An outstandingly fine vintage
Early spring brought budding forward by up to ten days. Temperatures were warm through the summer but not excessive. The only problem – and it was limited to the higher sites in the centre of the region – was a degree of drought stress towards the beginning of August. Light rainfall at the beginning of September brought the vines back into equilibrium and a long sunny period preceded the harvest which took place in perfect conditions. Picking finished around ten days early in Chianti and about a week before usual in Montalcino. Quantities were down by 10-15%, but the quality of the fruit was exceptional across the whole of the region.
An historic vintage for Sangiovese which gave intense and long lived wines, although compared to the two other great vintages of the decade, 1995 and 1997, the 1990s appear today perhaps more austere. They are undoubtedly powerful but they have a hard edge which the subsequent evolution of winemaking styles in Tuscany has tended to soften. 1990 could be considered the last great traditional vintage for Sangiovese, made for long keeping. Chianti Riservas are looking ready, although there is no hurry to drink them up. Brunello is drinking well, but the best bottles still have generous margins for development.
The most interesting wines to look for now from Chianti are Sangiovese Super Tuscans like Pergole Torte, Grosso Sanese, Fontalloro and Flaccianello or vineyard selections like Ama’s Bellavista. In a long list of powerful Brunellos, Poggio al Vento Riserva stands out as one of the stars of the vintage, together with Castelgiocondo, Mastrojanni’s Schiena d’Asino, Cerbaiona, Salvioni and the extremely pricey but very fine Biondi Santi Riserva.