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Pick My Next Bottle – 1997 Super Tuscans

The October installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 1997 Super Tuscans (see the July installment for background on this series). I plan on opening the winning bottle on October 25th and publishing an in depth bottle note on the 27th.

Back in the late 1990s, 1997 Tuscan wines were widely proclaimed by both producers and reviewers as the greatest vintage of the 20th century. Per Piero Antinori, Italy’s best-known grower and producer, ”I have never seen a vintage like this and I have been making wine for 30 years.” He added, ”I have never seen the grapes in such perfect condition.” There may have been a touch of hyperbole involved. After the fact, many critics thought wines from subsequent vintages including ’98 and ’99 may have been better candidates for the cellar.

The wines are now 15 years old, so the proof is in the bottle. Some wines are still stellar while others are starting to fade. This month’s candidates were all purchased upon release and have been waiting patiently in the cellar:

  • ’97 Felsina Fontalloro – The 1997 Fontalloro may be the finest made from this single vineyard (and I have tasted them back through the early eighties). Aged two years in French oak, there are 3,000 cases of this spectacular wine. Dense ruby/purple-colored, with a chocolate espresso-scented nose infused with cherry liqueur, it is a full-bodied, sweet wine with wonderful fatness, terrific ripeness, plenty of glycerin, and a chewy, long, spicy finish. There is some tannin in this youthful offering, but its appealing flamboyance is attention-getting. It should last for 12-15+ years. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • ’97 Isole e Olena Cepparello – This blockbuster of a Sangiovese shows layers of ripe fruit on the palate, with loads of ripe tannins and a long, fruity finish. Truly monumental for this producer and appellation. Breathtaking. Best after 2008. 96 points from the Wine Spectator and wine #3 in the Wine Spectator top 100 of 1999.
  • ’97 Fontodi Flaccianello – There are 3,500 cases of the 1997 Flaccianello, a 100% Sangiovese aged in new French oak for 18 months. A dark ruby/purple color is followed by a strikingly fragrant nose of saddle leather, cedar, licorice, vanilla, and black cherry/blackberry fruit. The wine possesses medium to full body, gorgeous delineation, fine ripeness, and a sweet, glycerin-imbued, long finish. Given the vintage’s glycerin level and opulence, it can be drunk now, but it promises to last for 15 or more years. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 1997 Super Tuscan should I open?

  • Isole e Olena Cepparello (38%, 15 Votes)
  • Fontodi Flaccianello (36%, 14 Votes)
  • Felsina Fontalloro (26%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 39

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to hear why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the November installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. All three sound good, but I’d have a hard time selecting one since I’ve not had any of the three.

    If I was hard pressed to choose one, I’d go for the Felsina.

    October 22, 2012
    • I’ve always been a Felsina guy myself….but part of that is the Fontodi is exceptionally hard to find in my area.

      October 22, 2012
  2. Texas Wineaux /Terry Hill #

    This was a tossup at 1st, but after 15 years in bottle these wines will need the tannins & glycerin upfront to hold up & still be vibrant & viable. Although you had me at “saddle leather, cedar, licorice, vanilla, and black cherry/blackberry fruit”.

    I bet the Fontodi will have held up better than the other choices, especially the Cepparello, that is why my choice would be Fontodi.
    That is my reasoning. All sound great though!
    Terry Hill
    Texas Wineaux
    @friscokid49

    October 22, 2012
    • Thanks Terry…I definitely think the Fontodi might have the best potential for further time in the cellar.

      October 22, 2012
  3. I am an Isola e Elena kind of girl.

    October 22, 2012
    • Thanks for tweeting that all of these are 100% Sangiovese. Totally a coincidence but worth noting. I had almost included a Tignanello that has some percentage of Cabernet in the blend.

      October 22, 2012
  4. MDL #

    I chose the Fontodi for selfish reasons…have had wines from the other two producers and was curious about it!

    October 22, 2012
    • You and me both. Much more experience here with the Cepparello and Fontalloro.

      October 22, 2012
  5. Tom- I’d opt for the Isole e Olena if for no other reason than the other two are sure bets for longer cellaring. My bet, from reading notes, is the Isole is at peak…I think you have a no-lose conundrum!

    October 22, 2012
  6. Lon #

    With no knowledge if any of the wines I picked according to the tasting note that sparked my interest the most.

    October 23, 2012
  7. The Isole e Olena Cepparello. Imagine getting hit by a bus next week and not having opened it.

    October 23, 2012
  8. Not enough experience for me to make a very educated selection, but I do love a good Chianti Classico or Brunello when I’m served one. Fontodi is the only one of the wines above that I’ve had before and I found the description of it to be the most enticing, so I went with it.

    October 23, 2012
  9. These are some of my favorite wines. The Flacci is terrific so I voted for it. You can’t lose with any of them.

    October 23, 2012
    • Hard to go wrong for sure. Thank you!

      October 23, 2012
  10. Mike Tesarek #

    I picked the Fontodi as it should be the most ready to go. I like all the wines and have more experience with older Felsina and Isole o Lena that could still use time…
    Mike
    @pnrieslingfan

    October 23, 2012
    • Interesting that many think the Fontodi is ready to go while others think it has the best potential for further aging. Thanks for chiming in!

      October 23, 2012
  11. Blake Holaday #

    Tom,
    I picked the Cepparello for the same reason Julie Christine did: it will, most likely, be the first wine of the three to fade, so drink up. Loooking forward to your review of it! @bhollandaise

    October 23, 2012

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