I had dinner last night with Stefano Frascolla, who is the son-in-law of the owners of Tua Rita, the Tuscan cult wine producer in Suvereto, on the coast south of Bolgheri. Stefano oversees the estate, which is one of the best in Tuscany, if not Italy. What impresses me the most is how well-kept their 47 acres of vineyards are. They have to be some of the best maintained in Italy.
About seven acres are planted to Merlot, and this is where the legendary wine Redigaffi comes from. It continues to be one of the hardest bottles to find in Italy. About 500 to 600 cases are made each year, and about 50 to 100 cases of each vintage are exported to the United States.
Last night, I had the 1997 Redigaffi, which has always been a favorite. (It’s my foxy girlfriend’s all-time favorite red.) I gave it 97 points back in 1999. Here is the note:
A mind-blowing Merlot. Black in color, with superrich aromas of crushed berry, currant and a hint of grilled meat. Full-bodied, with masses of chewy yet ripe tannins and an amazing mint, berry, violet and earth aftertaste.
Last night, it was even better. It had lost all of its grilled meat character and maintained its pure fruit. It showed layers of raspberry and blackberry fruit with chocolate undertones. It was full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, long finish. It was so fresh and glorious. I was tempted to give it 100 points. Hell. 100!
An interesting point Stefano made was that the 1997 represented something special for him as well as the rest of Tuscany. “It was the vintage that made us understand how to work in the vineyard,” he said. That year, a spring frost throughout the region essentially reduced the production of grapes later on. “We understood that we had to produce less. It was so important.”
That’s why the 2004 Redigaffi, which should be on the U.S. market very soon, is also so outstanding. The 2004 vintage was an excellent one in Tuscany, but the big problem was overproduction. Producers who didn’t cut back grape bunches in the summer and keep their vineyard under control didn’t make great wines.
Frascolla certainly did. And his pure Merlot is incredible. The only problem will be finding some. Only about 100 cases are being shipped to the States, and it costs about $200 a bottle.