In pure dollar-for-dollar, pound-for-pound terms, this under-$20 Super Tuscan gives Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, and Ornellaia a run for the money. At VinItaly two years ago, we had to elbow our way past a horde of importers and top sommeliers to taste Riccardo Baracchi’s Tignanello-inspired Bordeaux blend. With consistently high praise from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and James Suckling, as bargain Super Tuscans go, it doesn’t get any better than this 2015 Baracchi Toscana “O’Lillo!” Italian expert and critic James Suckling was taken by its “pretty blueberry and mineral aromas and flavors,” and said it “shows the high quality of 2015.” It is the Super Tuscan bargain of the vintage.
In 1971, the Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta released the first vintage of Sassicaia, a 1968 Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon drawn off a small hand-tended vineyard in Bolgheri. That same year saw Piero Antinori craft a Bordeaux blend off an estate in Santa Cristina that his grandfather had purchased in 1900. Piero named that wine “Tignanello” after an old farmhouse that still stands on the property.
Four years after the release of Tignanello in 1974, Antinori, convinced of the world-class potential for Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany, crafted the first vintage of Solaia from excess Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc from a parcel on the same property. Next came Ornellaia, a pure Cabernet Sauvignon situated just a few kilometers from Sassicaia’s Tenuta San Guido. By the early 1990s, these four “Super” Tuscan reds were among the most sought-after and expensive wines in Italy.
Piero’s neighbors took careful note.
For nearly a decade, growers followed Antinori’s lead, grafting vines over to Cabernet Sauvignon. Big, bold, young-vine blends, packaged in designer bottles—with designer price tags—sold like hotcakes, buoyed by glowing reviews from James Suckling at Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. But as the cash began to flow, rather than reinvesting profits into their vineyards, many pushed the envelope on sales and marketing. Unfortunately, they’d soon learn, Armani suits and Gucci ties do little to improve the quality of wine!
Riccardo Baracchi’s estate has been in the family since 1860. While Baracchi was fully aware of Tuscany’s Antinori-inspired cash-flow bonanza, he was far more interested in the Antinori clonal and vineyard protocol than designer labels. On each of his three properties—the sandy soils of San Martino, the clay and chalk of Gabbiano, and the classic limestone and clay of Montanare—Baracchi planted varieties that were best suited to each terroir, choosing only the warmest south- and southwest-facing hillsides for Bordeaux varieties.
By the mid-2000s, just as so many began to struggle to sell their Super Tuscans, Riccardo and his son Benedetto hit full stride. Wine Spectator and their European bureau chief, Suckling, showered the Baracchis with 91- to 94-point reviews. Many would have raised prices accordingly. But just as had been the case during the early days of the Super Tuscan craze, Riccardo remained a downside player — accounting for this thrilling 2015 bargain.
The 2015 Riccardo Baracchi Toscana O’ Lillo! is a classic Super Tuscan blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Syrah, all drawn off three of the Baracchi family’s properties in Gabbiano, San Martino, and Montanare. Brilliant purple. Plush yet high-toned aromas of black fruits, violets, graphite, and sweet spice, gently braced by new-wood cedar. Rich, bold, and polished on the attack, featuring a gorgeous mix of black currants, black cherry liqueur, and mountain blueberry, finishing with superb natural acidity and dusty tannin cut. Drink now-2022.