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A Tuscan Selection Tradition and Terroir
When I visit a farmer’s market at this time of year, with all the baskets spilling over tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and squash, my mind always drifts to Italy. I picture the rolling hills of Tuscany, the late summer sun and the amazing wines produced there.
What appeals most to me about Tuscan wines is the versatility with food and the number of different regional incarnations of Sangiovese. How has no other country in the world has really succeeded in working with this grape? Simply put, the great wines of Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano are like no other. It must be the sun and the soil and the tradition. It must be TERROIR.
So today we feature a selection of wines from Tuscany, one white and eight fantastic Sangiovese-centric wines. Some of which are our best-value collectables. Prices listed here are per-bottle, taxes in, and we sell only by the unmixed case.
Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG”Vigna a Solatio” 2015
$21.95 per bottle, cases of 12
The first white wine in Italy to attain DOCG status is the underappreciated Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Think of it as “Italian Chablis”, an almost austere wine with excellent acidity and length which captivates with subtlety and elegance.
We carry this only in the summer, so get some while you can. However, it ages impeccably for 2-3 years as well, so there is no rush to drink them before the leaves turn. To the eye it is brilliant, light gold, it has a subtle complexity of aromas; green pears, green apple, fresh herbs and crushed quarry stone. It is dry and just medium bodied, the acidity is bright and makes the wine incredibly refreshing. The finish is persistent and balanced. I happily recommend this to you if you like unoaked whites, Chablis, Pinot Grigios or Sauvignon Blancs and you’re looking for a new wine adventure.
Volpaia Chianti Classico 2013
$28.95 per bottle, cases of 12
Castello di Volpaia makes one of the region’s prettiest Chianti Classicos. The estate’s vineyards are the highest in the region. This terroir, longer daylight hours and a longer growing season provides exceptional fruit. The wines are finessed, nuanced and balanced, with plenty of fruity appeal.
“Fresh and subtle fragrances distinguish the Chianti Classico ’13. On the palate, light and savoury taste progression with fine contrasts.”
Tre Bicchieri, Gambero Rosso, Vini D’Italia 2016
“This rich version is laced with cherry, almond and earth flavours, all backed by a smooth texture and refined tannins. Long, evoking leather and earth notes on the finish. Drink now through 2019. 18,000 cases made.”
90 points, Wine Spectator, Oct 2015
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2011
$57.95 per 750 ml bottle, cases of 6
$28.95 per 375 ml bottle, cases of 12
At Altesino they believe that new oak masks the true character of the Brunello grape (a regional name for their clone of Sangiovese). They use only aged casks for the Brunello program, and because of this Altesino’s wines are regarded for their elegance and finesse, while they still retain Brunello’s characteristic dark, spicy cherry flavours and firm tannins. French oak barriques are used only in the production of their IGT wines, which feature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended with the Brunello.
“Altesino’s 2011 Brunello di Montalcino opens with beguiling aromatics. Sage, licorice, menthol and sweet tobacco flesh out nicely as the wine shows off its ample, broad personality. The tannins could use another year or two to soften, but all the elements are very nicely balanced throughout. This gracious, silky Brunello will drink well for the next decade-plus.”
92 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com, Feb 2016
“The 2011 Brunello di Montalcino shows a very distinct personality that separates it from its peers. There’s a dark, mysterious and masculine side to this wine that is evident from first impact. The bouquet offers infinite layers of black fruit, plum, spice, cumin seed and crushed clove. You get a great sense of moist earth, tobacco and forest floor. Nothing is obvious. The wine keeps you guessing sip after sip. It would benefit from more years of cellar aging, but it’s really not that far off from optimal drinking.”
91 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, March 2016
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013
$39.95 per 750 ml bottle, cases of 12
$21.95 per 375 ml bottle, cases of 12 (2012)
Avignonesi is without a doubt the qualitative leader and most recognizable winery in Montepulciano. Without this winery, the region as a whole may not have the recognition it does today. This is Sangiovese for the terroir-seeker. A little rustic, deeply flavourful, powerful and speaking of the rolling landscape from which it comes.It will drink well and evolves nicely for up to a decade. Pour this with late summer stews, alongside grilled steaks, or simply with a nice cheese plate.
“There’s loads of Sangiovese character here, from the earthy, tobacco-scented beginning to the cherry, leather and earth flavours, all underlined by stiff, chalky tannins. Rustic yet soulful. Best from 2018 through 2024. 16,666 cases made.”
91 points, Wine Spectator, 2016
Casale Falchini “Paretaio” IGT 2011
$32.95 per bottle, cases of 6
I could go on and on about what a deal Paretaio is every year, but the review below says it all.
“A steal. Let me repeat — this wine is a steal. Falchini is perhaps best known for their lovely Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Vigna a Solatio (listed above), which is another steal, but that’s another story. Their Paretaio, a Super Tuscan in everything but the price, could easily become their calling card. A blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Merlot and aged in French barriques for 18 months, it certainly follows the recipe for a Super Tuscan. But unlike so many of the so-called Super Tuscans, this wine is not over ripe, sweet or redolent with oak. It’s a balanced amalgam of earth, minerals and dark cherries wrapped in suave tannins and brightened by uplifting Tuscan acidity. Savoury and long, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s a steal!”
91 points, Michael Apstein, winereviewonline.com, May 2016
Querciabella “Mongrana” IGT 2009
$25.95 per bottle, cases of 12
If you’re looking for a modern, energetic fully mature Super-Tuscan, look no further. Mongrana is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangiovese framework is obvious but the Bordeaux varietals provide more weight and complexity. This is drinking at its peak right now.
“Clear aromas of blueberry and light jam. Full bodied, with silky tannins and a citrus, plum and berry character. Rich yet balanced and very pretty. Drink now or hold.”
91 points, JamesSuckling.com, Aug 2011
Fontodi “Vigna del Sorbo” Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione 2012
$79.95 per bottle, cases of 6
One of the greatest values we offer is the Vigna del Sorbo – an absolute skyscraper of a wine. Powerful and long, its tannins are very present and at the same time almost imperceptible, woven into a tapestry of fine acidity and dark, earthy red fruit. The Sangiovese sees 2 years in French barriques, 50% of which are first-fill. The wine is huge, dense, already impressive but will age for over 2 decades.
“Readers who aren’t familiar with Vigna del Sorbo owe it to themselves to check it out what is without question one of the great reds of Italy.”
Antonio Galloni vinous.com, Feb 2014
“The 2012 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo is one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted at Fontodi. Period. The long, sublime finish alone is enough to stop you dead in your tracks. An exceptionally beautiful and polished wine, the 2012 is incredibly finessed on the palate, with remarkable nuance for such an intense wine. Sweet rose petal, lavender and mint add brightness to the Sangiovese fruit in a stunning, vivid Chianti Classico that hits all the right notes. This is the first vintage in which Vigna del Sorbo is 100% Sangiovese. The elimination of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon has elevated the Sorbo to an even higher level than has been the norm of late. Over the last few months, the 2012 has begun to shut down in bottle, so readers will have to be patient. The 2012 Vigna del Sorbo is a must have wine. It’s as simple as that. 2022-2037.”
98 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com, Sept 2015
Fontodi “Flaccianello della Pieve” IGT 2012
$129.95 per bottle, cases of 6
If you’re starting a wine cellar and you are looking for a world class “vertical” (that is, the same wine year-over-year) I must recommend Flaccianello. Between 2004 and 2014 it landed in Wine Spectator’s list of Top 25 “Wines of the Year” five times, three of which were Top 10s. The upcoming vintage, 2013, has already been reviewed by James Suckling, who has called it “a classic” and awarded 97 points (July 20th, 2016).
“In great vintages this is the sort of wine you can drink once and remember forever. It’s often one of the more exotic Sangioveses made – syrupy in texture, tooth-stainingly rich, exceptionally complex, and dappled with uncommon flavours such as ginger, black licorice, persimmon and grapefruit. Most impressive of all is the way the wine explodes with sappy juiciness.”
Karen MacNeil, “The Wine Bible”
“The 2012 Flaccianello della Pieve, a selection of the estate’s best fruit, presents a darker, more virile expression of Sangiovese. Here, too, the purity of the flavours is truly striking. Cinnamon, cloves, new leather, licorice and plums are some of the notes that soar from the glass. The 2012 is full-bodied and voluptuous, in classic Flaccianello style, but the new French oak is much better integrated than it often is at this stage, the result of a move to lower toast levels over the last few years. This is one of the finest young Flaccianellos I can remember. Simply put, the 2012 Flaccianello is a real stunner. Wow!”