The “primeurs” tastings of new vintages from Tuscany offered many surprises. BKWine’s Åsa Johansson reports.
The Tuscan version of Bordeaux’ primeurs – the anteprima – is one of the highlights of the year. During a week in February, journalists from all over the world gather in Tuscany and taste hundreds of wines to judge the new vintages. It is like a big happeninig for the wine world, PR agents, producers, journalists and curious people are mixed in a blissful blend, with one big difference, and that is that everyone walks around with red teeth. You talk wine, mostly, but also what happens behind the scenes. Who is selling? Who is about to change jobs? That farm has changed cork? And lots of other things that only interest wine geeks. But back to the wine.
Chianti Classico 2018 and 2017
Chianti Classico 2017 and 2018 are two tough vintages that the winemakers have had to deal with. For different reasons. The wild 2018, with its cold spring and stormy summer, felt hopeless but was saved at the last moment by a hot and dry September. The vintage offered many fine wines.
2017 was quite the opposite weather-wise; it was the hottest year in memory of mankind and with the lowest harvest yields in 40 years (206,000 hl), but which nevertheless offered many pleasant surprises.
2017 and 2018 are two vintages that are proof that you should take vintage assessments with a pinch of salt and rely on what is in the glass and not what is written about the weather.
Chianti Classico 2018
Castello di Ama, Ama
Elegant as always, no hard edges, nicely retains fruit with light tones of oak barrels, well balanced and very good.
Castello di Meleto
Delicious freshness, juicy, elegant, ripe cherries, sandalwood, well-integrated elegant tannins, long elegant finish, fantastically good.
Castello di Monsanto
Ripe cherries, strawberry compote, violets, peonies, ripe well-integrated tannins that are not too well-behaved, beautifully preserved fruit, long juicy finish, very good.
Castello di Volpaia
A tighter sangiovese, scent of black and white pepper, cardamom, cherry, high acidity, high tannins that are elegant and tight, like a tailored jacket. The finish is also spicy and elegant. A wine for those who love tighter varieties of sangiovese.
Complex aromas of blood orange, ripe cherries, violet candy, sweet liquorish, delicious freshness, saltiness and well-integrated tannins, classic.
Isole e Olena
Fruit-driven, plums, strawberry, blackberry, high very present but elegant tannins, medium acidity, a full body that not many of the other wines had.
Natural wine. Light. Fruit-driven, ripe cherries, soft light tannins, juicy, tasty and easy-drinking.
Subdued nose, violets, plums, black and white pepper, quinine, but in taste it opens up, ripe, finely preserved fruit, saltiness that gives complexity, elegant tannins, elegant finish. Very good
Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra
A newcomer, first vintage 2016, to keep an eye on. Rustic sangiovese with crunchy fruit, cherries and raspberries, tough tannins and fresh acidity. A classic sangiovese from the past.
Juniper berries, rosemary, cherries, finely preserved fruit, tangible tannins but well-integrated, beautifully preserved fruit with hints of chocolate, cocoa. Super good.
Chianti Classico 2017
Lovely freshness despite the hot year, soft round tannins, ripe raspberries and cherries, long aftertaste, very good.
Ripe tannins, medium high acidity, ripe fruit, ripe plums and blackberries, sweet and delicious finish, very good.
Isole e Olena
Buonissimo, lots of fruit, vibrating acid, cherries, strawberries, tangible tannins but well integrated, well made.
Crispy fruit, cherries, raspberries, high tannins and well- preserved acidity, need time but lovely raw material
High tannins but balanced by the juicy fruit, violet-scented, juicy more balanced than many other wines. The farm is located in high-altitude Lamole.
Soft, well-integrated tannins, light and juicy. I had to look at the bottle to make sure that the wine actually came from hot 2017. Elegant and wonderfully preserved fruit.
Gran Selezione 2017
Castello di Ama – San Lorenzo
Complex aromas, ripe cherries, cloves, orange peel, light vanilla, freshness that gives elegance, silky tannins, super good.
Castello di Fonterutoli
Ripe aromas and flavours, ripe plums, raspberries and sweet cherries, mature tangy tannins, medium length, a bottle that quickly empties.
Castello di Fonterutoli Vicoregio 36
Tight, tangy tannins that need time but nicely supported by well-preserved fruit, peppery and in taste very salty. Elegant.
Brunello di Montalcino 2015
How difficult it can be sometimes to live up to expectations when they are too high. It was a bunch of happy journalists who stepped in on the last day of the anteprima in Tuscany to taste the new 2015vintage. But gradually, the enthusiasm seemed to subside, someone frowned, someone sought eye contact as if with hesitation say: do you agree?
What was it then? Well, many of the wines had chewy tannins and they had difficulty keeping the fruit in the warm 2015. But those who have succeeded have made fantastically good wines. Irresistibly good, I would say. 2015 is either-or, either amazingly good or nothing you want to pay a lot of money for. The question is whether the wines will be better after ageing. If the fruit is missing, there is not much to wait for. So if you want something to put in the cellar, choose with care.
Here are my absolute favourites among Brunello di Montalcino 2015.
A tribute to Montalcino and to sangiovese, that’s what this wine is. So good that even after trying hundreds of Brunello’s I can imagine sitting down and drinking this wine, over and over again. Wonderful fruits, spices, wild herbs, saltiness that intermingle as in an orchestra, elegant tannins give structure without taking over, like a frame around a painting. A wine with a deep and vibrant energy, with a long elegant finish. So wonderfully good.
Il Marroneto – Madonna delle grazie
The same lovely raw materials as above but more oak barrels and more tannins, need time but wonderful raw materials and I long to taste this wine in a year or two.
Altesino, Selezione Montosoli
Tight, lovely white pepper and earthy tones, liquorice, crunchy fruit, rose petals, tall but elegant tannins, long elegant finish, very good, will last a long time.
Caparzo, Vigna La Casa
Ripe and finely preserved fruit, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, ripe tannins, well integrated, very good.
Inviting aromas, ripe sweet cherries, cardamom, sandalwood, juicy, ripe elegant tannins, liquorice, plum, lots of fruit, elegant, very good.
Casanova dei Neri
Dark fruit with underlying spice, lots of everything, blackberries, cherry jam, tobacco, leather and chocolate. Full-bodied, lots of material, but so well-made that it’s hard to resist even if this isn’t really my type of Brunello.
Talenti Selezione Piero
Wonderful wine, complex, aromas of wonderfully ripe cherries, leather, sandalwood, elegant peppery, succulent but finely wrapped well-integrated elegant tannins, fruity long finish. Very good
Poggio di Sotto
Elegant, salty liquorice, finely preserved fruit, lovely nerve, long finish, very good.
Castello di Tricerchi
Sweet ripe fruit, ripe tannins, wild mint, salty liquorice, very good.
Castglion del Bosco
Salty liquorice and red cherries, finely preserved fruit, well balanced, very good.
Elegant, well-made and balanced are the key words. Ripe fruit, cherries and light tones of leather, elegant tannins, good acidity with an equally elegant finish.
Donatella Cinelli Colombini
A full and generous wine, elegant tannins, tones of rosemary and forest berries, juicy, long soft finish, lovely wine.
Podere Le Ripi
On the nose, a lot of berries, blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, lovely freshness that fills your mouth, tangible but elegant tannins, long complex finish.
Classic Brunello, cherries and floral scents, liquorice, ripe tannins, well balanced, long finish, superb.
Le Ragnaie, Casanovina Montosoli
Complex nose of orange peel, dried plums, cherries, nervy acidity that is balanced by the complexity of the wine, integrated tannins. A wine that will keep for many years.
San Polo (Allegrini)
Elegant and well-made, ripe fruit but vibrant acidity that balances well, juicy end, very good.
Åsa Johansson is BKWine’s person in Italy. She lives in Florence since the early ’00s. Asa writes regularly on wine and food in Swedish and Italian publications as well as online.