Italy: The Tuscan Ten • Monica Larner • 28th Apr 2017 | The Wine Advocate
This article, the Tuscan Ten, is an experiment. If it is well received by you—the reader—then I hope to repeat the format again next year and the following years after that. The Tuscan Ten is a special selection of ten iconic wineries spanning this sun-kissed region in Central Italy from the Tuscan Coast and Bolgheri to the inland area of Chianti Classico. The replica watches for sale purpose of the article is twofold. First, it gives us the chance to provide you with early reviews of some of Italy’s most celebrated estates; we normally schedule our coverage of these Tuscan wines towards the end of the year. The Tuscan Ten gives us a window for timelier preview tastings. Second, the Tuscan Ten awards us the opportunity to assess the latest vintage to hit the market. In this case, the focus is on the 2014 season. Some of these wines have already been released; others were tasted from barrel. Unfinished wines will be tasted a second time and given a final score when I do my in-depth Tuscany tastings in September. A big benefit of the Tuscan Ten format is the flexibility that it allows. I can change the lineup of estates chosen each year. And I can adjust the number of wineries included. The Tuscan Ten could be expanded to the Tuscan Twenty or the Tuscan Thirty in the years to come. The idea is to offer you a delicious morsel of some of the excellent Tuscan wines that we can look forward to later in the year. The first thing you might notice about this report is that 12 estates are included, not ten. This is because Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Masseto have been listed separately to reflect the bifurcated branding that is now underway to establish these as two independent wineries. In fact, the new Masseto winery is now under construction and should be operational by the 2018 harvest. I also listed the Antinori family’s Marchesi Antinori brand apart from Tenuta Guado al Tasso, in order to reflect how we normally input these estates in the Robert Parker Wine Advocate database. You also might notice that Tenuta San Guido’s 2014 Bolgheri Sassicaia is not included in the Tuscan Ten, despite its irrefutable icon status. I thought it more appropriate to include it in the Italy, Tuscany: Tenuta San Guido retrospective also published in this issue. Reporting for this article took me to Florence at the beginning of February where I tasted barrel samples of Montevertine with vintner Martino Manetti. A few weeks later, I jumped into my car to visit Stefano Frascolla at Tua Rita; Frascolla poured his wines together with his very talented winemaker Luca D’Attoma of Duemani. Tua Rita and Duemani are two estates I felt strongly about including in the Tuscan Ten. Later that day, I drove to Bolgheri for tastings with Cinzia Merli of Le Macchiole and later her neighbors Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Masseto. That evening, I drove to San Casciano in Val di Pesa (Chianti Classico) to sleep in my favorite hotel with morning views of the Tignanello vineyard at dawn’s first light. I tasted wines from Marchesi Antinori and Tenuta Guado al Tasso at the fabulous new Antinori winery in Bargino. I ran into a very jubilant and upbeat Piero Antinori on his way to Florence for the day. I completed my tasting with General Manager Renzo Cotarella and Albiera Antinori, in their technical tasting space at the back of the winery. Later that afternoon, I drove to Panzano in Chianti where I met with Giovanni Manetti and his son at Fontodi. They had just finished varnishing the wooded ceiling and paneling in the new tasting room on the upper floor of the winey. We moved our tasting to a space with neutral ambient aromas. I caught a spectacular Tuscan sunset with fire-red skies on my way to Castello di Ama. Marco Pallanti and I tasted at dusk as my dog and his dog played in the garden immediately outside his new tasting room. The next morning, I drove to Fèlsina in Castelnuovo Berardenga for a complete tasting with the winery team. That afternoon, I headed back morth to my final appointment with Paolo De Marchi at Isole e Olena. I caught another postcard-perfect sunset before heading back home to Rome. My drive south along the A1 superstrada to the Italian capital gave me ample time to reflect on the 2014 vintage. To say that the vintage opens to low expectations would be an understatement. Besides the universally panned 2002, I can’t remember a growing season more laden with laments. The winter season never got cold enough to reset the vines or kill off lingering disease. Spring months opened to irksome rains that continued well until the end of August. The summer months were characterized by below-average temperatures, dimmed skylight luminosity and fierce battles with fungus-based disease. Many producers will remind you that the season (the four weeks of September) ended on a high note before harvest with dry climatic conditions and strong sunshine. One school says that the last minute heat was enough to put the grapes back on track. The other school disagrees completely saying that the season was flawed from the beginning. My tasting results tend to agree with the first, more optimistic school. While I visited with Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti, he declared: “The 2014 vintage is a vintage of opportunity.” That is an interesting choice of words. In fact, 2014 did award opportunity to those willing to eliminate a significant percentage of the harvested fruit. The wineries included in this article reduced yields anywhere from 20-60% in the 2014 vintage. They made absolutely certain that the fruit used represented the best possible quality, even if bottle production was painfully reduced. This extreme choice paid off and you will see that most of the iconic wines of the vintage—Castello di Ama L’Apparita, Duemani, Fontodi’s Flaccianello della Pieve, Isole e Olena’s Cepparello, Le Macchiole’s Paleo, Marchesi Antinori’s Solaia, Masseto, Montevertine’s Le Pergole Torte and Tua Rita’s Redigaffi—all scored above 93 points in the 2014 vintage. Hey, these are icon wines for a reason, in sickness and in health. Those vows still hold strong. What I found surprising about the 2014 vintage is how much the wines fleshed out and integrated throughout their oak regime. I believe that 2014 is singular in this regard. Wines that seemed lean, watery and short immediately after the harvest slowly put on immense weight and intensity in the barrel. These wines replica watches online uk expanded by an impressive factor to become richly endowed both in terms of aromas and textural substance. In all, I think 2014 should not be overlooked. This is an “annata piccola” (a small vintage) that delivers oversized results. Enjoy the photos from my trip below! Luca D’Attoma manages his own estate Duemani and many others on the Tuscan Coast.