Chardonnay From Another Planet (Actually, From Tuscany)
The concept and history of the Super Tuscan is one of my favorite stories in wine.
First off, it just sounds cool. “Super Tuscan.” Like a crime-fighting superhero who loves pasta and his nonna. But the best part is, of course, how this rogue brand of Italian winemaking came to be.
See, before the 1970s, everyone who made fine wine in Italy did so under the strict rules laid down by the governmental DOC and DOCG bodies, which defined things like the fact that Chianti Classico is a blend, with sangiovese as the dominant grape, and that Barolo is always 100% nebbiolo, etc. But DOC(G) classifications also define almost every element of the winemaking process, like what to use during, and for how long fermentation can occur, to barrel-aging requirements, picking procedures and methods, and on, ad nauseum.
In the 70s, a winemaker in Chianti Classico had had enough. While he was not the first to do this, he may have been the most famous. Piero Antinori wanted to take the Chianti Classico his family had made for over six centuries and make a richer variant. He removed the white grapes from the traditional (and DOCG-required) blend and replaced them with Bordeaux varieties, mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot. He called the wine Tignanello.
The thing is, Tignanello was not Chianti Classico, though it was wine made from one of the region’s esteemed producers, and still predominantly featured sangiovese. They could not use the name, and in fact, the bottle had to feature the phrase vino da tavola, or “table wine,” normally a phrase reserved for low-grade juice, which Antinori’s new concoction was not.
To this day, the same is true. DOC(G) requirements have not changed. The Italians have created a new label to stamp on fine wine that does not conform to DOC(G) scripture, “IGT.” This wine from Chianti Classsico producer Fattoria di Felsina falls into this IGT category.
The ‘I Sistri’ is 100% chardonnay, and a dark, rich, lustrous gold in the glass. The nose is also rich and lush, featuring, predominantly, notes of pecan praline and honey. This is not chardonnay as I have tasted either from California, or from my favorite French region for the grape, Chablis.
The honeyed nuttiness continues on the palate, as this medium-to-full bodied white brings the same honey and pecan praline flavors from the nose. There is a little residual sugar, it seems, but this is not a dessert wine by any means. On the back end is the most incredible finish of cinnamon that I have ever tasted, and not some sickly-sweet-spicy-fake cinnamon, but like real, freshly grated cinnamon.
Really quite impressive, actually. Not for everyone, to be sure, and not something I would want to drink every day. But if you’re someone who thinks of white wine as the sole province of summer, the warmth and sweet spice of this wine would turn anyone into a chardonnay-in-winter convert.