- Palate Mark Protheroe (MP), Ashley Boburka (AB), Joshua Elias (JE)
- Photographer James Morgan
- Illustrator Marg Cary
- Location The Mural Room at Grossi Florentino, Melbourne
Discourse on the Tides of Tuscany
Almost four hundred years after Galileo wrote of the oceans and their tides, we trace the ebb and flow of a more recent phenomenon: premium Tuscan wine.
To provide context and a decidedly Italian flavour, our tasting panel is joined by sommelier extraordinaire Mark Protheroe (MP) of the Grossi Group and sommelier Ashley Boburka (AB) of Melbourne’s Rosetta.
It was 1933 when Rinaldo Massoni commissioned the renowned Australian artist Napier Waller to paint eleven murals inspired by sixteenth century Renaissance life in Italy. Depicting legends such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo di Vinci, these works still adorn the walls of the modern day restaurant, Grossi Florentino. They also form a rich part of the heritage landscape in Melbourne; the murals—as well as the building in which they reside—are protected under state legislation. In a temperature-controlled vault adjoining the now famous Mural Room, an iconic wine list adds to the romance surrounding these artworks. Thusly, it seemed apt that we conduct our study of Tuscan wines in such a place: one washed in antiquity, spirit and emphatically Italian flavours.
Never afraid to challenge expectation, Italian wine producers have long held a reputation for being both staunchly traditional and earnestly innovative. This status, far from negative, has earned Italian wine the esteem and affection of consumers worldwide; Italy often comes to mind when discussing objectively desirable and respected winemaking regions. As the most widely planted grape variety in Italy, it is perhaps unsurprising that sangiovese has become somewhat synonymous with the flavours of Italian wine. As wine drinkers, our familiarity with sangiovese is commonly coaxed by the monikers of chianti classico, brunello di montalcino and ‘super Tuscan’, the last of which—as constituted by James Suckling—is the least legalistic but perhaps the most commercially utilised. However, these terms do not cement the character or precise Vitis formula of the wines they classify. While sangiovese—black, thick-skinned and indigenous to Tuscany—is most certainly central to the aforementioned classifications, the degree to which it is present in such wines varies greatly between labels. That is not to say that these designations are viewed—or applied—lightly. Surprise, surprise: Italy is amok with legislation, albeit of a vinous and perhaps opaque nature.
In spite of official adornments and decrees of quality, few universal truths apply to Tuscany. Nevertheless, the selection of wine we have happened upon speaks of the newer chapters in a long line of hallowed winemaking turf. These wines are a dichotomy: crafted by faithful sangiovese believers and outliers of obscure varieties, they are at once traditional and contemporary. They share nothing and yet they share everything—welcome to Tuscany.
Isole e Olena ‘Cepparello’ Toscana IGT 2010 14.5 %
100 % Sangiovese
Alquimie's Favourite Wine
As the first wine in the bracket, it sets a great yardstick. This wine encapsulates a lot of the things that you want to see in a sangiovese-based wine. It has the dark olives, the plums, baked clay, roasted meat and some dried herbs—thyme in particular. The freshness of the fruit is evident as well: it is not baked or over-ripe. On the palate the wine has a consommé-like intensity to it. It occupies this lovely space between modern and traditional—there’s a little of both camps thrown in there but this wine offers a rather balanced take on that style. Certainly one of the best releases I’ve seen from this particular producer. MP
Aromas of dried flowers, violets, chalk and schist are present in the glass at first instance. On the palate there are flavours of cherries, vanillin and a creaminess of oak that doesn’t interfere with texture, tannins or acidity. It is harmonious. A wine with lovely line and an elegant palate: balanced sawtooth tannins and refreshing sourness. There is immense equilibrium on the palate—it is a wine of total engagement for the senses. JE
It is transparent and pure in what it is showing. This wine is perhaps the most expressive of vineyard—it is my favourite of the bunch. AB