The Best Wine in the World


With the top end of the US market a Holy Grail for wine producers, Wine Spectator magazine’s annual Top 100 sent eyebrows flying off the Richter scale last year. Not only did the first place go to an Italian wine, but it was not a super Tuscan nor was it produced by a winery anyone had heard of. It was the Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2001, a 100% Sangiovese from Casanova di Neri, a relatively new producer. The SA equivalent would be Robert Parker scoring a Diemersfontein Pinotage 100 points as both varietals are regarded as hopelessly rustic by wine snobs.

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Unlike the annual Platter Wine of the Year, which is based on total score in a blind tasting of around 100 proposals from a dozen Platter pundits (comprised of winemakers, winewriters, PR luvvies and highly paid consultants) who taste sighted, the Spectator applies four criteria to the 13 000 or so wines they evaluate each year. In addition to quality as assessed in a blind tasting, availability, value and an X-factor or excitement quotient is used to exclude the hideously expensive, boring or almost extinct.

The winning Tenuta Nuova scored 97/100, which was clearly no flash in the pan as earlier this year its sibling from the Cerratalto vineyard rated 100/100. Italian importer Stefano Gabba ([email protected]) has some of the 99 vintage available. Neither 2001 Speccie stunner was available for tasting when I visited the il Fiesole tasting room last week, but the standard 2001 Brunello was and I bought two bottles (at E25 each) for lunch. Winemaker Pier Luigi Bonari recommended Trattoria il Pozzo in the neighbouring hamlet of San’Angelo in Colle with pichi, a thick handmade pasta, as specialty. “Montalcino restaurants are for tourists” he elaborated. “Locals drive to San’Angelo for lunch.”

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2001 was a remarkable vintage in Tuscany (as it was in SA) which is just as well as 2002 was a bust (as it was in SA). Bonari’s Sangioveses are made from grapes grown on densely planted vines (6600 plants/ha) aged for 30 months in Slovenian oak barrels. They are fermented in large stainless steel tanks with frequent mechanical punch downs of the cap and left to suck up flavour from the lees for four weeks. If Pier Luigi had less hair, you’d mistake him for the SA wizard of Pinotage, Beyers Truter, from his winemaking technique.

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The bog standard Brunello was mucho impressivo: loads of black fruit and hot earth, minerals and spice plus some cedary notes. It would clearly improve somewhat with age, something my pichi aglio olio peperoncino, would not allow.

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The rest of the Speccie’s 2006 Top 100 was suitably diplomatic: a home crowd favourite was second Quilceda Creek Cabernet ’03 from Washington State. Bordeaux popped up at number three in the shape of Château Léoville Barton 2003 and Chile came in fourth with the Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet 2003.

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Pier Luigi was equally diplomatic when asked whether he sold his wines to France. Separating his forefinger from his thumb by a nanometer he replied “not too much. But then the French don’t understand Sangiovese” with a grin.


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