Saturday, March 05, 2005

Extended Tasting Notes: Antinori Tignanello 1999, 2000 (NW)

This is an extended tasting note on two vintages of Tignanello, served back-to-back at a restaurant with hearty Italian fare.

Antinori Tignanello 1999:

Dark berries and complex layers on the nose
Cocoa, smoke, and oak added on the palate
Tangy and earthy finish, moderate tannins

Antinori Tignanello 2000:

Similar characteristics as the 1999, but a touch more tart and youthful.

It was a real pleasure tasting these wines back-to-back, however, this was not planned. The second bottle was supposed to be another 1999, but the restaurant exhausted that vintage and moved on to the 2000 without consulting me until it had been opened. Luckily for them, this is what I would have done. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they read my mind.

The 1999 was a powerful burst of dark, dark fruit followed by some obvious complexity. I couldn't decipher all the layers, but picked up some cocoa, smoke, and earth. These layers were very tightly packed. It then finished with some earthiness, which is vintage Tuscan, as well as some tangyness, which is reminder that the Sangiovese grape is involved. Beautiful wine, but was it ready for drinking? should it have breathed longer in the glass? been decanted? I don't know the answers here and I don't recall any hint of age.

The 2000, of course, followed. The wine had very similar charatacteristics but was a bit more tart. This may have been coupled with stronger tannins, too. Being a year younger may have contributed to this, but I've also read that 1999 was an excellent year in Tuscany and 2000 was average.

Both wines were delicious! The fun came with the chance to pair the wines with many different Italian foods. My table ordered so much food, we basically ate family-style with numerous appetizers and hearty pasta and meat dishes. I recall being very impressed with how the wine accompanied the food, however, nothing light like fish was presented.

This was a business dinner, but very much social as well. I paid $110/bottle which is fair. I have seen this wine priced from$59 to $76 in stores. It has a strong following because it was one of the early "Super-Tuscans." This term was developed to categorize Tuscan wines grown outside the classification system that maintains strict rules for the likes of Chianti Classico and other designations. Antinori is a leading producer of classified wines as well as a pioneer in "Super-Tuscans", with their wines such as Tignanello. Generally, this wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.

Both the 1999 and the 2000 deliver! They are dark, rich, and tightly-wound wines I believe embody the intensity of high-end Italian red wines. If you are interested in discovering more Italian wines that are similar in strength and character, look for other "Super-Tuscan" blends, Brunellos, Barolos, and Barbarescos. These are generally expensive wines, but worth exploring to get a feel for what Italian red wine is all about. In the near future, I'll be reviewing a Barolo from the 2000 vintage that Wine Spectator scored a perfect 100! 'Till then, raise a glass!

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