What to drink in 2023: Tuscany and Piedmont
Author: Charles Leech
In the third part of our series on what to drink in 2023, Account Manager Charles Leech talks us through what to drink from Tuscany and Piedmont this year.
To write from a position of perfect knowledge on which vintages you should be drinking this year, I decided to break into my last magnum of 1985 Sassicaia – in search of informed writing and consequently, joyful reading. This was an exceptional vintage in Tuscany, yielding wines that are, by this point, of near-mythical brilliance. That vintage also saw Sassicaia’s first 100-point score – there is surely nothing greater to be pulling from the cellar in 2023.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t bear much resemblance to the reality of today’s decidedly more modest vinous companion – a 2019 Langhe Nebbiolo from Trediberri. I am, however, firmly of the belief that the truth shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.
The 2014 vintage seems a great place to start and is likely my preferred vintage for enjoying this year. It might sound mildly counterintuitive but I tend to see 2014 as a relatively unremarkable vintage and thus perfect for slightly earlier consumption. By no means are these wines of lesser quality, they are just destined for a shorter life. There was quite a lot of vineyard variation, so enjoy liberally across all quality levels and expect Barbaresco to shine a little brighter.
I’d offer the same advice here with 2011 and suggest that prolonged cellaring is not necessary to enjoy these wines. An exceptionally hot summer meant that slightly cooler sites performed much better — from what I have tasted recently these would be a strong contender for consumption this year.
I find that 2004 and ’07 Barolo present with a similar character and I would add these to the list of special bottles to dip into over the next 12 months. The 2004 is noteworthy and not least due to its place as the successor to ʼ03 – anathema to many collectors. The 2008 and ’12 also form a duo in my mind — both are appropriate for drinking now, although I’d choose ’08 this year. If you are looking to enjoy the best of recent years, leave the 2013s, ʼ15s and ʼ16s to rest for a while longer.
Similar to Burgundy, Barolo is broken into smaller sites and vineyards, sometimes known as crus. The top crus from ʼ10 are unbelievably good. Still with plenty of primary fruit, these are some of the most remarkable bottles of Nebbiolo I’ve enjoyed recently. The cru of Monvigliero, situated in the northern commune of Verduno, deserves special recognition.
For less considered and slightly more frequent drinking pleasure, Langhe Nebbiolo should be your go-to. The Langhe Nebbiolo designation allows producers to declassify Nebbiolo grapes (originally) destined for the aforementioned wines. This allows for an earlier drinking style of wine, sometimes blended with other varieties such as Barbera or Dolcetto. Brilliant when young, these are wines of immense joy and account for a large proportion of what I’m drinking now. If you have 2017s and ʼ18s left, I’d recommend drinking now. The 2019 wines are terrific and should be opened whimsically.
There’s a rather pleasing symmetry to be found here in terms of the best vintages and so it would be advisable to leave 2015s and ʼ16s alone this year. If you are feeling impatient, these wines will still be brilliant but their best is yet to come.
The 2014s will certainly provide a compelling drinking experience. I would suggest that there is no urgency with the top offerings but would recommend making your way through everything else.
For opulent Brunello di Montalcino in 2023, one can start to consider the higher-quality bottles from the vintages of ’04, ’06 and ’07. If you are on the hunt for slightly more accessible but still mature and developed examples, 2010 — a phenomenal year for Brunello — will be sensational at the “entry level”.
Turning our attention towards Bolgheri, these wines provide some of the most flexible drinking windows in Tuscany. For me, a standout wine in this category is Le Serre Nuove dellʼ Ornellaia. It is absolutely superb when young and requires little to no patience before enjoying even the best vintages. If you have 2015s, ʼ16s, and even ʼ19s, go for it!
If you’re lucky enough to have fully mature Bolgheri from key vintages such as 1997 and ʼ98, these should be enjoyed this year. They are far from being on their last legs. That said, it would be advisable to enjoy them while they still, very proudly, exhibit their sense of place.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
A friend once told me that the best piece of advice when traveling would be to skip the standard room at a five-star hotel and instead take the best room at a less well-known establishment. It may be tenuously analogous, but I would apply that advice here. Looking to our Brunello and Barolo releases in the coming months, seek out the very best vineyards from producers still flying under the radar.
Luigi Giordano in Barbaresco is a terrific example, with holdings in Asili and Montestefano coming in at a fraction of the price of many others. For Brunello, Tassi has some of the greatest terroir in the region, sharing their hillside with the likes of Poggio di Sotto and Stella di Campalto. It may not be Claridge’s, but you do have a suite with a very, very good view.