Friday, March 30, 2012

Tuscany '97 versus '99

Go to your local wine store and ask, “What’s the best Tuscan vintage of the nineties?” The answer you will almost always receive is ‘97, which is a shame because ‘97 never lived up to the hype. What ‘97 did stand for was a turning point in Tuscan winemaking. It was a time when most producers had made major changes in their viticulture, and winemaking practices literally cleaned up the wine coming out of Tuscany. There were many producers that were making very good wine before ’97, but ’97 marked a movement in quality across the entire spectrum. The days of a typical Chianti reeking of dirty barrels and tasting either chunky or diluted had ended.

It was with this in mind that I recently attended a ’97 versus ’99 Sangiovese tasting. I was positive that I already knew what the outcome would be. However, I did keep an open mind, because if there’s one rule that any wine lover should always live by, it’s that it’s better to buy the producer over the vintage--meaning that the best producers will often find a way to make great wine, even in lesser vintages.

So with all my preconceptions tossed to the wind, I began to taste. What did I find? If I want to paint broad strokes, what I expected to find, and did, is that the ’97s were far more advanced than the ‘99s with most of the ‘99s only just starting to enter their drinking windows. However, what I didn’t expect was how much I truly enjoyed the ’97 Gagliole and Castellare di Castellina (and the Fontalloro was no slouch either). This tasting turned from a battle of supremacy into something much more; a study of vintage characteristics and a truly enjoyable tasting.

The 1999 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro, ended up as my highest-scoring wine. However, if I wanted to drink something tonight, the 1997 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò was simply spellbinding.

On to the notes:

Fattoria Viticcio

1997 Fattoria Viticcio Prunaio Toscana IGT – The nose was musty, and showed black cherry, minerals, plum and cinnamon. It was rich and ripe on the palate with intense cranberry, sweat spice, granny smith apple and a hint of perceptible heat. The finish showed cranberry but was marred with searing acidity. In the end, this bottle may have been slightly corked. (86 points)

1999 Fattoria Viticcio Prunaio Toscana IGT – The nose showed crushed red berries, licorice, mountain herbs and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was focused and elegant with blackberries and spice, followed by hints of lingering structure. The finish was long with sour red fruits. (90 points)

Fattoria di Fèlsina

Year in and out, Felsina continues to show that they can make great wines in almost any vintage. Considering that today’s price point of Fontalloro is still in the $40-$45 range, it is easily one of the best values in age-able wine.

1997 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro – The nose showed undergrowth, old library book, animal musk and berry tartlet. On the palate it was lively with balanced acidity showing dark red fruits, licorice and spices. The finish was long and staying with hints of structure. It was highly enjoyable and somehow warmer and furrier than the ‘99. (90 points)

1999 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro - The nose showed plums, strawberry jam and floral stems. On the palate, I found leaner fruit than the ’97 yet it was focused and intense on its own with tart red berries and a hint of pepper and spice. The finish was staying with intense red fruits and mouth-coating tannins. The fruit was leaner yet still more intense that the ’97 with superb balance and many years of development in store. (94 points)

Gagliole

In the case of Gagliole, these were not the same bottle from two different vintages. Here, the ’97 was 90% Sangiovese with an addition of 10% Cabernet. In the end, the ’97 won out, but it was likely because of the extreme oak that showed through in the ’99.

1997 Gagliole Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT (10% Cabernet) – The ever-changing nose showed crushed fall leaves, herbal tea, brown sugar, musk, and strawberry jam. On the palate, it was velvety with sweet dark red fruits, a hint of vanilla and dark wood tones with fresh acidity keeping it exciting. The finish showed clean, sour red fruits. (92 points)

1999 Gagliole Pecchia Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT (100% Sangiovese) – On the nose, it came off as murky with dried red fruits, herbal tea, minerals, undergrowth and earth. On the palate, it was rich with an airy lift, intense red fruits, and charred woods, yet it was unbalanced and cloying. The finish was long with sour, bitter red fruits. (87 points)

Castellare di Castellina

This was the first chance I had to taste a Castellina I Sodi San Niccolò with any age on it, and let me just say, WOW! These were both beautiful and made a good case for putting some younger vintages away in the cellar.

1997 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT – On the nose, I found dark wild berries, sweet spice, coffee grinds, cherry pipe smoke, and hints of undergrowth and acetone. On the palate, it was rich and ripe, yet still coloring within the lines, with black cherry, sweetened sun tea and brisk acidity that gave it a juicy and almost electric presence. The long finish showed jammy red fruits, which was balanced by remnants of mouthwatering acidity. (93 points)

1999 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT – On the classically-styled nose, I found tart red fruits, floral notes, barnyard and herbs. On the palate, it was velvety and balanced with fresh focused red fruits, cedar and soft herbal notes, yet it remained fresh and pulsing throughout. The finish showed pure spicy red fruits. (92 points)

San Giusto a Rentennano

If you fashion yourself an Italophile, than there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the 1990 Percarlo, a truly epic wine. It’s unfortunate that the ’97 didn’t come close to expectations but the ’99 was spellbinding, and will easily continue to age. This is a wine to buy if the chance arises.

1997 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo Toscana IGT – On the nose, I found sweet floral notes with cinnamon and tarragon. On the palate, it was balanced and juicy with ripe wild berries and sweet spices. Wood tannins began to build toward the finish and took over. The finish was long yet tannic with blackberry and herbal notes. (88 points)

1999 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo Toscana IGT – The nose was elegant and finessed, showing sweet spices, rich red fruits, woodland notes, a hint of black licorice. On the palate, it showed impressive weight, yet was juicy and fun with lots of pure red berry fruits, cedar and herbs. The finish was pure and clean with staying tannin wrapped dried red fruits. (94 points)

Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli

The Siepi is a wine I’ve often seen and never tasted. With a healthy dose of Merlot, these wines take on a completely unique profile from the others in the tasting.

1997 Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi Toscana IGT – On the nose I founds intense savory notes of sautéed onion and curry. Notes of dried raspberry were found with coaxing as the nose settled with time. On the palate, it was velvety and dark with earthy red and black fruits, as it turned soft and juicy yet lacked depth. Masses of dry tannin were found on the finish, yet there was still a solid core of fruit. (91 points)

1999 Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi Toscana IGT – The nose was dark and mysterious, showing a mix of sweet berries, spice, and cedar. On the palate, it was soft with dark red fruits, herbal tea and zesty acidity but a little one-dimensional. The finish was medium-long with lingering red fruits. (90 points)

The Rundown

1997 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò – (93 points)
1997 Gagliole Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT – (92 points)
1997 Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi IGT – (91 points)
1997 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro – (90 points)
1997 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo Toscana IGT – (88 points)
1997 Fattoria Viticcio Prunaio Toscana IGT – (86 points)

1999 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro - (94 points)
1999 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo Toscana IGT – (94 points)
1999 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò – (92 points)
1999 Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi IGT – (90 points)
1999 Fattoria Viticcio Prunaio Toscana IGT – (90 points)
1999 Gagliole Pecchia Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT – (87 points)

No comments:

Post a Comment