Picking the right Super Tuscan can sometime seem like judging the best dog at a show. There are so many breeds and manifestations, of wine and dogness. The following six are a few of my picks for Best of Show.
Camartina is a wine with a point. Focused fruit, this wine was made on purpose. What does that mean? The winery, Querciabella, makes an exemplary Chianti Classico. Camartina is 50% Sangiovese, 45% Cabernet, 5% Merlot and Syrah, picked by hand and harvested by individual cluster maturation.
Definite pedigree, as if it has been bred to the Nth degree. From the heart of the Chianti Classico zone in Greve, sustainable farming going towards biodynamic. That would be organic, again, to the Nth degree. French oak, and a fair share of it new, I am not afraid to give this wine high marks. It is immensely enjoyable and delicious. The last vintage I had was the 2003, but the 2004 we tasted several times at Vinitaly, and it promises to be a wonderful succession.
One note: It can take itself a bit seriously, but it loves the dirt and the wood and in the final result it is just one of the fellas that love a good time when it sheds its leash of oak and tannin, which it can. Often.
Ghiaie della Furba is a royal treat, a red wine that seems infinite in its pleasure, without beginning without end, big and long and traditional and a champion.
Near Florence, the area of Prato is a collection of hills and rivers, and prime real estate among them is the Capezzana estate. The wine is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah from hillside vineyards planted in the 1970’s. The rows of Cabernet owe their heritage to the Rothschild family of Chateau Lafite , from where the cuttings were acquired.
The beauty of this wine, although it seems like it’s big and furry, is really a smooth, easy going red. Not wishy-washy, but a friendly partner to a meal of roasted lamb or beef. It can age very well for 10-20 years. The last vintage I had was the 2000 at the winery in October, and tried again at Vinitaly, both showings exhibited richness and elegance in an unrestrained yet likeable in a shaggy dog kind of way.
Il Borro is close to Arezzo in the Colli Aretini. It is a beautiful resort from once a medieval village that has been restored by the Ferragamo family. The grapes, 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and Petit Verdot, again favor the French grapes and they shine well in this Tuscan sun. Highly bred for speed and pedigree from a family with the time and the money and the personal lineage. And while it might seem like an idle pastime for the super wealthy of Italy, this wine shows that it has the qualifications to take top honors. The current vintage available is 2002 and while it follows the classic 2001, it has the touch of the sun and a new-world strain to ramp it up and take it into the finals.
Borgonero from Borgo Scopeto near Siena in Castelnuovo Berardenga is the estate’s homage to the Super Tuscan as a New World breed. The last vintage I tried at the winery was the 2001, a spot-on classic. A big lovable watchdog, loyal and forthright, not, unreasonably aggressive. A balanced quaff of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It can open up fast and head for the great sunset in the sky in search of bar-b-que or something attached to a bone, red meat, preferably. And while maybe not a show stopper, it could be your new best friend. An absolutely juicy and delicious pick.
Il Carbonaione takes us back to the Chianti Classico zone and to Poggio Scalette, where the twin passions of olives and grapes wrestle in a power struggle of timeless proportions, as old as Adam and Eve. In this case the dark beast returns to the traditional grape of the region, 100% Sangiovese di Lamole (a naturally low yielding clone of Sangiovese) the last vintage tried was the 2001, a wine that drips of coffee, blackberries, toasted oak; dark, brooding, big and a bit aggressive. But it has a big heart and can be a faithful friend to the wine lover. Will it win the hearts of everyone? You be the judge.
Petra, the showgirl from the Maremma, complete with pedigree and personal stylist on-call. A blend of old-vine Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon inherited from the previous masters, and retrofitted with a state-of-the-art grape museum and wine-kennel. In an area known more for its marshes and racehorses, this is a happy and stylish Tuscan. My recent encounter at the big show in Verona was with the 2003, a barrel fermented fruit-bomb that nonetheless charmed me with its balance and its casual acceptance of its place in the grand scheme of things.
Photographs from the 1978 series "chien et patron" by Florence photojournalist, Maurizio Berlincioni