The Antinori brand is an important one in Tuscany and yet the winemaking family operates wineries in other regions of Italy and the world too, from Chile to Franciacorta and from Piedmont to Apulia.
The Prunotto winery in Alba, Piemonte has been part of the Antinori dynasty since 1989 and creates several typical Piedmont red wines. With several Barolos in its portfolio, it also creates a handful of wines based on the Barbera varietal - one of North-West Italy's most important varietals.
Plum red in the glass with a pink hue, the wine is very aromatic in terms of red berries on the nose: wild strawberry, blackcurrant, black cherry and raspberry. There is a wonderful spice mixture of black pepper, cloves and a touch of juniper, pine nut and smoke. On the attack is the predictable Piedmont acidity that does its job in holding the wine together. From the berry attack through the spicy body and onto the very dry finish, the wine remains in constant harmony with the acidity and a touch of wood in the background.
A very well made Barbera from an underrated and sometimes purposely misunderstood winery.
Prunotto in the UK
Prunotto in the US
Nosiola is an age-old varietal that has fallen out of fashion in Trentino and the other regions in North-East Italy. In the past it was always fermented on the skins in clay amphora. Foradori continues this practise and produces this wonderful, light and yet remarkably fresh wine with perhaps a specialist touch although universally enjoyable.
The wine requires a great deal of air and shouldn't really be enjoyed too cold – use red wine glasses to enjoy this fabulous naturally-inspired wine and don’t leave it in the fridge for too long.
The first thing you notice on the nose is that this immediately reminds of red wine: there are red fruit notes, a sense of wood in there and this is backed-up on the palate as well. There are also dried petals on the nose, a decent sense of acidity and black tea.
A fabulously complex, if not sharp attack with plenty of notes: grapefruit, pomelo and green apple but this turns into a thick body with rhubarb, unripe apple and even a touch of something pickled: gherkin, possibly even Sauerkraut. Quick on the finish with a dry kick and a lovely chalky undertone.
A unique wine and a very rewarding drinking experience. Priced at around 35€, this wine is one to be treasured by specialists and lovers of natural-style wine. Perhaps a little too unique for regular wine drinkers, even a novice will appreciate the attention to detail though.
Foradori in the UK
Foradori in the US
Veneto is home to a number of boring DOCs all based on pretty much the same thing: Trebbiano, Corvina or/and Rondinella. It’s difficult to think of a duller production region but perhaps I’m just scarred from all the awful, cheap Pinot Grigio wines I’ve been forced to 'enjoy' over family dinners, in bad restaurants and when I go to parties and the host decided to shop at Aldi to save money.
No, Veneto is home to good wine as well: a decent Valpolicella or Amarone makes up for the millions of hectolitres of grey, characterless and dull wine. But, what if I told you that it isn’t the DOC and DOCG wines you should be looking out for in Veneto? Forget the Supertuscan, its time for the Supervenetian.
Swap Corvina for Carmenere, Rondinella for Merlot and add a touch of regional flair in the way of Marzemino and the picture is vastly improved. I have rarely tasted Carmenere so good, Marzemino so controlled and Merlot so expressive as in the Porcone Butcher’s Reserve from Zio Porco Wines and I have rarely experienced so many things going on with such precision and such awe-inspiring creativity.
But, whilst thinking creatively is a start, actually having the balls to try and the skill to pull it off is completely different. I was expecting to be surprised but not like this: I was expecting the juiciest of juices and the most powerful of power but the most refine of refine certainly wasn’t something I was prepared for.
I always find that cars serve as decent metaphors for wines: imagine Chateau Margaux as a classic Jaguar E-Type, Tignanello as a Ferrari Testarossa and Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Auslese as a Porsche 911. I was awaiting Chevrolet Corvette in this wine: lots of fun but flimsy and held together with plastic: I wasn’t expecting what I got: a Pagani Zonda: crazy, mad, out-of-this-world power and style but with the beating heart of a state-of-the-art AMG V-12. Perhaps that’s testosterone speaking and maybe this sounds like a wine for the man’s man – (I don’t think there’s a better way to describe the winemaker: Marco Giovanni Zanetti (aka Winepunk)) but the classic touch and elegance behind all the power make it universally pleasing whilst exquisite and remarkably unique.
Blackcurrant red-purple (although you’d be excused for saying black) with a pomegranate-coloured hue.
The note is big on red and black fruit to start with: lots of blackcurrant but also redcurrant and blueberry. There is an undeniable high concentration of Cassis which leads onto a spicy structure hinting at tobacco smoke and even….dare I say it, bacon?
Powerful on the attack with all of the fruit promised on the nose, the wine’s berries aren’t inexcusably sweet: the body quickly picks up on pepper and the smoke in the nose making it large and powerful without being a slippery, forgettable jam-like thickness. The oak is important but not defining. The tannins suggest long-term drinkability but they’re not in the way of enjoyment now.
A well-made wine like no other: classically elegant with a unique sense of power that is both harnessed and yet fully-explored. The varietal trio is a treat and the complexity, despite strength, is the wine’s defining character. Priced at 35-40€, it's a fantastic buy and not just a must-try but an entirely new style of wine waiting to be discovered.
Cortona DOC is one of Tuscany’s lesser known production regions. Although many of the region’s largest and most-famous producers do produce wines made here, it doesn’t celebrate the same international appeal as Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Maremma or the like.
Whereas a whole host of varietals are permitted here, notably also imported varietals from France, a great deal of the wines are single varietal. Syrah is a popular choice here and, alongside the typical Cuvee wines made using a variety of grapes, a number of winemakers release a 100% Syrah wine.
One such producer of Cortona DOC Syrah is Marchese Antinori – one of the largest names in both Tuscan and Italian wine. Its Montalcino-based subsidiary: La Braccesca, famed for its Montalcino wines, makes this Syrah produced from grapes grown in the Arezzo region closeby, near to the Tuscan/Umbrian border.
Ruby red with a purple, clear hue.
On the nose is a great deal of black forest fruit but also a decent helping of fresh raspberry. Coupled with a hint of vanilla, thanks to the oak handling, this makes you think of raspberry-ripple ice cream. There is a background oak note but it is both very decent and purely a background thing.
The attack is one of Cassis but this quickly moves on to blackcurrant, red plums and the raspberry promised in the nose. It is all very harmonious with a light acidity that eventually turns into mild tannins, a sprinkling of vanilla, a hit of oak and then fine chocolate and espresso.
A pleasant and very simple, smooth wine. It offers a different side to Syrah and, whilst it is a powerhouse on the body, the finish is nice and calm leaving the wine remarkably easy to drink: smooth, long and yet clean on the palate.
As the proud home of both Ornellaia and Sassicaia, Maremma is one of Tuscany’s most-prized production regions. In the last 50 years together with Bolgheri, it has altered the Tuscan wine world, taking away importance from the wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Another major producer in Maremma is Monteverro. Owned and operated by Georg Weber since 2003, the Tuscan producer has experienced international success in its short history. Regularly put in the same league as the top wines of the region, the first wine retails for upwards of 70 euros. This second wine is made up of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet France, 20% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot.
Plum red in the glass with a clear-brown hue.
The nose is rather reserved. There are notes of both blackcurrant and Cassis and yet these are almost hidden behind fresh herbs, oak and cigar tobacco.
The attack is smooth and silky: there are profound notes of forest fruits – mainly blueberry and wild strawberry. The body too is smooth with red cherry and blackcurrant. This leads onto a finish which is quite heavy on the tannins but eventually gives way to vanilla and smoke.
Whilst the wine is already showing off some fine fruit, it probably is a tad young. With a few more years in the cellar, those hefty tannins are likely to let up a little and expose a touch more of the finely composed silky body and character-defining structure.
There are a few things I can’t turn down: Red Toscana IGT wine is one of them. I’ve been a fan of the stuff since I can remember and, unlike most of the other production regions I favour, I can actually afford the Tuscan wines.
Whereas Tuscany might be most famous for its Chianti, Brunello and Vino Nobile, its ‘new’ wines are the most interesting: in Bolgheri for example where the traditional Tuscan practise of using pretty much only Sangiovese in winemaking has disappeared – they hardly use it at all there. Toscana IGT (literally Tuscan country wine) has little to no restrictions. Many of the producers of ‘Supertuscans’ usually blend Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah with a small amount of traditional Sangiovese to create, mellow, fruity cuvees – this is, by far, the most common approach in all non DOC and DOCG red wine from the region.
This wine is made of 70% Sangiovese and 30% ‘other varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon’. It is aged for about six months in oak. The Carpineto winery was founded in 1967 and is known for both its DOCG wines from Chianti Classico and Montalcino. Dogajolo is a flasgship product made using grapes from all over the Tuscan countryside.
Ruby red with a hint of maroon at the rim.
The initial feel is of red berries and forest fruits with a distinct note of vanilla ice cream. There are raspberries in there too and a distant but not unimportant aroma of wood.
The attack is characterised by the red berries: Cassis, cranberry and raspberry but, before their full juiciness is exposed, the vanilla kicks in – this completes the body: long, warm and elegant and leads nicely onto a balanced and hearty oak note and a long, off-sour finish.
A very warming wine and, due to its inevitable youth, one that reminds strangely of summer rather than the typical seasons one would drink red wine. I can imagine it slightly cooled, served on a balcony thanks to its freshness and the liveliness of the red fruit and yet I feel the vanilla note takes a bit too much prominence away from the red fruit too early – I think, with a few more months in oak or indeed the cellar, this wine would feel fuller – there is great potential here it wine is fantastic with both white and red meat, salad and hotpot – a rare product: a food wine suitable for pretty much anything you want to put on the table.
When you think of Italy and sparkling wine, two words spring to mind: Prosecco and Asti. Whereas both can be rather good (although it is rare in the case of the latter), neither are on a par with the sparkling wines of France and even Spain.
Italy’s true sparkling wine production region is, without doubt, Franciacorta – situated in Northern Italy’s Lombardia region. Made using Chardonnay Pinot Noir/Nero and Pinot Blanc/Bianco in a similar way to Champagne (second fermentation in the bottle), it is some of Europe’s finest sparkling wine.
The higher annual temperatures make an impression on the final wines which are fruitier and less sour than their Northern-French counterparts. Unlike Champagne, Franciacorta must spend a minimum of 18 months in the bottle during the second fermentation (Champagne 15 months) although the classification requirements in relation to residual sugar are exactly the same.
Due to the majority of consumers being less aware of the wines, Franciacorta is rather well-priced. A decent wine costs seldom over 25€ and even the vintage stuff is priced at around 30€. The quality is however very similar and, although there is a fuller, neater feel to Franciacorta, there are certain parallels between it and the world’s most famous bubbly.
Contadi Castaldi is a producer of Franciacorta DOCG in beautiful Adro. This is their entry-level wine and it is priced around 20€/£. 80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero and 10% Pinot Bianco make up the final cuvée which is aged for a minimum of 18 months before release.
A pale satin colour with a very fine and discreet mousseux.
Fresh citrus was the first thing I picked out – lemon peel and ripe lemon juice. A hint of lime was in there too as well as a handful of stone fruits: particularly white peach. There were also unique nutty notes: almond and walnut but also a feel of fine fresh white bread.
The attack was mild and yet dominated by fresh lemon and grapefruit. Alongside melon, orange, clementine and peach in the body a uniquely fresh sense of freshly-baked white bread and lemongrass was present. The finish was smooth rather than yeasty and the whole affair felt rather light.
A fantastically well-composed bubbly – both light and full of flavour, it felt discreet and yet offered a great deal of character. I can imagine this as a brilliant aperitif or even a companion to simple pasta dishes or those based on freshwater whitefish. One of the best-value sparklers I’ve had in a long time.
Chianti is a complicated affair: either sour and off-balance or luxuriously elegant, it can be hard to know what to expect when opening a bottle. Much like with most things though, spending a couple more of your pounds, dollars or euros has an effect.
Another thing that makes a difference is exactly who makes it: when the name of Tuscany's and perhaps Italy’s most famous producer is printed on the label, the chances of receiving a clumsily-mixed, basket-bottle-style wine are greatly reduced.
Known for their Supertuscans Solaia and Tignanello, Marchese Antinori make a number of DOC and DOCG wines all over Tuscany. From the fantastic (and fantastically affordable) Montepulciano and Montalcino wines through to the Toscana IGT ones, Antinori has a wine for everyone. Alongside these wines, Antinori create a handful of Chiantis: the simplest being from their Santa Cristina Marque. In the middle of the road is the famous Pèppoli: a classically elegant Chianti Classico DOCG which I reviewed a few years back (click here).
Their prized Chianti carries the company name though: Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva.
Made of 90% of some of Tuscany’s best chocolately Sangiovese and some of the ripest Cabernet Sauvignon this side of the Atlantic, the wine is aged in French and Hungarian oak for a year before spending another twelve months ripening in the bottle.
Thich cherry red with an almost syrupy appearance. The hue is brownish and rather clear.
Underneath the initial tone of rather potent oak there is an immense amount of hidden fruit waiting to be picked out. Black cherry and blackberries characterise the fruit part of the nose and offer up some more exotic tones as well.
Initially, the fruit attack feels rather overwhelming and yet it develops into an incredibly well-blended concoction of black cherry, blackcurrant, blackberries and blueberries with, thanks to the oak, a vanilla undertone. There’s chocolate, licorice and even some espresso in the body and the finish is long and, whilst rewarding, rather strong: the oak is both very present and yet it really feels very much a part of the wine's structure which is clearly set-out from the attack until long after finishing.
A beautiful drop of Tuscan wine: both classically fruity, chocolately and racy, it brings with it a decent amount of structure and elegance making this age-old production region’s produce seem rather modern. The oak is the wine’s swansong and the combination of that much excellent black fruit together with the wood is both rare and a reason to try the wine at all.
Lugana DOC, Brescia (Lombardia), Italy
The Lugana boom in Germany shows now sign of slowing down. Not exactly known for its thrilling appeal and quality, Northern Italian Trebbiano can sometimes feel a bit “Pizzeria Italiano” – fake Italian charm that often leads to a queasy feeling in either the stomach, head or both – think cheap Soave. Thankfully though, this wonderful appellation (DOC) on the banks of Lake Garda is where this varietal comes into its own.
Bulgarini is a fantastic producer from Lake Garda and its entry-level Lugana DOC is one of my favourites. Excellent with fish but also as a summer balcony wine, Lugana is going to go from strength to strength and that deservedly.
Very faint gold with an ever-so-slight green hue.
Notes of lovely stone fruit characterise the wine and it does this very gracefully: peach and apricot alongside a distant feel of sweet pink grapefruit.
Very clean stone fruit on the attack, a slightly acidic note kicks in with a dashing of fresh grapefruit and lemon peel. The mineral finish rounds off the sweet and lively fruit making a complete and clean experience.
In terms of Lugana, Bulgarini’s is one of the best out there. Priced under a tenner, it’s hard to imagine a better, well-priced Northern Italian white on the market.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Tuscany, Italy
To me, Brunello has always been the most elegant Tuscan choice - long refined notes of mostly perfect control: discipline. The Chianti regions on the other hand offer, less than superfine wines praised for their easy-drinkability and mass-appeal. What if there was a wine that could combine the both of these things? Fine and elegant and yet fun and racy: there is, Vino Nobile.
Also made almost entirely from a mutation of Sangiovese (in this case Prugnolo Gentile and a splash of Merlot), VIno Nobile often offers up some of the notes that Sangiovese is better known for: sassy, tart and exciting fruit with long, luscious minerals and a handful of luxury aromas.
This wine, from Tenuta La Braccesca, is the brainchild of that famous Tuscan producer, you know: the one which makes Tignanello, Solaia, Pèppoli, Santa Cristina and the like. The Antinoris bought the estate back in the early 1990s and whilst it might not be their most-famous Tuscan product, it's a very good wine nonetheless.
Deep red-purple with a bright pink hue.
The first sense on the nose is one of a bright black fruit mixture: a big sense of blackcurrant but also black cherries, redcurrants and blueberries. Some lovely sweet Virginia tobacco, a patch of leather and even some freshly-roasted espresso are all in there too.
A much more subdued explosion of taste than expected and one that implemented the alternative sides to the fruit rather than their sweet sides: slightly sour berry tannins eventually gave way to ripe red and black fruit, lead entirely by the blackcurrant and black cherry. A nice toasty finish with well-worked in tannins completed the wine rather elegantly.
A great wine and a brilliant example of how Vino Nobile is the most accessible of the finer Tuscan DOCs and DOCGs. With enough elegance and pride to impress the drinkers of the stuff grown 20 or so miles to the South West, the tart and lively notes of Montepulciano make Sangiovese-based DOCG wines attractive to anyone: not just the classic wine drinker.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry