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Tasted and rated: the top wines from the Tuscan Masters 2019

Following last month’s Tuscan Masters, we review the top-scoring wines of the competition, which is part of the Global Wine Masters series from the drinks business.

Castelnuovo dell’Abate, near Montalcino in Tuscany

Taking in all the great areas of Tuscany, our handful of ‘Masters’ from the day’s tasting included reds from Montepulciano, Montalcino, Bolgheri and Chianti Classico, highlighting the wide range of places for brilliant wines within this famous part of Italy.

Indeed, as previously reported by the drinks business, relative to the number of wines that featured in this tasting, the results in the Tuscan Masters were better than any other competition we’ve hosted, with not only four Masters awarded – the ultimate accolade for outstanding entries – but also an incredible 16 Golds given out, meaning that more than one quarter of the samples picked up a top result.

“I saw more star wines today than at any other tasting in the Masters Series,” said Jonathan Pedley MW, tasting panel chair, after the Tuscan sampling was over.

Similarly enthusiastic, long-time Global Masters judge Patricia Stefanowicz MW commented that she “could judge these wines all day without palate fatigue,” due to “the refreshing acidity and judicious oak use and well-managed tannins in the red wines.”

While the Global Wine Masters runs a series of blind-tasting competitions throughout the year focused on varieties – from Chardonnay to Cabernet – and wine styles, from rosé to sparkling, the programme of events also includes judging sessions on key regions to shine a spotlight on wine quality and style in a particular place.

Over the years, such tastings have taken in Rioja, Champagne, and Prosecco, and this year we decided to add to that list with a competition for the range of wines produced across Tuscany, believing this part of the wine world to be underrated for value and quality.

The wines were judged over the course of one day at Les 110 de Taillevent in London on 11 July by myself, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Jonathan Pedley MW and Matthieu Longuère MS.

Below I have reviewed the four outstanding wines of the day’s tasting, while a full list of all the medallists will be published in full in the September edition of the drinks business.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the opportunity to feature online and in print – please call +44 (0)20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at:

Avignonesi, Grandi Annate, 2015

Made only in exceptional years, this flagship wine from Montepulciano’s Avignonesi winery is a wonderful find. Made from solely Sangiovese, which is sourced from the producer’s best vineyards, including a plot of 40 year-old plants at over 300 metres above sea level, this is a fine and fresh expression by IGT Toscana standards, and a style that would appeal to lovers of classic Italian reds.

With notes of Morello cherry, plums and orange peel, this has the hallmark flavours of great Sangiovese, along with this grape’s high, fine cleansing tannins, while, with 18 months spent maturing in large oak casks and barriques before bottling, the wine also has a complexing and appealing touch of sweet balsamic vinegar.

Costing around £90, it may not be cheap, but it is distinctive, and delicious.

The wine: Avignonesi, Grandi Annate, 2015

The source: Toscana, IGT, Italy

The grape(s): 100% Sangiovese

The style: A semi-mature medium-weight complex red with high tannin levels and notes of cherry and balsamic.

The price: Around £90

The medal: Master – The Tuscan Masters, 2019

Banfi, Excelsus, 2015

This delicious red blend is certainly a rarity in its source region, because it’s made from Bordeaux grapes Cabernet and Merlot grown on the slopes of Montalcino – an area almost exclusively planted with Sangiovese for producing one of Italy’s most sought-after wines: Brunello.

Proving the quality of the vine-growing sites in this famous part of Tuscany, even these alien grapes yield something of strength and elegance, showing some of Cabernet’s typical cassis character, some of Merlot’s blueberry sweetness, and some of Montalcino’s finesse, complete with its characteristic dry fine dense tannins and a notes of cedar and cigar smoke. Also, while it’s a lovely wine now, it undoubtedly has the capacity to mature into something softer and more complex over the next 10 years.

The wine: Banfi, Excelsus, 2015

The source: Toscana, IGT, Italy

The grape(s): 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

The style: A youthful, full-bodied complex red with dry tannins and flavours of blackcurrant and cedar.

The price: Around £50

The medal: Master – The Tuscan Masters, 2019

Campo alla Sughera, Arnione, 2013

Hailing from the coastal region of Toscana, Bolgheri – which is most famous for ‘Super Tuscans’ such as Sassicaia – this fantastic find offers the flavours of a powerful Italian red at a relatively accessible price.

Employing a blend of Bordeaux grapes Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this is a rich and complex red that benefits from almost two years spent ageing in 80% new French oak barriques.

Starting to mature, the wine displays a lovely mix of sweet balsamic notes and cedar, along with ripe, concentrated dark berry fruit, and a hint of jam, suggestive of grapes picked at full maturation. Importantly, the wine finishes with a dry tannic grip, and a cleansing cranberry character, ensuring it has the traits of a classic Italian red – a mix of high tannin and bright acid to ensure it’s an ideal accompaniment to rich and fatty foods, from Florentine steak to aged Parmesan.

The wine: Campo alla Sughera, Arnione, 2013

The source: Bolgheri DOC Superiore, Italy

The grape(s): 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot

The style: A semi-mature, full-bodied complex red with high tannin levels and ripe, concentrated dark berry fruit.

The price: Around £35

The medal: Master – The Tuscan Masters, 2019

Famiglia Cecchi, Villa Rosa, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, 2015

Representing the newly-instated top tier of Chianti Classico, called Gran Selezione, this red from Cecchi displays the wonderful hallmarks of great Sangiovese grown in this famous and historic part of Tuscany’s wine map: Chianti Classico.

Using high-altitude sites and Cecchi’s top vineyard soils, this specialist Sangiovese has plenty of ripe red berry fruit, with a touch of strawberry sweetness, offset by a slightly tangy finish of cherry stone and orange zest. A wonderfully balanced wine that highlights the greatness of top-end Chianti Classico, and the wonders of beautifully-crafted, pure Sangiovese.

The wine: Famiglia Cecchi, Villa Rosa, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, 2015

The source: Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy

The grape(s): 100% Sangiovese

The style: A youthful, medium-weight complex red with dry tannins, fresh acidity, and sweet ripe red cherry fruit.

The price: £35

The medal: Master – The Tuscan Masters, 2019

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