Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bolgheri - Part Two - The Young Lions

Enrico Santini (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

This is part two of my series on my recent visit to the Bolgheri wine district along Tuscany's west coast - Tom Hyland

Bolgheri is world-famous for wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia, but there are numerous examples of local wines that are very well made and are waiting to be discovered. Many of these are noteworthy values, with a few of the wines coming in at less than $20. I love finding wines like this; I think the vintners of Bolgheri need to get the word out that not every red wine here sells for more than $150!

To that end, I visited three lesser known estates in Bolgheri on my recent trip. Guado al Melo, owned by Michele Scienza is a small estate with impeccably farmed vineyards and a striking underground cellar that meshes beautifully with the local landscape. Scienza, whose father Attilio is one of Italy's most respected wine teachers and historians, produces a nice range of wines including a beautiful white made from Vermentino and an obscure French grape named Petit Manseng. I tasted several vintages of this wine, including the 2002, which offered lush tropical fruit flavors and deep concentration; this is showing nicely now and should drink well for another year or two.

Michele Scienza, Guado al Melo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

For the reds from Guado al Melo, look for the Bolgheri Rosso “Antillo”, a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that sells between $12 and $14 on American retail shelves; this offers nice complexity for this price and is meant for drinking within 2-3 years. The regular Bolgheri Rosso, which sells for $18, has a greater percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, giving it more tannins for mid-term (5-7 years) cellaring. Wines like this are to be encouraged, especially to help introduce Bolgheri to more consumers; not everything made here is meant to be enjoyed 25 years from now! (Premium Brands of Forest Hills, NY is the importer for Guado al Melo.)

Enrico Santini is a name you may hear more often in the near future, given the quality of his wines. Literally making wine out of his garage near the town of Castagneto Carducci, Santini is equally at home with white and red wine. His white, a blend of Vermentino and Sauvignon known as Campo alla Casa, has beautiful spearmint and pine aromas with very good depth of fruit and finely tuned acidity. This is a very enjoyable glass of wine on its own; for food pairing, try it with shellfish.

It is his Bolgheri Rosso known as Montepergoli that is quietly putting Santini among the area’s best vintners. The current bottling is from 2004, a great vintage and the wine delivers all it promises. The aromas are room-filling, with notes of dark chocolate, mocha, marzipan and black cherry. Full-bodied with excellent concentration and great fruit persistence, this is headed for its best showing in 20-25 years. The 2003 from a difficult vintage is starting to round out nicely and is much more elegant that many similar wines from that torridly hot year. I tasted the 2001 Montepergoli recently and was thrilled with its development. Now the 2004 has arrived and in my opinion this offering can stand with the best red wines of Bolgheri. The wine will arrive in a few months in the States; Vintus is the national importer. Great news is that you won’t be paying an arm or a leg for this wine!

Helena Lindberg, winemaker, Tenuta di Biserno (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Finally, I visited Tenuta di Biserno, the new property of Lodovico Antinori, founder and former owner of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. The estate is located just outside the Bolgheri DOC area near the town of Bibbona, but shares many of the same soil and climatic conditions of the famous Bolgheri estates. Three wines, two IGT Toscana and one Bolgheri DOC wine are currently produced here with another premium red in the plans. The Insoglia delle Cinghiale is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The new 2007 offers plenty of fruit, excellent complexity with very subtle wood notes. Nicely balanced, this is meant for consumption over the next 5-7 years. (Wilson-Daniels is the national importer for Tenuta di Biserno; the 2007 will not be available until the fall; the current 2006 bottling of Insoglio, also excellent, is $34).

The Bolgheri Rosso known as Coronato, is produced from a nearby vineyard in the Bolgheri DOC and has the typical ripeness and power one expects from a top-flight red of this district. Black licorice, black cherry and bitter chocolate aromas are backed by a generous mid-palate and a well structured finish. Look for this 2006 to be at its best in 12-15 years (the outstanding 2005 is the current release and retails for $70).

Finally, the top wine of the estate (for now) is the Il Pino rosso. This blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot offers beautiful structure, tons of fruit and refined tannins, with an earthy finish; look for this to be at its peak in 12-15 years. Antinori is banking on Cabernet Franc to be perhaps the best-performing variety at Tenuta di Biserno, as he believes the soils at his estate are best-suited to bring out the spice and complexity of this variety. The 2006 is currently available at $82 per bottle. Look for the premium estate red from Tenuta di Biserno to be released in the fall of this year. Based on what winemaker Helena Lindberg has accomplished so far, I’m looking forward to this wine!

Winter scene at Tenuta di Biserno (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


  1. nice post, Tom. Michele Scienza looks more like a Scottish terrier than a lion, but I'm sure his wine roars!

  2. Alfonso:

    Nicely said! He's actually as gentle as a pussycat.

  3. this is a fantastic post... so much of Bolgheri is elided by the high-scoring darlings of the American media... chapeau Tom!

  4. Thanks Jeremy for your kind words.

    I really think that the producers there need to market themselves better and get the word out that Bolgheri is more than just iconic, expensive reds.