BEST of Italy: Piemonte vs Tuscany Quaff-down

It was the heavyweight showdown of the Winter season. Leonard vs Duran. Griffith vs Paret. Ali vs Foreman. Maybe more like LaMotta against Robinson?? We threw examples into the ring of the best that the two premium regions in Italy had to offer: two Baroli from Piemonte and a “classico” Tuscan blend…not a Super Tuscan or some Syrah concoction. C-L-A-S-S-I-C Tuscan. 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 10% Colorino. Pure Tuscan sunlight and air. The Baroli were no slouches – a 1995 from the Dean of Barolo New Wave and a 1996 IN MAG from across the road below Monforte d’Alba. Just another wet evening delaying the arrival of Dotoré and IGTY’s favored season. A night of vinos tesoros.

2006 Grilli di Testamatta $30: The calling card is Sangiovese and Tuscan wine. I can think of a few reasons to doubt the pitch. Los Angeles MacMansions as Tuscan Villas. Every freaking thing around this town has to be Tuscan. Mega-developers can’t just build a mall. It has to be a Tuscan Piazza. Diane Lane decorates a Tuscan home, falls in love, gets her heart broken…something like that. Realtors know if you want to sell big ticket homes they had better be Tuscan-style. So naturally Tuscany is just a little bit overexposed and under-impressive on the face of things. Not that it has always been this way.

it's magic right?

Blame that film with Diane Lane and the advent of Tuscan vintners who threw off the AOC chains and started adding Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Sangiovese. Hello Super Tuscan wines. Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Flaccianello. As though the whole program was dreamed up by Versacci. What about this wine? WOW. What a nose. Bacon fat sizzling on the griddle…or is that the Grilli? Dark dark brick color. Middle weight. Light on its feet and packing a punch. BOOM! Aerator brings out the chocolate. This wine is still young but it is drinking beautifully right now without and with the aerator. Tobacco, choco, dry and dusty. Just enough grit to remind us this is the essence of Tuscany. It turns out this is the lesser of the premium wines from newbie not shot producer Bibi Gaetz. Everything in the blend is from the younger vines. If this is the baby Testamatta we need a nursery. We love Italy and we love Italian wines. This is a find. tBoW is on the hunt. Outstanding. What is the big brother – Testamatta 100% Sangio and $130 – like? 13.5%

1995 Clerico Pajana Barolo
$116: Inky dark. A tough vintage that has hidden itself for 15 years. Domenico Clerico is one of the leaders of the new oak, small barrique, new wave in Barolo [ed. about 20 years old now?]. The first pour is tight. The nose is…is…closed up like a banker’s suit. We drink it both ways – aerated and not for the next hour. The wine opens up and shows the true tar and roses. The wine gets better and better. Could go another few years but we think we opened it at the right time. Clerico is a Nebbiolo master. 13.5%

1996 Rocche dei Manzoni Bricco Manzoni
$64 (when purchased): In magnum. Red color. Sublime, softer, shy. When it opens after 30 minutes the wine is all roses and floral. Complex blend of soft fruit, seductive. Where the 1995 Clerico is at first hard as a rock this wine is beguiling, young, vibrant. Holding back the charm. It opened to a mouthful of sweet Piemontese cherries and soft tobacco nuances. Power and grace. This is where Barolo meets Burgundy. 13.5%

All three of these wines show how Italy produces wines as great as any wine anywhere. And if you could buy any of these today it would be a worthwhile investment. We love the Baroli but are partial to the Grilli [ed. contributed generously by tBoW Team Taster The-Wine-Handler; gratitude]. We were fortunate to purchase these wines over a decade ago. We kept them in the cellar and opened them at the right time. Sometimes it works out well. As we have seen such is not always the case. I will venture an opinion that we get crossed up more often with Burgundy wines than with Baroli. Time to hunt for Sangio deals.

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