Working at Wi-Not has its advantages, or so Magan would like us to believe. Sure we don’t get hounded for autographs just yet but we do get to taste a lot of fun wine. We recently congregated at the Taj Mahal Hotel for a Brancaia wine-tasting orchestrated by Mr. Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park, the company that brings in these famous Tuscan wines from Italy.
The evening started with a short talk with Chef Antonio Colaianni of Il Casale Restaurant (Michelin-starred eatery in Zurich). He entertained us with stories and anecdotes and told us about what he thinks of molecular gastronomy and how he intends to incorporate flowers into cooking.
Next was an introduction to Mr. Martin Kronenberg, owner and winemaker of the house of Brancaia. He briefed over the origins of Tuscany and its subsequent rise as a famous wine-producing region, and the advent of Super-Tuscans in mid 80s. Super Tuscans were wines that were made with unauthorised grapes in the region of Chianti or near-about and as a result couldn’t be classified as highly as Chianti. Consequently they were marked down as table or country wines, in order to discourage the proliferation of non-autochthon grapes. Little did the legislators know that these wines would sell at prices higher than even the more recognised appellation wines and become iconic representations of modern-day winemaking in Italy.
Today the law has been revised and although the recognition is more fitting, the term Super Tuscan lives on.
But India knows about Super Tuscans. We have tasted some for a few years now and even for Martin, this wasn’t his first visit. The last time around in Delhi he conducted a never-before vertical with 14 back-vintages of their Il Blu wine.
Three important things that we picked up along the tasting were these:
Martin shared his thoughts on ‘Reserva’ wines. Clearly, he mentioned, Sangiovese is not a mono-variety to associate with ‘Reserva’. “This grape variety doesn’t demonstrate this type of treatment at its best”
The second learning was that at Brancaia, they never change the blend proportions. The idea for them is not to strive for a consistent wine every year but for a consistent complete blend that will vary with the vagaries of nature and vintage. Quite a deep and different philosophy from other blended wines where the idea is to create the same taste every year. On a personal note, we agree more with Brancaia’s s line of thought: if the grapes come from great vineyards, best to let them express themselves rather than to try and tame and harness them for a uniform taste, year after year.
Apart from this, other things too are kept consistent, like the blend of oak used to age the wine. Sure there are vintages when things may be altered but think of them as adaptations in bleak times.
Finally, the Il Blu and the Ilatraia are two different wines. The grape composition is different and hence the taste will never be alike. For those wishing a round-up, think of the Il Blu as a more masculine style wine whereas the other is to be considered a softer rounder more feminine style. (Warning! This is not a remark in exhibitive chauvinism but merely an allusion to existing perceptions.) In other words, a restaurant may stock both as they are entirely different and wouldn’t really compete with each other.
We tasted four wines; tasting notes follow:
2006 Brancaia Tre
80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Third wine; three grapes; three vineyard estates. Hence the name – Tre. Also, you can entertain three times more people with this wine vs. the others as it is way more affordable a sip!
Clear and young to see, medium intensity glowing ruby colour. Clean nose with first hit of cola and new oak, red berries, marmalade, red wine reduction, aspic, cherries and raspberry jam bouquets. As the blend suggests, sangiovese dominated through, very light oak on the palate, tobacco, leather, dark cherries, beetroot, blackberries, black olives, capsicum and violet followed. Short aftertaste. Medium tannins, acidity and body with medium high alcohol. Value for money wine, to be enjoyed now, can age one more year. “A baby Super Tuscan”
2006 Brancaia Il Blu
50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
Decanted long before served
Young, clean, light ruby red colour with light but fast falling legs. Young nose yet to develop, orange blossom, oak, cheese spread, raspberry, straw and cranberry. Light bodied young wine with high intensity flavour profile. Raspberry, cranberry, oranges, zucchini, vanilla and hints of cardamom followed. Oak orientation was 2/3rd parts new, in barriques. Long aging before bottling. Medium high alcohol, medium acidity and tannins. Tannins were young, thus, felt pronounced. Big and bold with decent potential. If you must drink now, decant twice (double-decanting) at least a good hour or so before pouring.)
2004 Brancaia Il Blu
50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
Decanting recommended. It took us some time to taste this one. This was a good vintage hence the wines will take time to open up.
Clean robe with signs of aging, dark ruby colour with orange tinge at the rim. It had a husky feel on the nose to begin with. Prominent notes of sour cream, fresh new oak and dust. Blackberry, blueberry, orchids, cashew, jamun, no sweet notes. On tasting, it still feels young and harsh but becomes easy as it opens. High acid and alcohol levels, in balance. Young tannins with medium intensity but good length and balance. Notes of dark cherry, oriental spices, vanilla, light oak, pistachio, bacon and prosciutto were also marked on the palate. Oak seemed young and light initially but had a pronounced aftertaste. Surely, this wine requires food…and company! Good with beef, bacon, smoked-ham dishes and spiced Indian preparations. Power with balanced elegance.
2004 Brancaia Ilatraia
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese, 10% Petit Verdot
Clean well aged wine. Dark ruby red, resembles light bodied young Bordeaux wine. Pale rim, quickly falling slim legs. On the first go, wine smells like fresh butter and nail varnish (high alcohol level) with cranberry, wet sand, red/ volcanic soil and hints of mixed fruit jam to follow. Airing however takes much of the sting out and what follows is one long list of layered aromas. A complex wine to taste, powdery tannins with medium high intensity, hint of sweet red fruits, cranberry, cherry, raspberry, strawberry notes, well balanced palate. Medium acidity and medium high alcohol. Long aftertaste. Spicy notes, especially freshly grounded black pepper and some floral violet nuances were also noted. Oak is well integrated and not entirely inconspicuous. Well-aged wine, ready to drink now, good with food but has that oaky-milky roundness that makes it easy to drink even by itself. Our collective pick of the evening.
Finally there was Grappa which is something we will not write about here. You have to get some and rub a bit onto your hands like a perfume. The rest, the Grappa will do on its own. Needless to say, when you have the vinasse of such beautiful wines and exploited by one the leading distillers of not just Piedmont or Italy but of the world, the result is this one dangerous potent baby that you knock back a ridiculous quantity of before realising you have had too much to care for grammar! In short, definitely try it, but be warned…
All in all, a good evening. The wines are exquisite and lavish: reservedly affordable is how we would like to term them.