2009 Rocca di Frassinello Rocca di Frassinello
Expert Ratings
RP 93 points
ST 93 points
WS 92 points
(Read the full reviews below)
 
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Rocca di Frassinello Vineyards The 93pt "Super" Tuscan

When the term was finally coined, it set off a marketing bonanza the likes of which the Italian wine world had never seen before. Trailblazed by the likes of Sassicaia and Piero Antinori's "Tignanello," it seemed like every collector and importer in the U.S. couldn't get enough of the "Super Tuscans." And why not? How not to be intrigued by the hypothetical marriage of the ethereal aromatics of Sangiovese, dosed with the broad shoulders and blackberry core of Cabernet Sauvignon. And while Sassicaia was a Pauillac look-alike, composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon, the examples that we found most enchanting remained truer to their Tuscan Sangiovese roots.

By the early 1990s, prices were skyrocketing. Seemingly every Italian restaurateur from NYC to LA carved out large sections of their wine lists for what were now the most treasured reds of Italy. But as is so often the case when wine marketers get too much of a good thing, many began to cash in on the work of the region's greatest names. Before we knew it, too many of these Tuscan blends weren't so super anymore.

What happened? In retrospect, it's pretty simple. Sangiovese is notoriously capricious. One easily forgets that in the late 1960s, Chianti Classico was worthless. Growers tossed wheat on the ground during harvest, not wanting to lose time. At least you didn't LOSE money farming wheat! But as time marched on, the most brilliant winegrowing minds in the region began experimenting, replanting Sangiovese to tighter row blueprints, switching out clones to maximize maturity. For the world class Super Tuscan pioneers, the careful doses of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot softened edges and fattened middles, enriching without obscuring. But for the bandwagon wannabes, Cabernet and Merlot (often, as we recently learned, shipped in from far sunnier southern climes) dominated, making for simple New World-ish wines, absent any sense of place or identity.

The most serious producers stuck to their guns, often eschewing the Super Tuscan moniker, focusing attention to the signature originality of their blends. Most were obliged to double down to maintain price points, raising the bar on farming and cellar work. Some gave up the ship. Of those who persevered, none would do so with more rigor and enthusiasm than the Baron de Rothschild and his Tuscan partner, Paolo Panerai.

It's not often that a guy with Bordeaux's most recognizable name -- one that appears on $2000 bottles of "Mouton" and "Lafite"-- is left speechless by a patch of land. But word has it, when Baron de Rothschild first saw this gentle stretch of hillside property under a hot Tuscan summer, felt the cleansing maritime breeze, he couldn't help but wonder. If the neighbors at Sassicaia and Ornellaia could do it, why couldn't he?

Still, Rothschild hadn't come to the Tuscan coast to grow only Cabernet Sauvignon. Rothschild was enchanted by Sangiovese, but even more so by a Super Tuscan marriage of Tuscan and Bordelais varieties. Still, sensitive to the winegrowing caprice of Sangiovese, he searched out a partner, finding him on the cold soils of storied Castello di Castellare.

This unique marriage of Franco-Italo winegrowing expertise would give birth to one of the most extraordinary properties in Italy -- and a singular blend that reminds us of what "Super Tuscans" are really all about. In the marvelously drawn out 2009 growing season on the coast, Paolo Panerai nursed the estate Sangiovese to marvelous small berry concentration and supple tannin structure. As to the Bordeaux varieties, 2009 would prove to be a rare field day for Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, providing for extraordinary ripeness not unlike the monumental harvest of the Baron's own Parker 100-pointers in Pauillac.

We were high on the 2008 Rocca di Frassinello for its cold vintage high tones and Tuscan rusticity. This 2009 is something else altogether. Largely fueled by the broad, sleek shoulders of the Cabernet Sauvignon, the luscious suppleness of juicy Merlot, here the Bordeaux varieties play a larger role. Dark ruby in color with lavishly ethereal aromas of Tuscan red fruits (Sangiovese) and a hint of cassis (Cabernet), the attack here is far warmer and more voluminous than in 2008, the core deep, darker -- with a dash of blackberry liqueur drizzled on red raspberry sumptuousness.

Rarely are all the critics aligned on Super Tuscans, as Modernists often duke it out with the Traditionalists. In the case of the 2009 Rocca di Frassinello, all three pundits sang the same tune. 93 from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. 93 from Parker's Wine Advocate. A lowly 92 from Wine Spectator.

Tasting Notes

2009 Rocca di Frassinello Rocca di Frassinello
"The 2009 Rocca di Frassinello impresses for its polish and supremely elegant personality. Sweet red berries, roses and licorice are among the aromas and flavors that emerge from this pliant, polished red. This is a more feminine style than the 2008 and ultimately a touch more refined as well. The Rocca is 60% Sangioveto, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2021."
93 points -- Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

"(a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 20% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; 70% new oak): Very bright, full ruby. Sappy aromas of cassis, blueberry, mocha, licorice and vanillin oak. Juicy and lively on the palate, thanks to harmonious acidity that lifts the dense, sweetly spicy red and dark cherry flavors. Finishes with substantial but very polished tannins that hit the palate quite late. A wine of surefire potential, and yet another strong showing in this estate's lineup."
93 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

"Focused and intense, offering cherry, raspberry, licorice and tea flavors. The ample fruit is offset by assertive tannins, leaving a grainy finish now. Needs time to integrate. Best from 2014 through 2025."
92 points -- Wine Spectator

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