1997 was a tremendous vintage not only in Tuscany, but for Italy as a whole. And while Solaia may well be Antinori’s flagship wine, in 1997, it also Italy’s flagship wine.  Wine Spectator named the wine it’s “Wine of the Year” on their 2000 listing.  More than a decade later, it still deserves those accolades.
The 1997 Marchesi Antinori Solaia is a super tuscan blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Sangiovese.  What I have always loved about the wine, was it’s unique ability to somehow blend the ripeness of a Napa Cabernet, with the subtlety of old world complexity that is often missing from the fruit forward new world style. And with 20% Sangiovese in the blend, Solaia seems to gain more lift from the acids and the different tertiary aromas that Sangiovese provides, moreso than a Bordeaux or a pure Cabernet might exhibit. 
In the glass, this wine is dark purple and not betraying at all, the fact that it is 14 years old.  The wine was decanted to remove the enormous sediment that has developed.  The nose was at first somewhat funky, and I worried for a moment that it might have been corked, but upon tasting, it was clear that wasn’t the case. The nose had to be coaxed though and displays plummy black fruits, minerals, cedar and damp earth. In the mouth, the fruit is huge. Ripe, balanced, juicy, mouth coating black fruits whose flavors remain on your tongue long after you swallow the wine.  It’s still chewy, and is in no danger of needing to be drunk now. It’s a glorius wine and easily the equal of any First Growth.  The reference there not being underappreciated by this writer, as the price of the wine for recent vintages has soared beyond $250 per bottle.  That’s way out of my league.
“Solaia” means “Sunny One” and comes from the vineyard of the same name on Antinori’s Santa Cristina estate; the same estate that yields the grapes for his other Super Tuscan “Tignanello”.  The estate is in the heart of the Chianti Classico district and exposed to the best weather the region has to offer. 
In the past, I’ve rated the 1997 Solaia at 100 points.  This time, I can’t quite get there given the reticent nose. However, the pure power and elegance of the wine in the mouth makes the case for 96 points.  Served with Lamb shank osso bucco over risotto Milanese, it was simply stunning.

1997 Antinori Solaia

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