Solengo, the loner turns 20
Since the first vintage in 1995, Argiano has offered – along with its Brunello di Montalcino- a French blend that, after a few off years, has made a comeback: Solengo.
The Argiano estate is located in the southern area of Montalcino on a ridge that is not that high but enough to ensure excellent ventilation while the soil composition helps to offset the consequences of a hot summer. The estate wasfounded in 1580 and was even cited by Carducci. Its more recent history, starting in the early 1990s, is tied to a young aristocrat, Noemi Cinzano, and her encounter with the great Giacomo Tacis, the father of many great Tuscan wines.
Her youth together with the wisdom and adventurous vision of this recognized genius resulted in the birth of Solengo. The name refers to the loner that remains outside the herd or pack and it is a perfect description of this wine that also seeks to represent the land of Brunello: a loner that interprets the land with varietals other than Sangiovese. The original blend was primarily composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Merlot even if certain vintages also saw a tad of Sangiovese added in. The blend was made after the wines had matured in barriques of various origins for some 24 months.
The wine immediately had an amazing success both in regard to the ratings assigned to it by domestic and foreign trade publications and it popularity among consumers to the point that it overshadowed the estate’s excellent Brunello. The first vintage was 1995.
With the new millennium and the departure of Tacis, the new collaborators failed to maintain the level of quality of the earlier vintages, also because of a loss of interest on the part of the owners and cutbacks in investments. In 2013, aBrazilian investment fund acquired the estate and put a young Siena native in charge, Bernardino Siani, who quickly restored the reputation the estate deserved from is tradition and quality of the land.
Investments were made in all sectors of the estate with particular attention paid to the winery. Both production and the aging procedure benefitted from new fermentation approaches and new barrels of various sizes and origins that produced immediate results for both the Brunello and Solengo.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of when the first vintage came out and Argiano organized a retrospective tasting of eight vintages of this “loner” with – as a final gift – the presentation of vintage 2016, which had just been bottled and will appear on the market after April.
The vintages offered during a dinner at the Burde restaurant in Florence were: 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2010, 2011, 2015 and the new 2016.
The following reviews are of the vintages that impressed us the most.
Its 23 years hold up well with a certain austerity. The ruby color has some garnet hues and the bouquet has notes of tobacco, small dark fruit and blonde spice. The mouthfeel has settled tannins, a thick but not overbearing texture with a slightly balsamic and fresh vein that makes this a flavorful and persistent drop.
This was the family’s first champion and the wine continued to amaze as it did when it came out. The ruby color is bright and nicely intact as is the aroma with its red floral notes and those of small dark fruits, the touch of graphite and only hints of balsamic notes. The mouthfeel has great class and is consistent and agile thanks to an excellent acidity, excellent progression and a persistent and elegant finish with an aftertaste of blood orange.
The wine of the evening, the favorite of our managing editor and great expert in “Bordeaux blends”. This has a compact and bright ruby color and a complex aroma of floral notes, red and dark fruit and a fascinating hint of Mediterranean spice. The progressive mouthfeel has a thick texture with elegant and integrated tannins upheld by an unexpected freshness. The finish is flavorful and very persistent.
The bottles of this vintage were not all the same but overall the quality was very good. The color as an intense and dark ruby while the fruit was the best part of the bouquet. The fruit was ripe but never too warm and thus very pleasing without being jammy. This was an excellent result considering how hot the growing season was. The juicy tannins had nice tannins and a thick texture with a sinuous finish.
This vintage is the latest on the market and has a classic ruby color without being too bold. The aroma plays on Mediterranean notes and those of dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry. The mouthfeel is elegant and flowing with tannins that are still young while the freshness slightly holds back the progression. Scents of underbrush and cigar box return in the finish.
This is perhaps one of the best vintages ever. It shows how the estate is back on top and together with the Brunello demonstrates how intelligent the investments made by the new owners were. The ruby color is very intense without exaggerating while the aroma is youthful yet rich, intense and distinguished by the notes of red and dark fruits, floral scents and hints of graphite and winter underbrush. The mouthfeel has great class and texture with young yet integrated tannins and the finish of a champion.