Friday, January 3, 2014

Solaia vertical tasting: The winery and the wine

"Of all the super-Tuscans, no wine today has higher prestige than Solaia, which was created ... by the ... powerful and visionary house of Antinori." So said David Rosengarten writing in the Huffington Post (6/21/13) on a NYC Solaia vertical tasting. While I do not agree with David on his placement of Solaia on the top of the prestige heap (I am pretty partial to Masseto), his point of the importance of Solaia in that space is well taken; and it is that regard that I am putting together a Solaia vertical tasting in Orlando on January 25th. I will be reporting on the results of that tasting on the blog but wanted to provide relevant background material ahead of time. Hence this post.

According to the company's website, the Antinori family has been associated with wine since at least 1835 when Giovanni de Piero Antinori became a memebr of the Florentine Winemakers Guild. The family's current Italian holdings include seven estates spread over Tuscany and Umbria, with four of the seven Tuscan properties falling within the Chainti Classico DOCG. One of these four estates is Tignanello, the joint home of Antinori's Tignanello and Solaia wines.

Tignanello is located 30 km (19 miles) south of Florence and its 319 ha (788 acres) supports 127 ha (320 acres) of vineyards of which 20 ha (50 acres) is dedicated to the production of Solaia ("the sunny one") fruit. The Solaia vineyard is planted on limestone and calcareous clay rock (albarese) at altitudes ranging between 348 and 400 m (1175 and 1325 feet) on southwest-facing slopes. The vineyards are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (15 ha), Sangiovese (4 ha), and Cabernet Franc (1 ha) with an average vine age of 15 years. The vines are low spurred-cordon trained and are planted at between 5500 and 7200 vines/ha.

Solaia, an IGT-clasified wine, was first produced in 1978, a production run of 3600 bottles with a composition of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. The wine was not produced in 1980 or 1981 but, beginning with the 1982 vintage, the blend was shifted to 20% Sangiovese with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varied according to the requirements of the winemaker. In 2002, the wine was made of an all-Cabernet blend because the Sangiovese was deemed to be of insufficient quality. The standard blend in today's Solaia is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Franc.

The Solaia winemaking process is illustrated below.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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