2016 Super Tuscans with James Suckling

 

Tasting Report: 2016 Super Tuscans

JamesSuckling.com 

 

We rated more than 80 wines at Osteria dell’Acquolina this Monday during the annual JamesSuckling.com En Primeur Toscana event. Held in the countryside an hour’s drive from Florence, the second edition of our blind tasting event previewed Super Tuscan barrel samples from the highly anticipated 2016 vintage. Submissions from Tuscany’s top estates mainly covered the appellations of Toscana IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), Bolgheri and Valdarno di Sopra.

The young barrel samples were excellent quality and showed ripe fruit and silky tannins but with an energetic and focused backbone of vivid acidity. They are distinctly different than the equally awe-inspiring, unashamedly fruit-driven 2015s. It’s difficult to say which of the two vintages is better at the moment as many superb wines were made in both years. We only recently published a report on Super Tuscan reds tasted this summer that included so many great 2015 reds, of which there was one 100-point-rated merlot and a number of other 99 pointers.

 “I’m not sure yet whether 2016 is better than 2015 or vice-versa at this point,” says Luca d’Attoma, one of Tuscany’s top consulting enologists who also poured two of his own biodynamically produced reds at the event — the cabernet franc and syrah from Duemani. “But I do think that 2016 could turn out better in the end.”

Slightly more than 50 winemakers and winery owners from Tuscany turned out for the morning event and tasted the samples themselves, and they were all extremely positive and excited about the quality of the young reds. “I am really impressed with the overall quality of the 2016s, especially when you consider they follow such a great year as 2015,” enthused Elisabetta Geppetti, owner of Le Pupille that produces the popular Bordeaux blend of Saffredi on the Tuscan coast.

A number of key wine merchants were also invited to the event, including Bordeaux negociant Jean-Marc Dulong of Crus et Domaines de France. He too was quick to praise the results of the 2016 vintage in Tuscany as a whole: “The wines have such pure fruit and balance with excellent structure. They should do very well on the market. I am impressed.”

“There’s no doubt these are wines that people in our market want to buy in advance,” echoed Andrew McMurray of Zachys. “Last year I had good demand for an offer of Tuscan futures, and the interest in the system is only growing.”

En primeur is of course the age-old system used in Bordeaux to sell wines still aging in barrel. The wines are normally offered in the late spring or early summer after the harvest to wine merchants around the world through negociants in Bordeaux. Tastings of the wines are held in late March or early April about five or six months after the current harvest. The wines are only consigned two years later to the eventual buyers.

We are not sure this system will work for Tuscany or Italy at large as it was piloted in the 1990s without gaining traction. Even so, the idea of tasting the wines from barrel and at such an early stage is at least a step in setting a baseline for quality.

“Tuscany certainly can sell its top wines en primeur but it should be something different,” points out wine merchant Michael Grimm of Bacchus-Vinothek in Rottweil, Germany, who also attended the event. “It shouldn’t simply try to copy the Bordeaux system.”

In any case, the tasting is a unique opportunity to taste the most recent vintage from barrel in Tuscany, understand some of its potential, and let the market make its own, better-informed decisions. It’s fun and interesting for everyone regardless of whether you are a wine producer, wine merchant or wine critic. Stay tuned for next year’s event. —James Suckling, Editor