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

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

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.

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