The fact that every serious winelover knows at least one wine from this immense selection displays how big the Antinori brand actually is. Opened in 1385 (yes, you read it right), this winery developed its roots in beloved Florence (Tuscany, Italy) and is currently active in three other countries – Romania, Hungary and the US. However, it is most recognizable for its historic role of shaping one of the most famous Italian wine styles, the so-called Super Tuscans.
In 1971, Marchesi Antinori decided to stand up against Italian wine laws that allowed mixing white grape varieties with red, but forbade blending in international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (*facepalm*). He got stripped of his DOCG status, with the Italian government laughing in his face and assigning him the vino da tavola label (table wine, the lowest rank you can get in Italy). Our young hero did not wither and soon received a reward for this brave act – a recognition in the US press as a rebel with a cause. Today, his Tignanello for example, has a mere IGT status (regional wine), even though it meets all requirements for DOCG. This is a perfect symbol of dissent against the rigid Italian wine tradition that began 45 years ago and managed to launch Antinori in the crème de la crème of iconic brands today.
At Belgrade’s Wine Point led by Alessandro Leone (export manager) and Frank Smulders MW, we tasted six wines – Vermentino, Cervaro della Sala, Peppoli Chianti Classico, Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino, and the winery’s two biggest classics, Tignanello and Solaia. Below are my tasting notes followed by subjective scores to help you get a better idea of the good, the bad and the badass. I didn’t put them in order from best to worse, but from first tasted to last. You’ll figure out why easily.
Tenuta Guado al Tasso Vermentino Bolgheri 2014
Vermentino is a white grape variety typically limited to the western Mediterranean (in this case Bolgheri DOC). Picked from the Tenuta Guado al Tasso estate, grapes were softly pressed and their must was fermented solely in stainless steel tanks. The result is a pale lemon colored wine with aromas of dominant citrus fruit (lime, lemon), jasmine and hints of freshly cut grass. I like that grass term. It’s like that fresh grass after you mow it. For all of you in the city, you know how that is. The palate here shows a nice mineral refreshment, juicy acidity and a long length. Good balance, but simple structure, so drink now and don’t think twice about aging it, because why would you?
Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala 2014
A blend of Chardonnay (90%) and Grechetto (10%) fermented in oak, this wine reminds me a lot of the New World whites. Pronounced buttery nose followed by smoke, white peaches, mango and ripe nectarine. Some of my colleagues said that the oak was too dominant in their opinion, but I sensed a nice balance. Definitely a food wine with its creamy texture, exciting acidity and long finish. Distinctive climatic representation, i.e. you would never mix it up with a Burgundian Chardonnay, for example. Wine Enthusiast gave it 89/100, James Suckling 96 points out of a hundred and Wine Spectator 91/100. Not to be rude, but I’ll give it a round 90 points. Very well-done wine, bravo.
Pèppoli Chianti Classico 2014
As most of you know, the 2014 vintage was characterized as a pretty shitty one – unstable weather, hectolitres of rain and clearly poor wines. The Antinori crew just merely escaped a disastrous Chianti Classico this time, because the late season went in favour of Sangiovese. Medium nose of red/black fruit (raspberry, cherry, plum, blueberry) followed by leather, earth and violets. A nose that reflects the Tuscan terroir perfectly. The palate is marked with a rather high acidity, but not enough tannins to support this. Alcohol levels are medium and could be in a better balance with the concentration and acidity. Smooth texture, not overly complex, but a meh for me. I don’t want to diss, the wine’s ok, but if you’re paying 15 EUR for it, god forbid 30 EUR on the wine list, please try something different or drink some soda.
Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2011
Little dark one did it again! In this case, it’s a shame to call Brunello little because it has tons to offer including elements that will blow you away for eternity. Medium garnet red. Subtle nose showing top-level aromas of black/red fruit (sour cherry, raspberry, blackcurrant, plum), leather, dark chocolate and sweet spices. Dry with an opulent structure, medium (+) acidity and generous tannins. Deep, complex, well-balanced with a long finish that gives the spotlight to secondary aromas and a hint of bitterness. If you can’t resist, drink it now, but to truly understand what this Tuscan classic has to offer, leave it in the cellar for 10-15 years.
The eyes of every participant in the room start to sparkle as we approach the two colossal wines of the night. This was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques and the first red wine to be blended with international grapes. It’s quite surprising that a wine from a single estate and vineyard of this quality is produced in a series of 300.000 bottles, which is huge in comparison to smaller wine regions which have an annual production this big. The first question you ask yourself is – how do the winemakers of Antinori maintain this epochal quality vintage after vintage? Well, some G.O.A.T. winemakers are unquestionably working on this capo di tutti capi and clearly don’t let anything slip. The 2013, listed in the top 10 wines of 2016 by Wine Spectator, shows deep ruby red with violet hues and is still very tight on the nose. Tones of red and black fruit (sour cherry, raspberry), violets, sweet spices, wet soil and leather. The palate is dry with a huge structure, sexy raw fruit and an unforgettable finish. It’s a true shame to open this bottle now and live the illusion that you got everything out of it. Drink from 2018 through the next 20 years.
I would write speechless, but that wouldn’t be fun now, would it? I’ll jot down my tasting note, but if you need to re-evaluate your life and get closer to the meaning of it, I urge you, for the love of Dionysus, to try this wine whenever you get the chance. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Sangiovese (20%) and Cabernet Franc (5%), 2012’s Solaia offers deep ruby red and a medium nose displaying notes of cooked black fruit, mint, vanilla, wet soil and a splash of minerality. Dry with a humongous concentration and grippy tannins. If you like them big and bold, this is your bottle.
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Written by Aleksandar Draganić.
I’m a WSET certified grape juice drinker, and yes, I’m that 1% of people that love their job. I drink wine, write about it, preach about it, even take pictures of it. Find me at @grapenomad