The disco music is pounding and the lights flashing. The photographers jostle for position. It’s another Milan fashion show on the 24 hour Italian Fashion Channel (there are two) and the models prance down the runway in strange concoctions that only faintly remind us of the clothing people wear in the real world. It is all flash and hype designed to get attention in a crowded market.
So it is with modern winemaking. You can almost hear the disco music pounding out of the bottle as you pour wines that are so big that they don’t seem to fit even the gigantic confines of the huge wineglasses so fashionable today. New oak flavors and aromas titillate the wine fashion show crowd just as strategically revealed breasts draw the cameras on the ramps of Milan. The fashion world and wine world are the same in that they like to show off things that you can’t really wear or drink on a regular basis.
Suddenly, the Fashion Channel changes shows and the mood shifts. The clothing is refined and elegant and you can easily imagine the models dining (if they eat) in an elegant Milan restaurant right after the show without changing a stitch. The designs are still modern and innovative, but they are not exaggerations designed mostly to shock. Fortunately there are modern-style winemakers with this sense of touch. Fortunately there is Terrabianca.
Terrabianca, the creation of Roberto Guldener, is located in the Chianti Classico zone and the continued improvement of their wines gives us hope for the future of fashion conscious Tuscany. If Milan is the capital of Italian fashion, Tuscany is the capital of Italian wine fashion and the wines of the region have been distorted out of recognition by the rush to the designer enologist of the moment. The misuse of barriques and the contest to see who can come up with the highest level of dry extract has created a sea of overpriced wines that just are not very interesting to drink and impossible to tell apart. However, while guilty of some over-oaked wines as they developed their style in years past, Terrabianca has evolved and is making some of the most refined, balanced and interesting modern-styled wines in Tuscany. Guldener’s wines are not over-extracted or over-oaked and show clearly the character of the Terrabianca vineyards and the varietals they grow. The flagship wine, Campaccio is not only delicious, but a relative bargain in the world of top Super-Tuscans and can easily found for under $40.00 a bottle (sometimes well under).
All the wines of Terrabianca present a seamless elegance and balance, just like Roberto Guldener himself. They improve in the bottle, but are delicious and drinkable from the day they are released making them among the best choices for restaurants and their clients. With this kind of quality we can assume the wines of Terrabianca will remain in fashion for years to come.
Focus Report 2001 Terrabianca
2001 Ceppate, Toscana IGT (cabernet sauvignon 75%, merlot 25%) ($75)
Brilliant rich ruby, just translucent. Smooth, seamless blackberry with a slight cassis tinge on the nose with touches of tree bark and cinnamon. The smooth, elegant flavors continue on the palate and the finish. The herbal notes are lighter than in past vintages: flavors and aromas that often mar Tuscan cabernet. The finish is elegant and very smooth with round easy tannins carrying refined dark fruit, but is a little too herbal on the finish for my taste. (B+)
2001 Il Tesoro Merlot, Maremma, Toscana IGT ($55)
Brilliant bright ruby, just translucent. Exotic plum and spice nose with hints of burnt cherry and mint. On the palate it is round and mouth filling without any heaviness. Ripe bitter cherry flavors blend with cranberry touches all brought together by touches of fresh mint and dark roasted coffee. The bittersweet ripe cherry flavors grow in the finish with soft yet apparent tannins that give a note of firmness to the smooth flavors. Very refined and balanced. (A-)
2001 Piano del Cipresso, Toscana IGT (sangiovese) ($35)
Brilliant bright ruby, just translucent. Firm mineral notes lead quickly into smooth cherry vanilla and light cedar aromas. On the palate everything is in its place with balance and elegance the defining characteristics. Clean cherry vanilla fruit leads to bitter cranberry notes with a touch of lively mint. The finish is lively and refined with firm, but very polite tannins to carry the minty sweet cherry fruit. (A-)
2001 Croce, Chianti Classico Riserva, DOCG (sangiovese 97%, canaiolo 3%) ($30)
Brilliant bright ruby, just translucent. Elegant mineral notes combine with bitter cherry aromas mixed with touches of porcini and fresh mint along with hints of fine cigars. Exceptional balance on the palate with earthy notes blending with bright fresh raspberry and touches of vanilla, yet not one component dominates. The tannins are firm, but not at all harsh and the earthy flavors grow and become more and more complex in the finish. A stunning combination of terroir and modern winemaking with a wonderful lively balance throughout. No barriques are used for Croce only large Slovenian casks. (A)
2001 Campaccio, Toscana IGT (70% sangiovese, 30% cabernet sauvignon) ($45)
Brilliant bright ruby, just translucent. Beautiful blends of cooking porcini, roses, dark cherries, vanilla and cedar blend into a fascinating complexity on the nose. On the palate deep burnt sweet cherry flavors blend with mint, tobacco and a warm earthiness into an exotic whole. The finish is exceptionally long and stops just short of powerful as the refined tannins blend with flavors that mirror everything on the nose and on the palate. Stunning balance for such a rich wine. (A)