The best wines from The Tuscan Masters 2020

It may be one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, but Tuscany boasts some of the most forward-thinking winemakers out there, as our annual taste test of this Italian region proved. We bring you the medallists from 2020’s Tuscan Masters.

Old dog, new tricks: Tuscany

In the heart of the Old World there’s an ancient area of wine production that has the sheen of something modern. It’s been home to vineyards for centuries, and it’s the source of a famous, fine, and demanding grape, but it’s a region displaying a new-found dynamism, and as a result, drawing in a fresh set of drinkers. What am I referring to? Tuscany.

This part of Italy, encompassing the historic DOCGs of Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montepulciano, and bastion of the brilliant-but-troublesome Sangiovese, is on trend. It’s cool, exciting, and developing, with a contemporary image that somehow seems at odds with the venerable regions found within its boundaries. Yes, Toscana – to use the correct Italian description of the area – is sexier than the long-established DOCGs it houses. Why is that? After all, the IGT Toscana classification came into being almost 30 years ago, although the Maremma Toscana DOC was formed in 2011 for the coastal part of the region. The reason relates to the freedom IGT Toscana offers producers, and the fact that we are seeing now the high-quality results of past experimentation. The finest wines of such trials, the so-called Super Tuscans of the 1970s and ’80s, now fit within legal regulations, while we are witnessing a wave of brilliant white wines under the Toscana label, along with excellent pale rosés, similar to the pinks that are so popular from Provence.

But the classics offer thrills too. Be they Brunello or Chianti Classico, the standards are higher than ever, with the former retaining its position as one of the world’s great fine wines, and the latter re-establishing its reputation with a new top tier for the greatest expressions, called Gran Selezione.

Toscana may have a trendy ring to it, and encompass a wide range of wine styles, but its sub-regions are reliable go-tos for delicious, ageworthy drops, including the DOC Bolgheri, created in 1994.

With such a variety of DOCs and DOCGs, and a range of grapes, as well as wine styles, some quality guidance is important. This is why we launched the Tuscan Masters, to blind taste the full gamut of wines hailing from this administrative Italian region.

Before we consider the stars of 2020, it is worth nothing that the wines of this part of Italy have a distinctive stamp. Whatever the grape, and notable in the reds especially, is an appealing brightness, as fine dry tannins mix with fresh acidity, even when the wine showcases ripe, fleshy, dark berry fruit flavours.

Rising stars

One of the rising stars of this region are the white wines. Often based on Vermentino, they mix a touch of peach with notes of pink grapefruit and bitter almond to yield something gently oily and palate-cleansing. In keeping with Toscana winemakers’ tendency to play with well-known French grapes, this area can craft wonderful barrel-fermented Chardonnays, like Banfi’s Fontanelle.

Regarding the reds, it would be wrong to single out one variety or source area as being better than another, as the quality levels are high from the classic and modern, although the expressions differ. Proving the value inherent in the Sangioveses of Chianti Classico, the sole Gold medal in the £15-£20 price band this year went to this region – the producer was Contessa di Radda. Not far behind this, however, in the same price category, was a Sangiovese from the Maremma, called Pactio, and a lovely one from Montalcino made by Ciacci Piccolomini.

Between £20 and £30, it was clear that the newer blends incorporating international grapes yielded wines with different tastes but similar high standards as the classics using Sangiovese. It’s why you see Arceno’s Il Fauno gaining a Gold with a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and Lucente also picking up the same hard-to-achieve medal with a mix of Sangiovese and Merlot, while the third Gold in this price band, for Lunadoro’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, showed the brilliance of Sangiovese in this classic area of Tuscany.

Moving up to the finest wines of the day, ones at over £30, many of the top-scorers were made with the native grape of Tuscany. Be it Arceno’s brilliant, pure Sangiovese Strada al Sasso or Banfi’s always delicious Poggio alla Mura Brunello, which showed better than the same’s producer’s Summus. While the latter is a remarkable wine, because it uses Cabernet and Syrah blended with Sangiovese, despite sourcing all the grapes from Castello Banfi’s estate in Montalcino, it is a Toscana IGT – Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese.

We were also impressed by a pair of top Montepulcianos from Lunadoro, which enticed with their aromas of mandarin, cherry and cedar, and delivered so much appeal on the palate with flavours of stewed red berries, plums, and leather, along with a bright, zesty character, and fine dry tannins.

It was not until the retail price of wines surpassed the £50 barrier that we awarded our first Master. This went to Le Bolle, a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Castello Vicchiomaggio, which, once more, showed the wonderful combination of Sangiovese and the top sites of Tuscany, impressing the judges with its ripe cherry and cedar characters, and bright plummy finish.

Powerful but balanced

But, for all the excellent wines created using the native grapes of Tuscany, we had some stars with French imports, in particular Excelsus from Banfi – an expressive, creamy, powerful but balanced red using Cabernet and Merlot grown in Brunello country, even though it cannot state that on the label.

Similarly delicious was a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend called Arcanum, by Arceno, using grapes from the great southerly sites of Chianti Classico, to yield a wine with cassis, vanilla and notes of sweet balsamic and cigar box.

Therein lies the excitement of Tuscany. Just when you thought the star wines used Sangiovese from the classic areas, one comes across something remarkable using a set of grapes alien to Italy. But whether the variety is native to the region, or from outside the nation, there’s a Tuscan taste to all the wines.

That is based on something powerfully flavoured but bright, where the fruit is sweet and the tannins dry, the texture is fleshy and final impression taut. Such combinations are rare in the wine world, but prevalent in Toscana.

Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

White Unoaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Banfi La Pettegola 2019 Silver

White Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£20-£30
Banfi Fontanelle 2018 Silver

Red Unoaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£15-£20
Querciabella Mongrana 2017 Silver

Red Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Tenute Piccini Collezione Oro Chianti Riserva 2017 Silver
£15-£20
Agricoltori del Chianti Geografico Contessa di Radda Chianti Classico 2016 Gold
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino 2015 Silver
Fertuna Pactio 2016 Silver
Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico 2018 Silver
Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 Silver
Lunadoro Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Prugnanello 2018 Silver
Banfi Aska 2017 Bronze
Banfi Fonte alla Selva 2018 Bronze
Winemakers Club Italia at Monterinaldi RBW Chianti Classico Reserva 2016 Bronze
£20-£30
Tenuta di Arceno Il Fauno 2017 Gold
Tenuta Luce Lucente 2017 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Pagliareto 2017 Gold
Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva 2017 Silver
Rocca delle Macìe Ser Gioveto 2016 Silver
£30-£50
Tenuta di Arceno Strada al Sasso 2017 Gold
Banfi Poggio alle Mura 2015 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Gran Pagliareto 2016 Gold
Lunadoro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva Quercione 2016 Gold
Querciabella Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 Silver
Campo alla Sughera Arnione 2015 Silver
Banfi Summus 2016 Silver
Rocca delle Macie Sergio Zingarelli 2016 Silver
Tenuta Licinia Lucinda Riserva 2016 Silver
£50+
Castello Vicchiomaggio Le Bolle 2016 Master
Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum 2015 Gold
Banfi Excelsus 2016 Gold
Querciabella Camartina 2015 Gold
Tenuta di Arceno Arcanum Valadorna 2015 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Tuscan Wine Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel, and was judged by David Round MW, Simon Field MW and Patrick Schmitt MW. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Tuscan Wine Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

The Global Rosé Masters 2020: results and highlights

We bring you all the medal winners and our top picks from this year’s Global Rosé Masters, which is the biggest single blind tasting of pink wines in the UK so far this year.

All the following recommendations hail from 2020’s Global Rosé Masters, a competition that sees all sources of pink wine judged side by side with only the most basic knowledge of style and cost.
While Champagne excelled in the pink sparkling category, and Provence was the dominant force in the still dry rosé and oaked rosé categories, there were plenty of other sources that featured.
Indeed, among the sparklings, it was a Crémant de Bourgogne that wowed for its quality and relative value, while among the still wines, we had an ultimate barrel-fermented rosé that was not from Provence.
Furthermore, among the Golds were stunning salmon-coloured drops from a broad array of locations, from Greece, to Priorat, and within Italy, both Sicily and the Tuscan coast.
As for the base standard of wines this year, it was undoubtedly better than ever before – and we’ve been running The Global Rosé Masters for almost a decade.
So, look below for a listing of all the medallists from this year’s competition, and read on to see our highlights, and to find out more about the tasting.

Dry sparkling rosé (12 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bortoluzzi Rosa di Gemina Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Valdo Spumanti Valdo Marca Oro Rosé Brut Veneto and Sicily Italy NV Silver
Vigna Dogarina Spumante Rosé Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Bosco del Merlo Spumante Rosé Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
 £10-£15
Matahiwi Estate Matahiwi Estate Brut Rosé Wairarapa New Zealand NV Silver
Valdo Spumanti Valdo Floral Rosé Brut Veneto and Sicily Italy NV Silver
Colesel Spumanti Pavana Rosé Spumante Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
 £15-£20
Maison Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Bourgogne France NV Silver
Fantinel Fantinel “One & Only” Rosé Brut Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
 £20-£30
Maison Louis Bouillot Perle d’Or Rosé Bourgogne France 2015 Gold
Tenuta Montemagno TM Brut 24 Mesi – Metodo Classico Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
 £30-£50
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Spéciale Rosé Champagne France NV Gold
Gusbourne Estate Rosé Kent UK 2016 Gold
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Rosé Champagne France NV Silver
 £50+
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Rosé Intense Champagne France 2008 Master

Sweet sparkling rosé (+12 g/l)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bosco Viticoltor Rosato Spumante Bosco dei Cirmioli Veneto Italy NV Bronze
£15-£20
Andreola Bollé Vino Spumante Rosé Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Silver
Tenuta Montemagno TM Roses – Malvasia di Casorzo DOC Spumante Piedmont Italy NV Silver
Banfi Rosa Regale Piedmont Italy 2019 Silver

Still unoaked dry rosé (4 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Mirabeau en Provence Belle Année Provence France 2019 Gold
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Le Versant Grenache Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Biecher Le Chef Rosé Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Luzón Rosado Colección Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Cielo e Terra Bericanto Rosato Vicenza DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Casa Girelli Canaletto Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Piquepoul Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Ensedune Cabernet Franc Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Griset Sauvignon gris Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Les Amours d’Haut Gléon Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Dievole Le Due Arbie Rosato Tuscany Italy 2019 Bronze
Bodegas Alceño Alceño Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Gérard Bertrand Hampton Water Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Chivite Las Fincas Rosado Navarra Spain 2018 Gold
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Classic Provence France 2019 Gold
Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink Pinot Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Maison Gutowski M–G Grande Cuvée Provence France 2019 Gold
Born Rosé Barcelona Born Rosé Penedès Spain 2019 Gold
Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Languedoc Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Holden Manz Hiro Franschhoek Valley South Africa 2019 Silver
Barton & Guestier Rosé d’Anjou Loire Valley France 2019 Silver
Bodegas Izadi Izadi Larrosa Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Vignerons de Tutiac Lion & The Lily Bordeaux France 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards Leefield Station Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Paradis Secret Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Mission Hill Estate Winery Reserve Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Silver
Frescobaldi Alìe Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Rioja Vega Rosado Colección Tempranillo Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Pure Provence France 2019 Silver
Viña Leyda Leyda Rosé Leyda Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Bodegas Príncipe de Viana Príncipe de Viana Edición Rosa Navarra Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Olivares Olivares Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Piera 1899 Pietra di Pinot Grigio Blush DOC delle Venezie Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Bodegas Bilbainas Viña Pomal Rosado Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Raimat Raimat Rosada Catalonia Spain 2019 Silver
Santa Tresa Rosa di Santa Tresa Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Château de Sannes 1603 Provence France 2019 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Château Saint Jacques d’Albas La Chapelle en Rose Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Mission Hill Estate Winery Terroir Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Gold
Minuty Minuty Prestige Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Léoube LOVE by Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Etoile Provence France 2019 Gold
Chamlija Rosé de Strandja Strandja Mountain Turkey 2019 Silver
Château de Sannes Aciana Provence France 2019 Silver
Maison Saint Aix AIX Rosé Provence France 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Domaine Haut Gléon Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Banfi Srl Cost’è Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Torre Mora Scalunera Etna Rosato DOC Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Tenuta Moraia Rosato Maremma Toscana DOC Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Alpha Estate Rosé Single Vineyard Hedgehog Amyndeon Greece 2019 Silver
Poggio al Tesoro Cassiopea Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Château Des Demoiselles Charme des Demoiselles Provence France 2019 Silver
Roseline Diffusion Roseline Prestige Provence France 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage Winemakers Select Tempranillo Rose Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Domaines Ott By Ott Provence France 2018 Master
Minuty Château Minuty Rose et Or Provence France 2019 Gold
Scala De Scala Dei Pla dels Angels Catalonia Spain 2019 Gold
Château Léoube Rosé Secret de Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château des Demoiselles Château des Demoiselles Provence France 2019 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Provence France 2019 Gold
Gusbourne Estate Cherry Garden Rosé Kent UK 2019 Silver
Château Sainte-Roseline Cru Classé Lampe de Méduse Cru Classé Provence France 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Domaines Ott Clos Mireille Rosé Provence France 2018 Master
Château Léoube Rosé La Londe Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Sainte Roseline Cru Classé La Chapelle de Sainte Roseline Cru Classé Provence France 2019 Silver
£50+
Minuty Château Minuty 281 Provence France 2019 Master

Unoaked medium-dry rosé (4 g/l to 12 g/l)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bosco del Merlo Pinot Grigio Rosé DOC Veneto Italy 2018 Silver
Cantine di Ora Masso Antico Primitivo Rosé Puglia Italy 2019 Silver
Botter Vivolo di Sasso Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Mission Hill Estate Winery Estate Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Silver
Casa Vinicola Sartori Vero d’Oro Rosato Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Pasqua Mater Anna Pinot Grigio
Rosé delle Venezie DOC
Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Siegel Wines Siegel Rosé Cinsault Colchagua Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Bodegas San Dionisio SF Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
Botter Pinot Grigio Rosato delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£10-£15 
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Cecilia Beretta Freeda Rosé Trevenezie Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Cantine San Marzano Tramari Rosé di Primitivo Salento IGP Puglia Italy 2019 Bronze
Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo Rosé Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
Cantine di Ora Amicone Corvina Rosato Verona IGT Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
Cantine di Ora Il Casato – Schiava Valdadige DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
Cantina di Bertiolo Villa San Martino Pinot Grigio Blush Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé Trevenezie IGT Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Pinot Nero Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Fantinel Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Gold

Oaked dry rosé (4 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Gérard Bertrand Joy’s Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Chivite Las Fincas Rosado Fermentado en Barrica Navarra Spain 2018 Gold
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Desire Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Bronze
Finca Albret Albret Rocío Navarra Spain 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Bodegas Juan Gil Juan Gil Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Copper Rosé Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Quinta Nova de Nossa
Senhora do Carmo
Quinta Nova de Nossa
Senhora do Carmo Rosé
Douro Portugal 2019 Bronze
£20-£30
Gérard Bertrand Château la Sauvageonne La Villa Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Master
Terra Sancta Wine Terra Sancta Special Release First Vines Rosé Central Otago New Zealand 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Domaines Ott Château Romassan Provence France 2018 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Rock Angel Provence France 2019 Gold
Château d’Esclans Château d’Esclans Provence France 2018 Gold
Poggio al Tesoro Cassiopea Pagus Cerbaia Tuscany Italy 2017 Silver
£50+
Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Master
Château d’Esclans Les Clans Provence France 2018 Master
Château d’Esclans Garrus Provence France 2018 Master

Rosé Masters 2019: results and analysis

We bring you the results in full from this year’s Rosé Masters, which saw pink wines from Provence get top results, although samples from Corbières and Tuscany also impressed our exacting judges.

The wines were tasted at Beach Blanket Babylon Restaurant and Bar in London’s Notting Hill

Of all the categories in the vast universe of fermented grape-based drinks, rosé is the most dynamic. With the rising call from consumers for pale pink wines, above all from Provence, it seems almost every corner of the wine world is now making a rosé, and in the lightest possible shade of pink.

With such an influx of new products, it has become more important than ever before to blind taste the latest entries to this fast-expanding sector, whether it’s range extensions from long-standing pink wine producers, or the latest vintage from famous rosé regions, as well as complete newcomers to the category. Over recent years, the Global Rosé Masters, which is the largest rosé-only blind tasting in the world, using the trade’s top palates, has unearthed some wonderful and unexpected sources of great rosé, and 2019’s competition was no different in this regard. It has also highlighted the general strengths and weaknesses in this important and increasingly commercial category of drinks.

In terms of the good points, it seems that more winemakers are mastering the challenge of creating something that is both fresh and delicate, as well as ripe and soft. This can be made harder if the wine must also – as the market demands – be extremely pale.

In my view, rosé should have juicy flavours of red berries and peach, and a finish that is bright, if not biting. It should have appealing summertime aromatics of fresh red fruit, and a texture that ensures it slips down the throat with no harshness, but a soft acidity that makes one salivate.

Where the samples fail to get top scores, it is usually because the wines lack some of the riper fruit characters in the drive for delicacy and refreshment, with, sadly, some of the entries tipping into the herbaceous flavour spectrum, giving them a firm greenness that takes away from the pleasure of sipping rosé.

At the finer end of the rosé scale, where retail prices exceed £20, I am not in support of the school of thought that says oak has no place in pink wine. It’s a view I don’t understand: why should the colour of the drink dictate the winemaking approach? After all, one wouldn’t say that about white or red wine, so why would one about rosé?

Outstanding examples

While there are great examples of pink wine at high prices that see no oak influence, there are more outstanding ones that do (three of our four Master-winning wines were in the ‘oaked’ category). Where barrels have not been employed to add texture and complexity, producers have turned to other techniques to add palate weight, such as lees influence in tank, as well as the careful selection of ripe fruit, rich in flavonoids, and no doubt picked from older or lower-yielding vineyards.

Here, the pleasure comes from the fruit intensity, the balance between softness and freshness, and the layers of flavour that can come from a blend of sites and grape varieties, and ageing on fine lees. Aromatics are vital to the appeal of a rosé, and to capture them, producers must handle the grapes sensitively, with the chilling of the berries a necessity as soon as they are picked, as well as during the winemaking process.

Pioneering perfection

What about those top-end pinks that have some form of barrel influence, including a proportion of new oak? This is something that Château d’Esclans has pioneered and perfected in the rosé category, using its best wines from its oldest Provençal vineyards. Key to the appeal of these wines is the match between the soft ripe fruit flavours and the nutty, creamy characters imparted by the barriques – each of which is temperature controlled to retain the fresh berry characters of the Grenache that dominates in their wines. In essence, these wines are a hybrid, combining the complexity of a barrel-fermented Chardonnay with the aromatic appeal of a Mediterranean rosé.

However, Château d’Esclans no longer has a monopoly on such a style. As we’ve highlighted before, Gerard Bertrand has burst onto the upmarket rosé scene with great success, particularly his smoky, gently toasty Château La Sauvageonne La Villa from the Languedoc.

This year, there was another entrant to this tiny category of top-end oak-influenced fine rosés, and it didn’t come from France. For me, this year’s most interesting find was from Frescobaldi, and it was a barrel-fermented and aged rosé from Tuscany, called Aurea Gran Rosé. It employs a complicated winemaking process, but, like the great rosés of Château d’Esclans, the fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled barrels – which in the case of the Frescobaldi pink – are 600-litre French oak, with 20% of them using new staves. An added layer of complexity in this wine also relates to the addition of a small proportion of reserve wine from a previous harvest; a white produce from Syrah that has been aged in barrique for 20 months.

Increased quality

The addition of this particular wine to the ranks of our Gold medal-winning rosés also draws attention to a trend that’s gathering momentum in the pink wine category – the increased quality of rosés from Tuscany. These are often sourced from coastal locations, and employ a touch of Vermentino – which is, after all, the Italian synonym for Rolle, the white grape used widely in the rosés from Provence. Three first-rate examples of Tuscan rosés were sampled blind this year, one from Fattoria Sardi, one from Banfi, and another, called Alie – like the aforementioned Aurea – from Frescobaldi. These weren’t the only standouts from Italy, however, with the Scalunera Etna Rosato from Torre Mora another delicious pink, and using Sicily’s fashionable Nerello Mascalese, a grape that’s adapted to the rocky hillsides of this Italian island’s active volcano, Etna.

Elsewhere, we were highly impressed by the quality-to-price ratio seen in La Dame en Rose from the Languedoc, a Carignan, Cinsault, and Grenache stocked by UK supermarket Marks & Spencer, retailing for just £6. We were also pleased to see a lovely pink blend from Bordeaux called Lion & The Lily, along with a delicious Pinot rosé from Marlborough, made by Marisco Vineyards, and a benchmark Provençal example from Château Léoube. Corbières in the Languedoc was a source of a stand-out rosé from quality-orientated co-operative, Les Vignobles Foncalieu, called Château Haut Gléon, while the highest-scoring unoaked rosés in 2019 were made by Château Minuty, with its Minuty 281 the better-value option, while its £50+ Rosé et Or gained the ultimate accolade of Master.

A mention should go to Canada’s Mission Hill, which gained two Golds for its delicious blended rosé from its vineyards in Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley, as well as to Gusbourne in the UK, for its delicious sparkling rosé from Kent, although Coates & Seely’s pink English fizz from Hampshire came close in quality. We were also impressed by the style of sparking rosé from Champagne’s Nicolas Feuillatte, which is crafting a chalky style of fizz with a touch of crunchy red berry fruit.

Finally, although we’ve already written about Château d’Esclans, this year’s blind tasting once more proved that this producer is at the top of the pink wine pyramid, picking up three of the four Masters given out this year. Indeed, this Provence estate’s Les Clans, and its ultimate expression, Garrus, should be served, preferably ‘blind’, and in black glasses, to those who believe that wine can’t be both pink and serious, layered and ageworthy.

Such is the quality of these products that rosé should now be included in a list of truly fine wines.

The judges (left to right): Giovanni Ferlito, Patrick Schmitt MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Jonathan Pedley MW, Andrea Briccarello, Tobias Gorn

Read on for the full list of medallists, judges comments, and more information about the competition.

The Tuscan Masters: analysis and results in full

An in-depth analysis of the top-performing styles, regions, and producers from the Tuscan Masters 2019 – the only competition to blind-taste all things Tuscan side-by-side, be it Brunello or Bolgheri, along with the blends of Toscana IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica).

Considering how famous Tuscany has become as a holiday destination for travellers from right across the world, it is perhaps surprising that this region’s wine offer is not better understood, or at least, fully appreciated for its diversity. Of course it’s home to some of the globe’s best known denominations – Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montelpulciano – but such areas are primarily associated with one grape: Sangiovese, and the distinctive reds it yields, with their wonderful combination of bitter-sweet cherry fruit, and firm tannins.

However, Tuscany, and its Toscana IGT official classification for those wines that fall outside the rules of this region’s protected designations, comprises wines made from a broad sweep of grape varieties, and a wide range of styles. Importantly, such wines are individual, delicious, and, in our view, undervalued for their quality. Among such stars are the whites based on Vermentino; the rosés from the Tuscan coast, particularly the Maremma, and the reds based on blends of Sangiovese with French grapes, from Syrah to Merlot.

Nevertheless, we at db wanted to taste-test the stylistic diversity on offer from Tuscany, as well as discover the hot spots for excellence, and, notably, see if the price-to-quality ratio peaked within the great DOCGs of Tuscany, or outside them.

With this in mind, we launched the Tuscan Masters, a tasting designed to assess all styles of wine from this part of Italy using our usual sampling format. This ensures that the entries are judged without any knowledge of their specific source area, or base grape. The wines are arrange according to style, and grouped into price bands, but the aim is to assess the entries according to quality, and quality alone. This could mean of course that a traditionally-made Chianti Classico might be judged alongside a modern-style Merlot blend from the Maremma. But, with both being approximately the same price, the question the judges must ask themselves does not concern typicity, but excellence for the money. And, it should be noted that both entries could be equally good, but offer a different kind of wine.

So what did we find after a day tasting around 100 Tuscan wines? In general terms, Tuscany offers a vast amount for the wine lover. It yields wines of excellence, with a singular style, from light whites to rich reds, taking in a wide spread of prices, from the entry level to top end fine wine. Crucially, it is an area making wines to a very high standard, and, relative the number of entries, Tuscany received more top scores than any other wine region taste-tested through the Global Wine Masters programme. Our Master of Wine judges were enthused by the complexity of this region’s output, and the way the wines are crafted – which sees an emphasis on refreshment, even when the base product is a lower-yielding south facing vineyard planted with the great red grapes of Bordeaux.

And it is Tuscany’s ability to produce wines with a typically Italianate bitter-sweet character, even with international grapes, that makes it so appealing. In other words, the great wines from this area of Italy are wonderful and inimitable.

Also, the best expressions weren’t from one particular area. Indeed, we awarded Masters – our ultimate accolade – to wines from all the major DOCGS of Tuscany, while we also saw excellence in the blends classified as IGT Toscana.

So, as you can see in the lists of results below, our handful of ‘Masters’ from the day’s tasting included reds from Montepulciano, Montalcino, Bolgheri and Chianti Classico, although, notably, the top expressions from Montepulciano and Montalcino actually employed non-native grapes, and hence they couldn’t carry the name of these famous denominations. This meant that our best wines of the day included two IGT Toscana reds: Banfi’s Bordeaux blend called Excelsus – using Cabernet and Merlot from the slopes of Montalcino – and Avignonesi’s Grandi Annate, a pure barrel-aged Sangiovese from Montepulciano. More in keeping with their source region, a further two Masters were awarded to a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Cecchi, along with a Cabernet blend by Campo all Sughera, hailing from the home of Super Tuscan reds, Bolgheri – where Bordeaux grapes dominate.

Considering the styles on offer from Tuscany, starting with the lightest, it was clear that Vermentino is well suited to the Tuscan terroir, particularly the coastal part of the region, Maremma, and can be crafted to produce a range of whites, from the fresh, citrusy, light type, to more full-bodied, peachy style.

The latter richer version can also be suitable for barrel-fermentation and maturation, benefitting from the added nutty complexity of such vessels, just as riper styles of Sauvignon Blanc complement a touch of oak influence.

Among the great examples tasted in this year’s Tuscan Masters were a lovely, peachy, bright Vermentino from Cecchi, called Litorale, hailing from the Val delle Rose in the Maremma DOC.

Also delicious, and made in a similar mould – so bright, fresh, unoaked, but with masses of yellow fruit – was Banfi’s La Pettegola Vermentino, which also comes from the coastal part of Tuscany, using grapes grown in both the Maremma and Bolgheri, which is better known for its great reds from Bordeaux grapes.

However, when it came to a more powerful, barrel-influenced white wine, it was a Chardonnay that impressed, with Banfi’s Fontanelle earning praise from the judges for its combination of creamy toasty characters, and intense lemon fruit.

So what about rosé, or rather, rosato? After all, this is the wine world’s most fashionable category, attracting celebrities, not just as consumers, but as investors – even if such stakes are being taken in France, specifically Provence.

Well, we know from other tastings, notably our Rosé Masters, that Tuscany is the source of some great pink wines, with Frescobaldi’s Syrah and Vermentino Tuscan blend called Alie a gold medallist this year.

Banfi too has proved adept with rosato, particularly its Cost’é Rosé, IGT Toscana, which sees Vermentino prove an excellent component for a Sangiovese-based rosé, with the white grape playing a similar supporting role to the Grenache-based rosés from Provence, where Vermentino is commonly used, but labelled under its French synonym, Rolle.

However, in the Tuscan Masters, it was the brand Ventisei (meaning 26), from Avignonesi that took the top marks for its Rosato, using pure, organically-grown Sangiovese to produce a pink wine that was both refreshing and bursting with ripe red fruit.

Back to the reds, and starting with our Gold medallists among those wines enjoying the freedom of the IGT Toscana classification, one name that attracted plenty of praise, picking up three golds, was Arcanum, for its wonderful, structured reds employing Bordeaux grapes.

Using fruit from the southeast corner of Chianti Classico, this brand – which is owned by Jackson Family Wines – specialises in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, not Sangiovese, hence its wines are classified as IGT Toscana.

All the labels from this name were delicious, but the most impressive was the Merlot-dominated Arcanum ‘Valadorna’ from the 2013 vintage, with layers of fleshy ripe Morello cherry, sweet balsamic, vanilla and plenty of firm tannins to clean the palate.

Beyond Arcanum, two greats classified under the Toscana IGT tag hailed from Banfi, a name more closely associated with top Brunello, but skilled at much more.

Along with the aforementioned Master-winning Excelsus from Banfi, was this producer’s Summus brand, which sees Sangiovese from Montalcino blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to create something delicious, lifted, but also richer than a classic red from this part of Tuscany.

But Banfi also wowed the judges with its Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico, and its Aska Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, along with its single vineyard Poggio alle Mura, proving that it can craft outstanding wines respecting the rules of its regions, as well as through more experimental winemaking that breaks them.

Likewise, Avignonesi, which took home a Master for its Grande Annata IGT Toscana Sangiovese from Montepulciano, also gained a top score – albeit a Gold rather than Master – for its Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Poggetto Di Sopra, complete with its fleshy red cherry fruit, leather, spice, orange zest and dry, fine tannins. Another delicious red from this same well-known area was crafted by Lunadoro, offering a layered, refreshing, traditional wine for sub £30.

Further brilliance was enjoyed among the top wines of Castello Vicchiomaggio – both its Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, and its Ripa Delle More, which sees Sangiovese from the same region blended with Cabernet and Merlot, meaning this wine must forego the name its famous source area, and taken on the IGT Toscana classification.

The judges were also delighted to see a Sangiovese from the more obscure Morellino di Scansano DOCG gain a Gold. Found within the Maremma, this outpost for lovely fleshy cherry-scented reds came from Cecchi.

Nevertheless, the greatest number of top scoring wines based on Sangiovese came from Chianti Classico, with Fattoria Astorre Noti in Ruppiano, Rocca delle Macie, Nittardi, and Querciabella all picking up Golds.

So, while Tuscany is one of the world’s greatest areas for wines, crafting bright whites and roses, food-friendly reds, and concentrated complex fine wines too, the Tuscan Masters highlighted something else. This is the quality and value of top Chianti Classico, a famous name that seems to have fallen somewhat out of fashion relative to its Tuscan neighbours – be they the Bordeaux blends of Bolgheri or the pure Sangioveses of Brunello. In other words, don’t forget Chianti Classico in the search for fine wine from Tuscany. Indeed, it may be the source of Italy’s most keenly-priced great reds.

The wines for the Tuscan Masters were judged over the course of one day at Les 110 de Taillevent in London on 11 July by (left to right): Matthieu Longuère MS, Patrick Schmitt MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, and Jonathan Pedley MW

Chardonnay Masters 2017: the results in full

Where once the choice for Chardonnay drinkers was either a big, buttery, oaky expression or, in response, an austere, lighter version, now producers have found an appealing middle ground, as Patrick Schmitt MW and fellow judges discover.

The wines, which were all 100% Chardonnay, were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and sommeliers on 12 October at Villandry in Piccadilly in London

No single variety of wine has suffered more abuse than Chardonnay. As those of you in the trade know well, the most overt sign of this came with the ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ movement of the last decade – shortened to ABC – which emerged as a response to buttery, oaky, rather sickly styles of wine that had appeared on the market from the late 1990s onwards, when heavy-handed cellar techniques were used on lightweight grapes. Unfortunately, it wrongly tarred all Chardonnays with the same brush. But the ABC sentiment was to some extent justified; it was a reaction to something real.

As a result, combatting such an image issue took drastic, tangible measures. It required the emergence of ‘skinny’ Chardonnay: a style of wine created so lean that the trade and consumers couldn’t help but notice. It was proof that Chardonnay’s stylistic pendulum had well and truly swung to another extreme. And, for this reason, initially, it was welcome. But it wasn’t the long-term solution for a grape that had created a mass following for its richness. Should one crave a fresh, lightweight drink, one wouldn’t ask for a Chardonnay. So, while the lean Chardonnay showed that winemakers could produce something delicate from this grape, it was, at the same time, disappointing those who loved Chardonnay for its generosity; that crowd-pleasing combination of ripe yellow fruit and notes of buttered toast.

About the competition

In a crowded wine competition arena, The Drinks Business Global Chardonnay Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region. Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind-tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin. The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold, as well as Master, the ultimate accolade, given only to exceptional wines in the tasting. The wines, which were all 100% Chardonnay, were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and sommeliers on 12 October at Villandry in Piccadilly in London. This report only features the medal-winners.

Moving forward to today, and following another extremely comprehensive Chardonnay sampling through our Global Masters programme, it is apparent that an appealing, balanced middleground has now been struck. One can still find the rich, oaky, Chardonnay caricatures, and the more feathery, austere examples too, but the extremes are less extreme. The variation now comes with price point – so, as one moves up the quality ladder, you can literally buy more fruit, oak, and layers of flavour, for the most part, in harmony. What’s important is that, in general terms, the Chardonnay on the market at the moment is better to drink than it has ever been before. And, with so many sources, there’s a lot to excite the adventurous drinker.

All this means that, at present, any wine lover who is tired of Chardonnay, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, is tired of life. With all that said, before looking closely at the high points from this year’s tasting, there is still controversy in the handling of Chardonnay by winemakers. In the vineyard, lower yields, and attempts to pick neither under- nor over-ripe may be producing musts with the potential for greatness, but management during and after fermentation is bringing a particular and divisive character to the resulting wines – and this results from differing levels of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). At low levels, this compound can add a complexing whiff of smoke, reminiscent of a freshly struck match.

At higher concentrations, it can be stinky, like rotten eggs. Skilled winemakers can control the influence, mainly through lees management, and will allow the almost rampant production of the compound in some barrels, before blending these into the wine to a bring about a desired level of sulphide-sourced characters. Where they have been apparent, but not unpleasant, sulphidic aromas have been a shortcut to success in wine competitions. However, our judges are more sceptical of heaping high scores on such artefact.

As a result, while the top medallists in the Chardonnay Masters may display an attractive sulphidic note, it is in combination with other flavours, primarily the character of the grapes, enhanced by the addition of aromas created by malolactic fermentation and barrel-ageing. In other words, our judges aren’t swayed by the instant aromatic smoky hit from sulphides, but are happy to reward this trait in well-made Chardonnay, as long as it is in harmony with other elements in the wine. On that note, it is important to stress that texture too is vital for great Chardonnay, and the judges were looking for a wine not just with flavour complexity, but a certain weight in the mouth from ripe fruit (not sugar or elevated alcohol). Not only that, but the oleaginous had to be balanced by a brightness on the finish – all wines must deliver refreshment, however weighty.

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