Vintage guide: Tuscany 2003
Very well-balanced, good quality reds from Chianti and Montepulciano
The hottest summer for the last 150 years brought heat wave conditions and drought to Tuscany and saw the earliest vintage since 1945 and one of the smallest ever. The spring began with normal temperatures and rainfall, but frost on 7-8 April caused damage which contributed to the general short fall in production. From May to the end of August the region experienced record temperatures and almost complete drought, which started to create serious problems of stress in the vineyard. However rain in early September saved the situation and allowed for more or less even ripening over the whole of the region.
Quantities are down an average 15% over the region, with some producers in Chianti reporting a drop of 20%. Grapes everywhere had very high sugar content, low acidity and very thick, tannin-rich skins. An unusually low ratio of juice to pulp has resulted in dense and highly concentrated wines, with great ageing potential but probably less immediate appeal. Chianti Classico will be particularly full-bodied and meaty with alcohol levels well above the norm. Put these away, together with the long-ageing Chiantis from Rufina, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Maremma wines might be a bit baked and jammy for some tastes. Bolgheri should offer more elegance alongside the structure.
In Chianti look for estates with a track record in hot vintages, possibly away from the stoniest hillsides in the centre of the DOCG zone. Examples include Castello di Bossi, Fattoria Le Corti-Corsini and Fattoria di Felsina. All the big names at Montalcino are expecting to bring out an important vintage. For the long haul, look for the Riservas (due out in 2009) from Lisini, Salvioni, Case Basse and Col d’Orcia. For blockbusters from the coast pick, from the fast developing Val di Cornia DOC zone, Tua Rita and Gualdo del Re or the new wave wines of Le Macchiole at Castagneto Carducci.