92 Biondi Santi Rosso and 89 Grattamacco

Bandmate and neighbor Greg Wawro brought over a few aged Porterhouse steaks last night to pair with some big Tuscan wines that I had been saving: a ’92 Biondi Santi Rosso and an ’89 Grattamacco (note how dated and simplistic the label of the Grattamacco appears in the photo above).

The 1992 vintage is widely considered to have been a poor one in Tuscany: did Franco Biondi Santi use his top grapes for this Rosso that year? I think that this is the case since he made little or no Brunello that year… at least, there doesn’t seem to be any on the market. This bottle came to me via a self-described hobbyist of vintage wine who lives in Mondovì in Piedmont. It was so moderately priced that I couldn’t resist buying it. I wasn’t sure if it would survive the trip nor was I certain that the wine hadn’t lost its life. I decanted it about thirty minutes before drinking. Although the first aromas were not so pleasant, the wine opened up beautifully. It certainly had seen better days but for me, there’s nothing like the taste of old wine. It was bright and still had a lot of good acidity. Biondi Santi’s wines are made expressly to age and this one paired wonderfully with our bistecche alla fiorentina (alla Upper West Side).

The 1989 Grattmacco… pure hedonistic pleasure. I’m really not one for Bordeaux-style wines from Italy. But I had a chance to taste a lot of Grattamacco working for one of my former clients and really came to enjoy the wines. When I had the opportunity to buy this bottle at a discounted price (one of the perks afforded by the client), I jumped. Historically, Grattamacco has been made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese. This bottle seemed to be an even balance of the first two, with lesser amounts of the Italian grape. It was fantastic and paired beautifully with aged cheddar.

The best thing about the Grattamacco was how the wood (i.e., the barrique, the new oak) had integrated – or better yet – had had the time to integrate well. In this country, we are so accustomed to drinking young overly oaked Bordeaux-style wines, that most wine enthusiasts believe the prickly sensation in the back your mouth is a good thing. On the one hand we drank a wine that had no barrique whatsoever. Although the Rosso has passed its peak, it was still very much alive. An oaked Rosso di Montalcino would never last that long (fourteen years!). On the other hand, we drank a very modern wine where the flavor of the wine was not overshadowed by the new wood.

A judicious balance of Old World and New… the wines were some of the most interesting and rewarding that I have ever opened in my home.

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