WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

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WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Fri May 12, 2006 3:22 pm

Work--"the curse of the drinking class"--kept me from visiting WLDG for much of the last four months. So I have a backlog of tasting notes, and this is the first group of several I hope to post.


Wines from a Busy Winter: Tuscany


Vasco Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino 1998

Dark ruby, nearly opaque, lightly bricking at the rim. Washed dark cherries on the nose, with notes of smoke, underbrush, and worn leather. Cherry liqueur emerges with time. Full-bodied. Rich, ripe flavors follow the nose with added hints of baked plum and charcoal around the edges. Good acidity lends structure. Soft tannins on the finish. Really benefits from an hour or two of air. Pretty decent Brunello for the money--’97 and ’99 get the hype, but I’ve enjoyed the approachable ‘98s plenty. $30. 13.5% alcohol.


Casisano-Colombaio Brunello di Montalcino 1999

Medium dark, dusky ruby, lightly browning at the rim. Some initial mustiness blows off, leaving lots of earth, berries, leather, and tar. Light- to medium-bodied, with dark cherries and blackberry jam shaded with tobacco and licorise. Good intensity. Nicely balanced acidic profile with fine-grained tannins on the long finish. At first, I was surprised this seems so ready, but after three days in the fridge, the tannins are firmer (!) and the palate is taking on new dimensions. I’ll hold my remaining bottles for another couple of years. In the same price range, but classier than the Sassetti. $33 (but I’ve seen for $27). 13.5% alcohol.


Nottola “Vigna del Fattore” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999

Nearly opaque, worn purple velvet with a watery rim. Saddle leather, potpourri, spice, and sweet earth aromas, with a hint of dried cherry and chocolate. Medium-bodied and light on its feet, with pretty red fruit flavor carried by tangy acidity. Medium tannins on the long, spiced-apple scented finish. Still a favorite Vino Nobile of mine, but I think I preferred the purity of the ’98. (Price is up $6, too.) $25. 13%.


Redi “Argo et Non Briareo” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2001

Semi-clear, medium ruby. Soft fragrance of sour and sweet cherries, rose garden, new leather, and red meat. Warm and savory black fruit with hints of chocolate and mint on the medium-bodied palate. Firm acidity and sweet tannins. A bit short on the finish. If I understand correctly, the straight “Briareo” is the top of the line from the Vecchia Cantina coop in Montepulciano, and this bottling is one step down. $20. 13.5% alcohol.


Isola e Olena Chianti Classico 2003

Clear, light-medium ruby with a violet cast. At first sniff, my fears about the dreaded ’03 vintage seem confirmed: forest-floor funk, overripe decay, pleather. After a good bit of swirling and breathing, something much prettier happens: dark cherries touched with spice and vanilla, tea, and only a whiff of the ghastliness above. Light- to medium-bodied, with red plum, red berries, and tea leaves. The finish actually tastes of tea tannins. Not a great wine, but respectable—and what a rebound! $17. 13.5% alcohol.


Castello di Tavolese “Rubicondo” 2000 (Toscana IGT)

Light-medium, semi-dusky ruby. An opening dankness resolves into wet earth, dark cherries, and sweet oak. Medium-bodied, with sweet spiced fruit and red licorise. Acidic enough, but the wood tannins are a bit overbearing. Decent, but too oaky for my taste. A Cabernet Sauvignon / Sangio blend in unstated proportion. $13. 13.5% alcohol.
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Re: WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Jenise » Sun May 14, 2006 1:08 pm

Clinton, nice to see you posting again. I'll look forward to reading more!

A minor comment about Italian wines: one of the discouraging things about reading about Italian wines is that when I see a note on one I'd love to get my hands on, like your Nottola “Vigna del Fattore”, the name pretty much goes in one ear and out the other because there are SO many Italian wines around and the chance that I'll run into any of the wines someone else describes seems to be about .0001%. Of these you list, I recognize one, Isole e Olena. Speaking of which, there are some 01's still languishing on the shelves up here which I've been tempted by.
Bought one to try, it's in the queue.

And a question: pleather? Is that a typo or are you describing a kind of fake leather aroma?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Otto » Sun May 14, 2006 3:44 pm

Clinton Macsherry wrote:Work--"the curse of the drinking class"--


LOL!! Love the quote. Who was it from?

Nice notes also. I really should explore Italy more, your notes (and several others' on this forum) really make me see what I miss out on by usually only drinking Piemontese or Alto-Adige wines. For some reason I never quite got the hang of Tuscany, yet so many descriptions sound like just the sort of wines I would like: "firm acidity" is almost always a good term for me... Thanks for the timely reminder!

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Re: WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Mon May 15, 2006 11:37 am

Jenise wrote: . . . .[T]here are SO many Italian wines around and the chance that I'll run into any of the wines someone else describes seems to be about .0001%. Of these you list, I recognize one, Isole e Olena. Speaking of which, there are some 01's still languishing on the shelves up here which I've been tempted by.
Bought one to try, it's in the queue.

And a question: pleather? Is that a typo or are you describing a kind of fake leather aroma?


Hi, Jenise. Do find that the vagaries of distribution seem to affect Italian imports more than others? It could well be. There are seemingly zillions of producers, varieties, and bottlings, and even for a devoted Italophile, finding retailers with good Italy selections can be tough. I wonder if Oliver McCrum has an opinion? Scratch that. I wonder if he'd share his opinion?

As to "pleather," I was trying to get at a fake, almost vinyl-y aroma (and I wasn't confident in my ability to spell naugahyde). Looking forward to your reaction to the Isola e Olena. Do you remember "Nerval," a Polish poster on the old WLDG who often gave us extensive reports from VinItaly? At Verona, he heard some rumors about cellar issues at IeO affecting the 01 vintage, but that might have been restricted to the "Cepparello" bottling, which they apparently deep-sixed that year. In any case, I've developed a pretty high regard for this producer.
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Re: WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Mon May 15, 2006 11:47 am

Otto Nieminen wrote: Love the quote. Who was it from?

I've seen it attributed to Oscar Wilde, Otto, but I can't verify that.

Otto Nieminen wrote:. . . I really should explore Italy more, your notes (and several others' on this forum) really make me see what I miss out on by usually only drinking Piemontese or Alto-Adige wines. For some reason I never quite got the hang of Tuscany.


A lot depends on your feelings for Sangiovese, I guess (although of course many Tuscan producers these days work with the Cabs, Merlot, and Syrah). Though I happen to love the grape, I can see how people who adore Nebbiolo might not get "the hang" of Tuscany. But please do explore more of Italy--I'd love to read your reactions!
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Re: WTN: Wines from a Busy Winter (Tuscany)

Postby Jenise » Mon May 15, 2006 1:32 pm

Clinton, I liked the term 'pleather'--it evoked exactly what you wanted it to. I just wanted to make sure that was what you intended, that the 'p' wasn't an accident.

Re the Isole, I'll hope this bottle isn't affected. I might open it tonight, my house guests aren't winos but the male half is Italian and a good CC tastes like home.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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