Decanter Italian Fine Wine Encounter Masterclasses: Tuscany – the New Frontier
This fascinating masterclass took the rapt audience on a vinous tour of Tuscany old and new, moving from the established provenance of Chianti Classico to the brave new world of the Maremma and Bolgheri, before returning to more familiar territory and Brunello di Montalcino.
Steven Spurrier helmed a tasting of 12 very different Tuscan red wines, beginning with a range of Sangiovese-dominated 2006s from producers such as Antinori, Selvapiana, Isole e Olena and Fontodi.
Spurrier pointed to the huge strides made in vineyard and winery over the last 20 years, describing the investment in quality as ‘quite outstanding’.
Moving into the coastal hinterland of the Maremma, varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alicante and Cabernet Franc became more widespread in wines like Poggio Verrano Dromos, with Syrah taking a minor role in Fattoria Le Pupille’s Saffredi.
This varietal variation finds its most extreme form in the vineyard mosaic of Caiarossa, which boasts 11 grape varieties – three white and eight red – in just 12 hectares of vineyard.
The result is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre. ‘It really is a smorgasbord of grape varieties, and if anyone had told me you can blend Mourvèdre with Cabernet Franc, I would tell them they should think again,’ said Spurrier.
‘It’s rather like Médoc without the tannins. It shows you don’t need to buy 2009 Bordeaux when you can buy 2006 Tuscans… Then again, maybe you should buy both!’
Best audience question (asked and answered by Steven Spurrier: ‘Who thinks that these wines are not good value for money?’
Answer: ‘Not one hand went up. With the passion, energy and dedication that goes into these wines, they’re not cheap – they’re £20-30, or even £40. They’re wines that will stay in your memory, in your memory and won’t let you down.’
Best panel comment: Peter Femfert of Fattoria Nittardi: ‘It all started, like so many things in life, with a woman of course… It’s a long story which started with a woman, and unfortunately she can’t come today, but we’re still married – don’t worry!’
Hot topic: Despite the increasingly significant role played by other grape varieties, the evolution of Sangiovese. Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti highlighted the painstaking research undertaken over the last two decades by the universities of Pisa and Florence, as well as the Chianti Classico 2000 project.
‘We have discovered something like 12 new clones,’ Manetti told the audience. ‘All of us at the table made our massal selection and clonal selection, looking in the vineyards for those vines producing better quality.
‘All our new vineyards are planted with these clones and I think the quality of Sangiovese is getting better and better – and it will get better over the next 20-30 years.’