Second wines like second sons of old receive less attention and fanfare than their big brothers but give one a sense of the grand terroir at a fraction of the price. One of the regions that is most famous for the production of second wines is of course Bordeaux where such legends as Cos d’Estournel 2009 at $399.99 and Grand Puy Lacoste 2009 at $99.99 produce the second wines Les Pagodes de Cos 2009 at $69.99 and Lacoste Borie 2009 at only $29.99 respectively. These superb wines generally come from the same great terroir but are produced using the younger vines as well as those grapes which do not make the cut for the grand vin for one reason or another. In some cases entirely separate vineyard sites are put aside for production of the second wine. In recent years the selection process for the grand vins has become more and more rigorous; therefore the quality of the second wines has correspondingly increased. Second wines serve a dual purpose for the producer: primarily the first wine is vastly improved while at the same time it gives the consumer a chance to taste the house style at a lower price point.
In the southwestern quadrant of Tuscany just east of the sea lies a region called Bolgheri where for the last sixty years a number of producers have been making wines from the Bordeaux varietals to spectacular effect. Among the best and the first is Tenuta San Guido’s Sassicaia or just Sassicaia as it is colloquially known. When first produced in the late 1940’s it was for the personal consumption of the family as they believed no one would buy an Italian wine made from French varietals. In the early 1970’s at the urging of Piero Antinori, a cousin of the family, and later producer of the super Tuscan Tignanello 2010 at $79.99, they released to the public to great acclaim. Unfortunately with success come high prices. The 2010 Sassicaia now goes for $179.99 and while it is certainly worth the price of admission it is not an everyday wine. A few days ago we were able to taste the second wine of Sassicaia the 2011 Guidalberto. This beautifully aromatic wine with hints of dark berries and baking spices, pleases on the palate with a complexity far beyond its price point. This wine just arrived in-store for $39.99.
One of the other great super Tuscan producers is Ornellaia which has just released its 25th vintage in the 2010 which comes in at $169.99. We also have on hand the 2009 vintage at $159.99. While a beautiful expression of the Bordeaux varietals and certainly worth the price tag, it benefits from a few years of cellaring. A true second wine, produced from the younger vines and those grapes which did not make the cut for Ornellaia, called Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2010 is a truly stunning example of top class super Tuscan without the price tag. Weighing in at $59.99 it is by no means everyday but neither then is the wine inside. According to the winemaker, “marked by fragrant tobacco leaf, intense fruit notes and spices. The palate is firmly-structured and complex, with silky tannins and remarkable aromatic richness, and the progression concludes in a long, firm finish.” This is the perfect wine for those hearty steaks and grilled meats coming off of your barbeques at the tail end of summer. The folks at Ornellaia also make a third wine called Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2010. It is not technically a second because its grapes do not come from the same vineyard. However it is a great value, full bodied, fruit forward red. Coming in at only $22.99 and comprised primarily of Merlot and Sangiovese which gives it a significantly softer style than its big brothers. If you’ve been curious to try one of the great Super Tuscans, but aren’t looking to spend a fortune, opt for one of these second or third wines and you won’t be disappointed.
Bill A., Beltramo’s Assistant Manager