June 3, 2010

The other Marchese Antinori

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OK, so it's probably unfair to call him "the other Marchese", as he is the patriarch of the family and the elder of the two famous brothers.  However I did get to know Lodovico first, so Piero will always be "the other brother" in my book...

This afternoon I was fortunate to have been invited to a vertical tasting of Solaia, the flagship wine of the Antinori empire.  The tasting was presided over by Marchese Piero Antinori, who is the driving force behind the wine.  Piero filled us in on the history of Solaia, as well as some background on its sibling Tignanello, widely recognized as the first IGT or "Super Tuscan".

1978 Solaia - this was the very first vintage of Solaia, made with vines which were 3 years old.  I have a bottle of this and almost opened it a few weeks ago, but I'm glad I kept it.  This was an amazing wine - most certainly my favorite of the tasting.  The nose was classically claret, with smoke, grilled meats, sweet black fruits, mint, maybe a hint of orange and apricot.  After a little while the nose evolved into something different and just blew me away... lots of bacon fat, sweet and a little floral.  Even later, nose of green peppers, heavy cigar smoke, farmy, dare I say braised beef (紅燒牛肉)?  Absolutely beautiful!  On the palate it was still a little tannic and grippy, despite the high acidity.  The finish was very long, and a little hot and alcoholic.

1988 Solaia - the nose was much more ripe, open and hot, with strewed prunes, sweet, cigar smoke, a little medicinal and brett.  After a while the sweetness really came through, which then developed into an overripe, cooked nose.  Finally the nose was dominated by burnt rubber and Chinese medicinal herbs.  The acidity of the wine was evident, but again the finish was a little grippy.

1994 Solaia - sweet fruit, a little plastic, burnt rubber, caramel and pine needle.  A hint of ripeness and a little floral.  Light smoke and obvious coffee.  A very nice and elegant wine. Medium-high acidity, with reasonably soft tannins and a very long finish.

1997 Solaia - kinda disappointed in this wine from the blockbuster vintage. The nose was still closed, with some brett, smoke, limited amount of sweet fruit and a little apricot.  There were still some chewy tannins.  My last encounter with this wine was 8 years ago, and even back then it was relatively shut against a lineup of other 1997 Super Tuscans and required more than 3 hours to open up.

2004 Solaia - more concentration here, with forest and smoke.  The wine opened up more with a little time.  Smooth and silky on the palate.

2006 Solaia - nose was very sweet and pretty extracted, a little "hot", with mint, tropical fruit, toffee, and a little alcoholic.  This was a young wine and you can see that the new oak hasn't quite integrated with the wine.  Stylistically one would even suspect this was more "New World"...  But nose was beautiful and toffee and caramel dominated later.  The tannins of this wine were surprisingly soft for something so young.

2007 Solaia - this was another blockbuster vintage, and the wine has yet to be released.  Nose was more concentrated, with blackcurrant, oak, vanilla, some spices like cardamom, sweet and alcoholic.  Let's see how this wine turns out in another 10 years.

I got a chance to introduce myself to Piero and mentioned about my dinner with Lodovico.  It's a shame that the two brothers could not travel together as originally planned, but hopefully we will get a chance to see them together soon.  There's always next year...

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