Podere Il Carnasciale – Il Caberlot

I reckon that if you write a wine blog that has any sort of focus on Italian wine, your views on James Suckling and Antonio Galloni will go a long way to defining you in the eyes of many readers, particularly those Stateside. Whatever their critics might say, these two have a considerable amount of influence and are at the centre of a very small band of wine writers who consistently taste the best wines from the length and breadth of Italy year in, year out.

Suckling has been mentioned on this blog before – for his reviews of Flaccianello – but I’ve never gone so far as to commit my opinion of the man’s work to the blogosphere as many of my contemporaries have. I can’t go any longer in avoiding him however, because this week, we both decided to write about the same subject – Podere Il Carnasciale. You might note that you don’t have to pay $15 per month to read my thoughts though.

Admittedly, my views on James Suckling’s work are inconsistent – part abhorrence, part jealousy, part ridicule, part respect. Do I find the way he sits in front of producers awarding his scores, like a deity from Mount Olympus, to be obscenely arrogant and borderline offensive – Yes! Do I appreciate the fact that before he enters into this ‘made for video’ charade, he has usually filmed a piece in the vineyard or cellar and thus has provided me with access that no other mainstream Italian wine writer is currently offering – Yes! – Although not enough for me to continue to subscribe to his site.

James Suckling appears to like the finer things in life. DiVino Tuscany is, in my opinion, a pompous and ridiculous event; the sort of thing Blur’s Charmless Man would organise. I’d absolutely jump at the chance to go along if I had a spare €5k lying around though. On second thoughts, maybe that makes me the Charmless Man. At a minimum, it reeks of double standards on my behalf.

In terms of palate preferences, the inconsistencies continue to reign. Frequently, Suckling awards high ratings to some of my favourite wines (90+ points). I often* find those wines that he gives stratospheric scores to (95+ points) are of an excessive style however and dare I say it, sometimes un-Italian (The 2006 Flaccianello is a notable exception). I can’t get my head around this because the characteristics that endear his 90+ point wines to me often seem to be entirely absent in his 95+ point wines.

Il Caberlot

Anyway, back to Podere Il Carnasciale. The main wine, Il Caberlot, is named after the grape of the same name which was first identified in the late 1960’s in an abandoned vineyard near Padua. According to the folks at the winery, which is based in Tuscany, the grape has the organoleptic characteristics of Cabernet Franc and an ampelographic profile close to that of Merlot, hence it is assumed to be a hybrid of both varieties.

Podere Il Carnasciale consider themselves to be a “haute couture” winery and only bottle their top wine in magnums and larger formats. The bottles are then hand numbered, thus conferring a level of exclusivity. Only 3000-4000 bottles are released each vintage and if you can tell your Monet from your Manet, you might also be able to decipher the characteristics of each vintage from the form, shape and definition of the ‘X’ imprinted on the label of the bottles. I can already imagine Suckling, Behike 54 in hand, salivating over this entire concept.

I met the genial Moritz Rogosky at the RAW wine fair in London last May and tasted three vintages of Il Caberlot. 2007 and 2008 showed very differently. 2008 was very aromatic and floral with mint and menthol on the nose. The nose and palate exhibited quite rich berry fruit but overall the wine was nicely balanced. Although restrained on the nose, the 2007 appeared, to my mind, to be a little bit more rustic; its spicy underbelly was prominent and there wasn’t much of the softness that was evident in the 2008. The intense crisp fruit, dried herbs, cracked black pepper, grippier tannins and higher acidity of this earlier vintage really captured my interest. Il Caberlot is a wine built to last so it was also good to try the 1999 wine at this tasting. The 1999 revealed heady floral perfumes, herbs and masses of sweet blueberry and blackcurrant fruit with supreme length. Everything about this wine screamed smooth and velvety.

This is a style of Italian wine that won’t appeal to everyone. It’s rich and opulent, both in price tag and character, and I’m pretty sure that it’ll have James Suckling climbing to the top of his points chart. I’m a bit torn on it to be honest – I don’t think that Il Caberlot represents my preferred style of Tuscan wine but it’s certainly very well made and I can appreciate its charms. All in all, another interesting discovery at RAW.

PS: since I don’t subscribe to his website, I have no idea what JS actually said about Il Caberlot.

*my continued (and past) research of this point is limited by the fact that many of these wines are bloody expensive.