Decanter’s annual Italian tasting took place on Saturday 4th June (see my previous post on what to expect at an all-day Decanter tasting!) at their usual venue, the beautiful Landmark Hotel in London. Out of the 90 plus producers, highlights for us were the best Vermentino we’ve ever tasted, some amazing, velvety Abruzzos, a very distinctive Amarone and the start of a love affair with Morellino di Scansano.
Being a bit OCD about making the most of tastings, Mr Husband and I tend to have a strategy when we go to these events as there’s so much to get round: we estimated we only covered about 20%, maybe less. After diving into the award winners, our first mission was to find some everyday drinking wine for when we go on holiday with our wine club (and families) to the Tuscan coast this summer. We then planned to freshen up with some whites from Friuli and Alto Adige, then before our palates get too jaded, go and discover some new wines from lesser known areas such as Campagnia, Abruzzo,Umbria and Puglia. Then after lunch, Barolos and Barbaresco before finishing off – and finishing ourselves off – with Amarones. Phew!
Kicking off with the Tuscan Coast – mainly – and a smattering of Brunellos, here’s what scored highly with us:
We discovered and consequently fell in love with this Tuscan coast producer at Vinitaly last year.Their super Tuscan – Saffredi – swept us off our feet and we promptly ordered a case of the 2012 once we got back home. We subsequently found out that this wine was awarded the perfect 100 points by James Suckling, a highly acclaimed wine critic – so the best of the very best – and without the giddy prices of Sassacaia or Ornellaia.
- Morellino di Scansano 2014 – 85% Sangiovese, 10% Alicante, 5% Malvasia Nera
Morellino di Scansano DOCG is in the Maremma region of the Tuscan coast. Morellino is the local name for Sangiovese and Scansano is the village which is surrounded by hills on which the grapes are grown. Wines classified under this region have to contain at least 85% Sangiovese. As Maremma is quite a bit further south, wines from this region tend to be a little riper than the Sangioveses of Chianti Classico and Brunello, but still with that archetypal fresh red fruit. This example from Fattoria Le Pupille is delicate, full of juicy raspberries and redcurrants, but with some floral notes.
- Morellina di Scansano Riserva 2012 – 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
To qualify as a Riserva, Morellina di Scansano has to age for at least one year in oak and can be released two years after harvest. There’s definitely more going on here even though the Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t really noticeable. In addition to the red fruit, there’s a bit of creaminess and vanilla from the oak and a slight earthiness and tobacco from the Cab Sav – and maturity. Delicious.
- Poggio Valente, Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2012 – 100% Sangiovese
This is Fattoria Le Pupille’s single vineyard Morellino di Scansano Riserva and although pretty young still, tastes beautifully balanced. It’s concentrated, yet fresh, and has a smidgeon of perfumed blackberries and aromatic herbs, along with the juicy red fruit. One for ageing.
- Saffredi 2013 – 6-% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdo
Although this Super Tuscan is still very young, we could detect a raft of flavours beyond the primary fruit – black cherries, plums and damsons. It’s quite dark, earthy, smoky and sensuous. Fattoria Le Pupille believes that the 2013 will be even better than the 2012.
We knew the Grattamacco estate in Bolgheri and were wowed by the Poggio di Sotto Brunello at Vinitaly last year so were thrilled to discover that ColleMassari’s wines from Montecucco were just as good. Relatively unknown and touted as “Tuscany’s last undiscovered wine region,” Montecucco DOC is in northern Maremma, further inland from Morellino di Scansano and lies to the south west of Montalcino (Brunello).
- Melacce Vermentino, Montecucco 2015
Simple, but delicious, aromatic Vermentino with a perfect level of acidity – a bit of a bugbear of mine for this grape variety. Floral, slightly saline and gloriously refreshing.
- Grottolo Rosato, Montecucco 2014 75% Sangiovese, 15% Montepulciano, 15% Ciliegiolo
Juicy, fruity Rose made from indigenous grapes – try if nothing but for the novelty factor.
- Rigoleto, Montecucco 2014 75% Sangiovese, 15% Montepulciano, 15% Ciliegiolo
From the same blend as the Rose, the Rosso is more complex and quite savoury whilst retaining an easy drinking elegance through its perfumed red fruit.
- Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore 2013 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Sangiovese
Just beautiful – this Super Tuscan is more refined than the Saffredi with its perfumed blackberries notes, but just as delicious. Again, needs time.
- Poggi di Sotto, Brunello di Montalcino 2009
Behind the pale façade is a complex, full flavoured wine. Still a baby, beyond the delicate red berries and juicy blueberries, there’s a delicious mix of wild flowers and herbs, a touch of spice and some earthy savoury notes.
One of the biggest wine companies in Italy, the Antinori family has an enviable portfolio – including Tignanello (a famous Super Tuscan), Prunotto (Piedmont) and Badia a Passignano – the first Chianti Classico we fell in love with.
- Vivia, Maremma Tuscany 2015 50% Vermentino, 40% Viognier, 10% Ansonica (from the Le Mortelle estate)
Delicious and aromatic, this is an undemanding white with “aperitif” written all over it. Lemons, peaches, herbs and bags of fresh acidity.
- Conte della Vipera, Umbria 2014 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon (from the Castello della Sala estate)
A classic Bordeaux white blend, the Semillon beautifully tempers the Sauvignon Blanc’s leafiness and acidity.
- Badia a Passignano, Chianti Classico Grand Selezione 2010 100% Sangiovese
This is a little more powerful than many Chianti Classicos – probably why I love it! See previous tasting note when we ate at the osteria last year.
- Trentangeli Castel del Monte, Puglia 2014 70% Aglianico, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah (from the Tomaresco estate)
I’d not encountered Aglianico – the dark, brooding hero of Campagnia – in blend before but was instantly converted. Although this wine is relatively young for these three full bodied and complex grapes, it is very approachable yet structured. We’ll be seeking this out through Antinori’s UK importer.
Frescobaldi is another famous Italian family with world class estates across Italy. We visited their Nipozzano estate last year in Chianti Rufina.
- Castelgiocondo, Brunello di Montalcino 2011 Sangiovese
Excellent fuller bodied Brunello with well integrated black and red fruit, earthy and herbal notes.
- Terre More Cabernet, Maremma 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah
Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, the rich, spicy blackcurrant notes are balanced by plummy red fruit, spice, a lick of coffee and hints of vanilla. Exciting stuff.
- Sassoalloro IGT Toscana Rosso 2012 100% Sangiovese Grosso
A simple red fruits and violets wine; fresh and balanced.
- Braccale 2012 80% Sangiovese Grosso, 20% Merlot
The grapes for this IGT are grown in Scansano. Soft and supple, its acidity is tempered by the plummy merlot which adds some depth and spice.
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 100% Sangiovese Grosso
This wine is only produced in the best years, from grapes which are at least 25 years old. It’s still fresh but just starting to turn. Very moreish.