Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does my Favorite Thanksgiving Wine make me a Bad Person?

Of all of the wines I drank over the long Thanksgiving weekend, my favorite was, without question, a wine from Tuscany. My friend Mike most generously opened and shared his only bottle of 1990 Tignanello. Yes, I drank a Super-Tuscan, and I loved it. And I love the fact that I loved it.

Tignanello is not hipster wine. The card-carrying Natural Wine crown probably has little or no interest in Tignanello. Some of them would probably wave their hand at Tignanello, brush it aside. This is part of something that I find rather silly in the wine world right now - it can be clique-y and shallow, like high school. People identify with a group (think Goths, punks, hippies, jocks, etc.) and give themselves fully unto that group, ceasing to think for themselves. It becomes easy when you're a punk to assume that whatever the hippie or the jock said is lame. But did you really listen? Of course not.

Well, I listened to 1990 Tignanello, and I'm so happy that I did. As President Obama likes to say, "Let me be absolutely clear about this." The 1990 Tignanello I drank was a gorgeous wine. Mike decanted it an hour before we drank it, and I was worried that all that oxygen would deaden the wine. Not so. It was very much alive, and in my Burgundy glass it smelled like the fluffy underside of a well-worn very fine leather belt. There were tobacco notes too, and the mellowest of stewed red and orange fruits. This wine continued to blossom in the glass, so full of character and charm, such a complete and beautiful expression of mature red wine. Its fragrance stayed with me for quite a while after the last sip.

The new release of this wine, 2006 I think, costs about $80, and it seems that it will run you over $200 if you want to buy the 1990. So I'm not going to start filling my cellar with this stuff. But that wasn't my point anyway. What interests me here, outside of the beautiful moments of actually drinking this wine with friends and talking about it, is the idea that some people think there is something intrinsically wrong with Tignanello.

The Antinori growers and wine makers were amongst the very first to blend Tuscan Sangiovese with the non-native grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Tignanello contains about 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. Antinori's Tignanello was a big part of the beginning of the Super-Tuscan craze that ultimately ended with the huge Brunello scandal. Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi is an expert on the whole Brunello scandal, so check out his writings on the subject if it interests you.

Tignanello, by the way, is a vineyard of 47 hectares. Think about how big that is - 47 hectares. Imagine how many bottles they produce every year, bottles that retail for upwards of $75. We're talking about Bordeaux-type revenues, here.

Is this wine partly to blame for the bastardization of Tuscan wine? Is Tignanello bad? And if it is bad, can it still taste good? The 1990 tasted great, that much I can tell you.

15 comments:

Levi D said...

I remember 1990.

Robert De Niro was amazing in Goodfellas, a movie released in 1990.

Unfortunately, I don't often find Mr. De Niro's current work as inspiring.

Joe said...

I'm sick of people knocking down straw men. Which members of the card-carrying natural wine crowd are you talking about? Who's terrorizing you? Alice, Jenny or Jorge at 10 Bells?

Who do you know who has stopped thinking for themselves and is now mindlessly following the dictates of Alice, Jenny or Jorge?

Someone needs to become the Glen Beck of the wine set. Who is up for the challenge?

Will people soon be carrying posters of Marcel Lapierre with a Hitler moustache penciled in?

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Levi - I hear you. Although I'm very much looking forward to seeing him in the remake of the Italian classic "Everybody's Fine," by the guy who made Cinema Paradiso. Just kidding - not looking forward to it.

Hey Joe - No one is terrorizing me, not at all. I think for myself and everyone I've met in the wine trade, including and especially Alice, Jenny, and you, are welcoming and kind to me. In fact, the first time I've ever been addressed in an even slightly obnoxious tone regarding wine was just now, in your comment.

There are people who like to make sweeping, and often times uninformed statements about wine, same an in any other field. And people like to be told what to do, what to buy, what to drink. I am an advocate of thinking for one's self, that's all. Some would say Tignanello isn't worth drinking based on what others say, not based on tasting. That's not the way I want to think about wine.

I've read your comments on other blogs, comments that are similar to the one you left here. I respect and agree with the notion that it's lame to jump on the bandwagon attacking Parker, or on any bandwagon. I certainly respect you as an intelligent and reasonable voice about wine.

But your comment invites a back and forth that would read more like an argument than an exchange of ideas. I would have to justify my point to you by telling you who said or did what, you would then reply with more questions...I've seen this play out elsewhere. It's the kind of thing that people like to watch unfold, they write comments like "More popcorn please."

I don't view myself or my blog that way - this place is about telling stories and exchanging ideas, not about asserting and defending opinions. If you want to talk more about why I wanted to make the point I made, feel free to email or call me anytime and we can talk offline about it.

fillay said...

I had a similar experience with Sammarco. A buddy of mine was wine director at RM a few years ago, and the one time I ate there he poured me a glass - I don't recall the vintage, but it was probably from the mid-1990s. I had had little recent experience with cab at that point (and none with super Tuscans), and the wine was a revelation. I have no interest in buying any - partly because of the steep costs of entry, and partly because of subsequently-developed prejudices along the lines you discuss that make me second-guess my palate. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of what I think of as "good cab" goes back to that moment...

Timothy said...

I'm glad to see this post. I was getting a bit annoyed last week at the new obsession with Jura (everywhere!) and thinking how similar wine really is to indie music, or any other hip fettish all about finding something more obscure

good to see a counterpoint based on quality alone! Cheers!

the only comment i'd have is that if the blog is trying to truly be above the fray, you shouldn't feel the need to qualify your review of Tignanello by exclaiming it's not "hipster" wine. In doing so you are essentailly saying, "i know you come to my site to read about hip wines, and this is not one of those, but it's still good". it sounds like you are trying to make sure people know that YOU know you wouldn't drink this normally; I realize this is not your intention but it comes off this way when the post is constructed as such. I really like and respect your reviews and viewpoints on wine, and often agree with them, so, your review should carry enough weight on it's own without the qualifiers.

Lastly, tasting many different styles is the ONLY way to know what you like, so those who will only drink a specific set of name-checked wines are really just missing out on refining their pallettes.

Do Bianchi said...

I've tasted that wine a number of times and 1990 was a great vintage for it. I don't think the wine is blame for the bastardization of Tuscan wine: the blame lies with the avarice who saw the opportunities created by wines like Tignanello. I certainly don't belong to the natural wine police but I also know that I often patently dismiss wines like Tignanello on my blog. And so, for what it's worth, chapeau bas to you BrooklynGuy for keeping it real in Brooklyn! Your fan always, J

michele colline said...

Three hundred and fifty thousand bottles in 2006 and priced at 54 euro.

Brooklynguy said...

hi fillay - that's a nice story and i completely know what you mean. its like any other memory that defines your perception of something. thanks for the comment.

hi Timothy - thanks for this interesting comment, and for your kind words. i remember you from the spring, you were interested in an inexpensive Provence wine for a wedding...i hope that worked out for you.

i know what you mean about the Jura - lately the wines are ubiquitous on the blogs. Some of that is because the wines are fantastic and still obscure enough so that a blogger's writing encourages other bloggers to get acquainted/reacquainted. Some of it is bandwagon stuff, yes.

When you say that i "qualify" my review of the Tignanelloe wine, I don't see it that way. I was merely trying to describe the wine, give it a context. Not justify or qualify my decision to include it on the blog. Perhaps I am pocking at nits, but I do so only because I don't try to write about hipster wines, or not trying to. i write about what i like or what i'm thinking about. but i appreciate what you were trying to say, and thanks again for the kind words.

hey Jeremy - thanks for these insightful words, and for your follow up post, most informative as usual.

Hi michele colline - that's an astounding amount of money. thanks for clearing that up.

Clarke said...

I really, truly, unironically like Def Leppard and Journey.

Levi D said...

Don't Stop Believin', unless it is costing you 54 Euros.

Deetrane said...

If it makes any difference, I'm pretty sure I bought these bottles for about $50 each on Wine Commune. I had to drive out to a gas station on Staten Island to pick them up. Never Pay Retail!

peter said...

I KNEW you'd like Tignanello. With the right amount of age on it, it's pure pleasure.

Rampolla's Sammarco doesn't do it for me, but their Vigna d'Alceo is freaking sublime. Italian wines taste to me the way California wines really really wish they could be, but can't. Some- more lately, it seems- are made too much on the bruiser end of the spectrum, but with age they go to elegant places that make for captivating drinking.

JonathanNYC said...

Cheers to you to have dared point a finger at the clique-y, polarized character of the wine world! I can't say how proud I am of you to read that you're enjoying a wine that the terroir crowd (I don't dare use stupid RPs term) would frown upon. People are too often towing party lines it seems. There must be some middle ground between what seem two irreconcilable groups, each plagued by a myopic closed-mindedness. If you liked that Tignanello, that's all that matters. Robert Parker needs for his palate to grow up a bit, and the concept of terroir is so vague that it precludes what might be excellent wine such as this, and seems to outlaw the entire SuperTuscan phenomenon. You're taking shit for this post--but I say, bravo; bravo, good man.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right when you say that card-carrying members of such and such wine group stopped thinking about what they're drinking...

It's about time people recognize the beauty of diversity. Ironically, what began as an apology for "difference" and "variety" became quickly an orthodox way of thinking... What's more funny is, among the many people who have had very little exposure to wines and who drink with me, the majority likes both the Bordeaux and Riojas I uncork equally as much as the Loire gamay-based wines, or the oxidized Friulian and orange wines which are becoming the rage in some circles...

Meaning, people with open minds who don't have the necessity to belong to this or that fad to feel "cool" have it the best...

Giacomo said...

I really wanted to like Tignanello, but I had a 2003 early this year and it simply was not very good. It was hot and overbearing.

I know it wasn't the best vintage, but then again, Tignanello is only meant to be bottled in the best years per Antinori!