Italian Selections

ItalyWith this article on the wines of Tuscany, the International Wine Review continues its focus on Italian wines. Part I in this series evaluated selections from the Veneto and elsewhere. Italian wines are among the best in the world, both in terms of quality and price, and they match superbly with food. However, they are not always easily understood. They are mostly made from indigenous grapes, many of which are unfamiliar to the average consumer, and they come from the widely varying regions and climates of Italy, including the island Sicily. This series of articles, in addition to our recent in-depth reports on The Wines of Chianti Classico and The Wines of Southern Italy, should help inform consumers in their future purchases of Italian wines.

Part II Tuscany


Tuscany is the source of some of Italy’s most famous wines—Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Vin Santo, and numerous Super Tuscans and IGTs (Indicazione Georgrafica Tipica). The charms of Tuscan wines have been celebrated for hundreds of years, as evidenced in the 980 line ode to Tuscan wine, Bacco in Toscano, written by Francesco Redi in 1685. While Sangiovese is the most prominent red grape of the region, many other indigenous (Colorino, Canaiolo, Malvasia Nera) and French varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) are also grown, in addition to a number of white wine grapes (Trebbiano, Malvasia, and the famous Vernaccia). In recent years, Tuscan winemakers have begun practicing their talent in the Maremma and the Bolgheri, which is home to Sassacaia and Tignanello.

Banfi 2006 Centine Tuscany ($13) 88

The Centine is an attractive blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. It boasts a medium ruby color with inviting aromas of earthy black cherry. Soft on the attack, it offers flavors of licorice, black fruit, and spice followed by chewy tannins and a firm finish.

Importer: Banfi

Barone Ricasoli 2007 Chianti del Barone Tuscany ($15) 87

A light to medium ruby red, Sangiovese-based blend aged 80% in stainless steel and 20% in oak. Aromas of red plum fruit with a slight herbal edge give way to fresh fruit on a light palate with good acidity. A good value wine for everyday drinking.

Importer: Remy USA

Boscarelli 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Tuscany ($49) 89

Brambly black fruit and dark loam notes erupt from this medium dark ruby Vino Nobile. These notes carry over to the round, full palate with the addition of pepper and tar. The finish on this blend of 80% Sangiovese (with additions of Merlot, Canaiolo and Cabernet) is gripping with the good acidity that makes Vino Nobile such a compelling food wine.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Boscarelli 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Nocio de Boscarelli Tuscany ($95) 90

The 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Nocio de Boscarelli blends Merlot with Sangiovese and Mammolo. Sourced from a single vineyard, it is more concentrated than the regular Vino Nobile, revealing black ripe fruit flavors, oak, smoke and earth. It is a delicious wine showing great depth and complexity and a long lasting finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Castagneto Carducci 2006 Greppicante Bolgheri ($28) 92

Castagneto Carucci is owned by the renowned Fattoria Viticcio of Chianti Classico. This opaque ruby winner is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Loads of extracted, peppery blackberry fruit reveal themselves on the nose, while delicious ripe, juicy black fruit and black pepper show on the palate. It’s well-focused and beautifully balanced with round but firm tannins on the finish. This is one international styled Tuscan wine we adore, and it is offered at a terrific price!

Importer: Sherbrooke Cellars

Castagneto Carducci 2005 Greppicaia Bolgheri Superiore ($39) 93

Dark ruby with pure rich blackberry aromas and touches of earth and tobacco. It’s soft on the palate, exhibiting both power and elegance. It’s soft and silky with black smoky fruit, mineral notes and firm ripe tannins. This is a magnificent wine that will only get better with time in the bottle, but it is ready to drink today. Will go best with meaty dishes.

Importer: Sherbrooke Cellars

Castello di Volpaia 2006 Borgianni Tuscany ($15) 88

This is a well-structured, fresh tasting wine made of Chianti Senese fruit that displays sweet black cherry flavors with a touch of smoke and leather. On the palate it offers fresh red cherry flavors, good acidity, firm tannins and grip on the finish. It will benefit from more time in the bottle.

Importer: Wilson Daniels Ltd.

Cecchi 2007 Chianti Natio Tuscany ($15) 87

The Natio Chianti is produced from 100% organically grown grapes and is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo and Colorinio. Light ruby in color, it displays aromas of cherry and plum and is nicely balanced and fruity with long lasting flavors on the palate. A good value.

Importer: Cecchi

Colognole 2003 Chianti Rufina Tuscany ($18) 88

This medium ruby Chianti Rufina offers a nose of dried Morello cherry and notes of black pepper. It is soft on the attack and reveals flavors of black cherry and plum. It has excellent balance with a long lasting tart finish, and is a great food wine.

Importer: VinDivino

Colognole 2003 Chianti Rufina Riserva del Don Tuscany ($40) 90

The full-bodied Chianti Rufina Riserva has darker fruit flavors than the normale as well as greater intensity and weight. It is soft and velvety on the palate with fine round tannins and a long lasting finish. A delicious wine that is easy and enjoyable to drink.

Importer: VinDivino

Da Vinci 2003 Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany ($70) 88

The 2003 Brunello di Montalcino displays a medium ruby garnet color and aromas of red fruit, Asian spices, sandalwood, and a touch of pine. Aged in oak for two years, it is medium weight on the palate with light fruit, sweet vanilla, and a long toasty finish.

Importer: Da Vinci, USA

Da Vinci 2006 Chianti DOCG Tuscany ($16) 87

This easy drinking Chianti displays scents of black raspberry and licorice on the nose, followed by a lightly fruited palate of black and red fruit. A good everyday wine.

Importer: Da Vinci, USA

Da Vinci 2004 Chianti Riserva Tuscany ($NA) 87

This is a dark ruby, 100% Sangiovese aged 12 months in French oak. It has a fresh, fruit forward nose of spicy black fruit with a touch of pepper and licorice and a soft attack of rich, ripe clean black fruit with bitter chocolate notes. It finishes a bit short with very dry tannins.

Importer: Da Vinci, USA

Da Vinci 2005 Da Vinci S. to Ippolito Tuscany ($45) 90

The Davinci S. to Ippolito is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Syrah which is aged in oak 11 months. It has a deep ruby, purple color with aromas of sweet black fruit and spice with violet note. Soft on the attack, it offers pleasant flavors of red and blackberry fruit and firm tannins. This is a big wine with pure, concentrated fruit flavors that finishes with a strong tannic grip and persistent fruit flavors. Needs a little more time in bottle to soften.

Importer: Da Vinci, USA

Fattoria Della Vitae 2006 Chianti Colli Senesi Tuscany ($14) 86

This is a good everyday drinking Chianti. It is earthy in character with Morello cherry and balsamic aromas. It is soft on the attack with a fruity mid-palate and a rustic tannic finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd

Marchesi Pancrazi 2005 Pinot Noir Villa di Bagnolo IGT Tuscany ($46) 87

Vittorio Pancrazi makes this Tuscan Pinot Noir with winemaker Paolo Mocali. 100% Pinot Noir from the hills west of Florence, the wine undergoes malo and is aged 12 months in barrique. It’s a medium dark ruby color with a nose that exudes vanilla and oak. The palate has an underpinning of dry cherry dominated by toasty vanilla oak. On the finish, these flavors all come together to leave a pleasant, lingering sensation.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Marchesi Pancrazi 2003 San Donato IGT Tuscany ($20) 87

The S. Donato Rosso is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Gamay made from fruit from the hills north of Florence. The wine is an attractive medium ruby with red cherry fruit aromas not unlike a rich Beaujolais. There’s attractive brambly red cherry fruit on a straightforward palate and nice, fresh red fruit flavors on a very pleasing finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Melini 2007 Borghi d'Elsa Tuscany ($11) 87

Medium ruby color with a nose of red raspberry. The fruit forward palate offers red berry flavors with touches of tea and spice. Finishes clean.

Importer: Frederick Wildman and Sons New York, NY

Monte Antico 2005 Monte Antico Tuscany ($12) 88

A Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese, this is a well-balanced, flavorful IGT that illustrates the merits of blending different varietals. While this isn’t an overly complex wine, it is a complete one with aromas of black and red fruit, a nicely textured and fruit-laden palate with an earthy note, good acidity, and gentle tannins on the finish. Very drinkable and uncomplicated, the Monte Antico can safely be combined with a wide variety of dishes.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Pagano 2007 Chianti Tuscany ($10) 88

This is a pleasant tasting, easy drinking Chianti with pure dark cherry flavors, a velvety soft attack, a well structured palate, and a firm finish. Good value.

Importer: The Marchetti Co.

Piazanno 2006 Chianti Tuscany ($16) 88

This Piazzano Chianti, produced by owner Ricardo Bettarini is dark ruby in color and rustic in character. It displays spicy Morello cherry and black pepper aromas followed by tart earthy flavors, mineral notes and gripping tannins on the finish. There is a lot of pizza wine here for the price.

Importer: VinDivino

Piazanno 2005 Chianti Rio Camerata Tuscany ($18) 89

The medium ruby Rio Camerata is produced from relatively low yielding vines, displaying intense smoky black cherry and loamy aromas followed by an attack of spicy and concentrated red and black fruit and charred oak flavors. On the palate it is well balanced with lasting flavors and round firm tannins on the finish.

Importer: VinDivino

Poggio Argentiera 2007 Bellamarsilia Tuscany ($20) 88

While born only in 1997, Poggio Argentiera is already one of the best producers in the Morellino di Scansano. Two distinct vineyards—the Podere Adua near the coast and the Podere Keeling in the northern hills—provide the fruit. The Bellamarsilia is dark ruby in color, showing black and red fruit on the nose and a medium-weight palate. It has nice purity and spice, but astringency on the finish cries out for food.
Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Poggio Argentiera 2006 Capitosta Tuscany ($43) 90

The Capatosta is a 95% Sangiovese, 5% Alicante blend aged 12+ months in 50% new oak. It’s deep ruby in color with appealing aromas of violets, minerals and ripe fruit. Full in the mouth, it shows concentrated dark, ripe fruit, nicely integrated oak, and tightly knit tannins. Impressive!

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Tenuta Belguardo 2006 Bronzone Morellino di ScansanoTuscany ($45) 88

This 100% Sangiovese from the Mazzei Belguardo estate in the Maremma shows plum, pepper, and cassis on the nose. The palate is lush with straightforward flavors of ripe plum and cherry fruit. It finishes long and fresh.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Tenuta Belguardo 2007 Rosé Tuscany ($NA) 88

This Syrah and Sangiovese blend is medium salmon in color with a very fresh, light cherry and strawberry nose. The palate is dry with light red fruit flavors lifted by lively acids.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Tenuta Belguardo 2006 Serrata di Belguardo Tuscany ($17) 87

The 2006 Serrata is a medium ruby blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Alicante with aromas of spicy, brambly red fruit. The medium weight palate shows fresh black and red fruit with spice notes. Pepper and earth notes appear on the finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Tenuta Belguardo 2005 Maremma Tosacana Tuscany ($45) 91

A dark ruby, full-flavored blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the 2005 Tenuta Belguardo is a truly lovely wine. It shows cassis and herbs on the nose and flavors of cassis and ripe plums leading to a very clean finish of gripping tannins.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Tenuta Farneta 2005 Chianti Colli Senesi Tuscany ($13) 87

This Chianti displays a lovely red ruby color with aromas of fresh Morello cherry. It is soft and easy drinking on the palate with moderate cherry fruit flavors, medium weight, good balance and acidity, and a firm finish.

Importer: The Marchetti Co.

Terrabianca 2005 Ceppate Tuscany ($76) 90

A 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot blend of grapes from the Chianti Classico and the Maremma showing aromas of red fruit and mango. It offers up a fat and supple palate of ripe black raspberry, plum, and earth, and a very long finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Teruzzi & Puthod 2006 Rondolino Vernaccia San Gimignano ($14) 88

Delicate straw in color with a nose of spice and green apple, the 100% Vernaccia Rondolino is pleasingly tart with apple fruit flavors on a richly textured palate and a quite dry finish. While not as complex as the Terre di Tufi, we like this less expensive bottling just as much for its purity and balance.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Teruzzi & Puthod 2006 Terre di Tufi Tuscany ($21) 88

Husband and wife, Enrico Teruzzi and Carmen Puthod, were pioneers in the Vernaccia renaissance in the towered medieval town of San Gimignano. In recent years, Carlo Ferrini has joined them as consulting winemaker. The lemon gold 2006 Terre di Tufi shows the fruit of their efforts. This blend of Vernaccia, Chardonnay, Malvasia, and Vermentino is aged 4-5 months in barriques. It has a tantalizing and complex nose of vanilla, honey, figs and dried stone fruit. The palate doesn’t faithfully reflect the bouquet, but it’s pleasant nonetheless with a soft, round attack and steely, apple palate showing racy acidity.

Importer: Palm Bay International

Toscolo 2006 Chianti Tuscany ($11) 87

This is an easy drinking medium-ruby colored Chianti offering dark spicy cherry fruit aromas and flavors. It is medium weight with good intensity of flavor and firm tannins on the finish. A nice tasting wine for everyday drinking and a good buy.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Toscolo 2007 Vernaccia San Gimignano ($16) 88

Toscolo is one of Neil and Maria Empson’s winemaking ventures in Italy, with the collaboration of famed oenologist Franco Bernabei. The Toscolo Vernaccia is a highly successful first effort. It’s gold yellow in color with a spicy nose of dried stone fruit, and a nicely balanced, full flavored palate of ripe red apple, pear and a touch of anise, finishing on a lovely, harmonious note.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

By Mike Potashnik and Donald Winkler, February 2009