Terrific year in 2010 for Sangiovese

September 30, 2013

Just read a fun article titled Five easy tips to make you a better drinker. Wear sandals, short pants, short sleeves, bring a glass and always drink with friends was the opener. The article, though a bit tongue in cheek, went on to offer good advice. You will be able to find it by googling snooth five easy tips to make you a better drinker. Of the recommendations, the best may have been “stop being so absolute.” I won’t give away the ending, but this is a fine read for all winos, from neophytes to red-veiners.

Vintage weather forecast, mixed picture: Napa so-so, Sonoma terrific, Central Coast very good, Willamette and Oregon rain, Washington state good. Long Island great, Finger Lakes OK, Virginia rained all summer. Tuscany great summer but some late rain; Northern Europe rain and cold. Burgundy, Champagne, Loire Valley, North Rhone, Alto Aldige and Trentino all struggling. Germany and Austria a washout. South Rhone is better. Why is this important, some may ask. In most cases, rain dilutes and cold retards ripening. These, when combined, produce acidic, diluted juice with less sugar. Less sugar equals lower alcohol. If you want to see the possible result, take a 5 oz. glass of balanced wine you enjoy and add a tablespoon or two of weak Lipton tea. Keep in mind this is broad brush. The winemakers will be busy this fall and the talented will still produce some decent wine. Previous good vintages should price escalate.

James Suckling gave high praise to Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo IGT Toscana 2011, a so-called Super Tuscan. He lavished 95 points and exclaimed “super classy” and “best Crognolo ever.” WS said 90 points. I had sampled the 2009 and enjoyed it, so I decided to buy a bottle of the 2011. Located one for $25.

Although it was a nice wine, it needs cellar time and is average QPR. I think most readers would be happier with Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco Vino da Tavola 2010.The Sette is blended 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Merlot while the Perlato is 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in French barriques for 18 months. You who have been paying attention may recognize this as well-made poor man’s Bordeaux. It can be found priced under $30; 92 points.

By the way, 2010 was a terrific year for Sangiovese, and those under $10 bottles are nothing to turn up your nose at. Gini Tuscano, Giove, Bastardo, Uggiano, and Giacomo are all labels worth buying. This is Chianti, folks, and these are priced under $7.

Hamilton Russell South African Chardonnay 2011 was written up here a few months ago. Russell is back in the news. The 2012 are a tad better made. Both cost less than $25. Yellow-tinged color predicts aromas and flavors in this concentrated white Burgundy wannabe. Opens to tropical fruit and pear with notes of herbs and smoke. On the palate, lemon and peach ride a slightly elevated mineral acid frame. Clean, long peach finish. Will cellar; 92 points.

Oyster season is here, so how about a top-flight Sancerre? Henri Bourgeois La Chapelle des Augustins Sancerre 2010 is a standard-bearer Sauvignon Blanc, in my opinion. Most producers try to copy the Loire profile wherever terroir permits. Go with the real for $30 so you have a yardstick. Augustins opens to limes and wild flowers. A flinty acid frame supports some pineapple, pear and citrus flavors. Acidity and minerality are a perfect counterpoint for a good salty oyster or other estuarine morsels.

Best bargain for last and another oyster and shellfish match (especially raw or unadorned with anything other than garlic butter) is a Spanish Cava, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. It is pale straw yellow, and barrel fermentation provides dried fruits, coconut, hints of toasted bread aromas plus some melon notes. On the palate, quince and peach flavors ride a structured acid frame. The finish is acid clean with hints of malt. An elegant sparkler for holiday oyster feasts or those who wish to enjoy the sybaritic lifestyle on the McDonald’s budget. Pay $18 or less; 90 points.

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