Aged Sangivoese Tasting Notes

Siepi vs. Percarlo - a vintage showdown



Here’s a vintage I’ve generally avoided in Tuscany. Not that great wines weren’t made, it’s just that on release the wines tasted a bit out of balance, high in alcohol and definitely quite ripe, without the freshness that even the 1997s exhibited on release.

That remains the story today. Again, this was a period of oak-ophilia in Italy, so it’s not surprising that both wines were marked by wood. As with the 1997, the Percarlo was just an extracted, oaky mess, gritty and drying on the palate. There is plenty of fruit there, heavily extracted fruit, but today it’s all being beaten down by smoldering two-by-fours.

The Siepi showed a bit of the heat of the vintage and oak but still managed to be complex and interesting, if marred by some poopy brett. It might have had a hint of TCA, but if so, under the brett so it was impossible to be sure. Even with all its problems, I still preferred it to the Percarlo.

Three to nothing?!

1998 Siepi

Pretty oaky on the nose, rubbery, leathery, though with lovely notes of coriander,  plum and herb. Turns bretty fairly quickly though with underlying notes of incense, spicy wood, leather and coffee. There’s also a slight musty note which might be a touch of TCA but the poopy bretty covers it well. Soft, rich fruit on entry lends this a slightly sweet impression. With nice tannins and good acid this is a bit compact but fresh and sort of muscular, full of blackberry fruit and a touch of fungi. With air this turns a bit hard with tannins that are a little woody and stiff on the back end, and while there’s a nice bit of sweetness still here, there seems to be more structure than fruit. 88pts

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1998 Percarlo

Pretty oaky on the nose with some mineral and floral elements, like a fresher ‘97 but still a bit muddy. Round and bright in the mouth with lots of red plum, blackberry fruit and some caramel oak notes adding a distinct nuttiness. There are a lot of tannins on the finish, raw, woody tannins, which make this a bit tough right now and dry and gritty. Lots of nutty/caramelly oak lends the fruit an even more earthy, leathery cast. 87pts

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So here we were, the youngest flight of the night. What could we learn from this beautifully pure and balanced vintage? I prayed that the Percarlo could salvage out a winner here so that I didn’t look quite as foolish as I might have otherwise. That my friends, would take some doing.

That doing was what Percarlo did. The excesses of the previous wines are in full retreat here. Yes it’s still oaky, but not oppressively so, and the extraction signals a return to a more elegant wine. There is fruit here and tension, with even some incipient finesse. This is a very young wine, there’s no doubt of that, but one that should greatly reward your patience. Could this be another 1990 (an epic Percarlo) in the making? I believe so.

In contrast, the Siepi showed an oak influence that was fairly consistent with the previous wines, though here too the extraction of the wine seems to have been dialed back a bit. This is a lovely wine, very likely a worthy successor to the 1995 Siepi that is already showing sweet herbal notes on the nose, but it’s nowhere near the vegetal quality that makes the 1995 divisive, if appealing to me. This Siepi is a fine wine, just a bit safe. Safe is sometimes boring.

Advantage: Percarlo

1999 Percarlo

Lovely notes of cut plum, cherry and strawberry are accented by spicy, floral, herbal nuances. This is fresh, intense, complex and lively, with a fine tension between the  sweet red fruit and touch of vanilla. Intense and penetrating. Plenty of fruit here, black cherry and bright at that, with big, juicy acids all backed up by well judged oak notes. The liquory black fruit builds on the back end, before brightening on the big acid finish. This has lovely cut, good length and is tense like a drum skin, with nice dry extract of red fruit on the finale. 91pts

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1999 Siepi

This offers up lovely aromatic complexity with dried and fresh herbs, sweet oak, leather, spicy wood, jammy black currant and a bit of baked plum. It is fresh, bright and complex. A touch soft, perhaps a little dilute and just a little loose on the palate, but still nicely fresh with a little plummy, almost nectarine tinged fruit. The tannins seem a touch dry but remain covered by the fruit which wears coffee, vanilla and spice wood tones. The back end is more fruited and shows a flash of tomato leaf before the wood takes control. 89pts

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With this tasting I set out to look at the quality of the respective vintages. While that was achieved, what was revealed in even starker detail was the state of Tuscan wine making through these years. The use of oak, the levels of extraction and even the ripeness of the fruit all changed rather widely and quite vividly as we progressed through the vintages.

This all makes it more difficult to discern the actual quality of each vintage, which is an exercise in stupidity based on two producers but one that I’m willing to do right after I stick this pencil in an electrical socket. What I do feel comfortable in saying is that this tasting proved to me the superior quality of the 1999 vintage over the 1997, and also reinforced my notion that both 1995 and 1996 are generally undervalued by the marketplace, while 1997 is over valued.

The Wines

I definitely  have a new found appreciation for Siepi and am thrilled I brought the wines when I did, I might even take another look at more recent vintages. As for Percarlo, relationships are full of ups and downs. The 1997 and 1998 are decidedly downs, and while the 1997 is the most highly regarded Percarlo of the 1990s and possibly of all time, I’ve never thought as much of the wines as the critics do. I guess we’re just looking for different things from our Percarlos. I still have faith in the 1995, 1996 and especially the 1999, but these are anomalous wines, requiring nearly two decades in the cellar before they blossom. If you’re looking for something to drink soon, grab a mature Siepi, you won’t regret it!


Want to Learn More?

Find out How Syrah Ages and check out the Tasting Notes on Aged Syrah

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  • Snooth User: lawdown
    87975 3

    Surely, Biondi-Santi Brunellos, first produced in the late 19th Century and still drinkable from that period, are worth a mention when discussing the ability of sangiovese wines to age.

    Mar 15, 2012 at 1:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Alikhan
    213662 20

    Gregory, try the older Montevertine Le Pergole Torte. For me the real guardian of the holy grail Sangiovese in Chianti and the only one who still uses 100% Sangiovese grapes for his wines. Nothing else. No Blends, No Bullshit. That is why he has stopped using the Chianti Label and calls his wines just Rosso (Red), but they remain mind-blowing for Sangiovese lovers and are quite pricey but worth every penny. Regards from Hamburg, Germany, Imtiaz Alikhan

    Mar 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi lawdown, Yes Biondi Santi is important in Brunello and a very fine wine, but I try to focus on wines I might buy and that my readers might buy. I tend not to buy wines over $100 a bottle, and many of my reader think even that is insanity.

    Hi Imtiaz,
    Thanks for the note, but you are preaching tothe choir my friend! Check out my last vertical with Montevertine here:

    And if you like Montevertine, check out Poggio di Sotto. Brunello that is usually just under $100 a bottle over here, but notably less in Italy and cut from much the same cloth.

    Mar 15, 2012 at 2:27 PM

  • Snooth User: Gavilan Vineyards
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    517320 40

    Down here in Argentina we have very little Sangiovese plants left. They are considered common grapes. Go figure. Last weekend I was looking at a vineyard for sale of a friend and he has 8ha of Sangiovese. They got hit early in the year with hail so he has very very little hanging but what is still there is exceptional in quality.
    So I thought, well, lets make at least a barrel of Sangiovese. Not that it has 'aged' yet, it has not even started the fermentation. We prolonged the skin contact without fermenting by cooling the crush. So tonight the coolers come out and we will start fermenting.
    Once can only hope it will produce an excellent wine. If that is the case, I will graft one hectare in our vineyards to Sangiovese.

    Mar 15, 2012 at 4:39 PM

  • Snooth User: lawdown
    87975 3

    The issue is not which Sangiovese we would prefer to buy for the price, the issue -- as defined by the author -- was simply can Sangiovese wines age.

    Mar 15, 2012 at 9:03 PM

  • Snooth User: Villa Ragazzi
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    973965 51

    This may be less relevant to your discussion, which is focused entirely on Italian wines, but I can attest that at least two Napa Valley Sangioveses age very well -- Villa Ragazzi and La Sirena -- as noted in this blog entry on a recent tasting of the 1998 vintage:

    Mar 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Wisequeen Donna Jackson
    Hand of Snooth
    1062644 319

    I think if youre a lover of sangio then I suggest you include Michele Satta 100% sangiovese Cavaliere it will stand up well in that company. nothing wrong with bias we all have our favourites. I have reviewed Sattas pioneer IGT wines over years and hes a good sangio blender. Siepi is not an easy ride, it can be at times what the Italians call bisbetica -- difficult

    Apr 05, 2012 at 1:45 PM

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