This fall Ruffino presented a new wine: Lodola Nuova Syrah, a Cortona DOC wine produced not far from where they make their Lodola Nuova Nobile di Montepulciano. The presentation was held at the Tenuta di Montemasso, a recently restored former convent on the highest ridge overlooking Florence from the Chianti Classico side, and even had I not been interested in wines I would have eagerly accepted the invitation to see the convent and admire the view.
But I am interested in wines, and Ruffino took advantage of the occasion to present the current vintages of a number of their other wines, some of which I was familiar with, and others -- especially those from a couple of extra-Tuscan estates -- that were new to me. It was a beautiful evening, watching the lights twinkle on over Florence as dusk fell, and enjoying a considerable variety of foods with the wines -- everything from cold cuts through chicken curry and steak with the reds, and grilled cuttlefish spiedini with the whites.
The wines, in the order I tasted them:
Tenuta Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005
Lively cherry ruby. The bouquet is bright and brambly, with sour red berry fruit and cherries laced with brambly acidity and some underbrush. Both lively and scrappy. On the palate it's bright and medium bodied with fairly rich slightly sour cherry fruit supported by clean bitter tannins with a deft burr that flow into a clean bitter finish. Pleasant in a bright key and will drink well with foods, ranging from minestra di pane (Tuscan bread kale and soup) through risotti, grilled meats, and light stews. Expect it to drink quickly.
La Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2004
Deep cherry ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with cherry and red berry fruit -- There is some Merlot that presents as forest fruit -- supported by bramble, underbrush, and spice. Nice depth combined with considerable elegance. A head above the 05 and this is the vintage. On the palate it's full and smooth, with elegant berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that have a slightly greenish cedary burr, and flow into a clean bitter finish. Brooding, and elegant in a fairly international key, and is a wine you'll like if you like a richer, fruit driven style.
Tenute Sante Dame Chianti Classico 2006
Lively cherry ruby with white rim. The bouquet is deft, with clean red berry fruit supported by smooth black currant fruit and slight hints of bramble. Welcoming in an international key. The palate reflects the nose, and the wine is medium bodied with bright rather languid cherry and forest berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have a slight bitter cedar burr that flows into a clean bitter finish. Pleasant in an international key, and if you like rather softer fruit driven wines (as opposed to the more brambly acidic traditional style) you will much enjoy it. Because of its rich smoothness it will work better with drier cuts for example roast beef medium rare or turkey or pork loin, and it will also be nice with moderately spiced Oriental dishes.
Tenute Sante Dame Chianti Classico Riserva 2005
This is primarily Sangiovese, with some Colorino and Merlot, and is deep cherry ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with quite a bit of cedar mingled with spice and underlying tart cherry fruit. The vintage is weaker than the 06, and wood steps in to a degree. On the palate it's medium bodied, with moderate berry fruit supported by brambly acidity and tannins that contribute considerable cedary bitterness that carries into a long cedar-laced finish. By comparison with the 2006 Chianti Classico Base it feels thin and this is because the vintage was less good. In terms of accompaniments, because of the savory tannic bitterness that flows through it I'd be tempted to serve it with grilled meats.
Tenute Sante Dame Romitorio IGT Toscana Centrale 2004
This is 60% Colorino and 40% Merlot, and is deep pigeon blood ruby with violet rim -- Colorino is used to impart color, and it does. The bouquet is intense, with red berry fruit laced with mint, some cedar, and hints of sandalwood, with underlying chopped beef and prunes, perhaps from a touch of overripeness. It does in any case have a fair amount to say in a fairly international key. On the palate it's ample, rich, and very smooth, with powerful forest berry fruit that gains direction from graphite shaving bitterness more than acidity, and is supported by ample very polished tannins that carry the fruit into a clean bitter finish. It's frankly voluptuous, like a sumptuous 50's starlet in a glass, and if you like the style you will like it very much. If you don't you won't like the wine, and there's no middle ground I can see. Because of its rich smoothness it will work well with flavorful non-fatty meats, e.g. a pot roast or medium rare roast beef sliced fairly thick.
Ruffino Modus IGT Toscana 2005
This is a 25-25-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese; it's deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim, and has an intense bouquet with fairly marked vegetal accents - the Cabernet - supported by brambles and cedar. There's less fruit than one might expect from a richer vintage, but it's nicely balanced and they did a good job with what Nature offered. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fruit laced slightly bitter finish. I'd have liked and expected more acidity than there was; if you like smooth fruit driven wines you'll enjoy it with rich, not too fatty meat dishes. If you prefer a more traditional, more aggressive style it won't work as well for you.
Poggio Casciano Nero al Tondo Toscana IGT 2004
This is a Pinot Noir, and is pale ruby with hints of almandine in the rim. The bouquet is bright, with fairly brambly acidity laced with menthol and sour cherry. Pleasant in a slightly muted key, and is a wine one can listen to. On the palate it's medium bodied with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by clean sour berry fruit acidity that gains a degree of languor from slight sweetness and is supported by clean light brambly tannins that flow into a tart savory finish. It's pleasant, though I have the impression that the climate's a little too warm for the grape.
Tenuta Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino 2003
Pale almandine ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with decidedly jammy red berry fruit supported by some underbrush and menthol. On the palate it's full, with fairly sweet red berry fruit supported by ample sweet tannins that have some greenish cedary accents, while the acidity is rather low. It's a good expression of Brunello given the long, searing 2003 vintage -- it has improved some since I tasted it at the Anticrime -- but is nowhere near what Brunello can be in a good vintage.
Tenuta Borgo Conventi Braida Nuova Venezia Giulia IGT 2004
This is extra-tuscan, a 40-60 blend of Refosco and Merlot, and is deep pigeon blood ruby with a fairly intense bouquet that features mentholated red berry fruit laced with black currant fruit, some brambly acidity, and some hints of sage and graphite; it has an almost chewy feel to it. On the palate it's full, rich, and quite smooth on the attack, with slightly bitter black currant fruit supported by graphite shaving bitterness and deft brambly acidity, while the tannins are laced with cedar and flow into a clean bitter finish. It will drink quite well with succulent grilled meats or hearty roasts, and will also go quickly. Because of its aggressive bitterness it won't drink as well by the glass far from the table. Perfect in the proper setting.
Tenuta Borgo Conventi Collio Bianco 2004
This is a blend of 66% barrel fermented Chardonnay and 33% Malvasia Istriana in steel. It's pale brassy yellow and has a rich bouquet laced with honeysuckle and caramel with somementholated accents and hints of candied fruit as well. Harmonious. On the palate it's full, with rich white berry fruit supported by greenish accents and peppery spice that flow into a clean savory finish. Fairly direct, but pleasant, and will be nice as an aperitif or with cheese or fish dishes, while it also has the body necessary for white meats, and sufficient acidity to work well with fried foods.
Tenuta Borgo Conventi Collio Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Bale brassy gold with brassy reflections. Bright bouquet with classic gooseberry aromas mingled with tropical fruit and some floral notes, as well as honeydew melon. Nice balance and inviting. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich slightly bitter gooseberry fruit that flows into a clean bitter gooseberry finish. Pleasant in a direct way, and will drink quite well with fish or cheese based dishes, and also with creamy white meats.
La Colombara Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry 2007
Pale papery white with fine perlage. Bright bouquet with fairly rich apple accents supported by tart apple acidity; nice crispness too. On the palate it's fresh, and light, with lively green apple fruit supported by crisp aple acidity and flows into a clean crisp finish. Quite approachable in a clean, direct key, and will be pleasant either as an apreitif or at table, especially with creamy dishes such as risotto.
And Finally, The Reason for the Evening:
La Lodola Nuova Syrah Cortona DOC 2006
Deep cherry ruby. The bouquet is fresh and quite varietal, with cut tobacco and green leather miongled with spice and underbrush. The vines seem young - there's a directness to it that comes from vineyard youth, but it promises well. On the palate it's moderately rich - the youth of the vineyards is more apparent and comes through as a thinness of fruit, though there is underbrush, which is supported by pronounced graphite bitterness. It's a child, in every sense of the word, and needs time - at least 3-5 more vintages for the vineyards to begin to produce more mature fruit. In short, the future is promising, and it will be interesting to see how this Syrah develops.
Enjoyable, and the reds are bound by a common stylistic thread; they tend to be fruit driven and fairly soft, with acidities that are held firmly in check. In other words, they're fairly international in style, and if you like this style you will enjoy them. Even if you prefer the more aggressive, traditional style with more evident acidity and tannin, you will find things to enjoy, though you'll have to be more careful in selecting. I would recommend, for the traditionally minded, Le Lodole Nuove's Montepulciano, and also the Tenuta Borgo Conventi's Braida Nuova Venezia Giulia IGT.
There were also several whites, and while the Tuscan ones didn't impress me, I liked the two from Friuli Venezia Goilia, a region much better suited to white wines than Tuscany. And I much enjoyed Ruffino's Prosecco, which I tasted at Spumantia but have also included here.
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