Explore the wines of Toscana (Tuscany) - the region most famous for the Sangiovese grape* and revered wine zones (and DOCs, DOCGs) like Chianti, Montalcino and Bolgheri.
* this ‘divine’ grape – from ‘sanguis Jovis’ meaning ‘the blood of Jove’ or Jupiter, god of the sky and King of the gods – has lived up to its name by creating some truly regal wines.
Some of the wines that leave the region are super affordable (even here in Singapore), while others are perfect for special occasions or great gifts. Why not treat yourself - splash out on something on your 'wine wish list' like a Super Tuscan or a Brunello.
* White Toscana! *
Start your exploration of vino Toscana with a delicious white blend (Chardonnay, Malvasia, Moscato, Sauvignon) by Barbanera, called VECCIANO BIANCO.
This popular wine is packed with tropical fruit notes, lifted by bright acidity. Expect a big hit of citrus (yuzu) and yellow flowers; then on the palate it's lime (Calamansi lime), grapefruit, peach … and yuzu again! ;)
* Sanguis Jovis! *
This region of Italy boasts an incredible number of high quality DOC and DOCG wines made from from the local grape, Sangiovese. Other regions also work with the grape, but for most wine lovers the spiritual home of Sangiovese is Toscana!
Sangiovese matures slowly and ripens late. Its thin skin suits lower elevations, although hillside vineyards offer greater diurnal range that helps maintain acidity levels - key to balanced and long-ageing wines. This makes it a perfect vine for many central Italy sites, often cooled by the ocean breeze, soaking up the sun's rays in the foothills of the Apennines mountains. What a life, eh? :)
This widely planted vine is also great for displaying its specific terroir and also its winemaker's intention. As Jancis Robinson says, its "dominant viticultural characteristics are that it can vary as much as Pinot Noir in its sensitivity to place". From light and fruity 'quaffable' to deeply complex, Sangiovese is a versatile wine!
Expect a balanced wine from Sangiovese, with firm tannins and high acidity, usually displaying both fruit and spice aromas, with more savoury notes as it ages.
Dark cherry is a common flavour, but look for wild raspberry and plum too, as well as aromatic spices. One useful 'tell' in blind tastings can be a subtle tomato leaf note!
For matching with food, given the naturally savoury taste of Sangiovese, try herb or tomato dishes to enhance the fruity flavours in the grape. It’s also superb with hard cheeses and rich meats.
We import a number of wines that feature Sangiovese, but if you want to understand how terroir impacts the final wine you could grab a couple of bottles of 100% Sangiovese from different areas of Tuscany.
NB: A bit more on CHIANTI....
One of Italy's most classic wines, this DOCG* wine is right at the top of the list for famous Sangiovese styles. In fact, centuries ago Chianti was one of the first areas of Italy to be designated DOCG status. It continues to be popular to this day, loved for its notes of berry and spice, with a rustic charm.
As a regular customer likes to say of this Barbanera family wine, this is "the most affordable quality Chianti on the island" ... we couldn't agree more!
* curious about terms like DOCG etc? Click here to read our blog on terms and concepts behind vino Italiano.
2016: "Vibrant, elegant wines from a year that began cool, warming from July on; grapes harvested under ideal conditions" - 97 pts, Wine Spectator.
2018: "Spring rains led to slow ripening and a later harvest than average; supple, charming wines, though the best will age" - 93 pts, Wine Spectator.
* Super Tuscans! *
Many wine lovers are familiar with the term Super Tuscan. It's not a very clearly defined category, but it usually refers to either wines that focus on blending the local Sangiovese grape with international varieties, or wines that showcase how those 'non-Italian' grapes thrived in the soils of Tuscany.
Here, when we speak of international varieties or 'non-Italian' grapes, we mean the Cabernet family (Sauvignon and Franc), Merlot and sometimes Petit Verdot.
To explore this famous wine style, start with a bottle of VECCIANO by Barbanera (arguably the most affordable Super Tuscan in Singapore, in terms of quality price ratio) and then try one of the wines from their Le Forconate* collection, like RASOLE.
* Le Forconate is a passion project developed by the 3rd generation of the Barbanera estate. We have been importing labels from their Duca Di Saragnano line since 2014, so when they released the first bottles of their new small-production line, Le Forconate, in 2020, we were excited to bring their new labels to Singapore.
Oh and don't miss the chance to try a Super Tuscan from Bolgheri.
We adore the gorgeous FELCIAINO by Chiappini and I'm sure you will too.
This is the 'baby brother' to Giovanni Chiappini's flagship wine Guado de Gemoli (see the details later in this email), blending together the classic mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The boutique estate of Giovanni (run with the help of his daughter Martina) is happily situated right next door to the famous estate of Ornellaia and benefits from the same fabulous climate, exposure, soil etc. This is a perfect example of the importance of sourcing high quality wines at fair price points, where your dollar goes on the wine and not on the brand! After all, great wine doesn't have to break the bank - if you know where to look. And that's exactly what we're here for - to be your guide to hidden gems. :)
* Flagship & Limited Release! *
Speaking of 'hidden gems' there are some wines in this week's promotion that you really must try!
As our regulars know, we have always focussed on sourcing wine from small-production family estates, with passion projects and focus on important Italian grapes or styles.
The next 3 wines are all great examples.
NOVE LEGNI is a smooth and bold red from Barbanera's Le Forconate line. The name refers to the nine woods on the estate.
It's a great example of Tuscan Merlo - elegant, full-bodied, complex - aged for 24 months in oak. Expect smooth tannins and ripe fruit notes (blackberry, cherry) alongside tobacco and cacao.
GUADO DE GEMOLI is an outstanding wine from organic Bolgheri estate, Chiappini.
On first sniff and sip, expect plenty of ripe red fruit and vanilla, opening up to notes of liquorice, tobacco, cedar and cinnamon. A complex wine, with power and elegance; soft and long finish; great with a steak.
Decanter says, "the first vintage of this wine was 2000, but the vineyards ... date back to 1978 and 1986, and the average age of the vines was helpful in the hot 2017 vintage. This blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest divided between Merlot and Cabernet Franc, shows a restrained Bordeaux style with clove, leather, bramble fruits and a whiff of coffee powder".
Falstaff says of the 2017 vintage, "on the palate round and supple ... at the same time very good concentration, fine-meshed tannin, substance and long, fine fruit texture".
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO Riserva 2015 is made from the Sangiovese Grosso vine, by Ettore Spina at his small family estate. It is a very special wine - being an incredibly rare product, made only in the best vintages, and highly limited production numbers. This vintage saw only 820 bottles produced!
Decanter says of this 2015 vintage, "the last time this estate came out with a Riserva was the 2010 vintage. It comes from a section of its La Magistra vineyard, planted in 1992 with the venerated BBS11 clone. Black cherry is enveloped in a subtle smokiness, with a hint of roasted meat in the background. Weighty and substantial, it finds its balance with succulent acidity under ripe, rich fruit".
* Appassimento Style! *
Fancy something a little 'experimental' or different? Go beyond the well-known 'classic' Tuscan style and try an appassimento!
In the region of Tuscany it has long been used to make sweet wine, but also dry reds have been produced with partially-dried grapes. Typically this creates a very fruity and smooth wine, where the Sangiovese tannins are noticeably softened.
Probably our all-round most popular wine of all time (since 2014), SIR PASSO by Barbanera's Duca Di Saragnano* line, is a 'Toscana Rosso IGT' but that simple designation doesn't do justice to its unique style.
It is an unusual presentation of Sangiovese and for many years now it has been affectionately known among our regulars as the 'baby Amarone' - since it uses the same practice of drying the grapes to concentrate the flavours (named as a nod to Amarone's brother wine RIPASSO).
Expect a deep colour, with rich and ripe fruit notes (red and black cherries) and a velvety palate.
* What’s in a name? In the case of the Barbanera family’s winery they chose to pay respect to a great legend whose descendant became a close friend of Luigi Barbanera (father of Marco and Paolo who now run the estate). The original Duca di Saragnano came from Campania but fled north to Tuscany, around the 10th Century, as foreign invaders took over much of southern Italy. The Duca di Saragnano was remembered as “amongst the bravest and noblest local defenders” of the Italian land, who “fought valiantly” against the aggressors. Centuries later the inheritor of the title ‘Duca di Saragnano’ met the Barbanera family (who had started out in 1938 with home-produced olive oil, cheeses, cured meat and wine) and granted the use of the prestigious name as “a token of his esteem”.
If you need helping deciding where to start, please do EMAIL for personal recommendations and advice.