Piero Antinori, one of the first to make Super Tuscans.
After several years and well over one hundred fifty wine reviews this is our first review of a nearly $100 wine. Before saying that you’ll never spend so much money on a single bottle of wine, please note that $100 may get you four movie theatre tickets, popcorn, soft drinks, and maybe an order or two of nachos. A $100 bottle of wine may be quite a memorable experience. Or maybe it won’t.
We start this series with an Italian red introduced in 1971 by Piero Antinori, the head of a famous Tuscany winemaking family. At that time all across Italy winemakers had to follow very strict, detailed governmental winemaking regulations, or their wine would be denied an official classification. Many winemakers felt handcuffed by such regulations, and knew they could make better wines by following their own instincts. Tuscany was a major center of dissident winemakers and the reviewed wine was known as a Super Tuscan, one that carried no official government designation. In the ensuing winemaking revolution many Super Tuscans and other such wines have become very successful with a price tag to match. And the winemaking regulations were updated.
In the interest of historical accuracy, Tignanello was not the first Super Tuscan. This honor goes to Sassicaia first produced in 1948 by Antinori’s cousins who used Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon grapes said to have come from Château LaFite-Rothschild. Because Sassicaia starts at about $175 we will just have to be satisfied trying the Tignanello.
Let’s start with the marketing materials. Description : Consistently one of the most sought-after and collectible wines, this is a must for any cellar. 'Tig' is considered one of Tuscany's best wines, racking up numerous awards and accolades with each and every vintage. This rich and spicy blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is loaded with blackberry, coffee, tar and truffle aromas. It should be cellared for 2-10 years, or decant it for at least two hours and match it with Beef Wellington or a roasted lamb with a wild mushroom risotto. And now let me introduce the review committee.
Upscale Tuscany vineyards for a Super Tuscan Wine.
Larissa B. is a childhood friend of my daughter. She is a wine and food professional who works for a local, upscale Italian restaurant. Larissa has taught numerous cooking classes and has catered food events attracting several hundred participants. She recently visited Tuscany, focusing on its wine and food. Larissa says that she prefers rustic wines that are full-bodied and not sweet. For the purposes of this review my daughter asks that I call her Harriet. Harriet wrote: “I like wine, but I will drink any reds, especially boxed-wines, so I’m the last person anyone should go to for wine advice.” She generally doesn’t spend more than $15 on a bottle of wine.
The meal started with lentil soup made from green, yellow, and dark lentils with puffed wheat pasta and middle-eastern spices. The main dish was a rib-steak that had been marinated for about two days in a homemade mixture of ketchup, mustard with mustard grains, Worchester sauce, Japanese Mirin sauce, and steak spices. The broiled steak was accompanied by potatoes and a medley of vegetables. We finished this great meal with homemade apple cake. I decanted the wine about two and a half hours before serving it.
Larissa wrote: “Fruity, full, ruby color. Slightly tannic, very smooth. Much more like a Chianti, lighter than most Super Tuscans that I have had.” Harriet wrote: “Smooth, earthy, it’s good!, not sweet. Woody taste? Tastes like really good wine, not a heavy wine, kind of fruity, getting more tangy the more I drink.”
And now for my review. At the first sips the wine was very, very long. It had lots to it, and was chewy. With the soup, this Super Tuscan was mouth filling. When paired with the marinated steak and accompaniments the Tignatello showed fine acidity with low tannins and was very round. Now for the big question: was it worth $95? Absolutely not. Honestly, I was quite disappointed. To my mind this was a $40 wine. I agree with Larissa, it seemed like a Chianti. To be fair perhaps this wine should have aged for several more years. In any case it came in well below my expectations. I still remember drinking an Italian Barolo a few years ago at half the price that really outclassed this Super Tuscan. Of course I remember other Barolos that weren’t nearly as good. So I guess I’ll have to do some Barolo reviews. And maybe someday I’ll review a Sassicaia.
One final point: We would love to hear and publish your opinion
about this wine.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would
rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.wineinyourdiet.com
Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com
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