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A Great-Value Tuscan Red, Beyond Sangiovese
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 27, 2021
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Aia Vecchia, Toscana IGT “Lagone” 2018 (Dalla Terra Winery Direct, $17):  I tasted this wine on a muggy July afternoon as part of a tasting of Tuscan red wines, the others of which were based heavily on the Sangiovese grape.  Whether due to mood or weather — or the absence of food — this Bordeaux-blend wine stood out as the most appealing and the most impressive.

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, in a 60-30-10 ratio, this wine struck me for its complexity, depth and nuance, which in this context I attributed to the fact that it is a blend of grapes rather than being 90 or 95 percent reliant on a single variety.  Knowing its origins  — in the coastal Tuscany  wine zone of Bolgheri and partially from higher-elevation vineyards farther inland — I attributed the wine’s complexity also to a range of climate influences, some warmer and riper and some fresher and cooler.

Aia Vecchia is owned by the Pellegrini family, who for several generations were grape growers in and around Tuscany’s Bolgheri area, where they sold grapes to established local wineries.  In 1996, the family founded its own winery, naming the business after an old building called Aia Vecchia.  Their goal was to create a selection of small-lot wines based on Bordeaux varieties. They scouted and purchased vineyard land in the Bolgheri zone with the help of the highly-respected Hungarian enologist, the late Tibor Gal, whose renown includes being chief winemaker for several early vintages of Ornellaia.  

The Merlot-based Lagone, the winery’s first release and its flagship wine, debuted in 1998.  In 2001, the family created Sor Ugo, a Cabernet-based blend.  They later expanded their holdings beyond the province of Livorno, where Bolgheri is situated, and into parts of the Grossetto province, 60 miles southeast of Bolgheri.  There the elevation of 600 feet and the partially limestone soils favored the growing of the white Vermentino grape to make a varietal white wine.  (In the archives of this website, you can find my enthusiastic review of Aia Vecchia’s white wine, entitled “Viva Vermentino.”)  Today, the 112-acre Aia Vecchia estate is planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Vermentino, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese and Viognier.

The 2018 Langone is a dry, medium-bodied red wine with a medium amount of tannin that’s firm without intruding upon the wine’s ripe fruitiness or its richly supple texture.  The wine’s aromas and flavors suggest plum, red cherry, wild berries, herbal notes, smoke, cedar and spice; while the aroma is not explosive, the flavors are pronounced in your mouth, and easy to discover.  The wine has depth from its high acidity, and it shows strong length across the palate — more so than you might expect in a fairly inexpensive wine.  Good grapes and good winemaking all around.  And a real change of pace from Tuscany’s dominant Sangiovese.

91 Points            

Read more of Mary Ewing-Mulligan's Wine Column:  "On My Table"