Tuscan wine doesn’t tend to follow fashion, and it’s all the better for it
One of the most dispiriting things about wine in the last decade has been the tendency of producers to make wine in a uniform, fruity style, presumably to please supermarket buyers and impress influential wine critics.
Happily, that doesn’t generally happen in Tuscany, where the wines, like the cuisine, are much the same as they’ve always been. To some palates, the reds – almost all based on the local sangiovese grape – might appear sharp and even thin on their own, but drink them with food, as the Tuscans would, and they burst into life, providing the perfect accompaniment to an Italian meal.
Revisit basic Tuscan reds such as brunello’s baby brother rosso di Montalcino and chianti, and you’ll be bowled over by how wonderfully well they go with everything from crostini and pasta to hearty roasts and steaks. Wines such as Poggio San Polo’s graceful Rosso di Montalcino 2014 (£16.99 slurp.co.uk; 13% abv) are drinkable now, but will be more enjoyable still a couple of years down the line.
More sought-after Tuscan reds such as Isole e Olena’s celebrated Cepparello (14% abv, 2), which you might want to splash out on for a very special occasion, should be tucked away for considerably longer. They should also be cracked open at home, rather than consumed in a restaurant with hefty mark-ups: at D Byrne of Clitheroe, the 2012 vintage will cost you £49.99; at a restaurant, it could easily cost three times that and not even be ready to drink. While you wait for that one to mature, the same winery’s beautifully balanced Chianti Classico 2013 (£16 The Wine Society, £18.71 Eclectic Tastes; 13% abv), should keep you pretty happy. Or, cheaper still, the well-priced Montevasco di Vicchiomaggio 2013 (13% abv),which has a dash of cabernet sauvignon and is made in more of a super-Tuscan style: that’s a good deal from Laithwaite’s at £9.99 a bottle (or £8.99 if you buy a case of 12).
Tuscan wines that are made outside the Chianti region tend to be even better value. Capezzana’s vivid, young Barco Reale 2014, from the tiny denomination of Carmignano, is well worth looking out for, despite what is generally considered a poor vintage (the 2013 is £12.95 from winedirect.co.uk and slurp.co.uk), while the vineyard’s top-level Villa di Capezzana 2012 (15% abv) is £18.50 at D&D Wines. Whether it will last as long as the extraordinary 1931 vintage I had the other day, which still had ethereal traces of its original fruit, I don’t know, but you could certainly give it 10 years. Tuscan wines are keepers.
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