Le Difese: The perfect baby ‘Super Tuscan’
The rise of ‘Super Tuscans’ has gained a lot of coverage in recent times, as the combination of traditional Italian grapes such as Sangiovese merge with classic French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines like Sassicaia, however, usually omit Italian grapes altogether, combining Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc. The result is usually wines of power and distinction, a different breed to other Italian classics like Barbera and Nebbiolo. While many are familiar with names such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Solaia, these well known houses, such as Tenuta San Guido and Antinori produce ‘second and third wines’, often from the same vineyards as their higher priced siblings and very often of notable quality.
The story of Sassicaia – the famed wine of Tenuta San Guido – may or may not be known to you. The Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta fell in love with a Cabernet Sauvignon he had tasted in Tuscany and, noting that his own vineyard was gravely in the much the same way as that which could be found in Graves, Bordeaux, he planted Cabernet Sauvignon and began experimenting with a combination of Cabernet Franc. The result shocked locals, but eventually, as with many ‘outlandish’ projects, it came to be revered for its originality and quality. ‘Le Difese’, first created in 2003, is from the same genetic line but aged for less time. The result is a wine of less cellaring potential but with the rustic-yet-powerful quality that you would expect of this combination of grapes. The wine is also combined with Sangiovese rather than Cabernet Franc.
The ‘Le Difese’ is classified as IGT, or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, indicating that it represents the region it comes from without being strictly from a DOC area, which is more tightly controlled. Although much of the grapes come from the famed Bolgheri region of the Super Tuscans, IGT indicates that they may also come from elsewhere nearby. Le Difese is, then, a quality blend of grapes of varying altitudes and proximity to the sea. The 2011 vintage is generally seen as one of the highest quality vintages for the region since 2000. As with most good vintages, good reserves of ground water saw the vines thrive into the growing season, and the ripening period was characterised by warm weather. The most important thing to keep in mind with these wines is the sheer affordability of a wine produced by a top producer like Tenuta San Guido. Can you picture a wine priced at $25-$40 from a top Bordeaux producer?
Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel at 31 degrees Celsius. 12-14 days for the Cabernet Sauvignon, 15-18 for the Sangiovese, to balance the tannins of both. It is then aged in French and American oak barriques for twelve months.
Tasting note – Tenuta San Guido ‘Le Difese’ 2011 IGT
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese, cork sealed.
An intense ruby/crimson colour. A nose of perfumed violets, intense forest floor and mossy-ness. Lavender in there too, and some mushroomy rustic aromas. Black fruits come through with swirling, as well as stems and cassis from the Cabernet. A touch leafy, and I would mention eucalyptus were it not for its Italian origin. Getting some mint before tasting too.
The palate shows ripe black fruits, searing acid and grainy tannin. Still not entirely mature, and could go another 2-3 years before drinking. Mouth-filling fruit, intense fruits. Bordering on a rich Merlot in texture and body. Very grainy on the palate but with a lush fruit poise. The finish is very lasting and satisfying.
This is an extremely impressive wine, tempered only by the fact that it would improve still further. For that reason, I’ve added ‘+’ to my score, since it will increase between 1 and 3 points.
(Other reviews: Antonio Galloni 90 points).
Enjoy Super-Tuscans and particular these Baby Super Tuscans, complete with their own version of Italian-French wine flavours.