Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Soldera Brunello di Montalcino through the Ages (1981 - 2006): A tasting with Antonio Galloni

Neither of the Galloni back-to-back tastings of Italian wines (Mascarello and Soldera) held in London late last month was held at an Italian restaurant. And this was by design. According to Antonio, he wanted to show that these wines could compete with their peers in the finest restaurants in the world and provide quality accompaniment to the fare served therein.

The Soldera tasting was held at maze, the Gordon Ramsey restaurant resident at the Marriott Grovesnor Square in London's Mayfair district. The restaurant features Asian-influenced French cuisine. There were fewer attendees at this tasting than at the Mascarello tasting, allowing us all to be accommodated at the single large table that ran almost the entire length of the private room wherein the event was being held.

The tasting was organized into five thematic flights with the intent of allowing attendees to "trace the evolution of the wines and house styles all the way back to 1981." The flights were named and ordered as shown in the table below.

Inclusive Vintages
The Early Years
1981, 1982, 1987, 1988
Sleeper Vintages
2000 Riserva, 2003 Riserva, 2005 Riserva
The Mid-1990s
1993 Riserva, 1994 Riserva, 19995 Riserva, 1996 Riserva
Reference Points
1997 Riserva, 1999 Riserva, 2001 Riserva, 2004 Riserva
The Icons
1993 (Magnum), 1983 Riserva (Magnum), 1990 Riserva, 2006 Riserva

The Early Years
With the first Soldera wine being produced in 1975, the formative vintages are curated in this flight. The 1981 Soldera had a balsamic character, ripe fruit, leather, cigar, baked fruit compote, spices, dried herbs, and coriander on the nose. Bright red fruit on the palate along with orange peel. Full round mouthfeel. Citrus character becomes more apparent as wine evolves in the glass. The 1982 Soldera showed granny's attic, mushroom, forest floor, leather, and a slight portiness. Balsamic character on the palate along with red cherries, dried herbs, and bright acidity. A long sour finish. The 1987 Soldera was riddled with VA. Roughness and phenolics on the nose. Other characteristics masked by the VA. The 1988 Soldera had red berry, dried rose petals, coffee, and chocolate notes. Savory. Even distribution on the palate with dried herbs and a savoriness. Rustic but balanced. Long, sour finish.

The dish served with these wines was a Cumbrian Beef Tataki with Smoked Ponzu. This was an excellent dish.

Amuse Bouche

Cumbrian Beef Tataki

Sleeper Vintages
The 2000 Riserva had a rich nose which took a while to assert itself. Balsamic notes along with spice, dried herbs, and red fruit. Balanced on the palate with an elegant fruit/spice finish. Plum, dried herbs, and savoriness on the nose for the 2003 Riserva. On the palate ripe cherry, plum, licorice, and spice. The 2005 Riserva showed dark fruit, spice, and a hint of nail polish. Bark and intense dark fruit accompany a slight medicinal quality. Long, spicy finish.

The dish accompanying this flight was a Roast Turbot with Orzo, Mussels, and Saffron Sauce. This dish was smooth and elegant with a hint of curry. I was not sure that it paired well with the wines on offer.

The Mid-1990s
The 1993 had a balsamic note along with earth and a slight portiness. Core of bright, fresh red fruit which explodes on the palate. Silky tannins. Balanced with a drying sour finish. The 1994 Soldera had a lifted nose, rose petals, tar, black cherries, and herbs. Richness on the palate. Spice. Beautiful, flowing finish. The 1995 Soldera had a nose reminiscent of a  Penfolds Grange with sweet baking spices, grated coconut, and a layered complexity. Hint of sweetness on palate. Balanced. Lengthy finish. The 1996 Riserva showed dark berries, earth, licorice, and rusty rose petals. Black cherry and chocolate on the palate. Hint of sweetness. Layered. A 1995 Instieti was slipped into the tasting mix at this point. Rich red fruit, herbs, phenolics, green bark, and a hint of rosemary on the nose. Savory. Excellent balance. Spicy finish.

The accompanying dish was a duck breast with Truffle, Endives, and Chanterelle Mushrooms. This was an absolutely phenomenal dish. It looked like a steak but tasted duck. Tender and juicy, allowing the utensils to interact with it like a knife with butter.

Reference Points
The 1997 Riserva had black cherries on the nose, rust, herb and spice. Bigger on the palate both in terms of fruit and acid. Tamarind. Leather. Balanced high. The 1999 was a more structured wine than the 1997. Tar and dark fruit. Spice. Brooding. Powerful. Ripe tannins. Lengthy anise finish. The 2001 Riserva had an intense spiciness. Unctuous with tar and anise. Bright acidity with tamarind notes on palate. Rustic. Balanced. Weighty on palate with a long, sour finish. The 2004 vintage was cooler, with a later harvest and long growing season. According to Antonio, the hallmark of the vintage is incredible aromatics. On the nose, dried rose petals, sour cherries, and an oily richness. Sour cherries carry through to a complex, layered palate-feel. Silky tannins. Balanced with a rustic finish.

The accompanying dish served herein was Saddle of Herdwick Lamb with Spiced Aubergine and Raw Vegetables.

The Icons
The 1983 would have been made from the Instieti vineyard with the non-Riserva made in stainless steel and the Riserva in Oak. The 1983 and the 1983 Riserva both had prominent tamarind/sour cherry characteristics. The 1983 had dried herbs, earth, rose petals, dark fruit compote, spice, and a hint of phenolics on the nose. Clean palate. The first 1983 Riserva was corked and was replaced. Earth and forest floor, herbs, rose petals, and a rusticity. Rich. Intense. Lengthy finish. The 1990 Riserva exhibited tar, rose, anise, cedar, and spice on the nose. High-toned fruit. Sharp acidity. Beautiful on the palate with a long, elegant, toffee finish. This was the first year that Soldera made a Brunello from both his vineyards. The 2006 Riserva has a pungency on the nose with blue fruit, tree sap, and a hint of VA. Sour tamarind on palate. Lengthy, acidity-enabled finish.

This flight was paired with a Selection of Cheeses.


At the beginning of the tasting, Antonio told us the story of how Soldera had first come to his attention. He had gone to a Burgundy tasting in San Francisco where the attendees had brought the best and brightest of that varietal. One Somm in attendance could not afford to participate at that level and had brought a Soldera instead. In Antonio's view, the Soldera blew away all of the top Burgundies that night prompting to him to investigate, and become an adherent, post the event.

And, after this tasting, it was clear to see why Antonio had fallen under the spell of this wine. High quality across the board and basically variations on a theme. Even in the years when vintage effects significantly affect the quality of his competitors' products, Soldera manages to produce wines that are clearly recognizable as his. I kept all of my glasses during the course of the tasting and went back at the end to taste all of the wines. Even with some of the wines being in the glass for well over three hours, they had all retained their integrity.

The 2010 vintage -- which was widely acclaimed across Montalcino -- was not included in the tasting. And, according to Antonio, very few consumers will ever get a chance to taste Soldera's 2010 as the wine will only be bottled in 1.5L, 3L, and 5L packages and sold for charity.

A shout out to the Chef and his creations. The food sung.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

No comments:

Post a Comment