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Italian Cabernet-Influenced Wines

THE WINES Gerald's
Rank
Ellen's
Rank
Bob's
Rank
GROUP RANKING Total Points 1sts/2nds/
Lasts
ANTINORI
1996 "Solaia" Toscana
80% Cab Sauv
20% Sangiovese
$119.99
3 2 1 3 60 1/3/0
ANTINORI
1996 "Tignanello"
Toscana
80% Sangiovese
20% Cab Sauv
$59.99
7 6 2 6 76 0/2/1
BELLAVISTA
1996 "Solesine"
Lombardia
85% Cab Sauv
15% Merlot
$49.99
4 3 8 7 87 0/0/3
ISOLE e OLENA
1996
Collezione De Marchi
Toscana
Cabernet Sauvignon
$39.99
2 1 5 1 35 9/2/1
Fattoria MONTELLORI MONTELLORI
1995 Toscana
"Castelrapiti"
75% Sangiovese
25% Cab Sauv
$29.99
8 7 7 8 93 0/1/4
PLANETA
1997 Sicilia
Cabernet Sauvignon
$37.50
5 4 3 2 49 2/5/1
Tenuta SAN GUIDO 1996 SAN GUIDO 1996
Toscana
"Sassicaia"
80-85% Cab Sauv
15-20% Cab Franc
$124.99
6 5 4 4 66 1/1/2
Tenuta del
TERRICIO
1996 Toscana
"Lupicaia"
Cab/Merlot Blend
$84.99
1 8 6 5 74 2/1/3

A TASTING OF CABERNET-INFLUENCED WINES FROM ITALY

November 3, 1999

Recently we tasted a broad range of Cabernet Sauvignons produced in wine regions throughout the winemaking world. Here, now, was a chance to zero in on some of the Cabernet-based wines of Italy. These producers are angling for a slice of the "prestige" international wine market while maintaining a link to local traditions and markets.

In Bordeaux the varietal of choice for mitigating the severity of Cabernet is Merlot. Spanish vignerons have had success using the native Tempranillo in that role while Australia has established an indigenous style by blending Cabernet with a moderate amount of Shiraz. In Italy, especially Tuscany, the role is given to Sangiovese, the predominant component of Chianti Classico. The present tasting provided an opportunity to compare various combinations of Cabernet and Sangiovese. Could California be on the horizon utilizing Zinfandel in the role? Professor Amerine at UC Davis long ago argued against it and indeed Cabernet and Zinfandel represent a clash of opposites. There’s no possible symbiosis happening there!

The Italians have taken a freewheeling, experimental attitude, eschewing DOC guidelines in favor of creating a proprietary moniker that garners its own reputation for excellence. The first of these was the “Castelrapiti” of Fattoria Montellori. Sangiovese had the upper hand here in a rather “harsh and aggressive” style, “lacking complexity”. It was at somewhat of a disadvantage being a ’95 tasted against younger, brighter group of “96s. One taster liked its hint of rosemary and sweet spice in the nose but objected to its Brunello-like tannin on the palate without any depth of fruit to warrant it. From Lombardia and a producer of one of Italy’s more interesting sparkling wines came Bellavista’s “Solesine”. Cabernet was much in evidence here but in a rather sharp-toned, earthy, rustic, “medicinal”, even “horsy” concoction with “cooked “ and “stewed” fruit. One defender found nice hints of Cassis and cedar. A considerable step up was Antinori’s famed “Tignanello”. Several tasters were put off by a slightly “leathery” tone but staunch defenders liked its hint of “pencil shavings”, “herbs” and “red fruits”, its “depth of fruit” and judicious use of oak. “Lupicaia” of Tenuta del Tericcio was even better liked for its big youthful rich ripe fruit, cedar, a hint of “peppermint” and a long  “bitter orange peel” finish.

The “Sassicaia” of Tenuta San Guido, one of the first of the so-called “Super Tuscans”, showed nicely with its complex if somewhat “woodsy” nose displaying black currant, plums and oak. One taster complained of  “shallow, one-dimensional” fruit while another found it closed in but with the potential to develop very well indeed. The “Solaia” of Antinori was well received. Tasters liked this “cedary” Cabernet dominated wine with its “vanilla and sweet oak”. One found a “big dry mouthful, its aggressive tannins warranted by its deep, long fruit.” The surprise of the tasting was the fine showing of the upstart Planeta Cabernet Sauvignon from Sicily. It was liked for its “ripe, soft, berryish tone” and its “deep, long, black currant Cabernet fruit”. One taster though found it “jammy and simple”. With nine first place votes the “Collezione de Marchi” Cabernet of Isole e Olena was the clear favorite, praised for its “big, oaky, rich, concentrated Cabernet fruit”, “woodsy and yet stylish” with hints of “licorice, mocha, Cassis and cinnamon”. The wine was easily the closest in style to California Cabernet and good reason for its popularity with the tasters.


Bob Gorman

Wine Consultant @ Weimax Wines and Spirits

 

Gerald's Notes:
I was really impressed with this set of wines, my top wine being the Tericcio "Lupicaia."  I found really exotic, plummy fruit and sweet oak to this wine.  It also had a nice cassis note, which some tasters describe as vegetal and find to be a negative character.
The Isole e Olena Cabernet was also outstanding and it ran away with the tasting.  It is a really fine Cabernet Sauvignon and is sure to please anyone with half a palate.  
Antinori's Solaia was a shade less intense, while carrying an international reputation and a king's ransom price tag.  Bob ranked this first in this tasting and in our Cabernets of the World tasting, finding it, consistently, outstanding.
The Planeta was more berryish and a shade simpler than my other top wines, though the group found it to be quite agreeable and had it rated much more highly than did I.
On the other hand, I liked the Bellavista "Solesine", describing it as having mildly herbal and cassis notes
I pegged it as a very good wine, while the group was less thrilled.
The famous Sassicaia was great on the nose but a bit shallow in the mouth.  
Our 7th and 8th places wines, Antinori's "Tignanello" and Montellori's "Castelrapiti" were probably mis-cast in this tasting, having predominantly Sangiovese and just a relatively small contribution from Cabernet.  The Antinori was quite good, though.  The Montellori, an older wine, weighed in with a jammy note and rather shy in the fruit department.  Other vintages, however, have shown very well, so perhaps we had a poor view of this wine.

Gerald

WEIMAX TASTING ARCHIVE

1997 VOSNE-ROMANE Tasting  August 1, 2001

1999 CALIFORNIA ZINS  July 25, 2001

1998 CABERNET SAUVIGNONS  July 11,  2001

OLD CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS June 6, 2001

1997 ECHEZEAUX May 30, 2001

1999 NORTH COAST ZINFANDELS May 23, 2001

1999 West Coast Merlots May 9, 2001

1999 WEST COAST PINOT NOIRS May 2, 2001

1997 BARBARESCO  April 25, 2001

Mostly RUSSIAN RIVER PINOT NOIRS  April 11, 2001

1997 NAPA CABERNETS April 4, 2001

1995 BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO March 28, 2001

1997 CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY & MOREY SAINT DENIS
with one 1996...March 14, 2001

1997 GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN  March 7, 2001

1996 BAROLO  February 28, 2001

1978-1979 California Cabernets January 10, 2001

1997 California Cabernets November 8, 2000

1997 TUSCAN SANGIOVESES  November 1, 2000

1997-1998 Chteauneuf-du-Papes & CALIFORNIA WANNABEEs  October 25, 2000

Mostly 1998 PINOT NOIRS  October 11, 2000

1996 CALIFORNIA CABERNETS  October 4, 2000

MATURE CLARETS  September 27, 2000

1997 RED BORDEAUX  September 13, 2000

1997 NAPA CABERNETS   September 6, 2000

1998 CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS   August 30, 2000

1997 CLOS DE VOUGEOTS August 23, 2000

SYRAH & PETITE SIRAH  August 9, 2000

FANCY CALIFORNIA MERLOTS   August 2, 2000

1996 FAMOUS CALIFORNIA CABERNETS  June 14, 2000

WEST COAST SYRAHS    June 7, 2000

1997 CABERNETS  May 31, 2000

VIOGNIERS of RECENT VINTAGE May 24, 2000

1997-1998 ZINFANDELS  May 10, 2000

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE CLARETS May 3, 2000

1996 California CABERNETS  April 12, 2000

1996 FRENCH RED BURGUNDIES   March 29, 2000

CALIFORNIA vs ITALIAN (Tuscan) SANGIOVESE  March 22, 2000

WEST COAST PINOT NOIRS  March 8, 2000

AUSSIE SHIRAZ TASTING  March 1, 2000

FRENCH CHAMPAGNES (NV BRUTS)  January 5, 2000

1996 BORDEAUX (MEDOC) TASTING  November 10, 1999

CABERNETS OF THE WORLD TASTING October 27, 1999

THE VINO-FINO TASTERS (A private tasting group)
THE VINO-FINO TASTERS (A private tasting group)
VINO FINO: 1999 PINOT NOIRS May 16, 2001
VINO FINO: 1996 SAINT-MILION Tasting April 18, 2001
VINO FINO: CARNEROS CHARDONNAYS March 21, 2001

VINO FINO:  1984/1985 Napa CABERNETS (John Vignau Memorial Tasting)  October 18, 2000
VINO FINO:  1997 CALIFORNIA CABERNETS Sept. 2000
VINO FINO:  1997 BORDEAUX - MEDOC
VINO FINO:  1997-1998 SANGIOVESES
VINO FINO:  SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE CLARETS


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