Bolgheri goes boom!
Last November, I published Part 1 of my Exclusive Bolgheri Report; a feature that spans 7 vintages and includes both red and white wines. Part 1 included charts and statistical references which illustrate the Bolgheri Disciplinario. And while I encourage you to refer back to those graphics, I’m including a few of the pertinent facts below for ease of reference.
As a region, Bolgheri is quite small. Currently, the Bolgheri Consorzio is comprised of 65 producers who constitute 95% of the region’s wine production. The total vineyard area of the Bolgheri DOC is only 1,190 hectares plus an additional 180 hectares devoted to IGT wines. By comparison, there are 5,000 hectares of vines within the Brunello DOCG and 24,000 hectares under vine in Montalcino.
The chart below illustrates the plantings by varietal.
The next chart is important as well. It illustrates the blending rules permitted within the DOC for both Bolgheri Rosso and Bolgheri Rosso Superiore. The latter is the higher designation and the main difference is that to be labeled as such, the wine must be aged an additional year, including at least 1 in oak. Here are a few examples, with practical results for DOC labeling.
Wine 1: 100% Cabernet. May be labeled under the DOC
Wine 2: 50% Merlot and 50% Syrah. May be labeled under the DOC
Wine 3: 60% Sangiovese. 40% Syrah. Not allowed. Labeling must be IGT
Wine 4: 100% Sangiovese. Not allowed. Labeling must be IGT
I Vini di Bolgheri
I started the tastings for this installment in dramatic fashion. That’s really the only way to put it.
The first commercial release of Sassicaia occurred in 1968. Back then, production was nearly microscopic. Gradually, production increased slightly and wines from younger vineyards were added. Today, the estate consists of 90 hectares of vines which lie approximately 200-300 meters above sea level.
Sassicaia is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Like the great Bordeaux estates on which Tenuta San Guido was modeled, the wine’s construction mirrors the plantings in the vineyards.
The 2017 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is a pure, purple in the glass. Given the hot character of the 2017 vintage, I was not surprised at how forward and accessible this version is. Pure Velvet. And frankly, I find it ready to drink. After being decanted for an hour, the aromas are potent; with blackberry, spice and purple flowers. Absolutely huge, rich fruit on the palate with black plum and blackberry that is full bodied. Leather, spice and cigar tobacco add to the package but the texture is amazing. Velvety, seamless. Just wow. A totally different style than the 2016 but equally impressive. 96 points. Find this wine.
My readers know that Tuscan Vines is more than just wine reviews. It’s a journey through Italian wine, food and culture. It endeavors to lift experiences directly from the winemakers and villages and bring them to you directly. And as I’ve mentioned many times, wine tells a story. I encourage to read about Michele Satta’s beginnings here. Satta’s Story.
If there’s one producer in this report whose wines you should seek out, it’s Michele Satta. Somehow he manages to stay off the radar but every one of his wines that I taste are compelling examples. His 100% Sangiovese is no exception.
The 2019 Michele Satta Cavaliere is a deep ruby color in the glass. Wow! Ultra fresh. The aromas burst from the glass with wild berry, vanilla, wild herbs and flowers on the nose. Wow! Vibrant cherry, fresh fennel, dusty mineral and spices on the palate are absolutely sublime. This is seriously good. Maybe a touch too much spicy pepper on the finish but that’s a class A nit. 96 points, not yet released. Find this wine.
Castello Banfi is a significant producer whose reputation is inextricably tied to Montalcino. That’s as it should be. The estate crafts a vast array of quality wines across many price points. But most people forget that for the last 10 years, Banfi has held vineyards in Bolgheri.
In 2009 Banfi purchased 5 hectares of vineyards along the Tuscan coast within sight of the sea. Cabernet and Cabernet Franc were planted and today the vineyards are approaching 12 years of age. Aska is the ancient Etruscan name for “wine vessel”. They used Askas to transport wine and olive oil. The Etruscans believed that beneficial human emotions were conferred by the Etruscan Gods of Sun and Moon. This legend is symbolized by the two luminous discs on the wine’s label.
The 2017 Banfi Aska is a deep garnet color. Aromas of red flowers, smoke, tobacco and black plums mark the nose. I like how this evolves in the glass. Medium bodied with nice, ripe black plum flavors that dominate on the palate. A slightly bitter astringency appears on the finish where some overripe notes poke through. I would like more freshness here. 89 points. Find this wine.
I’ve never enjoyed the next wine. Not once. I’ve had it in multiple vintages and have written about it here (2010) and here (2015) so it’s not like I’ve only experienced poor vintages. Far from it. As a result, you can imagine that I wasn’t expecting much when this wine came up for tasting. Persistence….maybe something has finally turned.
The 2019 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto is a pretty, medium violet color. Attractive nose of blue flowers, black fruits, eucalyptus and toasted spice. I find it rather quite appealing. On the palate, medium to full bodied black fruit flavors are substantial, juicy and fresh. Black olive, leather, tarragon and toasted nuts are really enjoyable. Balanced well, the tannins assert themselves just slightly on the long, ripe finish. This is far and away the best Guidalberto I’ve tasted in any vintage. 94 points and for the pedigree of the estate, quite a nice value around $40. I would easily get more of this. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
Tenuta Argentiera is another estate with which I have long experience. Similar to many of the other estates in the DOC, there’s a flagship wine and several “underlings” to be considered. In the instant case, there are two flagships, though the newest wine is rather dear. Like Michele Satta, Argentiera runs below the radar. I’m not really sure why that is because the quality is excellent. Now represented by Volio Imports in the US, perhaps their distribution will be more accessible. It was a good move for them.
The 2018 Tenuta Argentiera, “Argentiera” is a deep violet color clear to the rim where it fades only slightly. Black fruits, dark chocolate and mint on the nose are really pure and very attractive. Gorgeous ripe blackberry, mint, toasted spices and dark chocolate covered espresso beans are juicy, fresh, pure and utterly amazing. This is so so so impressive. A monumental effort in challenging vintage. What’s the catch you ask? Well, I love this wine but I’d love to see it as a ringer in a blind Napa Cab. tasting. That style will not be for everyone. And I freely admit, it’s not usually for me. But there’s something about this one…. 97 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
When you live in a 13th century Castle and count Sassicaia and Ornellaia as your neighbors, chances are you’re going to do things the right way. The Bolgheri Castle has been owned by the Gherardesca Counts for generations. Although wine grapes have been cultivated here for centuries, it was the current owner who increased production and more importantly quality, beginning in 1996. Today there are 55 hectares, all planted along the Viale dei Cipressi and in the northern part of Bolgheri.
The 2018 Castello di Bolgheri Rosso Superiore is a beautiful deep violet color. Absolutely gorgeous aromas of blackberry, black plum, flowers, spices and vanilla mark the nose. Hints of tobacco and eucalyptus develop later. On the palate, black fruit dominates with incredible freshness, length and intensity. Accented flavors include cream, vanilla, and hints of fresh herb. This wine is outstanding and really opened my eyes. A blend of 55% Cabernet, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Very impressive for the vintage. 96 points Find this wine.
I have long enjoyed Lupicaia, but have not had the opportunity to taste the 2011. In this Feature, I reviewed two great vintages, both of which had cellar time behind them. Therefore, when the producer suggested trying the 2011 for this article, I was not surprised at how fresh and exciting it showed.
The 2011 Castello del Terriccio Lupicaia is a deep, impenetrable purple color. My initial impression direct from the tasting sheet: “Super! Glorious Cabernet!” Black fruits in abundance, toasted tobacco, leather and stones on the nose and palate are precise and exciting. Still so fresh. Polished, elegant and long. Castello del Terriccio may be Bolgheri’s best kept secret. 95 points. Molto bello! Terriccio recently lost it’s US importer but is currently shipping DTC. I encourage you to check them out. If you want to look for older vintages – Find this wine.
As with Part 1, Bolgheri is not all about reds! In fact, you might be thinking, OK – but what do you eat with these wines besides steak? A fair question. Definitely Steak works as does lamb or any slow roasted, braised meat. But even the lighter reds, or reds that have Sangiovese in them can work with an array of foods. Here’s an example that we paired with both a Vermentino and also a lighter Bolgheri Rosso.
After the publication of Part 1 of this Report, a reader of mine asked me if I was going to be including the wines of Guado a Melo. At the time I didn’t have any plans to do so. However, I decided to reach out and see what they were about. After several exchanges with the owner Annalisa, I was curious and excited. I will let her tell you about their story.
“Being a winegrower today involves one in profound reflection on the dualism between technology and nature. Wine depends significantly on human expertise and on the person who makes it. At the same time, it loses much of its soul if it is seen solely as a product of a technological transformation. It is our conviction, that the value of a great wine consists in its reflection of characteristics that are unique to its terroir and also to the growing season that produces it, both of which shape its innermost essence. We seek that delicate equilibrium between our own work and our relationship with the naturalness of the earth and the vine. We strive to understand the finest expression of our vineyard and to manage, with great sensitivity and attention, its transformation into wine without altering its soul.”
The Scienza’s produce some of their wines using the ancient method employed by the Etruscans. Specifically, the Etruscans often grew several varietals within the same vineyard. This was thought to increase pollination and in fact, flowers and olive trees were typically interspersed as well. Guado al Melo does the same with the vineyard for Criseo.
The 2019 Criseo is a white “Field Blend” that is mostly Vermentino. It’s a medium dark gold color that gives way to aromas of citrus, honey blossom, pineapple and matted hay. Fruit driven on the medium bodied palate this also shows traces of flaky minerality. Made in the old Etruscan style it’s a blend of Vermentino, Verdicchio, Fiano, Petit Manseng and Manzoni bianco. After vinification in stainless steel, the wine remains on the lees for 1 year and then rests 1 year in bottle before release. Very nice, but yet something seems missing. 86 points. Find this wine.
The Criseo was paired with a classic dish of the utmost simplicity; Pasta Aglio e Olio with anchovy. The recipe will appear in a coming Newsletter.
I’ve written a lot about Le Macchiole. Their wonderful Messorio appeared in Part 1 of this Report while many vintages of Paleo have graced these pages. Years ago, I used to love their White Label Rosso. However, it wasn’t always easy to locate. Recently I stumbled across a few bottles and thought I would try one for this report.
The 2019 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso is a deep ruby with violet highlights. It’s a fragrant blend of 50% Merlot, 20% Caberneet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. Blackberry, blue floral notes and lavender mark the aromatic nose. Pretty flavors of black plum, black cherry, vanilla and toasted nuts combine on the palate. Medium bodied and fresh but surprisingly low in acidity. Finish is shorter than I’d like and a little “hollow”. At the current price, a bit of a let down, especially given the vintage. 86 points. About $32. Find this wine.
In stark contrast to the above, stands the “entry level” wine of Fabio Motta. But who is Fabio Motta? It was a new name to me – one that I approached without any opinions formed. I tasted the wine below and in doing my research for this article, I learned – partly at least – why this wine is so good. Fabio Motta had a wonderful teacher. He is Michele Satta’s son in law!
Motta founded his winery in 2009 with only 4 hectares of vineyards that are organic and bio-dynamically farmed. In addition to the grapes grown for the wine below, he also cultivates a small portion of Syrah; a grape his father in law also produces with great expertise.
The 2019 Fabio Motta “Pievi” is 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Sangiovese. In the glass it sports a medium violet color. Dried herbs and black plums mark the nose which also features a hint of toasted oak. I swear there’s a note of rye bread too! Pretty, wild blackberry notes dominate on the palate which features fresh, juicy acidity. The Cabernet seems to contribute nice, dusty tannins. This is really delicious and a wonderful value under $20. 91 points. (Imported by Avignonesi) Find this wine
This is a producer to watch.
That’s a wrap for Part 2. However, be sure to stay tuned to this Feature. There’s more coming from Guado al Melo, Castello del Terriccio, Argentiera and many of the other wineries already featured.