All posts filed under: News

The Super-Tuscan Snafu: Considering James Suckling’s list of Top 12 Tuscan wines from over 10 years ago.

When learning Italian, I have been told many times the most beautiful accent to learn is from Siena in Tuscany because Tuscans are the poets of Italy.   The language of wine in Tuscany is also very rich, with a long tradition of culture and history with interesting local idiosyncrasies, yet the recent past, dominated by James Suckling, Wine Spectator and their lists of Super-Tuscans, has left many in Tuscany not singing but mumbling.   Before I go any further, let’s get this out of the way. James Suckling was not the person to coin the word “Super-Tuscan”. It was used in a book co-authored by Nicholas Belfrage and Jancis Robinson called “Life beyond Lambrusco” (1985). It’s a common misconception in the wine trade, perhaps driven by James Suckling’s enthusiasm of Super-Tuscans during his time at Wine Spectator.   On his website, Suckling recently published his 12 Most Collectible Tuscan Wines from over ten years ago (Question: How many of these wines are NOT made from “international” varieties? Answer at the end of this post …

Branko, Collio Pinot Grigio 2009

Don’t tell me this is a Pinot Grigio. Apart from just learning the Collio region has recently been wiped out by violent storms; this wine is proof that we have accepted a feeble lie about the Pinot Grigio grape for far too long. This is the real deal. From the North-East of Italy, on the border of Slovenia in Friuli- Venezia Giulia, it is full of intense flavours and texture: maybe even too much for some used to the commercial, watery stuff. Ginger is a strong taste and it gives an almost hot, spiciness to this wine, but it is swiftly balanced by a soft creamy almond and pear character. And then the grippy texture grabs you back to the glass. It is more expensive than the average Pinot Grigio, but unlike most sad excuses for white wine, this actually tastes of something and somewhere. I hope Branko’s vineyards are okay, nearly 300 ha in Collio were wiped out last week, with many vineyards devastated by up to 80-100%. Best wishes to everyone in Collio. Tasted at Vagabond …

Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino to be sold? Rumours from Montalcino

Rumours from the hills of Montalcino today is Colle Massari is acquiring Piero Palmucci’s Poggio di Sotto. An elderly gentleman with no offspring interested in taking over the vineyard, it could soon be in the hands of Claudio Tipa, winemakers from Maremma, part of the family who are also patrons of Alinghi team in the America’s Cup. The tiny 8ha of vineyard (12 ha in total) produce some of the most mystical and benchmark expressions of Brunello in Montalcino. To say this a favourite wine of mine is an understatement. Not only is the flavour burned in my memory as perfect expression of Sangiovese in Montalcino, and I use it as a complete reference point, but it was also

Letters from Montalcino: appeals on proposed changes to Rosso di Montalcino

The Brunello di Montalcio producers are meeting to vote and decide whether to change the law: to allow Rosso di Montalcino to become a blended wine, like other wines in Tuscany, (and in other parts of the world) or to remain as 100% Sangiovese. What do producers see as the problem with changing Rosso di Montalcino from 100% Sangiovese to 85% Sangiovese? A few days ago one of the bigger producers wrote an open letter to the consortium from one of the larger producers, Mastrojanni owned by Francesco and Andrea Illy (yes, the same Illy as the coffee): 

Spectacular Mount Etna DOC

This is what gives Mount Etna DOC wines their character. Last night, Mount Etna erupted for 2 hours. Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano, replenishing the region’s soil every few years with hot lava music. The black volcanic soil filters the strong flavours of grapes ripened under the Sicilian sun. This makes the wines from Mount Etna powerful, yet distinctly soft with a mineral taste. Technical information: Mount Etna DOC Red Grape Varieties: Nerello mascalese, Nerello mantallato White Grape Varieties: Carricante, Catarratto bianco Recommended wines: Red: Etna Rosso DOC 2007, Cantine Nicosia, Sicilia (80% Nerello Mascalese, 20% Nerello Mantallato) White: 2009 Planeta Carricante, Mount Etna, IGT Sicilia Image and Link: “Red Sky at Night… Mount Etna erupts in spectacular fashion” (Daily Mail, 13 Jan 2011)

Changes in Rosso di Montalcino DOC race ahead

The red colour of Italian cars is not just any red. It comes from a long history of rules, mostly developed between the World Wars, when car racing began. Different countries were assigned different colours: blue for French cars, white for German cars and, of course, British cars were racing green. Red was assigned for Italian race cars and now, the red colour of Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari is instantly recognisable as a “race red” (or Rosso Corsa). All these rules have a history, which gain sense from the time, but most people today know what is meant by Ferrari Red. Just as with Italian car colours, and a lot of things in Italy, Italian wines have many rules. So it is worth considering what the proposed changes in the rules mean, especially when on the 15th December, the 15 board members proposed to change Rosso di Montalcino from 100% to 85% guaranteed Sangiovese. Currently the law stands: Brunello di Montalcino must be 100% Sangiovese and aged for 4 years (Riserva for 5 years) …

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG vs European Union

Some headache! The morning after the party to celebrate 30 years of DOCG status in the ancient Tuscan town of Montepulciano, winemakers were making their way to Brussels to confront the European Union’s decision to change Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG to simple “Montepulciano”. What’s the problem? Montepulciano has 6 syllables already, that is enough for a name isn’t it? And isn’t Montepulciano just a cheap red wine found in most supermarkets for around £5? What’s the problem with shortening it? The problem is this: say Montepulciano and most people think Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the cheap and cheerful red Montepulciano grape from the next state, Abruzzo. Not the Sangiovese wine from Tuscany, Vino Nobile. Change the name from Vino Nobile to just “Montepulciano” and suddenly the wine is something else for most people asking for it. Already there is enough confusion between these two very distinct styles because they share the word in the name: Montepulciano. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG was one of the first regions in Italy to receive DOCG status in1980, next to …