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Wine Tasting - Anything With Sangiovese

In June of 2004, we held the ninth of an ongoing series of wine tasting events. We started with a small group of just six couples interested in wine but with varying levels of wine knowledge -- it was more important that we would have fun that really be able to identify the wines. The group was formed with the following guidelines:

Two books that I've used to guide our tasting efforts are:
How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson
The Wine-Tasting Class Notebook: Expertise in 12 Tastings by Judy Ridgway

We will have a blind tasting and casual dinner roughly every other month so that we rotate through the entire group once a year. The host couple may, at their discretion, invite more people to join the fun. The evening's host selects the theme for the evening such as: "Napa Cabernet under $50", "Single vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon", "'Second wines' of Bordeaux", "Australian Shiraz over $30", or whatever. Each couple brings one bottle that fits the theme. The labels are hidden with paper bags so that this becomes a blind tasting. Everyone tastes each wine before dinner and selects their top three wines so we can have a consensus favorite. At dinner, we can finish the tasting wines or raid the host's cellar assuming, of course, that the host consents. And we should have fun doing this.

Before we get to the Sangiovese results, we have a small bit of catching up to do. Specifically, we missed adding the results of two tasting parties to the website. In large part, this was due to the nature of the tasting events themselves.

The first tasting party was a review of French champagnes. Although we came to an informal favorite (Cristal 1999, Cristal 1998, Nicholas Feuillatte NV), this was only the consensus of three of the fourteen guests. Organizationally, our group was challenged because the party was combined with a housewarming (a new house) and the bottles arrived over over a one hour period.

The second tasting party that we missed was a themed event. Our host chose to ask guests to bring wines that were discussed in the book Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle For France's Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup. This book details the conflict between the Germans and the French for control of wine during World War II. Sources include numerous anecdotes from many winemakers and their families which lends credibility to the narrative. As dozens of wineries were listed from every region of France, we tasted everything from a Huet Vouvray to a Mouton Rothschild 1982.

This takes us to the theme of Anything With Sangiovese. We had just returned from a family vacation to Italy and thought that we'd keep to the theme of the vacation. Sangiovese, of course, is the grape that most people think of when they think of red Italian wines. As the predominant grape varietal in Tuscany, it forms the backbone of the wines from Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano as well as some of the super-Tuscans.

The wines were opened roughly thirty minutes before tasting and were not decanted. The wines were tasted blind. We gave each member of the party a scorecard so that they could make notes on what they thought of each wine. This was a simplified scorecard from previous tastings.

After the tasting, we simply asked everyone to list their favorites which were then ranked using 3 pts for the #1 choice, 2 pts for the #2 choice, and 1 pt for the #3 choice. The winner was a super-Tuscan wine from Lucente -- this was a bit of surprise as it was probably the least expensive wine by a factor of two. After some thinking, we made sense out of this by assuming that the super-Tuscan blend (with merlot and cabernet) made the wine more approachable than some of the very young Brunellos and, consequently, it was the group favorite. The table below lists the wines in order of the consensus favorites. This was a fairly consistent set of results as four bottles received 90% of the points for favorites.

Winery Vintage  1   2   3  Our Score "Pro" Scores Our Consensus Comments
Lucente Super-Tuscan 2000 5 3 1 22   Very nice, well-balanced red.
Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva 1988 4 4 2 22   An older wine, with a bit of orange coloration and low tannins.
Podere Salicutti Brunello de Montalcino 1999 2 2 4 14 93 (WS) Nose of cherries, well-balanced wine.
Antinori Tignanello Super-Tuscan 2000 2 2   10 90 (WS) Rich, full-bodied wine. Almost port-like in its intensity.
Sesti Brunello de Montalcino 1997   2   4   Notes of cherries.
Poggio Crocino Chianti 1999     2 2   Fruity, pleasant wine with hints of cherries. Lacked complexity
Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva 1995     1 1    
Valdicava Brunello de Montalcino 1997           Rustic. Bad nose. End of Story.
Badia Coltibuono 1990           At least four or five of us thought that this bottle was corked. It didn't show well.
Cannubi Barolo 1998           This Nebbiolo-based wine was thrown in for kicks. Not picked by anyone...

Following the tasting, we sat down to dinner with the remaining wine from the tasting. The dinner was coordinated to complement the red wines.

Dinner Menu

bulletVarious cheeses together with a wonderful garlicky spread of some sort
bulletSoup: Tomato with bread crumbs
bulletPasta: Tagliatelle e funghMain Course
bulletMain Course
bulletRoasted veal chop
bulletString beans
bulletVarious gelati and biscotti
bulletDigestif: Sassicaia grappa

Next tasting - Several couples are arm wrestling to host the next tasting party. Stay tuned.

Click here to give us some ideas!


Other Wine Tastings

bulletDuckhorn Vertical from the 1980s
bulletWines from the Southern Rhone
bulletRed Wines of Piedmont
bulletMature California Cabernets -- 1990 and older
bulletCalifornia cabernet maturity comparisons
bulletSouth American Red Wines
bullet Red Wines of Washington State


Wine Enthusiast - Ultimate wine accessories site! The Wine Enthusiast is a great source of glassware, serving and preservation systems, in addition to self-contained wine cellars and other wine storage options. If you're not sure what you need, the company offers a list of 'Recommended' items that cover a wide range of needs through their home page.

Wine glasses, decanters and more: Many choices are available including Riedel and Spiegelau crystal stemware and decanters. Plus, there are many products to clean and care for your glassware.   


Serving and preserve your wine, from the most elegant decanters to chillers, coasters, drip savers and more. When we want wine by the glass (when we don't think we'll finish a bottle), we use the WineKeeper which automatically fills the bottle with nitrogen to preserve the wine.
Corkscrews Corkscrews and cork pullers are essential tools. Wine Enthusiast has a wide variety of devices including the traditional Laguiole corkscrew to the smooth Rabbit Corkscrew leverpull types. Storing your wine doesn't have to be difficult. Wine Enthusiast offers everything from free standing wine cellars to wine racks and cooling systems that can be installed in a closet or a corner of the basement.   
Finally, for great deals, don't forget to check out the clearance items and the Wine Cellar Outlet Store areas.


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