Tenuta di Biserno Wine Tasting Lunch with Marchese Lodovico Antinori at Carbone

Saturday, June 6, 2015
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Marchese Lodovico Antinori, over lunch at Carbone in New York City

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Tenuta di Biserno wines tasted on June 4, 2015

“Tuscan wine is not just Sangiovese.  We can demonstrate its true potential when we have freedom of choice, and are free to express ourselves and create a truly modern expression of viticulture.”
Marchese Lodovico Antinori

When we were invited to taste through five wines over lunch at Carbone with Marchese Lodovico Antinori — who created the legendary Super Tuscan wines Ornellaia and Masseto — this week, it didn’t take much arm-twisting to say yes.  We were curious about Antinori’s latest project, his first ever in conjunction with his brother Antinori Wines president Marchese Piero Antinori, and one that silver-haired septuagenarian Lodovico is repeatedly referring to as his “last winemaking project”: Tenuta di Biserno. 

With benchmarks that high, we’d imagined these wines would be well worth tasting.  We were right.

Even before tasting them, however, we were already charmed by Lodovico’s candor:  As he welcomed us to the tasting, he shared, “I feel a little ridiculous,” acknowledging that all winemakers stand before all wine writers telling them why they believe their wines are the best.  Fortunately, Lodovico had the advantage of having five bottles of truly excellent wines to share that could do the talking for him.

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Top left: Marchese Lodovico Antinori; Top right: Eagle-eyed Steven didn’t miss a thing; Center: Tasting of five wines before lunch; Lower left: Carbone’s sign in the former Rocco’s space; Bottom left: Marchese Lodovico Antinori with his namesake wine

While Super Tuscans have been known to rely on Bordeaux varieties — especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot — these wines are unusual in their predominance of Cabernet Franc, which often contributes appealing primary notes of green bell peppers and raspberries to a blend, in addition to secondary notes of blackberries, currants, herbs, plums, and red cherries.

Lodovico shared his dream that “before I die, I create a winery that can express itself through Cabernet Franc.”  The right location is essential to that dream — and one he is confident to have found in western Tuscany, in the coastal area of the Upper Maremma. Among the rolling hills of Bibbona is where the estate is located.

Lodovico described the Maremma terroir as “very complex,” crediting its proximity to the Mediterranean as the source of a luminosity that is “very good for the wines’ phenolic development.”  In addition to “care and passion and love,” he cited its three primary influences as 1) the aforementioned luminosity (light), 2) sea breezes, and 3) temperatures that were “never very cold.”

The resulting five wines we tasted included:

– Tenuta di Biserno | Il Pino di Biserno 2008; Appellation: Italy | Tuscany | Maremma; Suggested retail:  $71.99

We both loved the 2008 vintage — a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot — so much that we’re thinking of picking up a bottle or two for a special occasion.

Andrew’s tasting notes for this wine read, “Wow! Hints of tart cherries, with the smell of wet earth — bring on some mushrooms, please!”  Karen’s read, “Drinkable NOW….Fruit-forward nose with lovely, smooth tannins; great elegance.”

– Tenuta di Biserno | Il Pino di Biserno 2009; Appellation: Italy | Tuscany | Maremma; Suggested retail:  $71.99

The 2009 vintage features a slightly higher proportion of Cabernet Franc (45%), along with 25% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Petit Verdot.

You’ll want to age this wine, which we found noticeably younger and “tighter” than the 2008, with lovely notes of blackberries, black cherries and cedar (and hints of almonds and cocoa on the finish), as it still needs a bit of time to reach its peak.  When it does, we suspect it might be just as stunning as the 2008.

– Tenuta di Biserno | Il Pino di Biserno 2012; Appellation: Italy | Tuscany | Maremma; Suggested retail:  $71.99

During our tasting, Lodovico Antinori referred to drinking a wine too soon “like killing a baby.”  The 2012 vintage — with its nose of pencil shavings and black pepper, and primary flavors of cherries and plums — is still such a baby.  While already offering pleasure, it’s a wine worth investing a decade of aging time in to achieve the best payoff in enjoyment.  Andrew’s tasting notes read, “Bring on the pasta with red sauce and fresh basil.”

– Tenuta di Biserno | Biserno 2010; Appellation: Italy | Tuscany | Maremma; Suggested retail:  $174.99

This impressive blend that had us both craving mushroom risotto is made up primarily of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.  Andrew’s tasting notes describe it as, “Big, rich and bold….While made from Bordeaux grapes planted in Italy, it tastes ‘New World’ at the same time….Mixed berry cobbler of blueberries and blackberries with a hint of cocoa and a great crust.  A truly remarkable wine.”

– Tenuta di Biserno | Lodovico 2011, Appellation: Italy | Tuscany | Maremma;  Suggested retail:  $418.99

Karen saved her “WOW!” for this magnificent wine’s tasting notes, summing up its rich, very full-bodied yet elegant texture and flavor complexity (with notes of blackberries, plums, and tobacco in addition to green pepper), exhibiting extraordinary balance and finesse.  This blend of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (with the latter contributing its characteristic blackberry notes) is the glass Karen picked up and carried with her to the table for lunch, so she could savor every last drop.  It’s drinking beautifully now, but you could easily set it aside and give it a few to several years to age further.

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Top left: Carbone’s Caesar salad wtih polenta croutons; Top right: Creamy tomato-sauced pasta; Center: Cauliflower steak was a surprisingly apt pairing with our red wines; Lower left: Marchese Lodovico Antinori raises a toast at lunch; Lower right: Carbone’s cauliflower steak was one of the best we’ve ever tasted

As this was our first visit to Carbone, a note about the food:  We both enjoyed it — a lot — starting with the Caesar salad with polenta croutons and roasted multicolored bell peppers.  We also found the ristorante to be welcoming to our meatless diets, not missing a beat in offering us a cauliflower steak in lieu of the set menu’s main course.  In fact, Carbone’s cauliflower steak is one of the best we’ve ever tasted. And, as with Lodovico’s Tenuta di Biserno wines, no one had to tell us it was one of the best — because the proof was right there on our palates.

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Marchese Lodovico Antinori’s Tenuta di Biserno wines can be found at biserno.com.

Carbone Ristorante Italiano is at 181 Thompson Street (bet. Bleecker & Houston) in Manhattan.  Website: carbonenewyork.com.

Categorized: New York City, Wine