In another life, I must have been Italian and a resident of Tuscany.
I say this because, although I try to be as impartial as possible, I love the wines of Tuscany. I was fortunate to spend some time there and was amazed that even in small-town restaurants where homemade wines were served, the beverages were excellent and absolutely accompany Tuscan cuisine.
There is another side of the coin: If homemade wines were so good, Tuscan commercial wines must be something special. Yes, they are. While Tuscany is mainly known for its chianti, a name that may be used by any wine from the district that is mostly sangiovese, there are producers whose wines rise above the ordinary and express the true Italian style of fine winemaking.
I recently sampled some imported Tuscan wines and was delighted to find their quality had not changed since my visit to the region.
Lagone 2018 Aia Vecchia ($17)
This wine has been made to please anyone who loves red wines. It is a blend of the most popular red wine grapes, with a mix of 60% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc. A question arises: Will all of these grape varieties clash or will they meld into an interesting whole? The answer is that they did not only meld but they also produced what has to be one of the most interesting wines currently on the market. Each of the constituents adds its own special flavor and aroma to the blend. I believe it is safe to reiterate that the features one seeks in a red wine are right here.
Selvapiana 2019 Chianti Rufina ($22)
This selection was produced in the Rufina area of Tuscany, the smallest in size and highest in altitude of the Tuscan grape-growing regions. Made with 95% sangiovese, this wine clearly classifies as a chianti. The aroma and flavor is, to say the least, powerful. Plum, ripe cherries and wild berries abound with a background hint of fresh spice that’s easily identifiable with new flavor sensations appearing as the wine sits in the glass. The finish is unforgettable.
Casanova di Neri 2018 Irrosso Toscana ($22)
Let’s be honest, just the name Casanova associated with the wine piques my interest. This wine, too, is almost all sangiovese with 5% cabernet sauvignon and 5% petit verdot blended in to add a bit more interest and balance. It is in the production of this wine where the vintners moved in a direction that is not often used. The wine is fermented and aged in barrels of different size and of different types of woods, thus changing the wine from the expected style to one of depth and character. The results of all that work led to a wine that has all the expected flavors and aromas of plums, cherries, wild berries and a hint of spice. It has a regal elegance found in few wines. As one would expect with all that barrel use, the properties of this wine might be muted in a shower of wood flavors. Not so in this selection, as the wood is in harmony with the other properties and serves more as an enhancer than an overpowering annoyance. This wine is food friendly and will accompany meals that call for a red wine and some that do not.
Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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