The toast of Tuscany? – Fonterutoli tasting at the Mystere Wine Club

I am trying to do more posts that focus on wine (rather than referring to it as an aside) on the blog, mainly because wine is my passion (I can hear an “oh God” emanating from J as I write this – she is quite dismissive of my “boring” wine posts).

The majority of post will still be about food, but I am going to try and do a few more posts each year which are all about the wines I have drunk.

I go to at least one wine tasting a month, so there is plenty of info to collate. As I can barely read my own writing, the blog makes for an excellent reference catalogue for me (I know it’s all about me, me, me).

If I am honest posts on wine are not the most popular of posts on the blog (so J may have a point🙄), but if I wrote the blog on the basis of a popularity contest I would have probably given up the ghost years ago!

Anyhow a new year brings a new round of wine tastings at the two wine tasting clubs I am a member of (the Mystere Wine Club in Cardiff and the Jeroboam Club in Bristol) and there is much to look forward to in the schedules of both.

First up was a tasting at the Mystere Wine Club of Fonterutoli wines (from Tuscany – with the vineyards located in between Florence and Siena), an estate that has been in the hands of the Mazzei family since 1435. Now that is what I call a dynasty!

As ever with the Mystere Wine Club, the wines on offer were an excellent cross section of the winery’s offering and vintages.

The wines

No 10 Toscana IGT 2014

The 2014 vintage was not a great one in Tuscany, with it not matching the preceding 2013 vintage and being easily superceded by the superlative 2015 vintage.

As a result I wasn’t expecting too much from this entry level wine of the Mazzei Estate.

A blend of 90% merlot and 10% sangiovese (from vines between 12 – 25 years old), this wines was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels (a third new oak). First impressions were good, with it having a decent nose with red berries to the fore.

On the palate there was a nice freshness to it (belying the majority merlot in the blend), with red cherry coming through. Still quite alot of tannins in the mix, which drew back the lips a bit, but not enough to really detract.

Not a wow wine, but good value for money and I would buy this now as a pretty good everyday wine. Would be great with a pizza or meatballs in tomato sauce.

Despite the tannins, I doubt it will develop much. One to drink now with food.

Price: Around the £11 – £12 mark..

Ser Lapo Chiant Classico Riserva 2014

Interesting history behind the name of this wine, with the Ser Lapo the name of an ancestor of the Mazzei family who is accredited with the first ever documented mention of chianti wine back in 1398 (some serious history here).

From 10 – 30 year old vines, the wine is aged for 12 months (according to the Mazzei website) in small french oak barrels (50% new oak) and is a blend of sangiovese (90%) and merlot (10%).

As a Chianti riserva wine, the requirement is for it to be aged for a minimum of 24 months in the winery, including 3 months in bottle.

The nose was quite restrained, with a bit of morello cherry coming though (but not much). On the palate it was pretty austere stuff, with little fruit, a harsh acidity and lots of tannins (really stick to the teeth stuff).

A very closed wine – is it just too young and it will open up with age or is that it? Suspect the latter. Perhaps food would have helped (chianti really is a food wine), but I have my doubts. An example of the paucity of the 2014 vintage in Tuscany?

Price: Around the £25 mark..

Chianti Classico 2013

This wine is a blend of sangiovese, malvasia nera, colorina and merlot (from vines 10 – 25 years old from 120 different plots) and is aged for 12 months in French oak.

A big improvement on the Ser Lapo 2014, with nice red berries on the nose. On the palate it was much smoother with more intergrated tannins and a refreshing acidity, but still somewhat lacking in fruit. Needs food.

Price: Around £23 mark.

Philip Toscana IGT 2013

Again a nod to history in the naming of this wine, with Philip being Philip Mazzei who was instrumental in bringing vinification to Virginia and whose writings are said to have been the inspiration for the doctrine of “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence of the USA. He was big mates with Thomas Jefferson it seems. Not a bad CV that!

Made up of 100% cabernet sauvignon from vineyards (10 – 15 year old vines) in Fonterutoli and Belguardo (Maremma), it is aged for 24 month in a mix of french and American oak (30% old oak barrels).

Nice nose, with rich dark hedgerow fruits to the fore as well as spice (vanilla) from the oak. On the palate there was fruit, vanilla and a meatiness, as well as a touch of pipe tobacco as it lingered. Long smooth finish made this a very pleasing wine albeit atypical (at least to my mind) of a cab. sauv.

Not sure I would had pegged it, blind, as having cab sauv in the blend let alone it being 100% cab sauv. One to take to a blind tasting to really fox people I reckon – would certainly flummox a thicko like me

My third placed wine of the night.

Price: Around the £25 mark (for 2015 vintage).

Ser Lapo Chiant Classico Riserva 2011

Interesting to compare this with the 2014 Ser Lapo (with 2011 considered a much better vintage than the 2014 in Tuscany).

Lovely woody aromas, with a touch of smoke (I thought bonfire), on the nose.

On the palate there was a nice level of acidity and well intergrated tannin, with a smoked meatiness (think BBQ) coming through at the end.

I didn’t get a huge amount of fruit in the mix – touch of sour cherry in there. The lack of a fruit bomb did not detract from my enjoyment of this wine though.

Nice wine and it scored second for me on the night. So much better than the Ser Lapo 2014.

Price: Around £27.

Mix 36 Toscana IGT 2011

The name here comes from the 36 biotypes of sangiovese used in the wine (which is 100% sangiovese). There was much debate on the night as to what this actually meant, with an interesting article to be found on it by clicked on the link here.

This wine had a gorgeous nose with an initial hit of wet slatey minerality followed by cherry and a hint of tobacco. On the palate it was quite rich and plummy, yet retained a very pleasant zestiness and a good level of refreshing acidity.

Really classy wine this and the wine of the night for me and the club members as a whole.

Price: Around the £50 mark.

Chianti Classico Riserva (Gran Selezione) 2006

Whilst there is no reference to it on the front label, I think this is the winery’s Gran Selezione wine as the label seems to match that on the Mazzei website for the Gran Selezione 2006 (later vintages seem to have a label that refers expressly to the “Gran Selezione” name, but not the 2006).

If that is the case that would make the tasting sheet (above) for this wine incorrect as the 2006 vintage of the Gran Selezione refers (in the Mazzei tech. sheet) to it being 90% sangiovese 10% cab sauv (and thus there being no merlot in the mix).

I didn’t get any distinct cab sauv markers in this wine, but then I didn’t with the 100% cab sauv Philip so what do I know!

Anyhow, whatever it was, I initially got a bit of bubblegum (and oddly bananas foster on the nose – no one else did, so possibly a rogue element in my nose/my brain misfiring – latter happens all to often). This, however, quickly dissipated leaving sweet caramel and spice.

On the palate there was fruit in there but I did find it a tad chewy, with a bit of pruniness to it as it lingered. Drinking well now, I do wonder whether it will get any better with further ageing.

Nice wine which scored well on the night, but was not in my top three (especially when I factored in the price).

Price: £60 (if the Gran Selezione).

Siepi 2004

Jancis Robinson described the 2004 vintage as ” exceptionally good” in Tuscany and this wine is Fonterutoli’s “cru” wine – a true Super Tuscan.

As a result I was looking foward to this wine, which on price should have been the star of the show.

A blend of 50% sangiovese and 50% merlot it had been aged for 16/18 month in all new French oak barrels.

Reviews I has read referred to this wine having lots of berry, coffee and spice character, with hints of black liquorice.

This all sounded lovely, but I didn’t get any of it here. On the nose it was very cabbagey – reminding me of school dinners (not a happy memory, when it comes to the cooking of cabbage). The cabbage aromas did blow off after a bit (the wine had been double decanted an hour or so before so it wasn’t there just on the opening of the bottle) leaving a meatiness (but not a particularly complex meaty profile – certainly not your bordelaise or demi – glace)

On the palate, I could never really get past the initial blast of cabbage and didn’t get much fruit, secondary or tertiary elements. All in all disappointing and personally I thought there was a fault with this wine (mercaptans issues?). Shame that 😕.

Price: £75 (inc. VAT)

The verdict

A very interesting start to the new vinous year, with a bit of a mixed bag. Four really good wines, two nice wines and two not so good wines (particularly the most expensive wine of the night).

My top three wines were as follows:

  1. 2011 Mix 36 Toscano IGT;
  2. 2011 Ser Lapo Chiant Classico riserva;
  3. 2013 Philip Toscano IGT

The wider vote of all the members on the night was slightly different from mine (it usually is) and was as follows:

  1. 2011 Mix 36 Toscano IGT;
  2. 2006 Chianti Classico – Gran Selezione (I scored it fourth);
  3. 2011 Ser Lapo Chiant Classico riserva.

What I thought was the best value wine of the night is a tricky one. The No 10 was a decent wine at a very reasonable price and I thought both the Mix 36 and the Philip were good value for the quality they offered.

On balance, however, I would say the Ser Lapo 2011 would be my pick on the best value front. Certainly not cheap, cheap, but excellent value for the quality it offered.

The next club tasting is on the first Wednesday in Feb. (5th) and is on the Ribera del Duero wines of Grupo Pesquara (priced at £35 – bargain).

As ever new members are always welcome, with an option to “try before you buy” before taking out full membership (a very reasonable, dare I say bargain, £40 a year – best time to join is now – on top of each tasting price). For clarity, the “try before you buy” applies to just one tasting (and not super or prestige tastings). After that to attend any further tastings you have to become a member.

Details of the tasting schedule for this year are below.

Contact me (details in blog bio) if you are interested.