Lifestyle: Supertuscan and the Galatrona
Super Tuscans are an intriguing breed, at least for the novice sampler. What makes a wine a Super Tuscan and who decides what Tuscan wines are Super? Super Tuscans are not a category recognized under the official Italian wine classification structure, and the phrase has certainly developed through anecdotal application. It is unclear who coined the moniker and when it was coined, although James Suckling believes it was Burton Anderson writing for WS in the 1980s. The “Super Tuscan” description is not simply a comparative statement of quality of an exceptional Tuscan wine vs. one of average or poor quality, and to understand its usage we need to delve a little into the rules that govern wine-making. Wine-making in old world European countries is a heavily, heavily regulated endeavor. These days the barefoot vintner is less likely to be under the Tuscan sun strolling his vineyards and busier dealing with inspectors and trying to comply with the rules. There are stipulated standards around all aspects of wine-making from grape-growing to vinification, blending and bottling. There are tomes of rules setting out how a wine can classified as a wine from a particular region and of a certain quality. For example, a Chianti Classico can only be made from Sangiovese grapes produced in a specifically demarcated region of Chianti, comprising at least 80% of the final wine. A typical Bordeaux-blend of Cab Sav and Merlot from grapes grown in Chianti, would not be able to describe itself as a Chianti, and before the 1990s, would simply have to be designated as “vino da tavola”, or simple table wine. Some of the finest Tuscan wines which have achieved cult status such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia or Masseto, began life as “vino da tavola” as they are made outside the strict rules enabling them to qualify as quality wines from particular regions in Tuscany. These Tuscan tables wines of exceptional quality gave rise to the application of the term “Super Tuscan”. In 1992, a further category called “IGT- Indicazione Geografica Tipica” was created to be used in connection with wine from a specific region, and it is now common to see Super Tuscan using the IGT classification on their label.
Now this Discerning but novice taster has not yet had the good fortune to sample too many Sassicais, Massetos or Ornellaias but was very fortunate- with a little none-too-subtle arm-twisting- to be offered a few glasses of a very enchanting Super Tuscan. Petrolo Galatrona IGT is made of 100% Merlot grapes from Luca Sanjust’s Tenuta di Petrolo estate. Petrolo sits in Mercatale Valdarno, in the cooler hills of Chianti not far from Florence and Siena- this is classic Tuscany…think rolling hills, ancient watchtowers, cobblestones, olive trees, crumbling walls, beautiful wine….and beautiful is definitely an apt descriptor of the Petrolo Galatrona. Back in Smart Money’s crumbling patio littered with the fruit of the bling bling tree, we have the 2007 staring us down. Excited, we manage a basic decant and it isn’t long before we have the inky crimson purple wine filling our glasses. The nose comes upon us as a wave of intense crimson violets, deep dark damson fruit, cassis, perhaps crushed blackberries, black cherries, and underpinned by a well-integrated vanilla tone. It is intoxicatingly elegant from the start. We sip the wine and it is obvious to even us novices that we are onto a classic here- there is plenty of elegance and refinement in the black fruit and cassis on the palate. As we allow the wine room to breathe, it continues its journey on the nose and palate, into intense perfumed floral notes, hints of dark chocolate, and with layers of ever pervasive cassis. Tannins and acids are well in balance. The tannins are smooth, integrated, silky and soft but yet with some firmness to lend good structure. Just beautiful.
Tenuta di Petrolo sits in the Sangiovese heartland and produces mostly Sangiovese dominant wines including the 100% Sangiovese, Boggina. Galatrona is Petrolo’s flagship Merlot and is made from very low-yielding Merlot vines planted in the 1990s. The wine spends 18 months new French oak. At 100% Merlot, the Petrolo Galatrona has been likened by Suckling as the Italian Le Pin, but at a price that won’t leave a gaping hole in your pocket.
Dusk is settling upon the bling bling tree, a breeze gathers its unswept leaves below a lone tomato creeper. The Galatrona 2007 has been savoured to its last drop and soon enough we’ll be out hunting for more vintages of Petrolo Galatrona.
2007 Petrolo Galatrona (WS 98; WE 98).
Tasted 26 December 2013