Tuscany’s landscape swells with rolling hills, grapevines, cypress and olive trees. It prospers with pine forests and rugged coastlines. Rosemary, basil and lavender grow wild, everywhere. Medieval hilltop towns brim with the castello, the torre, the fortezza and the piazza. The masters’ frescoes and sculptures hang and preside in the duomo, the museo and the palazzo. Land of quintessential cultural convergence. Panorama, art, architecture, food and wine. Who would question the temerity or not gesture in obeisance to its pleasures. “We’re not worthy!” Now imagine my little boy excitement as I approach a table set with an armament of 16 Tuscan reds. Bliss of anticipation.
Have you ever been asked, “if you were stranded on a desert island with only one bottle of wine, what would it be?” Mon dieu, certainly not a greatest vintage of the century Bordeaux. An exclamatory colour of the Virgin Mary’s cloak no!, not Grand Cru Burgundy. Quel désastre! Not even vintage Champagne.
My go to is Tuscan. Dry as the desert Sangiovese. It presented me 25 years ago with my true, romantic, prima facie wine experience. I did study and live there once upon a time and the Zoltan did refer to me as one last week at a Barque Smokehouse, Marc Kent wine dinner. I also have a very soft spot for foods ending in “ini” but no, I am not Italian.
Modernization and metanoia have brought a new Renaissance to a place of “antiquity ennobled by the Christian faith.” The wines of Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Maremma and Morellino di Scansano all celebrate the venerable Sangiovese. The addition of international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc has proselytized Tuscany to a whole new religion.
The contemporary Etruscans in bottle are potions (concerti, arie) so composed (tight knit, fluent) it’s as if their ends seems to scream beginning. Pure Tuscan wines are Sangiovese’s shot at the firmament.
Look for these Tuscan wines this coming weekend
Triacca Spadino 2010 (288001, $15.95) brings the Maremma to the world and the world to the Tuscan coast. A sheep in dog’s clothing, Sangiovese so modern you might swear there was Garnacha or Syrah in the mix. A Maremmano of citrus zest and acidity sidling seeping, weeping cherries. The wood effect is not chocofied but rather toasty vanilla. Really good effort with broad appeal. 88
Michele Satta Bolgheri Rosso 2009 (39834, $19.95) is resplendent in reverse. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Teroldego and Syrah acts like a top quality Chianti Classico. The expectation was for a rich, mocha driven IGT but the wine is actually old school; reserved, gravity defying, “un po di grazie.” 88
Ruffino Modus 2008 (912956, $28.95) displays more elegance and restraint in ’08. The ’07 was flat out gorgeous but also oaked to the hilt. Here Brunello-like scents of roses, sweet cherries and cedar together walk the IGT Toscana line. The future doffing of a running current of iron minerality will be welcome. Will break away and flesh out with time too. “Certo! All the Italians do it.” 90
Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2008 (285510, $28.95) is a wow wine. Viscous, sweet nectar, full on concentrated berries and polished rocks au jus. An opus dei call to vinous holiness and sanctity. Rapturous feeling of punch drunk love falls over me after sipping this noble Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile). 92
Le Pupille Poggio Valente Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2007 (230680, $29.95) hails from the appellation’s pilgrim winemaker Elizabetta Geppetti’s fattoria straordinario. Crocodile teeth and molto plenitude in Sangiovese form. A screen star of Tuscany’s newest stage, a Euro, Neo-Classical, Olafur Arnalds composition in bottle, über-Tuscan, full of mineral verve and transcendent beauty. 91
Other wines tasted
Toscolo Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 (69369, $24.95) at it’s core is elemental, reductive, jumpy. 88
Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (651141, $59.95) appears rusty and old school but is oleaginous, glycolic licorice and anise with a case of hyperglycemia. Best since ’99. 93
Livio Sassetti Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 (287284, $39.95) is essentially a riserva in this vintage. Funkified but does dissipate with a swirl, yet still wound tight. 90
Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (922054, $41.95) is laid back but aching to burst and bleed red-blooded Sangiovese. Earth, pine and cool in the centre. 91
Poggio Al Tesoro Sondraia 2008 (292391, $44.95) is rich, dark and modern. Pure as mocha-driven snow. Fleeting and confounding, refined almost to a fault. 90
Luca Della Vite Luce 2009 (685263, $99.95) is crazy stuff. Berry filled truffles, licorice liqueur drops and carob from the tropics. Sensual, voluptuous, Sophia Loren. 92
Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno 2009 (735597, $71.95) is a mouth full of chocolate covered crushed rocks. Animal waste scent adds a tragicomic note. Not sure about this O. 89
Good to go!