I recently attended a particular wine tasting featuring Italian wines, I was overcome with the quality of all of the selections. Not necessarily what would be called a high-end tasting; it did nonetheless have a few higher-end wines, primarily Brunello’s and those called “Super Tuscan.”
Italian wines have always been a soft spot for me ever since my early days before entering the wine business mostly due to the fact that there was this particular manager at a local wine shop that featured Italian wines. His memories of his visits and his love of wines from Italy poured over to those of us most fortunate to have gotten to know him. He was also notorious for always having a couple of wines for those better customers that he kept “under the counter” during those tastings that would allow us to partake of some of the truly great wines he had in the store.
To give some background, all of this was taking place right around when the 1997 Vintage from Italy was being distributed. Meaning the wines were OUTSTANDING! Of course, those “under the counter” wines seemed to always be those with just a slightly (or more so) price tag. So I have him to thank for my emergence into paying higher and higher prices for wine. Mind you I said “thank” as it may have impacted my wallet in a not so friendly way, it did introduce me to the world of those spectacular wines from all areas of the world.
Enough past history (wait, isn’t all history by definition in the past?). So I’m at the event and as always, I first peruse the selection of wine taking particular note of those wines that I just can’t miss. Noting that there are around 40 wines in total to try. I start out to pace myself with the intent to try most of them. “Wait” you ask. “Don’t you just spit out the wines tried?” I subscribe to the 4 S’s; SSSS*.
Off I go, beginning with the white wines. Couldn’t really say there was a bad one in the bunch. I do love Pinot Bianco and Arneis, but on this occasion, I happened across something a little different. Knowing my affinity for Sauvignon Blanc as all of you do (or should if you read my blog), I tried this little number from Venezia Giulia in the far Northeastern region of Italy. Soon to be its own “Wine of the Week.”
Then on to the reds! Once again, some excellent examples of wines from a variety of regions. It’s important to note for those out there who love Italian wines that the 2015 Vintage is on equal footing with 1997! That means; the quality of a good number of 2015 wines will be excellent and an ideal time to stock up on if need be, or to splash a little more frivolously, if so inclined, but don’t dally too long as they are going fast.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite Italian wines, Barolo from the Nebbiolo grape, was not present. There were a few Brunello’s and a couple of what can only be described as that moniker “Super Tuscan.” Let’s focus there as that’s where this “Wine of the Week” hails from.
By chance, I began with the Brunellos. A trio of excellent wines from a couple of different vintages. On to the “ST’s” (short for Super Tuscans). First up was the Le Volte dell’Ornellaia. Merlot-based from the home of one of the original ST’s. Beautiful wine and one that deserves a shout out. A couple of others, but then to the pièce de résistance.
Off in the distance, I see a wine from a producer that I know. Fèlsina! Famous for their Chiantis and producing a few wines outside of the DOCG area. AKA – ST! Got all those abbreviations? In this case the
Fèlsina Fontalloro 2015
Fèlsina is located on the southeast edge of the Chianti Classico appellation and nestled between the Chianti Classico and Crete Senesi areas, in the direction of Montalcino. Focused predominantly on Sangiovese, they do make a wine of Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay, a couple of Spumantes and a Vin Santo. Oh, let’s not forget the Olive Oil!
But back to the star of the tasting! From the first sip, I was hooked. While I love Brunello, the one factor that I have is that they have become slightly less full-bodied than of vintages past. Not terrible, just lighter. I missed that and find the same is true for Barolo as well. The exception tends to be in the higher price category where you do get a fuller bodied wine. Brunellos are also 100% Sangiovese grapes having specific regulations as to their production and aging. The Fontalloro is 100% Sangiovese as well, but that first sip gave me more of what I remember, a fuller bodied wine! Beautiful dark rich fruit with a certain savory and rustic note to balance the wine oh so delicately.
I would guess that this is one of their wines that go toe-to-toe with Brunello. Aged in new and one use French Oak barrels for 18 to 22 months and a minimum of 8 to 12 months in the bottle, that vinification closely resembles those used in the production of Brunello. The one outward appearance difference is the numbered government DOCG band around the foil of the bottles. Brunellos coming from that DOCG region will have that band, while the Fontalloro has been given the classification of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), a classification established in 1992 to help elevate certain wines from the lowest classification of VdT (Vino da Tavola: meaning “table wine”).
Next came the unofficial classification of “Super Tuscan.” As mentioned, to identify those wines of superb quality that do not adhere to Italian wine laws. Some of the most famous being Tignanello Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto, and a number composed of non-traditional grapes such as Cabernet or Merlot and some, like Fontalloro, being Sangiovese.
History lesson concluded, after falling in love with this wine I set about checking scores. It really came as no surprise seeing a score of 97 Points from Wine Advocate, 96 from Vinous Media and 94 from Wine Spectator. No brainer, in my shopping basket! What was even better, given the quality of this wine, at around $55 a bottle, it is less than most (but not all) Brunellos and considerably less expensive than the aforementioned ST’s. Click here for the tech sheet.
So grab this “Super Tuscan” if you can still find it, remember, it’s a Super Wine as well!
*SSSS - Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swallow