Transalpino: One Way Traffic?

Jean Louis David's Napoleonn Crossing the Alps

Jean Louis David’s Napoleonn Crossing the Alps

I have been thinking of Luca Santini a lot recentely. Luca was the sales director for Heres Spa in Monteviarchi near Arezzo, an international agency for many of Italy’s top and most media primed wineries.

More to the point Luca’s brother is a truffle hunter around San Miniato a zone renowned for the exceptioanl qualities of its white truffles. And I rather want some, but alas, he has left the company and no one can give me his details. There are a lot of Luca Santini’s on the net, even in San Miniato but not the right one. Purtroppo.

Anyway, the last time we ate together in Florence, he forthrightly put the view that Italy has no ageworthy wines; that is a categoric, let me repeat, no ageworthy wines.

Luca of course worships at the altar of Burgundy, and we all know how the blinkers fit on that one.

But I was minded of his comment when I opened up a bottle of 2004 Galatrona, a pure merlot from Luca Sanjust’s Tenuta Petrolo, also near Arezzo. I tasted it first at the domaine, it was fantastic,, at Vinitaly slightly odd, and then again at the domaine – fantastic again. It was scored 96/100 in The Wine Advocate and 98/100 by James Suckling then at The Wine Spectator. My own thoughts not withstanding, you would have thought then it held promise.Petrolo-Galatrona-label1

And I remember it now, huge substance, quite monolithic, darkest firm Merlot; really very much in the manner of the finest Pomerol. It really did seem to have the stature, stuffing and gravitas to compete.

I recently opened the first bottle since 2008 and it has turned a corner, or rather more prosaically turned back at the Col St . Bernard. It has become quite unexplicably and explicitly Italian. Okay, normale, you might say, it is Italian after all. But gone is the gravitas, the austerity and the reticence.

It is still a lovely bottle of wine: suave, sexy and voluptuous. But if I’m honest, more paysanne than courtesane…I was hoping for more. Describing the great Pomerols of being merely a lovely wine would be damning with faint praise.

For dinner with my sister next week I have a bottle of Gaja’s 1967 Barbaresco in the cellar. A timely test? At forty seven its time may be now…and even Burgundian lovers love Barolo.

It flatters their finesse.

About matthewhayesbrognon

Wine Merchant
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