What’s a Claret when it’s not a Claret?
Well, having just had the privilege of a pre-luncheon tasting, twelve vintages of ‘Vigna d’Alceo’ from Castello dei Rampolla (Yes, you got it right, that excellent Toscano Rosso), I can safely report to you dear reader that this Panzanonian heavyweight fits the bill exactly. It is the most extremely well made non-Claret you are ever likely to come across, in my book of course.
If you have not tried it yet and you are a fan of really good Bordeaux reds, Tuscan jewels or just simply great wine, this is the one for you. Put your Claret-titfer away and stretch for the olde pen n`cheque book and buy some Vigna d’Alceo now. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot vines were planted in 1991 and the first vintage they commercially made available was 1996. The cut is normally 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot.
To guide you gently, I have scribbled down some basic notes from the table, prices and other viniformation that I hope will help you. To give you an idea of how good this wine is, 2003 d’Alceo reminded me of one hi-flying Pauillac (a 100 pointer) from the same vintage. A 2003 Ch.Lxtxxr can you believe it!
So this is what I thought of the wines, and I have included the alcohol levels too, not because the taste showed off anything particular in that direction, but you can see from the levels that they increment as the vintages become younger. A bit like Greta Thunderpants and her Gollywog badge collection. I have also put prices in pound sterling per bottle ex HM’s Duty & Excise/VAT etc, and also my rather weak attempt at the 10 point score system. 10 being my peak, Mt.Everest!
If you do want to purchase any please do just drop me a line here: email@example.com
‘It’s a stonking wine the for the mullar’
All of these wines shared unique and similar characteristics on both palate and on the nose, so I have noted them here so as not to repeat myself, and have added simple notes next to the vintage as they where tasted. (Oldest to youngest, may Edmundo P-R turn in his grave): Deep ruby, Black Cherry, mineralogy, Blackcurrant, Cedar, Graphite, Violets, Cassis, Vanilla, Blackberry, flint and aromatic herbs.
1996 Vigna d’Alceo (13%) @ £150bt
Still young in a way, soft tannins, plums and a graceful drinker. (9/10pts)
1997 Vigna d’Alceo (13%) @ £140bt
Showing it’s maturity, a slight greenness to the mix. (7/10pts)
1998 Vigna d’Alceo (13%) @ £135bt
A mouthful of super soft tannins, tobacco and really multilayered sexyness. (9/10pts)
1999 Vigna d’Alceo (13%) @ £145bt
Minty, blackcurrant and licorice. There’s muscle here and it`s elegant muscle. (7/10)
2000 d’Alceo (13%) @ £sold out
Sweet tobacco, creamy dried prune and a new style. Huge wine! (8-9/10pts)
Footnote: The label changed in 2000 from Vigna d’Alceo to simply d’Alceo. The reason being, and I know why because I asked Alceo’s children (now the bosses) Luca and Maurizia, and this is what Maurizia had to tell me:… ”The reason why we changed the name, is because for the Italian law, you can use the name VIGNA only for CRU wines, and d’Alceo was not considered at that time a ‘cru’. So we had to cancel the word Vigna and leave only d’Alceo’. And now dear reader you know that! But not many people do!!
2001 d’Alceo (13%) @ £130bt
A bit more rough on the edges than the previous wines tasted, yet still like one of the greatest Chiantis you ever drank, but of course not made from Sangiovese. (6/10pts)
2003 d’Alceo (14.5%) @ £115bt
Massive wine, grilled herbs and fine-grained flat-iron steak. (9.9/10pts)
2004 d’Alceo (14.5%) @ £ SOLD OUT
Inky, blood-like persistence, young, closed and ready to pull the punches in a few years time. Great material (6-7/10pts)
2006 d’Alceo (14.5%) @ £125bt
Wonderful in every way. Huge explosive and silky finish. (9.99/10pts)
2007 d’Alceo (14.5%) @ £110bt
Sweet mocha burgundy style, probably the lightest wine of the line up and still in his pajamas. (6/10pts)
2008 d’Alceo (14.5%) @ £110bt
Gracious clove like soft tannins. Extraordinary grace to be found here. (9/10pts)
Footnote: The first vintage to be vinified in Terra cotta Amphorae … μεγαλοφυία!
2009 d’Alceo (14%) @ £105bt
Not unlike the previous vintage tasted here, but in this one there are waves of dark fruit and a totally Clarety finish. (7/10pts)
So there we go, have fun! When I first visited the dei Napoli family (Rampolla) in Panzano back in late spring of 1989 I can remember having one of those wonderful late lunches in the local noshery, there was only one then, that not only set a benchmark on the local cuisine for me, but as it ended much later in the afternoon, or was it the early evening? I seriously cannot remember now, I did not go homer. What I do remember was there were some Italian Military exercises going on in the area, and Panzano being a stategic hi-point, the army where using it as a temporary base camp to watch over manoeveures down below in the valley. There were many armored vehicles on the road to Grave and further south. Italian soldiers with machine guns (more dangerous than Habbu Habbu Almighty from Isis) where all over the place. So I made a decision to camp myself, out of doors sleeping bag style, amongst the vines at Santa Lucia in Faulle (The Azienda of vini Castello dei Rampolla). I awoke the next morning with the warmth of the sunshine, sweet birdsong and the morning glory of the vineyard urging me not to leave. I fell in love of course and ended up buying a house nearby in San Giovanni d’Asso. It didn’t work out in the end, the living in Tuscany bit, but that’s another tale for another life. I did come back to London though with two treasures to import directly. Both Sammarco (they did not make d`Alceo then), their Trebbiano and the basic Chianti, and of course dear old Gianfranco Soldera’s Case Basse &B Initistiesti. So all was definitely not lost. Now as I close here, news has come down the wire direct ‘pronto’ from Antonio Galloni. He has just tasted, lucky fellow, the 2015 d’Alceo. Our shipment arrives at LCB VT in March/April 2020, and this is what he has to say about it.
2015 d’Alceo @ £95bt
“Dark, powerful and explosive, D’Alceo is one of the epic wines of 2015. Crème de cassis, plum, graphite, sage, lavender, and menthol rush out of the glass in a deep, beautifully resonant wine loaded with class. A wine with striking inner sweetness, depth and structure, the 2015 will thrill readers lucky enough to own it for a number of years to come. The 2015 was fermented in cement and then spent 14 months in oak. It is rich, it is sumptuous and it is simply irresistible.” 97/100pts A.G.
… and I should remind you that we still have our last six bottles of the 100/100 pointer (A.G.) 2010 d’Alceo lying ‘Under Bond’, and this is what AG had to say about it the last time he tasted it:
2010 d’Alceo @ £150bt
Rampolla’s 2010 d’Alceo is utterly spellbinding today. Even better than it was last year, the 2010 impresses for its exceptional balance and pure finesse. Everything is simply in the right place. Silky, layered and unbelievably expressive, the 2010 d’Alceo is a thrill from the very first taste. Over the decades the Di Napoli family has made so many breathtaking wines, but the 2010 d’Alceo is something more than breathtaking, and that something more is hard to express with words. Readers lucky enough to taste the 2010, however, will know it right away. What a magnificent wine this is!
Amor Vincit Omnia!