As my last day in Tuscany proceeds with the distant rumble of thunder I finish reading an article on the ageing potential of Bolgheri wines, the recent appellation in the southern Tuscan region of Maremma and Grossetto.
Of course, Sassicaia and Ornellaia are proven thoroughbreds littering the cellars of collectors and epicureans across the globe; even a little in my own. But beyond these, in an “appellation” which has grown from 200 to 1200 hectares since 1998 I am minded of a tasting I once had with the owner of Vinas Hermanos Sastre in the Duero and his 2005 98 point Parkerwine Pèsus back in 2006.
In short there are wines that are techncially perfect and there are wines that sing.
Eating with Jurij Fiore of Poggio Scalette the other night I asked him whether he actually liked the wines of Tua Rita of not quite Bolgheri but neighbouring Suvereto. I had the same reply as with a certain American importer who shall remain nameless: no, but they sell. Made to perfection, muscular, tannic, fruit-led and ostensibly faultless, they tick all the boxes.
Their lines including Reddigaffi, Syrah and Giusti dei Notri frequently brush perfection with the American critics but have never offered me much joy. Likewise in Bolgheri, Le Macchiole‘s Messorio and Syrah are adored by the critics, but for me their” mid-range ” Paleo Rosso (and context is everything, it’s a 50 euro bottle of wine nevertheless), from Cabernet Franc is a beautiful, balanced, emotionally charged wine. It is, in my humble opinion their finest wine. Jurij shares my opinion.
Messorio and Reddigaffi frequently score 100 points. Likewise Pèsus which brings me slowly to my point. Pèsus, even with cigarette toting owner instructing me, was an evidently technically perfect wine but with no emotional pull. There was nothing to love.. It fitted in all the criteria, one by one, but without the least hint of joy. As I tasted it I understood the near perfect score, but would I want to finish the bottle? No, and likewise so many Australian shiraz; impressive yes, compelling no. And will they age with grace and pull? I doubt it.
Bizarrely in sharp contrast to this was a (my last) taking of Peter Sisseck’s 1998 Pingus, also from the Duero, at a dinner held by French importer Jean-Luc Thunevin. Here was a wine clearly technically perfect but equally expressing the rarely attainable, or copiable, and frankly unquantifiable quality of emotion. It was a wine that could make you weep.
Such are the mysteries of the vine.
Alas, for my feeble means, 600 quid a bottle is too rich for me, but Flor de Pingus is pretty good too.