Here's the lowdown on some Tuscan reds

February 20, 2012

Le Sughere di Frassinello Maremma Toscana 2009, a lovely Sangiovese blend by Rocco Frassinello, was rated 93 WA and 91 WS. It also took 69th on the WS top 100 for 2011. Remember, many good reds are released two years after the vintage. The three reviews, WS, Galloni and Sr. Frassinello himself, sounded as though it was three separate wines being reviewed. Since so many who email me asked about Tuscan reds the past few years, I searched out some to evaluate.

Le Sughere is just coming into its own and pours a pretty, dark ruby with reddish tint. What might be perceived as floral notes by some smelled more like the cedar notes from new wine that has been held in new oak. This wood note blends with currant and dark fruit notes with a hint of minerality combined with a nice acid-tannin balance. It's a medium-bodied wine that could use another year or two, but the softer tannins allow for drinking now.

Sughere finishes long, ripe and mildly spicy - 93 points plus two price points.  I was surprised to learn this was Frassinello’s second label and plan on looking into his No. 1. Recently on sale at $225/case, there were 80,000 bottles produced, so no need to rush. But ask your local pal to order some in. I would expect to pay up a bit.

Another better super Tuscan might be Ruffino Modus 2007 - WS 96, Tanzer only 88.  You can buy it around $300/case. Initially this was very dark and tannin hot, but last month it had begun to come together. Color has lightened to ruby red and garnet. A mixed bouquet of cherries, plums, tobacco, spices and herbs.

The palate is fresh with some fruit-driven sweetness. Still a bit tannic, although not as elevated as on release. Full-bodied wine that explores the use of each varietal profile employed. An extremely long finish with a pleasing lingering hint of blackberry fruit and cocoa. Many questioned the high tannin content, but time proves Ruffino is correct. What, no basket?

If you love Barolo, read this when you have time and you have finished the paper, ads and all. Go to Regarding Barolo, I sampled a 2001 Pio Cesare Ornato, initially rated 95 WS, 93-95 Tanzer and 91 by RP (not Galloni). Generally Parker is notoriously stingy with praise on Baroli.  McD says still young, a dark wine with a red-brick rim, raspberries, cherries, a smidge of earth and roses. On the palate, cherries, sandalwood, licorice and still plenty of tannic grip.

It is well balanced and  delicious, although developing more slowly than I expected. Will cellar through 2025-plus. You should be able to buy some under $100/bottle. Be careful it was stored properly.

Chateau Gloria 2009 coming to stores near you - hold your fire!  Everyone loves it and says may be best ever. Parker wrote, "Many great Glorias over the years as this property consistently over-performs. The 2009 may be the finest yet produced. Loaded with notes of Christmas fruitcake intermixed with red and black currants, licorice, spice box and blackberries, this inky/purple-colored wine is atypically full-bodied with a viscous texture, and loads of tannin, extract and richness. Deep and layered, it will offer thrilling sipping over the next 25-plus years.”

First, there were 20,000 cases produced. Second, read carefully. It is best of Glorias, still only rated 88, and at $480/case you can do better. Much better. I know I have said you can’t go wrong with 2009 Bordeaux; 88 points ain't nuttin' to sneeze at.  However, in a vintage as good and prolific as 2009, it pays to wait and shop, unless you are a label “ho” and buy Prada work boots.

Happy belated V-Day; hope your hearts were in the right place and remember, presidents Washington, Lincoln and RR are watching over you Monday. Finally I found an impossible wine for me to drink. I was only halfway through the bottle when i had to give it up.

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