While the holiday season was quieter this year than in recent memory, it has taken a while to post this Highlights of 2020 Red Wines, a companion piece to the December post that talked about whites. If you read to the end here, you’ll know why.
The Top Ten red wines I drank in 2020 – a year which did not see much action, granted, given the big chunk of time and all the great events that lockdown ate – were chosen for sentimental reasons.
The first (drum roll please!) is Amor, a Cesanese del Piglio DOCG made by L’Avventura and drunk at the winery itself. Or better, at the agriturismo-restaurant Casale Verdeluna, the lovely relais de charme associated with the winery in the town of Piglio, just an hour outside Rome. L’Avventura is a young winery, but they’ve hit upon a winner: the native grape variety of Cesanese (di Afile and comune), the only red DOCG in Lazio. If you visit their site, you will see that they are called L’Avventura: Produttori di felicità and they do produce happiness, right along with several expressions of Cesanese.
The next wine was sipped at the annual event Siena & Wine, usually held in January, but alas!, this year we will not have the pleasure of sipping new vintages while admiring great art. Last year, I had fun tasting – and here it is # 2 –Caiarossa, a Bordeaux blend Super Tuscan from Riparbella, near the coast in the province of Pisa, a stone’s throw from Cecina. My face here says it all: is it finished? Please, sir, can I have some more?
A few weeks later, in February 2020, we were still blithely tasting at events like the Chianti Anteprima. There is where I sipped some old faves, such as Renzo Marinai (with Renzo himself!) and Monsanto… I must admit, I’m hard pressed to pick favorites in the Chianti Classico denomination, but these two have a special place in my heart.
This was also right around the time that I discovered Tenuta Il Corno’s 100% Colorino, dedicated to current owner Maria Giulia Frova’s grandfather. Paired with that splendid bistecca alla fiorentina that was thrown onto the blazing grill, ‘twas a match made in heaven!
When lockdown set in, it was time to experiment: with ordering online, with ordering non-Italian wines. This lovely Spier 1692 Pinotage brought back memories of trips through South African wine country. That’s what is so great about wines, terroir, travel and taste: sipping is a virtual vacation every time!
One evening this bottle of Tasca d’Almerita’s Cygnus, a ‘Super Sicilian’ blend of Nero d’Avola and Cabernet Sauvignon, named for the swans Richard Wagner admired so much at Villa Tasca, where he finished Parsifal (I admired those swans at Villa Tasca too!) This wine brought all of the warmth and complexity of Sicily into our kitchen. Memories, like the corners of my mind… like sundrenched days on the Mediterranean’s biggest island.
Once we were able to get out and about, I was introduced to this little gem, Tenuta di Biserno’s Insoglio del Cinghiale Campo di Sasso. This is a Bordeaux-style blend made in Bibbona (which is province of Livorno quite near Bolgheri). What may have made me fall in love with it is the 43% Cabernet Franc and I am so partial to the Franc. The rest is Syrah 32% Merlot 23% and Petit Verdot 2%. This winery was created by Lodovico Antinori (the one behind Ornellaia) in 1995. Need I say more?
Another thing to keep in mind is the price-quality ratio. Pardon me if I’ve said this before, but in 2020 we didn’t drink a bad bottle, a cheap bottle, because we never knew if it would be our last (the old ‘life is too short to drink bad wine’ theory). But we also didn’t crack out the really superlative vintages, because, well, the occasions were lacking and the spirit wasn’t right. Kind of like the Three Little Bears, we aimed for ‘just right’ – and all of these wines are that. Don’t take my word for it, just try any and all of the wines listed here. And oh, just because in the Santa style ranking ‘who’s been naughty or nice’ list I came out on top, look what I got to start off 2021 with:
Tasting these three Brunellos was a highlight – the enticing deep ruby red color, a complex nose with hints of cherries under spirits, charred wood, cloves, tobacco, a woodsy intensity… and then after breathing a while, the ripe plum. With elegant tannins and a velvet mouthfeel, the 2016 vintage surpasses even the eye-popping 2015. And imagine how they’ll be after 15 years in the cellar! These three bottles from Donatella Cinelli Colombini, who is also President of the Association of the Women of Wine!
Things are starting to look up…