Vail wines: Recommended – wines of the Tuscan coast
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Winemaking in the Tuscany region dates back as far as the 8th century B.C., during the time of the Etruscans (from whom the name ‘Tuscany’ is derived). But it wasn’t until the late 1960s that an international wine legacy was born – from French vines no less – along the coastal plain that extends up from the Tyrrhenian Sea. That wine was “Sassicaia,” based on Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the French model.
Until the late ’60s, the wines from Bolgheri were only produced as vini da tavola (table wines), and Cabernet Sauvignon was not even one of the ‘recommended’ varieties. But once the producers of Sassicaia, including Marchesi Incisa della Rocheeta and consultants Giacomo Tachis and Emile Peynaud, proved the coast to be ideal for Bordeaux red varieties, viticulture in the region was revolutionized.
From the historic walled city of Bolgheri, adjacent to the Colline Metallifere hills a few miles inland, you can see a gradual slope that leads down to the coast. A small patchwork of vineyards punctuates the landscape of infertile soils below.
Today Sassicaia has earned its own Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or delimited quality region, known as Bolgheri-Sassicaia, and the wines are internationally recognized as some of Italy’s greatest. Additionally, the region has seen a swell of producers attempting to benefit from the moderating effects of the ocean breezes on the warm Tuscan sun – and the relative poor fertility of the region. Remember: Poor soils equals stressed vines equals good grapes.
I find myself recommending these wines constantly. They boast the concentrated red and black fruits and minerally-earthy balance similar to red Bordeaux, but also have an accent of freshness – as opposed to the more rustic characteristics of the French wine.
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Virtually all the top Bolgheri producers use new, small, French barrique barrels to age their wines, so the bottles generally need several years of aging to absorb the wood and vanilla notes into their concentrated palates of dense fruit and to soften their rich and powerful tannic structures.
Most producers’ top bottles fetch rather high prices, but the ‘mid-range’ wines recommended here are more moderately priced and still feature the luxurious core of fruit and mineral balance found in the premier bottles.
Sean Razee is the beverage director and sommelier for Spago at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain. He currently holds the Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Razee is one of 96 Master Sommeliers in the United States and the only person in the Vail Valley that holds the distinguished certification.