Photo: Tenuta Argentiera's Jeanette Servidio
There is a small vineyard area on Italy
Tuscan coast called Bolgheri that has more in common with Bordeaux
than with Tuscany
This appellation is dominated not by Sangiovese – as it was
years ago - but rather by Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The producers here make red
wines every bit as elegant and collectible as Bordeaux’s top reds.
The fifth largest winery in the appellation, Tenuta
Argentiera, recently sent its sales and marketing manager, Jeanette Servidio,
to host vertical tastings in various cities, including Vancouver, of six vintages of its flagship
wine, Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore, along with two other reds it makes.
They are worth seeking out as exemplars of the superb quality of
Bolgheri reds. Because Tenuta Argentiera is not as well known as some other producers,
its flagship wine is not nearly as expensive as Sassicaia, the wine that put
Bolgheri on the map.
Tenuta Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore 2008 is available in
private stores in Vancouver
for about $70 a bottle. The British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch lists
three better-known Bolgheri wines. Sassicaia is $199 a bottle; Ornellaia is
$190; and a Bolgheri from Guado al Tasso is $94. I can’t imagine how much
Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda would sell for if it were listed.
The roots of Sassicaia go back to 1944 when Italian Marchese
della Rocchetta planted Cabernet Sauvignon in the region now known
as Bolgheri. It was then a variety not allowed in any Italian appellation.
However, he was not producing a commercial wine but only a very fine wine for
personal consumption in his household.
In time, the Marchese’s
son and a nephew, Piero Antinori, convinced him to release the wine
commercially, beginning with the 1968 vintage. Ten years later, Hugh Johnson
and two other British wine writers organized a blind tasting of Sassicaia 1972
against a number of Bordeaux
reds. Sassicaia won, drawing serious consumer and collector interest to
Such were the
appellation rules in Tuscany
that Cabernet-based wines like Sassicaia were sold as "table wines". It was only
1994 when DOC, or appellation, was established, enabling producers to give
their wines the prestige of appellation.
takes its name from the village
of Bolgheri. Many of the
vineyards are on slopes between nearby mountains and the ocean. The vineyards
on the mountainside grow in stony soil: “sasso” is the Italian word for stony
field that inspired the name of Sassicaia. The lower slopes have richer soil,
with clay and limestone. The long hang time here is ideal for maturing
late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.
the only one in Italy
based on French grape varieties, is fairly small, with about 1,000 hectares of
grapes. However, there are 48 wineries here, with Tenuta Argentiera farming 60
hectares. The winery is named for the silver mines that once operated in the
first vintage was 2003 and is no longer available. Ms. Servidio’s vertical consisted
of wines from 2004 through 2009. Some six-bottle verticals can be purchased
through the winery’s Vancouver
agent, Appellation Wine Marketing.
vintage variations, the wines have a familial and elegant personality. The
aromas and flavours have an abundance of black cherry, blackberry, coffee,
vanilla and, in the case of 2009, even a touch of licorice. None scored less
than 91, either on my score sheet or from other wine critics.
The savoury Tenuta Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore 2008
(92 points) is a full-bodied and powerful red from an excellent vintage. The
2009, not yet in this market, is already appealing but needs a few years in the
cellar to develop fully. That being said, the winery holds the wines, after 18
months in barrel, in bottle another year before releasing them. That means the
impatient can enjoy the wines on release.
two other reds as well which are offered by some private wine stores in the Vancouver market. These
are bargain Bolgheri wines.
Tenuta Argentiera Poggio al Ginepri 2009 ($29) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon,
Syrah and Merlot. It also has the elegance that is this winery’s house style,
along with aromas of spice, red fruit and vanilla, with flavours of red fruit
and with luscious textures. There are notes on spice and licorice on the
Tenuta Argentiera Villa Donoratica 2010 ($37). This is a blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine is bold, with brambly blackberry
and cherry aromas; with black cherry and blackberry flavours and with a long,
savoury and spicy finish. 91.