the Cepparello or the Syrah, jumping out of the glass yet showing some reserve. Visibly softened by the oak, but this is so concentrated it exudes an almost varnish- or petrol-like bite. Also showing drier, quite chalk-like on the nose and palate compared to the Sangioveses, much more structured in mouth and made for the long haul. Might lack some fruit filling for the powerful tannins it shows today, I thought, or is it a question of the fruit being masked at present? But again time in the glass helps it to integrate and some attractive fruit gelée notes appear. Mr De Marchi indicates that he will now install large wooden fermentation vats to allow more flexibility in the cellar which is needed by the constantly changing climate. I suggested that perhaps a higher proportion of new oak might have helped soften the structure of the Cabernet and he agreed.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1996
Two thirds Malvasia and one third Trebbiano; this is the final blend but not bottled yet. Starts with vanilla, fruit compote and apricot jam; elegant and very sweet. Also a recurrent sherry-like meaty or brothy note just verging on minor oxidation, but not aggressive, well fused into the soft, sweet whole. Becomes very caramelly and fudgy on the nose, staying essentially soft throughout its evolution in the glass; showing less of the varnishy residue of the wood ageing than earlier vintages, a fact that already indicated that it should be sweeter and leaner on the palate as well. Minor burnt or cooked edge to the aromas. In mouth this is again showing very soft, with an old wood note on attack and then slipping partly into an aromatic vagueness which makes it so different from the recently tasted 1994 and 1995. Wonderful finish of dried fruit and walnuts, medium length, slightly smokey and bitterish impressions in the aftertaste. But this is not only stylistically different from earlier efforts, lower in acidity and leaner, but also I think less concentrated. I indicated this to Mr De Marchi and he said 1996 did give a very concentrated wine after the appassimento and the sugar level is higher than normal (170 g/l here as opposed to 145 in 1994 and 130 in 1995), which might account for the impression of (excessive) softness. Surely a very fine wine but I preferred the earlier course. It might integrate with age but today seems to lack the miraculous balance of the earlier vintages.

Tenuta Caggio
En estate, directed by winemaker Roberto Cipresso, whose wines I tasted last year at the same stand and found them rather anonymous. This year there were a bit better:

Chianti Classico Selve Scure 1999
Medium purple colour. Soft, quite spicy if rather feminine cherry fruit on the nose, slightly muscatey perhaps and also quite pungent. Foody and pleasant in mouth, standard Sangiovese spiced up with some oak, good length, good definition on the finish, good acidity, showing a bit of structure. Better than last year, a solid Chianti.

Chianti Classico Riserva Vanto 1998
A bit more finesse and empyreumatic notes from the oak, aniseed and cumin, pleasant but somehow lacking the intensity of the simple Chianti here. Also much drier in style and rather austere, less interesting.

Fattoria La Massa

Chianti Classico 2000
92% Sangiovese, 4% Canaiolo, 4% Merlot, aged in second-year oak. Fabulous purple-violet colour. Very soft feminine nose with airy spiciness of vanilla and baked focaccia. Lacks a bit of definition in mouth perhaps, marginally too soft, finishing slightly tannic. Quite structured for a Chianti normale. Shows a dense, solid core of pure amarena or griotte cherry that is admirable but this is perhaps less charming than in previous vintages. The price has substantially increased in recent years to 25€ (I remember buying a lot of the 1996 for 11€ retail). Mr. Motta says he has young vines of Cabernet, Tannat and Petit Verdot coming into production soon and he plans to declassify the Chianti normale to an IGT wine with up to 15% of the above grapes blended in. He will still make only two wines, though.

Chianti Classico Giorgio Primo 1999
Technically a riserva but not labelled as such. This is lighter in hue than the above. Sweet perfume on the nose, not syrupy but rather reminiscent of dried cherry, while also showing a dry note of freshly sewn wood. This seems less refined and elegant on the nose than remembered from previous vintages. Less emotional but clearly in a dormant phase and judging by our recent tasting of the 1997 this should quickly show its stuffing. Today it does not show as great as expected. This retails for 40€ at the estate.

Querciabella

Batàr IGT 2000
50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Blanc. Dark golden. Elegant nose starting with some pear and peach fruit, rather evasive but showing breed in a pure form. Soft and rather juicy in mouth, has lots of elegance, becoming a bit more oaky-buttery on the finish. Very Burgundian in style with just a bit of Italianate compromise. Finish of great purity and precision with reminiscences of grapefruit or passionfruit. Very long. Holds to its reputation as Tuscany's best white.

Chianti Classico 2000
90% Sangiovese and 10% between Cabernet and Merlot. 2000 and 2001 are deemed by Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni to be excellent vintages for Chianti, no at all inferior to 1999. Colour is a medium purple at core, raspberry at rim. Sweet cherry and cherry jam or syrup; elegant, airy, with mild Sangiovese spices; minor hollow or superficial character in the absence of a second bottom. Also a hint of almondy volatility but th whole seems rather unobvious, perhaps just a lifted aromatic note from the oak? Then really rather structured and masculine on the finish with considerable length.

Chianti Classico Riserva 1999
The proportion of French grapes here increases to 15%. This is more complex on the nose, spicier and warmer but also more elegant, though lacking the freshness of the normale, with again that almondy impression of extraction or youth. But already some more finesse-laden notes of lead pencil and dried currants seem to appear in the background, airing time helps and the last sip is really impressively balanced and complete. A visible improvement compared to the 1998 version of this bottling, though note that even in weaker vintages this is one of the most consistent CCR (as a recently tasted bottle of the 1996 aptly demonstrated).

Camartina IGT 1999
Not terribly dark colour if quite concentrated at core. Wonderful Tuscan perfume of mixed spices and sweet fruit, already showing some complexity around a solid core of pure fruitiness. Minor bacon from the oak, great elegance showing in the empyreumatic notes on top of the sweet fruit. Great length. Showing quite soft in mouth, less structured and probably also less complete than the 1997 did when tasted last year, but then Mr. Cossia Castiglioni is right when he points out that there being no 1998 Camartina, this vintage had one year less of bottle ageing before release, and it shows. I do not want to hide the fact that a few weeks after the fair Mr. Cossia Castiglioni was kind enough to send me a case of the 1999 Camartina for scientific purposes. I do not have any financial link to this winery and have always believed to criticise their production fairly basing on what is in the glass. I hope Mr. Cossia Castiglioni agrees and that readers will appreciate this clarification. Here's a more extensive TN for the 1999 Camartina based on two bottles tasted in May and July 2002 respectively: Medium dark painter's colour, opaque purple-black. Very spicy-bacony at first with good Sangiovese character, notes of menthol and cinnamon, plus some bacony-toasted oak in the background though nothing too exagerated or obtrusive. In mouth this is showing very deep, dry and austere in style, with more oak showing than I remember from the first tasting; but then with time in the glass becoming quite elegant, with a thickness of fruit as of fruit marmalade or syrup and mild kirsch overtones. Great fruit verging on jamminess in concentration, great length as well. Round and silky in texture but not very complex today. Dry-papery and lead-pencilly on the finish, perhaps even slightly tough at times; this is perhaps where the whole seems marginally less convincing than in the first impact and where some (minor) weaknesses of the vintage become evident. Or at least this seems to lack the utterly convincing immediacy of the 1997 but then again Mr. Cossia Castiglioni's answer to this criticism should not be ignored. Orange peel and cinnamon appearing after an hour or so, still slightly drying on the finish yet with abundant softness and sweetness to the fruit and perhaps a bit more balanced and less worrying as to the relation between fruit and structure. Now also slightly meatier (salted meat) than remembered. Almost espresso-thick at all stages, no doubt very deep in flavour. Not perfect but captivating. Rather a vino da meditazione today, will surely improve for most of the present decade. 2 hours of decanting recommended, not more.

Castello dei Rampolla

Chianti Classico 2000
90% Sangiovese aged in botte, 10% Cabernet aged in second-year barrique. Lots of sweet cherry perfume, some fumé appearing, some spiciness, but the whole lacks integration and is not that interesting. Pleasant but nothing great.

Sammarco IGT 1999
95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Sangiovese, 100% new oak. Sweet, slightly volatile, syrupy or liqueury sweetness of kirsch on the nose. A bit glassy though, lacks definition, sweet in mouth, has good fruit filling. Finishes a bit more austere but very ripe and sweet for a Cabernet. Good Sangiovese for a Cab, I thought. But not in the first league of STs from this vintage.

Vigna d'Alceo IGT 2000
From a 9.5 ha plot planted with Cabernet and Petit Verdot (85%-15% in this vintage), aged in mid-toasted Seguin-Moreau and Taransaud. Very dark colour. More empyreumatic, not necessarily heavier than the Sammarco, in fact seems less concentrated/extracted and less syrupy on the nose, slightly meaty however with a peculiar dry note of thin wheat wafers. Very sweet in mouth, highly glyceric, lacks the happy balance of Sammarco, despite the thickness shows a bell-peppery finish and lacks superior definition and character. Not enthusiasting.

Trebianco Vendemmia Tardiva IGT 1996
From Chardonnay, Traminer, Sauvignon, aged in steel only. This was actually released after the 1998 version. Very sweet nose with lots of fumé, almost artificial peach or apricot syrup and pâte de fruits. In a way a beautiful nose, with hints of bread dough or bread acid. Too soft in mouth, very pefumed and flowery, an unobvious wine of undoubted interest but not perfect.

Castello di Volpaia

Valdarbia DOC Volpaia Bianco 2001
Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Malvasia, only aged in steel. Stinky nose with lots of gooseberry yeast, public toilet and dog shit, a bit foxy almost. Soft in mouth, much of a basic quaffing wine and even then not among the best in the region.

Chianti Classico 2000
Barrel sample of 100% Sangiovese. Dark purple. Some marzipan, very soft and sweet perfume on the outstanding nose, not as rustic as some earlier Volpaia vintages. Fantastic intensity and length in mouth, served slightly too warm but great elegance, finishing slightly tannic. Greatly opulent fruit. Again the winner of the vintage among Chianti Classico bottlings.

Chianti Classico Riserva 1998
Wonderful medium dark purple colour. Some reductive scents on the nose, barnyardy-organic at times, has some intensity in mouth, round and mouthfilling but in a very deifferent style to the above, round, not entirely clean, perhaps even too meaty today. Mrs. Stianti Mascheroni explains this by the austere microclimate of the high-perched Volpaia vineyards. Smoke appearing. But has individuality.

Chianti Classico Riserva 1999
Sangiovese with 10% between Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Nero, aged in an even mixture of botte and barrique. Very dark purple, minor rim. Sweet if slightly hollow or hard on the nose, spicier than the 1998, great sweetness of fruit in mouth, finely punctuated acidity, very good length and structure, not too tannic. Very different for the 1998, more fruit filling, softer, immediately charming and quite obviously superior mainly thanks to the intensity of the fruit. Outstanding impression on the palate.

Chianti Classico Riserva Coltassala 1998
95% Sangiovese, 5% Mammolo added to soften the Sangiovese. Rather dark purple. This seems more watery on the nose than the above, spicier, meatier or rather brothy, showing soupy concentration and cedar and cinnamon notes from the oak. Sweet perfume, some barrique showing on the palate in the softness and texture. Finishing drier and more acidic. Another greatly balanced wine, with the same kind of structure than the three above, with minor shifts in aromatic qualities.

Balifico IGT 1998
65% Sangiovese, 35% Cabernet. A shade or two lighter than the Coltassala. This is showing more soft and milky oak, warmer in style, then following with similarly opulent fruit on the palate but perhaps lacking a bit of freshness and showing too much oak for this rather lightweight vintage, at least of Volpaia.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1996
Trebbiano and Malvasia. Medium brown in the glass. Slightly soupy port-like nose with hints of barrel oxidation, dominated by aromas of walnuts anf stone fruit jam; yet not as alcoholic as a similarly flavoured and textured port would be. Finesse and considerable sweetness on the palate, has depth though rather less complexity than I remember from last year. Served too warm. Great length, round in mouth, good acidity. Probably safely excellent. Not absolutely great but very pleasant to drink. Less rustic and animal than earlier vintages.

Castello di Fonterutoli

Morellino di Scansano Belguardo 2000
6 months of American oak. Very dark colour. Slightly meaty, less sweat then remembered from previous vintages, sightly vague, with a degree of softness, juicy-sweetish in mouth, some Sangiovese spiciness, finishing mildly tannic. Good, reliable basic wine.

Poggio alla Badiola 2000
95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, aged in French oak. Mr Bernabei explains that this will see increasing amounts of oaking in future vintages since it is intended to make this a more quality-oriented wine. Very dark colour, some cork-rindy vegetality at first on the nose, blowing off to reveal very concentrated/extracted dark cherry fruit. A bit bitterish in mouth. Less panache and much less exciting than I remember from previous vintages. There's a slightly stale or musty nature to the fruit although the whole is solid and more than decent for the price (6€).

Chianti Classico 2000
85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 5% Merlot, aged for 10 months in used oak. Yields of 35 hl/ha at 7,000 vines per ha (5-6-year-old vines). 11€. Very dark again, high colour extraction. Sweet and spicy nose of classic Sangiovese in the modern mould, lemon rind, sweet griotte cherry. Good complexity, perhaps slightly too warm on the nose but has character and sweet terroir expression which seem to withstand the high extraction. Fabulous intensity and length on the palate, pretty monstruous for a simple Classico. Very tannic, almost unpleasant to taste, though perhaps less so to drink (especially with food). Needs 5 years. Very successful for this bottling and one of the most balanced young wines from Fonterutoli in recent years (i.e., not as obtrusively modern and interventionist as is the norm here). Great Chianti.

Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 1999
This is the Riserva. Opaque black-purple colour. Elegant, a bit muted on the nose, minor volatility or evasiveness, showing a bit of oaky softness while being properly spiced up aromatically. Very soupy and extracted in mouth, this is probably where I start disliking the Fonterutoli style within the range, with the whole, despite the obviously high quality, seemimngly a bit heavy and lacking freshness. But who knows – in a blind tasting in a few years' time I might change my mind. Siepi not being available, we proceeded to taste the Brancaia range:

Brancaia

Tre IGT 2000
A new wine from Brancaia, blending Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Brancaia vineyard in Castellina, Poppi in Radda and the new Poggio al Sasso in Maremma. Aged for 12 months in 500-liter tonneaux, of which 50% new. Very dark colour again. This is more spicy-peppery and less fresh cherry-oriented than the Fonterutoli wines, almost musky and cinnamonny, while staying more feminine than the Fonterutoli range as in previous vintages. Juicy and drinkable on the palate, decent length, softening a bit on the finish. Not really tannic. A reasonably successful attempt at a lighter style here.

Chianti Classico 2000
This is a barrel sample of the final blend: 100% Sangiovese, 18 months of barrique. Much sweeter on the nose here with cherry and plum pie notes, inviting, quite refined if still in the rather easy and accessible modern style of all the wines here. Within this style a quite complete wine. Has, as the Fonterutoli CC, genuine Tuscan aromatic character of sweet fresh fruit, covered to an extent by oak patina. Decent depth, one would perhaps like a bit more sharpness and grip here, or refinement, but it is what it is. Good length, some tannins showing up on the finish, coupled with more sweet fruit. Noticeable acidity giving some much needed balance. More or less on the same level as the Fonterutoli. 15€.

Brancaia IGT 1999
A barrel sample of 55% Sangiovese, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet, 18 months of two thirds new oak. This is not the final blend yet. Unpenetrable colour. Very bacony nose with some crisp fruit, baked bread or biscotti. Sweet fruit in mouth, less structured than expected, or at least seems less tannic than the Chianti perhaps due to the more opulent fruitiness – and oaking. Also not bigger in dimensions, short of the (relatively speaking) extreme elegance of the Chianti as well. Not as impressive but perhaps more dialectic, and as it seems to have serious substance, chances are high that it will eventually overcome the oaking. 30€.

Castello del Trebbio
I've reported on this small Rúfina estate before. Again solid if slightly unremarkable wines of reliable quality.

Chianti 2001
Dark colour. Deep gravelly-mineral nose with good elegance and authentic character.

Rosso della Congiura 1999
This is a barrel sample of a wine whose allegiance (i.e. whether IGT or DOC) is yet to be determined. Dark in the glass. Soupy nose lacking the definition of the Chianti above, some notes of boiled egg, slight excess of extraction when compared to the actual juiciness and acidic content; soft, juicy, slightly disjointed, with a vanilla note recurring on the finish. Not as convincing for the moment. This is a 100% Sangiovese, yields of 3 bunches per vine, 70% new oak, rest being a mix of botte and old barrique.

Merlot 2000
Barrel sample, not known where it will go (possibly in the Pazzesco but may be released as a varietal wine). Very dark. Dense nose which to a greater extent than others above shows a young-viney character; juicy, but covered lightly by bacony oak. Again rather light in register, showing quite a bit of oak on the palate at this stage, with the finish slightly weak and less convincing. Quite long, but again too soft, as if dual in character between the acidic structure and the smoothening action of the oak. But to an extent interesting.

Pazzesco IGT 1999
Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, aged in new oak. Very dark. Very soupy character on the nose with hints of boiled vegetables, tasted from a freshly opened bottle and this shows; a wine of considerable extraction yet relatively juicy and elegant; notes of roasted coffee, dried and roasted fruit, again slightly disjointed structure and excessive softness from the oak. Good structure, medium length. Tasty red, short of anything tremendously exciting, but confirming my belief in the potential of the winery.

Fattoria Valtellina

Duca di Montechioccioli IGT 1998
Barrel sample. This is the famous wine from late-harvested Merlot eaten by wild boars. I found it a a distributor's stand after hours; there was nobody around, bottles were hidden under the counter but easily accessible, so I helped myself to an opened bottle. Super-sweet and concentrated on the nose, oozing new oak, dense as a syrup; greatly intense in mouth, massively tannic on the finish, again oozing that almondy extraction, yet with some finesse and elegance. Over-the-top but probably quite interesting, given some time in the bottle. Very much in that new style so fashionable in Tuscany now – Trinoro, Sette Ponti etc. – and impossible to criticise fairly today. But one to watch, I think.

Le Pupille

Poggio Argentato IGT 2001
60% Sauvignon, 40% Traminer. Lots of lemon gelée on the Traminer-dominated nose, with bits of extant yeast. A good, interesting marriage of two aromatic characters but fades away rather quickly in mouth. Pleasant lunch wine.

Morellino di Scansano 2001
Colour is a medium purple. Hugely meaty and sausagey at first, wet kitchen board, probably still dizzy from the bottling shock; juicy and griotte-dominated on the palate,pleasant but not much distinction. I usually like this bottling better but probably much to do with bottle variation.

Morellino di Scansano Poggio Valente 2000
A cru wine but not a riserva. Darker than the above. Buttery oak at first, covering a well-concentrated and nicely spiced-up red and black cherry nose; slightly lettucey-green perhaps, and mildly volatile. But good sweet fruit on the palate, notes of green and black peppercorn. Good length, perhaps a bit too soupy and stretched today but likely to improve.

Saffredi IGT 2000
Barrel sample. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Alicante (which I insist is Grenache in this case). Much more concentrated, sharper fruit character, with a fair but not obtrusive dose of VA; black cherry ranging from confitured to dried. Some fried-foody extraction, glassy hollowness at mid-palate. Highly tannic on the palate, warm or almost stale oak. Good but not exceptional. Less exciting than the 1999.

Solalto IGT 2000
40% Traminer, 40% Sauvignon, 20% Sémillon, passito on the vine with minor botrytis. Concentrated, some botrytis apparent on the quite fat nose, notes of pineapple, ripe lemon. A dense fruity style of passito. Slightly bitter lime peel on the finish which is OK with these varieties, it could however use a bit more intensity throughout the palate.

Avignonesi

Bianco IGT 2001
85% Sauvignon and 15% Chardonnay, aged in steel only. Yeasty and lemony on the nose, a bit artificial seeming, decent length, needs some time in the bottle. Rather foody today but has some character.

Cortona DOC Il Marzocco 2000
85% Chardonnay, 15% Sauvignon, malolactic-fermented and aged in new oak. Soft, a bit liqueury-buttery on the nose, showing a bit of vagueness to the perfume. In mouth still rather oaky, some yeast also showing, soft, pleasant and reasonably persistent on the palate, nothing too special but reliable.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999
This vintage also produced Grandi Annate, which sadly was not on tasting. Slightly fading dark purple. Crunchy sour cherry on the nose backed by some soft pie aromas, minor petrol appearing with time. About good.

Cortona Desiderio 1999
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 13 months in 80% new oak. Very dark extracted colour. This is showing softer and oakier than the Nobile, richer and broader in perfume, really a lot of vanilla-creamy oak, lacking some sharpness and expression. Also too oaky in mouth, almost painfully intense, paint-thick, really much overdone and not much pleasure to drink. Will it ever come together? I wouldn't bet on it.

Argiano

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Colour is a luminous, not too dark purple. Spicy and airy nose with a degree of warmth, but not volatile, with hints of boiled veggies such as carrot? Rather on the soft side, pretty unimpressive for a 1997 but then most Brunellos I tasted are like this. Good length and juiciness, decent purity of amarena fruit, not bitter. Not much in terms of tannic structure here, I thought. Pleasant drinkable wine but nothing great really.

Brunello di Montalcino 1979
Somehow they had this old vintage on tasting. Slightly orangey at rim but still dark core. Showing a bit reductive on the nose with 'autumnal' character of leather and old wood, some dried currants, good length and quite some extant orange-peely acidity on the finish, not dirty at all and showing quite harmonious. Might lack a minor amount of freshness but ageing well for the vintage.

Solengo IGT 1999
Dark purple. Very sweet perfume of cherry lightly spiced up with oak, elegant and pleasant, airy spiciness hovering above the fruit. Soft and sweet in mouth, with more soft barrique appearing with time together with some contrasting animal notes. Buttery finish and aftertaste. This is now showing quite fine and I must admit I underestimated this vintage when tasting it at Vinitaly last year. Clearly an extra year in bottle has helped. It might not belong to my favourites but surely is excellent wine.

Siro Pacenti

Rosso di Montalcino 2000
14% alc. Slightly rusty colour at rim. Sweet, very spicy nose with lots of milky oak showing, concentrated, sweet-glyceric in mouth, yet with enough acidity on the masculine finish. Very serious, extreme in style – pretty unlike any Rosso I've had, but promising.

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Colour is dark but austere. Mother's milk and smelly barnyard notes on the nose, though soft and unaggressive, sweet-fruity, has some complexity, showing good balance already. Manages to be concentrated without being exagerated and structured while staying much on the soft side. The finish is perhaps a bit austere at the moment. Also a touch of alcohol. A Brunello that drinks pleasantly but will repay patience. Not earth-shaking but very good indeed.

Lisini

Rosso di Montalcino 2000
This only sees botte. Consistent, natural juicy colour. Great spicy perfume showing outstanding terroir character, noble and complex putting it on a different level than comparably priced Chiantis or Morellinos, a bit soupy-thick, with minor hints of cooked vegetables but interesting aromatically. A blockbuster in mouth, inky-thick and very long indeed, rather warm in character though note this was tasted at the end of the day at less-than-perfect temperature. Seems a bit simpler in mouth, but very expressive and intense. A touch of alcohol showing here as well. Very classy for a Rosso. 12€.

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Consistent warm ruby colour. Sweeter perfume with a bit fresher fruit character of raspberry notably, also sweet strawberry and cherry notes of syrup or ratafia, starting to show some minerality among the spicy cedar and warm berries notes. Reasonable complexity, attractive and elegant. An excellent Brunello scoring high for richness. 23€.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ugolaia 1996
Less than 3,000 bottles made in this vintage, against the more usual 8,000. This is quite dense and austere in colour for a wine which has spent 4 years in botte and one in bottle. More reductive in character with hints of old wood and dried currants, drier in style and not more interesting aromatically than the 1997 normale, harder in mouth also, lacks the richness and generosity of the above. Has some charm but really over-structured (if not quite over-wooded). Not a bargain of course at 50€ but more than decent for the vintage, and one to watch in 1997 for the very long term.

Casanova di Neri

Rosso di Montalcino 2000
Dark but not overextracted purple to a wine only aged in botte. Slightly meaty-spicy nose with a degree of volatility, soft, fruity, with a note of salted salame. Simple but not superficial. Hardish in mouth, some dried fruit flavours, acidity on the high side, quite long. A good, convincing Rosso in a masculine style where most people would find the acidity too high. 10€.

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Again only aged in botte. Slightly fading purple at rim. Softer, more balsamic nose than the Rosso, not vegetal but a bit diffused and evasive, hardish in mouth, with the structure slightly overpowering the fruit, again outstanding acidity. Not a very charming Brunello but has length and filling, Nothing simple, a far cry from the vegetal unripeness of weaker vintages. A demanding wine. 21€.

Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 1997
Mostly barriques with some tonneaux, but all the wood is new here; ageing of three years in barrel and one in bottle. This wine was first released in 1994. The colour is rather dark, as warm yet austere as the above wines. Milky and bready barrique with a stemmy or bitterish meaty edge to it. Shows an airy-light spicy note. In mouth this is more tannic than the normale while beaing clearly lighter in the fruit register, not watery but definitely lean in texture, despite the slightly hardish finish. Showing more filling and all in all more generous. 30€.

Silvio Nardi

Chianti Colli Senesi Castillo 2000
Quite pleasing luminous medium purple. Good nose of concentrated griotte, good Tuscan character with some dry residue, also a sweeter pâtisserie character. Pleasant, creamy-thick in mouth, perhaps a bit abrupt on the finish. Biscuity with a slight hardness of structure. This is aged for 10 months in large botti, a blend of Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot and Canaiolo of which 10,000 bottles were released.

Rosso di Montalcino 2000
Dark purple. Sweet spicy nose, a bit more difficult to pin down than the above, unobvious, spicy, slightly bitter, with a cool mineral side to it. Considerable tannic power, a good if austere and serious wine with no concessions.

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
This is aged in a mixture of 50% botti and 50% barriques coming from three coopers: Sylvain, Seguin-Moreau and Taransaud, of which the first rounds off the wine, the second spices it up, the last gives sweetness to the fruit, says Ms. Nardi. One third of the oak is new in each vintage. She goes on to explain the 25 different parcels with different microclimates making it to the final blend. Rather muted on the nose, elegant despite a minor cooked note, as finesse-laden as Ms. Nardi would like to believe. Has some structure but not overtly hard or masculine. Very good but not among the stars of the vintage for me.

Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 1997
This is from a separate estate located on the southern slope of the Montalcino hill, as opposed to the north-facing central Nardi nucleus. The wine saw 100% barrique for 12 months, then blended in large botti (Ms. Nardi goes on to say how she would like to get rid of the large botti to make a wine always fresher and closer to the primary fruit; she also says 1998, 2000 and 2001 were all better than 1997 in Montalcino). There is also a degree of cold soaking before fermentation. Very dark, with a minor rim. This is more marmaladey and cooked on the nose, has a degree of freshness yet with quite some greeness and hardness of young Brunello. Warmer and more voaltile in profile than the straight Brunello above, very long, lots of power tannic balanced by soft, balsamic fruit but as if mildly disjointed. Quite some impact and authority in mouth really. Very good length, a bit austere-spicy. A big wine which is by a margin more interesting than the normale.

Biondi-Santi

Montepaone IGT 1998
100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 14 months of barrique. Fading purple colour. Rather volatile on the nose, some chalky Cabernet charater which is not unpleasant, juicy, not terrible long. Decent.

Morellino di Scansano Riserva 1999
Sangiovese with 9% Cabernet from the Castello di Montepò estate. Second vintage of this wine. Very almondy (almond flour) extraction, sausage or smoked ham. Still reasonably juicy and approachable in mouth, has some structure and length. Tasty and reliable.

Sassoalloro IGT 2000
100% Sangiovese. Also a bit of fading to the purple colour here. Juicy strawberry and spices on the nose, not very structured in mouth, a far cry from the fabulous length on the palate of the previous vintages as well. Remains pleasant.

Rosso di Montalcino Villa Poggo Salvi 2000
Colour as above. Softer, more feminine in style with some vegetal overtones, also a bit of animal spiciness. A bit pedestrian but reliable again.

Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Il Greppo 1997
A bit more organic and wild in mouth, showing its botte ageing, longer and better structured but nothing earth-shaking really. But these wines take longer than others to show their proper selves. Longer than the above with firmer tannins but mildly overpowering to drink today. This is difficult to assess, juicy but very tannic, dominated by the noble dried currant profile. High acidity, rather unforgiving but might come together. Has structure and filling, superior juiciness after all. Good, interesting wine.

Brunello do Montalcino Villa Poggio Salvi 1997
Already fading ruby in colour. A bit more complexity, spices and dried currant, sweeter perfume than the previous wine. Richer and with more body in mouth. Not the greatest Brunello of the vintage.

Schidione IGT 1998
40% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Colour is dark but fading significantly at rim. Very stale vegetal nose as of decomposing garden greens, fresh paint, red fruit marmalade. Not greatly interesting despite the good juiciness in mouth, dried currants, not too tannic, lacks a bit of perfume to be really interesting. But well-made, decently long, finishes a bit more unfriendly, on the hard side. Has quite some weaknesses for such a hyped and expensive wine.

Ciacci-Piccolomini d'Aragona

Rosso di Montalcino Vigna della Fonte 2000
100% Sangiovese, aged in botti. Very dark purple. A plesasant jammy-fruity nose, with bits of toast and fried cheese. Austere and tannic in mouth but lacking superior definition.

Ateo IGT 1999
50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, aged in tonneaux with just a bit of new barrique. Dark if slightly rusting colour; nose is a bit cooked, kitcheny-roasted indicating a very hot vintage, says the estate's marketing rep Jena Patterson.

Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso 1997
Another masculine but slightly browning colour. The nose starts great with dried currants and candied cherries, quite fresh, later with a slight note of petrolly extraction. But showing elegant and balanced, reasonably fresh-fruity. In mouth however it is vaguer than expected and misses the train to excellence. 33,000 bottles made in this plentiful vintage.

Sant'Antimo DOC Fabius 1999
4,700 bottles made of this 100% Syrah, aged in an even mixture of American and French, new and old oak. Dark colour. Still somewhat oaky on the nose with peppery-stemmy Syrah lurking from behind, mildly animal touches of American oak but nothing obtrusive. Has some elegance, but perhaps excessive milk softness on the palate and eventually lacks grip. But the acidity is present and this could appeal to many. Above-average winemaking here for sure. Good but pricey for 25€.

Eredi Fuligni

Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Dark colour. Lots of bitter spices: ginger, anise and juniper berries. Assertive, open, empyreumatic character. In mouth this again seems a bit bitter and camphora-like despite good length and a juicy texture. Misses the Best Of The Vintage bandwagon due to a mild aromatic vagueness and a lack of fruit sweetness.

Castello del Terriccio

Convento IGT 2001
100% Sauvignon aged in steel. Gooseberry and lemon on the aggressively crisp-acidic nose, lots of liqueur, lemon gelée, then softer than expected in mouth, long, well-made, quite structured for a Sauvignon, if lacking a bit in intensity and finishing bitterish. Good wine.

Rondinaia VdT 2001
100% Chardonnay aged in steel only, 13.5% alc. Rather soft and charming, fruity and mercifully free from oak, soft, peary and peachy although not as crisp as the former nor as sweet as the latter, again with quite some sève bitterness in mouth that is more akin to Spanish or Portuguese whites. Marginally fat and broad from the Chardonnay character but nothing obtrusive. An elegant wine with enough structure for mid-term ageing I think, has what the French call charpente. Good length, some smokey impressions. Quite a nice surprise.

Saluccio IGT 1999
Chardonnay aged in oak. Buttery oak, something pungent as of cat pee here or perhaps mildly volatile; follows with bitter perfume as of chopped herbs and cumin spice. In mouth this is showing light and elegant, even watery perhaps, with some bitterness again (terroir?). A well-made Chardonnay although perhaps lacking the expression of the unoaked version. This was scheduled to be discontinued but might be resurrected.

Tassinaia IGT 2000
Equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, the latter aged in second-year oak while the French grapes see new barriques. Great purple colour. Nose mainly consisting of bell-pepper nose spiced up with some cedar and cinnamon, slightly smokey and tarry, bread-crusty, showing more petrolly-thick in mouth than the 1999 I tried a month earlier at ProWein. Some oak showing in the softness in mouth, long, unaggressive, already rather integrated, this is showing mildly austere in mouth and despite being still in the baby fat stage has quite some grip. Very good length. Utterly convincing if a shade less consistent and fused than the 1999.

Lupicaia IGT 1999
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, new oak, 31,500 bottles. Very serious, concentrated and beautiful dark purple. This has even more grip when it attacks the nostrils with petrolly extraction and high-grade oak, sweetness of fruit coupled with airiness of perfume, cleverly lifted with cumin and cedar spiciness. This still seems to be ingredients for a future wine, showing rather disjointed and approximate, but what impressive approximation. But one cannot help feeling that even more precision could be achieved, especially in mouth where the whole seems a bit blunt from the oak – yet the wine has been in bottle for some time. But seriously concentrated, showing proper Bordeaux austerity to be judged stylistically consistent with its model. Indeed this is more French in style than perhaps any Maremma wine I've tried. Medium tannic structure. This is very good today and has potential to be outstanding. Has class. I remember this today as one of the most impressive reds of the whole fair.

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia

Poggio alle Gazze IGT 2000
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Very pungent gooseberry nose with lemon juice and peel, seems crisper, less fruity-sweet than earlier vintages, also showing considerably more yeast at this stage than earlier efforts did at roughly the same time of their life. At the bottom there is a fatter and still yeast-dominated hint of sur lie character. Soft in mouth, lacks superior definition, rather a commonplace Sauvignon and sad to see it becoming like this since it was such a glorious wine in 1997 and 1998. I asked whether there were any differences in the winemaking after the estate changed hands and was answered that the decantation of the must is now taking place immediately after fermentation whereas earlier there was a brief spell of post-fermentation skin contact. But is this any answer?

Le Volte IGT 2000
40% sangiovese, 30% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged in second-year oak. Medium to dark purple. Not barnyardy or animal but slightly organic on the nose, slightly sweaty also but still quite elegant and pure I think, with minor spiciness. Some petrolly overtones, dried lemon peel, bread crust, also some musk. Rather short in mouth though, served a bit too warm with the spiciness going over the top perhaps, not terribly impressive though still a decent cup. Drying finish much in the French style as usually here.

Le Serre Nuove IGT 1999
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, macerated for 20 days, aged for 18 months in a mixture of new and second-year barrique. Same colour as above, warm ruby-purple which is not too dark. A bit more finesse on the nose, mainly of the spicy kind: cinnamon and cedar, some soft marmaladey fruit perfume appearing as well, meaty, slightly bready in mouth and again not as long as expected. Lacks the almost perfect delineation of the 1998. Quite Bordeaux-like in style, far less exciting than the previous vintage I thought (although the latter was tasted some 7,000 wines ago…).

Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 1999
65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 60% new oak, 40% second-year, aged for 12 months with malolactic fermentation, then blended and aged for a further 6 months. The nose is mainly marked by a spiciness mid-way between Bordeaux and Chianti, showing quite ripe, cedary-cinnamonny, concentrated, almost soupy, yet lighter in weight than the 1998 I think, though similarly delineated in a way which I find close to perfection. Long in mouth but rather metallic, perhaps over-extracted for what it is as the vintage does not seem of the heaviest. Finishes rather bitter. This somehow manages to be cooked without being warm at all, a perfectly made Scandinavian wine I thought, God knows why. Really a bit too brothy-extracted and bitterish on the finish, with the metallic-stemmy nature of the tannins leaving me somewhat confused. Perhaps I have become much more analytically meticulous but this is not at all as I remember it from last year. Has substance but lacks a bit of elegance and that odd flavour on the finish is puzzling. I would need to retaste this but then there's nothing on this Earth that would make me pay for a bottle.

Tenuta San Guido

Bolgheri Sassicaia 1999
Colour is dark but with some blood red at rim. Very balsamic nose with a note of musk, rather muted, as if smelled from behing a glass, starts animal and baked-bready, then gaining good roundness to the whole, showing some attractive balsamic character and good intensity. Not very much Bordeaux-like in contrast to older vintages. A bit of drying tannins showing the structure on the finish but all in all rather subdued. Long, balsamic impressions on the finish again. Lacks some definition and richness. Nothing great, I thought, finding this vintage quite underwhelming.

Podere Grattamacco

Bolgheri Bianco 2000
100% Vermentino of which 20% fermented in new oak. Sweet green-liqueury nose which is very Italian in style, also with a mineral density to it. Good acidity and length, with an intensity mainly appearing on attack, then receding a bit. A suggestion of oily texture. Slightly vegetal-animal perhaps but all in all quite pure and well-defined. A very pleasant, highly drinkable wine although lacks ultimate cut to be outstanding. But good QPR at 10€.

Bolgheri Superiore Rosso 1999
This is from 19-year old vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, 12-year-old Merlot and newly planted Sangiovese. 18 months of barrique of which 80% new in this vintage which needed a higher than average proportion of new oak due to its full body. Dark purple colour, minor rim. Some Cabernet vegetality showing on the nose at first, also some sulphur, quite concentrated but not extracted. Quite Bordeaux in style on the palate with a soupy density to it, rather warm in profile with a cooked vegetal or vegetabley note; quite long if still dense and four-square on the finish. The main problem here seems to be the fading nature of the whispering finish. Needs time. Around 38€.

Marchesi Antinori
I want to state very clearly that I have no particular bias against Antinori for any reasons. My rather vehement reaction against this house and its painfully standardised production is only a result of tasting their wines at this fair and on other occasions. I know most readers on this board disagree about the quality of their upper bottlings; please take these notes with a grain of salt.

Orvieto Campogrande 2001
Mainly Procanico and Verdello. Sweet fruity nose, juicy in mouth, all rather vague and chunky but pure and well-made.

Conte della Vipera IGT 2000
80% Sauvignon, 20% oak-aged Chardonnay. This is Antinori's latest hot venture with Comte de Ladoucette of Pouilly-Fumé. Green and sweet-liqueury on the nose, with hints of almonds and walnuts on the palate. Not bad intensity, pleasantly rounded, finishing more Sauvignon-varietal with ripe but crisp gooseberry. Not showing as artificial as I remember from last year but still rather nothing great.

Bolgheri Vermentino 2001
100% Vermentino. This in turn is quite artificial-yeasty on the nose, pungent vegetal nose with pleasant lemony overtones, seems a bit hot in mouth despite the decent length. Mainly relying on that one lemony flavour. This again is confident wine-making on an industrial scale.

Chardonnay della Sala IGT 2001
Fermented in oak. Oily but unaggressive, even a bit shy nose, watery and neutral in mouth, with some oak showing. What happened to this wine which I enjoyed so much when staying in Umbria?

Cervaro della Sala IGT 2000
Chardonnay with 10% Grechetto. Fat and vaguely buttery, this does have some elegance to it but still a far cry from earlier vintages IMO in terms of complexity and purity. Good length, some oak showing in mouth, really nothing special. The whole Antinori operation seems to be slipping into sub-standard quality.

Chianti Classico Tenute Marchese 1999
75% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet. Very dark in the glass. This is rather expressive on the nose, balsamic and macerated-fruit like, with hints of sweaty oak. Interesting if somewhat artificial, a bit cooked in mouth, suffering from a hot vintage but quite good.

Chianti Classico Riserva Badía a Passignano 1999
100% Sangiovese for the first time in this vintage. Same nose as above with more softness and aged-woody character to it, evolving towards violet in colour, dominated by macerated fruit aromas. Also slightly harder in mouth, less filling to the tannic structure than in the Tenute. Finishes mentholly and vegetable-hollow. These two are less pretentious and more drinkable than the expensive wines here.

Tignanello IGT 1999
Colour is quite dark though rather opaque. Meaty, slightly cooked, with a note of musk or smoke, good length in mouth, some green Cabernet showing on the finish. Lacks distinction I think, also rather low in acids and too soft to my tastes. Very commonplace.

Bolgheri Superiore Guado al Tasso 1999
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, some Syrah. A bit more serious colour here. This is much more milky-oaky, vaguely spicy, lacking any aromatic distinction, buttery-smooth. Showing better in mouth with an austerity of the grape material shining from underneath the truly vulgar oak patina, quite long, finishing slightly bitter. This is almost painfully banal.

Pinot Nero della Sala IGT 1999
Lighter in colour of course. Also rather vague on the nose, balsamic-spicy, shorter in mouth but showing more fruity and direct, with notes of ripe griotte, warm in profile, with along aftertaste. Also come cooked notes? About good.

La Braccesca Merlot IGT 1999
Ruby colour with some rim. A bit bitter on the nose with some sulphur showing, round and well-constructed on the palate, pleasant to drink if of course far from any distinction.

La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999
Prugnolo with some Canaiolo, quite dark ruby in the glass. Red cherry sand flowers on the nose, this is a bit more evasive, showing more soupy on the palate, with better and broader fruit filling, though rather short. Finish of oak and strawberry. What is really sad here is that all these wines are nearly identical.

Brunello di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne 1997
Minor rim to a warm ruby-purple colour. Nose starts with cooked vegetables, warm, vaguely spicy, also quite buttery, very boring. Short and hardish. Uninteresting.

Fattoria Aldobrandesca Aleatico IGT 2000
Very dark pink. Nose of violets and other faded flowers, red cherry, slightly artificial candy character, fades aromatically in the glass and shows just as banal in mouth. Caramelly sweet but as one-dimensional as all the other wines here. This estate is scheduled to produce a high-end Cabernet soon.

Tenuta Sette Ponti
This is the latest media star, located in the Valdarno not far from Cortona. First vintage here was 1999, I think, and Carlo Ferrini is the consultant.

Crognolo IGT 2000
100% Sangiovese aged 18 months in barrique, bottled February 2002. Dark purple but elegant. Minor volatility on the nose, interesting empyreumatic notes, not so much spicy but rather fruity-pungent. Has attractive sweetness to it. Long, quite dense and solid, could use even more lushness of fruit, and more definition. A bit too soft and vague. But this is quite long and very well-made indeed. Rather austere acidity. A true Sangiovese. 20€.

Oreno IGT 2000
Barrel sample of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, scheduled to age 20 months in barrique. Dark purple. Rather bacony-oaky on the nose today, this seems more 'made' and interventionist than the in comparison quite charming Crognolo, this is concentrated and properly spiced up, yet with some sense of elegance. Good length, finishes like the Crognolo with juicy acidity lighter in register than the whole. Might seem a bit hollow in fruit for the structure and oaking but patience is recommended. Today not necessarily more exciting than the simpler Crognolo. 40€.

Tenimenti d'Alessandro Luigi (Podere Manzano)

Cortona DOC Fontarca 2000
60% Chardonnay oaked for 6 months, 40% Viognier, from plantings with 7,000 vines per ha. 30,000 bottles made. Dark golden with peachy hues. This starts very stinky on the nose with lots of cat pee, rather fat in mouth, with a peachy bitterness of Viognier mixed with buttery oak. Still rather dirty and yeasty on the nose, needs time.

Cortona Vescovo II 2000
95% Syrah and 5% Sangiovese aged in steel only. 30,000 bottles made. Colour is a raspberry purple, not too dark. Slight tarry funk with raspberry juiciness of Syrah, quite inviting, a bit opaque on the palate with a degree of bitterness. Good length. Good varietal definition, drinking well, quite pure, with perhaps a bit of hardness and vegetal character on the finish. Not a bad wine at all.

Cortona Il Bosco 1999
From five selected plots of Syrah planted in 1988, 1993 and 1997 at 7,000 vines per ha with yields not higher than 800 g per vine. Aged 12 months in new Taransaud oak from Allier; 60,000 bottles released. This is much darker purple if still quite transparent. Sweet jammy Tuscan fruit on the nose, less obvious Syrah character while the oak is present, if in an elegant way, throughout the evolution. Very fine length which is the wine's best part perhaps, not only carrying its intensity through to the finish but actually increasing in impact. Very fine indeed, although it might need some time to fuse the oak and show more varietal character, i.e. this is today more Tuscan than Syrah-like in its blueberry and blackcurrant gelée and jam.

Fattoria di Petrolo

Terre di Galatrona 2000
Slightly fading purple. Nose is a bit diffused, showing good cherry fruit and mixed spices but also vegetal interferences. Better in mouth where the plump, round griotte and currant fruit is attractive. Dry, but with a softness to the fruit, good length and intensity. Needs more precision to the nose.

Torrione 1999
Colour is also quite dark but more towards an austere, violet-hued purple. This is showing rather vegetal as if including some Cabernet, lettucey and petrolly, with some slightly volatile hints of kirsch or kir. Long and paint-like on the palate, more filling and better intensity than the Terre above, yet lacks the charm of simplicity again. Something is happening with this wine as back in 1993 and 1995 it was one of the most interesting STs.

Part I - Piedmont; Emilia-Romagna; Friuli; Alto Adige; Veneto
Part II - Abruzzo; Marche; Umbria; Campania; Puglia;

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