Tasting in Tuscany

Written By

July 26th 2010

Tasting in Italy is always a privilege but never more so than when spending a few warm days in Tuscany from where I have recently returned.

Despite Easy Jet’s tardy departure from Gatwick my first tasting at Ambra in Carmignano convened at a reasonable hour. Delicious structured reds with a splash of Cabernet, my favourite being the Elzana 2006.

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On to the striking town of San Gimignano – here we are blessed to work with the nutter that is Simone Santini. His Vernaccia is just outstanding and organic to boot. We also discovered a lovely red cherry driven Chianti Colli Senesi which I hope may become part of our offering.

Tuesday was full of Chianti action. Isole e Olena, v impressive Cepparello and Vin Santo 01 – wow. Then a thankless search for Chianti at Il Poggiolino. But a wonderful visit to Tignanello for some outstanding 2007. Best they have made in 15 years and still a fair price. Also tasted their Guado al Tasso 2007 from Bolgheri – an earthy Cabernet based beast with a dash of syrah, cab franc and merlot, great length.

On to Riecine, via Fontodi, who make lovely wines but none for us. At Riecine, Sean is making the greatest Chianti high up in the hills of Gaiole where the cool nights maintain great freshness. These are really special wines and culminate in La Gioia, which translates to Joy and that it brings in volumes. We have a little of the 05 left, one of my highest scorers of the week.

Dinner at Badia Coltibuono took me back to the mid 80s when I used to distribute those wines in the UK – a beautiful restaurant and B and B available in the Abbey, a good tip for next time!

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To Montalcino next for our Salvioni session. Tiny cellar immaculately run and the wines muscular and very impressive. I always buy his Rosso as Brunello normally defeats my budget. We tasted Brunelli 08, 07, 06 and 05, the latter being just joyful. He makes only a few thousand bottles so we are delighted to be able to represent him here in UK.

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On to our good friend Pierro Palmucci at Poggio di Sotto and his sweet kitten. He makes Brunello more akin to great red Burgundy, Chambolle-esque and beautifully textured. It is a treat to taste these wines and again tiny quantities made.

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Lunch under the pergola at Sesti. Once again they deliver on every level, a thoroughly impressive line-up of great wines. The Phenomena Brunello Riserva 04 was a highlight and a wonderful lunch of spaghetti al pomodoro and chicken with sage – I can still taste it now. What was very gratifying was how well the Rosso 08 is now showing and a good tip is to ice bucket the reds when the sun beats down just for 10 minutes or so.

To the south and Morellino di Scansano and I was re-united with a wine I bought in 95 vintage, Saffredi, Le Pupille. We tasted the 2006 a blend of 40% Cab Sav, 55% Merlot and 5% Alicante – lovely sweet black fruit some cherry, smoke and great ageability.

Dinner at one of life’s great restaurants, La Pinetta at Maremma di Bibbona, all about fish washed down with Felluga Friulano – bene, molto bene.

Then into our final flurry, Thursday morning to Biserno, the new joint venture of Antinori brothers Piero and Lodovico (ex Ornellaia). WOW this is impressive. Beautiful impeccably restored hunting lodge fully frescoed up, The wines are modern in style but incredibly polished. Il Pino di Biserno 07 is a treat and the big wine, Biserno 07, of which little is made, is destined for greatness. You could feel the cinghiale all around you in the forest and I have to say they tasted wonderful with some simple pappardelle in the Tognoni Brasseria in Bolgheri washed down by a glass of Sassicaia 2007.

I love Italy, the food, the wine, the passion – it fuels the soul – Bravo Italia.