Pugnitello 2011, Tuscany, Italy
The San Felice estate in Chianti are world-renowned for their Chianti Classico and Super-Tuscan wines. Personally I believe that their Classico Riserva is one the best value wines in its category. There are undoubtedly bigger names; Beradenga, Fontodi, Isole etc but they come with substantially higher price tags and, in most vintages, they need substantial time in bottle to reach their peak. The winemaking here is clearly grade-A.
However, it’s a less traditional project from San Felice that has caught my attention; a project that San Felice have brought to life with help from the University of Florence bringing the Pugnitello (no, I had never heard of it either) grape back into the higher echelons of Tuscan winemaking. Winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini, is a master of the 'non interventionist' approach. The secret to all his wines lies in the selection of high quality grapes from exceptional vineyards, driven by the intensive research programme, in particular by selection of the best naturally occurring clones. It was through this project that they investigated the Pugnitello grape. The grape had been largely forgotten over the past half century due to the uneven and late ripening of the variety which, despite its sometimes excellent quality, made it almost impossible to work with . Leonardo and the team at UF were able to draw out the more successful clones and plant a small quantity in a south facing plot that promoted good ripening. The results are excellent.
Pugnitello gives classic expressions of high quality Tuscan wine, restrained and complex and with great balance and depth. Leonardo said to me that the DNA of the grape closely resembles Syrah although the flavours seem more in the Merlot spectrum but with far greater depth and bredth. Like all his wines the 2011 Pugnitello is understated but satisfying, unencumbered by new oak, international varieties or overly flashy winemaking. It’s worth noting that 2011 was an exceptional vintage in these parts so this has doubtless encouraged even more quality than usual.
So in a nutshell I encourage you to take a chance on this wine. I’m seeing quality that normally comes in at plus £50 and some flavours that remind me of some of the really super-premium wines of Tuscany from estates like Ornellaia or San Guido and these rock in at serious big bucks. At 5 years old the wine is drinking well know and I’d be certain that it’ll continue to develop well for 5 more years at least. It has a bit of gloss and puppy fat right now but that is definitely converting to more grown-up savoury aspects.