The exciting Solaia 2011 was released earlier this morning on the Place de Bordeaux, the flagship wine of Piero Antinori and the crown in his glorious winemaking career. This mimics the distribution of Masseto, which in turn is the most prestigious wine of his brother, Ludovico Antinori. Critic scores for the 2011 Super Tuscan vintage have confirmed it as excellent, with the climate being heralded as one of the best since 2000. This is reiterated by James Suckling’s 100 point score of Masseto 2011, two points higher than his 2010 notch, while Galloni awarded Ornellaia 96+, in line with his prolific 2010 score.
2011 production is down 20% on 2010, stretching merchant allocations, at a time when growing global demand is already outstripping meagre production. Conventional fine wine markets are experiencing ever growing demand for the great names of Tuscany, while new developing fine wine markets are looking to fulfil demand fuelled by new collectors, eager to own and drink these truly exceptional wines. Solaia, Ornellaia and Sassicaia make up the holy trinity of Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Super Tuscan wines. Over the last five years the global market has placed them as direct competitors to the greatest estates of Bordeaux, with their average scores in recent years outstripping those of Bordeaux First Growths. However, Solaia produces far fewer bottles per year than Ornellaia and Sassicaia, who produce 12,000 cases and 15,000 cases respectively; Solaia make less than 7,500.
The Marchesi Antinori family are world famous for two wines; one is Tignanello, the other Solaia, which since 1978 has become Antinori’s and one of Italy’s most prestigious wines. Solaia is normally the mirror reflection of Tignanello, made up of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Sangiovese. In 2011, like 2010 the blend includes 5% Cabernet Franc, used in some vintages to balance the wine, reducing the percentage of Sangiovese to 20%.
Solaia translates loosely as ‘The sunny one’, aptly named to reflect the glorious sunshine that showers the eponymously named ten hectare vineyard; situated 350-400 metres above sea level, on wonderful terroir of calcareous rock (alberese). The site is adjacent to Tignanello in the Mercatale Val di Pesa zone of Chianti Classico, further inland than Sassiaia and Ornellaia (coastal Bolgheri). In 2011 Solaia spent 14 months in entirely new French oak, with various lots fermented separately to maximise harmony.
Solaia is famed for intense sweet ripe cherry and blackcurrant fruits, combined with dark chocolate, baking spices, rum cake, balsam, and tobacco. The 2011 displays an intense, impenetrable ruby red colour. It is showing wonderful warm aromas, reflecting the superb climatic conditions in 2011, while maintaining a delicate freshness. The palate boats ripe red fruit, sweet spice, combined with deep floral notes and a superb complex structure. The palate is succulent, rich and sweet, with dense but supple rounded tannin. All of this is harmonised by vibrant acidity and a long powerful finish.
None of the leading Italian critics have released their scores for Solaia, although 2010 Solaia outstripped Ornellaia and Sassicaia, scoring 98 points from Suckling and Galloni, driving its initial offering above £750 a case. Solaia 2011 is superb and the consummate wine for collectors. At the first tranche release price of £680, it looks a strong bet.
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