Top Italian reds: are the Tuscans prevailing or is the pre-eminence of Piedmontese nebbiolo be set to prevail?

The Gambero Rosso may have its ideas with three glasses and the like, anointing wines from many regions.

Italian standards continue to rise and much of it is better winemaking. Hopefully there is more attention towards eliminating brett.

In one Florentine wine bar I had to leave wine; after ordering three glasses, older Chianti (1998), current vintage (2009) and an expensive (8 euros glass) pinot nero, I just gave up. Too bretty to drink and no varietal flavour left to enjoy.

At the top end of Tuscany there is a big challenge between IGT and traditional DOCG (Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino).

Tradition has producers strapped in as top sangiovese wines ought to stay as just that. Not a bad outcome really.

It was simply stupidity that the Montalcino producers chose to covet the idea that dilution of Rosso di Montalcino with international varieties become a right. Their vote last month failed thankfully and does not need revisitation.

Just because Chianti Classico contains some.

It would be better if this were revoked and all Chianti styles revert to being 100% sangiovese or native red varieties (colorino and canaiolo nero) to strip out the influence of international varieties. Those extra wines can carry the IGT status with impunity.

Many IGT reds impressed, and here is a revisit this month during my Italy Wine & Food Tour of some leading styles – in order of preference.

Ornellaia 2008; 14.5% (USD 250-trattoria price-Rignana); ++++1/2; deep colour, impressive, cedar, leaf, ripe, spicy fruit, a total nose package, palate layered with oak and fruit, the backbone is cabernet, the subtleties rise up as it evolves, many flavours though few protrude and the finish closes off with authority.

Ornellaia 2007; 14.5% (USD 250-trattoria price-Rignana); ++++1/2; deep colour though losing its purples, cedar box oak gives nose sweetness; cabernet expressed as mint/catmint, lots of drying cabernet tannin, juicy drinks, very homogeneous and full-bodied, a powerful drink to enjoy. Memorable.

Solaia 2006; 13.5% (USD 280-Florentine restaurant price); ++++1/2; good deep colour though losing its purples, nose heavily aromatic from very sexy oak use, on the top of that is spicy-ripe cabernet fruit, ethereal and heavenly aromas showing an enjoyable vintage and barrel age residence time, youthful on the palate, powdery, drying tannin, palate still tight, acidity still stoic, long aging wine yet to soften.

Mormento 2008; 14.% (USD); ++++; great colour, what an emphatic wine, lot of oak aging character for 14 months, nose power, spiciness of correct ripeness, fruit has aromatics too, enticing, palate very powerful, nice dryness  yet heaps of tannin for longer aging, yet to be complex but not a consideration for this fresh long liver. Bravo.

Sassacaia 2004; 14% (USD 345-Florentine restaurant price); +++1/2; aged colour, some browns, nose mature, earthy, spearmint, leafy, bonox, palate lifts, complexity, body and prune flavour of mature grapes is very emphatic, earthy aged tones, soft all round with oak recessive, no signs of drying out but mature.

Guado al Tasso 2001; 13.5% (USD); +++1/2; aged colour, browns, some russet shows mature colour, could be brighter, nose earthy, damp soil, fungal, mature leafy fruit has gone into its bottle-complex phase, palate similarly mature, tertiary prune and bonox flavours, drying but not dried out.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

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