Vineyards at Chiappini Estate, Bolgheri
Picture courtesy Chiappini
The Bolgheri production zone may be located in Tuscany, but it’s an entire various world compared to the best-known red wine areas of the region such as Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano. Initially, it’s situated near the sea, unlike those other areas which are inland. Second of all, lots of vineyards in Bolgheri are planted on plots less than 200 feet above water level, while vineyards in Chianti Classico and Montalcino are regularly situated from 1200-1600 feet (and greater) altitude.
However the most crucial difference in between Bolgheri and the inland zones is that Bolgheri is mostly planted to Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, unlike the rest of Tuscany were Sangiovese controls; there is Sangiovese planted in Bolgheri, however that varietal is a lesser one in this seaside location.
Bolgheri likewise has a shorter history than the majority of Tuscan wine zones, as the first wine produced here remained in the 1940s, although the Bolgheri wine market for all intents and function started with the 1968 vintage, with the very first industrial release of Sassicaia. That white wine got remarkable important praise, both for its quality along with its individuality – here was a premium Tuscan red which contained no Sangiovese – and literally put Bolgheri on the viticultural map.
Numerous producers soon purchased land here and as critics and consumers learned what could be done here with Bordeaux varietals, Bolgheri became one of Italy’s essential and highly regarded red wine areas. Today there are 65 white wine estates that call Bolgheri house, and a few of the white wines produced here, such as Sassicaia from Tenuta San Giudo, Ornellaia and Grattamacco are legendary.
There are 2 standard categories of red wine here: Bolgheri Rosso and Bolgheri Superiore. The former represents 64% of overall production in the appellation, while Bolgheri Rosso – which has a somewhat higher minimum alcohol level and is aged longer prior to release than a Bolgheri Rosso, accounts for 19% of overall production of Bolgheri DOC.
The most widely planted varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), followed by Merlot (22.2%), Cabernet Franc (15.8%) and Petit Verdot (4.8%), while Sangiovese, Tuscany’s the majority of extensively planted and best-known varietal, represent just 1.2% of overall plantings in the Bolgheri production zone.
While I am dealing only with red white wines in this article, it must be kept in mind that white wines are likewise an important part of Bolgheri, accounting for 13% of the total production, with Vermentino being the leading white varietal at just under 10% of overall plantings; Sauvignon (Blanc) is the other primary white here, can be found in at a little under one percent of the area’s plantings.
Here are notes on existing releases of Bolgheri Rosso and Bolgheri Superiore:
Le Macchiole 2020 – Over the past decade, Bolgheri Rosso has actually altered from ripe and powerful to a more elegant wine; here is an outstanding example. A mix of Red wine (50%), Syrah (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (15%). Medium-full, this is an elegantly styled blend with medium-weight, harmonious tannins, restrained wood notes and very good determination. Approachable now, though better in 2-3 years, with peak in 5-8 years. (92 )
Donna Olimpia 1898 – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Fragrances of black plum, black currant, purple iris and a tip of mocha. Medium-full, this uses ripe black fruit, excellent acidity, medium-full tannins and ample wood notes. This requires time to calm down and shed a few of its tannic youth. Peak in 5-7 years. (91 )
Chiappini “Felciaino” 2020 – A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Red wine, 15% Cabernet Franc. Medium bodied with remarkable depth of fruit on the taste buds, very good acidity, well-integrated wood notes and very good perseverance; there are notes of pepper, bitter chocolate and plum in the surface. Very fine typicity and Bolgheri design. Delight in over the next 3-6 years. (92 )
Guado al Tasso, Bolgheri
Image © Tom Hyland
Guado al Tasso “Bruciato” 2020 – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Syrah and small quantities of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Scents of black and red plum, sweet cherries and vanilla. Medium-full, this is wonderfully stabilized with great acidity, evident oak notes, outstanding ripeness and very good persistence; the surface is clean and supple. Provide this another 2-3 years and then take pleasure in with many red meats or richer video game birds over the next 6-10 years. (92 )
Michele Satta – A blend of Sangiovese (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Red Wine (20%), Syrah (10%) and Teroldego (10%). Aromas of black cherry, black plum, myrtle and a tip of clove. Medium-full with excellent concentration, with outstanding ripeness, really well-integrated wood notes, excellent acidity, and medium-weight, rounded tannins. There is an enticing note of bitter chocolate in the finish. Perfectly styled, this is friendly now, but will improve with another year or 2 in the bottle, with peak drinking in 6-8 years. Exceptional worth. (91 )
Grattamacco 2021 – A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Red wine and 10% Sangiovese. Brilliant aromas of morel cherry, strawberry jam, red plum and a hints of cinammon and nutmeg. Displaying an abundant mid-palate, great acidity, significant persistence, wonderfully incorporated oak and well-balanced, medium-weight tannins, this is extremely well made and shows the beauty and class of the 2021 vintage. This requires rich red meat for a pairing for tonight; finest to let this round out a bit and soften for another 2-3 years, with peak in 6-8 years. (92 )
Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove di Ornellaia 2020 – Appealing aromas of black cherry, black plum, myrtle and tips of tobacco and fig. Medium-full with exceptional concentration; Beautifully incorporated oak notes, great acidity, medium-full silky tannins and notable persistence. Excellent Bolgheri typicity and wonderful harmony. Even at this young phase, the wine is delicious! This will be even much better in another 2-3 years with peak in 8-10 years. For a good deal less cash than Ornellaia, this is an exceptional value. (93 )
Podere Sette “Il Superbo” 2019 – A mix of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bright medium-deep ruby red with a hint of purple; aromas of black plum, black cherry and black orchid. Medium-full with very good concentration. Ideal ripeness; this has scrumptious fruit, very good acidity, remarkable persistence, exceptional complexity and significant typicity. This has such gorgeous harmony and is quite appealing now. Peak in 6-8 years. Excellent Value (92 )
Donna Olimpia 1898 “Millepassi” – A mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot; grown in French oak, 50% new. Fragrances of black plum, black olives, black raspberry and clove. Medium-full with outstanding concentration. Wonderfully appointed and harmonious Bolgheri Superiore with outstanding ripeness, great level of acidity, remarkable perseverance, magnificently integrated wood notes and creamy tannins. Beautiful white wine that is extremely well structured. Peak in 15-18 years. (94 )
Campo alla Sughera “Amione” 2019 – Sourced from the very best plots at Campo alla Sughera, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Bright, stunning medium extreme ruby red; lovely aromas of blackcurrant, cigar and violet. Medium-full with excellent to outstanding concentration, perfect ripeness, very good level of acidity; medium-full tannins that are magnificently balanced and silky; effectively integrated wood notes and exceptional perseverance; the surface uses notes of black cherry, black berry and a hint of cassis. Exceptional consistency and outstanding typicity. Perfectly made, this is very enticing now, however will display higher character in another 6-10 years; peak in 10-15 years. (94 )
Campo alle Comete 2017 – A mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; matured for 18 months in tonneau. Scents of sour cherry, red currant, molasses and hints of myrtle and soy. Medium-full with extremely excellent concentration. The entry on the taste buds is rather classy; there is great acidity, medium-full, nicely balanced tannins; well-integrated wood notes and excellent perseverance. Lovely consistency and complexity, as big a wine as this is, there is a good sense of skill. Offer a few years to round out, with peak in 12-15 years, maybe longer. (93 )
Guado al Tasso 2019 – A mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Cabernet Franc and a small percentage of Petit Verdot. Captivating fragrances of black cherry, black plum, roasted coffee beans and vanilla. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration, there are wonderfully balanced tannins, very good level of acidity, nicely incorporated wood notes and very good determination; the finish provides notes of mocha and fruit protects. Rather classy, this will benefit from another 2-5 years in the bottle, with peak in 10-12 years. (92 )
Grattamacco 2019 – A mix of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Red wine, 15% Sangiovese. Rich scents of black currant, black cherry, black plum and a hint of pepper. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate, this is firmly covered, showing company, well-balanced tannins, excellent acidity, excellent persistence, well-integrated wood notes and a powerful finish. This is an exceptional representation of the Grattamacco style from this exceptional vintage. Offer 3-5 years to let it settle; peak in 15-20 years. (95 )
Michele Satta “Piastraia” 2019 – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Syrah and Sangiovese. Scents of black cherry, black plum, violets and a tip of graphite. This provides excellent ripeness, excellent level of acidity, well incorporated wood notes and exceptional determination; the finish shows notes of plum, black currant and a tip of fig. Excellent harmony and typicity, this is amongst the really finest of all 2019 Bolgheri Superiore. This is so well balanced, that it is appealing to take in now, however patience will reward those who can wait another 4-5 years, with peak drinking in 15-18 years. (96 )
Barrels at Ornellaia, Bolgheri
Photo © Tom Hyland
Ornellaia 2019 – A blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Intense, bright purple; scents of black cherry, black plum, clove and black peony. Medium-full with exceptional concentration, there are abundant tannins, very good level of acidity, notable persistence, well-integrated wood notes and noteworthy Ornellaia style. This is rather excellent, but at present the white wine requires to settle, as the level of acidity levels are quite high. Maybe not as fantastic as some current vintages such as 2016 and 2018, this is however, a remarkable white wine, one that has the structure to age for 15-25 years. (94 )
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2019 – A mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; aged for more than 20 months, primarily in French barriques, with a small percentage of American oak. Rich scents of black plum, fig, cumin and a hint of tobacco. Medium-full with outstanding concentration, the mid-palate is layered and there is impressive structure. Displaying perfect ripeness, great level of acidity, beautifully integrated wood notes and medium-full tannins that are perfectly handled, this is an outstanding variation of Sassicaia, among the very best of the years. This has the structure and packing to cellar for a minimum of 25-30 years. Superb! (96 )