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March 14, 2014

Antinori Tignanello 2011

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Antinori Tignanello 2011, 6×75 - £270 IB
Tignanello is one of the most awaited and exciting releases of the year. It is a darling across the world and one of the few major world names to still release under £270 per six pack. Its importance is reified in its inclusion in the Liv-ex Super Tuscan Index alongside Masseto, Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Solaia; heady company to keep when one considers Tignanello’s release price. The name Antinori Tignanello adorns all good wine lists, arguably a wine list cannot be considered great without it. It prevails in wine collections globally and is fervently known and recognisable the world over.

Sassicaia fashioned the genesis of Super Tuscans; however it was Piero Antinori and his chef-d’oeuvre Tignanello that created the vanguard spreading the word and cementing their great potential. In this respect Tignanello was the second official Super Tuscan, using Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Yet unlike Sassicaia it is not a recreation of Bordeaux style claret, instead a representation of the subtlety, depth and versatility of the great and noble Sangiovese.

Tignanello harvest their grapes with great care, to ensure there is no damage. The malolactic fermentation is carried out in French oak and then transferred to French barrique for 14 months, followed by a year in bottle. This harmonises flavours and creates greater complexity. In fact, Tignanello was the first Sangiovese based wine to be aged in small French oak barrels. Tignanello offers an expression of Sangiovese quite unlike any other wine. It is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. It is vinified in a Bordeaux style, adding Tuscan flamboyance, hence creating a wine of super complexity and incredible ageing potential.

Tignanello is grown in the Chianti Classico designated area (between Greve and the Pesa river valleys), further inland than the coastal Bolgheri, where the grapes get the right amount of sunshine to ripen fully. The vineyards are cited at extremely high altitude 1150 – 1312 feet above sea level, in the Santa Cristina Estate, known also as Tenuta Tignanello. This means the vineyards are found on the highest altitude in the region of Chianti Classico, thus benefiting from a cooler temperature which helps the wine retain a wonderful freshness and balanced acidity.

The 2011 vintage is already being spoken about as another truly great Super Tuscan vintage, Jancis Robinson has declared that ‘quality is very promising’, although production is down by 15% on 2010. 2011 saw a hot growing season in Tuscany, April was cooler than normal but a heat wave arrived from Africa in August. Reports suggest a very ripe vintage, displaying some of the fleshiness of 2009, yet Tignanello’s high altitude and wonderful terroir means that the 2011 has retained freshness and balance. The 2011 has not been officially scored however, the news coming from Tuscany suggests that they have made another great wine, one which will be critically acclaimed and receive stellar scores.

Tignanello and the Antinori Family
The Antinori name can be traced back to Troy, the Iliad tells of Prince Antenor, who allowed the wooden horse to enter the gates in exchange for his life. A peculiar decision; surely if he had not opened the gates his life would have not been under threat: Odysseus was at the height of his persuasive pomp at the time. Still, on fleeing Troy, he travelled the Adriatic settling in Venice and the house of Antinori later took their name from said lineage. The Antinori family is also famous for Solaia (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese) and Guado al Tasso.

Super Tuscan wines have outperformed the Liv ex 50 over the last five years and Tignanello trades at 50% less than the other leading Super Tuscan names. Therefore, it is undervalued against its peers and a great perennial buy. Tignanello has high production, with the capacity to make close to 30,000 cases a year. This high production is an advantage and means, that for the time being, it is extremely affordable compared to the other four leading Super Tuscans. It also displays a vintage premium; invariably vintages become more expensive as they age. For example the 2004 vintage which is 94 Parker Points trades at £450 and the 1990, £700.

The 2011 has been released at the same current market price as the 2010 and at £270, or just under £45 a bottle, as such it is arguable the lowest price great wine in the world.

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