Few Italian wine regions have received more attention in recent decades than Bolgheri. Located on the Tuscan coast below Livorno, the area gained fame initially for Sassicaia, the country’s first wine made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon. This was followed by Ornellaia, the Ca’Maranda property of Angelo Gaia, and Antinori’s Guado al Tasso estate.
The maritime climate of Bolgheri is perfect for Bordeaux grape varieties, although no one seemed to realize it until the 1970’s, when Sassicaia was first released commercially and began beating Bordeaux First Growths in international competitions. As impressive as Sassicaia and Ornellaia are, a bottle will cost you at least $200, and even Guado al Tasso will fetch half as much. It’s a good day, then, when an estate such as Aia Vecchia comes along.
Aia Vecchia is a small property located between Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci. The 118 acres of vines are tended by the Pellegini family, who have been grape growers in the region for several generations, and the wines are made by Nicola Scottini. They represent a unique intersection of quality and value.
The range begins with Vermentino ($12), a wine many consumers associate with Sardinia rather than Tuscany. On the nose, Aia Vecchia’s version yields aromas of citrus and ripe melon. The citrus dominates in the mouth, bolstered by firm mineral overtones, and is magnified on the finish by vibrant acidity. It’s a good match with shellfish and grilled white meats, and delightful to drink on its own.
Lagone ($16), the entry-level red wine, entices the drinker with scents of dark berries, fresh herbs, anise and mocha. It is ripe, generous and focused on the palate; earth notes frame the lush berry fruit, and soft tannins carry the flavors onto the finish. In a word, the wine is exuberant: a perfect pairing with ribs, grilled meats, stews and soft cheeses.
The estate’s flagship wine is Sur Ugo ($35), a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Whiffs of spiced plums, reduced blackberries and menthol rise from the glass. The wine enters the mouth effortlessly, with rich flavors of black fruits enhanced by hints of spice, molasses and mint. In boxing terms, Sur Ugo is punching above its weight: carefully crafted, beautifully balanced and a pleasure to drink.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com