Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guest Blogger: "Blending in” in Tuscany

My wine tasting group has been running for four years now. Our 29 tastings are the cornerstone of my wine education, featuring some of the most memorable wines of my life. It is a talented group of wine tasters and collectors, but they have been content to leave the blogging to me. Except for one.

Lloyd, in addition to being a great friend, is a wine mentor for me, so I could not ignore his request for a guest spot. Lloyd has a shrewd eye for a great wine buy, and has been instrumental in building out my Italian and Australian wine collections. A self-professed 'Italophile', I bring you my "roving correspondent", Lloyd, on assignment, in Tuscany:

Though the greatest Tuscan wines I’ve tasted thus far have been expressions of a single grape (Masseto comes to mind for Merlot, Flaccianello or a half dozen Brunellos for Sangiovese) it is the blends that dominate the shelves and restaurant wine lists. Good reason, it seems, as the age of the “Supertuscan” blend has proliferated quality well beyond the gates of Sassicaia, spreading some good winemaking – and more recently, inspiring value – around. The two 2001s I tasted recently came to me by very different routes.

The 2001 Tenuta di Ghizzano Nambrot is a Bordeaux blend dominated by Merlot (70%) with the balance Petit Verdot and Cabernet. Smoke and oak dominate, well-integrated with vanilla and dark (black currant and blackberry) fruit to a long finish. Its silky, refined sensibility after (about an hour decanted) defied the big and round, full-bodied experience down the hatch. If I had another bottle, I’d give it 2+ years to really sort out, but it’s wonderful today. This was a gift from a kind enoteca owner in Siena last year (with whom I dropped a small fortune, but that story for another day…) It was worth schlepping from Italy. The ’03 is available at the SAQ for $59. Score: 17/20. Alcohol: 13.5% (’03).

The 2001 Michele Satta Bolgheri Rosso Piastraia adds Sangiovese to equal parts Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet. I confess that this is a longtime personal favourite. I’ve previously enjoyed a ’97 and a ’98, and just cracked open a case that I assembled from several SAQ branches a few years back. It was worth the effort. The Piastraia is almost black-red and viscous. After half hour in the decanter, the nose is Oz-meets-Maremma powerful, with an extracted dark cherry fruit, some leather, tobbaco and a subtle smokey nose. The Piastraia was a velvet fist to the Nambrot’s fit-like-kid-leather glove, crossing the palate with structure, length and fine, perfectly-integrated tannins to a long and satisfying finish. The ’03 is at the SAQ for $39.75 (the ’01 was $42) making this a tremendous value. Score: 18+ (I suspect this will continue to improve). Alcohol: 13.5%

These are great food wines, the former matching up nicely with a rare filet mignon and grilled vegetables. The latter was excellent with a 1.5 inch veal chop and equally so with an old piece of Parmigiano I dug out of the fridge. It even did justice to some 80% dark chocolate (a pairing Joe knows is close to my heart, even as it blocks my arteries!)

Many thanks to Lloyd. Future appearances on this blog will be highly dependent on how frequently he enjoys Masseto without me... He can be reached by commenting below, or through my email address.


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