Lunching With The Super Tuscans

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 13, 2010
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Some of the most enjoyable wine tastings are unplanned. I had to visit a friend to take care of some business. I had just visited him the day before to drop off some wine he was planning to drink the following (this) evening. While talking story, around 11 in the morning, I interjected that he should open the wines right now and maybe even decant some so they would show well by the time evening and his guests came around. He thought it was a good idea and asked me if I wanted to do the honors, and presto! We ended up tasting some fabulous Super Tuscans for lunch.

A total of about 200 cases were made of the 2005 Montepeloso “Il Gabbro” ($125). It is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels. This seemed to be the most-focused and lean (in the best sense of the word) of the bunch. It opens with a very earthy, almost chalky note along with blackberries and savory spices. It has quite a zesty acidity with a rich and tannic backbone. This is definitely an Old World-styled, earth-driven wine that will require at least five more years for the structure to soften. Whether it will get better is a different question.

The 2004 Argiano “Solengo” ($99) was showing quite nicely. Cabernet Sauvignon (45 percent), Merlot (30 percent) and Syrah (25 percent) make up the blend. It has a very flowery elegant, high-toned strawberry, cherry and cinnamon note on the nose, kind of like potpourri. Already pretty soft on the palate, this wine is very approachable already with a plush robe of tannin that is quite velvety. It is hard to deny the elegance and softness of this wine. It may seem light in comparison to some of these others, but the delicacy of the feminine side can be quite sexy.

And if that is the feminine side, the 2004 Castello dei Rampolla “Vigna d’Alceo” ($239) is definitely the masculine edge. I must say that I get a lead pencil-shaving quality with this wine that reminds me of another great Cabernet with lots of dried blackberry and currants. It is quite spicy on the nose with an almost peppery, tobacco note as well. With 15 percent Petit Verdot bolstering the already-thick Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has plenty of structure to go around. The tannin is like rippling muscles on a triathlete - long and sinewy. The fruit plays a secondary role here with a mélange of black fruits on the long, structured finish. Edgy and thick, this wine will require some time in bottle to blossom into its full potential. Perhaps another five to eight years.

Elizabetta Geppetti’s 2004 Le Pupille “Saffredi” ($119) is an impressive Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Alicante blend. It is very polished with ripe, almost forward red and black fruit aromas with a sweet vanillin oak-influenced lace. It handles all this bright fruit without seeming heavy on the palate. Perhaps what I like most about it is it somehow retains its Italian identity despite using international varieties - something that some of the other Super Tuscans cannot say.

The “Granddaddy of Super Tuscans,” Sassicaia is always a treat. The 2005 ($179), which is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance being Cabernet Franc, has a superb nose that seems to have everything going on. There is the bright-red fruitiness along with the sweet cedar wood and hot rocks. It is already quite expressive and complex. The concentration is there on the palate, but it is still quite tight and reticent. Only time will allow this wine to show its greatness.

I must compare the 2005 ($199) and 2006 ($199) Tenuta dell Ornellaia “Ornellaia” side by side. To me, the 2006 is more hedonistic. It simply gushes with full-blown forward sweet fruit buffered with sweet vanilla. It is the more outgoing of the two siblings that loves to please others and is most accommodating. The 2005 is more intellectual, not as fruity but still very polished, more structured and a smidgeon drier. They are both beautiful wines, but which one you’ll prefer will come down to your taste.

Some call it the Petrus of Italy because it is 100 percent Merlot. The 2006 Tenuta dell Ornellaia “Masseto” ($389) is indeed a most impressive wine. It has a HUGE nose just overflowing with perfectly ripe fruit, the prerequisite sweet oak treatment and sweet flowers. It is both voluptuous and voluminous at once. It coats your palate with waves of sweet fruit and oak and a heavy but long aftertaste. The intensity is outstanding but it no longer seems Italian. I could put it up against any of the “cult” Cabs and Merlots of the New World.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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