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DWWA 2014: Tuscany insights

Hear from our Tuscany Regional Chair Monty Waldin on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

The baking hot 2007-2012 vintages challenged Tuscany. Wines made from local grapes – Vermentino and Vernaccia (whites), and Sangiovese, Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Canaiolo (reds) – were often purest and freshest when containing minimal doses of Bordeaux or Burgundy imports such as Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay. Yet wines seasoned with French imports usually sell for Tuscany’s most over-ambitious prices. Think Bolgheri, Morellino or any of Chianti’s 20 supposedly diverse but now, thanks to global warming, often indistinguishable denominations. Super-ripe, Frenchified Tuscan Sangiovese reds are potentially moreish and stimulating. But Frenchified wines that raisin prematurely should really provoke a viticultural rethink.

What should we buy from here?

Rosso di Montalcino has never been better (our only red Trophy), as Brunello producers declassify more of their best Sangiovese grapes into Rosso for quicker cashflow, for example in 2011 and 2012. The cooler, less hyped 2010 Chianti Classico vintage should attract those looking for perfumed reds with savoury elegance. In coastal Tuscany, Montereggio di Massa Marittima’s reds offer much more consistency, complexity and value compared with Morellino di Scansano at not dissimilar prices. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is morphing into a less formulaic but still agreeably herby dry white. But Vermentino remains Tuscany’s most enjoyable white grape for effortlessly mouthfilling dry wines unreliant on expensive oak. And, of course, don’t forget Vin Santo!

What should we leave on the shelf?

2009 is a big but not necessarily beautiful vintage for Brunello if you are expecting most of the wines to age and improve for more than a decade. The very best might, but plenty won’t; drink them up. Merlot-dominant reds struggled for balance in 2012’s mercilessly hot, dry summer. Syrah- and Cabernet Sauvignondominant reds fared better (and in the nearly as hot 2011), but the ripeness is often tinged with green notes too. Basic Chianti sells on price – the lower the better – so no surprises it laboured in the wet 2013 vintage from unripeness, rot and dilution.

What should we keep an eye on?

If you thought Chianti was easy to understand, yet another new category (the 20th) was approved in February 2014. Called Gran Selezione, it is for Chianti Classico Riservas aged 30 months before release, as opposed to 24 months for Riserva (this ageing does not have to be in wood, mercifully). Only owner-growers can make Gran Selezione, which should stop big merchants buying in grapes from who knows where. Let’s hope this encourages more single-vineyard or terroir-specific wines. Better grown and more nuanced Chianti Classico wines should then emerge.

Written by Decanter

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