In Italy there is very little rhyme or reason, only art and living with the heart.
In the history of Italian wines there has never been a greater style of winemaking than the “Super Tuscans.” They are those red wine blends that were first crafted in Tuscany in the early 1970s as a rescue for wineries that were faltering due to mediocre Sangiovese grapes, mixed with white grapes, and called Chianti.
Super Tuscan is a silly name that no responsible winemaker would promote. It was a media term put together for U.S. consumption. But no matter, the elegant wines that were blended, and to this day are still called “Super Tuscan,” are a masterpiece of wine art and genius.
One of the pioneers of this next-level of Italian wines was Piero Antinori, whose cousin had made the first wine that broke with tradition: Sassicaia from coastal Bolgheri with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Piero was the latest in an Antinori family of 26 generations and six hundred years of winemaking. It was a courageous choice, almost sacrilegious for its time, as the Italian government did not recognize any wine in Tuscany that was not 100 percent Sangiovese.
Antinori was driven to express the vast potential of wine, so he created Tignanello, mostly Sangiovese, but with perfect amounts of Cabernet and Cab Franc, and considered to be the quintessential “Super Tuscan.”
After his initial success, Antinori later partnered with other like-minded Italian innovators to make the equally well-known Solaia, also from central Tuscany and mostly Cabernet; and the Guado al Tasso from Bolgheri, with Cab, Merlot and Syrah grapes, among others.
Not since the heaven-sent 1997 vintage has there been such promise and fulfillment as the 2006 “Super Tuscan” releases. With some patience and cellaring, they could surpass that seminal year. The growing season was long and even, with lots of sunshine. The wines are perfumed and richly endowed with the heritage of Tuscany. Nowhere is the canvas of a “Super Tuscan” style so perfect as those wines expressed by the Anitnori name and legacy. Anitnori vineyards are now planted all over Tuscany’s finest districts: Chianti Classico, Bolgheri, Montalcino, Montepulciano and Orvieto, Umbria. To learn more about this traditional Italian winemaking leader, visit www.antinori.it.
Pizza and wine
Americans spend about $32 billion a year on pizza in restaurants. Half of that sum is picked up by the dumbed-down chains such as Pizza Hut and the like, with little more than a cracker-thin bed of pre-frozen dough, canned sauce, cheese and a mountain of “extras,” tossed about on the bed of sauce.
I bring it up only because of the exciting and delicious turn to high quality oven-fresh pizza restaurants that now comprise the other half of that $32 billion. Chefs are being trained to create pizza as a special dish with balance, texture and flavors that work together, right down to the flour that is used to make the dough.
Tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and sweet basil are the ultimate basic Italian ingredients, where pizza originated in Naples. These three ingredients with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of garlic is on the menu as a Pizza Margherita. Its crust is thin and soft and slightly charred from wood-oven baking.
Now that I have you salivating for pizza, next time you order one, forget the beer menu and go for a lovely red wine. Considering that the pizza you order is one that resembles a Margherita, without stacks of pepperoni, sausage and salami, I would suggest you pass on the Cabs and Zins and think central and southern Italian. You will want to consider varietals like Sangiovese ( Chianti Classico), Aglianico and Nero d’Avola from Sicily. West coast varietals to look for are: Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot.
All these wines have just the right acidity, to cut the richness of tomatoes, baked dough and cheese. All have rich, black fruit and are drink-now wines to keep the price in line with the meal.
— Thornton Winery in Temecula is staging a unique Halloween Costume Dinner Dance starting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30. Five-star cuisine, premium wines, dancing and gifts for best-dressed will add to the festivities. The cost is $85 per person. RSVP at (951) 699-0099 or www.thorntonwine.com.
— Bistro 39 at the Hilton Garden Inn San Diego/Del Mar presents a Local Harvest Winemaker’s Dinner from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 6. Only locally grown and caught entrees and sides will be served. Wines are from Salerno Winery in Ramona. The $55 cost is inclusive. Call for tickets at (858) 720-9500.
— The wine spotlight is on Temecula Wine Country for its Harvest Celebration at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. It’s a self-guided tour of the valley, with food and wine samples fro more than 20 wineries. Barrel and tank tasting are available. Cost is $89 for both days. Discounts apply for one day and other considerations. Full details at (800) 801-9463 or access www.temeculawines.org.
— One-hour private Gondola rides are available weekdays from 3 p.m. to midnight at Loews Coronado Bay and hold up to six passengers. Blankets provided with complimentary appetizers. Bring your own beverage. The cost is $85 per couple. Experience Venice though the canals next to the Loews Resort. To learn more, call (619) 429-6317.
Filed Under: Taste of Wine