Releases from Coastal Tuscany
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | AUGUST 01, 2023
Readers will find much to admire in new releases from the
Tuscan Coast. Vintage 2020 is a bit uneven, but the best wines offer notable
freshness and aromatic intensity, with less heft than is typical, not a bad
thing for a region where wines can be a bit heavy. Based on what I have tasted
so far, 2021 appears to be a much more even vintage endowed with all the
classic signatures of textural richness that make the wines of Coastal Tuscany
so distinctive. Although this report focuses on the coast, I include notes on a
handful of other wines from other inland appellations that are too small to be
covered on their own.
Vintage 2020 – Uneven Yet Intriguing
Navigating the 2020s on the coast will take some work, as the vintage is uneven. Although there was a quite a bit of rain, the year was
very hot and dry at many critical moments, most notably in July, which was
marked by severe heat spikes. Conditions moderated in August in the weeks
leading up to harvest, only to be interrupted by the return of intense heat and
also several days to a week of rain during picking. Wines made from fruit
picked before and after the rains, either because of stylistic choices or
varietal mix, can almost give the impression of of two different years.
"It was the last in a trio of vintages with more rain
than usual and no drought, but quite a bit of heat during summer," Estate
Manager Axel Heinz explained at Ornellaia. "Temperatures moderated in
August, with the arrival of cool evenings. We picked quite a bit of Merlot
early for the aromatics. Temperatures then rose markedly, leading to a week of
rain, and then finally to good weather through to the end of harvest."
Late season rains were challenging at some properties, such as Antinori’s Guado
al Tasso, where the Cabernet Sauvignon was compromised.
“In most years, what we fear is late season heat, and even
more importantly, intense dry winds that can literally dehydrate fruit on the
vine,” highly regarded winemaker Luca D’Attoma explained. “In 2020, we did not
have those conditions.” Nevertheless, selection in the vineyard was critical.
At Tenuta San Guido, production is down 30% for the flagship Sassicaia in a
vintage in which harvest took place during a very condensed period.
A panoramic view of Suvereto, one of the districts in Tuscany’s Maremma.
What most wines share, though, is a slight edginess of
tannin that is the result of uneven conditions during the critical months of
ripening. Top estates were able to mitigate less than perfect tannins to some
degree though choices in the cellar, but some wines come across as overdone and
marked by heat.
“In years like these, which are now common, we have learned
we have to use a lighter hand in winemaking in order to preserve freshness,"
Cinzia Merli explained over a discussion of her releases at Le Macchiole.
"Two thousand-twenty was also the first year we used alternative aging
vessels for a small amount of the wine, as we find 100% oak can be too much in
a hot year," she added, echoing the sentiments of many producers who are
making changes in response to today’s climatic conditions. These refinements include
picking earlier, working with gentler extractions, using less new oak and in
some cases also shortening time in wood.
The best 2020s are quite aromatic, at times surprisingly so,
with good energy and less opulence than is the norm. This is especially true at
estates that have been moving towards greater freshness in their wines over the
last few years, as many have. While the finest 2020s are appealing for
appellations in which the wines at times come across as overdone – especially
in our climate change-challenged world – some selection is necessary.
A First Look at 2021 – A Classic in the Making
My first look at the 2021s, both from barrel samples and the
bottled wines I have tasted so far, point to a very strong and perhaps exceptional
vintage for the Tuscan Coast. The wines are rich, layered and explosive, with
all the generosity that is so typical of these appellations. More importantly,
though, the polished quality of the tannins in many 2021s points to a vintage
with even ripening and therefore ideal conditions for making wines of very high
Looking Farther Afield
Although this report focuses on the coast, I include reviews
on a number of wines from other regions that I tasted around the same time.
Many of these new releases merit serious consideration. Readers will want to
look at the accompanying producer profiles for more details on the top wines of
I tasted the wines in this report starting in September of
2022 with 2021s from barrel. Most of the bottled wines were tasted from
February to June 2023.
© 2023, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.
You Might Also Enjoy
Tuscany: New Releases from the Coast, Antonio Galloni, July 2022