Aged Sangivoese Tasting Notes

Siepi vs. Percarlo - a vintage showdown


I know that I am biased and that my biases are not always correct. I also know enough to not worry about things like this and just accept my new reality. If you’ve been following my writing, you might recall that I am a big fan of the 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan known as Percarlo. In fact, I recently included it in an article I wrote about my Top 10 Sangiovese Producers.

What you might not know is that I was once also a big fan of Siepi, another Super Tuscan, but in this case a blend of equal parts Merlot and Sangiovese.

Through the second half of the 1990s and early noughts, I had rather equal opinions of these wines, or at least judging from what I stocked in my cellar. Sometime over the past five years, my opinions began to diverge. I found more recent vintages of Siepi less interesting and even had a few terrible encounters with wines from 1997 and 1998.

My hopes were not high when I delved into my cellar to pull out bottles for a grand #GTiSangiovese showdown, so I enthusiastically pulled the Percarlos, adding in the Siepi as a gauge to help judge the respective vintages of the tasting: 1995-1999. This is their story.

1995-1999 in a Nutshell

1995-1999 was a bit of a golden period for Tuscany weather wise. There really isn’t a bad vintage in the bunch. Bracketed by two finely balanced and elegantly austere vintages, the string also included the hallowed 1997 vintage which saw hot, beautiful weather preceded by a particularly wet winter, giving the vines all the water they could possibly need. 1998 was a near repeat of the summer of 1997 but without the water, causing some stress issues throughout Tuscany, leaving 1996 as a bit of the black sheep here, but one that would have been a star had it come three years earlier when Tuscany was suffering through several lousy vintages.

Knowing all this, I had a pretty good idea going into the tasting of which wines I would prefer. Just the previous week, I enjoyed a tasting of 1997 and 1999 Super Tuscans which confirmed my prejudices on that front. 1997, while fun and still delicious in some cases, simply lacks the elegance and finesse of 1999. I expected 1998 to finish on the bottom of this tasting, followed by 1996, then 1995 and 1997 fighting a stylistic battle, with 1999 finishing out on top. Let’s see what the wines said!
 

1995

1995 is not a vintage for everybody. It is austere and a bit tough, but is also fresh, bright and youthful in a rather strict way. The Percarlo was exactly as expected, very 1995 in its youthfulness and focus. Not a big wine, but one that was beautifully balanced, if still surprisingly immature.

Siepi on the other hand has a nose marked by green pepper and herbs. If that’s your thing, then this is a very complex wine. As it so happens, that can be my thing and this bottle of 1995 Siepi absolutely rocked! It was at full peak, fairly resolved, silky, soft and layered with exceptional complexity. I loved this wine! I can’t believe it but today 1995 Seipi is a better wine than 1995 Percarlo. The Siepi is likely just about to begin to fall apart a little bit, in fact by the end of the night it was less expressive while the Percarlo was unmoved, but holy hurricanes would I love to drink that again.
 

Advantage: Siepi!
 

1995 Siepi

Lots of vegetal notes, lively and bright, a bit of oak spice. Nice balance and intensity, with an assertive overlay of green vegetal and herb notes of lovely faded cherry fruit. Elegant, open and smooth, nicely resolved and in a very nice place, the Merlot really helps out here, adding softness and roundness to an obviously lean and austere structure. Plum skin, bright fruit. Fun wine, not the most complex, but lovely, showing smoky oak balanced by lovely currant fruit and herbal notes on the moderately long finish. 92pts

Find this wine on Snooth
 

1995 Percarlo

Opening with blood, fruit and flowers on the slightly reticent nose, this turns more strawberry scented with herb and a touch of toast before tightening up over the course of the night, showing more leather and black cherry. Tight on entry, plenty of acid here and still a relatively heavy dose of wood tannin, but there is fine, fruit as well. Rusty and mineral on the back end with apple skin austerity and some leather. Rich and austere with fine wood, supported by sweetness of dried strawberry fruit on the finish and a hint of alcohol. With air this seems to lose fruit faster than structure.  88pts
 

Find this wine on Snooth!

1996

Incredibly, both wines were flawed here. The Siepi was cooked and the Parcarlo lightly corked. Under their defects, they both exhibited some of the traits that are helping to rehabilitate 1996’s reputation, the chief issue of course being that the vintage simply preceded 1997.

Both wines showed solid richness, nice ripeness of structure and fine balance. I can’t talk to the quality of the wines, but on the face of it the vintage looks to be solid and continues to improve in my mind.
 

1997

Ah, the golden year. This was one of those years when critics competed with each other for the most over the top hyperbole. The best ever, breath taking, monumental, back up the truck, mortgage the house, sell your wife or husband! Yes, the wines were awfully appealing on release and some have aged well, but to make these extreme statements strikes me as odd at best and downright silly at worst in light of so many other fine vintages. How were the wines?

First off, they were oaky. This was the peak of Italy’s love affair with new barrique and given the opulence of the fruit, it’s not surprising to see that many producers got carried away here. With the Percarlo there wasn’t that much more to be discerned, it’s a wine still wrapped up in a tight veil of assertive oakiness, and that is not a good sign. It remains fresh, aromatic and painful on the palate. The Siepi on the other hand showed its oak, but revealed much more with herbal, spicy aromas and fruit that was just beginning to dry out, showing some pruney characteristics as well.

Closer than the 1995 but advantage still goes to Siepi!
 

1997

Ah, the golden year. This was one of those years when critics competed with each other for the most over the top hyperbole. The best ever, breath taking, monumental, back up the truck, mortgage the house, sell your wife or husband! Yes, the wines were awfully appealing on release and some have aged well, but to make these extreme statements strikes me as odd at best and downright silly at worst in light of so many other fine vintages. How were the wines?

First off, they were oaky. This was the peak of Italy’s love affair with new barrique and given the opulence of the fruit, it’s not surprising to see that many producers got carried away here. With the Percarlo there wasn’t that much more to be discerned, it’s a wine still wrapped up in a tight veil of assertive oakiness, and that is not a good sign. It remains fresh, aromatic and painful on the palate. The Siepi on the other hand showed its oak, but revealed much more with herbal, spicy aromas and fruit that was just beginning to dry out, showing some pruney characteristics as well.

Closer than the 1995 but advantage still goes to Siepi!
 

1997 Siepi

A little jammy on the nose with blackberry, black currant fruit topped with a bit of bbq sauce, tomato, plum sauce, crystallized spice and burnt sugar. There is a touch of oxidation here along with some herbal nuances adding complexity. Light on entry and fairly elegant with a nice balance of wild berry and plum flavor which fades throughout the evening. There’s still a bit of wood tannin lending this a chewy texture and the oak does pop on the modest finish. A lot going on the nose but the palate is showing signs of falling apart. 88pts
 

Find this wine on Snooth!

1997 Percarlo

Very mineral water and toasty oak-driven nose with a hint of prune,  though with air this gains some freshness, showing curry and white floral complexity. Dense in the mouth and bright, but the red fruit flavors of are showing some oxidative edges. The tannins here are big and dry, chunky, clumsy and a bit hot even. There’s decent length with some sweetness but still so much caramel, toasty oak and a wall of wood tannins that may never really integrate.  87pts

Find this wine on Snooth!
 

1 2 next

Slideshow View

Mentioned in this article


Comments

  • 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 198,687

    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: http://www.snooth.com/articles/tast...

    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: http://www.villaragazziwine.com/1/c...

    Mar 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM


  • Snooth User: Wisequeen Donna Jackson
    Hand of Snooth
    1062644 299

    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


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips








Snooth Media Network