Christmas In August

Christmas In August

Posted on Aug, 23. 2010 by

Categories: Wine

Today’s offering is quite a bit different from the kinds of things you typically see from us here at the Wine Guild. This offer highlights some truly unique, special, high-quality and well-aged wines that would make outstanding gifts for yourself or the savvy wine lover you want to indulge or impress during the upcoming holiday season.

Will and I were visited Friday by one of our top importer/distributors, who carries a portfolio of some of the best Italian wines. Among those are many of the leading producers in Tuscany. We tasted almost a dozen wines and were uniformly impressed — a few were so exceptional that we will be featuring them as email offers over the next two weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

In addition to the impressive new releases we tasted, however, the salesperson regaled us with tales of the surprising depth of inventory they maintain among many of their premier producers, and how those wines are still carried at quite reasonable prices. That got Will and I intrigued, and when he mentioned that they would soon be offering special discounted pricing on many of these “library” wines to clear out old inventory, we made him immediately turn over his entire catalog and quickly got to work seeing what nuggets we might uncover.

From among their inventory we have handpicked several wines that we believe present exceptional opportunities. These are wines from a couple of the premier producers in Tuscany, are bottles with 10+ years of age that have been quietly sleeping in the warehouse over that period, and in some cases are larger-than-normal formats. These are precisely the kinds of wines that are typically unavailable, except perhaps at auction (with uncertain provenance), or at exorbitant prices (and uncertain storage conditions) from retailers. They are at the peak of their drinkability, and rated outstanding (or better) by major reviewers. In short, these are the kinds of wines that will blow you away, and impress even the most savvy wine friends, colleagues or bosses you may know.

On to the wines:

1999 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia:
This wine has a reputation as probably the highest quality Chianti made each year. Since the Guild’s inception, we have offered the 2004 and 2006 vintages of this wine, and the 2004 remains one of my absolute favorite bottles of wine period I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years. So what of 1999? It was an absolutely exceptional vintage in Tuscany, rated 95 points by Robert Parker. So here we have a top producer in a great vintage — what could be better? How about a large format? This wine is available only in magnums (1.5L, or the size of two regular bottles).

A momentary aside on large formats. I love them. Nothing says “dinner party” better than a magnum of great wine at the center of the table. There’s something about the visual impact of a large format bottle that really emphasizes that something special is happening. And that impact is exactly the same when given as a gift — it truly sets it apart.

In any event, this is a truly special wine, from a great vintage, in its drinking prime, in a great format, at a per-bottle price BELOW what the current release is going for — absurd!

1999 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva, Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy (1.5L bottle)
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $67.32 • Premier Cru: $70.38 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $100.00+ if you can find it.
Buy Now!

1999 Felsina Fontalloro:
Another world-class wine from Felsina, the Fontalloro is also 100% Sangiovese but includes grapes from a couple of vineyards technically outside the Chianti border and so cannot be classified that way. Qualitatively on par with the Rancia at the pinnacle of their portfolio, the Fontalloro often shows a slightly riper, more accessible style. The 99 Fontalloro actually outscored the 99 Rancia by a point on the Parker scale (though with scores in the 90s I’d argue the differences are negligible), and both wines have similar CellarTracker scores in the low-90s. As is typical, this Fontalloro commands a modest premium over its brother, though again the pre-bottle price here is below the current release:

1999 Felsina Fontalloro, Sangiovese, Tucsany, Italy (1.5L bottle)
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $87.71 • Premier Cru: $97.70 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $130.00+ if you can find it.
Buy Now!

1999 Fontodi Chianti Riserva Vigna del Sorbo:
The Vigna del Sorbo is the top Chianti from Azienda Fontodi, one of the most renowned producers in Chianti. Again, the vintage here is the spectacular 1999, and Fontodi nailed it. This wine is 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, making this a bit more like a Super Tuscan than just a pure Chianti. In addition to the low 90s scores from Parker and CellarTracker (where recent comments include “now hitting prime time” and “how high can you score a Chianti?”), the folks at the Seattle retailer Garagiste recently did a vertical tasting of Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo and made the following comments on the 1999:

The 1999 is singing right now – probably the best vintage of Vigna del Sorbo for current wine-geek consumption. This wine is like catching a ray of light in your hands – it provides the type of experience all of us look for but rarely find.

This wine is offered in 750ml, if that’s your preference:

1999 Fontodi Chianti Riserva Vigna del Sorbo, Sangiovese/Cabernet, Tuscany, Italy (750ml)
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $57.86 • Premier Cru: $60.49 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $75.00+ if you can find it.
Buy Now!

All three of these selections are truly special, interesting, wonderful wines that would make fantastic gifts and can be consumed right away at their peak. I know it’s a little early to be invoking Christmas, but offers like this to treat yourself or other important people don’t come around every day. Quantities of these library wines are small, so please promptly let us know your interest in getting your hands on these gems.

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