I've built this guide, and expanded vintage chart of sorts to not only give one an idea of the quality of each vintage, but also the style, current state of evolution, and background that hopefully makes this guide helpful to the end user. My goal here is not to tell you what is good and what is bad, though I do a bit of that, but rather to give you the information that you need to make informed decisions in a brief, concise format.
I know some people will argue with my comment and decisions here, and I welcome that. Wine, wine writing, and everything that surrounds it is ultimately a subjective endeavor. I can only hope that some out there will feel my palate aligns with their,, and thus find utility in this set of Tuscan vantage reports
Tuscany is discovering a new sort of normal for their growing seasons, and 2009 fit that mold. A summer of high temperatures and minimal rainfall was only saved because of rather abundant rain the preceding winter, which laid in a good reserve of water, but in many cases even this was not enough.
Much has been said of the late season rains that finally brought some relief to the region, though even then the signature of a hot vintage was impressed on many of the wines, particularly the coastal regions of Bolgheri and the Maremma.
In fact many producers were happy to see the rains, even close to harvest as they were, since they brought down some elevated sugar levels and generally refreshed the grapes before harvest. Though we've just seen the simplest wines released into the marketplace, the hype machine is on high in 2009. I would recommend trying before you buy to see if the wines posses the inherent balance to age gracefully.
After another unusual dry yet bitterly cold winter, spring showed up with plenty of rain, causing issues during flowering and promoting mold and mildew issues. Low temperatures which followed through April and May helped to prevent major issues with disease, though as temperatures warmed and the rains abated, the vines began to shut down due to hydric stress. The lack of winter water had a deep effect on the season’s crop and while the early prognosis is for very positive, we should wait until the wines arrive to pass judgment.
After a very warm and virtually snow and rain free winter, the spring of 2007 started off with a bang. March and April saw record temperatures that abated somewhat in May and June, only to be followed by a scorching July. Rainfall was limited early in the summer, which had begun to cause problems with the vines. Lower temperatures and rain in August helped to slow down the vegetative cycle and restore some balance to the vines. The respite was short lived though, as temperatures rose again during a very sunny and warm fall harvest. The grapes were brought in several weeks early and the fruit was marked by the warmth of the summer. The wines are deep, concentrated and compact with good acidity but some unripe tannin. They promise to be exciting wines on release. While many will improve with cellaring, as many may never be as tasty as on release, a situation that one encountered with the 1997, a vintage this very much resembles.
2006 began much as 2005, with a cool, damp spring that slowed the onset of the vines vegetative cycle. The summer arrived with a vengeance though and both June and July saw very hot, dry conditions. August saw a return to cooler temperatures as well as much needed rain, allowing the vines to complete the maturation of the grapes while preserving the fresh quality of the fruit. In fact, throughout the late summer and early fall, temperatures were ideal with warm days and cool nights. Quality and quantity were both high in 2006 and the wines possesses richness and good structural elements that seem to promise wines that will drink well throughout their lives.
Spring conditions were ideal for the start of the vegetative cycle, though towards the end of spring humid and warm conditions set in. The resultant disease and sporadic hail not only damaged the vines but reduced the crop set. The summer saw an unusual alternating of dry, hot periods with cool damp periods. Producers were unsure of how to proceed with such an unusual set of conditions and many made mistakes in the vineyard that might have further reduced quality, though the end of the season was far from ideal in any event. The cold weather continued through the harvest, with more rain than was ideal, and yet many producers were able to bring in healthy fruit. With lower than typical sugars an higher acids, these are zesty wines, some even a bit thin and abrasive. Time should help to smooth out the rough edges here and the acidity and fresh aromatics bode well for positive development in the cellar.
Torrential autumn rains that followed the frightfully dry conditions encountered in 2003 replenished depleted ground water supplies and set the stage for a successful 2004 vintage. Breaking a year long trend, the spring of 2004 was slow to arrive, coming in later even than historical averages. The weather remained unseasonably cool well into May when temperatures began to rise accompanied by ample rainfall. The sudden heat and copious amounts of water caused the vines to surge into a particularly vigorous vegetative cycle. The summer started out fairly cool and only truly began to warm up late in July. The heavy crop load put stress on the vines and quality producers green harvested to lighten the loads. The weather remained favorable, with warm days and cool nights for the remainder of the summer and well into the fall allowing the crop to be brought in under clear skies at the leisure of the producers. The resultant wines already show phenomenal concentration, balance and unusually fresh aromatics. These are elegant yet powerful wines that will age spectacularly well.