Liberty Premium Tuscan Wine Tasting – Return To My First Love

Tuscan wines were my first love. Everyone has one, the bottle that once you taste it makes you realise that much of the wine you’ve been drinking previously was mere plonk and this stuff is what all the fuss is about. It doesn’t matter whether for you that bottle was from Tuscany, Bordeaux, Barossa or Burgundy, there will always be a special place in your cellar for wines from that region.

Well, I have a bit of a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on Tuscany for the past few months. And worse still, my affair has been with the harlots of the south and the islands. Yes I’ve been drinking lots of wine of late from Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia. I’d love to spin the Tuscans the line of “It’s not you it’s me” but I can’t because…well…it was them. They took me for granted. All too often I would try a Tuscan wine that wouldn’t command half its price were it from another region. Things had got so bad that I was almost ready to move her stuff out of my cellar citing irreconcilable differences (I don’t think she knew about my affair, although bringing home the odd bottle of Nero d’Avola may have tipped her off).

Just when I was looking for a good divorce lawyer, I got the chance to attend a premium Tuscan wine tasting (14/6) at the Cliff Town House that rekindled my love. The tasting was one of a series of recent events held by Liberty Wines across the UK and Ireland and the Dublin leg of the tour showcased the wines of Fontodi, Felsina Berardenga and Conti Costanti. Guiseppe Mazzocolin (Felsina) and Andrea Costanti were also on hand to talk the tasters through their offerings.

Here are some of my highlights.

Fontodi Meriggio 2010 (100% Sauvignon Blanc) – Seemingly this was Giovanni Manetti’s house white wine before it was turned into a commercial offering. I’ve previously suggested that some may find this a bit of a sit on the fence wine straddling the line between old world minerality and new world grassy fruit. I still think that this hits the nail on the head and, to be honest, that’s why I like it.

Fontodi Syrah ‘Case Via’ 2007 (100% Syrah) – Quite an elegant and feminine Syrah. Wild herbs, damsons and cherry with a peppery kick. It’s still undeniably Syrah but retains good balance and elegance – The surprise of the tasting for me.

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2008 (100% Sangiovese) – More perfumed than the 2006 Flaccianello that I tasted at Ballymaloe last year but still retained a sumptuous richness and depth. Soft in texture, alongside the violets and fruit lay aromas and flavours of sweet spices, cigar box and licquorice. Smooth tannins, good acidity and a persistent finish tied up what, in my opinion, was a very nicely balanced wine. Approachable now but will need a number of years to come into its prime.

Felsina Berardenga ‘Rancia’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (100% Sangiovese) – I wouldn’t even pretend to suggest that I’ve tasted anywhere near enough Rancia or Fontalloro to make a definitive call on my preference between the two, but on this occasion the restraint, elegance and austerity of the Rancia won out. The 2008 Fontalloro provided more up front appeal but once you penetrate to the intensely mineral core of the Rancia you’re likely to want keep coming back for more – lean, fresh and tart with grippy tannins; All in all, a very enjoyable wine.

Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006 (100% Sangiovese) – Another wine that required some serious nose time to even begin to scratch the surface of its potential. The palate had good intensity though and revealed a mix of cherries, red berries and spices. I found the palate to be driven by primary aromas and flavours at this stage whereas the 2004 Riserva I tasted had a complex mix of fruit, smoke, dried tea leaves, mushrooms, underbrush and tobacco. If the 2006 heads along similar lines, it’ll really reward the patient wine collector (although I’ve read strangely conflicting reports of the merits of the 2004 and 2006 vintages of Brunello, both of which were rated very highly by the consorzio). A quick word on acidity – both the 2004 and 2006 Riservas had a streak of racy acidity – the hallmark of good Sangiovese.

So all is forgiven and I’ve hopped back into the cellar with my first love then? Well…almost. Part of my issue with Tuscan wines was the quality/price lark. Thankfully none of the wines at this tasting were of poor quality, most were in fact very good/excellent, but the Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo is an interesting case study on value. I’ve found this wine to be very enjoyable at this and previous tastings but it retails for €46.99 which leaves it not far off the realm of Flaccianello pricing. And if I had to commit to monogamy with one of those two, without question it’d be the more seductive Flaccianello. As it is, Tuscany isn’t going to demand monogomy from me in future, just frequent attention, which I’m happy to provide.