Tignanello: a Tuscan Rebel
It was in 1971, from the Tuscan calcareous and rocky marl limestone in the heart of Chianti Classico half an hour drive from Florence that, with no special welcome or announcements, the ‘enfant terrible’ of Super Tuscans was born.
No-one was expecting anything but the usual wine. No-one except for one person: Marchese Piero Antinori, who knew something exceptional was developing in their barriques..
“We hoped, we thought, we knew we had a terrific wine in our brand new oak barriques and I knew the name Tignanello was difficult to pronounce for the foreign market but I was convinced it was good. We had a wine which was intended to change the rules, beginning a new season for our winery, for my family and for Tuscany,” he told db.
This, in a nutshell, is what Piero Antinori has been saying in the last few years. And his personal story on one of the wine that changed the Italian wine scene forever can be read in his book ‘Tignanello a Tuscan Story’, published by Feltrinelli.
Tignanello was a rebel wine, the result of a silent revolution conducted by Marchese Piero: firstly ageing his Chianti Classico in French barriques, then getting rid of the two white varieties from the blend (Malvasia and Trebbiano), introducing the name of the vineyard Tignanello and finally adding a proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) to the Sangiovese (80%).
The Tignanello Formula
“It took us a few years to get down to the final formula which eventually was finalised with vintage 1978,” Antorini said, although by then, Tignanello could no longer display the black rooster logo of the Chianti Classico appellation.
However, such was the success of this table wine that almost every winery in Tuscany started to produce their own ‘Super Tuscan’ style wine following Tignanello’s model.
Tignanello has been a winning horse year after year: simply unstoppable, thanks to its reliable quality, its smooth and round velvet touch and a price tag (today around 100€ on the shelves) which has never gone under any speculations. As a result Tignanello is loved by sommeliers, connoisseurs and regular wine lovers.
Last week the drinks business attended the elegant Tenuta di Tignanello for a very special vertical tasting from 1983 till 2019 with Renzo Cotarella, head winemaker and CEO of the Marchese Antinori Group and estate director Stefano Carpaneto.
The estate comprises 300 hectares, but only 130 are dedicated to the vines, the rest being forest with some olive groves. Meanwhile its two signature wines, Tignanello and Solaia, seem to be almost a mirror image of each other with Solaia including 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese. However, today we will focus on the ‘enfant terrible’ of the Super Tuscans.
The tasting started with the 1983 because “this was the beginning of the new course of a contemporary Tignanello,” Renzo Cotarella noted, adding that the team has been “constantly upgrading our standards in order to make Tignanello a more and more refined wine each year”.
Before we dive into the tasting notes, I would like to mention that the bottles were opened the same morning, corked and put in refrigerated cabinets to be served at around 6 pm. I believe this helped the wines showing their full potential with more performing scores then average compared to my database. A little trick to play when one feels like organising a nice wine dinner with this style of wines.
Warm, sweet and round. This was the all-rounder and almost sweet sample (of course no residual sugar but only higher pH). Leather, incense, prunes, lemon peel, menthol and liquorice. Very ripe damsons with some menthol edge. Sweet mulberries and rhubarb. Chestnut honey, bee wax and tomato jam with some leather and dry fruit finish. 92/100. Drinks now-10
(Renzo Coratella started his position in 1990 so this was already 100% under his supervision)
Gunflint, black cherries and blueberries with some very seductive floral aromas. Officinal herbs, basil and Mediterranean herbs. A way more Tuscan Sangiovese character with a very reactive palate, some broomcorn, violets and tobacco. Sweet delicious tannins and way more refreshing a character I was expecting from this very warm vintage. 96/100. Drinks now-15
More about the Mediterranean herbs balsamic and that Cab. green peppers notes. Darker fruit. Smooth, round. Pleasantly young on the palate with a wee bit of an alcohol punch. Velvet is the key and winning factor for this sample which seems to be showing greener aromatics due to the colder harvest. 90/100 drinks now/15
Ripe and beautiful red fruit driven style with pencil shavings, cotton candy, balsamic sweet strawberries. Extremely balances and so alive and kicking. More blueberries on an extremely smooth palate with a good tannic powerful. Extractive style, great fruit maturation and sweet tannins. 94/100 drinks now/20
Sour cherries, sweet roots, rhubarb, orange peel, blood orange, earl great tea. Super sweet and beautiful tannins are showing the class Tignanello can reach on a classic vintage like 2004. This is the beginning of a new lighter, more elegant and less extractive style of Tignanello which seems to show a softer use od the oak barrels leaving more room for the Sangiovese red and refreshing fruit and a wonderfully elegant hay and quinine finish. 98/100 drinks now/20
This is a style here the table didn’t seem to agree. I found it a touch rougher on the palate with some harsher tannins and way more oak driven spices. Wet forest floor, prunes and a pretty hot finish. 89/100 drinks now/15
As off 2008, Tignanello is now fermented in conic wooden vats and the over 14000 barriques are a selection of Taranceau, Remond and some of the Antinori owned Hungarian cooper. Also some tonneaux (500l) start to be part of the fining formal.
A slightly iron and dry herbs nose like walking along an old railway. An earthier character with a lovely brightness and sapidity on the palate. Some pleasant leatheriness and black berry and prunes on the finish. Very spicy driven Tig, 94/100 Drinks now/15
Chocolate and coconut nose with a super extractive dark fruit nose and a balsamic enticing perfume. On the palate the austere and 4×4 palate is showing a strong structure which seems to be born to last forever. Power and elegance at once with a salty and juicy finish to make everything play in a wonderful balance. 97/100. drinks now/40
Another powerful sample with a lot of muscular attitude. It’s all about the black cherries and prunes and oak spices as if to announce a very woody and tannic palate. The very crispy acidity though is turning the wine into a very gastronomic Tignanello with a pleasant grip. 92/100 drink now/25
Really pleasant red fruit driven nose with a basil and minty accent. On the palate the wine shows the same energy with even more refreshing red fruit, like pomegranate and raspberries as if Sangiovese is showing more powerfully then usual. 95/100
A wonderful combination of pencil shavings, blueberries and orange peel. An extraordinary performance with such a balance, depth and strength and yet with a juiciness which seems to adding more energy to the balsamic perfumes, the earl great aromas and an exotic incense like finish. 98/100 drinks now/45
Very rich and powerful black driven fruit nose with a lot of oak spices, sweet tobacco, vanilla and leather. A black berry marmellate [marmelade] perfume is blending with some cloves and cinnamon. The wine has got a lot of power but with a good control and a really sugary tannic presence. We have to wait for this Prigione di Michelangelo to find its final act. 100/100 drinks 10-50
En primeur tasting of the 2019 vintage shows a floral driven nose with cherries and pine sap. The month is a pleasant lighter and relatively more crunchy style of Tignanello, but we have to wait for another few months to see the full potential of this wine.