Defying the Odds
Maturing vines and the lessons of a string of difficult growing seasons are evident in tuscan winemakers’ ability to keep producing top-quality wines, writes James Suckling
s i write, it’s been raining consistently yet lightly for two days in Tuscany, where I have spent much of the summer. It’s been hot and dry for more than six weeks straight, reaching almost 40 degrees Celsius most days, so the rain is certainly a welcome relief. I’ve been joking with winemakers that they’ll be making jam, not wine, this year. Many fear this will be another vintage like 2003, one of the hottest and driest summers ever, which resulted in dense, thick, jammy wines.
Given the weather, it’s difficult to predict whether or not this year’s vintage for Tuscany, and the rest of Italy, will be outstanding. Great vintages, such as 2010 for Brunello di Montalcino, occur two or three times a decade, yet Italy’s most famous wine region makes super wines just about every year. And its Bolgheri, Costa della Toscana and Indicazione Geografica Tipica appellations have already released some terrific wines this year.
Fattoria Le Pupille Toscana Saffredi 2012, for example, is fabulously balanced and deserving of 100 points. While it begs to be drunk now, it will continue to satisfy and amaze for many years. Its cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot grapes come from a single vineyard on a coastal hillside near the city of Grosseto in an area better know for the pedestrian Morellino di Scansano, but this red is noble in every sense of the word.
Another example worth highlighting is a pure cabernet franc Costa della Toscana wonder, Duemani 2012 (99 points). This handmade wine is produced from a biodynamically maintained vineyard on hillsides south of Pisa near a village called Riparbella. It shows incredible depth and purity of fruit and redefines cabernet franc in Italy. Interestingly, oenologist Luca d’attoma, who owns the Duemani estate with his wife, Elena Celli, oversaw the production of both wines. D’attoma’s other famous Tuscan red, Tua Rita Toscana Redigaffi 2013, is a top scorer as well, at 99 points. The 2013 vintage of the pure merlot, one of the hottest collectable wines in Asia, shows wonderful balance, richness and clarity.
“The 2012 vintage was not a perfect one,” admitted d’attoma during a tasting this summer. “The key was to pick at the right time. In fact, you had to do everything at the right time in 2012 to make quality wines.”
Indeed, none of the recent vintages has been perfect or easy. The 2011 growing season was very hot, with heat spikes in August; 2012 was inconsistent, with a mixture of hot and wet weather; 2013 was milder and more uniform; and 2014 was wet and cold—the worst vintage in more than a decade.
Yet Tuscany is making some of its best wines ever. The high quality is the result of the maturing of both the vineyards and the winemakers, who have developed a greater knowledge and understanding of their vineyards and craft through the years of variable and difficult conditions. “We know so much more now than we did, and it shows in the wines,” said Carlo Ferrini, one of the top winemakers in Tuscany, the maker of a tiny-production Brunello di Montalcino called Giodo (the 2010 vintage rates 100 points). There are so many outstanding Tuscan releases on the market this year and more coming—the 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos, the 2012 and 2013 Super Tuscans... It’s never been a better time to buy the region’s wines.