By Mark DeWolf
National President Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, Manager Food & Drink at The Chronicle Herald
Tuscan Wine and Sun
While I live in Halifax, my heart and soul are in Tuscany.
With its relaxed landscape of rolling hills and cypress trees and mixed agriculture of vines and olive trees, nothing says “good living” like Tuscany. Not even Martha Stewart.
Steeped in the history of Renaissance art, and aristocracy, it is here that all things wonderfully Italian come together. It’s no surprise that Tuscany is the heart of both tradition and innovation in Italian wine culture due to the hills between Siena and Florence, a region better known as Chianti Classico.
In the last four decades a period of modernity was ushered in the mid-90s when the portion of International varietals (Cabernet, Merlot) was increased to up to 20 per cent of the blend of Chianti.
Many producers at the time also increased their use of barriques (small barrels). Now, the pendulum has swung back to traditional in terms of the blend and use of oak. The wines themselves are purer, fresher and more modern thanks to better winemaking techniques.
The results can be fantastic.
Traditional Tuscan Wines
A great representation of a wine with a mix of classic- and modern styling is San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico (Nova Scotia: NSLC, $26.98). San Fabiano Calcinaia Gran Selezione is also available in Ontario (LCBO, $42.95).
I may be biased as Caparzo Winery near Montalcino in Southern Tuscany is my home away from home.
Often, I bring groups to stay in a villa overlooking its vineyards. I love the wines of this hilltop town. These 100 per cent Sangiovese wines which must be aged for 4 years before release. They are ethereal, savoury, rich and well-structured.
One of my go-to Brunellos is Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino (Nova Scotia: Bishop’s Cellar $55.00/Ontario: LCBO, $49.95).
The 2013 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino was given the #17 spot on Wine Spectator’s 2018 List of the Top 100 Wines of the Year.
The last time I tasted this wine it delivered on its promise of classicism. This is an elegant Brunello, made from 100% Sangiovese and aged only in large old barrels; no barrique. It showcased the coolness of the vintage, with lots of cherry fruit and savoury, herbal tones.
Non-Traditional Super Tuscans
Of course, much of the hoopla around Tuscan wines is centered on the non-traditional Super-Tuscans (containing varying amounts of non-traditional Cabernets, Merlot, Syrah, etc.) as it is for its great semi-traditional Chiantis, Brunellos, and other faithfully Sangiovese-based reds. The driving force behind the movement was Piero Antinori.
His launch of Tignanello in the early 1970s – on the heels of Sassicaia’s rise to fame – helped to propel the non-classic wines of Tuscany to international stardom.
At our recent tasting we sampled his 2016 Antinori Villa Rosso (Nova Scotia: NSLC, $32.79/Ontario: LCBO, $26.30), a mix of Cabernet, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. It was the perfect modernist style with lots of polished red fruit, vanilla-like oak notes and soft tannins.
What would a good wine tasting be without a show stopper? Our final wine was the Castiglione del Bosco Prima Pietra (Nova Scotia: The Port by the NSLC, $64.81) made from grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) sourced from the clay and fossil-rich soils of their vineyard which sits on a hill overlooking the Tuscan coast. The grapes for the wine are grown using organic and biodynamic methods and undoubtedly with care and attention to detail. The wine itself was dense and rich, showing lots of pure fruit flavours, complimented by mineral-edged notes and a powerful finish. Enjoy this wine with grilled T-Bone steak – it would make for a ‘delicioso’ combination.
The Prima Pietra is not available in Ontario, but the stunning Castiglione del Bosco Campo del Drago Brunello di Montalcino (Ontario: LCBO Vintages, $114.00) is.