The Italian region of Tuscany is well known for its picturesque landscapes, its classic architecture and for being an historical hub for the arts and human learning. It’s also well known for its wine.
A “Somm Series” event themed “A Journey through Tuscany” on Nov. 14 at West Indies Wine Company offered attendees a taste of five different Tuscan wines. On hand to lead the tasting was Mauro Maugliani, the Caribbean and Southeast United States Italian wine director and brand specialist for Kobrand Corporation.
Maugliani started his presentation speaking philosophically about wine.
“Wine gives you an emotion, a sensation,” he said, noting that there are many varieties and flavours in wines. “The best wines are those that accomplish your palate’s expectation. I will let you be the judge on our wines.”
All of the wines tasted were paired with bites prepared by Chef Will O’Hara of Abacus restaurant.
Throughout most of Italy, the grapes grown for winemaking are indigenous and historical: Nebbiolo and Barbera in Piemonte; Aglianico and Falanghina in Campania; Nero d’Avola and Carricante in Sicily, and so forth. At one time, Tuscany was mainly known for producing the best Sangiovese wines in the world. However, in the 1940s, the owner of the Tenuta San Guido estate, Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, decided to plant the Bordeaux grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. For a quarter of a century, the estate produced a blended wine made with those two international grape varieties as its house wine, not offering it for sale. In the late 1960s, the marchese was convinced to release the wine commercially and “Sassicaia” became an international hit. Because it didn’t adhere to Tuscany’s rules for Chianti and was much better than a mere table wine, the high-end wines made with international varieties or outside the delineated region for Chianti in Tuscany became known as “Super Tuscans.”
After the success of Sassicaia, winemakers soon learned that many other international varieties grew well in Tuscany, including Chardonnay.
The first wine tasted was a Chardonnay from the winery Cabreo called “La Pietra.” The Italian word “pietra” means stone and the wine is named for the stony clay soil in the vineyard in which the grapes are grown.
“Don’t expect a California Chardonnay,” Maugliani said. “This is totally different from that style of wine.”
Aged in French oak barrels, 50 per cent of which are new, La Pietra is closer in style to a French Chardonnay, but with unique characteristics of the Tuscan terroir.
Moving on to the red wines, the first was 2012 Nozzole “La Forra” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, a wine that is no longer made.
“This vintage and the next one were the last vintages of Gran Selezione,” said Maugliani. “It’s a classic expression of Sangiovese. There are a lot of cherry aromas and flavours and a little blackberry. It’s one of the most beautiful 100 per cent Sangiovese wines from a single vineyard on the world market.”
Maugliani noted that one of the defining characteristics of Sangiovese wines from Tuscany is their acidity, something imparted by the region’s terroir.
The third wine was from the winery Setti Ponti, which means “seven bridges.” The wine, Crognolo, is also made entirely from Sangiovese, but because it’s produced from outside the area defined for Chianti, it’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan” instead of Chianti.
“It’s a more rustic expression of Sangiovese,” Maugliani said. “This is one of my personal favourite wines and I love its high acidity. This is one of the highest acidity red wines in our portfolio.”
Next tasted was another Super Tuscan, but this one a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon made by the Cabreo winery.
“It’s the perfect blend from Tuscany,” Maugliani said. This rich and elegant wine has flavours of black fruits, with tertiary flavours of leather and earth.
The tasting finished with the Tenuta Biserno Il Pino, a blend of 40 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 per cent Cabernet Franc, 15 per cent Merlot and 5 per cent Petit Verdot.
“It’s a classic Bordeaux blend and it’s one of the most beautiful Bordeaux blends from Tuscany that you will ever taste,” said Maugliani.
Produced by two of the brothers of the famous Antinori wine family from a single vineyard close to where the grapes for Sassicaia are grown, Il Pino — which means “the pine tree” — is an elegant and polished wine of medium body, soft tannins and a long finish. It will continue to evolve with age in the bottle for at least another decade.