The early vintages were more rustic, less polished than the current ones, thanks to less rigorous winemaking techniques. I inquired Renzo Cotarella, long time winemaker for the Antinori properties, relating to this change.
“Maybe before we were capable to have a Sangiovese that was a little bit too aggressive. We used to have some selections where we had together good vines but also bad ones. Also the approach in terms of winemaking was less conditioned by the suppleness of the wine, Tignanello was a little bit stronger. Now we try to get something a little more in-balance.”
Then, in an effort to make more approachable wines, during the late ’90’s the pendulum swung, perhaps a bit too far, in the other way.
“There was a moment when everybody attempted to produce wine with more muscles where, despite having Sangiovese, we attempted to really to give sort of over-boost regarding dimension, and in that sense we lost a little bit the vibrancy of Sangiovese.”
I noticed this during the tasting – the wines were too ripe, too New World. As Cotarella perceptively highlights, they were “Too fruit-orientated, a dimension which is okay for Cabernet but tend to not be right for Sangiovese.”
In 2004 this style was dialed back so the wine re-acquired acidity, as well as the vibrancy of the Sangiovese fruit shone brightly again. But, most of all, the proper type of fruit because, as Cotarella highlights: “When you discover in Tignanello black fruit there’s a problem. Fruit in Tignanello has to be red.”
My personal favorite, and this week’s 5 Star Nick’s Wine of the Week, was the Tignanello 1999 ($110). The vintage was cooler, hence the over-ripe, over-extracted style wasn’t so detrimental. Perhaps it had been beneficial, because the resulting wine showed an elegance not present in the following few, warmer, vintages.
It’s a feminine wine, with a deeply layered minerality, redolent of plum, anis, blackberry and sous bois. It’s a sensual, zaftig wine however possessed of the refreshing red-fruit acidity with an harmonious balance.
It shows not a discordant note and it is, according to Cotarella the essence of Antinori Tignanello.