A signature wine falls a bit short of the mark – can a winemaker producing vast quantities of mid-priced wines make a truly great wine?
Marchesi Antinori is an Italian wine company that can trace its history back to 1385 and today is one of the biggest wine companies in Italy. Tignanello is the top Super Tuscan wine produced by Antinori, so our expectations were high. The wine was made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc and was fermented in small French and Hungarian oak barrels for approximately 16-18 months. Although I don’t have production quantities for this wine, the fact that it was produced from a parcel of 140 acres indicates that production is considerable. The wine is generally available at most fine wine retailers for prices averaging about $100/ btl.
My wife and I enjoyed the Tignanello at a local Italian restaurant, La Villetta which is located on east 52nd street in New York City. This little gem is wedged into what used to be a flower shop and has an excellent ambiance and is not excessively loud. The staff is very attentive as is Luigi, who runs the floor. La Villetta frequently has excellent specials, which always includes a homemade pasta dish, which complements the several homemade pasta dishes already on the menu. While there are so many excellent pastas dishes to choose, we have always found the spaghetti pomodoro to be especially good as the basil-heavy sauce gives this simple dish a uniqueness all its own.
La Villetta also marks white truffle season with several pastas mixed with these delicacies. We started our meal with the Risotto with white truffles. The Risotto was perfectly cooked and the truffles were plentiful. We followed with a combination of Spaghetti Pomodoro, Orecchiette alla barese and Cavatelli Bolognese. All of these dishes were excellent and served as a superb complement to the wine.
Antinori – Tignanello - 2009
Although we did not decant this wine, the nose still presented with hints of leather and sweet wood. It also had an earthy bouquet that had that indistinguishable aroma of Sangiovese. I thought the wine was dark in color and had some good initial tannins on the back palate. It did not appear to be especially complex at first and had a faster finish than I would have liked.
Over the next hour the wine did become a bit fuller and sweeter, as the sangiovese began to better express itself and it did not overpower the food. While we felt the wine became bigger with time, it did not reach the level we were expecting from Antinori’s top wine and it never extended the length of its finish. It was also hard to be impressed with the structure of this wine, as it more resembled good Chianti rather than Antinori’s top Super Tuscan. Perhaps this was an off year but the wine was clearly a disappointment, as we had expected a much more complex wine with competing flavors of Sangiovese and Cabernet vying for attention on the palate.